Our Expansion into Malawi

We have often wondered if what God has done in Tanzania was the coming together of such a unique set of things that it could never be replicated anywhere else. We tried hard to distill down and discover the truly essential ingredients that led to all that has happened in Tanzania. Was it because of the unique characteristics of Godfrey as a leader? Was it because Tanzanians were willing to work in a way that people in other countries wouldn’t? Was it because Susan and I had invested 5 years in training up a class of kids who had the vision to start something incredible? Sometimes we analyzed it so much we almost despaired of it ever being able to happen again anywhere. And sometimes we just decided that that would be quite OK if it never went to another country. If indeed Tanzania were to be the one place on the planet that God wanted all this to happen, well then we would be fine with that.

After seeing what has happened in Malawi, we are now convinced that the most important ingredient is a simple one: you just need people who are absolutely convinced this is what God wants them to do, and then God has to open the doors in the place He wants it to start and at the time that He desires it. All the other “ingredients for success” are really of rather minor importance. In Tanzania, Godfrey and Emmanueli were convinced of their calling -- they were born in villages, they themselves had no hope of ever going to secondary school, they got to go to school, and they believed that the dream that had come true for them could indeed come true in villages all over their country. Davies, down in Malawi, is very different – he was one of those who did get to go to school and he now does legal work, but he is also a pastor and he sees people whose kids never got to go to school and he feels their pain and God used that to call him to do this. And that’s why regardless of the obstacles, they all labor and won’t give up. If you wanted to hire someone to do the work Godfrey and Emmanueli and Davies do, you would quite logically look for someone with a great resume, masters degree preferable, 5 years experience minimum in non-profit management – and yet we all know in our hearts that no one we would hire would be able to do what God has chosen to do through Godfrey and Emmanueli, and now through Davies. We’ve had a great lesson taught to us – again!

There’s more to the story though than just that. We thought it would take at least a year to open our first school in Malawi. And we told Davies that would be fine. And when we met with the chiefs of the 46 villages just south of Zomba, we told them that it would be fine. Well it might be fine for us – but it would never be fine for them. It was their kids who weren’t going to get to go to school without that school getting built. It took them 118 days to make all the bricks, build the classrooms, get the OK to take over 6 abandoned houses and rehabilitate them, and to open their school. We have 59 students – 38 boys and 21 girls – and classes officially began September 30, 2013 even though the buildings are far from complete! When in 2005 the people in the village of Igoda built their school in 70 days, it launched a movement that today involves people from 193 villages in seven regions of Tanzania, all building schools for their kids – and quite frankly you couldn’t stop it if you tried. Our prayer is that somehow the same kind of movement can now take off in Malawi.

There is one more part of the story that needs to be told. It does, after all, take money to build a school. After our visit to Malawi in June, I wrote up a budget and sent it back to be accepted by our board members, sharing with them that we estimated it would take $71,000 for the construction supplies to build that school. Before we could even send out a letter to tell people of the opportunity to give, checks totally $11,000 had already come in, and now we have already received a total of $82,000, enough to ensure the school will be built even if, since it was our very first time to build in Malawi, we made some poor estimations in our calculations! It’s also enough to embolden us to believe that God wants us to keep on building more classrooms and to open more schools in Malawi.