[notice]Andre Viljoen interviews Annie Chikwaza who is in South Africa to launch her biography, ‘Mother of Malawi’.[/notice]
When veteran journalist and author, Al Gibson, emailed me from the United Kingdom and asked me if I would be interested in interviewing Annie Chikwaza, the subject of his latest book, I had no idea I was about to talk to a woman whose life story sounds like it comes out of the Book of Acts.
Gibson who works for GOD TV explained that Annie was spending the weekend at St Francis Bay where she was on a family visit. And so, on Sunday, my wife Val and I went on a 100km drive from Port Elizabeth to the resort town to meet with her. Annie looks younger than her 69 years and she scoffed at my question about possible thoughts of retiring from her project of the past 15 years in which she has taken in 200 destitute orphan babies (some HIV positive) and developed a small town called Kondanani (“Love one another”) with a medical facility, nursery school, primary school, high school and farm in a rural area near Blantyre.
“What would I do if I retired? I would just start an orphanage somewhere else. I will just keep going,” said Annie, who talks English with a slight Dutch accent, going back to her youth in Holland.
The dream of Kondanai began after Annie married a poor Malawian pastor and moved to Malawi where she was horrified to see thousands of orphans on the streets. The country has a population of 12 million with one million orphans.
Kondanani with its neat buildings, beautiful gardens, and well-educated children who love Jesus, is a testimony to Annie’s fortitude — or, rather, as she says, to God’s glorious works. But the road to where she is now has not been easy. She have overcome molestation, suicide attempts, divorce, carjacking, a broken back, attempted rape and the death of her beloved husband, Lewis, seven years ago. To appreciate the horror of some of these incidents you will need to read the book, which according to reviewers is a real ‘page-turner’. I look forward to reading it once my wife gives me a look-in to our copy.
I asked Annie how the book came about. Her answer was interesting. She was chatting to a friend at the border post between South Africa and Zimbabwe and Al Gibson, who had never met her before, recognised her voice from her several interviews on GOD TV.
“He called ‘Annie!’,” she said.
The border incident was seven years ago. After they agreed on the book project Al interviewed her over a number of sessions at his home in Exeter and at Kondanani. Then, writing in between his busy work schedule, he completed the book over a period of three years.
Testimony to glorify God
Annie said she is very happy with how the book has turned out and that her stepchildren who persecuted her and tried to kill her have given her a testimony with which to glorify God. Amazingly she is reconciled to her stepchildren, and with a gleam in her eyes declared she loves them.
She said that as a rule she doesn’t focus on problems, even though there are many of them.
“The thing is there are so many wonderful miracles that have happened. At Kondanani we live a miracle every single day,” she said.
She said that after her brother told her that she makes her life sound too good, glossing over the bad things, she asked God what He thought. “And He gave me a scripture and he told me that I was to share his glorious works (Psalm 145). I have to confess His glorious works – that is what is going to bring glory to Him. Yes when we come out of the problems He gets glory, but what is good is what He has done. That is what we focus on.”
Touching briefly on her past she shared how as a suicidal 19 year-old in Holland she had a radical encounter with Jesus under the ministry of Brother Andrew, better known to many as God’s Smuggler, for taking bibles into closed Communist countries. The next day she was sharing her testimony on the streets.
“We didn’t know anything but we knew we got saved,” she said.
Fifty years later Annie said her zeal for the Lord has not waned.
Soon after her first marriage she moved to South Africa with her businessman husband. During this time she ministered in Alexandra Township where she had first-hand experiences of the power of God. She also mentored a young woman called Wendy who stayed with her in Johannesburg for 18 months. She took Wendy to sing at a church in Rustenburg where she met a young man, Rory Alec. It was a divine appointment she said; Rory and Wendy later married and went on to co-found the global TV network GOD TV which today is Kondanani’s biggest financial supporter.
Annie spoke about some of the harsh aspects of Malawian culture and the compromise of many Christian pastors who paticipate in traditional rites out of fear of persecution. The result is a weak witness and a nation whose people largely remain trapped in poverty and moral and spiritual brokenness.
However she has high hopes for her beloved children who were saved from almost certain death when they were taken in to Kondanai as abandoned babies.
A different mindset
“Right now they have a different mindset to other children in Malawi because they have never grown up with the fear of witchcraft and all of that. Some of them are now in high school and we are going to do university right there at Kondanani and we are going to do a trade school at Kondanani. They are growing up into men and women of God because they have a different mindset,” she said.
“When they grow up I want to hear them say, ‘Mommy we have had a happy childhood, we have had a good education, we know Jesus Christ as our Saviour, and what we’ve learnt we are going to pass on to others.’ And they will; they are different children. They will pass it on. They can make a difference. A drop in the ocean has a rippling effect — remember that. They will bring about change because they have a different mindset.”
At the end of our chat I asked Annie if she would like to share a message of encouragement with our Christian readers. She said it is vital for Christians to not only read God’s word but to study it.
“When the Word of God is at home in us we will respond in every situation out of what is at home in us because the Holy Spirit will only speak that to us which is at home in us.”
‘Mother of Malawi’ is available at CUM Books and Exclusive Books and a digital version is available at Kalahari Books.
View ‘Mother of Malawi’ promo video: