It was one of those good meetings that some people don’t think happen in Christian circles. It was passionate, pointed and purposeful. After partnering in an evangelistic outreach, seeing the work of World Vision in Central Malawi, touring a potential Area Development site, meeting poor merchants whose livelihoods had been greatly improved by Opportunity International and visited a nursery that cares for orphans whose parents have died of AIDS (some of them are HIV+ themselves), we were now sitting in Zambia at a comfortable lodge in a game park talking together about how to make this ministry a reality. As we shared our reflections of the week and our dreams for what we could do together two common themes came to the top:
- Malawi is a country on the brink of deadly disaster. It’s not the Sudan, or Ethopia of years gone by, but it could soon be. Poverty, disease and AIDs is ravaging the land, the lack of rain this year alone could mean widespread hunger by the end of summer.
- The American church has been given the resources by God be the answer to this need.
One man pounded the table as he declared: “I know that there are millions and millions of dollars just sitting in our churches if people could only see the difference they could make.”
Another talked of how painful it was to realize that the children we met were going to die if we don’t do something: “I believe that God is trying to wake the sleeping giant that is the American church to this worldwide crisis.”
We all had many ideas, even some reservations. This whole concept has a lot of details to work out. But when the meeting was over, a new partnership was formed. I wrote a Memo of Understanding that I sent out to the leaders who were in the meeting. Here it is in edited form:
The Y-Malawi Partnership exists to give congregations in the United States the opportunity to cooperate with what God is doing in Central Malawi to bring relief from poverty, care for people who have been devastated by HIV/AIDs and to encourage Malawi churches and Christian workers in their efforts to bring the gospel and discipleship of Jesus Christ to this beautiful country of warm hearted people.
The Y-Malawi Partnership is organized in two partnership sub groups: Ministry Partners in Malawi (The Evangelical Association of Malawi; Fishers, Trainers, Senders; The Nkhoma Synod Youth Department of Central African Presbyterian Church; Opportunity International and World Vision, Malawi) and North American Partner Churches (10 max) and World Vision, USA. Both sub-groups will be headed by steering committees made up of representatives of the ministries and churches.
The Y-Malawi Partnership offers American churches the opportunity to express their passion for Jesus Christ and his particular callings to us in service to the Spirit-led priorities expressed through Malawian Christian leaders. We do this both through investment and involvement.
Our primary investment as a Partnership is with the World Vision Nkhoma Area Development Project (ADP). Our partner churches are all committed to participating in the World Vision Child Sponsorship program for the Nkhoma ADP. Every church in the partnership will be asked to make an initial investment, the first $180,000 of which is required to initiate the project. All initial investments beyond the first $180,000 will be invested in the Partnership administrative and ministry costs.
In addition, as projects and ministry opportunities are identified by the Y-Malawi Malawi Steering Committee, investment opportunities will be offered to the partner churches to support as they feel led.
While World Vision provides the Partnership with investment opportunities, congregational involvement is made available through the Y-Malawi Partner Ministries. Those ministries will provide opportunities for regular short-term mission teams to come to Central Malawi, visit their Sponsored Children in the Nkhoma ADP and participate in hands-on ministry that supports the ministry of the Y-Malawi Malawi Partners.
I am not a missionary, nor am I leader in relief and development. I am pastor. As a pastor, I believe, through investment and involvement, the “sleeping giant” will be awakened, the church will be strengthened and a world in need will experience the power and presence of God.
When confronted by a world in need, I see the way that need is an opportunity for the church to participate in God’s ministry to heal and reconcile the world through investment and involvement. In fact, it is more than an opportunity, it is a call.
The only question is: Will we answer it?