Aberdeen September 2006
As many of you will already know, Rosalyn and I will be setting off for Malawi on Thursday 14 September taking your good wishes to the folks of Mpachika Church. We will also be taking some money with us, which is your donation to help Mpachika continue the work in their parish of helping the poor and the less able to live and feed themselves.
On Saturday 8 July, there will be an evening of fun in the church hall when we will watch the film “The Sound of Music” and you will be able to sing along to it and even dress up and enjoy being part of a fun evening. Tea and refreshments will be served and although there is no charge for the evening, a donation to Malawi will be asked of those who come along. I am hoping that as many of you as possible will come and so that I can cater for everyone please put your name on the sheets in the vestibule for me.
Back from the Malawi trip
What can I say about my return visit to Malawi? It was great and possibly even better than the first time around although that was a hard act to follow. I definitely felt much more relaxed because things were more familiar and I knew more people. It was great to see people again and catch up. I stayed with the same hosts and John stayed with the hosts that Margaret stayed with last year so we were literally ‘next door’ to each other which was nice. My hosts said to me that it wasn’t just like having a good friend back to stay – it was more like having one of the family staying – which I thought was lovely. They made me feel so welcome and comfortable that I actually DID feel like one of their family and not a guest.
The trip was very hectic and I’m sure John will agree. The programme was packed each and every day and was very interesting but our “free” evenings were not free and taken up with visiting, healing services and or prayer meetings. Nevertheless, we embraced it all and enjoyed ever minute of the visits. The Malawians who hosted us and who escorted us around the country went absolutely out of their way to make us feel relaxed and welcome and many of them had taken time off work to be with us which we appreciated greatly.
I experienced it all on my first visit but still can’t get over their enthusiasm for their church and their religion. They live for their church and their commitment to their faith most definitely puts many of us to shame. I know that I personally feel a better person for knowing the Malawians and from the partnership we have formed and hope that the rest of the St. Mark’s congregation feel the same. I know it is difficult when you don’t know people personally but hopefully John and Margaret and I can relate some of the experiences we have had in Malawi and that that will keep you close to Blantyre and to Mpachika, our twinned church and its congregation.
Malawi, September ’06
There are no words that I could write that could ever hope to describe my feelings about my trip to Malawi from 13-29 September. From the moment we arrived in the country which is described as the “warm heart of Africa” it became obvious why it received this name. For all of our time there, we were all subjected to these warm hearts that exuded love and friendship. Not out of duty but out of genuine Christian love.
As most of you will know, St. Mark’s is twinned with Mpachika, which is one of three churches divided in a rural area populated by something like 100,000 people. The area is divided up in to three large villages and each one has its own identity and chief and tribal customs. The poverty is something you find hard to describe. No running water, no electricity, no services, very few shops, and roads that you would not believe! Yet, for all of that they are happy and seem in the main, contented with what they have or do not have.
On our first Sunday there, Rosalyn and I were invited to attend church. I was invited to preach and we took our place in the church just before 8 am. We met the Kirk Session and one or two other members in a small room before entering the church. The minister asked me if I would like to do a baptism, to which I heartily agreed.
What he did not tell me though was that there were to be 2 infant baptisms, 74 adult baptisms and 132 new communicant confirmations! Had they been saving them up for me just to impress?
Well, no they hadn’t. By the way, the service finished just after 1pm. Over five hours long! How would you like a five hour service on a Sunday at St. Mark’s. I bet the pews would be empty!
The following Sunday, Rosalyn and I sat through a five and a half hour service which was completely in Chechewa, (local language) not understanding a single word and many of the worshippers for that service had walked up to 16 miles to get there in good time for the service.
Each place we went to, we were greeted with the same wonderful hospitality. We almost felt like Royalty on a Royal walkabout. The one thing that I did feel strange about was the way in which men are looked upon by women, especially the Abusa (minister). The women all kneel and pay homage to the Abusa. It is an uncomfortable feeling, but it is their culture and it is a matter of respect.
In one school we went to visit, we were rapturously greeted by more than 9,500 pupils and only 40 teachers. Now, there is a sum to work out!!