Wame, Shadreck Jonas

1940-2016
Church of Central African Presbyterian
Malawi

Abstract

Evangelistic ministries have played a great role in spreading the Christian message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Malawi since the early missionary work. However, in most of the writings, there are sketchy works on what local or indigenous Africans have done in terms of spreading the gospel. This paper discusses the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ—with its emphasis on the message of personal salvation by one of Malawi’s most famous indigenous evangelist Shadreck Jonas Wame. The discussion in this paper comes directly as narratives from people who have had direct contact with Wame, direct interviews with the evangelist himself, as well as discussion with people who have listened and attended his evangelistic crusades, both at local church level as well as at open air mass crusades.

Introduction

In his concluding remarks at the end of this earthly ministry, Jesus tells his disciples to “go and make disciples of all nations.” [1] As the Apostle was nearing the end of his life and ministry, he urged Timothy to preach the Gospel in season and out of season. [2] Therefore, at the end of their ministries, both Jesus and the apostle Paul urged believers to preach the gospel to all humanity. This shows that preaching, teaching, admonishing, discipling are all at the heart of the message of the Kingdom of God which Jesus himself inaugurated. [3] Evangelism is therefore the heart of the mission of the Church in the world. Consequently, the Church in general and believers in particular have a vocation to do in this world before Jesus comes back.

Shadreck Jonas Wame was one of the most popular of the contemporary Christians evangelists from the Chewa people with a passion for preaching the undiluted gospel of Jesus Christ.

While many Christians in Malawi are interested in extensive reading and writings of the biographies of international itinerant evangelists such as Reinhard Bonnke, Billy Graham, Ben Hinn, Stephen Manley, and others, this article is interested to extend such biographical writings to the ministry of Malawi’s local Christian evangelist who helped spread the charismatic revivals in Malawi thereby bringing in many sinners to the saving grace of God. Through his ministerial work, it is argued that Wamne helped his church as well as other churches to build more churches as many people were forsaking their old sinful lives and following the way of the Cross.

This article discusses the life and ministry of Malawi’s most famous Evangelist, Shadreck Jonas Wame, who took the message of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God to almost all corners of the country for over 45 years. The primary sources for this article includes key informant interviews with the evangelist himself and some Christians from the denomination to which he belonged—Church of Central African Presbyterian (CCAP). Some other sources included radio cassettes by Wame himself and a few articles from some writers.

I first came to encounter Wame in Salima in October 1998 when I was in the company of Nazarene Church Elders who traveled to Salima to deliver the Jesus Film Project equipment to Nazarene Church there. And the District Superintendent then, Rev Jackson Dimba, invited Wame to come and pray a dedication blessing over the equipment. This article begins by describing Wame’s life and conversion, followed by his evangelistic ministry, his sudden death and thereafter the conclusion follows.

His Life and Conversion

Shadreck Jonas Wame was born in October 1940. He came from Mwanzalamba village, Traditional Authority Kambalame in Salima district. Salima is one of the districts along the shores of Lake Malawi in central region. Wame was married and together with his wife they had five children. Wame belonged to Church of Central African Presbyterian (hereafter CCAP) where he attended catechumen class in 1960 and got baptized in 1962 before he was ordained elder in 1964, the year Malawi attained its independence.

During one of his interviews with interested parties, Wame described his conversion in vivid moving manner. [4] The description of his conversion is as follows:

While serving as a church elder in 1966, I wanted to become rich and I visited a witchdoctor who advised me to go to a graveyard where I could find a small house, with a promise that I would get K10, 000.00. [5] Then I was given a small pillow-like (charm) for protecting my wealth. Although I was a church elder, I was a drunkard and a chain smoker. But I heard a voice saying ‘what are you doing at the graveyard as a church elder?’ I have been recording these discussions with the angel of God. In one of my visions, God showed me a fish carrying a letter addressed to Shadreck Wame saying, ‘this is your glory and ministry from time to time.’ And that was the start of my evangelistic ministry. I am not a minister or evangelist, but a servant of God who works at the revelation of the Holy Spirit. I do what the Spirit of God tells me. [6]

In this short description, Wame describes his past. He was a sinning Christian who drank so much, smoked a lot and was into other typical sins such as that of witchcraft or sorcery, mainly for the purpose of getting rich. Wame’s conversion is another moving story, which occurred after he was knocked down by a car on 28th November 1967. He told interviewer James Chimpweya this narrative saying: In 1967, I was involved in accident and in my unconsciousness, I was judged and charged to go to hell for being a sinner, a sinful and disobedient Christian. The accident occurred in Blantyre, Malawi’s commercial capital in southern region. I was taken to Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital where I spent one and a half month.

That accident marked the beginning of his serious life as a Christian. And Shadreck Wame turned away from sinful life for real and become a son of the Living God who then awakened his spirit to go and bring the lost people back to God.

His Evangelistic Ministry

The evangelist Wame is arguably one of the rare Christians to have contributed to the spread of charismatic Pentecostal revivalism in Malawi. His more than four decades long ministry is remarkable in Malawi in many ways as we shall note in the ensuing section. Wame’s true conversion following the accident marked the beginning of his evangelistic ministry. After incident, Wame explains that one night in his sleep, the angel of God told him he would be drilled in the preaching of the Word of God. That lesson occurred in a vision in which he asserts to have beheld Jesus Christ. It started at 9:00 pm and ended at 4:00pm. He wrote down everything he was taught. In that vision, God made Wame to carry a basket full of Bibles amid a shoal of fish. [7] Wame reiterated that the Bible represented the job God entrusted him—to preach the word of God without bias - while the fish represented his audience. [8] After this vivid night vision, Wame had a full throat preaching the Gospel in all the corners of Malawi, in various congregations belonging to different denominations that invited him. This he did because God ordained him to preach his salvific message to various denominations with prejudice.

As an evangelistic minister of God, Wame did not preach about how to get wealth, how to get good jobs, or how to prosper in life. His message was one: “repent for the wages of sin is death.” His message was all about salvation which is found in none other than Jesus Christ. His ministry spanned over 45 years by the time he was brutally murdered by his manservant. Speaking to a reporter, Wame said, “I always preach messages from God and before I go anywhere to preach I ask God to give me the message of the place I have been invited to preach at. I normally have a busy schedule sometimes throughout the year.” [9]

One of the media for his outreach evangelistic ministry was the use of Transworld Radio (TWR) where he was preaching over ten times every week. [10] Due to its large listenership and coverage throughout Malawi, Wame’s messages of salvation in Jesus Christ reached thousands, perhaps millions, of people in Malawi.

The Evangelist’s Significance in Malawian Christianity

Wame’s evangelistic ministry stretched a period of over 45 years. He was blessed with a piercing voice, somewhat squeaky. He blended a wealth of imageries, mastery of narrative skills, and immerse humor. He blended the word of God with everyday parables of nature and social life so as to reach out to his hearers with their local narratives that they could easily understand. [11] In this manner, Wame reached many hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of listeners with his salvation messages.

Another point of his ministerial significance is the fact that he brought in new understanding of Christianity in Malawi, especially charismatic revival which has aided the Church in reaching out to many in a new Pentecostal atmosphere. In this way, it can be argued that Wame was a Reformer because he to some extent brought change in traditional churches, especially the CCAP which he brought from traditional doctrines to Christ-centered doctrines. [12] Therefore, there is what I may call the theological relevance of Wame’s evangelistic ministry in Malawi, where many assumed dying faiths have been revived. Hence his ministry helped some traditional local churches to reform both in doctrine and practice of worship. It has to be reckoned here that due to his unbiased and uncompromising practical biblical messages, some traditional church leaders, as well as elders, might have shunned and spurned him.

Another relevance of Wame’s ministry in Malawi’s Christianity is the fact that he might have facilitated the inculturation of the biblical message to Malawians. As already indicated Wame used locally available traditional narratives, riddles, myths, folk tales, legends, and other exciting African images to preach the gospel. Listening to his message in his cassettes, one can be amazed with how Wame used traditional stories and images in the gospel so as to bring the point home. In this way, many Christians who were not being rooted in Christ in their churches became rooted in the word of God through Wame’s messages and personal testimonies of his sinful life prior to encountering salvation in Christ Jesus.

During his ministry, Wame described himself in his evangelistic ministry as “a heavenly vendor,” meaning that evangelists go anywhere to preach while pastors and other ministers remain in their comfort zones. [13] Wame’s personal integrity was demonstrated during all his ministry. His life exemplified one committed to the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Consequently, Wame was a man of steadfast faith and love for God. This aspect became the hallmark that made him to a spiritual father to many individuals and contributed to helping many denominations to exemplify life of holiness. [14]

Another of Wame’s notable is humility. Wame told Chimpweya that he had gone everywhere in Malawi, and that because of that massive ministerial itinerate some people wanted to honor him with a doctorate degree, but he refused saying, “the spirit of pride and arrogance could have entered me and made me start boasting that I am Doctor Shadreck Wame which would not be the will of God.” [15]

Wame’s ministry challenged that notion in Malawi that only those in church are believers. Wame exemplified that one can be in church but still be a sinner. Wame’s messages did not emphasize the issue of going to church. Rather, his emphasis was being in Christ, hence challenging and at the same time encouraging and enlightening Christians that they can belong to various Christian fellowships for their continued spiritual edification and growth.

Wame claimed that he does not discriminate when preaching. He preached to Christians of different denominations. He preached to people with different religious backgrounds. He preached to Muslims and was a counselor to many Muslims whom he interacted with on daily basis in his home district of Salima. This posture opens doors for the gospel to these non-believers to be converted to Christianity and follow Christ. [16]

During his more than four decades ministry, Wame preached many messages, and many of them were not recorded. However, 18 were recorded in cassettes.

His Sudden Death

The death of the most famous indigenous evangelist in Malawi was a great shock to many. He was not sick but was brutally murdered by his very house servant. Wame is reported to have been murdered by his servant in the early hours of Friday October 28, 2016 at his home in Takumana Location, Traditional Authority Kalonga in his home district of Salima. According to Salima Police public relations officer Gift Chitowe, “the servant, whose details were not available by the time we went to press, is still at large after bolting from members of the general public who had apprehended him.” [17] The police public relations officer states that “Wame was found dead in his house with several stabs on his body. [18] In the early hours of today (Friday), the servant was arrested by members of the general public. He had a wheelbarrow with maize and said evangelist Wame had sent him to deliver the maize to a certain pastor.” [19] Sangala continues saying that “the police PRO added that the group still proceeded to Wame’s house where they broke the door after knocking several times without getting any response from inside.” [20]

The death of Wame brought grief to many people in Malawi. Among the many Malawians who have expressed sadness at Wame’s death is Head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Malawi (ELCM), Bishop Joseph Bvumbwe who described the late Wame as one of Malawi’s most dedicated preachers. [21] “ Bvumbwe said, “The news about his death is very shocking. It is devastating because the church has lost a true soldier of Christ. He was a true evangelist who was renowned even among the ecumenical church. I hear he was stabbed. We are heavily saddened and shocked.” [22]

Another grief came from the Executive Director of Transworld Radio (TWR-Malawi), Victor Kaonga, who said that he was shocked to hear that Wame was no more, having worked with him for several years. Kaonga said, “I am in Nairobi now, but I got the news this morning (Friday morning) and I am still in shock. This is a big loss to the ministry of Transworld Radio in Malawi. He has been preaching 10 times a week on the radio and many people loved his sermons.” [23] Such was the sadden end of the man of God who, for over four decades, dedicated his life to bringing the lost souls back to God—brutally murdered by his own house servant on October 28, 2016. [24]

Conclusion

In Christian ministries, some people are called pastors, apostles, teachers, prophets and evangelists. [25] However, in Malawian Christianity, the name Shadreck Wame rings a bell in the minds of many who have followed the revival of Christianity in the country. That name is associated with freelance evangelist Shadreck Wame who dedicated over four decades of Christian ministry serving the LORD calling many to a personal relationship with God. His coming onto the scene of ministry brought Christian revival that was needed ‘for such as time as this,’ in Malawi. Consequently, Wame is associated with Pentecostal charismatic revivalism in Malawi since his conversion. He therefore played a very great role in bringing many sinners into the Kingdom of God, in revitalizing the traditional Church worship and practices, and all in all, by his faithful lifestyle, exemplified a life of holiness.

Wame was one of the Christian revival preachers known for strong, passionate and straight-to-the-point messages which endeared him to many. Through the Transworld Radio TWR, Malawi, Wame reached many people in Malawi and many of them received Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

Hermann Yokoniah Mvula Jr.


Notes

  1. See Matthew 28: 18-20; Mark 16:14-18, Luke 24:36-49, John 20:19-23, Acts 1:6-8.
  2. See 2 Timothy 4:2.
  3. See Mark 1:14-20.
  4. See his interviews with James Chimpweya on https: //www.mwnation/com/wjo-is-evangelist-shadreck-wame/ (accessed online on 14th May 2020).
  5. K10, 000.00 then could be in excess of Malawi Kwacha’s millions in today’s economy. So that was not a small get-rich-quickly offer for Wame.
  6. Interview with James Chimpweya of the Nation newspaper; https: //www.mwnation/com/wjo-is-evangelist-shadreck-wame/Accessed online on 14th May, 2020.
  7. See Francis Tayanjah Phiri, http: //www.bnltimes.com/index.php/Sunday-times/headlines/religion/3893-evangelist-wame70-still-spreading-the-gospel (accessed online on 20th March, 2011).
  8. Ibid.
  9. James Chimpweya on https://www.mwnation.com/who-is-evangelist-shadreck-wame/ (Accessed online on 14th May, 2020)
  10. See Tom Sangala on https://times.mw/malawians-mourn-evangelist-shadreck-wame/ (accessed online on 14Th Many 2020). Sangala was reporting on a grief expressed by one of the Executive director of Transworld Radio.
  11. See for instance, his cassette volume 9 message, where he gives a narrative of the natural behavior of a crocodile and equate it to Satan.
  12. Gerson Chikondwa, an Itinerant Evangelist of St James CCAP Church, March 2011. Advanced my Lloyd Chirwa on his Bachelor of Arts in Theology Degree dissertation, Chancellor College, University of Malawi, 2012.
  13. Lloyd Chirwa, Bachelor of Arts in Theology Degree dissertation, Chancellor College, University of Malawi, 2012.
  14. Lloyd Churwa’s interview with Wame at Henry Henderson Institute in Blantyre on 19th March, 2011.
  15. See James Chimpweya, on http://www.mwnation.com/who-is-evangelist-shadreck-wame-/ (accessed online on 14th May, 2020).
  16. See James Chimpweya on http://www.mwnation.com/who-is-evangelist-shadreck-wame-/ (accessed online on 14th May, 2020).
  17. Reported by Tom Sangala https://times.mw/malawians-mourn-evangelist-shadreck-wame/ (accessed online on 14Th Many 2020).
  18. Ibid.
  19. Ibid.
  20. Ibid.
  21. Ibid.
  22. Ibid.
  23. Ibid.
  24. See also Alfred Chauwa, Nyasa Times (Leeds) October 2016.
  25. See Ephesians 4: 11-14.

Bibliography

Chauwa, Chauwa. “Malawi Mourns Wame.” Nyasa Times (Leeds) October 2016.

Chimpweya, James, Interview on https://www.mwnation/com/wjo-is-evangelist-shadreck-wame/ (accessed online on 14th May 2020).

Gerson Chikondwa, Gerson, Interview with an Itinerant Evangelist of St James CCAP Church, March 2011.

Lloyd Chirwa, Lloyd. Bachelor of Arts Dissertation. Chancellor College, University of Malawi, 2012.

Sangala Tom. “Transworld Radio Mourns Wame.” https://times.mw/malawians-mourn-evangelist-shadreck-wame/ (accessed online on 14Th Many 2020).

Tayanjah, Francis P. “Evangelist Wamne.” http://www.bnltimes.com/index.php/Sunday-times/headlines/religion/3893-evangelist-wame70-still-spreading-the-gospel (accessed online on 20th March, 2011).

Recorded Cassette Sources

Cassette volume 9 Sermon


This article, received in 2020, was written by Mzee Hermann Mvula, a lecturer in Old Testament Ethics and Applied Theology at the University of Malawi’s Chancellor College. Hermann is a graduate of theology from Africa Nazarene University in Nairobi, Kenya and the University of Malawi. He has written a book and contributed articles in journals such as: “The imago Dei and The Missio Dei: Caring For Creation in the Face of African Poverty” (2015) “Religion, A Means to Disobedience: A Reflective Analysis of the Story of the Golden Calf in Exodus 32”; (2017) “Back to the Basics: Caring for Nature is Caring for Ourselves” (2014); “Am I My Brother’s Keeper?: The Image of God in Humanity and Its Implications in the Context of Xenophobia (2017)” “Reflecting the Divine Image: The Crux of Umunthu in Contemporary Africa” (2017). His recent book is The Theory, Praxis and Pursuit of Constitutionalism in Democratic Malawi (2020). He and his family: wife—Bertha and three children: Shekinah, Hadassah and Israel live in Zomba, Malawi.