In Malawi, God’s inspired Word has breathed new life into schoolchildren. Walk Thru the Bible’s otLIVE (our live event that teaches the big picture storyline of the Old Testament), and soon ntLIVE, is bringing LifeChange to children (and their parents and their teachers) in Malawi.

Walk Thru the Bible (WTB) trainers, instructors, and classroom teachers in Malawi regularly report that not only are the children turning to God, but the fruit of their growing faith shows up in their daily lives. Teachers, parents, and even the children themselves say that their behavior has changed. In addition, they’re excited about what they’re learning about God’s Word. Lynnette Stander, WTB’s Children’s Coordinator and Global Trainer says, “The children want to learn more about the Bible, and they are asking meaningful questions.”

And Walk Thru the Bible is answering.

Small Window/Big God

In keeping with one of our growth initiatives, WTB is continuing to reach children who are biblically unengaged through our global children’s ministry – reaching at least 1.4 million children around the world last year with God’s Word, truth, and love. And Malawi is just one country that has seen much fruit from teaching God’s Word to children. Many children in this country will not finish school – and so there’s a small window of time for these children to learn. With God’s help, WTB is shining the light of Christ through that window for more Malawian kids each year.

In partnership with Starfish Malawi, since 2012, Walk Thru the Bible Southern Africa has been involved in the ongoing training of full-time otLIVE instructors in Malawi. These WTB-trained, local instructors teach the Bible in their home language, Chichewa, in 54 Malawian public schools where otLIVE is taught in weekly lessons to more than 8,000 children each year.

Karen Melby, a USA board member of Walk Thru the Bible, was able to witness the teaching in Malawi recently while visiting family who reside in the country. Karen wanted to visit her children and grandchildren, and she wanted to see Walk Thru the Bible’s work in Malawi public schools while she was there. Karen was able to meet with Starfish Malawi Director Emmanuel, as well as Wiseman (a WTB instructor and trainer), and Sarah, another WTB instructor.

“Starfish Malawi ministry is a wonderful partnership that Walk Thru the Bible is tapping into to help implement its mission and vision,” Karen says, “which is teaching the Word of God and helping people understand and engage with it.”

The team took Karen to Kalonga Primary School. As they waited for the teacher who would teach otLIVE to the 6th graders, Karen asked, “How can you teach the Bible in a public school?” They explained to her that the department of education in Malawi has a Bible component to their national exams that children must pass. “They told me that the schools and teachers welcome these Bible lessons with open arms,” she says.

But God’s Word is not always initially well-received in the areas populated by people of other faiths. Three years ago, the Gideons placed Bibles in one school in the Salima district, in an area where Christians are a minority. The reaction? The school principal not only refused to allow the Bibles to be used in the school, but also instructed the children to destroy the Bibles.

The Bible tells us, however, that the Word of our God stands forever (Isaiah 40:8), and that stunning scene of destruction—of broken Bibles—was not the end of the story.

A few years later, WTB Southern Africa tried a different approach: bringing otLIVE into that school to satisfy the curriculum requirement of Bible Knowledge. In a moment that can only be credited to God’s grace and His working, the principal at the school—who instructed the children to tear up the Bibles just a few years earlier—agreed to allow WTB instructors teach otLIVE there in order to fulfill the Bible curriculum requirement.

Not only that, but recently, when the Gideons brought Bibles to that school again, the principal allowed the children to be given the Bibles and to read them. Why? Because of a change of heart. Or rather, a change of hearts.

“A Changed Person”

The students in Malawi love otLIVE. They love the interactivity and movement of the teaching; they love the memory tools and how the teaching makes the Bible fit together. They love the Bible stories and some have even picked favorite Bible heroes. This is remarkable, since so many of the children come from the background of another faith.

But now they are learning God’s grand Story of Scripture, of redemption, of hope.

By grabbing the children’s attention and imagination, the truth of God’s Word has begun to sink into their hearts and take root there. One student said, “otLIVE has helped me to know the love of God—that He gives us time and a chance to repent and come back to Him.”

Fifth-grader Patience says, “otLIVE and its lessons helped me to love my friends and change my behavior. I used to be involved in fighting and was rude to my parents. Now I am a changed person.”

Other children’s lives have also been impacted because of what they learned. Deborah said, “These lessons have helped me to obey God—just like Samson’s mother who kept the commands the angel gave her about Samson.”

For Chisomo, the Bible lessons have helped her not to fear the unknown. “God can use me in a mighty way as He used Gideon,” she says. “I don’t have to be afraid.”

One particularly effective teaching method of the Walk Thru the Bible instructors is localizing the stories from the Bible. With this method, students learn about biblical characters whose lives make sense in the children’s own cultural context.

For example, one fifth-grade girl at Katelera Primary School has been particularly touched by the story of Joseph. Even though Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, he ultimately forgave them and provided them with food during a severe famine. And in a country where many are familiar with food insecurity, this is a powerful sign of forgiveness and blessing. “I have learned, through these lessons, that forgiveness and love go together,” she said. “I have learned to have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.”

A sixth-grader has also encountered Jesus through the lessons she’s learned from Walk Thru the Bible. And she also comes from a family of another faith. “I thought that in the Bible, in Christianity, that women aren’t important, that God doesn’t use them,” she says, but she’s discovered that indeed, to God, women are valuable and are entrusted by Him to do greater things. “I will keep going to these lessons to learn more of the good news of the gospel,” she says.

As her relationship with Jesus develops and as her understanding of Scripture deepens, she has chosen to remove herself “from bad influences,” as she says, and she has begun to share the gospel with her classmates.

After seeing the result of her child attending these Bible classes, her mother made a surprising decision. “I didn’t want my child to attend the classes on the Old Testament which are taught at the local school. A while later, I noticed such a change in her, and I remarked to her that I liked what I saw. She replied, ‘Mother, I did go to those Bible classes at school, and since then my life is different.’ I have noticed such a positive change in her that she now has my blessing to attend,” said her mother.

Indeed, there are many stories from children and parents in Malawi about how Walk Thru the Bible is making a kingdom impact on their lives. But what about the teachers in the classroom? They also hear the otLIVE lessons and stories. What do they think?

Bringing Hope to the Classroom

Working as a teacher anywhere in the world is not an easy task. But teaching in Malawi, where resources are lacking and student-teacher ratios are high, as in many places in Southern Africa, is even more challenging.

In Malawi, Walk Thru the Bible is bringing hope to this situation. Teachers have seen God’s Word transforming education by transforming hearts.

Eric, a fifth-grade teacher at Katelera Primary School, says, “This is impacting the children’s lives by helping them to start loving God and one another. We are reaching children in our local schools with the Word of God through this program . . . and it’s helping them to make better choices.”

Elizabeth, a deputy head teacher at another primary school, also says that because of the Bible lessons of Walk Thru’s otLIVE, her students’ behavior has changed. “The students are easier to manage. Now they have stopped bullying, teasing, and using abusive language. They have learned more about Christianity and the love of Christ.”

For Jean, a fifth-grade teacher, the lessons have helped to “simplify my work. The children have changed their behavior based on what they’ve learned about how to act and to live as children of God,” he says. They are applying biblical concepts, such as loving your neighbor, in the classroom with their classmates and teachers. Jean says that the program also has helped increase attendance by encouraging students to come to school, a fact confirmed by others, including a Malawian school principal.

Along with improving the children’s conduct and choices, schoolteachers have reported several academic benefits of otLIVE being taught in their classrooms. For example, the children want to discover more about the Bible. They are thinking about it and discussing it and learning how to apply Scripture to their lives, which helps them develop a passion for God’s Word. In turn, the children’s grades for Bible knowledge have greatly improved.

In addition to better grades, their ability to memorize and apply biblical knowledge and concepts to other subjects has grown. As a teacher named Innocent said, “otLIVE has had a great impact at our school. Let it continue.”

It’s not just the children who are growing through God’s Word; so are the teachers. Eric says that the lessons have encouraged him in his own spiritual life, and Elizabeth agrees. “I have been attending the lessons and personally I have learned so much. Now I know about Jesus,” she said.

Making a personal impact on teachers is just another way that Walk Thru the Bible is touching the lives of the children who walk into their classrooms, as well as their parents and the community. In this under-resourced environment, this Bible teaching is going beyond basic needs. It’s touching human hearts and bringing them hope. It’s teaching them that there is a God who loves them and has a plan for their lives.

The First Hearts

Before they ever enter the classroom to teach the children, the otLIVE instructors are reading, studying, and learning the Bible lessons. Theirs are the first hearts touched by the impact of God’s Word. After all, they are the first to see the big picture storyline of the Bible presented in such a fun, interactive way with hand signs and key words.

Walk Thru the Bible Southern Africa—working together with Starfish Malawi—trains local Malawian instructors to teach the good news of God’s Word to the children in their area using their common language. Key to the effectiveness and growth of the work in Malawi is the ongoing training and encouragement of the instructors who work so faithfully in schools in this area.

Walk Thru not only trains local people as instructors to teach otLIVE in the schools, but they continue to work with, update, and enhance their skills. They also train these instructors to train new instructors.

The instructors are dedicated and enthusiastic. The otLIVE hand signs involve a lot of movement, which helps the hand signs and key words stick—and stay—in the children’s minds. The instructors’ energy and passion for the story of the Bible makes learning more fun for them and for the kids. Consequently, the children look forward to the instructors coming and make sure they go to school on the days when the WTB instructors are there.

During her visit to Kalonga Primary School last November, Karen saw this firsthand. “What impressed me the most was the excitement of the teachers, of Wiseman and Sarah and Tiwonge, and how they engaged the children and how they knew the Word of God themselves so well. They had a love for teaching and they were fun and funny. The kids were so into it. They were doing all their hand signs and having so much fun. It was such an amazing
experience,” she says.

Tionge gave Karen a piece of paper, which was her handwritten lesson plan. Karen says, “It was all the different things that she was trying to teach the children that week. On her lesson plan was the meaning of terms like repentance and baptism. And in her teaching, she explained this to the children, to the 6th graders. It was so amazing, so wonderful to see her teaching these foundational, scriptural concepts.”

The training that instructors like Tiwonge (the WTB instructor teaching otLIVE that day) and Sarah and Wiseman receive from Walk Thru the Bible helps them refine their teaching skills and technique. More importantly, the instructors’ own lives are changing as a result of teaching otLIVE. They get to know the Bible better as they teach, and they are growing in their own walk with the Lord. Plus, they feel that God has called them to this work. As one instructor says, “God created to me to teach!”

Tionge says that this course has opened her eyes to the goodness of the Lord and taught her to rely on Him only. She also teaches others outside the classroom, telling her family, friends, and other Christians to depend on God, to know His Word, and to pray more fervently than ever before.

For Wiseman, the training has helped him to be an effective leader and enables him to train other otLIVE instructors. “I have learned new ideas on how to make my lessons better and to attract the interest and attention of the learners so that they are involved in the story,” he says. Wiseman also has learned how to handle difficult learners by treating them with the love of God.

The training has not only helped instructor Bornwell to perfect his storytelling and improve his hand signs, but it also reminds him that he is part of a team, that he is not on his own. Teaching otLIVE makes him “want to tell these Old Testament stories to my family, people at my work and at church. My own walk with God is growing deeper,” he says.

Some instructors have learned how to change their teaching style, to try different approaches and tailor the story to suit their audience. Several have commented that it has made them think about illustrations and applications from their own environment, their own lives and experiences and even the world, which will further illustrate the story.

Another instructor notes that teaching God’s Word has reminded him that he needs to forgive a friend, despite what that person has done to him. He has been reminded, too, that he needs to respect the Word of God, a value that shines through his teaching to his students.

Perhaps most powerful of all, Agnes shares that she has learned to ask the Holy Spirit for help when she practices her otLIVE sessions for the schools. Praying beforehand prepares her heart and invites the Holy Spirit into the classroom with her, where He can use Agnes and her colleagues to sow His Word into the hearts of the children.


Multiplication Lessons

Excitement about learning the Bible has grown beyond the children in the schools where Walk Thru the Bible is present. Other schools are now approaching the WTB instructors and asking them to bring the otLIVE lessons to their schools, as well. The new schools have heard about what is happening in the schools where it is currently being taught. The instructors have heard comments like “What you teach is so much better than our religious education lessons.”

Walk Thru the Bible is responding to these requests by training more instructors for otLIVE and now, for ntLIVE. This excitement is an excellent opportunity to reach more children in Malawi than ever before. As one teacher pointed out, “otLIVE is teaching the children the gospel in a way that they can understand. It is a wonderful evangelism tool.” Even children of other faiths are enjoying the lessons and being exposed to the truth of God’s Word and the gospel. And the numbers of people coming to Christ are multiplying.

After her trip to Malawi, Karen shares this excitement. “Just to see the ministry firsthand in another part of the world makes it even more special. Walk Thru the Bible exists to help people everywhere live God’s Word. And it’s such an amazing thing that these children are learning the Bible at this young age. It was so beautiful to watch.”