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Mission co-worker eager to help Malawi women form village savings and loan groups

Empowering women helps communities break the cycle of poverty

by Kathy Melvin | Presbyterian News Service

Mission co-worker Janet Guyer shows representatives of the Women’s Guild in Malawi how to use a modified strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analysis to determine which projects their congregations might undertake. (Contributed photo)

LOUISVILLE — A lesson learned globally is that empowering women can help communities break the cycle of poverty.

Mission co-worker Janet Guyer sees this in action in her work walking alongside the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian’s Livingston Synod Women’s Guild in Northern Malawi. Although she is currently in the U.S. as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, she works regularly with the guild.

In her work, she said one of the major issues facing women in Malawi are lack of income. As the Women’s Guild program associate, she supports the guild’s director in equipping its members at the presbytery and congregational levels.

When she returns to Malawi, she looks forward to helping start a village savings and loan group within each congregation. This will begin with creating constitutions that will guide the work of the groups. Within the constitution, women can designate what percentage of the interest generated by the savings and loan group will be dedicated to a project for their congregation’s Women’s Guild to take part in.

“It has an underlying message that God loves and values them, a message of hope and empowerment especially for those who have faced difficult times at home. By giving women skills they will be more able to find work,” Guyer wrote in a letter to supporters. “They hopefully will continue to develop their sense of self-worth through successfully becoming entrepreneurial and creating small businesses to help support themselves and their families. They also share what they have learned with friends and neighbors, thus passing on what they have learned.”

The Rev. Gloria Mlowoka Nkhata, Women’s Guild Director, Livingstonia Synod Church of Central Africa Presbyterian, relaxes in front of one of the churches in the CCAP. (Contributed photo)

In the months before she had to return to the U.S., Guyer and the Rev. Gloria Mlowoka Nkhata, the guild director and one or two others would spend one week each month traveling around the Synod visiting the Women’s Guild leaders in 32 presbyteries. They would visit four to six presbyteries a week, spending the night with pastors’ families of the churches they were visiting.

Rev. Mlowoka opened each meeting with a Bible study, using the Bible study booklet created by the guild. She also conducted other trainings. Guyer would often lead a mini workshop on how to use a revised version of the SWOT (strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis to help them identify their strengths and weaknesses as a group.

Guyer has used her time in the U.S. to create 2021 and 2022 Bible studies for the guild.

Ordained by Pittsburg Presbytery, Guyer went to Thailand in 1990 under Presbyterian Mission appointment. She worked with the Church of Christ in Thailand in community development and helped the church develop its response to the HIV and AIDS pandemic. The daughter of Presbyterian missionaries John and Betsy Guyer grew up in Thailand.

After completing her call to Thailand, she spent 11 years as a regional AIDS consultant working with partner churches in Southern Africa as they sought to prevent the spread of AIDS and care for those who had been impacted by it.

Mission co-worker Janet Guyer walks alongside the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian’s Livingston Synod Women’s Guild in Northern Malawi.

Guyer said her current call working with women is rewarding. She sees it as the hand of God at work.

“Working with things that concern women and children, their gifts, their needs, and their relationships with the church and community are a deep gladness,” she said.

She brings extensive educational credentials to mission service. She earned a Master of Divinity from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and a Master of Social Work from the University of Pittsburgh. Previously, she received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education from the University of Oregon.

Prior to her mission appointment, she taught at the International School of Bangkok in Thailand and in the South Umpqua School District of Myrtle Creek, Oregon.

To support the ministry of Janet Guyer, a gift can be made in her honor. Give to Mission Personnel Support by clicking here. Mission co-workers are notified when a gift is made in their honor.


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