Pastor Ellen Mlamba founded a church and an NGO that gives hope to orphans by helping them with housing and foster families. She comes from humble beginnings but now reaches out to orphans across the country. EW spoke to her. Excerpts:
Who is Pastor Ellen Mlamba?
Ellen Mlamba (née Nakanga) is a founder and pastor of Christ Living Church, wife to Peter Mlamba, executive director of a non-governmental organisation called Chikondano Women and Allied, mother of seven and an entrepreneur. I am the 11th born in a family of 14. I come from M’balira Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Kawinga, Machinga.
What sort of upbringing did you have?
My father died when I was three years old and my mother could not take care of the 14 of us. I grew up amidst poverty to the point that I could not pay school fees. We could sleep on empty stomachs with nothing to cover ourselves with. Sometimes, I contemplated drinking too much water as a food replacement. When I was nine, a teacher who took pity on me employed me so that I could at least afford Vaseline. Through all that, I still went to school because I treasure education.
Tell me your education background
I did my primary education at Michongwe Full Primary School, Chinkwezule Primary School and the then Kasupe Primary School in Machinga, as well as Zomba CCAP School from where I was selected to Balaka Secondary School where I only did up to Junior Certificate (JC) because of lack of school fees. Later, I did the London General Certificate of Examination in 1985 before my Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) at Lirangwe Secondary School. Thereafter, I obtained an advanced diploma in patoral leadership at AFMIN Leadership Institute and a Masters Degree in Theology and Religious Studies at Cyprus Bible Institute in the United States of America.
What has been your career progression?
I worked as a sales assistant for Import and Export, as a pharmacist assistant for Malawi Pharmacies and have also been a member of several boards; Small Enterprises Development Organisation of Malawi (Sedom), Mustard Seed Church, Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) and Global Executive Mission Board of Morris Cerullo World Evangelism in San Diego, Carlifornia in the United States of America.
How did you become a pastor?
Together with Apostle Madalitso Mbewe and the late Pastor Paul Chikakula, Pastor Thipa and many others, we founded the Calvary Family Church (CFC) which grew and is now all over Malawi and other countries. God told me that I should start a church. I kept resisting for three years, but the Holy spirit was on me. In the end, I obeyed God and started Christ Living Church. It’s now growing, we have many branches in several districts and some parts of Mozambique.
Tell us more about Chikondano Women and Allied.
I met an old woman with five children and helpless. I gave her some money and food. She told me the children were her orphaned grandchildren, from Mangochi and came to Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) for treatment, but had no transport fare to go back. Instead, she was sleeping at Limbe Railways Station till I met her. I linked her with another NGO and they helped her. A week later, I learnt that the old woman had passed away. If not for my help, the children would have nowhere to go. After that ordeal, I called a few friends and formed the organisation in 1994. It was registered as an NGO in 1998. We have a committee which finds homes for orphans because we want them to grow up in a family set-up and not an orphanage. We help in supporting the foster parents looking after these children.
Eye of the child recognised us and connected us with organisations such as the Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC) and Gender Coordination Network (GCN) . We have branches in Blantyre, Ntcheu, Dowa, Zomba, Machinga, Balaka and many other districts.
Do you have sponsors?
We have trained women to do different businesses to support orphans in their care. An NGO called Genesis from the United Kingdom heard about us and came. I took them to our centres in different districts. They helped in drilling boreholes in Blantyre and Machinga.
What prompted your passion for children?
Children are future leaders. They need a good basis to become a tool for the nations. There is need to give them guidance at an early stage because if the opportunity is missed, it can never be reclaimed.
The main challenge is funding. We have written many proposals to no avail. Another problem is that we are not mobile. Sometimes we visit places on public transport. If we had a vehicle, our work would be eased.
What sort of businesses are you involved in?
While working for Malawi Pharmacies, there was a department dealing with beauty care such as facials. I resigned and started my own business called Kwalole Kusalala Hairdressing Salon and Boutique. That features facials and tailoring. I also have a beautiful garden where people hold activities such as wedding receptions or photo taking.
How do you juggle your family?
It’s not easy, but I plan my time. I plan what to preach on Sundays, but I don’t always preach as I have pastors. So when I am busy with the NGO, my pastors preach. I still cook for my family sometimes.
Any future plans?
When God blesses me with money, I would like to build a place where children can come to do different activities. As Chikondano, we also plan to build schools for these children.
What are your most memorable moments?
My happiest moment was when I graduated with my Masters Degree on May 10 2014. The saddest moment was when I was selected to Balaka Secondary School, but could not go for three months due to lack of school fees and when I finally went under a bursary; I was taunted for being poor.
How do you spend your free time?
I barely have free time, but when I do, I like to read newspapers and watch news on television as well as reading the Bible.
Your last words.
I would like to thank God for bringing me up, for my husband whom I have learnt a lot from and for my children who give me so much joy. God has done great things in my life. I have tasted the poorest life as well as the good life. It is my prayer that God brings up these orphans so that they can give a testimony one day because He is able and cares for everyone.