“Welcome to the warm heart of Africa.” These were words I heard over and over again when I visited Salvation Army projects throughout the Malawi Territory. At first I thought that this descriptive phrase simply captured the inspiring landscape and hot temperatures. But the truth of this greeting is found in the Malawian people.
For many Salvationists, the Partners in Mission campaign is a time of self-denial as we focus on the needs of the international Salvation Army. This year, our territory set a goal of raising $2.2 million, with each division setting targets in faith to see this happen. I am grateful for every supporter, and as I write these thoughts, I am aware that you will be reading them in the closing days of the campaign and likely preparing your final donations. I am strongly convicted that I should support the work of the Army around the world and I have a desire to do something tangible, so I pray that you will join me in supporting this campaign.
In February 2012, I had the opportunity to visit Malawi and see the work that your funds make possible. When I ask you to give, I do so having witnessed the many possibilities created through your generosity.
Despite their many challenges, the people of Malawi are gentle, respectful, hopeful and hardworking. They speak Chichewa and English, but both languages are surpassed by smiles, singing and traditional dance. When you see the obvious and significant needs facing them, your initial response is shock and deep concern. But then the Malawian people embrace you and tell you their story, opening your eyes to the beauty and strength of the nation.
Nonetheless, the needs are great. There are limited resources, economic instability, widespread poverty, illiteracy, human child trafficking, HIV/AIDS and high unemployment.
In the midst of this dismal picture, we discover the positive self-determination of the Malawian people. And we also find The Salvation Army’s development team.
As the Army in Malawi identifies opportunities for development and mission, other territories such as Canada and Bermuda are given the privilege to partner with them. We support projects that are changing lives and helping communities improve their future.
I need to say, however, that while the people of Malawi appreciate and benefit from our assistance, they are quite able to help themselves. They have an enviable sense of community as they carefully manage their projects – some of which continue long after the funding has run out. They also demonstrate their capacity to discover solutions when roadblocks suggest there is no way forward. Our involvement as a partner territory must focus on augmenting what already exists as we support their journey to being self-sustaining.
I believe that our partnership must continue and, where appropriate, be enhanced. The projects and programs our territory supports would not be possible without the contributions made to the Partners in Mission campaign. This is the starting place for projects such as bee keeping, water wells, HIV/AIDS outreach, literacy and feeding programs to help children stay in school. These initiatives are valued and a means of empowerment. Also effective are the donations made to Gifts of Hope. It seems simple, but even the gift of two pigs, properly cared for, can create income for a family so that they can afford to eat adequately and send their children to school. These things are all possible as we continue to give sacrificially.
As I reflect on my trip to Malawi, I’m flooded by a sea of images: rescued children, orphans, poverty, malnutrition, HIV/AIDS, and missing parents. But in the midst of it all, The Salvation Army is there to show God’s love and concern for his people.
I’m thankful for the ministry of Major Gillian Brown who leads our World Missions team at THQ. In addition to Malawi, we are Partners in Mission with Zimbabwe, Liberia, Latin America North and Germany and Lithuania. Your help is critical in providing the resources that can make a difference in a life and in a community. Thank you for giving!
Commissioner Brian Peddle is the territorial commander of the Canada and Bermuda Territory.