“Because in Malawi, many Christians—their experience is that they are a mile wide, in terms of experience. But in terms of knowing the Word of God and how to teach it properly, they are an inch deep. So, there is a great need for teaching ministry in Malawi.”

Abel Sauti-Phiri

Program Master of Divinity ('20)
Age 61
Ministering in Lilongwe
Family Wife, two sons, three daughters

Abel is an overseer and pastor with a passion for training younger pastors so that they may shepherd their own flocks. Despite having the need to provide for a family of seven, Abel knows that God is good and gracious—he is excited to learn the skills of becoming a better pastor and a better man.

$100 a month provides a pastor a scholarship to study at CAPA.

Listen

Abel explains why he decided to come to CAPA.


Read

Interview with Abel Sauti-Phiri

2017

Q1

How did you come to know the Lord?

Q2

Why did you decide to come to CAPA?

Q3

Are there things about school you are nervous about?

Q4

Have you faced any hardships because of your faith?

Q5

What are you looking forward to learning this year?

Q6

What are your future plans for ministry?

Q7

How are you involved in your church?

Q8

What are some ways you have seen God’s providence in your life?

Q9

Do you have any prayer requests?

Q1

How did you come to know the Lord?

I was raised up in a nominal Christian family. […] I [once] said, “I was born in a Christian family. I was baptized as an infant, and I’ve done [catechism]. I’m a full member of the Presbyterian church. I’m the president of the choir and I read my daily power every morning.” So, I thought those good works would earn me salvation.

But [one day], God was gracious enough to challenge me that, yes—these things are good, but you are guilty. You don’t have peace in your heart. You haven’t been living right morally. So, it was the turn of the Lord to remind me how I’ve lived—that I was a liar, I was a thief at home and at school, and morally I wasn’t living right. […]

Then there I was sincere. I said, “I feel I’m short of the standard of someone to enter into everlasting kingdom. So, what can I do?” […] All along I was hearing the Word of God, but it didn’t make sense. But I guess that was the timing of the Lord—to reflect upon my life. And I went on my knees; I prayed the sinner’s prayer, and invited Jesus to come into my heart. So that was the turning point of my life.

And the following morning, early in the morning, I wrote letters to my former girlfriends, and told them that now I’m born again and our relationship is over. And the Spirit of God continued to work in me.

At that time, I didn’t know it was the Spirit of God; but I sensed within me that yes, you are born again, but you are keeping stolen property. I remember I worked for American Peace Corps for three months before I joined Air Malawi, and whilst there, I stole beddings. Two bed sheets, one mosquito net, one pillow case. It was at a training center like this one, where I was trained to teach American Peace Corps volunteers our local language.

And I and my colleagues—we stole, but we didn’t know… we didn’t realize we were stealing. We just said, “Let’s pick these things.” But we are not authorized, so it was stealing. So when I gave my life to the Lord, the Lord reminded me that, “Now you are forgiven. But you need to go and settle.” So I took a plane from Blantyre—I was working in Blantyre by then. I flew to Lilongwe, as a staff of the airline—I paid 10 percent of the fare that time.

So I went to American Peace Corps, and told them I’ve been arrested by the heavenly police. They said, “What do you mean?” I said, “I was a thief. I stole here. This is a list of the things that I stole. But I’ve [come to know] Jesus in Blantyre. I have come to restore. So I want you to bill me so I can pay for the things that I stole.” At that time, I had given those things to my mother. My mother didn’t know that those were stolen property. So then we were happy—the transformation that was going on in my life. They told me, “You know, we forgive you. Take these things as lost items—go in peace.”

From there, I went to my former secondary school in Salima, where I’ve stolen books—the property of Malawi government, since those were school books—textbooks. I stole them after completing my Form 4 and made a library.

So I had to go there again and surrender myself to the principal of the school and told him that now I’ve changed. I was the leader of the choir here, but I wasn’t transformed. But I’ve [come to know] Jesus. […] So that was the turning point of my life: For me to come, born again, the Lord worked in my life in such a manner.

Q2

Why did you decide to come to CAPA?

I decided to come to CAPA because, since then, I have been serving the Lord. Since I gave my life to Jesus, I have been witnessing, sharing the Word of God, preaching, and teaching. And for many years now, [I have been] a pastor in the local church. I oversee a number of churches. And I help other pastors, training them from the local church point of view.

So with that passion, the passion that I have now is to help other pastors, upcoming pastors, equip them with whatever the Lord has put me through. So I feel my coming here is right, because the burden and the passion for me is to equip other people—because in Malawi, many Christians—their experience is that they are a mile wide, in terms of experience. But in terms of knowing the Word of God and how to teach it properly, they are an inch deep. So, there is a great need for teaching ministry in Malawi. So, hence I am excited to be in this program.

Q3

Are there things about school you are nervous about?

There are few, couple things that I’m nervous of—the normal reading, especially the reading the books. […] As an infant or young person, I didn’t have any habit of reading; neither was it encouraged in the family to read, yeah. So, with college work, that requires lots of reading, yes; then that is there.

But on the other hand, I’m excited to face the challenge to overcome. I’m persuaded that, if others are making it, I can also make it. I will learn the discipline, the skill, how to master. Yeah.

Q4

Have you faced any hardships because of your faith?

Because of my faith… not quite. Only probably big area where my faith was a bit shaken is the area of personal daily needs, because I resigned from Air Malawi when I sensed in my heart that God is calling me into full-time ministry. Fortunately, or unfortunately, the calling was not through the local church. But it was a personal call, or personal feeling, that God wants me to go into His ministry.

So when I went to meet my senior leader, instead of being encouraged, I was positively criticized—to say, “You are very young; why do you resign […] and go into full-time ministry?” So I felt very much discouraged. It’s now that I am able to see some reason into that kind of counseling that I had. But I walked out of office of my senior pastor very much discouraged and maybe even some hate begun in my heart—to hate him. I had expected him to encourage me, to support me, and maybe advise how to go about it. But it was… [he] wasn’t really excited that sharing with him that God is calling me for full-time.

So, soon after I left and did my first diploma in theology—studied the ministry—seven years along the line, after resigning from Air Malawi, things began to become tougher. It was difficult to pay for my house rent. It was difficult to find, you know, basic things in life, because I was doing that as a freelancer. I wasn’t supported by the local church. And to make matters worse, I went to an institution like CAPA, which is not owned by my denomination.

So at that time, they were not open enough that one can train elsewhere. Their fear, maybe, was that maybe I’ll be taught different things, different from the tradition of the local church. But by the grace of God, I survived, and after this time. But that was a major shake in my life—to the point where I thought, maybe I made the wrong decision; maybe I should go back to the secular world and serve.

Yeah, so that has been the major shake in my life—but not serious persecution. […] I don’t get the luxury of the finances, but God has been good. Even in my coming here, my family, my wife and children, are all supporting me very much to encourage me to come. They took a leap of faith to come here, because I have got three university students, who are my children—they are in school.

So for me, I get to come to school, [which], from the human point of view, it is foolishness what I’ve done. But I’ve seen and experienced the God all these years since I gave my life to Him. God is faithful, so I thank God. I’ve been able to pay for the first semester; and yesterday, I’ve been able to pay a semester for my son. So, that’s the thing—that God is faithful. God is good.

Q5

What are you looking forward to learning this year?

Well, I’m looking for to learn how to do exegesis passage—how to prepare sermons, how to write papers in a logical manner. Those are the things I’ve been introduced to, so I’m looking forward to learn that. And I know that such disciplines will bring character change in a positive way in my life.

Q6

What are your future plans for ministry?

I can see my future—that […] I will engage more in training other leader. I’m already doing that now: training leaders in the local church, training leaders of other church with the limited knowledge that I have. So, I feel and believe that, if I go through this training, I will be better placed to teach the right thing to men of God. Otherwise, with limited knowledge, it’s very easy to mislead people. So, my coming here definitely will sharpen my skill, and my knowledge, and ministry.

Q7

How are you involved in your church?

In the church, I’m an overseer. I oversee five churches, helping pastors who are leading those five churches in the Dedza district and Chewa district. Yeah—the church assigned me to help pastors in those areas.

Q8

What are some ways you have seen God’s providence in your life?

One, the opportunity to come and study at CAPA. For me, it’s God’s providence. I’ve been desiring to continue to study and improve myself so that I can be effective in ministry. And even the first payment—which I’ve paid—the requirement—the fee that was required—for me, that’s God’s providence. Otherwise, as a human being, I was [short chuckle] somehow struggling. [I would] say, “Maybe I should just drop this idea. Where will I raise—how will I get finances?” So God has been good.

Q9

Do you have any prayer requests?

My prayer request is that God should give me strength and grace to face the daunting task of studying. Master’s degree—it’s not an easy going at all. Yeah. So my prayer is that God will give me grace, because of age, that I should be able to continue.