Trésor and Elizabeth Mpenzi serve with Youth With A Mission in Malawi. They want to reach the hearts of the people for Jesus by filling their souls with the gospel while also addressing their physical needs. Their main focuses are a tailoring school for women, Bible studies in the village, and discipling kids.
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Elizabeth and Tresor Mpenzi live in Malawi, a small, peaceful, land locked country in southeastern Africa. Malawi is also one of the planet’s poorest countries. Most of its population endure desperate food insecurity and live without electricity and running water.
Malawian culture esteems generosity despite its profound poverty. Daily life centers around community more than individuality and while the nation is culturally Christian, few people have truly embraced salvation through the grace of Jesus.
Elizabeth, a member of Mosaic Church, and upwardly mobile in management at Walt Disney World, moved to Malawi in 2016 to serve God. At the time she only knew He wanted her there. How she would serve Him would unfold.
Tresor, a Malawian Christian also seeking God as to how He would have Tresor serve Him, found his life entwined with Elizabeth’s as they shared similar visions and passions for ministry. They married and now use their combined identities, perspectives, experiences, and knowledge to holistically lift, empower, educate, and love Malawian people in the Name of Jesus.
Below is an in-depth interview with Elizabeth and Tresor. They are captivating people with an equally intriguing story.
If one were magically transported to your home and looking out your windows, what would that person see?
You would see our yard surrounded by our gate. You wouldn’t see much beyond that. Where we live its not very safe to not have a wall. Our house is completely behind a wall. Every home in our neighborhood has its own wall and gate. But you wouldn’t compare it to an upscale, gated community in the U.S. In Malawi our neighborhood would probably compare to a lower- or middle-class neighborhood in the U.S. Our neighborhood is situated in what an American would consider the suburbs. The downtown area is about a twenty to forty-five-minute drive away, depending on traffic.
Would you describe the downtown area?
Well, you are talking in American to Malawian contrasts, but I don’t really know that context. It is a very crowded place. There is an open market and then you have all sorts of businesses around the open market. So, there is a lot of people and a lot of business happening all around. I don’t know what that looks like in American context.
Is there an overarching ideology or common value that would describe Malawian culture and people?
People are very focused on education. Education drives people. Going to school and becoming educated in an area that will help increase a person’s social status is more important than getting an education in an area of interest. People work hard to leave their rural villages and move to a town or city, to go to school. They are grateful for whatever they get to study. They try hard to get to go to school.
For people who have the means to go to school, education is all about getting the best job and not about studying what you are passionate about. And that is true for people living in the city. But less than ten percent of Malawian’s live in cities. Over ninety percent of Malawians live in rural villages. They are subsistent farmers. Basically, their focus is to produce enough food to eat today. Eighty percent of Malawians are food insecure. That means eighty percent of the people don’t know where their next meal is coming from. So, outside the cities, education is not that important. A lot of kids outside the cities don’t go to school. They are working as farmers, working to get their next meal. Most of the focus of the country is survival.
Would you describe in a little more detail what Malawian food insecurity looks like?
In the villages, where people farm for survival, a common crop that is raised is maize. I think you call it corn in America. When it’s the harvest season almost everyone has something to eat. There is maize. You can make something to eat. But a few months after that, there are places where there is no food.
That time is called Hungry Season. Its not a long season that people have food.
The government, along with NGOs must supply food. Otherwise there is famine. People would be dying because they have nothing to eat.
But our government is extremely corrupt. If the government gave to the people the amount of resources that are donated by NGOs and charities the problem of wide- spread famine and hunger would probably not exist. But we are working on fixing that!
In the villages there is often no electricity or no running water. Sometimes you must walk thirty-five to forty minutes to get to a water source. When you go to the villages it’s not uncommon to see little children with no clothes or wearing clothes with a lot of holes. A lot of the children have distended tummies; tummies that are round, like they have a little ball inside them. That is from starvation. They don’t have adequate nutrition.
Homes are made of mud or mud bricks. There is no electricity. And grass is used to make the roofs- which doesn’t work so well in the rain. Every village community is centered around the chief. Each village community has its little homes and the other village communities can be miles and miles from each other.
I will give you another example of food insecurity. In 2016, I was visiting a village for an outreach. The village had no food. But it was mango season. The villagers had to pick mangos from the trees. That was their food. They had to cook mangos for lunch and for dinner. The people don’t eat breakfast. That’s all they had. One day, I was sharing about Jesus and some people brought me some food. It was cooked, green mangos. If you don’t take it, it will hurt them. When I asked them about the mangos, they said, “Yes. This is what we have been eating for weeks.”
This kind of story is common among all the villages.
The struggle of food insecurity and the difficulties of getting an education makes Malawians unique people. They are so welcoming. They share whatever they have. If you show up somewhere and there is a meal for only two, now, somehow, there is a meal for five! If you show up, whatever is happening—you are welcomed; you are family. That is the culture. Malawians are welcoming. They are friendly. They are nice people.
Would you tell us, Elizabeth, the story of how you came to serve Jesus through mission work, and specifically, how you came to Malawi?
If you had asked me when I was four years old, “What is your life goal?” I would have told you, “To work for Disney!” That was still my life goal as a young adult. That’s all I wanted to do. I moved to Florida to work for Disney through their college program working in merchandise. I had already earned a degree in writing for professional publication from Taylor University in Indiana. I was very happy working for Disney. I still miss it. I worked my way into management and got transferred to Kilimanjaro Safaris in Animal Kingdom. I worked there for a couple of years before I moved to Africa.
Also, she has published a book!
Oh really! What is the name of your book?
(a little shyly) It’s called The Slaver’s Bane. Its published under my maiden name, E.A. de Graaf. It’s available on Amazon for Kindle.
So to recap your life before you came to the mission field: you graduated from a private university with a degree in writing for publication, you are a published author, and you’ve been working in a management position at Disney for several years. What happened next?
(laughing) I left fake Africa for real Africa! In 2016 I joined the Global Partners Internship at Mosaic Church, led by Gabe Forsythe, because I love traveling and I had been on previous mission trips and enjoyed them. I wanted to get further involved with Mosaic so I joined this internship. As part of the internship program, Gabe asked all the interns to go on one Global Partners mission trip. I went to South Africa to work with The Hope Africa Collective in Cape Town. That was my first trip to Africa. I had hoped it was my last trip to Africa! But while I was there, I kept feeling like God was saying to me, “Your story in Africa isn’t finished. Your story isn’t going to be in Florida. Your story will be in Africa.”
You felt like God was speaking permanency in Africa to you?
Yes. I’ve been told my story is not one people serving on short term mission trips want to hear. They don’t want to hear God might say, “You’re moving here forever.” But that is what really happened to me. I came back from that short- term mission trip knowing I was going back to Africa. And that was quite a shock. At that point I had my career path outlined, I had lots of goals, I was moving up through management, everything was focused on my career.
What did you do then?
Well, I had to figure out what my next steps were. I knew I was supposed to move to a continent I had never paid attention to. I was supposed to leave behind my dreams and my goals and my everything. I felt a bit like, “How?” I decided I might as well go back to Africa. I signed up for another short- term mission trip to Africa. This time it was to Malawi. And once I got there, I told God, “I’m never living in this country!”
What was it about Malawi that made you say to God, “Anywhere but here.”?
It’s an extremely poor country. There are hardly any modern conveniences. I wasn’t ready to give those up. Our electricity goes out for multiple hours a day. Our water goes out. There are many, many things we simply can’t get. Even now I miss Amazon. I miss access to variety and knowing if we needed something, we could find it. We do have a grocery store. For instance, you can get toothpaste and soap but only one or two brands. One of the harder things to get is food. Stores will be out of certain foods for months and months and months. Then suddenly they’ll have it. But when they run out, it will be months again before you can get it. Malawi doesn’t have the variety of food and merchandise that the United States has. I have celiac disease. That means I have severe gluten intolerance. I can’t eat anything made of wheat, rye, barley, oats, or anything like that. There is very little gluten free food here. There is one brand of gluten free flour here. Its not the best and it’s very, very expensive. It’s not affordable. Also, I miss being able to buy clothes. There are no clothing shops here. There is no such thing as Target or Forever 21. If you need clothes you go to the market where there are piles of used clothes from the U.S. on the side of the road. And we have a store called DAP. The old clothes from thrift stores and charity stores in the U.S. and the U.K. end up in DAP. I miss being able to go to a clothes shop to buy something nice- like a new dress. I miss anything Disney- my poor Disney-loving heart. I miss Trader Joe’s. Trader Joe’s is amazing. Living in Malawi is rough. It’s a third world country. Its not nice and neat and pretty with modern conveniences, you know? During my first mission trip to Malawi, I was telling God, “If you’re going to move me to another continent, to another country, I’m not ready to live somewhere without anything. It’s too difficult. I’m not moving to Malawi.”
How is it you came to live in Malawi?
After I returned from that trip, I said to myself, “Since I don’t know what to do; I don’t know what my next step is, I guess the next thing to do is spend a week fasting and praying for direction.” During that time, I began looking into joining YWAM (Youth with a Mission) to go to Africa. As part of YWAM’s training for mission work, you must complete a Discipleship Training School. It’s a six- month program. I signed up for Discipleship Training School in Swaziland, which is a tiny country next to South Africa. It’s a lot like South Africa. It’s developed more than Malawi. It has more resources. I felt a lot more comfortable going there.
The first three months of the D.T.S. are spent in courses and lectures to prepare you for eventual mission work. The last three months you spend time in the field. So, for my outreach we went to Zimbabwe—and then we just happened to go back to Malawi!
So that time in Malawi, I stayed out in a little village, living in a very rural environment. We had to haul our water every day, we had no electricity, we had to shower behind a bush. That was for a month and during that time I fell in love. I fell in love with the people, with their culture, and I felt God was saying, “This is where you are going to live.” Malawi is one of the poorest countries on the planet. Compared to what life is like in the U.S. we have nothing. But I fell in love with Malawi anyway.
Would you describe what falling in love with Malawi looked like?
It happened in the day to day living. For instance, we had to do all our laundry by hand. We had to go pump our water, carry it back, and then we had to wash our clothes. Doing our laundry took a whole day. All the women would sit together, do laundry, and talk and chat. It was a communal event. It was these little things of day to day living and seeing their hearts, that made me fall in love with the people. When we would go to people’s houses, like Tresor said earlier, we would be offered food regardless of what our hosts might have. What they offered might be their only meal for the day, and still they would share it. When you eat, you sit on a dirt floor and eat your food with your hands. That is a common cultural practice here. And you talk during the meal. You get to know people. Being in their homes, being in their environment every day, I just, I just fell in love with them and with the idea of living life with these people.
When you realized Malawi truly was the place you wanted to stay, what steps did you take to live there long term?
When I got back to the U.S. I had already decided I wanted to return to the Malawian YWAM base where I had been during part of my DTS training.
I emailed YWAM at that base to inquire about becoming a member of staff. I began the application process. I also talked with Gabe Forsyth. I explained God was calling me to serve full time in Malawi. I asked him if Mosaic would be my sending church. Gabe worked with me on raising support on this end. That’s really all the preparation I did. I booked a flight, and three months after returning to the U.S. from my Discipleship Training School, I was on a flight back to Malawi. I didn’t know for certain what I would be doing. I knew God wanted me there; I went and then I figured it out from there. I arrived in Malawi as a single woman, knowing no body, and I got involved where I could.
Fast forward, four years or so. Now you are part of YWAM staff. You are serving God by serving Malawians. What does that look like?
Our focus is holistic ministry. That means we focus on whole person development. Our ministry is not only about giving the gospel to people, it is also about helping to develop the whole individual. I can give someone who is starving a Bible. But that person will still be starving no matter what I communicate about the gospel and that starving person will not be able to focus on the message of the gospel.
My true passion is vulnerable women. One of my main focuses currently is teaching sewing classes. I have a little sewing studio in our home. We teach students from the village how to sew. Sewing is a huge business here. We have treadle sewing machines, like the old kind from the 1800’s. They have peddles and don’t run on electricity. None of our students has electricity in their homes.
A course takes about ten months to complete. We also teach basic business skills. So once students have graduated, they will have all the skills needed to begin a basic business. This lets them support their families. They will be able to work and lift themselves and their families from poverty.
And we also disciple people. We have Bible studies and work with specific discipleship programs. In our current class, all the students accepted Jesus over the course. We studied baptism and all the students wanted to get baptized. As we are teaching sewing and business skills, we are also teaching the gospel.
Our work is about developing Malawian culture, community, and individual lives. It’s about teaching a way to work so women can provide for themselves and their families and get out of poverty. Some of our former students have progressed so they are now incredible seamstresses; way, way, way better than my abilities! They are providing well for their families. One of my former students makes enough money so when her husband’s income is reduced or when hungry season comes, she earns enough through her tailoring to support her entire family. She took the ideas from our first tailoring class and ran with them. She sews from her home and successfully developed her own business. My passion is helping women learn not only how to survive, but to thrive. I love showing them their value and their worth as women.
That is a mammoth undertaking- to teach women a trade; to educate them so they can become a successful business- person, and then to address their psychological and emotional needs so they develop into empowered, capable women. How did you develop the knowledge and ability to teach and empower women in all three life areas?
That’s a good question. The answer is: I can’t do it by myself. One of YWAM’s principles is you never work alone. You always work in teams. I have an awesome team of Malawian women who share the same passion I have. We bring our knowledge and our skills together and we figure out the best ways to reach other Malawian women.
In terms of the sewing work, my mom was a professional seamstress. I began learning to sew when I was four years old. I’ve spent my whole life sewing. I know a lot of the trade; its something I’m very skilled in.
I also have experience working with women and girls. Women’s ministry has always been my passion. All the years I lived in Florida I ran discipleship groups. I led a group for sexual abuse recovery. I worked with women and girls from many different backgrounds and many different struggles for several years. I took what I knew of mentoring women in an American context and my knowledge of tailoring to the team of Malawian women at the YWAM base. I found a few women who shared my passion for empowering women. We came together. They brought their context and knowledge having grown up in a Malawian village–knowing what Malawian women go through. We brought our knowledge and ideas together. We asked ourselves: based on what we all know, how do we reach women?
I am currently leading our third course. We have learned a lot from all the previous classes. We have learned what is good and helpful and how we can best meet women’s needs. We also pray a lot. We also listen to God a lot. Then we go where we feel He is taking us. Our current discipleship program is written in Chichewa. It is for people who have little or no knowledge about Jesus but want to be discipled. It has been good to have a program written in Chichewa that explains basic, foundational truths of the gospel.
Here is a holistic example of how we are teaching women their value. Personal hygiene is not something that is commonly taught in the villages. We have incorporated a hygiene class into the discipleship portion of the course. The message is this: you are worthy of taking care of yourself. You are valued as a child of God. Here are practical ways to take care of yourself physically.
This year my husband will teach the business classes. He has an education background in business so he will teach business classes with a Malawian context.
Our program is a team effort. I would not be able to do what I do without the other Malawian women on our team. Also, A: I don’t speak Chichewa and B: I’m a white, American girl so there is a lot I don’t know or understand. But we put our skills together and we truly reach other Malawian women.
A quick Google search shows Malawi is predominately protestant Christian. Is there a strong cultural Christian sensibility? What is the relationship between the Malawian people and the gospel?
If you ask people, most of them will tell you they are Christian. Most people go to church on Sunday. But it is more of a cultural event; it is a community thing to go to church. But its more an act of religion than an expression of relationship between God and people. You find people in church. But they are not Christian. You find they don’t understand the basic ideas of the gospel, like salvation. But they have been going to church their whole lives.
It is very interesting to find women in our courses and classes who have been going to church their entire lives and don’t know what it means to be a Christian. For instance, there are some women in our classes who want to be baptized because they understand now what it means. They understand now what salvation means. What it means to be a Christian. They are learning how to pray. Most of the time, we find people who have been to church their entire lives and we get to lead them to Jesus!
You Said, “Yes” to That?!
It’s fascinating how God brought you together to share the gospel. Would you both share a little about how you met and eventually married?
I came to Malawi single, no boyfriend, and no prospects. We met on the YWAM base. Tresor’s cousin was working on the YWAM base and Tresor would come to visit him. Tresor and I literally met by bumping into each other in a corridor. We talked a little bit then. But then we didn’t talk with each other for several months. However, I had become friends with his cousin during that period and went to visit Tresor’s cousin in his home. Tresor was there too! He asked for my number.
(in the background, interrupting) I made you a meal! I made you tea!
(laughing) He asked for my number. We started talking. We started texting. That was May 2018. Over the course of our text and talk conversations, it became obvious there was something going on between us. But Tresor had moved to another city. We didn’t spend much time together in person. But we spent lots and lots of time on text messages! Things developed and we were further realizing there was something going on more than only friendship. At the end of July 2018, we were able to spend time together. He asked me to be his girlfriend.
(in background, interrupting) You said “Yes” to that?!
Elizabeth: (laughing) We started dating. He told me the same day he asked me to be his girlfriend that he was going to marry me. I told him that was a little bit too fast!
(in background, interrupting) I was not wrong! I was right!
(laughing) stop! But a few months later, I knew as well, marrying Tresor was the right thing to do. God made it clear we were supposed to be together. Six months after we started dating, he asked me to marry him. Then we got married six months later at the end of June 2019, in Malawi. That is our story of how we met and fell in love. He is the perfect person for me. And we also have a ministry-minded heart. We both wanted to reach the same people. And I, living in Malawi as a single American, working in ministry alone, I could never reach people the way Tresor can. Because he is African. He knows the people. So now we can put together our experiences and our knowledge. That has made a great partnership for ministry; and for marriage. Because we like being married! And we ended up with our very surprising baby. (Mosaic note: Elizabeth was seven months pregnant at the time of this interview. Tresor and Elizabeth welcomed a beautiful, first-born son, Jedidiah in July 2020).
You said this question was for both of us. But the truth is whenever we tell the story of how we met and fell in love Elizabeth always has the best version of the story. So, yes. She happened to come to the YWAM base in Malawi. I was visiting my cousin there. I saw a beautiful lady in the corridor—and here we are!
This question is for Elizabeth. How difficult or not has it been to assimilate into Malawian culture as you let your roots go deep into the country and as you prepare to raise a family? Do you have any kind of connection with people who have a similar western upbringing? Or do you find those kinds of identities are increasingly not as important as they were; and perhaps are slipping away?
Hmmmm. This question is really making me think. Truthfully, it has not been easy. It has been hard to adjust and to adapt. In the beginning it was a lot of fun. I felt like this is my home; this is my world and I can do this! It was all new. There were new adventures. Then I got married. I had an African husband. I was like, “I’m here! I’m living here!” But still I loved my home, my country. But I also had my husband here in Malawi. And I felt, this is our world. Malawi is where we are going to be. And then I got pregnant. Now it has been a very tough journey for me, being here. It became way harder to accept being here and being so far away from my friends and my family. Some of my best friends and closest community are still people from Mosaic. Not going through all the major milestones of pregnancy that you’re supposed to with your friends and your family has made being here a lot harder than it was in the beginning. Also, the fun and the adventure begin to wear off when it becomes daily life. You know, cooking by candlelight, while its exciting the first fifteen times you do it, after doing it for two years, becomes a little bit more difficult. Dealing with constant electricity outages, and the water not being reliable, and not ever being able to get what we need, it has been rough. I have been very homesick. Going through pregnancy and knowing my mom is not going to be here, my family is not going to be here, my friends aren’t going to be here has made adjusting and adapting rough in many ways.
But in other ways, I can’t imagine living anywhere else. Our plan and our dream is to live here and raise our kids here. There are parts of this world I love. But I think I have been away from home for too long. It has been over two and half years since I’ve been home. I think that is too long to have been away from my country. The more that I’m away, the more I am wrestling with homesickness. We are working on plans for a visit to the U.S. later this year. Hopefully, we will get to come and share our baby with everyone. I think that will help me with my homesickness. I am deeply American. I will always be American. But I have no desire to move back to my home country; to replant our family in America. We live in Malawi. We want to be in Malawi and raise our kids here.
On the other hand, homesickness is real. It is hard. I’m usually the only white person any place I go. I don’t speak the local language very well. I’m trying. I understand a lot and rarely am completely lost. But I will always be different. It doesn’t matter if I learn to speak the language fluently; or if I dress just as Malawian women do, the instant I enter a place, I will be different.
And yet, living a simple life is so beautiful in many ways. I love the women I get to work with. I’ve got very good friends in YWAM and very good Malawian friends. I’m also super thankful for our church community. We go to a more western influenced church. It is made of Malawians and westerners. It has allowed me to get to know other ex-pat women; women from western countries. That has been helpful in developing a community. Because if you’re going to be in a place for a long time, its so helpful to have people in your community who understand where you came from. Truthfully no one else can understand what it is like to move to another country and culture unless someone has done it.
Tresor, throughout this interview, we’ve gotten to know Elizabeth quite a bit. Let’s focus on you for a moment. Would you share a little of your faith journey and how you came to serve God in this ministry?
I also completed the Discipleship Training School at the YWAM base in Malawi. After that I felt called into counseling. I went back to school to earn a degree in Biblical counseling. I’m still in school. This is my third year. I want to use my counseling education in our ministry since we are focusing on holistic development. Of course, we preach the gospel to people. But they have needs beyond hearing that Jesus loves them. My heart is to go deep with people in counseling and help them develop a Christ like mind set.
For the moment I do much school. But I’m also involved in other ministries besides our tailoring school. Together, Elizabeth and I disciple former street kids. I talk with the boys. Elizabeth talks with the girls. It is our pleasure to do that ministry together as a family. I’m also part of the leadership team of our local church. And Elizabeth and I also lead a Bible study from our local church. In that Bible study we are not mainly teaching others. Instead, we are in fellowship with other Christians and refreshed by them.
Now, we have been hearing from God that He is leading us into farming. Because as I said, I feel led into counseling. And since we are in Malawi and eighty to ninety percent of the people live by farming, we want to be with them, where they are. I want to talk with them from the perspective of also being in farming. A friend gave us a piece of land. We are just starting to learn about farming and enjoying it. Our vision is to have a farm that will be used for ministry where people can come and learn farming skills and business skills and living skills. So they don’t farm only to eat today, but to learn to use farming as a business. People can learn to develop themselves. And at the same time people will receive teaching and discipling and will grow holistically. I feel that will be the best way to use my counseling skills; not in an office somewhere. But in a field together, farming; doing that together and growing together.
With this scripture in mind: We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them, would you describe how you are uniquely designed to do this work?
There are a few qualities I have that allow me to do what I do.
I’m extremely adventurous. The thought of living in a foreign country that is so different than my country; and having to figure out a lot of things is something that feels like an exciting challenge. I want to learn new things. I want to explore new things. I love new experiences. I’ll try almost anything. Stepping into a culture that is so foreign to my culture is something I truly enjoy and embrace. One of the reasons our ministry is successful is I am willing to try new things. For instance, copying what we do after what works in America, doesn’t work here. But I’m excited by that kind of challenge.
I’m also super resourceful. We don’t have a lot here. I must take what we have and make it work. And if I want to reach people in their culture, their environment, I must adapt and do things in ways that feel very different to me.
I’m also very friendly and outgoing. I love people. I love community. I like deep relationships. Talking to people, getting to know people, and spending time with people is the root of Malawian culture. In America, our culture is based on individualism. In Malawi the culture is based on community. Sometimes, those two ideas clash inside me. But generally, I love being around people, getting to know people. I love simply sitting and talking with people. That is part of my make-up and has been my whole life. It’s a perfect fit for Malawian culture.
I have a strong sense of justice and what is right. I have always tried to fight for those people who have no voice. I did that at Disney when I took care of my cast members. I did that when I was in school. I did that in my women’s ministries in the U.S. My heart hurts for people. I want to fight for them. Working with vulnerable women in Malawi explains my heart.
I have always felt curious about people. Why do people react the way they react? Why do people decide what they decide? Why do people have different views on similar events? I think since I grew up thinking this way, that is why I’m getting a degree in counseling.
I have compassion for people. I like listening to them and understanding their need beneath just what they are saying. These qualities are helpful in working with vulnerable people, with people who are hungry, and with people who have a lot of needs.
Our marriage is also a unique design for the work we are doing. Because I am African, doors are more easily opened for us to reach people. I bridge the gap with people. As a family, we don’t feel strange to people because of my presence. Elizabeth can use her skills to reach women and together we can help them develop.
What of the nature and essence of God have you seen more deeply since you began your ministry?
I have seen a few things of the nature of God more deeply. I have seen God is not American. When you live in any country, everything you do is influenced by that country. I love my country so deeply. I will always be an American. But living in America, I saw American Christianity. But God isn’t an American. He is SO multi-cultural. He is so creative. Seeing the way people here pray and worship; that they do that in their language and that is the way they connect with God and God loves them and understands them because He made their culture. They way the sing and dance. The way this beautiful people worship is completely different than the way I would worship in my home country. He made all the cultures across the world. He didn’t only make the culture Americans grew up in and know. He made them all. He loves being multi-cultural. We are supposed to work together and exist together in our different cultures because God made us all. He made these cultures in the beauty they are. My horizons have been broadened. He is not only the God I learned about as I grew up in American church. He is also the God who speaks Chichewa and the God who speaks Swalhili. He is the God who knows the Malawian woman in the field carrying a baby on her back, just like He knows the little American girl sitting in Sunday School. He exists and He is in the beauty of all these cultures because they are each His creation.
I have learned this: who God is in the Bible is who God is today. Truthfully, in American church, I think we loose sight of that. For instance, Christians can still pray for healing and there is still speaking in tongues. These are concepts Americans don’t always embrace as easily as others do. Americans struggle a little bit sometimes to see the more spiritual side of things. But our world in Malawi is deeply based on the spiritual side of life. That is in part because in Malawi we can’t easily access some of the conveniences Americans can access. For instance, in Malawi, we don’t have good medical care. Once I was in a small village. A girl broke her arm. It took us eight hours to get her to a doctor. Sometimes people are so far out in a village, there is no access to a doctor. And so, we have seen God heal. We prayed for a man who was dying from a snake bite on his leg. He was healed. We prayed for a blind man and then he could see! I have seen these things happen on a level, I had no idea from my American context, was still happening, until I moved here and saw Him operate in this world. For me, it reinforced the idea that what God did in the Bible, is still what He can do today. He is not changing. He really is the same God yesterday, today, and tomorrow. And He is the same God in America as He is in Malawi. Just because an individual’s concept of church may change depending on what country she is in, doesn’t mean God has changed.
What has become clearer to me since I’ve stepped into mission is God’s love. His love is pure love. He doesn’t love us because we deserve it. He doesn’t love us because we can pay Him back. He doesn’t love us because we are good. He just loves. His is the love that gives. His is the love that sacrifices. I’m in need of Jesus in the same way as the people I’m ministering to. I, being a messenger of God doesn’t make me a perfect guy; a guy who has it all together. I see myself and my weaknesses and how much I need Him. But He is still using me in my weaknesses, in my state of being messed up. Being in ministry painted that picture to me more clearly; how He is love; how He is the God of love; He loves.
This question is for Tresor. You said earlier the fact that you are married to Elizabeth opens doors for her to minister in Malawi. But are there any problems for you, an African man being married to a white, American woman?
In Malawi interracial marriages are not common. It does raise curiosity and tension. Sometimes I get questions like, how did you convince her to marry you? Our interracial marriage is unique and attracts attention, but personally, I don’t see it creates any real problem. It doesn’t bother me or shake me or close any door to me. People assume I’m rich, I have a lot of money because I married a white, American lady. That is not necessarily easy when everyone assumes, I have a lot of money. That is not true.
(laughs) We have financial issues. Or if we go somewhere together, sometimes people don’t talk to me. They only talk to Elizabeth. They assume I’m her driver. She doesn’t like that. It bothers her. Elizabeth doesn’t like it when people don’t think we are married. For instance, if we go to a restaurant, someone will hand Elizabeth a menu book and make me wait. It doesn’t bother me. Whatever they think of me doesn’t change who I am.
Are We Remembered?
Have short term mission teams from Mosaic come to work with you?
Our first short term team from Mosaic didn’t get to come because of the COVID 19 virus. Everything was cancelled. But hopefully the first short term team will get to come in 2021.
When teams come, do you know what kind of work they will be doing? And are there particular abilities or skills you hope the people coming will have?
Our day to day work is most often one-on-one discipleship and daily relationship building which is not easy to integrate a team into. If a team comes while we are holding our sewing class, and someone from the team has sewing skills, that is something someone could be involved with. But sewing class isn’t something we do every day. As we were thinking about the team that would have come, we looked at the current needs of our community. There was a disabled woman living in a refugee camp about an hour north of us who desperately needed a house. She obviously couldn’t build her own house. We had decided when we had a team come from the U.S. building a house for her was a need they could meet. In the future as we look at having short term teams, the work they will be doing will be based on when they can come, what season we are in, and what is going on in our community. Those things can change. Maybe next year we won’t need to build a house for someone, but we will need to have a counseling session for abused women. The specific skills I can list are a willingness to learn new things, explore new cultures, love Jesus, jump into whatever hard work we have going on, live without electricity or hot water sometimes, and have the ability to adapt.
Do you have a Global Impact Team? If so, how have they supported you and do you have any idea of what future support from your GIT might be beneficial?
We do have a Global Impact Team. They are awesome! It is mainly made of people I knew before I left Florida. Its great knowing that people in my life, people who I knew before I became a missionary are still involved in my life and now involved in our lives, together, even though we live thousands of miles apart. The team checks in with us to see how we are. They ask for our prayer requests. They also send care packages. It is cool to know we have a specific team of people from Mosaic who are invested in what we are doing here. Living on the mission field can feel very lonely sometimes. Sometimes I think, I’ve been gone for over two years. I haven’t been back to Florida in so long. Does anyone even remember who I am? So, having a team who is invested in us has been an amazing blessing and benefit. I’m excited to see how the next year goes and how we can get to know our GIT even better; how we can figure out to work even better as a team, to benefit us and those people here we are working with. I love our Global Impact Team.
You have shared beautifully the work you are doing in Malawi. For those interested in supporting your work monetarily, how are you mainly supported-through individuals and churches only? Or do you have another source of income?
We have no other source of income other than support. That support comes mainly from individuals who give to us monthly. We are supported by one church in California and from Mosaic Church. Currently we only have about fifty percent of what need simply to meet our basic needs.
How may people support you in prayer? What are your most urgent prayer requests?
We are dealing with visa applications. I recently put in my application to renew my visa to Malawi. If it gets renewed, I’ll have another two years in this country. We are praying that gets renewed. If it doesn’t, I’ll have to leave Malawi. And we don’t want that to happen. We are waiting to hear from immigration. At the same time, we’re praying for Tresor’s visa process to the U.S. so he can come home with me to America when I return for a visit.
We have been going through a lot of struggles financially. As I mentioned, we only receive about half of what we need to meet our basic needs and continue our work. We are praying we will receive more financial supporters.