Partnership in African Mission Final Update (#10)

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.

With Dennis Mulele at Mawire CCAP. The first time we met, the only gray was in our clothing!


Sharing the story


Offering the benediction.

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!

The graceful Impala!



African Elephant

This is a really bad photo of a jackal, but it’s the only jackal I’ve ever seen in Malawi.


A warthog with baboons in the background


Little Bee-Eater




Pied Kingfisher


The African Fish Eagle is the national bird of Malawi. It looks like the North American Bald Eagle, but it is not quite as large.

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!

Partnership In African Mission 2018 #1

Since 1991, the congregations of Pittsburgh Presbytery (Presbyterian Church USA) have been linked in missional partnership with the Synod of Blantyre (Church of Central Africa: Presbyterian) in a partnership that combines the twinning of congregations, the exchange of visitors, mutual support and prayer, and other ventures.  In 2013, that partnership took an historic turn with the inclusion of the South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SSPEC). You can read more about some of the history behind that clicking here, or by looking at other items on this blog tagged with either Malawi or South Sudan.

It’s been five years since that covenant of Tripartite agreement was signed, and so this year, as the Moderator of the Presbytery’s International Partnership Ministry Team, I have asked to convene a meeting of our partners to reflect on where we’ve been, see what’s working, and look ahead at where there might be fruit to be gained in this shared venture.

The Rev. Brian Snyder, the Vice-Moderator of the Pittsburgh team, and I left Pittsburgh on Monday and drove to Washington DC, where we boarded a flight for Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  Once there (some 13 hours later!), we met up with our counterparts from the SSPEC, Moderator James Par Tap and Vice-Moderator Deng Bol Atem.

Together the four of us continued to Blantyre, where we were warmly greeted at the airport by a contingent including the Chair of the Blantyre Synod Partnership Team (Dr. Davies Lanjesi), the Director of the Blantyre Synod Health and Development Commission (Lindirabe Gareta), Mr. Keith Lipato from Mulanje Presbytery, and Lauren Mack (a member of the Crafton Heights Church who is spending this year teaching at the St. Andrews’ Mission Secondary School in Mulanje).  I was privileged to administer Lauren’s baptism many years ago, and what joy it gives me to think that she will accompany me through these two weeks in “the warm heart of Africa”!

Our main tasks for the day included staying hydrated, eating too much, and arriving safely. Mission accomplished!  We’re already winners!  I hope that you’ll look for more updates as the weeks progress, and that you’ll pray for our team as we move forward in ministry and service.  In the meantime, here are some images from the travel days of our trip.

(L to R) Revs. Deng, James, and Brian in the departure “lounge” at the Addis Ababa airport.


How happy was I to see Lauren’s smiling face at the Chileka airport?!?!?!


(L-R) Chikondi Lanjesi, Davies Lanjesi, Dave Carver, James Par Tap, Deng Bol Atem, Lauren Mack, Keith Lipato, Brian Snyder, and Lindirabe Gareth. Pay no attention to the ominous cloud over the right hand of the screen… that just goes to show you that you can’t simply hand the camera to anyone! It’s a “finger foul” over the lens.


Lindirabe greeted us with some gifts from the harvest – in this season, that means some pumpkin and sugar cane!