Redeveloping marriage counseling in Malawi ‘24

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Taking up the call to minister to people in rural areas of Malawi, the Rev. Baird Mponda realized that women and men were being treated unequally in marriage. In fact, the more he delved into the subject of marriage, the more he realized that many people had no understanding of how marriage is not only a cultural institution, but a sacred one that is based on mutual support, encouragement, and love. With that in mind, Baird decided to develop a program to help re-write the preparation materials that church leaders in his diocese use to prepare couples for marriage.

In a series of 4 workshops, Baird invited a co-facilitator, Fr. Michael Msakwiza, to assist with leading eight groups of participants and begin the conversation of how gender and various cultural roles have blurred the perceptions between marriage as the culture sees it and marriage as the Christian community should see it. Initial conversations centered on power dynamics, then later to communication skills. Immediately, the participants already began recognizing how each member brought their own bias into their time of learning, and much time was spent on how roles in marriage might be redefined in order to establish a more egalitarian system of support and encouragement.

Some of the conversations were painful, as people recanted stories of abuse from previous marriages. Others asked very thoughtful questions about women’s health, sex, and birth control that had never been previously explored formally by participants in their own church communities. Through careful listening and empathy, the participants begin examining how the Christian faith and life ultimately encourages people to live with their spouses as companions and partners.

The workshop continued to delve into topics such as conflict, family systems, parenting, finances, divorce, and health and wellness. It also spent a significant amount of time examining the four aspects of love: eros, philia, storge, and agape. By doing this thoughtful work, participants in the workshop identified ways in which they can all minister to other members of their churches to offer love, encouragement, and support to couples as they journey through life together. The work of these four days will most certainly serve as a springboard for new and exciting conversations about how the love of Jesus permeates every single aspect of our lives, including the building up and support of married people everywhere. This new work is now just beginning.

Grant Year
2023-2024
Recipient Name
Mponda, The Rev. Baird
Seminary
School of Theology, Sewanee
Location
Africa