Building Relationships and Distributing Bibles in Malawi

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I just returned from an amazing journey to Malawi. Maybe you don’t know where Malawi is. I told some of my friends I was going to take a trip to Malawi, “Wow, that’s cool!” they exclaimed. “Where’s Malawi?”

Malawi is a country located in south-central Africa, surrounded by Mozambique, Tanzania, and Zambia. One of the cool features of Malawi is Lake Malawi. Lake Malawi is the 9th largest freshwater lake in the world and boasts more species of fish than any other lake in the world. You can also see the African “Big Five” the lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and Cape buffalo in this small country. I enjoyed seeing several of these animals in the Liwonde National Park.

Our team was myself, my wife Bev, my oldest daughter, and Arlin Horst, Director of Development at Heralds of Hope. This trip was to review and familiarize ourselves with the work that has been going on in Malawi through Heralds of Hope for the past several years.

Our purpose was to develop a better way to distribute Bibles among needy pastors and their congregations. Secondly, it was to build relationships with our ministry partners in Malawi, and lastly, we were looking for some personal stories from those who received Bibles or listened to our radio program.

How to distribute Bibles

How do you distribute Bibles to those who need one? This really depends on your context, here in America, few people want a FREE Bible. Many Christians own several Bibles and if they do need a new one, they can easily purchase one online or at a local bookstore. If funds are limited, they could go to a local church and simply ask for one.

What if you had to work the equivalent of 7 days to earn enough money for a Bible? That would require you to suspend all other purchases to put aside that amount of money. Stop and think what you could purchase with 7 day’s wages. New phone, new laptop, new car? This gives you the perspective on the value of the simple gift of a Bible.

Organizations can quickly create a predicament in freely distributing items that have significant value to them. Corruption, favoritism, and even entrepreneurship become great temptations. Our goal was to find a culturally appropriate method to be generous, provide accountability, and not increase our partner’s workload. I will be honest; we discussed the matter on and off for almost 5 days before we arrived with a plan.

In the meantime, we learned about Malawian culture, church structure, and the effective reach of Trans World Radio Malawi. We learned about a crucial piece of the local church structure that we were not aware of, Pastor’s fraternities. These local groups of pastors provide fellowship, accountability, and networking among local pastors. We also learned that other NGO’s work with these fraternities to distribute aid and services. They are local and know where the needs are and can work to keep each other accountable. This is where we had our “Aha” moment. Why not distribute the Bibles through the chairperson of such a group?

We presented our plan to a group of pastors and church leaders in the city of Blantyre. At first they were concerned that we would no longer provide them with Bibles. We were able to explain that their local fraternity could request Bibles to distribute in a more effective manner. Many of the pastors seemed pleased with the plan but a few were upset. “It will never work”, they told me. Time will tell how well it works.

-Tony High, Director
Heralds of Hope, Inc.

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