Introducing: Well of Life

Co-authored by Nick Schonfeld.

Faith. In a god. In the coming rains. In a brighter future. In each other. It’s often the one thing that keeps people going. For some, there is plenty to have faith in. For others there is little. It is hard to imagine what that kind of faith looks like. What it feels like, the energy it has. Unless you happen to see it for yourself.

A bible belonging to Elias Jamson, Luchenza, southern Malawi, 2017.
A bible belonging to Elias Jamson, Luchenza, southern Malawi, 2017.

Earlier this year, Nick and I were in Malawi to document Green Malata, an entrepreneurial training village built by a small NGO called The Children’s Fund of Malawi. During our time there, we were invited to join Elias Jamson, Green Malata’s manager, and some of his friends, for a Sunday morning service at his local church, Well Of Life.

Well of Life Church, Luchenza, southern Malawi, 2017.
Well of Life Church, Luchenza, southern Malawi, 2017.
Members of the Well of Life Church congregation pray, Luchenza, southern Malawi, 2017.
Members of the Well of Life Church congregation pray, Luchenza, southern Malawi, 2017.
Elias Jamson rests his hands on a drum as he prays during a Sunday morning service, Luchenza, southern Malawi, 2017.
Elias Jamson rests his hands on a drum as he prays during a Sunday morning service, Luchenza, southern Malawi, 2017.
Jennifer, a Green Malata student, holds up another church member’s child as she poses outside the Well Of Life Church after a
Jennifer, a Green Malata student, holds up another church member’s child as she poses outside the Well Of Life Church after a Sunday morning service, Luchenza, southern Malawi, 2017.
Elias Jamson poses outside the Well Of Life Church. Luchenza, southern Malawi, 2017.
Elias Jamson poses outside the Well Of Life Church. Luchenza, southern Malawi, 2017.

Neither Nick nor I are religious, but we’re always interested in that of which we know little. I was particularly intrigued as I had heard a lot of stories about the spread of religious institutions in Malawi’s countryside. One Sunday, the five of us travelled to their tiny church which was still under construction. The place was filled with worshippers from the surrounding area; families, single mothers with young children, elderly men and women, and several preachers.

Jennifer sings as the rest of the congregation prays during a Sunday morning service, Well of Life Church, Luchenza, southern
Jennifer sings as the rest of the congregation prays during a Sunday morning service, Well of Life Church, Luchenza, southern Malawi, 2017.
A woman prays during a Sunday morning service at Well of Life Church, Luchenza, southern Malawi.
A woman prays during a Sunday morning service at Well of Life Church, Luchenza, southern Malawi.
A woman prays during a Sunday morning service at Well of Life Church, Luchenza, southern Malawi.
A woman prays during a Sunday morning service at Well of Life Church, Luchenza, southern Malawi.

On the face of it, the people crammed on the benches all around us, had very little to have faith in. The church is situated in the middle of an impoverished area in one of the poorest nations on earth, where between 74% of the population live below the income poverty line ($1,90 per day), where life expectancy at birth is 56 years old, and 1 in ten adults live with HIV/AIDS.

Two young churchgoers pose outside Well of Life Church after a Sunday morning service, Luchenza, southern Malawi, 2017.
Two young churchgoers pose outside Well of Life Church after a Sunday morning service, Luchenza, southern Malawi, 2017.
Mother and child pose outside Well of Life Church, Luchenza, southern Malawi, 2017. The little girl was just welcomed as the
Mother and child pose outside Well of Life Church, Luchenza, southern Malawi, 2017. The little girl was just welcomed as the newest, and youngest, member of the congregation.

Yet the congregation smiled, laughed, sung and danced, and the four hour long service felt like a celebration rather than a lament. Elias played the drums throughout, Jennifer sang hymn after hymn, and Wyclef consulted his bible.

Jennifer sings during a Sunday morning service at Well of Life Church, Luchenza, southern Malawi, 2017.
Jennifer sings during a Sunday morning service at Well of Life Church, Luchenza, southern Malawi, 2017.
Jennifer and Wyclef read along with a sermon during a Sunday morning service at the Well of Life Church in Luchenza, southern
Jennifer and Wyclef read along with a sermon during a Sunday morning service at the Well of Life Church in Luchenza, southern Malawi, 2017.
Churchgoers sing and dance during a Sunday morning service at Well of Life Church, Luchenza, southern Malawi, 2017.
Churchgoers sing and dance during a Sunday morning service at Well of Life Church, Luchenza, southern Malawi, 2017.
Churchgoers pray during a Sunday morning service at Well of Life Church, Luchenza, southern Malawi, 2017.
Churchgoers pray during a Sunday morning service at Well of Life Church, Luchenza, southern Malawi, 2017.
Ralph Lyton listens to a visiting pastor as he delivers a sermon during a Sunday morning service at the Well of Life Church i
Ralph Lyton listens to a visiting pastor as he delivers a sermon during a Sunday morning service at the Well of Life Church in Luchenza, southern Malawi, 2017.

It is easy to view churches like The Well of Life as a drain on the financial resources of an already impoverished people. But after spending two Sundays with Elias, we witnessed first hand how powerful faith can be. How valuable it is for those who believe. How it can lift the spirits of those who need a light at the end of a seemingly never ending tunnel. How it can provide a family for those who do not have one.

A churchgoer poses outside Well of Life Church after a Sunday morning service, Luchenza, southern Malawi, 2017.
A churchgoer poses outside Well of Life Church after a Sunday morning service, Luchenza, southern Malawi, 2017.
Two churchgoers pose outside Well of Life Church after a Sunday morning service, Luchenza, southern Malawi, 2017.
Two churchgoers pose outside Well of Life Church after a Sunday morning service, Luchenza, southern Malawi, 2017.
A young churchgoer poses outside Well of Life Church after a Sunday morning service, Luchenza, southern Malawi, 2017.
A young churchgoer poses outside Well of Life Church after a Sunday morning service, Luchenza, southern Malawi, 2017.
A young churchgoer poses outside Well of Life Church after a Sunday morning service, Luchenza, southern Malawi, 2017.
A young churchgoer poses outside Well of Life Church after a Sunday morning service, Luchenza, southern Malawi, 2017.
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