dateMay 19, 2016userPosted by:

Karen’s Lessons from Malawi

Karen Sarver has watched her husband (our founder) fly off to Africa more times than she can count. She’s seen the pictures on his office walls, she’s heard his stories, she’s listened to his fiery speeches about caring for the widows and orphans. And she’s always cared — of course, she’s cared. But due to challenging medical issues, she’s been unable to see in person all the things that her husband cared for so deeply…until now.

That all changed three weeks ago when Karen Sarver got on her own plane to Malawi.

“I got there and it all became reality to me,” Karen said. “There is so much more to this world than what I know.”

She spent two weeks at Esther’s House as a part of a small team from Cross Church, the kind her husband had been leading to Malawi since 2002. She traveled to a rural village where she shared the Gospel with groups of women. She spoke to the widows that Esther’s House cares for. She worshipped alongside them in their church. They gave her a new tribal name: AnaPhiri. It was a great honor to be given an African name, which showed their respect.

“Everywhere we went, they would always give us whatever furniture they had to sit on, and they would sit on the dirt” Karen said.“After I spoke, the women would tell me I had brought them a blessing, but I would say, ‘No, no, I’m the one who’s received the bigger blessing.’”

Karen—AnaPhiri—spoke on John 15: on abiding and bearing fruit. But she soon found she had more to learn from the women in Malawi than she had to teach. “The fruit there really lasts. Their fruit just seemed to be… sweeter,” Karen said, smiling.


In Malawi, she encountered a new joy: the toothless smile of a widow with nothing as she lifted her hands to the sky in adoration of Jesus. She encountered a new generosity: being given the only stool in the house to sit on and the choicest ear of corn to eat. She encountered a new worship: no instruments, no lights, no videos, just voices so strong and so pure that they shook
the earth and delighted Heaven.

“We have everything, yet we have nothing. They have nothing… yet they have everything.” This moved Karen to tears as she recalled all she had seen and experienced.

Karen understands now why her husband keeps going back. She understands why he searches for someone—anyone—to sponsor a child or widow in need. It’s not so that he can feel better about himself or keep an exotic-looking Facebook page. It’s not because he has all the answers to Malawi’s problems. It’s because Malawi has taught him that anyone can help with whatever they have. And now Malawi has taught Karen this too.

“I can change a woman’s life in Malawi Africa for $20 a month,” Karen said. “$20! I can go out to eat for that amount!” Most of us, if not all, can afford to give $20 a month to sponsor a widow. If a family in a rural Malawi village could find enough to make a meal for Karen, then she knows she can find enough to provide for a widow.

“This trip completely altered my thinking about life outside my bubble,” Karen said. “It begs me to ask myself what can I do to make a difference?”

Will Karen ever go back to Malawi? She hopes so. But she knows that for now, she has a job to do here in Northwest Arkansas. She has to share the lessons that Malawi taught her with her friends and family. “I have a passion for this now that I didn’t have before,” Karen said. “I want to bring Malawi back to Northwest Arkansas.”


Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few pence.

Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on.’

Mark 12:41-44

Jesus wants whatever you have and whatever you have He will multiply. Change the life of a widow or orphan. 

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