Malawi 2013

January 20 2013

During our service today we learned of the very sad news of the sudden death during the week of Mrs Grace Kandiero.  Grace and her late husband Brian had visited St Mark’s and both had spoken movingly of the relationship between our two churches.  All of the members of the St Mark’s family send their deepest sympathies to Caroline and the Kandiero family and to all of our friends at Mpachika.

January 2013 Latest Pictures

Kath McBain has received an e-mail from Rev Master Jumbe for 2013 which says: “A very happy New Year to you and all brothers and sisters at St Mark’s.  I am very glad to send you pictures of the party that we organized with your financial assistance.  Let me, on behalf of all members of Mpachika and Sunday School children in particular thank you for you untiring support towards the children. May God continue blessing you.
Please extend our New Year regards to every one at St Mark’s.”

And here are the photographs.

June 2012 Latest News

As part of a Presbytery initiative we in St Mark’s have appointed a single point of contact with Malawi and particularly with Mpachika to keep in regular touch and pass on Church news.  Our new contact person is a member of our Malawi Committee, Rosalyn Rennie.  She has already sent her first update to Mpachika.  There is also news of the membership of our Committee. Regrettably Roddy Mowat has been unable to attend recently and Valerie Kemp is leaving Aberdeen for a job in London.  Kath McBain has also decided to step down.  However we have been able to attract some new (and younger) blood.  Our youngest addition is Bethany Hogg who recently organised a ‘St Mark’s Family v Students’ Quiz (won by a team from OAK) the £500 proceeds from which were given to our Malawi fund.  The two other new members are Carol Main and Beatrice Sutherland who join Margaret Donald, Rosalyn and Convener David Yacamini.

Our Twinning Experience

The possibility of having a closer relationship with a church in Malawi was first raised with us through a Presbytery initiative in 2004. In June 2005 two members of the congregation, Rosalyn Rennie, then our magazine editor and Margaret Donald, an elder and our Circle of Care Convenor joined a group of other Aberdeen church people and went to see the country and our twinned congregation for themselves.

John, our then minister, made his first trip in September 2006, accompanied by Rosalyn on a second Aberdeen churches trip and he made a second visit in 2008 accompanied by Kath McBain a member of the congregation, with another group.

The first reciprocal visit was in 2005 although no one from “our” church came to Aberdeen.  A second visit took place in May 2007 when representatives from our twinned church, Mpachika were present.

In June 2009 John Watson retired as our minister and we entered a period of vacancy.  In order to maintain the contact with Malawi and particularly with the church at Mpachika we have established the “St Mark’s Malawi Committee“, comprising Margaret Donald, Rosalyn Rennie, Kath McBain (who have all been there) and Valerie Kemp, Roddy Mowat, and David Yacamini who is Convener.  You can read reports from the Committee in our Church magazine, the Messenger  or in the Messenger Archive .  And our vacancy ended on 28 October 2010 when Rev Diane Hobson was inducted as our new minister.  In February 2011 our new minister took over as Convener of Aberdeen Presbytery’s Malawi Twinning Committee so St Mark’s remains in the forefront of Aberdeen/Malawi relations.


Our Twinning Partners – How it started – 2004

I have now received information about our twinning partners in Malawi.This is an exciting venture for us and although we may never be lucky enough to actually go there, I am sure that we will be of great value to each other in the years to come.

Here is a little information on our congregation in Malawi which will stagger you.

The congregation is called Mpachika and is situated in a district called Misesa about 20 minutes drive from the south east of Blantyre City Centre. The minister is called Rev. Takuze Saul Chitsulo and his session clerk is called Michael Kamono. The partnership chairman is Brian Kandiero.

There are 1,350 (committed) members of the congregation; 38 male elders and 9 female elders. They have in addition, 25 men on their Board and 19 women. They have 126 members in the Guild, 772 children in the Sunday School and 36 Sunday School teachers. They are an extremely poor congregation and people but yet they have saved enough money over the last years to build a new church of which they are very proud. The average wage in this part of Malawi is about £12 per week. I look forward to keeping you all up to date with the progress of our twinning agreement.
The Minister

The first trip – 2005


Before her trip to Malawi, Rosalyn Rennie provided the following item to the Summer 2005 “Messenger”

Trip to Malawi

By the time you read this, I will just have returned from Malawi, having visited our twin church there, in Mpachika, just south of Blantyre .  When John asked if I would like to go on the trip – with 8 others from Aberdeen Churches, I did not hesitate to say yes!  Shortly afterwards, I thought “What have I done?!”  I didn’t know much about Malawi then – other than national parks and David Livingstone!  That was only 9 weeks before the trip was due to depart, so it didn’t really give me long to think about it all but I actually have been thinking about nothing else in those last 9 weeks.  I read everything I could on the country and was in a constant state of excitement and anticipation thinking about what a fantastic experience it would be!

Although I’ve travelled fairly extensively, I have never been to Africa and I really don’t know what to expect at all.  I have read lots of books on Africa but nothing prepares you for the practical experience of actually going there – what sort of clothes to take is my main worry!  Yes, I know – fairly shallow and unimportant – but I don’t want anything to interfere or hamper the experience of a lifetime!  I am looking forward to meeting the local people and finding out about the area they live in.  I have heard that the Malawi people are very friendly and that they are planning a big reception for us all at the airport when we arrive!!

We had our planning meeting last night when we (Margaret Donald is the other person to go from St. Mark’s) got to meet the travellers.  They were from High Hilton, Rubislaw and Ferryhill Churches. I found out that we were all in the same position of being excited and not quite knowing what to expect!  We got lots of good advice from Eileen Bishop, a Presbytery member who visited the area last year.

At the time of writing, we are flying out to Blantyre exactly one month tomorrow on 12th May and return on 27th.  I am really looking forward to the entire experience and feel so grateful for having been given the chance to experience the African way of life.  I promise you will have more in the magazine from Margaret and myself about our escapades and hopefully some good photographs of the people and places so watch this space!
Rosalyn Rennie

Back Home Again

On their return from Malawi, Rosalyn and Margaret Donald both contributed material to the St Mark’s Messenger which is replicated here.  I also asked Margaret if she would write something just for the website and that appears further down .

Margaret Donald’s Personal Reflections on Malawi

My visit to Malawi was certainly an experience that aroused many emotions.  These included an element of disappointment that arose from the fact that advancing years meant hearing and seeing were not as good as they once were.  Consequently, I was not able to follow all that was being said and, yes, I think I did see the giraffes that were being pointed out to me at the game park!  Those who know me well will not be surprised that I found it difficult to recognise and put a name to faces of those whom I had previously met.  This is, as it is at home, most embarrassing.  But I was surrounded by a caring group of supportive people, both Malawian and Scottish!  For this I am most grateful.

The welcome we received on arriving at Blantyre airport can only be described as rapturous including such wonderful and joyous singing which brought tears to our eyes.  The other occasion when I was tearful was at the other end of the emotional range when four of us went to the home of a lady being given her weekly supply of medication by an aid worker.  The conditions were so impoverished.  We had already visited dilapidated schools and hospitals but that visit drove home to me more than anything how cosseted we are in this country and how lacking we so often are in appreciation of the standards of our health and education provision.

I was impressed by the dedication and courage of those who were trying to meet the overwhelming need with limited resources.  Similarly the vitality and enthusiasm of the churches we visited was most impressive.

The relationships that have been formed have brought a deeper understanding of what it means to be a part of the world wide family of the church.  We are indeed all God’s children and one in Christ in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.
Margaret Donald

Our Malawi Trip by Rosalyn Rennie

Just a few words from me-for now! – about my May trip to Malawi.  My lasting impression of Malawi – among others – was the singing, which was pretty much constant.  We had singing on our arrival at the airport, on our way to the Grace Bandawe Centre in Blantyre (they sang in the back of the truck in front of our car, clapping, smiling and laughing) and all the way through our trip,  until the day we left.  Throughout our trip, it was so obvious that God plays such a huge part in people’s lives in Malawi.  God was all around people – not in an overwhelming sense but just there, when we travelled, visited places, shared fellowship with people etc.

We were only in Malawi for two weeks but it feels as though we have known some of the people we met for years.  Our hosts were just so wonderful and the escorts who took us around places, were just super and we hope to see some, if not all of them in Scotland in the next few years so that we can return the experience for them and show them how caring and welcoming we are in Scotland too.

Over the next few weeks (at time of writing the magazine) we have our visitors from Malawi with us—John and Jennifer have had Mercy staying with them from St. Columba’s Church in Malawi.  I have had the privilege of getting to know them all and have enjoyed introducing them to some of the beautiful sites in Scotland and to our culture and also to our cuisine—which  has been interesting!!

Malawi is known as the “warm heart of Africa” which is definitely true but there are lots of warm hearts too here in Aberdeen and I urge you all to remember all the lovely people in Malawi in Mpachika church and keep them in your thoughts.
Rosalyn Rennie

The following item was written by Margaret especially for the web site on her return from Malawi.

Malawi is described as “The Warm Heart of Africa” and certainly the people we met confirmed that is an accurate description as they are extremely generous and hospitable.

The eight of us in the Aberdeen Presbytery group were warmly welcomed wherever we went from the moment we touched down at BlantyreAirport.  On our church visits, members of the congregations would come out specially to greet us and sing to us as well as talk with us.  Staff at schools and hospitals showed us round graciously and the children always seemed happy to see us.  Transport was provided with drivers and escorts giving of their time freely to accompany us on our visits and were always so helpful and pleasant.  We were very well fed and always provided with bottled water to counteract the heat of the day, or soft drinks to go with our meals.

The programme arranged for us was very well thought out and gave us an insight into so many aspects of life in Malawi.  The photographs illustrate more clearly than any words the poor conditions of many of the roads, houses, schools, hospitals and shops.  We also experienced the beauty of the country, especially during our stay at Mangochi on Lake Malawi.  This was a welcome time of relaxation.

Most memorable was the wonderful singing experienced on countless occasions and indicative of the truly God-centered lives of the people of our partner churches.  The Gospel was taken to them by fellow Scots and so there is a special bond between the two.  Now we are seeking to strengthen our relationships and visits such as the one we have just completed are invaluable because personal links are established and real fellowship becomes a reality.
Margaret Donald