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Jonathan Newell, Christian Brethren Missionary, Blantyre, Malawi
Two people reading Challenge in the rain in Blantyre

The potential of the Challenge newspaper in Malawi is simply enormous. Malawi is a country where free literature will be read by everybody since it remains one of the ten poorest countries in the world. People are flooding into the cities after years of being prevented from doing so. Consequently, there is a large potential readership for a Christian newspaper that is half in English and half in Chichewa, especially since Malawians love to read their secular newspapers. The Challenge format, with simple, clear testimonies about individuals with whom the readers can identify, along with short articles of Bible teaching and attractive quizzes and a children's section all make the newspaper very successful in contemporary Malawi. In a nation where there is still a very small proportion of the population who read books, the short, attractive, clear and interesting format of Challenge is simply excellent for those who might never read a book, but who do want to read something that they can understand and is relevant to them.

When we printed the first edition and produced 10,000 copies we simply could not satisfy the demand. The next edition of 20,000 will not satisfy the demand either, but it will enable us to expand the distribution network to include Lilongwe (the capital city) as well as Blantyre-Limbe (the largest urban centre). In truth, across all the towns in Malawi the paper would have a large readership and great potential for touching many lives. God-willing, it would be our hope that we could reach the capital of the Northern Region of Malawi - Mzuzu - in the future. Since, at present, we have not been able to distribute the paper there.

An office worker in Lilongwe City Assembly Engineering Department reading the paper.Firemen in Lilongwe reading Challenge
A clerical worker in an office in the Engineering Department in Blantyre City Assembly reading the latest edition.
Challenge being read in Blantyre, Malawi

A crucial point to grasp about the importance of Challenge in Malawi is that there is a real problem with free literature from the cults in the country. Almost everywhere and in every office one can find Jehovah's Witness literature and material from other cults. Sadly, Christians will read this material because it is free and they don't have access to anything else to read. The Challenge newspaper can counter this problem by offering office workers and people on the streets in the cities with an evangelical alternative to the literature of the cults that has infiltrated Christian homes and work places.

My own experience of the impact of the paper can be relayed briefly. When the first edition was printed I personally had to do most of the distribution. I can remember giving out some in one of the largest garages in the Blantyre and within minutes, wile I was waiting for a puncture to be repaired, every single mechanic had downed tools and was reading the paper (much to my own disadvantage since they stopped working on my truck)! On another occasion, I visited the offices of the SIM missionaries in Malawi and asked them if they would be interested in distributing the paper. Within minutes, while I was chatting with one of the missionaries, Malawian pastors, having seen the pile of papers, were asking how they could receive the paper, if it could be delivered to them and how many copies they would be allowed to have. These are just two little examples of the potential of the paper. I managed to get the paper into the hospitals in the city, various offices and the banks, as well as distributed through the most active evangelistic churches.

The beauty of the Challenge newspaper for contemporary Malawi is that it can be read and then passed on to somebody else either in the office, in the home, at the market, in the bus or on the street. As such, it will continue to circulate and pick up readers, unlike in the first world where many free papers now are smply thrown into the bin.

Jonathan Newell
Christian Brethren Missionary
Blantyre, Malawi
September 29, 2008
Workers in Zomba City Aassembly reading ChallengeFiremen in Lilongwe ‘treasuring’ their copies of Challenge!
Here are some comments about the paper:

I was recently in Lilongwe - the capital city of Malawi - and went to see the General Secretary of the Evangelical Association of Malawi. He shared with us that he said something along these lines when he saw the first edition of the paper in Malawi: “I was just thinking how much we needed some sort of Christian, evangelistic newspaper for Malawi because there were so many other papers and magazines around. Then I saw the Challenge paper. I was so excited when I saw it. This is what we need for the country just now!”

We also met with the Chief Executive of the Media Association of Malawi in Lilongwe who is a Christian. He said that Malawi has lots of secular magazines and newspapers now, but nothing like Challenge Malawi and that there is a great need for it.

In distributing the paper we always get asked if the paper is really free because people think it is so well produced and attractively presented.

I had to return to an office last week where I had passed out the paper. Immediately, two of the office workers thanked me for the paper and were asking questions about it.

My Malawian colleague in local church leadership, Greyson Maliri, whose testimony was in the second edition of the paper, told me last week that his boss at work had underlined various sections of the paper and was asking him lots of questions about its content.

This is all for now,

Jonathan Newell
December 2008




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