Annie Terpstra, Mem In Malawi

In February 2008 the Dutch television station, Evangelische Omroep (EO) broadcast a documentary about Annie Chikhwaza’s entitled ‘Mem in Malawi’. It included a remarkable dramatisation of Annie’s life story, using her maiden name Terpstra. The title Mem In Malawi would later be echoed in the title of Annie’s biography, Mother of Malawi.

Mem in Malawi highlighted Annie’s transition from rebellious teenager and suicidal young woman to a go-getting young entrepreneur and businesswoman who headed up her own credit control business. It told how a near fatal attack on her life left her fledgling ministry in Malawi in tatters and how she had to rebuild her life and ministry to become the successful leader of an organization with hundreds of staff members, and the passionate philanthropist she is today.

Mem In Malawi

A translation of the Mem in Malawi script as translated from Dutch to English follows:

Malawi is a very poor country plagued by an unprecedented HIV? AIDS epidemic. The country has been put on the map by Madonna. During her search for an adoptive child, she visited the Dutch woman, Annie Terpstra, who is the founder of a number of children’s homes and a village in Malawi.

Annie Terpstra was born in Friesland during the war, the eldest daughter in a family of five children. According to her own words, she was a naughty child and when Annie was 16 years old, her parents decided she had to leave home.

Annie went to work at Sun & Shield, a psychiatric hospital in Amersfoort. She did well there, until she found one of her patients had hanged herself. This unfortunate incident led to the young student nurse also becoming suicidal. She tried to kill herself  in many different ways.

After this difficult time she left Holland and went to work in England as an aupair. There she met a rich man and after three months she married him. They had four children, but the marriage was not a success from day one. The honeymoon took them to South Africa where her husband had a high position in business.

Ten years after her divorce, Annie met a very nice man, but he was a poor pastor from Malawi. Annie couldn’t see things working out in Malawi, a poor developing country. But Pastor Lewis insisted and eventually she agreed to marry him. They initially lived in a dilapidated house not far from Blantyre. Annie had to keep her socks on at night because she was afraid of the rats gnawing her toes.

Annie and Lewis had a good marriage, but Lewis’ children were jealous and thought Annie was out to steal their inheritance of their father’s land. The whole community was set ablaze with rumours and gossip fueled by Lewis’ eldest daughter. Annie’s life was no longer safe.  She was surrounded by a crowd of wild men and women with knives and axes, she thought that her end had come.

After a long recovery period in Johannesburg Annie came back stronger than ever. As she stood with a baby, dying of HIV/AIDs in her arms, she realised the crucial role she needed to play. But how could Annie dare Annie to return to Lewis’s land, where so much happened? How could they continue with his children who almost killed her? Could she keep Lewis after everything she had been through?

Mem in Malawi was part of the TV series, “The Helping Dutchman” aired in the Netherlands, bringing attention to the work of Annie Terpstra.

Source: Evangelische Omroep (EO)

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