Malawi, with its 120 000 square kilometers, is bordered by Mozambique, Tanzania an Zambia. It was previously known by the name ‘Nyasaland’, has 29 districts and the third largest lake in Africa. Malawi is known as the WARM heart of Africa, and upon entering the country, even after the Cyclone Freddy killed a lot of people, destroyed roads and infrastructure, it was evident that the friendliness and serenity of the people epitomises this description.
Malawi is also known to be the key to Africa, presumably because of the shape of the map looking like a key-hole.Malawi is a land of beauty and contrasts. Despite the fruit, green foliage, much seasonal rain and friendly people, it is a country where poverty, corruption, ancestral worship, heathen customs and diseases have taken their toll .An “Outreach” to a reachable country that already has many churches, a bible and having been previously evangelised, might seem inefficient; yet so many people spend their efforts, time and money on one or more of the 54 counties of the African continent like this. After visiting several Eastern African countries since 2012, Malawi was a first for us in this new season, and indeed a blessing.
During three years of lockdown with Covid, there were hardly any international travels, but since January 2023, Amouret Anderson joined me in Ministry. My vision for children was re–ignited as we visited local schools in the Hessequa region of South Africa. I even felt inspired to reach out cross-culturally again.I seized the opportunity when invited by a Missionary lady friend, Althea Meyer from WAKNET, to visit malawi. Althea saw the need of incorporating training in children’s worship into what she is doing currently: She is actively involved in Children’s prayer networks, has trained several students and trainers in Evangelism with the Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) model, and has a passion to activate children to reach the Unreached People groups, guiding churches in ministry to children.
WAKNET is an organisation with the purpose of winning all kids for Christ, through the support of the Pentecostal Holness Church, having an enormous footprint in Africa. What a blessing that we could get to know her and join hands! Our leadership at Joshgen Stilbaai and close relatives agreed that we should go and we started planning and praying, trusting God for provision. After a lot of preparation, we were ready to take off.
Since 1994 when Radikids started, God nudged me about His promises to me when I was a mere 9 years old: Psalm 8v2 and 2v8 have been the two verses that branded my calling : the praises of children and the nations as an inheritance.
God also spoke to me about the power of the sound of the nation’s music and songs. Our mandate for this visit to Malawi 2023 was not to care for the poor and needy, build chicken pens, plant churches or help with orphans; but rather to release the ‘SOUND OF THE GROUND’: that is to let the children of the soil sing praises to God in their own language. We planned to do it in a fourfold manner:
- To Visit schools with music and a message, see the villages and understand the children of Malawi.
- To create awareness among the leaders (pastors and elders) on the importance of children and music.
- To Train choir leaders and Sunday school teachers in ministry to children and teach them about music and songwriting.
- To identify songs and have them translated into the main local language, Chichewa, choosing a few children and recording 10 songs with them.
Would all this be possible in 14 days?
We took off from O.R Tambo airport the 24th of March 2023. Two hours later Althea joined us at the Blantyre airport and the three of us landed less than an hour later at Kamuzu airport in Lilongwe, the Capital of Malawi. Although Althea was born and lived in South Africa before she moved to Blantyre 20 years ago, she knew the city and arranged accommodation at Woodlands lodge, a place that would be central. This became a safe haven after each day’s hard work. She also hired a car.
Firstly, we set up meetings with three lady intercessors who regularly pray together, who are burdened with the spiritual well-being of Malawi, namely Ruth, Paulette and Frances. They assured us of their prayer covering as did the prayer group of our church and friends.
We planned to visit the new South African couple from Four12, Richard and Sheree Allen, who recently moved to Lilongwe. We joined them on Sunday, for a church service and lunch. Seems like Family is everywhere…
The first Monday we drove to one of the Sunday School Teachers United Movement (STUM) organiser’s church: The pastor’s name is Lovemore and he arranged for us to listen to children’s choirs. The singing was extraordinary and many of the choir children were the ones chosen for the music recordings.
Tuesday we started with school visits and training: Within the first week we could visit seven schools, some with up to 2000 pupils in a forlorn village.
We travelled difficult roads for a long time to preach the good news, teach them new songs and leave a book, dvd and usb with music on as a gift. It was much appreciated. After the first school’s visit, my guitar did not connect to the portable battery operated speaker system we had brought with us. We advertised on a local Facebook group of Lilongwe and received and answer at midnight from a man living close by; Gareth, who had a red 6 string guitar with pick up. He would drop it of the next day at our lodge….just in time as we left for the next school’s visit.
What a surprise: 75 Pastors and leaders arrived on the first day of a three day training and 75 Children’s ministers for the following week’s three day training.The leaders were activated to take better notice and care of the parents and children of the church, while the Sunday school teachers and choir leaders appreciated the input on music and songwriting and did exceptionally well in preparing their own bible verse songs.
Matthew 7 verse 7 was the example: ‘ask and it shall be given unto you, seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be opened unto you’. Many of them adopted a new approach to teach the kids creatively.
After each day’s six hour training we practiced with only seven children to learn to sing ten new songs. They did extremely well and we could record in studio after only four sessions of practice.
Althea, familiar with the region, took us to visit several restaurants and arty, even classy places on our way home. Ami was amazed by all the architecture, indigenous plants and attractive foods… with the hottest of chili sauces, of course! She cherished the local dogs and hugged all the friendly children. The children were drawn to her and she even remembered their names! Ami was my right – and my left hand, or seeing that Malawians can interchange their L’s and R’s, she was my ‘Reft- and my Light’ hand. She has gone more than the proverbial ‘extra mile’; always carrying our heavy stuff, setting up sound, organising breakfast time and coffee, doing video recordings, seeing and fulfilling needs and LOVING people. She even learnt many Chichewa words and got their pronunciation right: ‘Chellyprum’ , or Sobo’s Cherry Plum became her new favourite drink. What a blessing she is!
The recording was another challenge: Although I have recorded several albums in different studios and at home in lockdown, this was a first for me to record cross- border. We had three quotations of equipped music studio’s in Lilongwe. The only studio that quoted reasonably, we discovered, was too far and too small for a group of kids. But : God provided us with a soundproof studio at no cost at a host church, Alinafe, nearby. It did not have any equipment, but we could set up our own recording equipment; Laptop, studio mic, mixer, interface and earphones, (We only took this as a standby).
In two days’ time we could finish recording a whole album!
For those who know about recording: Each song was sung about 8-10 times by the children, and another four times by a lady vocalist, called Gladys. The final mix and mastering of these tracks was done in South Africa and posted to the schools and Sunday school teachers to use. We grew to love these kids, and Gladys, as well as our chief interpreter and help, Robert Kaphamtengo who came from Blantyre.
In between we visited many people and places. We made effort to meet with Louise Laubscher, formerly from De Doorns, who set up a mission station in Malawi called Fishers,Trainers, Senders, where we encouraged one another and she was so glad to speak Afrikaans for a change!
We were continually aware of the prayers of our loved ones and the prayer group covering and sustaining us. Thank you to all! All The prophetic words about the sound and right timing was a confirmation. There were so many strange and new things to adapt to: Poor roads, heavy traffic, bad administration, new dress code: (no short tops), very poor ablutions, monkeys trying to steal our breakfast, the language barrier, lots of Insect repellent, sleeping with mosquito nets, strange and new foods – but all was worth it. We were focussed and even overwhelmed by people who had nothing , yet were thankful and generous. The poorest lady gave us each a second hand handbag with a piece of Chitenge fabric – clearly prized possessions. The one student named Stanley, had made his own Guitar with a paraffin jar and four strings and played his heart out!
After we finished all ministry, training and recording in two weeks, we went to stay at a simple backpackers lodge called Cool Runnings in Senga Bay on Lake Malawi for three days to REST. It was about an 80 minute drive from Lilongwe and a wonderful experience.
Recently in a dream God showed me a spanner with the number ‘17’ on it. 17 could be a meaningful number, but I felt that God wanted me to be a useful tool for His Kingdom. During our visit, I also wondered if there was any significance to the fact that Altheah has been asked to reach and teach in 17 African countries?
We have prayed about visiting more countries, If it is God’s will. We also trust Him to provide for the three of us, Our expenses were approximately R165 000 of which we paid R80 000. When we landed on 10 April at O.R. Tambo airport, our Buckets were filled and overflowing. Mission complete. We are thankful to have been part of God’s great plan. We pray that The little drop in the bucket (of sound) may have a mushroom effect and change the color/ atmosphere of the whole bucket. We trust that we followed God’s Will for His harvest: the lost, poor, the needy, the unreached and the whole WORLD. The great commission still stands: go and make disciples of all nations, Baptise them and Teach them….until I come.
Our prayers were answered to more open doors and we depart for Madagascar and Mauritius on the 9th of June. We will share the news of our endeavours in our next blog.
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Until next time – Soekie and Team xx