As you can see, more Bibles are needed for this Sunday school meeting in Malawi.

Bibles bring joy to children in Malawi

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, Alan Kember visited the Bible Society of Malawi. Here he brings us the good news of how children at a Sunday school are thrilled to have received Bibles through your kind giving.

The faces of around 160 children beamed at me, smiling delightedly from where they sat on the floor. Then those with Bibles were asked to wave them in the air … just five precious books were proudly held aloft. 

Children at Nsungwi Sunday school in Malawi

really enjoy their Bible stories.

I was at the Nsungwi Church in rural Malawi. About 700 adults, 300 teenagers and 1,000 (yes, a thousand!) children worship at this Central Africa Presbyterian Church every Sunday during two four-hour services. 

There may be a thousand children in the church, but there are just 40 children’s Bibles.

When it’s time for Sunday school, the children split into classes of more than 100 in each, all sitting on the floor. This is church on a big scale … until it comes to their resources.

There may be a thousand children in the church, but there are just 40 children’s Bibles. No supplementary storybooks, booklets or physical resources for crafts or other activities that are so common in churches like yours or mine. Just 40 books; five per class.

The children’s Bibles have been provided by people like you in England and Wales and they bring so much joy; you would be thrilled to see it.

As I stood at the front of that Sunday school class, children’s hands shot up as they offered to retell stories they had read and knew inside out. They recounted stories such as David and Goliath, Noah’s Ark, Jacob and Joseph, with pride, clarity and accuracy.

I learned that, in this class, five children each week are allowed to take a Bible home. They must read a story every night and learn one by heart. I was told about one child who loved the Bible so much he read 10 stories a night. 

Bibles are brought back to church the following Sunday and passed to another child. Children can wait around six months for their turn. But, at that moment, on a hot Sunday morning, they were bursting to talk to me about Scripture. 

‘The Bible tells me about God’s love,’ said one child. ‘We love the pictures, and the stories teach us good behaviour,’ said another. ‘We know these stories off by heart and they help us trust in God,’ added one little boy.

When other children made ‘heart’ signs, one little girl

couldn’t tear herself away from a treasured Bible.

I was astonished at their understanding and enthusiasm. I had expected to find hard-pressed teachers struggling with few resources in a huge class of unruly children. What I discovered were grateful boys and girls, who sang joyful songs and delighted in learning God’s word. 

 ‘We know these stories off by heart and they help us trust in God,’ said one little boy

Everyone was so positive about having the Bibles – even though they clearly needed many more. They were thankful for your generosity, too. After all, before you provided these Scriptures, they had nothing. 

Around 10,000 children’s Bibles are given out by our team in Malawi every year. They go to Sunday schools just like the one I visited, and the translations are a mixture of Chichewa, a regional language, and English. Of course, we could provide hundreds more Bibles to the church I went to, but at some Sunday schools there are no Bibles at all and the children that attend these must take priority.

My colleague, Clapperton, who leads our team in Malawi, told me, ‘I remember one of the first churches we went to … We brought 120 Bibles, which we thought was quite a large number. When we got there, we found there were 750 children.

‘Almost every week, churches ask us for Bibles and we can’t say yes to them all. We are still just focusing on the cities because the need is so great. But we believe we are sowing seeds. We trust God the seeds will germinate and grow, and these children will know the foundation of God’s word in their lives.’

By now, it’s time for me to leave the Nsungwi Sunday school. I wave goodbye to the children and they smile and wave back. As I back out of the door, an elder of the church, Owen, catches my arm. ‘You do not know how great an encouragement your visit has been today,’ he tells me. ‘What you are doing by providing these Bibles to children has an eternal significance – thank you!’

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