On January 22, I will be leaving Pittsburgh for nearly three weeks in Africa so that I might take part in an historic mission trip to the Republic of South Sudan and the Republic of Malawi. The overall purpose of this journey will be to explore the possibility of formal partnership between Pittsburgh Presbytery (Presbyterian Church USA), Blantyre Synod (Church of Central Africa: Presbyterian), and the South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church. In addition, I will visit Malawi to witness and encourage the implementation of the “A-MAIZE-ing Grace” Famine Relief program launched by Pittsburgh Presbytery and the Synod of Blantyre several months ago.
I have had the privilege to travel to many places in the world for a variety of reasons. As I prepare to leave on this journey, my sense of CALL is stronger than it has ever been. That is a little unusual, because my sense of WHAT I WILL ACTUALLY BE DOING is a little fuzzy. I believe that I am supposed to go, and that I am supposed to concentrate on BEING more than on DOING in the next few weeks.
For those reasons and more, I ask my friends to join me in prayer. Here is a little more about the journey.
South Sudan: 24 – 29 January, 2013
The Republic of South Sudan was created on July 9, 2011, when more than 98% of the population voted to leave their northern neighbor, Sudan. This nation is about the size of the US State of Texas and has 36 miles of paved roads. The population consists of approximately 8 million who earn their living primarily as rural subsistence farmers. Life has been hard in this nation, which has only known peace for about ten of the last fifty-five years. The result of this conflicted history has been serious neglect, lack of infrastructure development, and major destruction and displacement. More than 2 million people have died, and more than 4 million are internally displaced persons or became refugees as a result of the civil war and war-related impacts.
Despite more than 50 years of civil war and an infrastructure that is in ruins, a sense of hope now pervades the people of South Sudan. The Republic of South Sudan began nationhood as one of the world’s poorest countries, but it has a landscape with rich natural resources and churches with abundant faith. The PC(USA) is working with its partner churches and organizations to help craft a brighter tomorrow for the people in South Sudan.
During this visit, I will join Pastors Ken White (Southminster Presbyterian Church) and Jeff Tindall (Carnegie Presbyterian Church / Stated Clerk of Pittsburgh Presbytery) will join PC(USA) Mission Co-Worker Michael Weller as we observe the General Assembly of the Southern Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church in the company of our Malawian partners. Our hope is that this time of face-to-face conversation, worship, and prayer will lead to fruitful discernment as to the possibilities of a formal partnership between two or more of these bodies. For more information about the Republic of South Sudan, check out the CIA Factbook entry.
Malawi, a relatively small English-speaking country, is poor and has suffered from drought and floods as well as the spread of HIV/AIDS. Pittsburgh Presbytery, in Partnership with the Synod of Blantyre since 1991, has joined the PC(USA) in supporting the Church of Central Africa: Presbyterian’s ministries. We have had a share in such things as include health and development programs focusing on women and children, activities for youth, care for orphans, leadership development, and water and sanitation. Members of the CCAP were influential in standing up for oppressed minorities in 1994 and bringing about a multiparty democracy.
On January 29, Jeff and I will fly south to Malawi, where they will be welcomed by our long-time partners in the CCAP Blantyre Synod. Here, we will spend a little more than a week engaged in a number of activities relating to the A-Maize-ing Grace Famine Relief Program. We will visit the Mwanza district, which is the epicenter of the church’s food distribution program. In addition, Jeff and I hope to take part in a ceremony at the Zomba Theological College, which has received an outpouring of support from the students and staff at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. While in Malawi, Dave also hopes to reconnect with friends in our partner church, the Mbenjere congregation in the town of Ntaja. Our congregations have been twinned in ministry since 1995.
The A-Maize-ing Grace Famine Relief effort was launched when we learned that there were more than 2.1 million Malawians at risk for food insecurity in this year’s “hungry season”. So far, this program has yielded more than $80,000 that will purchase food to supplement the diets of thousands of families in Malawi. For more information on this program, click here. For some of my own personal reflections on the origins, please refer to my earlier post on that subject. If for some reason, you’re my friend and don’t know much about Malawi, you can view the CIA Factbook here.
If you have not yet seen it, take a minute to watch this fantastic video put together by dear friend and brother Thad Ciechanowski. And then, by all means, please share the link with anyone and everyone! If you can’t see it here, the url is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qOfYH9K_baM&feature=youtu.be
Specific Prayer Requests include
- Safe travel to and from these countries. In addition to our intended destinations, we’ll be flying in and out of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Nairobi, Kenya; Lubumshasi, Democratic Republic of Congo; and Rome, Italy. In addition to the complicated network of air travel, the team will be driving hundreds of miles across a variety of roads in the USA, South Sudan, and Malawi.
- The ability to be fully present to the people to whom we are being sent. This request would include prayers for the ability to be physically attentive, spiritually discerning, encouraging, and gracious in conversation.
- The ability to represent Pittsburgh Presbytery and our home congregations well.
- The ability to communicate as needed with those who are at home.
- Growth in our own lives as we learn from these African brothers and sisters whose walk is different from our own.
- The opportunity to model sound and wise partnership in ministry and mission to any who are observant.
On Friday, March 1, 2013, you are invited to come to a formal report presentation, including photos and stories, at the First U.P. Church of Crafton Heights. The program will begin at 7 pm. This will be in conjunction with our Youth Group’s spring FAMINE RELIEF FUNDRAISER. If you show up, we will hit you up for money to support this effort. You won’t have to give, but you’ll be asked. Save your pennies!