North Malawi Conference headquarters.

Photo courtesy of Alfred Manuel Simukoko.

North Malawi Conference

By Alfred Manuel Simkoko

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Alfred Manuel Simkoko, B.A. (Malawi Adventist University), currently serves as a district pastor in Msangawale Village, Chitipa District, Malawi. 

First Published: September 15, 2022

North Malawi Conference is a subsidiary church administrative unit of the Malawi Union Conference in the Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division of Seventh-day Adventists.

Current Territory and Statistics

North Malawi Conference has 45 districts, 244 organized churches, and 470 companies, giving a total of 714 meeting groups. There are 59 dedicated church buildings in the conference territory. The conference has 29 ordained pastors, 22 licensed pastors, 37 Bible workers, one secondary school, and 33 government assisted primary schools. The territory of North Malawi Conference extends for 27,131 square-kilometers, with a population of 2,289,780, which is distributed as follows: Chitipa: 234,927; Karonga: 365,028; Nkhata-Bay: 284,681; Rumphi: 229, 161; Mzimba: 940,184; Likoma: 14,527; and Mzuzu city: 221,272)1. There are three main languages spoken in the North Malawi Conference territory; namely, Tumbuka, Tonga, and Nkhonde. The Tumbuka language is the major one.

Origins of Adventist Work in the North Malawi Conference

According to Pastor James Malinki, one of the pioneers of the work in the northern region, it was in 1912 that Seventh-day Adventist members received a request from the Seventh-Day Baptist native believers of the northern region to send Adventist missionaries among them2. The origin of Adventist work in North Malawi Conference started in 1929 when Pastor Simon Bunyani arrived in the territory called Luwazi. When Pastor Bunyani started his missionary work there, two of the first converts to be baptized in that same year were Robert Mkwema Mhoni and Moses Banda3. Luwazi Mission was the first mission to be established in that northern region of Malawi, in the Nkhata Bay district. The station is ten miles (16 kilometers) from the western shore of Lake Malawi, toward its northern end, on 400 acres of land granted to the mission by the government on a leasehold basis. This station became the center of Adventist work in the north of Nyasaland (Malawi).

By 1931 the Luwazi Mission station consisted of a good European bungalow for the European workers and a native building that served as a church and school, built in 19294. The establishment of a school and a health center at Luwazi made it possible for students to travel from all corners of North Malawi to attend school at Luwazi. For example, one report says, “Chief Mankhambira, who is an influential chief over a large district near Lake Nyasa, made arrangements to move to Luwazi and attend school with a number of his children.”5 As students returned to their homes from school, they carried the gospel of Jesus Christ and started spreading it in their areas. It was the influence of the students who went to Luwazi Mission to learn that contributed toward the opening of Mombera Mission, located to the west of the Luwazi district.

At Mombera Mission the work was started through the labors of Pastor James Malinki.6 Malinki was sent in 1932 by Pastor N. C. Wilson, Nyasaland Union Mission president at the time, to pioneer the work in the Mombera area.7 Meanwhile, Pastor Malinki continued to be associated with the work at Luwazi Mission. His family lived there while he pioneered the work at Mombera Station. His ministry contributed much, in collaboration with the white and local workers, in building up a strong and successful work in that mission field8. Mombera Mission became the second place to be opened after Luwazi. It is about eighty-five miles (about 137 kilometers) from Luwazi Mission to Mombera in Mzimba district.

To start the work, the colonial government gave the church five acres of land at the edge of the village where Pastor Malinki was to build a house, school, and church building as a center of the work in that district9. In 1946 a junior secondary school was started at Mombera, and a two-year ministerial training school was opened in 1966. Mombera Mission was renamed Lunjika Secondary School in 1976, and it now operates as a coeducational boarding secondary school under the supervision of the Malawi Union Conference.10 Other mission stations were opened later, such as Ighembe in Karonga District, Kajaliro in Chitipa District, Nthenje in Rumphi District, and Dididi in Nkhata Bay District.11

Challenges Faced by the Pioneers

Traditions–Vimbuza Dance: This is a cultural dance at which one person, whether male or female, who has been affected by demons, is made to dance to the sound of drums during the nighttime. That is, drums are beaten with an accompaniment of songs and hand-clapping to drive away the evil spirits from the person possessed by them. This was strongly condemned by early missionary pioneers who urged the community to look to Jesus and pray because He is the one who can redeem the people from their sufferings.

Polygamy: This was also a challenge for men who believed in marrying more than one wife if they wanted to become baptized believers.

Sicknesses: When a person suddenly fell sick, he or she went to a traditional healing specialist, a spirit medium, to inquire from their ancestors’ spirit what had caused the sickness. The local people found it a challenge to stop going to these spirit mediums because they believed that they may have been bewitched.

Unclean Animals: Luwazi Mission is in the vicinity of Lake Malawi, where a lot of unclean fish are caught by fishermen, but they are forbidden to be eaten. This was equally a great challenge for the people in the area to stop eating unclean species of fish and unclean animals. This was so because their main relish was fish since the mission is close to the lake.12

Methods of Evangelism

The establishment of health centers in the region became an effective method for spreading the word of God. This is because before patients were treated, health personnel first conducted a devotional exercise. The idea was to create confidence in the minds of the people that it is God who heals.

Bible studies and evangelistic efforts were the main methods used for spreading the Word of God.13

Organization of North Nyasa Field

The establishment of North Nyasa Field originated in 1957 when the Nyasaland Union Mission year-end executive committee meeting voted to organize North Nyasa Field, with Pastor Norman L. Doss as its first president.14 Pastor Doss was an American missionary who at that time was working at Thekelani Mission in the South Nyasa Field (now known as South Malawi Conference).

In January 1958 Pastor Doss established the office of North Nyasa Field at Mzimba District, while his residence was at Mthandizi. The executive secretary/treasurer was Elder S. M. Samuel. Some of the ordained ministers serving under Pastor Doss at that time were: Pastor A. Chirwa, Y. Kamwendo, Bennet Makawa, R. F. Medford, D. Ndovi, J. Ngaiyaye, B. B. Nkosi, Z. Nserebo, J. Nyirenda, and A. Ziyenda. The field membership stood at 3,200 in 1958.

There were also some licensed ministers such as: Yokoniya Beza, S. W. De lange, M. Kalonga, N. Y. Kasambara, W. Katundu, J. Mwandira, E. Nanjagha, R. Ndhlamini, and G. A. Otter. Initially, North Nyasa Field was called North Lake Mission, which included the territory today called Central Malawi Conference, extending to eastern Zambia and the present North Malawi Conference region. There were 3,200 members, 22 churches, and 48 companies.

In 1961 there were 111 workers in the North Lake Mission. Of these, 20 were ordained ministers, 11 licensed pastors, six ministerial teachers, nine licensed missionaries, 56 primary school teachers, six literature evangelists, and 3 regular office workers. In 1964 the mission was reorganized along its present boundary by the Dwangwa River, demarcating North Malawi Field from Central Malawi Field. Its headquarters was situated at Mzimba for many years.

In 2000 it was voted to move North Malawi Field headquarters from Mzimba to Mzuzu to enhance the centrality of the office operations and communication in terms of Internet accessibility. Hence, in May 2001, Pastor Gladson Thumbalamoto–the then field president; H. L. Nkhata-Publishing/VOP director; Pastor A. D. Moyo–youth director; Horace Nyirenda–education director; Pastor A. M. Simukoko–ministerial/stewardship director; and Elder O. Mphimbya–executive secretary/treasurer; all moved to Mzuzu City, leaving the field houses that were turned into rental houses.

On September 4, 2018, the North Malawi Field was finally declared a conference by Dr. Solomon Maposa, president of the Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division, accompanied by Malawi Union Conference officers: Pastor Frackson L. Kuyama–Malawi Union Conference president, Pastor Innocent Chikomo–executive secretary, and Elder E. Dambula–chief finance officer. Since then the membership of the North Malawi Conference has grown tremendously from 3,200 in 1958 to 104,515 in 2021, sixty-two years since the organization of the field.

North Malawi Conference status was achieved through the dynamic leadership of Pastor W. C. Mwale as president. At the time of writing, the conference was still led by Pastor W. C. Mwale, president; Pastor M.Y.W. Ngwira, executive secretary; Elder K. B. Lusale, chief finance officer; Pastor C. K. Chirwa, Personal Ministries director; Pastor Holyman H. Bwanamdoko, Publishing and Sabbath School departments director; A.W. Banda, Ministerial and Stewardship director; A. R. Kaunda, Adventist Youth and Education Department director; Mrs. Ireen Sangoma Kasambara, Women’s Ministries and Children’s Ministries director; and Mrs. Elizabeth Chatsika, Health Ministries and AAI Ministries director.

List of Presidents

Norman L. Doss (1957-1965), B. B. Nkosi (1965-1970), N.Y. Kasambara/F. K. Nyasulu (1971-1975), W. W. Katundu (1976-1980), H. B. Kanjewe (1981-1985), F. K. Nyasulu (1986-1990), D. C. Kasambara (1991-1995), R. R. Mzumara (1996), W. T. Katundu (1997-2000), G. Thumbalamoto (2001 to 2002), F. S. B. Chirwa (2002-2010), W. C. Mwale (2011- )15.

Sources

Editorial. “Mombera Mission in North Nyasaland.” Southern African Division, June 15, 1957.

Hanson, E. D. “Malamulo Teachers’ Institute.” African Division Outlook, August 25, 1930.

Montgomery, O. “Luwazi Mission and Camp meeting in North Nyasaland.” African Division Outlook, December 17, 1931.

North Malawi Field of Seventh-day Adventists (Mzimba, Malawi). Minutes of the North Malawi Field Executive Committee meeting of March 6, 2001.

Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia. Second Revised Edition. Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1996. S.v. “Lunjika Secondary School.”

Notes

  1. Geoffrey J. Mwase, interview by the author, Mzuzu, August 25, 2021.

  2. O. Montgomery, “Luwazi Mission and Camp meeting in North Nyasaland,” African Division Outlook, December 17, 1931, 12.

  3. Gradwin Jungu Mhone, Luwazi Mission of Seventh-day Adventist, April 25, 2021.

  4. Montgomery, 11.

  5. E. D. Hanson, “Malamulo Teachers’ Institute,” African Division Outlook, August 25, 1930, 2.

  6. Montgomery, 11.

  7. Editorial, “Mombera Mission in North Nyasaland,” Southern African Division, June 15, 1957, 6.

  8. Montgomery, 12.

  9. Ibid., 12.

  10. Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia (1996), s.v. “Lunjika Secondary School.”

  11. Gradwin Jungu Mhone, interview by the author, Luwazi Mission, April 25, 2021.

  12. Ibid.

  13. W. H. Khunga, interview by the author, Luwazi Mission, April 25, 2021.

  14. North Malawi Field of Seventh-day Adventists (Mzimba, Malawi), minutes of the North Malawi Field Executive Committee meeting of March 6, 2001.

  15. S. Y. Mtambo, interview by the author, Mzuzu, April 12, 2021.

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Simkoko, Alfred Manuel. "North Malawi Conference." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. September 15, 2022. Accessed February 29, 2024. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=CCZS.

Simkoko, Alfred Manuel. "North Malawi Conference." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. September 15, 2022. Date of access February 29, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=CCZS.

Simkoko, Alfred Manuel (2022, September 15). North Malawi Conference. Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved February 29, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=CCZS.