Luke 24:5-6 reminds us of this powerful resurrection testimony to the early Church, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He has risen!” This is a powerful and earth-shattering declaration. At this moment, the Church is infused with the truth of the resurrection: Jesus is not dead. He is alive! Through baptism, believers are reborn, fully alive in Christ. The faithful who give of themselves in service to Jesus, in service to proclaiming the Kingdom of God, give witness to the resurrection.

On a recent trip to Malawi, the truth of that message was palpable in the lives of many people we encountered along the way. I, along with four other members of TPMS-USA, visited Malawi to observe and experience this young, poor, and emerging Church through Church-sponsored projects that are supported by generous contributions from around the world, especially from the United States. Our schedule weaved us through two major regions – Lilongwe, the current capital, and Blantyre, the former capital. Encounters with the people – women, men, children, elderly, disabled, laity, and religious – superseded any “projects”. The common thread throughout was a tangible testimony: “Jesus is alive! Jesus is our hope and salvation!”

At St. John’s Primary School, supported by the Missionary Childhood Association with 5,000 students and only sixty-nine teachers, we witnessed the youthful enthusiasm of the learners and the committed service of the teachers proclaiming that “Jesus is risen! His love is everlasting.” Even with the younger learners seated on the floor in deskless classrooms, and teachers overwhelmed by the sheer number of students, their zeal witnessed Christ’s presence in their midst. What they lacked in classroom furniture, chalkboards, electricity, and writing utensils paled compared to their joy for life and desire to learn and expand their horizons. 

At St. Bernadette’s Parish in Chitula, 1,000 people gathered outdoors for a weekday Mass. The Catholic Women’s Organization surrounded our vehicles and greeted our arrival by singing beautiful welcoming hymns accompanied by joyful ululations. Young children praised God with dance. At the Offertory, every person in attendance brought a sacrificial gift to support their growing community. In unison, the congregation knelt on the ground in perfect silence as the bread and wine were transformed into the Body and Blood of Jesus. They worship outdoors while the construction of a new church is underway since the original structure is too small to accommodate the great mass of people wanting to worship. Regardless, their witness proclaimed that “Jesus is alive!”

Most impactful, on a lengthy list of impressive encounters, was the disaster of Cyclone Freddy that devasted huge sections of Malawi in March 2023. Since TPMS-USA raised $35,000 to assist victims of this natural disaster, it was important for our delegation to visit several of the vast territories affected by mudslides, floods, and the destruction of roads, crops, and homes. .Amid disaster, we met resilient people who continued forging ahead. In the Muloza Parish, priests and sisters provided refuge for 150 families (more than 500 people) who found safety on the parish grounds – miraculously, one of the few places in the region not destroyed – for up to one month before the government could evacuate them. Currently, the parish-sponsored health center is the only facility still functioning in that region after the cyclone destroyed the regional hospital. The women religious and priests, together with laypeople and nurses serving the parish, continue bringing hope to survivors who have yet to rebuild their lives. They all give witness to an undisputable message of hope trusting in the mercy of Jesus. Their lives exude the refrain: “Jesus Christ is risen indeed! 

Living in a culture where we experience a decline in vocations to religious life and the priesthood, it was refreshing and encouraging to experience a vibrant Church in Malawi represented by a young, happy, pastoral, and engaged clergy, committed and holy religious women – even living in cloister like the Poor Clare Nuns, and the vibrant St. Peter’s Major Seminary training 112 enthusiastic young men – with only 10 functioning computers! Everywhere we visited, there was a unique bond and fraternity among the clergy and religious. When I asked Fr. Vincent Mwakhwawa, former TPMS Malawi National Director and recently ordained Auxiliary Bishop for Lilongwe, to explain what he sees in the surge of vocations in Malawi, he noted that, for a time, it was thought that young men wanted to go to the seminary to advance their social status. He corrected that thinking, however, by speaking from personal experience: “These seminarians watch and work with their priests. They see the dedication of their priests. They see how hard they work – reaching out to dozens of out-station communities. They experience how much people need the faith, and how they long to know Jesus. They are here because they want to serve the Church. They desire to serve for the right reasons – to be ministers that help people to know and encounter the Lord.” These witnesses together with their lay leaders and catechists proclaim with their lives that “Jesus is risen! Jesus has overcome sin and death!”

After this experience of the Church in Malawi, I have no doubt that the Body of Christ is vibrant and alive – Christ is alive! I was renewed. My encounter with the people of Malawi infused my own spiritual journey to keep proclaiming with conviction that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life! While the emerging Church continues to need support from the United States, their gift to the universal Church is much greater than anything we can provide.