The two United Church of God congregations in Malawi are continuing to have growth. Our newest member in Malawi is Gift Chikwela who was baptized in Lilongwe on March 21. A new attendance record was set in Blantyre on March 25 with 71 in attendance.
The brethren are very thankful for the Good Works Program donation to the famine relief fund (see article, page 1). These funds were distributed in both the Lilongwe and Blantyre congregations. The economy of Malawi was severely affected by the drought. Thankfully, the rains have come as normal this year and the maize crop is starting to hit the market.
The Good Works Program also donated funds to help the brethren with MP3 players. These players are very expensive in Malawi, so we purchased them in South Africa and I brought them on my latest trip. One of the members who will receive a player lives in Mangochi, which is over 100 miles from the nearest congregation. He is only able to attend church services occasionally because of the distance and finances.
We are still in the process of registering the United Church of God in Malawi. Registration papers were submitted using the name "United Church of God, Malawi." However, we found that we had to get government permission to use that name. We have shortened the name to "United Church of God" and hope that we will be registered officially in a few weeks.
One exciting development for the Church in Malawi is the possibility of having a Church building in the Blantyre area. One of our members has experience as a surveyor and found a piece of property owned by the local government that was not being used. They did not know it even existed until he pointed it out. An application for the Church to lease the property for 99 years has been submitted to the local authorities. The cost of leasing the property would be around $100/year. The site is approximately 1 hectare (about 2.5 acres) and has trees on it. It could also be used as a Feast site in the future. This would be a great help to brethren there who only average about $20 a month in salary. Tents could be purchased and the site would be an excellent Feast site.
Poverty and a poor economy continue to plague Malawi. Even members who live in the cities were affected because of lack of maize to sell during the latest drought, which was especially serious in the Blantyre area. The businesses of members were seriously affected because of the shortages and the extreme poverty in the country.
The members in Malawi are very thankful for the assistance from their brethren around the world. Malawians are a gentle and kind people. There is good potential for future growth in Malawi. UN