Dimothy Matthew Sabwela and Mrs. Edina (Sasowa) Sabwela (1931-) were both born at Sabwera Village, Ntcheu District of Malawi. Until Sabwela was twelve years old he herded the family’s goats. During this time he developed some bad habits such as stealing, fighting, drinking, and smoking.
As a young man he resided at Stellenbosch near Cape Town in South Africa for twelve years, from 1947 to 1959. Not being a Christian, he says he associated with the wrong companions. He found domestic work with some Dutch Reformed missionaries, Rev. Conradie and Rev. Albertyn. Eventually he opened a drycleaning business on Robin Island.
Upon returning home to Malawi he found work with missionaries Thomas and Ethel Lowry at Limbe. One day in 1960 he attended a service at the Bible College where Rev. D. H. Spencer from South Africa preached. Sabwela said, “The message reached and struck my heart and life and I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Saviour. I came to know Jesus by confessing my sins and Jesus became my Savior. In April 1961, I was purified. After totally surrendering my life to the Lord, I was baptized with the Holy Spirit and received power and strength.” Sabwela was one of the early converts of the Nazarene mission in Malawi.
Sabwela married Miss Edina Sasowa in 1955 when neither of them were Christians. In August 1960 she felt convicted during a message preached by Rev. Maurice Hall and she received Jesus as her personal Savior.
In 1963 Sabwela felt called to God’s work and enrolled in Bible college. Rev. Enoch Litswele was his pastor and teacher in Bible college during that year. After completing the ministerial course in 1966 his first pastorate was the Socha Church in Blantyre City. Dr. V. H. Lewis ordained him in 1969.
Edina was once seriously ill in hospital and it was not known if she would live or not. At that very time Sabwela was scheduled to preach in Zimbabwe. She asked whether he would continue with his journey if that meant leaving her behind in the hospital. It was a difficult decision to make but he decided that he should respond to the call of the Lord. He felt that the Lord, who never fails in His promises, would heal her. Edina accepted his decision to go. The power of the Lord was evident in the revival meetings in Zimbabwe. He tells about it: “The Lord assured me that He had healed my sick wife. When I returned home it was wonderful to see that she was indeed healed and in good health. I praised the Lord for He never fails in His promises.”
In 1984 the Sabwelas’ daughter, Esther, died after being bedridden for six months. Her husband, seven children and the Sabwela family praised the Lord because she went home. The Sabwelas had five children of whom three have gone to be with the Lord. A son and a daughter, Fastone and Emma, were still living in 1999. Fastone is a business man and a local church board member. He serves as secretary for the district assembly.
Sabwela expresses his appreciation of Edina: “She has been a good wife to me during my ministry. She prepares my clothes, well washed and ironed before I leave on evangelism trips and when I return I find the home well cared for. She organizes women’s meetings, encouraging the ladies to participate in the work of the Lord. Edina is always faithful in praying for me.”
While he was pastoring the Limbe Church at Bangwe, it became the first self-supporting congregation on the district. While there in 1974 he said, “When I visit my people I explain salvation and sanctification, but before I go I make sure that they understand about tithing, for the church cannot grow without tithing. If a person does not pay his tithe, it is a sin. He is a thief. Our people need to know this.”
Sabwela reported that while they were pastoring the Bangwe Church a number of church leaders organized opposition against the authority of the missionary, Rev. Leland Hagens. Sabwela along with some others refused to join them and supported the mission. The rebels were very angry with Sabwela but God used him through His Word to help persuade them to retract their opposition to God’s people and repent. They confessed that they had plotted to kill Sabwela. Some of them left the church. Sabwela said: “I praise the Lord for his protection against the sudden death which could have occurred.”
Later the Sabwelas pastored a church in Balaka and continued to reside there. He was an outstanding evangelist and, in 1981, was appointed to be a full time evangelist. It was reported that he saw 4,500 people respond to the gospel through his ministry in 1987. In 1999 he wrote,
At present I am still a full time evangelist and I travel all around the Malawian districts delivering the Word of God and many people are coming to the Lord. At a service on March 15, 1998 there was a gathering of about 6,500 people. Two thousand four hundred responded to the appeal to surrender their lives to the Lord with weeping and praising God. I praised the Lord for his power of deliverance and for the miracles as there were some sick people that went home healed. The Lord is still guarding me and I am in good health.
Matthew Sabwela passed away on August 13, 2005. He had been sick for several months, and had had surgery for prostate cancer earlier in the year. He pastored several churches in Malawi before becoming an evangelist, holding revival meetings all over Central Africa and in South Africa. He was a man of God who preached and lived holiness of heart and life.
Paul S. Dayhoff
Rev. Enoch Litswele, (letter, April 10, 1993). Tizora Bonzo, (report, 1992).
Trans African, (Florida, Gauteng, South Africa: Africa Nazarene Publications,November-December 1984), 6.
Theodore P. Esselstyn, Cut From the African Rock: A Portrait of the Church of the Nazarene in Africa - 1974, (Kansas City, MO: Nazarene Publishing House, 1975), 88.
Rev. D. M. Sabwera, (letter and report from Balaka, Malawi, August 1999).
World Mission, (Kansas City, MO: Nazarene Publishing House, October 1989), 10.
Rev. D. M. Sabwela, (letter from Balaka, 25 May 1999).
Thomas Ethel Lowry, (e-mail report, August 17, 2005).
This article is reproduced, with permission, from Africa Nazarene Mosaic: Inspiring Accounts of Living Faith, first edition, copyright © 2001, by Paul S. Dayhoff. All rights reserved.