‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few’


The work of Abera and Bizunesh is supported by SIM Malawi project MW #96755 Missionaries from New Contexts Support Fund

In , Abera Chemiso and his wife Bizunesh Zeleke broke new ground when they were the first Ethiopian missionaries appointed to SIM Malawi. After a difficult start to their ministry, Abera and Bizunesh are beginning to see significant fruits for their efforts

Both the Gospels of Matthew (9:37) and of Luke (10:2) report the words of Jesus which are used in the headline above. For Abera Chemiso and Bizunesh Zeleke these words ring true as they develop their ministry among the Yao people in Namwera and the surrounding areas in the hills above Mangochi.

They are known as ‘Missionaries from New Contexts’ (MNC) as they have been sent to Malawi from a ‘non-traditional’-sending country, in their case Ethiopia. They arrived in Malawi 2014 and after a time of orientation in Blantyre they moved to the village of Kwitunji. At first, life there was good as they settled into their new context and started their work.

First labourers: Abera and Bizunesh are praying for more labourers to come and join them in their work

But things began to change because of problems with some of the local people who created bad feelings against them and even went to the local chief to seek to have them sent away from the village. When some troubles developed, SIM withdrewthem to Mangochi to regroup before moving into Namwera.

Their first year or so in Kwitunji, therefore, may seem to have been a failure, but in reality, this is far from the truth.

“Even after we left Kwitunji for Mangochi, we started going back to the village and working with some of the people, especially some of the youth,” said Abera.

“Now we have 15 people in Kwitunji,  who have given their lives to Christ, and we are now doing discipleship work with them. They have even apologised to us for the way we were treated when we first went to the village. So, despite the problems we had, we have seen that village become a fertile area for us.”

But Kwitunji is not the only success story for Abera and Bizunesh. Since they moved to Namwera in 2016, they have seen good fruit in that area too. Again, people are coming to the Lord because of their tireless work. And further afield, some 38 Kms from Namwera, a significant number of people in the area known as Mpondas2 have also become Christians.

When they came to Malawi, Abera saw their work as church planting, and already there are three churches which are ripe for planting and development.

Story timeBizunesh sharing bible stories with a group of children in Namwera

Bizunesh, too, is developing her own part of the ministry, working with women and girls. Close to where they live in Namwera is the main hospital for the district, and this is proving a fertile area.

“I am working with the nurses and the wives of some of the doctors at the hospital,” said Bizunesh.

“It is really a friendship-based ministry and I try to show God’s love and grace in my life and in my conversations with them. It is not, necessarily, about being evangelistic, but it is about showing them Jesus before I talk to them about Him.

“I am also meeting with some women and girls in the local markets when I go shopping. Again, I am forming friendships which I hope will develop into something stronger.”

All of this is amazing to hear, but what makes it all the more amazing is that all of these converts and contacts are with Yao Muslims who are in the majority in that area.

Pastoral support for any missionary is vital to their work and wellbeing. Being on their own in Namwera could be a problem, but Abera and Bizunesh have found a support group of like-minded people. In the area are a number of missionaries working in outreach to Muslims from a number of different organisations and different countries. This group has taken Abera and Bizunesh in and made them part of the fellowship which meets regularly for Bible Study, prayer and support. This is proving to be a real blessing to them in their work and everyday life.

The success which Abera and Bizunesh have enjoyed after a difficult start brings us back to the words of Jesus that “the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few”, a phrase which Abera uses often when talking about their ministry.

“We have thee churches that are ready to plant and develop, one in Kwitunji, one in Namwera and one in Mponda2, but we do not have the resources to do this,” he said.

“We also have a number of people who are wanting to be baptised as believers and we are trying to work out where and how we may be able to do this.

“We need at least three evangelists who can come and help us to develop this work. There is the added problem that if a missionary comes in from outside of Malawi it takes at least two years for them to learn the Yao language and culture. So we should like to train some local people from a Yao background who already know the language and the culture to do this work, but that will take funding to allow us to achieve this aim.

“And then there are other villages and townships around the area which we have not yet been able to reach. There is a lot of potential work, but more people are needed to reap the harvest and share the work that we have.”

So while Abera and Bizunesh may have had a difficult time getting their ministry in Malawi off the ground, they have made up for it in recent years and are seeing good fruit as a result. So to complete the quote from both Luke 10:2 and Matthew 9:37 use earlier we urgently need to “Ask the Lord of the harvest … to send out workers into His harvest field”,  in this case the parts of His harvest fields which are Namwera. Kwitunji and Mponda2!


Home church: People gather regularly in Abera and Bizunesh’s house for services on Sundays