To say history is His story is to affirm that God reigns over the affairs of men and that nothing takes Him by surprise. This is particularly true with regard to the great history of the global Assemblies of God movement in general and Malawi Assemblies of God movement in particular.
Like all Pentecostal denominations, Malawi Assemblies of God traces her roots to the great revival which began at Bethel Bible College in Topeka, Kansas under the tutelage of theologian Charles Fox Parham right at the dawn of the 20th century. It was Parham’s conviction that the Christian community of his day needed to take after the personality of the Acts Church if the Great Commission was to yield magnificent results. This led to the development of a Pentecostal doctrine which holds that after being born again one needs to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit with an initial evidence of speaking in other tongues. Amongst those who embraced this theological claim was a black preacher Joseph William Seymour. He got his theological training from the father of Pentecost (Charles Fox Parham), as he later came to be known, and went on to lead a nondenominational Pentecostal fellowship along 312 Azusa street, Los Angeles, California. There’s a great consensus among historians that this revival began in 1906 through 1913. The Azusa movement later took a denominational brand called Apostolic Faith Mission. Several other denominations came into being such as the Church of God in Christ. The breakthrough occurred in 1914 when a Pentecostal conference took place in Hot Springs culminating into the founding of the Assemblies of God. Primarily the Assemblies of God came into being to achieve unity and better understanding of Pentecostal doctrine thereby preserving the fruit of revival both at home and abroad.
The foregoing survey is of incalculable value as it relates to the subsequent birth of Assemblies of God in Malawi now Malawi Assemblies of God. It was after the Assemblies of God had been formed in the United States that a mammoth of Pentecostal missionaries were sent to various parts of the world propagating the gospel in the power of the Holy Ghost. With regard to the Malawi situation, history has it that the first Pentecostal preacher was Leighton Kalambule who had been ignited with Pentecostal fire while serving as a domestic worker of a white family in South Africa. He began congregating at the Full Gospel Church and in the process of time he grew into a mighty evangelist to reckon with. Later the Lord led him to return to Malawi. With his Pentecostal proclamations, he made a great number of new converts who subsequently constituted the Full Gospel Church in Malawi. Mention ought to be made however that though Kalambule remained a mighty preacher of Pentecost, a problem of poor organization and coordination emerged which of course called for immediate solution. In what seemed to be the workings of Providence Assemblies of God white missionaries arrived at Chimbewa village, Ntcheu. They had started off from Kigali, Mbeya, Tanganyika (Tanzania). Most particularly they were four missionary family units namely: Paul Derr, Ragnar Udds, Morris Williams, and Magnus Udds. On 4th July 1947 the first General council was held at Chimbewa village amalgamating the Full Gospel Church with the Assemblies of God. In a sense what really remained was the Assemblies of God Church in Malawi.
Despite the fact that Kalambule later left the Assemblies of God on doctrinal discrepancies, it remains worthwhile to point out that his contributions played a major role to the birth of Assemblies of God in Malawi. Indeed the Assemblies of God marched on like a soldier whose sole business was to get the job done on time. The gospel penetrated both cities and forgotten corners of the rural settings leading many not only to salvation but also baptism in the Holy Spirit.
Of the indigenous leaders, Rev. Gideon Bomba served as the General Superintendent from 1962-1978. Rev. Maxwell Chapola succeeded Rev. Bomba serving from 1978-1989. Rev. Chapola was succeeded by Rev. Dr. Lazarus Chakwera serving from 1989-2014. Having performed his duties faithfully Dr. Chakwera was immediately succeeded by Rev. Nelson Banda serving as Acting President. Before long, Rev. Dr. Edward Chitsonga took over as President to date.
One crucial thing which should never be underestimated in talking about the history of the Malawi Assemblies of God is the contribution by Rev. Dr. Daniel Sheaffer. Late Sheaffer was a Senior Pastor of an Assemblies of God Church in Oklahoma, USA known by appellation as the Crossroads Cathedral. The Lord had placed on his heart the urge to help grow and develop the Malawi Assemblies of God. From the 80s through 90s Dr. Sheaffer used personal income to spur infrastructural development of the Malawi Assemblies of God. He built the state of the art theological seminary known as Assemblies of God School of Theology (AGST) which has of late turned into Malawi Assemblies of God University (MAGU). As if this was not enough he constructed several Church buildings and roofed a lot more both in villages and cities. He further introduced scholarship program to help ministers who may not fend for themselves at the Bible College in terms of tuition and boarding. The scholarship facility is in progress to date. As it may be seen, the story of Dr. Sheaffer in relation to Malawi Assemblies of God is one which teaches us that at times God may raise few or even one obedient individual to get things done to the glory of His Name.
Talking about the strategic vision of Malawi Assemblies of God, the Church embarked on a decade of Harvest from 1990 to 2000. The emphasis was to evangelize Malawi and plant more Churches. From 2001 to 2009 there came a 1111 policy which stipulated that every local Church must plant another Church and send one pastor to Bible College every year. The vision was well received and facilitated the further growth of the Assemblies of God. Then from 2010 to 2020 there is what is known as Decade of Pentecost. This program is under the auspices of Acts in Africa whose final goal is to have 10,000,000 new converts filled with the Holy Spirit in Africa. In supporting the aforementioned continental dream, the President of Malawi Assemblies of God has narrowed it to what is known as PENTECOST AND ACTION of which will be implemented within a given timeframe of 2016 to 2020.
It should now be concluded that while facing both low moments and high moments over time, Malawi Assemblies of God Church has with the help of God grown to untold heights. It is therefore the prayer and eager anticipation of every Malawi Assemblies of God member to behold the continued growth characterized by unprecedented efforts in missions and evangelism.
With the help of God, we will continue to plant more Churches within and abroad;
With the help of God, we will continue to train ministers of the gospel within and abroad for the goal of soul winning;
With the help of God, we will be able to pass on to posterity Malawi Assemblies of God avalanched with passion for the gospel as it was at its birth;
With the help of God, future historians will be able to say “there once lived great men and women of God intoxicated with the business of God”.
This will be our legacy and the pride of the Father in heaven as we move Forward with Pentecost till Jesus comes!