For twenty years, John worked happily in the South Australian Department of Agriculture, enjoying good success in his work and with Judy raising a growing family. Since 1947, John had been seeking for a stronger reality in his spiritual life. In 1966, the Lord visited him in his home at Loxton and this led to further searching which culminated in 1972 when John experienced a full release in the Holy Spirit. In 1973 the Lord revealed the New Covenant to John (Jeremiah 31:33-34; Hebrews 8:10-12). In 1975 John and Judy attended a Vision Ministry Conference in Melbourne and heard Graham Pulkingham speak on Sonship and Loren Cunningham speak on the Death and Resurrection of a Vision and Muptiplying the Ministry. These teachings were to prove of great significance in the Potter's life and ministry.
In 1973 the Potters had moved to Coromandel Valley; this was a Spirit led journey heralding release from 'Egypt'. In 1974 the Lord spoke to John from the book of Haggai re times of restoration and in 1975 He surrounded him with opportunities for service in Africa. There was no call or command of the Lord to 'Go to Africa'; it was just the Lord bringing to John an awareness of the possibilities. On August 25th 1975, John travelled to Brisbane to interview people for a staff position in the Department of Agriculture. The night before the Lord had told him that 'tomorrow I am sending a prophet amongst you'. This man proved to be Gerald Rowlands, the Pastor at Glad Tidings Tabernacle, Brisbane who was in the process of transferring to Africa with his whole family. On the plane to Brisbane, knowing nothing of John's background, Gerald felt to share with John his calling to Africa and to suggest that what Africa needed was Spirit-filled agricultural scientists! Later at his hotel John had a vision of African people welcoming him and was given a scripture, Isaiah 55. John held all of this in his heart and awaited further directions.
In June 1976, John came under a discipline of the Lord and felt it important to announce that he was 'going to Africa'. A few evenings later, on the 20th June 1976, John and Judy knelt in front of the oil fire and sought the Lord for directions. When Judy closed her eyes she saw the word Deuteronomy in flames; at the same time John received Deuteronomy 16:9-11, the 'Feast of Weeks' and the 'Pentecostal Offering'. It was clear to both of them that the Lord had spoken! After three days of thought as individuals, John and Judy came together to agree that John should resign his job in seven weeks (8th August 1976) and that they should make an offering to the Lord of themselves, their children and all their possessions. Soon after, John booked a ticket to South Africa to meet up with Gerald Rowlands who was working by this time with the Emmanuel Press community in White River, South Africa. During the month he spent in South Africa it was agreed by the Emmmanuel Press Directors that the Potters should set up an office of the Emmanuel Press in Malawi. The Potters and the Rowlands undertook to fund this venture jointly. This decision was massively confirmed by the Lord on the 25th September 1976 by a sovereign word given to John at the Hatfield Christian Church in Pretoria (pic below) by Jan van der Hoeven, Administrator of the Christian Embassy in Jerusalem: Isaiah 55:5, 'Thou shalt call a nation that you know not, and nations that do not know you shall run after you because of the Lord your God'. John returned home to share the news with his family. Their 'dream home' at Coromandel Valley was sold and, together with John's mother Audrey, their sons Mike and Steve and daughter Elizabeth, John and Judy flew out to Africa on the 6th January 1977.
The Potters stayed six months in South Africa, working with the Emmanuel Press team to build new facilities for the Press, interspersed with trips around South Africa to minister to African Churches, Teachers' Colleges and schools (see pic above).
In February 1977, Gerald and John travelled to Malawi to seek openings for the Potter family to move to Malawi. They found a vacant job in the Land Husbandry Department that exactly suited John's experience and qualifications so John attended an interview and submitted a job application. In mid-June 1977 a positive response was received from the Malawi Ministry of Agriculture.
On Saturday the 2nd of July 1977 the new offices of the Emmanuel Press were opened. The Potters were farewelled by the Press team on the 3rd and flew to Malawi on the 4th July. On the way John received a scripture from the Lord: Acts 19:10. This proved to be prophetic for their stay in Malawi. John started his work with the Ministry of Agriculture and in his spare time worked with the whole family to set up the Emmanuel Tract Fellowship in Malawi. Various members of the South African team helped in this: Bill and Gwen Kirby worked on the Malawi Government registration which was signed by the President on the 27th of September 1977; David and Loreen Newington came up for the Malawi office opening; Gerald and Elizabeth Rowlands came up to preach and teach the church leaders that had gathered around the Potters; and Charles and Christine Newington came up to minister, as did Elijah Maswanganyi and Ron Gull.
The Malawi Adventure (1974-1980)
The Emmanuel Press team outside the new premises, White River, South Africa
Gerald Rowlands, Nancy Rottcher, the school Principal and a school Board member, Kangwane, Eastern Transvaal
Hatfield Christian Church, Pretoria - 25th September 1976
The Potters on Mount Zomba, July 1977; Steve, Liz, Mike, Judy and John. Tim was studying in Australia; Grandma Audrey was at home in Zomba
Malawi is David LIvingston country. John sitting in Robert Laws travel chair at Livingstonia. some of David Livingstone's diaries are stored behind glass in the table on the left
Providence Industrial Mission, HQ, Chiradzulu, Malawi; established by John Chilembwe, first disciple of Jospeh Booth of the Zambezi Industrial Mission ex Australia - see below
The Potters were met at Chileka (Blantyre) airport by John Alder, Principal of the Land Husbandry Training Centre in Zomba, and transported to the Government Rest House in Zomba where they would stay for a few days before setting up home in a government house in Kalimbuka. The Rest House was built by the first Commissioner of the Nyasaland Protectorate, Sir Harry Johnson, in 1895.
The first few weeks in Malawi were filled with orientation experiences; getting to know the local geography and services, meeting new people, reading up on the history of the Protectorate and Christian Mission over the past 100 years or so. David Livginstone came to Malawi in 1860, setting up his camp at Magomero just south of Zomba Towship where he was joined by Anglican Bishop Charles McKenzie in 1962. After Livingstone died in 1873, two mission groups from Scotland arrived in Malawi. The Free Church of Scotland set up at Cape McClear in 1875 but moved, after malaria devastated the first missionaries, to eventually settle in Livingstonia in the Northern Region in 1894. The Church of Scotland arrived to set up the Blantyre Mission in the south in 1876. William Murray's Dutch Reformed Mission set up at Nkhoma in the Central Region in 1889. These three Presbyterian missions eventually combined to form the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian. A new face appeared in 1892 when Joseph Booth, a Baptist born in Cardif, arrived to set up the Zambezi Industrial Mission. This was an Australian based operation which is still operating today. The church Booth founded has survived as the United Evangelical Church of Malawi. Booth sent his first disciple, John Chilembwe, to study in the USA in 1899. John returned with support from the Providence Baptist Church, Rhode Island, in 1901; he left Booth and opened the Providence Industrial Mission. That Mission has survived until the present with over 900 congregations in four countries. It is now led by John Potter's first disciple, Macford Chipuliko!
The Potters recognised that they were not the first Christians to come to Malawi. These days they take care to advise other people heading to Africa that this is something important to keep in mind. After the Second World War a host of missions, mainly from the USA, descended upon Malawi. By the time the Potters arrived there were over 60 mission groups operating in the country plus another 156 registered denominations described as Independent African Churches. The latter were mostly split-offs from mission churches of one kind or another.
Detailed reports of the Potter's activities in Malawi 1977-1979 are provided below, together with the Emmanuel Tract Fellowship Bible Courses that proved so successful in Central Afirca at that time.
The geography of Malawi is mostly African tableland (1000m above m.s.l) with numerous mountains, but Lake Malawi 500 km long and 80 km wide is the dominant feature in Malawi
The Potter's first house was in Kalimbuka; after 1 year they were shifted to the residence shown above, It had ten rooms, a five acre garden and a stand of Australian red-gums!
The Land Husbandry Training Centre, Zomba - John's work place by day. A Mozambique flamboyant flowering in foreground
Zomba City viewed from the Zomba Mountain Plateau, Malawi, Central Africa (1978)
The History of the Potter's Sojourn in Malawi 1977-1979
Grandma Audrey (Potter) becomes Agogo!
Short History of the Malawi Project 1977-2014
Wonderful News No.1
Wonderful News No.2
Wonderful News No.3
Wonderful News No.4
Wonderful News No.5
Wonderful News No.6