The Courageous Tumbuka

By Anna Ebert

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A couple of weeks before I left for northern Malawi, I felt a strong urge to bring Courageous along, a film that teaches the Biblical role of men within the family. I knew this film to be totally opposite to the Tumbuka culture. How would they react?

Men in the Tumbuka tribes in northern Malawi openly state that their purpose in life is to get together with other men and shoot the breeze while drinking beer and other alcohol. They drink away all the family resources for food and necessities. They believe their wives were created to serve them. 

When the women complain or cannot do all that is expected of them, the men either beat them, divorce them or marry a second wife. Many women are abused, left with nothing after a divorce or choose to tolerate his second or third wife living with them.

When I saw this situation in their villages during my Scripture distribution trips among them, the problem seemed bigger than I could handle. How could any one person help hundreds of thousands of abused women? 

A couple of weeks before I left for northern Malawi on my most recent trip, I felt a strong urge to bring Courageous along, a film that teaches the biblical role of men within the family. I knew this film to be totally opposite to the Tumbuka culture and I had no idea how it would be received. How would they react? 

As I first taught my team about the movie and the message in it, I recommended showing it in the afternoon and allowing only the men and older boys to watch the film. Auter was appointed as the man to show it, since he does not back away from confrontations.

Before starting the movie, Auter explained to the village men what the film was about. None of them left. As the movie began, everyone sat motionless. 

The movie ended and Auter explained further. Almost unanimously the men said, “We want that. Our culture is bad. We have to change.”

This felt remarkable to me because they had not understood a single spoken word. And yet, they had understood it! They had seen the men in the film caring for their families, their wives, their children. They had seen a father even risk his life for his baby. They had seen men giving their lives to the Lord and saw how it brought such peace to them. 

“Why has no one ever told us this before?” they asked. “We never knew that there is another way.” 

Auter told them, "You can receive Jesus Christ as your Saviour so He can direct you and show you the right thing to do. Talk to your wives with all your children and teach them the Word of God because they don’t know what has happened to you. You should treat your children in the way the Bible teaches.”

Many responded, “Please pray for me so Jesus can lead in my life. On my own I cannot make a good decision. Sometimes I treat my wife very badly and now I want to do what is right.”

Just like in the film, Auter encouraged the men to sign the resolution promising they would care for their family, protect and serve them, be faithful to their wives, love and honour them.

“This is a very serious decision, a decision you make before God" Auter told them. "This is not something you sign to please me or to please the man next to you. You are signing because you want to change. You want to be the man God created you to be. It means a whole different way of life. Are you ready?”

At least a third (many times almost all) of the men who came to watch the movie accepted Jesus as their personal Saviour. They realized they needed God’s forgiveness. Then most of them signed the tesolution (now translated into their Tumbuka language). A few men commented that they were about to be married and this was how they wanted their family to be. They wanted to give a copy to their future wife so she could hold him accountable to do what he promised!

All the men received a Tumbuka New Testament. To grow in their new faith and in their new roles as husbands and fathers, they were encouraged to study God’s Word together. I praise God for the courage of the Tumbuka men to embrace these biblical principles. 


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