Love in the midst of loss
One church’s commitment to psychosocial support for orphaned children in Malawi
Patrick Chimpeni leads Rock Springs Baptist Church, one of Forgotten Voices’ church partners in Malawi. He and his wife, Josephine, share a passion for children, and they run several outreach initiatives at their church. Their ministries include a nursery school and feeding program for orphaned and vulnerable children, through which they routinely serve nearly 60 beneficiaries.
Above and beyond
In addition to their church ministries, Patrick and Josephine personally care for 5-year-old Elias, whom they have looked after since he was just a baby. His father died from HIV/AIDS before Elias was born, and his mother died just two days after Elias’ birth due to complications of HIV/AIDS. Pastor Chimpeni was called in to pray for the mother, but he recognized the seriousness of her illness, and knew they would have to act accordingly. With no relatives willing to take on the responsibility of baby Elias, the Chimpeni’s opened their home.
For years, Patrick and Josephine kept the news of his parents’ death from Elias, hoping to protect him from stigma.
However, during the Hope for Grieving Children training, Pastor Patrick learned a lot about how children develop mentally, and he came to a fresh understanding of the importance of sharing difficult truths with the children so they can know their history and grieve appropriately.
As a result, the Chimpenis have begun to tell Elias about his past, and have also tried to introduce him to his extended relatives, although unfortunately, his biological relatives continue to take no interest in him. “We have learned our lessons,” says Josephine. “We are just hoping to realize this beautiful son God gave us in a more loving way.” She says they feel so much more peace, because now Elias will hear about his parents’ death directly from them – his trusted caregivers – instead of experiencing the trauma of a sad secret later in life.
Into the Community
While God continues to bless their ministry outreach efforts at Rock Springs, Patrick and Josephine know that there is more work to do. They plan to share some of the information and skills Patrick learned at the Hope for Grieving Children workshop with other churches, including 27 churches in the southern region of Blantyre which Pastor Chimpeni oversees.
“I am a firm believer in the fact that pastors have to go beyond the pulpit and the four corners of their churches into the community.”
He is excited to bring denominations and communities together to create a comprehensive plan for orphan care in their region — a plan that will equip caregivers to provide proper psychosocial support to children in their care.