The Pilgrimage Continues…Update from Addis Ababa

One of the highest privileges I’ve received is that of serving as Pastor for the community of The First U.P. Church of Crafton Heights for the past 26 years.  In 2010, this group granted me a four-month Sabbatical from my ministry for a time of recharging and renewal.  In 2019, they extended that offer again – so I’ve got three months to wander, wonder, and join in life in a  different way.  The longest single time period that I’ll be away from Crafton Heights involves a visit to Africa – a place that has long been a source of renewal and inspiration for me.  You can learn more about the relationship between Pittsburgh Presbytery and our partners in Malawi and South Sudan by visiting the Partnership Website.

Every now and then I wonder how in the world Mrs. Carver’s little boy wound up being in a place that is surprising, to say the least.

Tonight is a night like that.  It’s just after midnight local time and I’ve arrived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Along with three colleagues from the Church of Central Africa: Presbyterian in Malawi, I’m en route to Juba, the capital city of South Sudan.  Together, we hope to share in a visit that will provide encouragement, reflection, and offer sustenance to the tripartite partnership that our churches formed in 2013.  This will be the first time since then that we’ve had folks from the US and Malawi visit South Sudan together.

Our small delegation includes, from right, Dr. Lanjesi (chair of Blantyre Partnership Steering Committee), The Rev. Gama (Convenor of the same group), The Rev. Mbolembole (Moderator of the CCAP Blantyre Synod), and Mrs. Carver’s little boy.

It’s taken most of the day to get this far – a flight from Blantyre to Lilongwe, and then a connection that we made by the skin of our teeth to get us to Addis.  Our connection is in the morning, however, and so the good people at Ethiopian Airways have put us up in a very nice hotel and even offered us a couple of meals along the way.  As none of my three colleagues have visited Juba before, I gave them what I could in terms of an orientation as to the recent history of this nation that is both promising and deeply troubled.

They asked me what people always ask on trips like this: “What are we supposed to do? Shouldn’t we bring something?”

And so, of course, we talked about the language of the pilgrim.  While we hope that our brief stay in South Sudan will bring some measure of encouragement to the pastors and congregations we are able to greet, our deeper hope is that knowing something of the challenges and opportunities they face each day will equip us to grow and lead in our own churches to the end that lasting change will be felt in our own hearts, and then into the lives that we lead in the places that we lead them – and that will create a space wherein the people of God can more truly become one.

So I don’t know if I’ll have wifi or access for a few days, but I’d appreciate the prayers you’re willing to offer.  My Malawian friends will return home on Monday, but I’ll stick around Juba a few more days to spend some time with my friend the Rev. Michael Weller, a PCUSA mission co-worker who is currently teaching a class in Juba.

My well-appointed room in Addis Ababa!

Before leaving Blantyre I was able to visit with my old friend Sophie M’nensa – she lives on a small plot of land not far from Blantyre. I don’t take visits like this for granted!

a highlight of the visit included a chance to video chat with Sharon, Ariel, Lucia, Violet, and even Sharon’s mom!

It’s always hard to say goodbye to old and dear friends…

While waiting in Blantyre, I took the opportunity to match wits with TK in a vibrant game of Bananagrams…

Not to brag, but look at those boards… We did all right!

We even managed to squeeze in a visit to the Malawi Department of Motor Vehicles. In a shocking development, the system was down and we were told to return the next day…

This is my favorite photo of all: on the far right you’ll see the smaller plane that carried us from Blantyre to Lilongwe. On the left, the larger plane that we took to Addis Ababa. In between? The tarmac across which we ran to change planes – without even going into the terminal first. THAT’s never happened to Mrs. Carver’s little boy before! I can only hope that the man in charge of putting my suitcase on the plane ran as quickly as I did!

 

Africa Pilgrimage Update #9

One of the highest privileges I’ve received is that of serving as Pastor for the community of The First U.P. Church of Crafton Heights for the past 26 years.  In 2010, this group granted me a four-month Sabbatical from my ministry for a time of recharging and renewal.  In 2019, they extended that offer again – so I’ve got three months to wander, wonder, and join in life in a  different way.  The longest single time period that I’ll be away from Crafton Heights involves a visit to Africa – a place that has long been a source of renewal and inspiration for me.  You can learn more about the relationship between Pittsburgh Presbytery and our partners in Malawi and South Sudan by visiting the Partnership Website.

When the topic of arranging a youth group trip to Malawi was broached in partnership discussions a couple of years ago, we asked, “Well, what would a trip like that be for?  What would happen  on that kind of a journey?  What would we hope to happen?”  As we brainstormed, a vision came into clarity fairly quickly.  We would want to put young Malawians and Pittsburghers together in a place where neither was necessarily “home”, but each was equally comfortable. We wanted to create a space that was accessible to youth in both cultures and invite them to think creatively and meaningfully about their own spiritual walk, the call to work together to create a world that was more in line with the Divine Intent, and their role as citizens of the world.  We wanted it to be a place that was wonder-filled, but in such a way as to be drawing us closer together, rather than “othering” someone.

July 11 was the real deal.  It all happened.  And it was glorious.

We have stayed for two nights at the Likhubula House, a camp/conference center owned and operated by the Synod of Blantyre.  We are shoehorned into a very crowded camp with two large groups of the Church of Scotland “Boy’s Brigade” Youth Group, who are in Malawi building a school with some of their counterparts in Malawi.  If that wasn’t interesting enough, we started our day by being joined by 54 CCAP students and youth workers.  The 68 of us crowded into a hall that must have been designed to hold at least 70 people (i.e., we didn’t have a lot of wiggle room), and we convened our third of three Youth Conferences on the topic of “Developing Leadership Through Partnership”.  We changed things up a bit this morning by beginning with singing, and then having Eddie Willson lead off the teaching with a session on dealing with anxiety and pressure. This was a good multi-faceted approach to covering the topic, and Eddie did a phenomenal job at making sure that our small group reflection times were cross-cultural and deep.  After a break, Abusa Paul Mawaya of the St. Andrew’s Parish in Mulanje offered a very smart and timely powerpoint presentation on the challenges that the youth in Blantyre Synod face and then he invited our small groups to consider how such challenges related to the American Youth.  The discussion was lively, personal, and honest. It was a room full of God’s children seeking to find common ground in the hopes that we would be better together than walking our own roads.

Eddie gets the conference energized…

Delaney shares with her small group.

The small group conversations were a joy to watch!

Greta and T.K. mug for the camera…

Our Malawian facilitator, Abusa Mawaya (center), with Davies Lanjesi and myself.

(most of) the assembled group!

Immediately following the conference, everyone stayed and had lunch together: rice, chicken, and bananas topped the menu and the meal was truly sacramental.  Some of the small groups ate together; there were clusters of “selfies” and a lot of contact information was shared.  When all had eaten enough, the grounds were filled with chatter and laughter.

And if that were not enough, three or four dozen pilgrims of all ages met at the base of the trail for a brief hike into the lower elevations of Mount Mulanje.  The climb was initially pretty steep, but then after a while it leveled out as we wandered through the trees and looked out onto the valley at the base of the mountain.  After an hour or so, we arrived at the lovelyNgarambe waterfall and pool.  This is the point where the small river springs forth from the mountain, and so to say that the water was cold would be an understatement.  It was bracingly, breathtakingly, heart-stoppingly cold.

So, of course, a few of us jumped in.  I mean, when are these kids going to get the chance to do that again?  We jumped, and we swam as fast as we could back onto the rocks, where we warmed up in the 70 degree air.

And we laughed.  And played. And splashed.  And encouraged each other to try new things, to take new paths, and to risk ourselves just a bit.  And. It. Was. Wonder-filled. 

The Crafton Heights Team en route to the top.

Kemp shows the crowd how to enter the pool!

Even Holiness got into the act and decided to take the plunge (that’s Danielle and Rayna coming up for air in the background)!

Coleman asked me if we could swim all the way to the waterfall.
(we couldn’t – not and feel our extremities anymore!)

The setting at Likhubula House was perfect because it is very accessible to our Malawian colleagues and yet it is so amazingly African that it was captivating to the American souls as well.  The mixture of mental, physical, spiritual, and intellectual stimulation was the perfect combination to allow the groups of kids to mix it up in all sorts of ways.

I cannot imagine that there is anyone, American or Malawian, who will soon forget this day or the lessons learned, questions asked, and laughter shared during it. And I can’t help but think that in these memories lies the seed of something that could be sacred and formative for life.

I have a couple of friends who, when asked “Hey, how are things?”, their standard reply is, “I’m living the dream…”  Know this: on July 11, 2019, a group of folks from villages in Malawi and suburbs of Western Pennsylvania and towns in Africa and the City of Pittsburgh lived the dream. I wish you could have been here. I hope that these stories and photos will give you at least a glimpse of what it was like.

And if you know someone who was here today, then make a not to ask them about it in a couple of weeks.  Not now, when it’s so fresh, but in a few weeks after we’ve had time to reflect and digest on what we’ve been.  And be grateful.  It’s a good life, my friends – a good life indeed.  Thanks be to God!

POSTSCRIPT: We are entering the phase of our journey wherein we will split up and go to five various congregations for the next three days.  Internet access is not guaranteed, and the blog reports may be sketchy.  I’ll try to post from Ntaja, but I can’t be sure.  If you’re a parent or friend and are looking forward to these, don’t worry. Silence is a part of every pilgrimage!

What better way to finish the day than a game of “Crazy Dice” with our friends from Balaka CCAP?

Africa Pilgrimage Update #7

One of the highest privileges I’ve received is that of serving as Pastor for the community of The First U.P. Church of Crafton Heights for the past 26 years.  In 2010, this group granted me a four-month Sabbatical from my ministry for a time of recharging and renewal.  In 2019, they extended that offer again – so I’ve got three months to wander, wonder, and join in life in a  different way.  The longest single time period that I’ll be away from Crafton Heights involves a visit to Africa – a place that has long been a source of renewal and inspiration for me.  You can learn more about the relationship between Pittsburgh Presbytery and our partners in Malawi and South Sudan by visiting the Partnership Website.

Our time at Lake Malawi came to a close earlier than any of our pilgrims might have chosen, but we left the Mangochi region grateful for the opportunity to have been with the youth of those churches and to have seen just a sliver of the natural beauty of that area.  We boarded our bus early for a long ride south to the Zomba District, where we spent several hours on the grounds of the Naming’azi Farm Training Centre.  Here, we met with the Director of the Blantyre Synod Health and Development Commission, my friend Lindirabe Mazinyane.

The BSHDC is a wide-reaching arm of the church that coordinates and leads efforts in, well, development and health. Under the auspices of this agency, the CCAP is able to facilitate programs relating to such things as orphan care, disaster relief, community development, health care, and more.  Some of these efforts are led primarily or exclusively by the BSHDC, whilst others are coordinated in conjunction with other national and international partners, such as the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and the ACT Alliance.  Lindirabe was the one who sent us the list of disaster relief supplies that we carried from our friends in Pittsburgh to Malawi.

Preston welcomes us to the farm and explains its relationship to the BSHDC.

Lilndirabe SAID she was going to tell us about the BSHDC, but in fact she gave us a mini workshop in leadership development and the importance of strategic planning!

One of the most impressive ideas that the BSHDC has put forth is the Naming’azi Farm Training Centre.  This facility, encompassing many acres, is at once a demonstration farm indicating some best practices for rural Malawians, an income generator for the other work of the BSHDC, and a classroom/laboratory in which local farmers may come to receive training in fish farming, composting, soil conservation, irrigation, and more.  It is one of the best ideas going, and I was eager to introduce the team of pilgrims to some of what is here.  We once again recalled the words of Pope Benedict that we’ve used to describe a pilgrimage: “To go on pilgrimage really means to step out of ourselves in order to encounter God where he has revealed himself, where his grace has shone with particular splendor and produced rich fruits of conversion and holiness among those who believe.”  Surely the Farm is one place that has shone in Malawi.

And so we tramped through rice paddies and tomato fields, past fish ponds and pig sties, and arrived at an area near the edge of the farm where we planted about 30 – 40 pine seedlings.  Malawi has suffered greatly because of the deforestation of the hillsides, and this is a symbolic effort to reverse that.  The trees that we planted will keep topsoil in place, provide some shade, soak up some carbon dioxide, and perhaps eventually serve as timber for building or making matchsticks.  It was an honor to participate in this event.

Fields of tomatoes are being irrigated and ripening at Naming’azi Farm.

The fish ponds, which we were told are growing chambo that will be sold at the market.

Greta and T.K. are saving the planet one tree at a time…

Kemp showing us how the planting gets done.

Even the leadership of the partnership can get our hands dirty! Here I am with Dr. Lanjesi, the chair of the Malawian team.

Sampling the honey from the Farm’s beekeepers.

When one of our team left something in the “big” suitcase, there was only one way to retrieve it. Some of our Malawian friends found this photo of me to be hysterical.

Meanwhile, Danielle thinks she’s pretty funny taking a selfie with her seat mate on the bus. I was just resting my eyes for a minute…

We had a very  late lunch (4:30 pm!) at the Ku Chawe Inn, an incredibly well-appointed hotel on the top of the Zomba Plateau, and then we got back into the bus for a ride to Blantyre that seemed longer than it actually was.  We were greeted here by one of the founders of the Partnership, my old and dear friend the Rev. Dr. Silas Ncozana.  Silas was the General Secretary of Blantyre Synod when the partnership was conceived and formed, and his fingerprints are all over the fruit that this partnership has produced over the years.  For an hour or two, he told us stories of his youth and his ministry, and he charged us to continue to grow as disciples who are seeking the good of the world.  It was a deep and rich conversation that filled me with immense joy.

Silas Ncozana addresses our group of pilgrims.

The end of a delightful and important day.

Africa Pilgrimage Update #6

One of the highest privileges I’ve received is that of serving as Pastor for the community of The First U.P. Church of Crafton Heights for the past 26 years.  In 2010, this group granted me a four-month Sabbatical from my ministry for a time of recharging and renewal.  In 2019, they extended that offer again – so I’ve got three months to wander, wonder, and join in life in a  different way.  The longest single time period that I’ll be away from Crafton Heights involves a visit to Africa – a place that has long been a source of renewal and inspiration for me.  You can learn more about the relationship between Pittsburgh Presbytery and our partners in Malawi and South Sudan by visiting the Partnership Website.

 

I should actually write more, but I’m really bushed and we’re getting up in six hours.  So here is a taste of our day today. Highlights included the second Youth Partnership Conference, held at Koche CCAP outside of Mangochi, as well as a trip on Lake Malawi in a small boat that allowed us to view the Lake Malawi Cichlids, swim, and view the African Fish Eagle (the national bird of Malawi).

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then this is a huge post.

My day started with a solo walk, whereupon I encountered this Collared Sunbird – a first for me!

The Malawian presenter at the conference this morning was my old friend the Rev. Dennis Mulele. We first met in a famine relief effort in 2003 and he’s been one of my heroes ever since!

Eddie Willson was the Pittsburgh Presenter, and he got things moving in a hurry. Everyone agreed that this was a very energetic and inspirational conference!

Eddie had us mingle around until we found “elbow partners”. Even though I only have two elbows, somehow I wound up with 8 partners!

Small groups work through some of the challenges and possibilities faced by youth in Malawi and the USA.

Our day also included conversation in groups of three or four (or, in my case, nine!).

(Most of) the Malawian and Pittsburgh youth and leaders at the conference today.

Setting sail for an adventure!

Rayna soaking it all up!

Lake Malawi is remarkable for the more than 700 species of cichlids it contains. It is the fourth largest lake in the world in terms of volume.

Feeding the cichlids.

So why not swim with the cichlids?

An African Fish Eagle comes up with some dinner!

The ending of a beautiful day.

Africa Pilgrimage Update #5

One of the highest privileges I’ve received is that of serving as Pastor for the community of The First U.P. Church of Crafton Heights for the past 26 years.  In 2010, this group granted me a four-month Sabbatical from my ministry for a time of recharging and renewal.  In 2019, they extended that offer again – so I’ve got three months to wander, wonder, and join in life in a  different way.  The longest single time period that I’ll be away from Crafton Heights involves a visit to Africa – a place that has long been a source of renewal and inspiration for me.  You can learn more about the relationship between Pittsburgh Presbytery and our partners in Malawi and South Sudan by visiting the Partnership Website.

What a wonder-filled day the 2019 Malawi Youth Pilgrimage team shared today! We began with an early breakfast and then went as a group to visit the Ndirande CCAP.  Ndirande is a fascinating community near the city center in Blantyre – it is about as “urban Africa” as it gets.  To read one description of life in this slum, you can visit this link.

Our experience of Ndirande was (no surprise) marvelous.  The CCAP congregation there is vibrant and alive with several thousand members.  We attended the second (of three) services, the English-language one.  Jessica was the preacher for the day, and Chloe and I also assisted in worship.  Actually, the entire team led worship because we sang as a choir.  It was a well-received rendition of “I Will Call Upon the Lord” in which the congregation joined us enthusiastically.

Prior to each worship service, the worship leaders and distinguished guests greet one another, plan, and pray in the vestry. That room was crowded on Sunday!

Pastor Jessica ready to preach about our call to believe in God’s promises and provision even when the odds seem stacked against us.

Joining in worship with the Ndirande congregation.

After worship we enjoyed tea at the home of the Pastor (who remained at the church to lead the third service). From there we returned to GBCC and set off toward the shores of Lake Malawi.  We stopped to greet Abusa Takuze Chitsulo, the Principal at Zomba Theological College. We had been asked to deliver some books for the ZTC Library, and we took advantage of the stop to learn more about the College’s mission and take a brief tour.

In the manse with the “Mai abusa” (pastor’s wife) and the session clerk.

Hudson and Annabel present the books to Abusa Chitsulo on behalf of the PCUSA.

Although the staff and students are on semester break, not everyone has gone home. I’m not sure what year this fellow is in, but he showed real agility and energy while with us at ZTC!

From there we drove straightaway to the southern end of Lake Malawi, where we’ll be privileged to spend a couple of days.  Along the way we noted the drastic change in landscape, scenery, and the shift from intensely urban to wide-open rural Malawi.  It was a long ride, but it passed quickly enough with a lot of singing, some great conversation, and a nap or two along the way.  Our day ended with a late (but delicious) dinner and (for some of us) a few games before bed.  All in all, a great day!

With Eddie at one end of the bus and Rayna at the other, the songs (and hand motions) were flowing freely!

It wouldn’t be a trip if we didn’t play Bananagrams, would it?

 

Africa Pilgrimage Update #4

One of the highest privileges I’ve received is that of serving as Pastor for the community of The First U.P. Church of Crafton Heights for the past 26 years.  In 2010, this group granted me a four-month Sabbatical from my ministry for a time of recharging and renewal.  In 2019, they extended that offer again – so I’ve got three months to wander, wonder, and join in life in a  different way.  The longest single time period that I’ll be away from Crafton Heights involves a visit to Africa – a place that has long been a source of renewal and inspiration for me.  You can learn more about the relationship between Pittsburgh Presbytery and our partners in Malawi and South Sudan by visiting the Partnership Website.

When we began to think about the possibilities of a Youth Pilgrimage to Malawi, one of the most important considerations for such an experience was creating spaces for young Malawians and young Pittsburghers to meet together for mutual enrichment, encouragement, and growth.  Once we had agreed to proceed with this trip, our counterparts in the CCAP identified a theme of “Developing Leadership Through Partnership” and planned a series of three half-day workshops wherein the young people from each side could gather around important topics.  Today was the first of those meetings, and we held it at the Grace Bandawe Conference Center in Blantyre.  There were approximately 35 youth from the Synod to meet with the 9 of our young people as well as the advisors and mentors.  Gospel Mbvutulo presented on behalf of the Malawian church around the topic “Challenges faced by the Youth in their Christian Life”, and then our own Michelle Snyder led a discussion around the topic of “Dealing with Anxiety”.  Each was well-received, and even though it was clear that there were cultural as well as theological differences, folks came away glad that we had taken the time to walk through this experience.

Getting settled in at the Youth Conference

Barb Swan responds to comments about her group’s reflections on the material.

It wouldn’t be a partnership gathering without self-introductions. Here, Rayna takes her turn.

Our time together included a mixture of large group presentation and small group reflection and discussion.

Michelle adapted her material beautifully to be able to respond and add to the segment with which Gospel had begun our seminar.

While I wasn’t listed as a “presenter” on the program, I may have told a story or two anyhow….a coincidence that I’m sure had NOTHING to do with the fact that the conference ran overtime…

When the seminar finally ended (approximately 90 minutes after the schedule indicated), our group of young people spread out around the campus of GBCC and shared a meal with their Malawian counterparts – under the gazebos, in the sun, or in a dining hall.

Lunch with new friends…

The gathered assembly!

A highlight of the day for one Pittsburgher was a third trip to the airport to collect last of our missing luggage.  We are now fully here!  We took a tour through much of downtown Blantyre and saw a number of historic buildings as well as some very interesting new construction.  One of the more impressive stops was an impromptu visit to the Mchiru CCAP, which happened to be hosting a group of 15 representatives from South Africa. While the South Africans had just left, the choir was still rehearsing and the pastor gave us a tour around the church grounds, their new manse, and more.  We might have stayed a while to listen to the choir rehearse…

As the Mchiru CCAP Women’s Choir rehearses…

… our group of travelers seeks to soak it all in!

For dinner our hosts at GBCC showed us how well their new wood-fired pizza oven works… and we were delighted to have had the chance to sample their success! We ended our time together by sorting through the nearly 700 pounds of medical supplies that our team brought with us (using a list compiled by our colleagues here in Blantyre Synod). Vitamins and gloves and pain relievers and antibiotic ointments and more were segregated into the appropriate suitcases and are ready to be shared with those who have experienced the devastation of Cyclones Idai and Kenneth.

That’s a lot of hand sanitizer…

Thanks to everyone who helped us fill these suitcases with medical supplies!

It was a full and rich day, and we each noted something that we’d been able to see that stretched us, pushed us, or reminded us of something we knew to be true. And that’s what pilgrimages are for!

Africa Pilgrimage Update #2

One of the highest privileges I’ve received is that of serving as Pastor for the community of The First U.P. Church of Crafton Heights for the past 26 years.  In 2010, this group granted me a four-month Sabbatical from my ministry for a time of recharging and renewal.  In 2019, they extended that offer again – so I’ve got three months to wander, wonder, and join in life in a  different way.  The longest single time period that I’ll be away from Crafton Heights involves a visit to Africa – a place that has long been a source of renewal and inspiration for me.  You can learn more about the relationship between Pittsburgh Presbytery and our partners in Malawi and South Sudan by visiting the Partnership Website.

A pilgrimage is a trip that is taken with the intention of deepening the traveler’s spiritual life and connection with the Holy. Often, such a journey is associated with a particular site: Muslims travel to Mecca, Jews to Jerusalem, and so on. Within Christianity, there are pilgrimages that are taken to specific places in the hopes of attaining a certain end: there are those who visit Lourdes in search of healing, perhaps.

When we began to talk about bringing a group of young people from Pittsburgh Presbytery to visit partners in Malawi, we knew that we wanted to do more than arrange a tour or plan a project.  And while many youth trips involve engaging the young people in some particular task or act of service, the nature of this experience is much more in the realm of that of a pilgrimage: that is, we have invited these travelers to leave behind that which is familiar and enter into a place that is new and different with the expectation of seeing God at work there.  Pope Benedict XVI once wrote, “To go on a pilgrimage is not simply to visit a place to admire its treasures of nature, art, or history.  To go on pilgrimage really means to step out of ourselves in order to encounter God where he has revealed himself, where his grace has shone with particular splendor and produced rich fruits of conversion and holiness among those who believe.”

In fact, we could argue that a pilgrimage is an exploration of a deeper truth that we as Christians hold: we arrange ourselves into congregations or “parishes”.  That word is derived from the Greek paroikos, which translates as “sojourner”.  It’s used in the book of Acts where the Apostle Stephen describes people of faith as “aliens who are living in a land that is not their own.”  In a real sense, each Christian is a pilgrim making her or his best attempts to find meaning and purpose in a world that is not always hospitable to those who value faith, hope, and love.

In my experience, God’s self has been revealed in quiet conversations and raucous worship services in many African communities.  I have sensed that there are ways of glimpsing life, living gratefully, and trusting in God and neighbor that are more readily experienced when we can step away from what we perceive to be as “normal” and look at life with fresh eyes.

To that end, our group of fourteen pilgrims from Pittsburgh has arrived safely in “The Warm Heart of Africa”.  Our pilgrimage began with a drive from Pittsburgh to Washington DC and continued with flights from there to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and then Lilongwe, Malawi, and finally Blantyre.  We’ve waited in some really long lines, eaten some new foods, and managed to misplace 11 of our 14 suitcases along the way (don’t worry, mom, we’ve been assured that the good people of Ethiopian Airlines know EXACTLY where they are and we should receive them in a matter of hours).  And we have begun to realize that our worlds are not as big or full or wide as we thought they were… they’ve begun to expand already.  And that’s a good thing.  In fact, that’s why we’re here!

One step closer!

The sea of humanity that is gates 1-3 at the Addis airport!

Coleman leading us in devotions at the Addis Airport

The turbo-prop plane fit my headgear exquisitely!

Ah, the baggage system at Lilongwe. Sadly, it’s empty.

A contingent of more than 2 dozen people from Balaka CCAP came to welcome us at the airport – especially partners from East Liberty!

One of the representatives from Balaka was Mr. Mmanga, who stayed at Crafton Heights 20 years ago!

There *may have been* a few speeches upon our arrival…

The sun is setting, but we made it to Blantyre!

The folks at Grace Bandawe Conference Center set up a beautiful welcoming spread for us!

Awaiting the “snack” that was more like a meal after we arrived.

Sharing stories of the road at Grace Bandawe

Hudson was interviewed by the Blantyre Synod Radio station!

A new day dawns over Africa for our group of pilgrims!