|Source: Living Lutheran|
In an emphatic declaration, pastor and acting general secretary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malawi (ELCM), Evance Mphalasa said, “In spite of COVID-19, ministry continues.”
Malawi is one of the 10 poorest countries in the world. Yet it houses one of the fastest-growing Lutheran churches on the continent.
Formed in 1982 independently of missionary influences, the ELCM seeks to ministry in one of the poorest countries in the world with a population of 18 million residents fit into a landlocked space the size of Pennsylvania, in the heart of central Africa. The Malawians discovered Lutheranism while working as migrant workers in neighboring countries.
According to ELCM director for training and secretary for mission and evangelism, said Feston Phiri, “Evangelism has been our call, our main mission,” he said. “We’ve been involved in evangelizing across the country, and it has rapidly grown.”
This fall the denomination will celebrate 40 years of ministry. Within these 40 years the ELCM has grown to encompass 150,000 members across 400 congregations.
Commenting on the strength of its evangelism program Philip Knutson, ELCA regional representative in Southern Africa said, “There has always been diakonia (service) to rural evangelism,” he said, citing support for women and children through a parish-based feeding program, mobile clinics and sustainable development projects, through which many people have “come into the church.”
With the help of other Lutheran bodies, mission outreach programs were a vital part of the church’s witness during the pandemic.
“Now we can reach areas we couldn’t reach ourselves—hard-to-reach areas,” Phiri said. “Most of the people, including the government, ignore these people. Roads are not good. When we started getting funds from the ELCA, we started reaching out to people in a Muslim-dominated area … [and] we have been able to reach them.”
Limited by strict COVID-19 government protocols, many pastors began hosting two services to accommodate all their worshippers in keeping with government safety measures.
2020 was a “hard time indeed with regard to evangelism in Malawi, but I think the whole world [was challenged],” he said. “Despite this COVID-19 as a problem, Malawi has not stopped evangelizing. [We simply used] a different approach.”
“We used this van and this singing group, which is a praise team, evangelizing, going around to different areas, reaching out to different people in this kind of way,” Phiri said. “This exercise was done during [the evening] … when people are in their houses, so it was very easy to reach them.”
Additionally, the ELCM focused heavily on evangelism training and teaching local groups that included women and married couples how to share the gospel with neighbors during pandemic.
“The church is growing so fast and so rapidly,” Phiri said.
Despite the state of the global pandemic, thanks to an emphasis on evangelism the ELCM remains committed to outreach and growth.
Source: Living Lutheran