Change of plans to achieve same ends

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Francis Kuntenga is currently being prepared by SIM Malawi to go and serve as a missionary to the Yao people in Mozambique. He is proof that flexibility is an important requirement in missionary training, as significant changes to his plans have had to be accommodated

The first missionaries sent out of Malawi by SIM Malawi, Revd and Mrs Makhutcha, are now settling well into life and ministry to the Yao people in Mozambique. The probable second, Francis Kuntenga, is currently going through the selection and development process again to go and serve with the Yao but in a different part of Malawi’s neighbour.

For Francis, the process has presented some major obstacles which have had to be overcome to bring him to where he is today. Francis has recently finished a month-long internship working in and around Namwera, near Mangochi, with Abera Chemiso and Bizunesh Zeleke. This work has given him valuable insight into how to work with the Muslim Yao people group, of which Francis is a member.

Mentors and traineeFrancis Kuntenga (centre) with Abera and Bizunesh at their house in Namwera

But Namwera is a long way from where he expected to be when he started his journey. Working with his sending church, Blantyre Baptist Church, and SIM Malawi’s Consultant, New Initiatives Watson Rajaratnam, Francis was going to be prepared for his mission work through CAPRO, an African-based mission organisation with which SIM Malawi has close links.

“With CAPRO I was going to go to their training centre near Jos in Nigeria, to spend a year of intensive training to prepare me to go to Mozambique,” he said.

“These plans were destroyed because of civil unrest in that part of Nigeria which led to a number of killings and the closure of the CAPRO centre. This was not only frustrating but also expensive as the cancellation was just a week or so before I was due to travel and I had paid for my air tickets and also my Nigerian visa.

“My pastor, Revd Vincent Chirwa, spoke to Watson about my transferring to SIM Malawi to be prepared to go, and this is what has happened and where I am now.”

Francis first felt the call to cross-border mission work in 2008 and went on some short-term factfinding trips to test his calling, but it was 2016 when things really started to move for him.

“It was some time in 2016 when Watson came to Blantyre Baptist Church and challenged us to look at mobilising church members for cross-border mission work,” he remembers.

“Watson spoke to the pastor and, after praying about things, I was identified as a potential candidate for this, so we started to work, initially with CAPRO.

“On one of my short term mission work, i visted Northeast of Nigeria under Grace Foundation Inland Mission (GFIM) and found the whole experience phenomenal and very challenging.

Practical transport: A motorbike is proving the most practical way to get to Mponda2 and Kwitunji 

“GFIM also offered me a scholarship of full time intensive and rugged training and practical in Cross-cultural mission.

“All through my preparation for this work I have had a key verse constantly in my mind; Matthew 24:14: ‘And this Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.’ This has been a great motivator for me.”

The move from CAPRO to SIM Malawi was not just a question of changing mission organisations, but also changing the style of how mission is done. CAPRO is a strongly African organisation and operates in ways that reflects the cultures of the continent. SIM has a more westernised approach and this means that Francis is working with a wider ethnic group of people coming from all over the world. Both are relevant in how they approach mission, but both are also different, and Francis has had to cope with this change in his preparations.

Working with Abera and Bizunesh, Francis has been involved with outreach to Muslims in Namwera and Mpondas2, a village some 35 or so kilometres away and Kwitunji  a village some 27 or so kilometres. Away.

There, a Muslim convert regularly invites around 50 of his friends and neighbours to come and hear the Gospel and talk to Abera and Francis.

“It has been good working here and we have seen people giving their lives to God,” said Francis.

“With the number of people who have given their lives, there is potential for churches to be planted and developed and I know this is on the heart of Abera and Bizunesh.

“As for me, I am hoping that I get the opportunity to have a second internship while I am waiting for the process to be completed, but that will be up to my church and to SIM Malawi.

“What I am looking forward to, and on which I keep my eyes focused, is being able to go to Mozambique and be a missionary for God to the Yao people.  That has been my dream for ten years or so and every day gets me closer to fulfilling that dream.”

Harvest field: Namwera, and surrounding district, is the harvest field in which Francis is training for his mission work