In one of my first messages to a Malawian congregation on this trip, I shared the news that people in Pittsburgh were preparing to run a marathon this spring. Explaining to some of these folks exactly why anyone would voluntarily attempt to run 26.2 miles took some doing, but we got there. I said that one of the customs in such a race is to have people line the path and offer encouragement by cheering or sharing water with the racers. Nobody really sees the entire race, but each step is witnessed and applauded.
I believe that in many ways, that’s a good analogy to the trip that Brian and I have shared with our Malawian hosts, South Sudanese partners, and my friend Lauren. We’ve been running up and down and all around the country, and it’s been tough in some regards – but so worth it! And just like the end of the race features the finish line and the time to rest, so our sprint through Central Africa brought with it a “last day” and one last chance to take in the beauty of this nation and her people.
We began by attending the 6:00 a.m. English-speaking service for the Mawira CCAP in Liwonde. It was the first time that the service had begun at that hour, as it has been pushed back to accommodate a third worship service on Sunday morning in this rapidly-growing congregation. Nevertheless, the small group of about 60 swelled to well over 100 by the time 6:30 rolled around. The service was led by the Youth of the congregation, and it was tremendously encouraging to see how these kids are moving in leadership and ministry in this congregation. I was especially delighted when I realized that the pastor of this church is my old friend Dennis Mulele, whom I first met while doing a famine relief trip with the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance in 2003. He really made an impact on me during that trip and it was a great joy to reconnect in worship.
Following the worship, we spent the afternoon in Liwonde National Park. This park has been steadily improving in terms of security (anti-poaching) and accessibility of wildlife during the time I’ve known Malawi. The location – right in Liwonde, about five minutes from the church – made it a great option for us to relax and unwind with a drive through the park as well as a “boat safari” on the Shire River. It did not disappoint in the least!
We made it home after dark and have spent the last 18 hours or so resting, packing, doing some last minute shopping, and enjoying a Penguins win from afar! We are so grateful for the ways that this trip has allowed us to carry the best wishes of Pittsburgh Presbytery into our partnerships here; for the chance to grow in friendship with each other and those who have accompanied us; for the grace of God that has sustained us in so many ways.
So for now, we say, Tionana, Malawi – “so long” – but not “goodbye”!
If you would like to hear more about this journey, find out how you or your (Pittsburgh Presbytery) congregation can be involved in the Partnership, or are interested in knowing about the upcoming plans to host a delegation from Africa in October 2018, please click here or simply come to our next meeting, Monday, May 7, 2018 at the Pittsburgh Presbytery Center (901 Allegheny Ave., Pittsburgh PA 15233).
Mulungu Akudalitseni – May God bless you!