After a devastating cyclone hit Malawi, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints immediately went to work to provide relief — delivering food and supplies, and opening meetinghouses for people who had lost their homes.
Cyclone Freddy — the world’s longest-lasting tropical cyclone ever recorded — hit Malawi on the southeast coast of Africa in March.
Over three days, heavy rains, flooding, mudslides and debris swept through several communities. People and livestock were injured and killed, while homes, crops, schools, health facilities and main roads were all damaged.
The Church provided needed supplies of tents, blankets, sleeping mats, mobile clinic services, mobile toilets, water treatment chemicals, maize, corn soya blend and cooking oil. Supplies were delivered in collaboration with the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, reported the Church’s Africa Newsroom.
After the intensity of the storm faded, Blantyre Malawi District President Gabriel Chinomwe authorized the opening of four meetinghouses to provide temporary shelter to anyone in need.
More than 230 people sheltered in Church buildings in Zingwangwa, Ndirande, Blantyre and Iwonde for three days. Members of the Church prepared and served meals to those in need until more humanitarian help arrived.
Some displaced families continued to stay in the buildings for a few weeks that followed the storms. The Church congregations managed to continue their Sunday meetings as usual by moving belongings into a single classroom for a couple of hours. Flood victims who were interested were welcomed into sacrament meetings and classes.
Meanwhile, during this time, local Church leaders worked to help the people find more permanent shelter. Some housing opportunities were found with extended family members in other communities. Church members then helped the families with supplies and transportation to get to their new homes.
Africa Newsroom reported that the Church has received extensive recognition from local government leaders and media for its humanitarian work during that time of crisis. Civic leaders were amazed at the support the Church provided and how willing the local members and leaders were to help.
“Many could not believe that the Church would open its doors to those not of our faith,” President Chinomwe said. He said the storm created an “opportunity to serve others and bless members.”