Malawi in My Heart: Southern Alum Offers Hope


Only eight months after the founding of the Hearts 4 Mission International ministry (H4MI)—the newest department of the Adventist-laymen’s Services & Industries (ASI)—Southern Adventist University alum Jason Blanchard, ’97, boarded a plane to the African country of Malawi. Blanchard, the CEO of H4MI, was traveling with a team of medical missionaries heading over to perform a series of heart surgeries for Malawian locals who either could not afford or would otherwise have to travel overseas for lifesaving, specialized procedures like heart surgeries.

During this trip to Blantyre Adventist Hospital in November 2023, the H4MI team successfully performed Malawi’s first seven open-heart surgeries, offering hope to millions of cardiac patients in the country. In the moments following the first surgery, when surgeons and other hospital staff cheered and celebrated, a woman sitting next to Blanchard in the waiting room asked what the commotion was about.

“Today was the first successful open-heart surgery in Malawi,” Blanchard told the woman, to which she responded, “You have brought hope to this country.” Those seven words shook Blanchard to his core, and deeply affirmed the importance of H4MI’s work.

“We didn’t just bring surgeons and nurses, we brought hope,” says Blanchard.


Formation of the Mission

Malawi has always been close to Blanchard’s heart, as he spent a significant part of his childhood living there when his parents were missionaries, and later served as the CEO of Malamulo Adventist Hospital in Makwasa, Malawi, from 2014-2020. It was during this time that he learned more about the alarming rates of rheumatic heart disease and other heart issues in the country. Additionally, a harrowing statistic and reality for sub-Saharan Africa is that for every 14.3 million people, there is only one cardiothoracic surgeon. “It is hard to assess the real impact of cardiac problems in this region of Africa because most people will die from their medical issues before they can ever see a doctor,” Blanchard says.

In 2020, Blanchard began his current role working at Loma Linda University Health as the executive director of clinical operations, where he was able to connect with several medical professionals who would later become key to the formation of H4MI, and consequently the heart surgeries in Malawi. Even one of Blanchard’s neighbors, a cardiac nurse, joined H4MI as a board member and came on the November 2023 and April 2024 trips.

Blanchard’s main goal in Malawi is to build partnerships with both governmental and non-governmental agencies, as well as local businesses, in order to create local avenues for funding. His understanding of Malawian culture, combined with his background in administration, aids him in this process. He attributes some of these skills to his time at Southern Adventist University in the mid-90s as a public relations student.


A Firm Foundation

Classes that Blanchard took from Southern, such as marketing and public speaking, equipped him with skills that he has utilized in the mission field. “Principles that I learned in these classes helped me to be an effective communicator and develop ways to pull at people’s heartstrings to elicit a desire to be involved in mission work,” Blanchard says.

However, Blanchard says that the main thing he gained from Southern is far more valuable than any classes he took: having the baseline of an Adventist education. “You need to be in a place where God can work on you, especially at such a young and impressionable age,” he says. “Attending Southern gave me my wife (Erin Fardulis Blanchard, ’97), my kids, and I a background of caring, which I have carried with me in every position that I’ve been in.”


The Future

H4MI’s most recent trip to Malawi was this past April, and they will return later this year in November. Blanchard says that trips will become less frequent as they continue to train and educate locals to take on the work. “Our goal is not to continue setting up surgical and cardiology camps, it is to create a sustainable model for Africa, which for us means educating African surgeons to become heart surgeons, nurses to become surgery and critical care nurses, and eventually build an institution filled with quality equipment and capable cardiologists,” Blanchard explains. Through Christ-centered and sustainable cardiology and cardiothoracic surgical services, he hopes that H4MI can continue to be an agent of change in sub-Saharan Africa.

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