Our Story from 2001-August 2013
It all began back in 2001 when Anna, Elly’s sister, and her husband, Joe Ebert, first visited Malawi with the Jesus Film. It was then that the Good Hope Team was started, comprised of a few local people who were so impressed with the message of the Jesus Film that they asked to keep the film and the equipment and carry on the work of showing the film in various villages. For seven years Anna received emails from this team telling of the work they were doing in the villages of Northern Malawi, showing the Jesus Film. It was in 2007 when Anna and Elly decided to start planning a visit to the Good Hope Team to see how the work was going. They wanted to see for themselves that the huge results reported by the Good Hope Team were actually true?
We wanted to see for ourselves. Were the reports Anna was getting by email real? We also hoped to enlarge the Team’s vision to include more out-of-the-way villages that had not yet been visited.
Our first trip to northern Malawi took place in January-February 2008. We visited 18 different villages, spending one night in each and then moving on to the next one. We slept in mud houses and classrooms that first trip. We taught about SODIS water purification, held a medical clinic in each village to distribute medicine, taught the children in the schools, visited the prison, and showed the Jesus Film every night. Many hundreds responded to the gospel invitation in each village. We saw such a hunger among the villagers to learn more about their newfound faith.
They begged us to stay longer and teach them more, but the plan was to visit as many villages as possible with the gospel message via the Jesus Film. My heart broke each time when we had to tell them we couldn’t stay longer, and we loaded all our gear into the rental vehicle to go to the next village. We travelled over paths that hardly qualify as a cow path here, through dry riverbeds and thick beach sand. All the while, Elly wondered how these people would learn what it means to be a Christian now that they had heard the Good News an
d received it.
It was an amazing trip. We learned a lot. We discovered that the Malawian Good Hope Team members themselves needed to be taught about the basics of the Christian life. They lacked Bibles and other teaching materials in their Tumbuka language. However, we helped the team to look beyond the villages that were relatively easy to access along the main road in Malawi and go to the unreached areas – into the mountains and across the rivers. We also began to understand the desperate need of the poverty-stricken people of northern Malawi. They are a people without hope – a cycle of poverty that seems impossible to break, stuck in their (often evil) cultural ways, uneducated, but most importantly, lacking Christ in their lives. They feel that no one loves them or cares about their situation. Then we arrive and bring them Good News. Those who accept the gift of salvation now have a God who loves them and a hope beyond this life. Unless you have seen it, the joy and delight on their faces is unimaginable.
2010 was our second trip. This time, Elly’s goal was to spend some time specifically with the team of 4 men who comprised the Good Hope Team: Pastor Sam, Frank, Winter and Auter. So, in July of 2010, Anna and Elly struck out a second time. We again visited a different village each day, doing much the same as the previous trip. When Anna went to visit the elderly in their homes in the afternoons, and helped people with their medical problems, etcetera, Elly spent time with the team, teaching them the basics of the Christian life. We went through the Dynamic Basics booklet developed by Dynamic Churches International (www.dynamicchurches.org). The questions that these men came up with were totally amazing. Things that we take for granted needed to be discussed and explained. Itwas time well spent! As the gospel was presented through the Jesus Film, we praised God for the many new believers each day. But now, Elly’s heart was even more burdened for the spiritual growth of the new Christians in each village. Who would help them? Would they be like the seed that fell on the rocks with only shallow roots? Who would work the soil, water and feed them so they could grow strong and produce a bountiful crop?
We soon realized that we should return again in 2011. Malawi was ever onour minds and in our hearts. Such huge needs – what could we do? This time, as Anna planned to carry on with her many humanitarian aid projects, New Testament distribution and the showing of the Jesus film, Elly planned to organize an Explosive Growth conference in Mzuzu for pastors and leaders. At this conference, we taught about discipleship one-on-one and how to start multiplying life groups.
The conference was amazing. About 90 pastors and leaders attended. One of these leaders was a woman named Festus. We discovered just recently that she has been actively implementing what she has learned at the conference. She has started several life groups and reached many people with the gospel. You will read more about Festus later. There were many others also who put the teaching into practice. We will never know the far-reaching results of this ministry. It is beyond the grasp of the Team workers.
Again many people were reached with the gospel in 2011 and many were taught about what it means to be a Christian. The Good Hope team members were able to help with the teaching this time as interpreters, because they had been taught these things the year before. We handed out certificates of completion when the new believers finished the lessons and encouraged all who attended to pass on what they learned to someone else.
This year, Elly was praying for God to raise up a spiritual leader in each of these 3 villages we were visiting. Elly’s desire was to start life groups in these villages. She had no idea how this would come about, but she trusted God to show her the way.
In the first village of Majalero, God brought a man named Steve Phiri to her. He came to visit us at our tent one evening enquiring about our ministry. He was a soldier stationed at the military base close by and was living his Christian faith by reaching out to the villagers nearby. He told us many stories of miracles and people reached with the gospel through this ministry. He had also started a Christian fellowship group.
In the second village, Baola, on the last day of our stay God sent 5 men, who were willing to organize the large group of new disciples into life groups.
In the third village, Vzara, we had many who wanted to be leaders, but we had one prominent leader, Constantine, whom we put in charge of organizing life groups.
When Elly returned to these villages in May 2012 with her husband Hans, most of these life groups were still going and new believers were added to the life groups.
2011 was also the year that Elly prayed specifically for God to direct her paths to someone who could become the over-all leader of this discipleship work in northern Malawi. God would have to show her very specifically. It was through the conference that she met Emmanuel Zgambo, who was the interpreter. She visited with him and his family in his home, heard their testimonies and felt their passion. Emmanuel became the leader of the DCI Team. First he worked part time, teaching pastors and leaders about the Explosive Growth principles; but in 2012 he became the full-time leader of the DCI Team, having given up his good job as Superintendent of Counsellors at a government run Aids Counselling Office.
This brings us up to the point where Good Hope birthed the DCI Team.
Since 2001, Hans has been a missionary with Dynamic Churches International, teaching one-on-one discipling and how to multiply life groups to various churches, pastors, leaders and other groups in Canada and Europe.
Dynamic Churches International works in many places: in Africa, India, the Philippines, Cuba, Congo, Canada, etc. taking the DCI discipleship/life groups/leader training into all these countries. The head office is in Airdrie, AB and Al Middleton is the founder and director. The DCI method of making disciples and growing the church through small groups has seen good success in many places other than North America and Europe.
In 2012 Hans and Elly began developing this ministry in Malawi.
As already mentioned, during her 2011 trip Elly stayed in 3 villages for a week each to allow time to teach the new believers a little about the basics of Christianity. When we went together to Malawi in May 2012, we were very encouraged to see that those 3 villages, Vzara, Baola and Majalero were still having life groups that were discipling individuals one-to-one and growing.
Not only did we go to these 3 villages but we also visited 5 other villages where we taught the DCI principles of disciple making one-to-one and how to start multiplying Life Groups. These people had never heard this before. We held workshops and fielded many questions. The GHM Team travelled with us and we showed the Jesus Film in the evenings wherever possible. Again, many received Jesus and were saved.
We also taught the Exchanged Life Principles (www.gracefellowshipintl.com) to the new believers: the importance of understanding that Christ needs to be at the centre of our lives in order to live the abundant life that He promises. We saw many people come to freedom in Christ – understanding that they didn’t need to be good enough, or work hard enough, or give enough of their money (which they don’t have) to earn their salvation; also freedom from fear of losing their salvation, and fear of demons and fear in general.
During the month we were there, we taught 36 sessions, travelled over 3,000 KM over the difficult roads of Northern Malawi, slept in tents, ate nsima (a corn flour paste) and other food we would rather not remember, but met many wonderful people and had amazing opportunities to lead people to the Lord.
We spent much time with the DCI Team (at the time, only Emmanuel, George and John), discussing the direction this work should take. Emmanuel helped with a lot of the teaching. The work was in the beginning stages and the repetition of hearing these teachings over and over again as we taught these lessons to pastors and church leaders helped the team to understand the principles taught and begin putting these into practice.
The work of multiplying Life Groups had already been started at this time in Mzuzu, under the leadership of Emmanuel and had multiplied into two groups, one in Emmanuel’s house and one in George’s house. Some of the people who attended the conferences in 2011 and 2012 had already started Life Groups on their own as well in various villages throughout the North.
Emmanuel used his time to encourage his trainees, stay in touch with the various pastors and life group leaders and supply them with Dynamic Discipling Booklets (in the local Tumbuka language of Northern Malawi) and Apprentice Training Manuals. He also trained the pastors and leaders in various places throughout Northern Malawi so they could train others in their areas.
For example, Pastor Gondwe, from the Rhumphi Baptist Church, has taught his people the multiplication methods. The results being that he has planted 2 daughter churches through the use of one-to-one discipling and multiplying Life Groups.
Another good example is Pastor Austin in Chikwina. His church was one of the many churches we visited. Emmanuel had been in touch with him before and talked to him about one-to-one discipling and life groups, but when we arrived there to teach, we discovered that Pastor Austin had invited all the pastors from the surrounding area to the meetings. A week after our visit with the Chikwina group, we got a call from Pastor Austin – he wanted to tell us that he had started 7 life groups that week and had seven young men trained to be leaders. As you can imagine, we were delighted to hear this and to see how God had touched this man’s life to put into practice what he had learned.
Majalero was a highlight of our trip. When we finally arrived after struggling with some major car troubles, we found Steve’s Life Group patiently waiting for us, sitting on mats outside. We were greeted with much love and affection.
The people in this village as well in the other 2 villages Elly had been at in 2011, expressed their appreciation for the fact that we bothered to return to them. They never expected to see us again.
When we visited Vzara, we discovered that the leader, Constantine, was disappointed because those he had discipled one-to-one soon quit their jobs at the rubber plant to return to their home villages. When we explained to him that these people would take what he had taught them back to their home villages and teach others and that in this way the work would spread, he was greatly encouraged. We prayed with him and fellowshipped with him in his home. He was a wonderful host and his wife cooked our meals of nsima for us. During this trip, Frank of the GHM Team led his elderly grandfather who lives in Vzara to the Lord.
Some of the pastors that were trained during this time have taken these DCI materials into Central and Southern Malawi, and are using them there to establish Life Groups and teach one-to-one discipling. However, we are concentrating our efforts on the 1,400,000 million people in Northern Malawi. But God keeps growing the work – beyond our control through people moving from place to place. Some have even taken this teaching into Tumbuka speaking areas of Mozambique now through one of the pastors we trained in May 2012.
On the last day of our trip in May 2012, on our way home, at breakfast in our motel in Lilongwe, we met 2 men from World Outreach International and found that they are involved in a similar work as we are. They offered to help us in our work as much as needed. Naturally we were excited about this connection. When we returned home, Hans researched the organization and read their material and emailed with these two men. The result was that we were put in contact with Rodney Munkondya who is a native Malawian, speaks Tumbuka, was born and raised in the north of Malawi. He currently lives in Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi.
By the time we returned to Canada, we felt we had accomplished our goal of establishing the DCI Team and training them how to teach the villagers and train leaders of Life Groups. But we knew that we would soon return again. The work was just beginning.
As we continued to communicate with Emmanuel by email, we realized that he and the other men on the team had a passion for starting churches. A few times they planned to launch a church in their hometown of Mzuzu, and we stalled them, hoping to have time to teach them the principles of church planting before they began – wanting to start on the right foot. We had in mind the idea of starting house churches as opposed to starting more of the same churches that are already exist in Malawi. House churches would be an extension of the Life Groups that we were establishing with already.
Also, there would never be enough pastors trained quickly enough to fill all the church pulpits; so we wanted to follow the principles outlined in the NT to allow individuals to exercise their spiritual gifts within the church environment.
Currently one pastor often has up to 10 churches to look after in Northern Malawi and the people in the churches are not encouraged or taught to use their spiritual gifts – probably because spiritual gifts are not understood. There is such a huge lack of teaching and lack of Bibles.
So, when Rodney Munkondya of World Outreach suggested that we do a seminar on the Church Planting Movement (http://www.churchplantingmovements.com) way of planting churches, we realized that this fit right in with the Life Groups that were being started.
As a result of all the emailing going back and forth and discovering the need for teaching on spiritual gifts, God showed us that we should teach on Spiritual Gifts the next time we went as well as plan for a Church Planting Movement Conference in Mzuzu, specifically for the GHM and DCI Team.
So when we returned in February-March of 2013, our goal was to work further with the DCI Team; enlarge their vision; establish a Statement of Faith and develop a Vision Statement. Emmanuel had already arranged for us to meet with a number of pastoral fraternities and teach the Spiritual Gifts in various churches. We took about 6 hours of teaching to each area. We also spoke in various churches on Sundays. But the highlight of this trip was the Church Planting Movement Conference, which was held in Mzuzu. Rodney a native Malawian, who knew the culture and knew how to address the various issues arising from that culture, taught planting house churches. We were very thankful for his willingness to help us with this. Everything he taught came straight from the example that Paul set for us in the New Testament. Therefore, the team readily accepted it.
We spent much time developing the Statement of Faith with the team in between our visits to the villages. We also talked with the team about the qualifications of elders and leaders in the church. The team adopted our vision statement, which says, “The DCI Team exists to be God’s Instrument to grow God’s Kingdom by growing Christ followers through one-to-one discipling, establishing and multiplying Life Groups using New Testament Principles.”
From the very beginning, our desire was to work together with the GHM Team and to compliment the ministry they were doing. This way we could build on their humanitarian work and follow up on the responses to the Jesus Film. So far, we had not succeeded in finding a model that would work. As we discussed and emailed back and forth, with Anna and Joe (Anna’s husband), Joe proposed that the DCI Team travel with the GHM Team to the villages. The DCI Team would be on the lookout for a “man of peace” as they travelled and would stay in that village to train this man and the believers in that village through the one-to-one discipling principles and establish a Life Group. The team would be in that village for a longer period of time so that the Life Group would be well established, and begin to multiply. The Good News would spread throughout the village and from there to the surrounding villages. Life Groups would begin to multiply throughout the area and many more people would be saved.
You remember that we had a training session in 2011 and again in 2012 on the DCI Discipling and Life Groups. At these sessions was a woman named Festus, who was mentioned earlier. This lady has taken what we had taught her and established Life Groups in the villages outside of Mzuzu as well as in Usisya and other places. We visited her Life Group in Sonda (just outside Mzuzu) in a little house with a 12 x 12 living room and a little side room, 30 people were packed in. After Hans shared the story of the Good Shepherd from John 10 with them and the assurance of salvation we have through the keeping power of the Father and the Son, George shared the gospel in the native language and 8 people responded. Outside this little house, Elly taught a group of 100 children who were also part of this ministry.
Festus wanted us to visit her group in Usisya as well, which did not work out for us. This village cannot be reached by road. Andrew and Emmanuel went after we returned to Canada to visit this place. The trip took 7 hours by boat on Lake Malawi and 5 hours hiking over mountains to reach the destination. They found a large group of believers waiting for them. They baptized 11 people the first day. That evening they preached the gospel and 25 more were saved, 10 of which were baptized the next day. Festus is one example of how our conferences are being used by local Malawians to spread the Good News. There are many more stories that remain untold because we don’t even know them.
Kennedy and Ruth Jere in Mzimba are another example. Emmanuel has trained them, and they have started Life Groups and planted churches in the rural villages a distance away from their hometown, Mzimba. We visited at their home, shared balloons with the children and they took us to visit one of their church plants. The road took us through maize fields into a very remote area. (Notice the huge termite hill in the background). The men had already returned to their fields because we were late arriving. However, we met with the women and children and saw their excitement with their newfound faith and the church, which met in this home. The children here were very excited with the gifts of pencils, pencil cases, rulers and balloons we had brought and the ladies loved the hand-sewn handbags we gave them – all donated by our church family and other supporters.
Since we left at the end March, the team has been busy digesting all we taught, training leaders for their own life groups who are multiplying. Emmanuel’s Life Group in Mchingatua (near Mzuzu) birthed a Life Group in George’s home in Lubinga, and he in turn started a Life Group in Ching’amo and that group has multiplied again with 4 more life groups in Dunduzi, just north of Mzuzu. One has become 6 life groups. Emmanuel’s Life Group also birthed a Life Group in Chipatula, led by Andrew.
The team has travelled to the Mpherembe area last month where God raised up leaders for 3 life groups in different villages.
In order to facilitate the growth of this work, we email daily with the team members in Malawi and keep encouraging them to continue on. We have also the translated the DCI Apprentice Leader Training Workbook into the Tumbuka language. We are encouraged by the reports we get from Malawi and we thank God for the opportunity we have to be involved in this work.
Below is a map of the area we are working in. The districts listed are all in Northern Malawi and that is the area we are concentrating our efforts on for now.