The Radio Lilanguka station in Malawi almost never came to be. For over ten years, missionaries from multiple organisations, including OM, struggled to obtain the proper licences and permits to start the station in Malawi. When the paperwork finally came through in 2016, nearly all the visionaries had left. But that did not stop those who remained from making the dream into a reality. OM workers told Kondwani, who is from Malawi, about the vision of the radio station and invited him to be a part of it.
At the time, Kondwani was working as the training secretary for another Christian organisation involved in reaching out to students. Having gone to college for radio and broadcasting, he was excited about how the planned station would share the gospel with a people group spread out across southern Malawi that has historically been hard to reach.
But before they could air, the station needed to be built. Three dairy containers were converted into an on-air studio, editing studio and technical room, walls of cement blocks soundproofing them. The only one with radio experience but not fluent in the local language, Kondwani recruited people who could speak the language and taught them the ins and outs of broadcasting: how to shape a programme, interview, record, edit and go live.
“My favourite part [of Radio Lilanguka] is the teaching part. I’m passionate about it,” Kondwani said. “I am somebody who brings things in a simple form so that everyone can understand it. I like teaching, and I also like motivating others to say they can do it.”
One station member, who had no prior journalism experience, wrote the college exams for journalism and passed. “It’s so encouraging to see these guys able to do the jobs that any other journalist in the country is able to do, without the proper [college] qualifications—just with the training we have,” expressed Kondwani.
As station manager, Kondwani oversees the work of ten employees and seven volunteers. “On my day-to-day, I get to manage the people and also prepare the schedule, checking out the people themselves and looking at the programme content. I’m also good at editing, and making programmes as well,” said Kondwani.
Can you play that again?
Nearly every day someone drops by the station to say hello or see how it operates. Sometimes they also come with a request: Can you air that programme again?
One man, who is not a Jesus follower, said he listened to the station’s programmes and was particularly interested in the Bible lessons. He had heard the broadcaster say that Jesus would separate the sheep from the goats and was confused about what that meant –– could the teaching be re-aired? The station was happy to do so, both re-airing the recording and putting it on his phone while encouraging him to keep listening.
Broadcasting seven days a week from 05:00-22:00, Radio Lilanguka aims to “participate in the development of the region in all possible aspects,” Kondwani explained.
“During all those hours that we are on the air, we make sure that we are filling those moments with content which is helpful and content that can build the people,” he added.
To accomplish this, the station offers a variety of programmes. A ‘grandmotherly’ woman tells a Bible story and urges kids to memorise Scripture during the children’s hour. The local police raise awareness of relevant issues and make announcements once a week. Parts of Foundations For Farming (a faith-based programme that teaches farmers methods to restore nutrients to the soil) are taught. From news to dramas to educational teachings to music—there is something for everyone in the family.
Seventy per cent of the programmes are aired in the language of the least-reached people group in order “to bring the ownership to the people,” Kondwani said. Radio Lilanguka also encourages community involvement by inviting guest speakers, holding listening groups, having phone-in programmes and going to villages to broadcast discussions and debates on local issues.
The station has also used the airwaves to inform people about the new coronavirus, producing programmes from jingles to dramas to make sure “that we are informing the people of COVID-19, the dangers of it and how they can take some precautions,” said Kondwani. Malawi's Ministry of Health and COVID-19 National Response Committee provide daily updates.
In Malawi, which is mainly an oral culture, radios are widely used and the primary way people access information. The station has received positive feedback from the town and district for their part in keeping people up-to-date and aware of the situation in Malawi. November 2020 marks three years of Radio Lilanguka being on the air and sharing the good news.
‘The big moment’
Orphaned at a young age and raised by his grandmother, Kondwani went to church growing up, but it wasn’t until one Sunday in grade eight that he gave his life to Christ. The message was on the story of Nicodemus and Kondwani felt God calling him. “That was the big moment,” he remembered. “The moment for me to start looking at things in a different way.”