Matias Munyewe was born in 1954 in Mozambique where his parents lived at the time. He was a Lomwe by tribe. Later his father immigrated to Malawi and was the pastor of the Church of Christ at Isa’s village in the Mpiri area of Machinga district in the southern region of Malawi. However, as a young man Matias attended the Church of the Nazarene in the same area. As a young and active member of the Nazarene Church Matias felt called to serve the Lord and the church sent him to a Nazarene Bible College in Zambia. For three years he studied there and came back ready to serve the church.
No sooner had he returned than he was disciplined in his church for polygamy. He had taken another wife in addition to his earlier one. He later left his first wife and remained with the second one. On being deposed Munyewe backslid and stopped going to church.
After some time a group of missionaries crossed Lake Chiuta from Mozambique and came to his area to hold open air meetings for a number of days. Little did they know that their message had sown a seed of revival in the area. As a result of their touching message–as it was described by some,–a group of ardent Christians revived by the team began to meet together to pray and encourage one another. Matias Munyewe was among this group which operated as a fellowship for some time. Realizing that they needed a leader with a sound understanding of the Bible, the group appointed Munyewe as their leader.
Between 1980 and 1985 Munyewe led the group which was growing more into a church every day. One day Munyewe went to see his father who was still the pastor of the Church of Christ in the area. Although a pastor, his father still smoked and had stockfuls of papers which he used to make cigarettes. As they chatted Munyewe took a piece of paper and saw on it the address of the Emmanuel International. He stuffed it into his pocket and decided to write them to seek assistance for his little flock. This he did immediately and they replied saying they did work with churches and asked for the name of his church. Seeing that Emmanuel International mostly works with Baptist churches of the evangelical type, he described his group as Evangelical Baptist.
The mission assured him that they would come to assist him if he would start the work. With this encouragement Matias went about organizing his group and calling others to the Lord. Through this effort his father joined him together with some of his flock. Before long the little group had turned into a good number of prayer houses in addition to the one that had started at Isa village.
The mission representative, Terry Orchard, came to his village for a month, teaching the congregation and preaching to the masses. Not only did this strengthen the local congregations but it also brought in many new Christians, giving new impetus to the growth of the church. As the church’s progress was confirmed, the group led by Pastor Munyewe decided to register as the Evangelical Baptist Church of Malawi. Orchard was also touched by the presence of refugees in the area and decided to develop a ministry among the refugees. As a part of this ministry, the church crossed the border into Mozambique after the war.
As Mpiri, the base they were operating from, is far removed from communication links, the group decided that Munyewe, as the leader, should move to Liwonde where communication with the outside world would be relatively easy. In 1986 they bought a piece of land at Liwonde and Matias Munyewe began to use a small house as a church. This again became a nucleus and a springboard for the evangelization of this Muslim-dominated area. Matias and others preached in the area and the church grew. After some time bricks were moulded six kilometres away in a village they had evangelized and had to be painstakingly carried by the faithfuls to the site to build a church. After the church building had been erected, the church grew rapidly in the area then spreading to other areas and districts of Malawi such as Blantyre and Mzuzu as well as Mozambique. But it remained very strong in the Muslim-dominated Machinga district.
As a step towards enhancing his evangelization of the Muslims, Pastor Munyewe contacted a local mwalimu to teach him the Koran so that, having learned it, he could effectively reach other Muslims. This initiative led to the conversion of the mwalimu himself, causing quite a stir in the Muslim fraternity and joy in the Christian camp. The converted mwalimu became a most effective evangelist especially among other Muslims. The mwalimu later went to the Evangelical Bible College to study as pastor and has since planted several churches.
With assistance from the mission a modern headquarters was eventually built at Liwonde and Munyewe became the director of the church. As director he made several trips to Canada and England seeking support for his church. Through these lobbies the church together with the mission started relief and development projects such as H.I.V. and family planning programs. These programs are of immense help to the people of the area.
During his last trip overseas he developed TB of the bones which suddenly weakened him. In addition he had several sores on his body. He battled with this condition for some until he was called home. The day he died he sent his former Muslim friend to a certain pastor to pray for him. The pastor ordered everyone out of the room and they were together for some time. As the visiting pastor left, Munyewe bade farewell to the former mwalimu and others and later peacefully died.
Louis W. Ndekha
Interview with Mdindo Moyenda, former mwalimu, converted by Rev. Munyewe.
Interview with Paul Mtunduwatha, the first General Secretary of Evangelical Baptist Church of Malawi.
Interview with Paul Kranzler, missionary with Libenzel Mission (Germany).
Interview with Rev. Chikwindire, pastor, Kabula Evangelical Baptist Church.
This article, submitted in 2003, was researched by Gilbert Momora, a senior student, and written by Louis W. Ndekha, DACB Liaison Coordinator at Evangelical Bible College of Malawi, a DACB Participating Institution.