In Malawi, home to over 19 million people, water for drinking, personal hygiene and agriculture is a scarce commodity.
One U.S. congregation, the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, with five locations in the greater Kansas City area, works in partnership with the Malawi United Methodist Church to address a variety of humanitarian needs.
Most recently, the church enabled the drilling of more than 80 boreholes in the east Africa country between September 2020 and February 2021.
“Every one of those boreholes,” said senior pastor the Rev. Adam Hamilton, “provides clean drinking water to an entire village of children and adults for decades.”
Since 2010, members of the 15,000-member Great Plains Conference congregation have traveled physically and financially to Malawi through ministries that focus on health, education and economic empowerment.
“We became involved when the bishop overseeing the Malawi Mission Initiative at the time invited us to join them on their journey into one day becoming a conference,” recalled Sheree Reece, Global Impact program director at Church of the Resurrection.
The Rev. Daniel Mhone, Malawi country superintendent, acknowledged that water is “a right and a blessing,” as well as “a scarce commodity. (The boreholes) will go a long way to ease the (water) problems that the country has been facing,” he said.
United Methodists in Malawi work on the borehole project with Blue Water Drilling, the Malawian government, nongovernmental organizations and community leaders. Together, they find communities that want a borehole, determine which villages need clean water the most, form a water leadership board, coordinate drilling efforts, and follow up with maintenance, care and WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) training.
“They’ve worked incredibly hard to get clean water to thousands of families,” Reece said. “Their hard work and determination have been an inspiration.”
Hugo Ngwira, who helps oversee the project in Malawi, agreed.
“At first, the Resurrection Church embarked on drilling 10 boreholes in a year,” Ngwira said. “After seeing that most Malawian communities have no clean water, the church resorted to drilling 80-plus boreholes in 2020-21 at a cost of about $5,000 (U.S.). The communities are asked to contribute river sand, bricks and quarry stones. They also contributed $25 (U.S) as their maintenance fund account for the borehole.”
Maurice Solola, Malawi Provisional Conference acting coordinator, said the ministry especially helps women.
“We will no longer travel longer distances to search for water, let alone leave our homes as early as 3 a.m. to go and fetch water, leaving our marriages shaken due to suspicion,” said Grace Maluwa of Chikwawa District.
During virtual vacation Bible camp last summer, children from Church of the Resurrection raised $15,000 to build fresh water wells in Malawi.
“When Pastor Adam challenged our congregation and visitors worshipping online with us to sponsor a borehole together with their family,” Reece said, “we ended up raising over $400,000.”
A funeral home staff, a pickleball team, small groups and two other United Methodist congregations joined together to raise money for clean water in Malawi.
“This year,” Reece said, “we are working on food insecurity challenges with the permaculture teaching farm that we started together with the Paradise Permaculture Institute in Madisi.”
The goal is to teach subsistence farmers how to grow food year-round in Malawi.
“Many,” she explained, “currently grow a maize crop in one season and leave their fields fallow the rest of the year. Permaculture will likely focus in the Madisi area, where we are already working with local leaders.”
The Church of the Resurrection also helped Malawi in the fight against COVID-19 by donating personal protective equipment such as face masks and basins for hand washing. The congregation has aided rural mobile medical clinics and assisted in acquiring medical supplies, supported local pre-K programs, partnered with Zoe Empowers to equip orphans and vulnerable children with mentors and education, provided microfinance guidance for community members and offered vocational training scholarships for at-risk youth.
Future partnerships, Reece noted, depend greatly upon the Malawi United Methodist leadership team.
“While we believe in holistic development (education, health, microfinance and growing the church),” she said, “the (Malawi United Methodist Church), the local church and local community leaders set the vision. They determine their goals, and after looking at their strengths and assets as well as any gaps, will discuss ways we might be able to partner with them in the amazing ministry they are doing.”
For more than a decade, the Church of the Resurrection has sent more than 100 people “to work alongside our Malawian partners in microfinance education, garden growing, personal finance, medical clinics and more,” Reece said.
“We continue to partner together because not only is the leadership focused on planting more churches and reaching more people for Christ, but they are also concerned for the most vulnerable populations in Malawi. They believe in being the hands and feet of Christ in the communities they serve.”
Hamilton said the partnership is a win-win for all involved.
“Our partnership with churches in Malawi has helped our congregation grow in their faith as they learn about the needs in Malawi and find tangible ways to put Christ’s commandment to love our neighbors in place,” he said.
Nkhoma is a communicator in Malawi. Barbara Dunlap-Berg contributed to this report.
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