Our series of Q&As with country directors continues with Vincent Moyo, who has worked for Tearfund in Malawi since 2006. He shares his thoughts on what inspired him to take the job, which projects encourage him and his hopes for the future.
‘The church remains with the people beyond any defined project time frame and is always the place of refuge in times of need.’
How and why did you start working for Tearfund?
I found out about Tearfund through British friends who were living in Malawi. It didn’t take much convincing to join after learning that Tearfund promotes human transformation through the church. After qualifying as a sociologist at the University of Malawi I worked with a Christian organisation that was partnering with churches to support community development projects. It later changed to delivering ministry directly and not through the church which made it like any other NGO. At Tearfund, however, the local church reaches the most remote areas. And it does so in a holistic way for sustainable transformation from humble beginnings with minimum costs. The church remains with the people beyond any defined project time frame and is always the place of refuge in times of need.
What are the key challenges you are facing in your work?
There is a growing level of need among poor people due to corruption in ‘high places’. Government policies favour a few privileged people and leave many struggling in extreme poverty. This affects many areas of church ministry. Accessibility, accountability and responsibility at all levels are compromised, which undermines the sustainability of the very work we are doing through the church.
Tell us a little about a recent project running in your country that has encouraged you.
I was recently surprised and encouraged to hear from farmers in northern Malawi. They testified about the importance of being trained in conservation agriculture. The training, by Tearfund partner SOLDEV, had helped them to protect their crops from fall armyworm – a feared caterpillar that feasts on crops – and give them more food security.
I have also been inspired by the positive impact of self-help groups (SHGs) on peoples’ livelihoods in Chimwang’ombe, Chirambi, and Khwamba communities. People have gathered to pray together, save money in groups and engage in small-scale businesses. They have been able to buy essential household assets, send their children to school, buy livestock, and build better houses. Even more encouraging is the fact that most of the SHG members are poor women who never had voices in their families and society. Now they are listened to and involved in decision-making.
‘Do not get overwhelmed with the level of need around you but rise to act and God will honour your efforts for his own glory.’
How has integral mission motivated or guided the growth of this work?
Integral mission has been especially important in the SHG work. It goes beyond saving money and running small businesses to the members being spiritually nurtured through Bible studies and showing social responsibility during times of sickness. As such, members are showing an outworking of faith in their daily lifestyle.
What practical advice would you give to others who are starting out in this type of work?
Jesus is a good example when he feeds the five thousand (Matthew 14:13-21) – you should have the passion and commitment to do something positive in your life and God faithfully plays his part to enrich the small efforts and make some great positive transformation. Do not get overwhelmed with the level of need around you but rise to act and God will honour your efforts for his own glory. So no matter how small your action might seem to you please do not turn a blind eye to those in need. Instead, pray, visit and give what God has blessed you with to reach to those in need.
Does new technology have a role to play in your work?
Yes, we are working with partners to research the use of a solar-powered rope pump to promote small-scale irrigation and increase food security as well as household income.
In central Malawi, we have used a mobile app with our partner, Ministry of Hope, in 15 SHGs. The groups, totalling 300 people, are accessing the following information:
- how to run an SHG, which has helped them learn how to welcome people and form the group
- how to grow their groups
- how to develop business skills and find business opportunities and how to prepare for and obtain loans
- how to solve community challenges by using examples of how other SHGs tackled similar issues. As a result, they get to learn from the experience of others and have improved their computing skills after completing record-keeping sessions.
What areas of potential do you see in your work and country?
The biggest potential is in working through the local church. The church has been there, is there and will continue to be relevant to serving God’s people in order to meet different needs. The local church creates an opportunity to speak for the voiceless and engage the duty bearers. It calls us to serve those in need and protect the environment in this age of severe climate change.