How Epic Power Cuts Affect Life and Ministry

"Malawi does not have electricity supply at all."

That's what the Minister of Energy said last year. A year of drought had affected water levels in the Shire River, where 95% of Malawi's power is generated.

Then came another year of drought. And it's only gotten worse. Malawi definitely has a power crisis now.
Here's how that plays out on the ground.

Power Cuts at Home

In "normal" years, the power in our neighborhood would go off a couple times a week for 3-4 hours. These days, it goes off almost every day for 8-18 hours. What do we do when the power turns off at 4:00 am and comes back at 10:00 pm? We're thankful that we have some tools to help:
  • Generator. Our "genset" powers everything except the dryer and the water heater. It's the only way to keep the fridge cold or use the microwave. Still, we only use it a few hours per day because it guzzles $5 of fuel per hour, makes a lot of noise and exhaust, and takes several days to fix when it breaks.
  • Inverter. I cobbled together a second-hand inverter and a big bank of used batteries. Now, we can store power for the most essential circuits in the house: laptops, router, printer, a few lights and fans. Making the batteries last all day is a bit of a game. If the security lights are still on when the power comes back, we've won.
Inverter and a whole bunch of batteries. It's such a convenience to be able to email and print almost anytime!
  • Candles. For many rooms, we just use candles for light. They're cheap, and work no matter what. The only drawback: these days, many stores can't keep them in stock.
  • Camping gear. When all else fails, we delve into our camping gear: the solar phone charger, headlamps, and tent fan all get used around the house too!
Managing all those has taken some practice. We keep stock of candles, battery water, and gasoline. Our daily tasks also get rescheduled: Showers are only hot in the morning, and laundry can only happen late at night. On those joyous days when we have electricity during the day, everyone at our house rushes to the neglected power tools: the vacuum, the sander, the electric lawnmower, etc.

But perhaps the biggest change has been to our own expectations. Over time, we've adapted. In fact, we've realized we don't need electricity nearly as much as we thought we did.
A meme shared by my professional Malawian neighbors. 

From L to R: charcoal "rocket" stove, maize mortar and pestle, battery-powered radio, charcoal iron, candle, paraffin lantern, water jar. These traditional tools, while widely used in the village, have all been replaced by modern conveniences in developed areas of Malawi. The joke is that because of problems with ESCOM (the power company,) even white-collared citizens are becoming reacquainted with primitive tools.

Power Cuts and Church

We had no power when church began last Sunday. By the second song, someone had found the generator guy, and we enjoyed the luxuries of a sound system and lights again.

One Sunday last year, we had no electricity for the entire service. That was a great reminder for all of us that while lights, PowerPoint, and microphones are beneficial things, none of them are essential for worship. We could still sing, even without the keyboard and bass guitar. We could still hear the Word of God proclaimed, even if we had to strain a little harder to hear every word. While I wouldn't want to do it every week, I found that the extra effort of concentration helped me tune my own heart to praise the Lord. It's not unlike how most Christians have worshipped Him for the last two millennia.
And it's great to remember that the power of God to save and sanctify His church doesn't stop when the lights go out.

At most, our family is inconvenienced from a lack of power. We are privileged compared to many Malawians who suffer tremendously from problems with food and water. We pray regularly for electricity, for good rainfall this year, and for Malawi's leaders to govern wisely in every season. We hope you will pray with us too.


Matt Taught a Biblical Counseling Class

In addition to IBF Church, I continue to serve at Central African Preaching Academy (CAPA). A particular joy this year was teaching Introduction to Biblical Counseling to the 25 pastors in the MDiv program.
You can get to know each of these students by reading their stories, here.
We discussed actual counseling situations their church members faced, including:
  • A teenage son who sells the family possessions to buy alcohol
  • A wife who contracted HIV from her unfaithful husband
  • A teacher who abandoned his barren wife for an underage pupil
  • A man who came to Christ in prison but fears his unsupported wife will remarry because of poverty before he's released
  • A young wife whose relatives are appealing to the witchdoctor to help her bear a son
Issues like polygamy and witchcraft were pretty foreign to me, so it was exciting to explore with these men how God's Word speaks to these issues. God has granted us everything for life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3), even life in Africa!

Pray for these pastors as they continue to study, practice, and teach God's Word. Also, pray for me as I continue to grow in my roles as an adjunct professor and the Finance Director at CAPA.

Our Church Bought Land!

Here's a praise: In June, IBF Church signed a sales agreement for a two-acre piece of land in a very central part of Lilongwe (outlined in green below). Many of you have been praying for this for years now! Last month, I picked up the title deed, now in the church's name.
We're excited about the ministry potential afforded by this land. Pray for wisdom for our church leadership as we work towards development of this land while continuing to shepherd the people who will someday use it.

We Visited the USA

In July, our family spent two weeks in California for a missionary conference. We enjoyed getting to see some of you while we were there! Thanks to some very gracious people, we were able to introduce our girls to some great new experiences, including a Dodger game and Disneyland. 
Yet like her sister before her, Naomi's favorite part might very well have been...the drinking fountains.
Thanks for continuing to pray for us! We'd love to hear what's going on in your lives too!


Matt & Rachel
Abigail & Naomi