Goat times for all

OM Malawi’s Chiyembekezo School is giving out goats.

In an effort to provide holistic ministry to their students, the teachers at OM Malawi’s Chiyembekezo School are taking initiative to invest in the family lives of the children who come for lessons each day.

OM Malawi has a vision to provide quality education. Chiyembekezo hosts more than 100 children from preschool to standard grade three. All of them come from families that cannot afford even reduced school fees. And while OM Malawi field leaders Div and Eleanor du Plessis see the school as an opportunity to transform the next generation, they are also seeking to make a more immediate difference in the students’ lives.

Enter the goats.

Catherine Phiri, a teacher at Chiyembekezo since it opened in 2013, leads the goat project, an initiative usually associated with businessmen in the missions world. The idea is familiar: lend out a female goat to someone in need, and in one year, receive a young female goat in return to give to someone else.

But for the students in the school and their families, it’s not about building a business, Catherine says. Any income the goats may provide in terms of business profits is a positive result, but the heart of the project is to enrich the lives of the students’ families holistically.

“The purpose is community transformation,” she says. “The school is a catalyst.”

To that end, Chiyembekezo school began the initiative by giving female goats to more than 20 grade-three students and their families. For many of them, the goats—and any offspring they produce—will be a primary source of income.

Eight of the goats have produced offspring, which have been passed on to other students. Unlike other goat projects, where a businessman will pay back a goat like a loan, Catherine says it is the students themselves who give their extra goat away to their friends, to teach them how to care for others—which is important because the project is meant to be a means to demonstrate God’s love.

The project will continue as long as new students arrive at Chiyembekezo, Catherine says, but the effects may last eternity. The lessons being taught to the students and their families opens the door for the gospel, which comes along with teacher visits that Catherine and the other teachers do each week.

“Seeing families who have these goats has reminded me of the Great Commission,” she says. “We can’t always see it now, but maybe when the Lord returns, a child will tell me, ‘Thank you very much—you showed me Jesus.’”

Another eight are expected to give birth this year.


By Andrew Fendrich