Holistic care in southern Malawian communities
Justine and Ryan Hayes began serving with CMF in Nairobi, Kenya, before transitioning to southern Malawi with a team at Namikango Mission in 2014. Now, the Hayes’ are involved in multiple projects and initiatives toward empowering communities to holistically address the needs of their families and churches through discipleship, economic empowerment, and biblical teaching.
The Hayes have helped begin and further several developmental programs in southern Malawi, including the Women’s Development Ministry, Community Health Evangelism (CHE), Village Savings and Loans (VSL), conservation agriculture, a maternity clinic, and a coffee roasting business which has opened the door to work with many coffee farmers in the community as well as help sustain these developmental programs.
Village Savings and Loans is a model in which a group from a community comes together to contribute to a communal savings from which group members can then request loans. The VSL program selects and trains leaders for each group, and then the group chooses interest rates and continues to grow and generate resources this way. Each VSL meeting starts with a reading from scripture and prayer. Through this program that involves both the husband and the wife, the Hayes’ say that they have seen the women of the community step into positions of power and influence, and subsequently, have seen communities flourish in new ways.
Justine and Ryan tell a story of a Malawian woman who was recently widowed and left in a very tight spot, socially and financially. She joined one of the VSL groups and through a loan, was able to start a secondhand clothing business. Eventually, she became the Chair of the VSL group, which was comprised of about 20-25 women; in this position of leadership, she was empowered in decision-making on behalf of the group. “It’s interesting to see how things shift for people and churches when you look at the husband and wife in the same way and help provide the same set of opportunities,” say the Hayes’.
Through this VSL model, the Hayes say they are seeing people come back into a space where they’re now not only able to provide for themselves and their family, but also care for the community at large. Through this organic process of learning how to do everything as a group, VSL groups think big in terms of what is possible – and as a result, so do their communities.
Another aspect of ministry in southern Malawi that the Hayes’ have helped begin is a marriage training program with a focus on HIV prevention, led by local church leaders. In one of these recent trainings, a woman from the village who had been ostracized by her church because she and her husband contracted HIV, happened to walk past the meeting as the leader was talking about loving and welcoming people who were HIV-positive into the church. The woman stopped to come in, which led to the leaders of the church publicly apologizing to her for not loving and standing with people who had HIV in the past. This public apology brought a community together, as well as this woman back into the church. According to Justine and Ryan, this story of reconciliation is not rare – they are seeing this sort of thing happen over and over again, between couples and community members, as practical, helpful, and inclusive information is shared.
coffee roasting, Community Health Evangelism, conservation agriculture, discipleship, economic empowerment, HIV prevention, Justine and Ryan Hayes, Malawi, maternity clinic, Namikango Mission, Village Savings and Loans, Women’s Development Ministry