On Christmas Day, 2016, a group of five young adults and I embarked on an African adventure that was over two years in the making. Carly, Katie, Joe, Rachael, David and I are pleased to be in Malawi for nearly two weeks embracing (and being embraced by) the gift that is the partnership between the churches of Pittsburgh Presbytery (Presbyterian Church USA) and Blantyre Synod (Church of Central Africa: Presbyterian). Here is part of our story.
Today we were able to spend the entire day with the people of Mulanje Presbytery. Mulanje Mission is one of the historic emphases of our partners in the CCAP. In addition to the worshiping congregation, the mission station includes the MMH, a primary and a secondary school, and a nursing college.
Our day began with an insightful visit to the village of Milonde. This community of subsistence farmers lies at the base of the Mulanje Mountain, and the partnership team of Mulanje Presbytery was eager to show us the progress they are making on the construction of a new manse. The previous manse is approximately 60 years old, the tin roof is rotting and the bricks are crumbling. It was wonderful to see the ways that the local leadership is partnering with this village to bring help to this pastor and congregation.
From there we proceeded to the Mulanje Mission Hospital, where we were pleased to hand over medical supplies that the team had brought along. These included more than a dozen boxes of surgical gloves, 8 portable blood pressure testing units, 8 blood sugar testing kits, and a wide variety of resources used in treatment of diabetes. Many of these supplies were purchased by the members of our team using a list provided by the staff at MMH. Our young people have worked several times in recent years to raise funds to be used at MMH to combat famine and other maladies; it was a joy to see the facility and meet some of the people responsible for carrying out the mission.
In addition to touring the hospital itself, we were shown the Nursing College. Our guide was our friend Keith Lipato, who stayed in Crafton Heights during the summer of 2016. We also took a brief tour of the Secondary School. Even though the students are all on holiday, we appreciated the chance to see some of the space used for education.
The clergy and their spouses of Mulanje Presbytery meet once a month for a day of reflection, planning, and fellowship. They invited us to join them for an hour or so and we were glad to do so. They were very interested in hearing about the role that youth group has played in the lives of our missionary team, and shared with us some of the ways that their congregations are seeking to be active in ministry with youth here in Malawi. One of the younger pastors offered a powerful testimony to the ways that the church ought to help nurture young people, and said that he himself was the result of a process that shaped and cared for young faith. I kept thinking, “This guy looks familiar to me…” As we said our goodbye to the group, he said, “Do you remember me? You preached my ordination service in 2015. I am here because you and the team from Pittsburgh helped me to become a pastor, and now I am one of the youngest ones here. Thank you for bringing these young leaders to visit.” He then gestured to another young man and indicated that he, too, had been ordained at that same service in Mulanje in July of 2015. Upon leaving, our team was unanimous in saying that they had really enjoyed the gathering and felt both challenged and encouraged by the pastors and their spouses.
The community of Mulanje sits at the base of the amazingly beautiful Mount Mulanje, the second-highest peak in Africa. The CCAP has a facility here that has been used for youth camps, conferences, training centers, and the like. We took a brief lunch and then spent several hours in the afternoon climbing part way up the mountain. We reached as far as Ngarambe (sp?) Falls, which could be translated as “Old Man Falls”. I sure felt it by the time we arrived. The air temperature was in the high 80s and the water was in the high 40s. It was bracing, to say the least! Since our entire team is accomplished swimmers, we were able to go into the “deep end” – right under the falls. The water is incredibly deep, and many of us took advantage of the cliffs along the side to jump from a height of 15 or 20 feet into the pool. There were probably a hundred other bathers there, mostly Malawians who were intimidated by the deep area and instead played in the shallower pools just downstream. It was a great way to relax on an afternoon when we were so tired!
We closed out our evening with a delicious partnership dinner at the lovely hotel where we’ve been accommodated these two days, and then finished our day (as per our custom) with a time of prayer and devotions.
Saturday we leave for the town of Ntaja, where we’ll spend some days with our sister church, the Mbenjere congregation. A special note to the families of our team: internet service may be spotty, so please don’t worry if you don’t hear anything for a few days. We’ll do our best. In the meantime, please hold us in your prayers, as we remember you in ours.