The Revd Tim Harford, Director of Fundraising and Communications for USPG, describes how the Anglican Church in Malawi is taking a multi-faceted approach to mission…
Every day at USPG – at our international head office in Southwark – we are grappling with the meaning of mission.
It’s not a simple thing to define – and our Anglican partners around the world hold many different perspectives and priorities – but one thing we would generally agree on is that mission is ‘holistic’, which means multifaceted, addressing body, mind and soul.
I hope the following story might offer an idea of what holistic mission looks like in practice.
One of our partners is the Anglican Church in Malawi, where the church, with support from USPG and other local and international agencies, is putting its faith into action to try and tackle some of the many challenges faced by communities.
A significant challenge, which is of great concern to the church, is a desire to help girls obtain an education. At the same time there is also a need to champion women’s rights and to improve livelihoods for families in a country ranked 173 out of 188 in the United Nations Human Development Index (2015).
A survey conducted in four rural parishes by USPG and the Church of Malawi found that 22 per cent of respondents had never attended school – the vast majority of them women. The survey also found that the average daily income stood at 50p per day or less, and that most families did not have their own toilet or washing facilities.
In this context, girls are often kept at home to work to help support the family or bring in an income, so they miss out on schooling. At the same time, agricultural land is being depleted of nutrients as communities chop down trees for firewood, meaning that the land is even less likely to yield a good crop. On top of this, there is little income – or awareness of – health concerns such as HIV. Indeed, in some cases, girls have been urged into prostitution to try and generate income to feed the family.
It can be seen that each challenge exacerbates other challenges. Clearly, therefore, what is needed is a multi-faceted, integrative approach which will tackle numerous difficulties at the same time.
Accordingly, a USPG-supported church programme is simultaneously promoting literacy for girls, supporting income generation schemes, managing the environment, and improving access to HIV care.
Girls in St Joseph’s Parish, Chintheche, are benefiting from the programme.
Judith, aged 14, told us about an ingenious initiative: ‘The school has installed new toilets for girls [funded by the church], which are very important. Previously, girls had to go to a borehole and use toilets that were also used by the whole community. The water was often dirty and there were no doors [and therefore no privacy]. But now the school has new toilets, we have privacy, so this encourages more girls to come to school.’
Judith added: ‘Because lots of girls drop out, girls also receive counselling on why we should keep coming to school. Also, boys want us to be their girlfriends, but we are told to be careful so we can avoid HIV, other illnesses and pregnancy.’
Through this work, the church is seen as putting into practice the example of Jesus.
Fr Hannex Kamenya, of St Joseph’s Church in Chintheche, told USPG: ‘The Anglican Church is very important. We visit people wherever they live, even over the mountains. We know all the people in our parishes, which means we can have an impact.’
For our Lent appeal this year, USPG is raising funds to support this programme. You can find out more and download free resources here: http://www.uspg.org.uk/resources/lentresources/