Mother of Malawi: The story of Annie Chikhwaza, who
created an oasis of love in a country of orphans
Church Times Bookshop £8.10 (Use code
I APPLAUD the Dutch-born Annie Chikhwaza for what she achieved
in overcoming a self-harming adolescence, an abusive first
marriage, resentful, vilifying stepchildren, and mob violence that
brought her close to death. It illustrates the resilience, deep
faith, and obedience that led her to build the Kondanani Children's
Village in Malawi, regarded as a model of how to do it in Africa's
poorest country, home to one million orphans. The orphanage
attracted global attention in 2006 when the singer Madonna adopted
two children from there.
But this is a teeth-clenching book. Her biographer is Al Gibson,
communications officer for GOD TV, and there's the rub, because its
tabloid style and intention inevitably reads like GOD TV in print.
He regards Annie as "an example of a life redeemed from
destruction", and the book has a strong didactic purpose as,
typically, here: "Through her obedience in forgiving those who had
harmed her, God had been able to intervene on her behalf. . .
Thankfully satan's [sic] plan to destroy her work had been
Gibson is passionate about the work and rightly proud of the
achievement. But there are sweeping generalisations that make one
uncomfortable. The United Nations "keep the people of Africa as
subjects of charity, just throwing bags of maize or rice at them".
Abortion is "similar to child sacrifices of ancient times when
children were slaughtered to appease the Ammonite deity Moloch".
Divorce is a sin for which Annie, the victim, must feel
The book does redeem itself in parts. Kondanani means "Love one
another," and Annie says of the children in her care: "We see Jesus
in them when we feed them, we see Jesus in them when we give them
something to drink, we see Jesus in them when we dress them." A
gospel truth that couldn't be more simply put.