Mgona, Gredium Gilizon


Gredium Gilizon Mgona was a local Presbyterian church leader at Kongwe in the Central Region of Malawi who is remembered for his preaching and musical talent as well as for his wisdom and prayerfulness. He was born in the year 1948 at Khwisa Village T/A Chiwere. His parents, Gilizon Mgona and Alefa Chaniya had been evangelized by missionaries from Kongwe mission. Taking its name from the nearby mountain, Kongwe, founded in 1894, was the second mission to be established in Malawi by the Dutch Reformed Church Mission. The first group of ten converts were baptised on December 4, 1898. By the time Gredium Mgona was born, Kongwe was a well-established congregation. It was also a significant educational center as the missionaries opened a primary school where many people learned how to read and write. In 1954, a Junior Secondary school was started and soon it was upgraded to become a full secondary school, named Robert Blake after the missionary who had started Kongwe Mission.

Mgona attended primary school at Kongwe from 1958 to 1968. Soon after leaving school, he married Linayi Chimwaza in 1970. The couple were blessed with eight children, four girls and four boys. It was in 1973 that he had a significant spiritual experience when he received Jesus Christ as his Lord and personal Saviour. (1) Soon afterwards he went to work in South Africa from 1973 to 1975 where he continued serving God faithfully. He started working at Robert Blake Secondary School as an operator of the maize mill in 1985, and then worked for spells as cook and librarian before ending up as a stores clerk. For him, this was also an opportunity to contribute to the spiritual life of the student community. Robert Blake gained a national reputation not only for academic achievement but also for the spiritual quality of its students. Many of them went on to have significant roles in church and society. (2) Among those whose ministry underpinned this development was Gredium Mgona.

Besides his work at Robert Blake Secondary School, he was also very active in the life of the Kongwe congregation, serving as a catechumen class teacher, church elder, evangelist and singer. He was an influential member of church committees, a member of the Men’s Guild, a patron for the Women’s Guild, and a church counsellor. At Kirk Session meetings he could always be relied on to contribute constructive and helpful ideas. He was well acquainted with Zolamulira, the Nkhoma Synod book of church order, and could use it to good effect. Successive ministers of Kongwe relied on him and always found him to be highly supportive. Mgona also cherished the natural environment around the church, sustaining the trees that had been planted by the early missionaries and continuing with tree-planting so that Kongwe has become a beautiful, forested area. (3) Beyond his own congregation his counsel was greatly valued at Presbytery level and in the Synod as a whole.

Even in difficult moments Mgona was a tower of strength. On one occasion he was called upon to advise his fellow elders when they had taken a decision to forcefully remove their minister due to squandering of church money. He advised them that it is not good to remove the church minister abruptly even though he has done wrong, but that as a church they needed to decommission him in the right way. The leadership followed his advice, and the church minister was decommissioned in 1990. (4)

As his leadership potential became apparent, Nkhoma Synod selected Mgona to go for leadership training at Namon Katengeza Church Lay Training Centre. Here he gained skills in preaching and in church music that he put to good use at Kongwe and beyond. He became a powerful preacher, and many people came to Christ through hearing his sermons. He also became highly competent in leading congregational singing. He had a strong voice and knew many of the hymns off by heart. He is remembered particularly for the vigor with which he would lead the singing of his favorite hymn: “Courage, brother, do not stumble.” Malawians love to express their faith musically, so this aspect of Mgona’s leadership was highly appreciated. Even as he grew older, he was always willing to learn and gain new knowledge. This led him to join the Men’s Guild around 2000 and also to enrol for modules with Veritas, a lay training programme.

Mgona is remembered for his life of prayer. This was demonstrated on one occasion when there was high tension between the church and the local community. A preacher at a revival meeting at Mtofu church had spoken against the Nyau secret society and its masked dancing which are a feature of Chewa society. The local community had reacted furiously and were determined to close the church as a demonstration of their displeasure. Before going to meet them, Mgona took time to pray for God’s intervention. While praying he had a dream in which he saw many members of the Nyau society surrounding Mtofu church and preventing people from entering. When he arrived on the scene, the situation was exactly as he had dreamed. He called those with him to join in prayer and when they finished the prayer, they noticed that the huge crowd of Nyau society members had completely disappeared. Since that time there has been peace in the Mtofu area, which is attributed to Mgona’s prayer. (5)

In 2014 he retired from Robert Blake Secondary School and settled with his family at his retirement home at Wenera. (6) Early in 2018 Mgona fell ill and was admitted to hospital. He saw a vision in which he was surrounded by light and told his family that “I am about to leave, and I have seen the beautiful place and angels.” He died peacefully on February 29, 2018. (7) He is remembered as someone who demonstrated the potential of lay church leadership to empower people to become true disciples of Jesus Christ.

Joseph Mthinda


  1. Mrs Linayi Chimwaza Mgona, interview by author, June 29, 2022, Wenera.
  2. Mr Felix Kadammanja Mithi, interview by author, June 26, 2022, Mawuachotsa Village.
  3. Mrs Linayi Chimwaza Mgona, interview by author, June 29, 2022, Wenera.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Mrs Linayi Chimwaza Mgona, interview by author, September 9, 2022, Wenera.
  7. Mrs Elina Gredium Mgona, interview by author, June 19, 2022, Wenera.


Mgona, Elina Gredium. Interview by author, June 19, 2022, Wenera.

Mgona, Linayi Chimwaza. Interview by author, June 29, 2022, Wenera.

Mgona, Linayi Chimwaza. Interview by author, September 9, 2022, Wenera.

Mithi, Felix Kadammanja. Interview by author, June 26, 2022, Mawuachotsa Village.

This article, submitted in November 2022, was researched and written by Joseph Mthinda, minister of Dowa congregation in the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian Nkhoma Synod, under the supervision of Professor Kenneth R. Ross as one of the requirements of the Church History course on the MTh in Contextual Theology at Zomba Theological University.