Lilongwe, Malawi … Rural areas in Malawi are plagued with dust, and in the rainy season, mud. Water is scarce, and clean water in short supply. On top of that sourcing communion supplies for church services is always an expensive proposition. Major items for communion must be imported from outside the country, communion trays, cups, and even the grape juice. Only the unleavened bread can be made or sourced locally. For poverty plagued congregations this becomes an expense they can hardly afford. During the Covid pandemic the costs of everything have risen drastically, including the things needed for Sunday’s communion service. Many villagers have not seen a rise in the sale of their garden products so the squeeze on churches is felt in the cost of communion. Rather than ask for help from outside, many of them have resorted to using bottle caps in place of the more expensive plastic communion cups.
“Last week as I sat in church services in a U.S. congregation, I could not help thinking about my church family in Malawi as they had been to worship services about 7 hours ahead of me on the world clock,” recalls Richard Stephens with the Malawi Project. In Malawi the communion is a bit different than in American and western congregations where the clock dictates the length of the service. In Malawi it holds a very central location in the service. A special moment that can go on for quite a length of time.
“For me, going to a western congregation, everything started as I drove down a paved street and into a paved lot with white lines indicating the location for every car. I walked into a well-kept and recently cleaned auditorium. The heat had already been turned up to a perfect comfort level, and I sat down on a padded pew that looked like it had just been purchased yesterday. The lights were turned to just the right level, conductive to worship. The song books were well cared for, and when it was time for the communion, we were given a brand-new plastic container with sealed compartments on each end, one end for the bread and the other for the grape juice. The service continued with songs, a sermon, prayers, announcements and quite a well-organized service. We are up and out just as the second hand hits the hour.”
“In congregations outside the major cities in Malawi it is drastically different. Many meet in bamboo huts where everyone shifts to stay out of the rain in the rainy season, while some gather under nearby trees. Many sit on hard dirt floors where ants and other tiny critters have free reign. Baptisms often take place in a nearby river where a man with a long stick must first go down in the water to insure there are no sink holes, or crocodiles.”
“Since learning of the plight of Christians in Malawi having no cups for the communion, I know look at our communion service with a degree of embarrassment. I have brand new, carefully wrapped materials. They have bottle caps! This should not be so.”
If you would like to help Malawi Christians to have a safer communion service with clean, new cups they can wash and use again and again, places like Christianbook, 21st Century Christian, Gospel Advocate, Concordia Supply, and a host of other locations can drop ship communion cups to us per your order. Send them to Malawi Project, 2421 Golfside Drive, Lebanon, Indiana 46052.