Monday, 18 May 2020 Tiyamike SIM Australia mission workers Pete and Jo Ong are serving in Malawi with their children. This year marks the family’s eighth year in Malawi. Despite the challenges of raising three young children and pioneering two new ministries, the Ongs have continued to obey the call God gave them to serve overseas.

Pete explained, “Unless you are convicted that God has given you a calling to be there, then you’ll pack up and go home. I think it’s through the difficult situations that God refines us and enables us to serve in a sustainable way in Malawi.”

The family’s faithfulness to their field has seen them establish two vocational training ministries that provide them with the opportunity to disciple those that they teach. Pete is leading the Mtengo Youth Discipleship Ministry while Jo has pioneered the sewing ministry, Tiyamike.

Definition in Chichewa: Let us give thanks

Tiyamike teaches sewing skills to women from low-income families so they can provide for themselves and their families. The nine-month program includes classes on basic tailoring and small business skills. Each class begins with prayer and a Bible study. Students receive a sewing machine when they graduate so they can begin their own business. Graduates can also return to Tiyamike to receive sewing work for which they are paid per item. The ministry offers graduates this opportunity for two years while they are working on slowly building up their own tailoring businesses at home.

The project started organically from Jo’s garage, using her teaching skills and creativity to equip others in her community. A partnership then evolved with the Africa Evangelical Church (AEC) as the project grew.

“It’s a different model of empowering and partnering with the church because we are building up the women, but at the same time we are building up their income-generating capacity which then helps the church,” explained Jo.

Pastors and church leaders help choose the women who will join Tiyamike so that the families who are financially struggling the most can be assisted.

Below you can read about the story of a widow whose desperate needs were met thanks to Tiyamike.

Michelle’s Story

Michelle*, a recent widow, has seven children. Four of her children were still at school and living with her when she first came into Tiyamike.

She was accepted into Tiyamike in 2018 but really struggled to learn for the first few months. She was at the point of giving up when Ellen, a 2017 graduate of the program and the teacher now in charge of pastoral care, sat down with her to have a chat. Ellen found out that Michelle was struggling to learn because she was overwhelmed with worry about how to feed her children each day.

The Tiyamike team promptly arranged to visit Michelle at home and were shocked by her living conditions. In Malawian culture, a widow is to live with and be cared for by her late husband’s family for a year after his death. Even though Michelle was brought to the village of her husband’s family, her in-laws did nothing to care for her. She was staying in a small windowless mud house the size of a storeroom with her four young children and no food to eat.

It was then that Tiyamike set up a Widows Fund to provide relief to widows struggling with daily needs.

The team provided Michelle with food and other necessities like oil, salt, soap, candles, and matches and began to build her a house. Once the daily worries for her children began to ease, Michelle began catching up with the rest of her sewing class. There was much cheering and laughing on the day she sewed her first dress! Michelle graduated in June 2019 and received a sewing machine to start her own tailoring business. Since then she has been coming weekly to receive sewing work through Tiyamike.

Through the training she received at the Tiyamike sewing program, Michelle is now able to provide for her family – sewing uniforms for her children and earning an income with her sewing skills.

Michelle is now a changed person. Those in Michelle’s community have seen the dramatic change in her life, both in living conditions, as well as in her as a person. They see that God has been at work in her life and changed it for the better.

For Jo and the leaders at Tiyamike as they disciple the women who come through the program.

Are you interested in serving God through vocational training? Start a conversation with a Mission Mobiliser.
The description of the project is based on normal activities without social distancing and lockdown measures implemented in the context of the coronavirus pandemic.
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