Malawi church celebrates 30 years

Rev. Philip Knutson

The Rev. Philip Knutson is the ELCA’s regional program assistant in Southern Africa. To support Philip, or another of the ELCA’s over 200 missionaries in the global church, go to www.ELCA.org/4missionaries.

The Rev. Philip Knutson

The Rev. Philip Knutson

Dear friends,

It is not the color of your skin, country of origin or a plane ticket that makes you a missionary but your baptism. By God’s grace we are claimed and called through baptism, gathered, equipped and sent to participate in God’s mission locally and globally for the sake of the world.

This was celebrated over several days recently by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malawi at its 30th anniversary celebrations in Lilongwe. The church was launched in 1982 as the result of local initiatives by Malawians who had lived and worked in neighboring countries where they had come into contact with local Lutheran congregations.  Gilbert Msuku was one of the founding members. He had worked in Tanzania for 30 years and had been a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania. He and Joseph Bvumbwe (now Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malawi bishop) started conducting worship services in their homes with interested friends and neighbors. Today the church has more than 100,000 members and is one of the fastest growing Lutheran churches in the region.

I was privileged to attend the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malawi partners meeting this past week and to bring greetings to the church assembly on behalf of the ELCA Global Mission unit and the Northwest Synod of Wisconsin, which is a companion synod to the Malawi church. Together with Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malawi partners from Tanzania, Germany, Finland and Sweden, we exchanged reports and discussed cooperation strategies regarding ongoing training of pastors, evangelists and lay members as well as the work of the church’s Lutheran Development Service. The ELCA is accompanying the Malawi church through providing assistance for scholarships for pastors, empowering women and youth, climate change mitigation, a clinic at Madisi parish, HIV and  AIDS, and malaria programs. As the country experienced poor rains last summer the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malawi will continue with its children’s feeding program in vulnerable communities. We were able to visit several Village Savings and Loan groups and see how women and men are working together to start small, income-generating and sustainable livelihood projects and are using the income to improve conditions for their families.

The theme chosen for the 30th anniversary was taken from Romans 8:31-39: “Nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Hundreds of members of the Malawi church and guests from other denominations joined with more than 27 choirs and dance groups of all ages to celebrate and worship together in thanks for 30 years of mission and diaconal ministry. As companions walking together there is much we can learn from each other regarding God’s mission of transformation, reconciliation and empowerment.

Thank you for your continuing prayers and support through the ELCA’s Missionary Sponsorship program and for your participation in God’s mission locally and globally.

Yours faithfully,
Philip Knutson Rev. Dr.
ELCA Global Mission
Regional Program Assistant
Southern Africa — Johannesburg