Comfort my People

by Janet Stafford & Lapson Mbewe

2019 began with happiness and hope for a good harvest as the rains started to fall. Nobody expected that things would change in the way they did. In February 2019, Cyclone Idai added to the heavy rains, resulting in the worst floods we have known in Malawi. Many people were killed and crops were washed away, along with houses, belongings and livestock. Many were left homeless and had to go to flood victims’ camps. Knowing of the devastation and the challenges people faced, I went out to Malawi with the words of Isaiah 40:1-2 in mind, ‘Comfort, comfort My people, says your God. Speak tenderly…’

I arrived in Malawi a week before Easter. Many expected that the challenges people were facing would stop them from attending the Easter conference. We thank God that more than 4,000 people came, despite the flooding. Among those present were over 150 blind people. The conference was timely as God comforted and encouraged His people with His words.

The Worst Affected

Among those affected by the flooding were the blind and people with albinism. A night of prayer and fellowship was organised, when over 700 blind people and those with albinism gathered. Looking at the faces of those who came to the prayer meeting, it was clear that many were depressed due to the situation they were left in by the floods. Yet, it was not long before everybody was encouraged by God’s Word. They went home with renewed strength, courage and awareness of God being with them. Each one was given help with food and clothes sent from the UK. The container had been delayed but God had a reason. It came just at the right time in answer to their needs and we thank God for His provision.

‘Comfort, comfort My people, says your God. Speak tenderly…’

Flood Victims

We visited one of the camps with a clinic, which met a great need, both for those who were in the camp and surrounding villages. People needed medicines, so we worked around the clock but had to leave some patients to be seen the next day. We were sad to see there were no tents, mats or mosquito nets. They were living on open ground with a sparse covering of trees. They had been given just one blanket per family.

It was in God’s timing that we went to Khungubwe flood victims’ camp with food, blankets and clothes. We had over six hundred 50kg bags of maize and large sacks full of mixed clothes. The camp had over 278 families and a population of 2,589 people. Five babies were born in the camp at that time. A 50kg bag of maize was given to each family.

Sacks of clothes and other supplies from the delayed container were a great help, providing people in the camp with blankets and warm clothes for the children. They had lost everything in the floods and were so grateful. As the winter season began, they thanked the Lord for the clothes, soap and medicines given to them.

After the distribution, the Christians began to sing choruses and Lapson had the opportunity to share from Isaiah 41:1-9 and Luke 18. It was encouraging to hear people giving thanks to God for the help.

In the aftermath of the floods, people returned to their farms to clear the ground for winter planting. They faced many challenges, including sourcing materials to build new houses, planting crops to meet ongoing food needs, and replacing basic tools and household goods. God’s people in Malawi have been comforted through your prayers. They know that nothing can separate them from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:38-39).

The Aftermath

A year after the floods, people are still struggling. Rebuilding their homes has not been easy and the government has given them nothing. They have no harvest and are in need of food. We visited mountain villages with clinics to find everywhere brown and dry. The people were living without food and many were in need of medicine. With so many children undernourished and suffering from malaria, clinics are always a great blessing. One village in particular had never had medicines and were so thankful for the distribution. The morning after the clinic, the church leader rode his bicycle 30 miles to say: ‘Thank you for bringing Jesus to my village.’ The community was left amazed and shaken by the love of God.

The community was left amazed and shaken by the love of God.

Another weekend, we brought hundreds of blind and disabled people together to help them with food, clothes and soap. We shared a time of fellowship and told them of Jesus and His love for them. The Holy Spirit moved in the meetings and at the end a number gave testimony to what the Lord Jesus had done for them. A blind lady stood up and said she needed to share something. She, like many others, had lost her husband, her home and her possessions in the floods. She gave thanks for what she had received – a blanket, clothes, food and soap. She had not had soap for six months. Then she said, ‘You have given me so much and I am so grateful, but I am going home with something else which means so much more than any of these practical things.’ She explained that she had never known, until she came to the gathering, that Jesus died for her because He loved her. Then she said, ‘I want you all to know I am going home with Jesus.’

The flooding in the local area has resulted in 60 new orphans coming to the local school. They need prayer and support.

I was able to purchase 160 Portuguese Bibles, sourced by Opal Trust. The need for both Portuguese and Chichewa print Bibles is tremendous. Often, this is what people asked for – not food or clothes, but a Bible!

At the airport coming back to the UK, I saw a young man who works there, whom I have met a number of times. I felt the Lord telling me to give him my Bible. I always carry a small one in my handbag. You should have seen his face when I told him I had something for him and I took the Bible from my bag. He said he had prayed for a number of years for a Bible of his own but had not been able to get one. He said it meant more to him than money and was his life and weapon. He got down on his knees there in the airport and thanked God.

The physical needs are many, but so too are the spiritual needs. There are many still in the mountain areas and villages of Malawi who have not heard that God in Heaven has sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to be their Saviour. Please stand in the gap and pray for the increase of His Kingdom and the blessing of the people in Malawi.

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