Malawi (MNN) — Only from the warm heart of Africa would you get a description of a ministry collaboration like this: “We are a beautiful collision created by the crash of the western and eastern cultures.”
In Malawi, a small landlocked country in southeast Africa, the dreamers and visionaries intersected with the Gospel, and the Chisomo Idea was born. The challenges: poverty in both spirit and body. Malawi is among the 7 poorest countries in the world, with a million orphans. Three quarters of Malawians live under the international poverty line, surviving on $1.25 a day. According to the Joshua Project, of the 26 people groups in Malawi, four are unreached.
However, 73.7% of the population professes to be Christian, notes the report. So, what’s with the “Chisomo Idea”? Noel Musicha is the co-founder and CEO of the Chisomo Idea. He explains, “The word ‘Chisomo’ is the Malawian word for grace.” Grace is the love of God shown to the unlovely; the peace of God given to the restless; the unmerited favor of God. Theologian John Stott once observed, “Grace is love that cares and stoops and rescues.” Musicha agrees, adding, “It’s kind of like the grace to DO.”
But to do what? “‘To whom much is given, much is required,'” answers Musicha. This was the vision behind the Chisomo Idea. “We wanted the people who had a little bit more than others to see that it was their responsibility to be their brothers’ and sisters’ keepers.” It is people carrying one another’s burdens and using our talents and resources to make a difference in community.
More specifically, it’s a seedbed for the Gospel. The people are the seeds, explains Musicha. Then, the ministry sets about cultivating that seedbed in the soil of the community. How do they know what needs help? Musicha says they ask this question: “What would it take for a community to flourish?”
The Chisomo Idea helps provide the answer. “We believe that it all begins with the human heart. Of course, we can educate people in other areas, but if their hearts aren’t in the right place, if they aren’t connecting with the love and the grace of Jesus Christ, we feel like any kind of education we provide externally is a little bit vain.” Programs range from mentoring, sports, small businesses, health education, leadership development, and civic education.
The idea of village or community is a very African concept. Musicha explains, “We set out to create the model of what it might look like for a community to flourish in the African context, believing that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has the power to really do that; and because it is Africans saying ‘Africa needs Jesus,’ the vision is continental. There are plans in the works to develop the Malawi model into what meets the needs of other African nations.”
Much as seedlings and seedbeds jump-start a thriving garden, so does this idea of grace, hope, and discipleship. Discipleship, in this case, is also about learning. Musicha describes it best in his own words: ”If these communities indeed flourish, then perhaps our friends (even from the West) could be coming to places like Africa, not only saying ‘How can we come alongside and help you?’ but ‘How can we legitimately come alongside you and partner with you, and at the same time, learn from you all the things that you do well?’”
One word keeps showing up in this conversation about grace: flourish. The Chisomo Idea created spaces in the community to help people flourish. It also created platforms that helped people to see the love and grace of Jesus Christ differently. That’s the whole point of Chisomo. It’s the action of the Idea. The grace to do. Our response becomes obvious in the light of Christ. “The very first thing that we’ve got to do is educate the heart. When the heart changes, a lot changes. From that flows the things of life, right?”