The gospel with two hands: physical and spiritual development


“I am Yao,” says Madalistso Blessings Kaputa. That people group is regarded to be Muslim in Malawi. “Someone has reached me.” 

Chewa, Yao, Lome (major people groups in Malawi): they can all be part and parcel of this family of God, he says. 

As a Yao, he is able to represent the church in Muslim areas. “There is a connection, a relationship, between the Muslims and the church. We try to have a sense that we let the Yao Muslim community understand themselves. We are part of the family of God. We do not impose. The church is working together,” he says.  

“I am the living testimony of the church and how Anabaptists live with other people. If I were not able to grow in this way, it would be hard to live in Muslim community. I pursue peace. I share gospel with peace.” 

Anabaptist-Mennonite churches in Malawi boldly proclaim the gospel as they offer aid and succor to members and community alike.  

There are two MWC member churches in Malawi: Mpingo Wa Abale Mwa Kristu (Brethren in Christ) and Mennonite Brethren Church in Malawi. Both were nurtured in their early days by African evangelists.  

Mpingo Wa Abale Mwa Kristu (BIC): Like the Macedonian call 

A small group began to meet for prayer in Blantyre in 1983. They became aware of the BIC church in Zimbabwe and desired to link with them. As they prayed, they were led to write a letter, inviting leaders from Zimbabwe to come.  

BIC Zimbabwe received the call. In 1984, they sent pastors Philemon M Khumalo, Bekithemba Dube and their families.  

A fellowship began meeting in Ndirande, a suburb of Blantyre, the country’s industrial and urban centre. A second church was soon started in Zombe. The church was officially registered in 1986.  

Early leaders were Sani Selamani Chibwana who called the first friends together; Melawrie Fred Mbamera who became the chairperson; Ephraim Disi, the secretary.  

Today the church has grown to 75 congregations in both the southern and central regions of the country. It comprises members from several ethnic groups.  

The church has ministries for youth and for women. There are evangelism projects, ministries to people affected by HIV/AIDS and other compassion ministries.  

The church is living out its Anabaptist identity by pursuing peace and loving one another. They seek to live as Christ gave to us in Matthew 5. “We need Jesus since God is love. This shows our real identity,” says Madalitso Blessing Kaputa.  

As church members reach out with the gospel and find there is a physical need, they help: praying, walking alongside, supporting in seeking healing or resources.  

They also offer teaching from the Bible and sound understanding about the need to put faith in Christ Jesus, not false doctrines. 

“We can reach the person not only one-sided but both sides: spiritual aspects and even physical aspects,” says Madalitso Blessings Kaputa. 

“We are there. We are salt and light, meeting their needs as a whole person with a holistic gospel,” he says. 


The pandemic was only one of the major challenges affecting the BIC church in Malawi. HIV/AIDS continues to break apart families. A cholera epidemic has only recently subsided. Climate change causes droughts and severe weather. Recently, Cyclone Freddy swept through the country, destroying homes, church buildings and wiping out both gardens and crops, resulting in the loss of pastors, church members and neighbours. Food shortages will mean higher prices. The church is praying about how they can help when the harvests do not come. 

But the BIC church does not just look at challenges. There is hope.  

“We are the agent that God has entrusted with to give love those that are not being loved,” says Madalitso Blessings Kaputa.  

“Even though today we have health challenges, the church is there to give hope. 

“Even with challenge like climate change: we have hope with Jesus,” he says. 

Baptism: a time of joy 

“If it would have been like a cup of tea, so much sugar is added showing that there is a joy,” says Madalitso Blessing Kaputa, about a recent baptism event.  

Baptism in Malawi, a largely rural country, is mostly performed at the rivers or the lake. 

Most of the time there is a large bunch of people, standing and looking, celebrating together.  

It is time to fellowship, so there is often food. 

Nothing can happen without singing. Singing is part of our joy.  

Sometimes baptism is undertaken after months or year of study. But others wake up and say ‘let’s go!’ then go on to understand their baptism. After all, it’s not baptism that brings salvation but what is happening in their heart.  

—Madalitso Blessing Kaputa is an evangelist with BIC Malawi. 

Leaders at the MBCM annual general conference.
Leaders at the MBCM annual general conference. Photo: Lyson Makawa

Mennonite Brethren Church in Malawi: multiplying churches 

In 2009, a man from DR Congo in Dzaleka Refugee Camp in the Dowa district of Malawi saw a need to start a church. Safari Mutabesha Bahati (DRC), Onesime Kabula (Rwanda), Charles Isaiah, Chiza Sedata, Gems Mariamungu, Gemeya and their families started a church and it started to grow. People from DRC, Burundi, Ethiopia, Rwanda joined, speaking French, English, Swahili and more were drawn in.  

Their evangelistic fervour took them beyond the bounds of the camp to plant churches among local Malawians.  

Today there are two congregations in the camp and 60 outside scattered through the rural areas of the densely populated country.  

The strategy is that one congregation should plant another. These form into hubs of 7-12 congregations around a mission centre led by a senior pastor who reports to the executive. With this rapid growth, not all congregations have a formally trained pastor, but three times a year, pastors gather for one or two weeks of training through ICOMB’s Missional Leadership Training workshops.  

Regional and cultural solidarity is strong in Malawian society. The MB church seeks to cross those barriers. “In church, we have all these groups together: our language is that Jesus Christ is our leader. What unites us is the gospel,” says Lyson Makawa.  

The MBs strive to plant holistic churches. Evangelism and discipleship are priorities. “We believe to nurture the people who have just come to Jesus Christ so they can and grow in maturity,” says Lyson Makawa. New believers are encouraged to attend classes for at least a month to learn the basics prior to baptism.  

“We also believe in planting churches where you are empowered spiritually and also physically.” 

One example is the sewing project that was started in the refugee camp. Women are taught how to sew items for sale so they can have a source of income. 

Another is promoting a pail kit system of farming. In one pail, the farmer receive an irrigation tool and seeds to plant vegetables.  

The church has also started an incubator to hatch chicks for pastors to raise chickens for food and income.  


Pastors face many struggles, from lack of education to travelling between villages to supporting their families with little income. Their congregations look to them for spiritual support while their families seek financial support.  

Although most pastors are men there is one woman who serves as a pastor. Up to 70 percent of church members are women. Although differences in faith practices between husbands and wives can cause marital problems, sometimes marital problems drive women to seek relief at church.  

The MB church was not spared the affects of Cyclone Freddy. They are focusing relief efforts on elderly people, people with disabilities and those who are otherwise not able to support themselves.  

Worship gatherings 

A Sunday morning gathering starts with prayer, followed by about 30 minutes of teaching. Singing follows in several moments: vigorous praise with dancing, more contemplative worship, and choir performances. Over the next hour there is preaching from the Word of God by the pastor or an elder, or even a pastor from another church. After that, offering is taken, followed by the benediction.  

Congregations may also hold midweek services for about an hour.  

Gatherings focused on teaching from the Word of God take place on Wednesday, starting around 3 pm.  

On Thursdays, the women often gather. These are times for work like decorating the church or encouraging one another.  

On Saturdays there are meetings for intercessory prayers. “We have a God who answers our prayers,” says Lyson Makawa.  

—Lyson Makawa is leadership and capacity building coordinator with the Mennonite Brethren church of Malawi.  

Relationships with other churches 

“We believe we belong to the larger family of anabaptists,” says Lyson Makawa. “Belonging to same roots brings us together.”  

The Anabaptist-Mennonite churches in Malawi are connected to the larger body of Christ around the world as well as with each other. Both BIC and MB relate to Mennonite Central Committee and work with each other. 

The MBs have also collaborated with a conservative Anabaptist-Mennonite group in the country on publication of evangelistic materials. 

Relationship continues between BIC churches in Malawi and Zimbabwe: There are frequently Zimbabwean guests at Malawian church conferences, sometimes bringing teaching. A delegation of women from Malawi visited Zimbabwe on a learning project.  

Following the example of their mother church, Malawi BIC is also evangelizing in new areas. Strategic planning is underway to reach the northern part of the country and also to reach into neighbouring Mozambique. “Mission is on our hearts,” says Madalitso Blessing Kaputa. 

And the relationship with other church bodies reminds Malawian brothers and sisters they are not alone. “Whatever is happening with MWC, it is involving even the church in Malawi. We do not take this for granted: we are family,” says Madalitso Blessings Kaputa.  

Courier 38.4