We have received word that Abusa Francis Gama is no longer serving the Balaka parish in Malawi (our companion). He has been reassigned to a mission development in Salima. Our Malawi Companion Synod Coordinator will notify us when she finds out who will be replacing him. We wish him well in his new assignment.
Deacon Laura Ramlow was the guest preacher at our Mission Sunday Service. Laura is a Synod Minister in the Northwest Synod of Wisconsin office with responsibilities in communication and faith formation. In addition to these responsibilities, she also serves as the companion coordinator for our partnership with Malawi, Africa. During her three visits to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malawi, Laura has been a teacher at the Pastors' Academy; assisted with building projects; visited feeding centers, agricultural programs, clinics, schools and community water projects; and has been surrounded by the food,m culture, music and incredible people in the Warm Heart of Africa and wants to encourage others to join this ministry! She loves to accompany people as they experience firsthand God's powerful presence in this global partnership.
A special banner made by Beverly Anderson honoring our relationship with our companion congregation in Malawi was presented and blessed during the service.
Following the service, a brunch was served. With her faith in Jesus and love of travel, Sharon Klabunde of Menomonie made her way to Malawi, Africa, with five other ladies on a Northwest Synod of WI mission trip to Malawi this summer. She stayed at the Malawi Lutheran campus in the capital city of Lilongwe. During the brunch, Sharon showed pictures of many community projects that she visited, culminating in a meeting with Pastor Francis of Balaka Lutheran Church, Christ Lutheran's companion church in Malawi.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malawi is in mission partnership with the Northwest Synod of Wisconsin, ELCA.
This morning we attended Sunday worship at the Cathedral. The opening hymn was "Amazing Grace" sung in Chichewa. There were three choirs, as well as a brass group consisting of 4 trumpets, 2 trombones, 2 baritones, and drums. The congregation was very enthusiastic about their response to the brass group. Our leader, Pastor John Sutherland, gave the sermon based on Matthew 13:1-9, the parable of the sower. The service lasted from 9:30 until approximately 11:30.
Afterwards, our friend Stywell stopped by the guesthouse. I had seen him at worship and asked him to stop by so I could give him some things. (He was our driver for the 2015 visit.) I gave him a package of AA batteries, a candle, matches, and a roll of duct tape indicating that my son works for the company that made the tape (3M). He brought Pastor John a shirt made of African fabric.
Later, we walked to the area of the ELCM compound where some of the employees live. Pastor John wore his new shirt so that he could have a photo taken with Stywell. We stopped to visit with Chicondi because he had invited us the previous evening. I was afraid that he would have gifts for us because he had made a point of finding out exactly how many were in our group. We were all invited into his home, and he led us in singing happy birthday to John's daughter, Ella, since he was aware that her birthday was shortly before we arrived. She was given some African fabric in the colors of the Malawi flag (red, black, and green). He also asked to share some words he had written regarding character, which I will share at a later time. As I suspected, he had gifts for everyone in our group, which were fabric and paintings. He involved his entire family in presenting the gifts. His daughters presented to the girls in our group who were nearly the same age. His 5 year old son presented to the grandparents in the group, and his wife presented to me. It was a humbling experience to say the least.
Our relaxation at the lake ended today as we traveled back to Lilongwe. We went to the market to buy fabric. It was extremely crowded and busy there. Afterwards, we returned to the ELCM compound. Shadrack gave us a tour of the mill where they grind maize. The girls played with some of the children who live there. We also visited with Chicondi. After dinner we had our last opportunity for souvenir shopping.
The electricity has been sporadic today, and we don't have running water at the moment. We are hopeful that the water will come on during the night tonight.
This morning we woke up at 4:45 to walk out to the pier and watch the sunrise. It was spectacular. Shortly after breakfast, some of us went on a 6 kilometer walk to the marketplace in Salima. We were quite the attraction for the local residents. I cannot imagine walking this far on a regular basis. After doing some shopping, we carried our items for another 6 kilometers back to the lodge. The remainder of the day was spent relaxing and recuperating.
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Music, Mountains, and Monkeys
Today our agenda was to travel to Salima. Before leaving Blantyre, we stopped at the Blantyre Parish Centre to greet the Dean and see the church there. Included are pictures of the church exterior, sanctuary, and Sunday School area. Late this afternoon we arrived at Red Zebra Lodge, which is located on Lake Malawi. In addition to the lodge, there is a fish farm here where they produce red zebra cichlids.
This morning we traveled for approximately two hours to the Lowershire Deanery. There we assisted the congregation in making bricks for a new church. Their current church is approximately five years old with a thatch roof. It's very crowded because they have 80 adult members. In addition, they experience problems with flooding. We were able to make approximately 150 bricks. It's estimated that 15,000 bricks are needed to complete the project, and so far approximately 2,500 are ready. The bricks we made need to dry for three days, and then they will be fired. The choirs sang for us while we worked. After the work was finished, we met with the congregation for greetings and introductions, as well as the youth choir singing. I took some pictures with my Polaroid camera to leave with the individuals in the photos. Then we went to the abusa's home for lunch. This abusa is the Dean of the Lowershire Parish. We stopped at Kumuzu View both on the way there and on our way back to Blantyre to stretch our legs and enjoy the view. In the United States we would call this a scenic overlook.
We traveled all day to Blantyre. On the way, we saw various tea plantations. We had lunch at a beautiful restaurant that serves pizza in addition to traditional Malawi food. There were also stunning views of Mulanje Mountain. The restaurant was outdoors near a beautiful swimming pool. We actually experienced rush hour traffic in Blantyre. After stopping at a bookstore to purchase souvenir maps, we arrived at our hotel accommodations. The wall outside our hotel has razor wire, which seems quite common.
Today we worked on a building project at the site of the Mbidi congregation. Ed Peters assisted with laying bricks while the rest of our group carried bricks to the building site. We worked along side our companions. Some of the women were also carrying children on their backs in addition to transporting bricks. This building will either be used for a Deanery or Diocese Headquarters. There are also photos of the Mbidi congregation's church, which is where we ate lunch. The meal consisted of nsima, rice, goat meat, and cooked greens. I've been waiting to have goat because it's delicious. You can see from the photos that this church has running water. The Abusa informed us that they had to put that area inside of the church because people were stealing the cups. If I'm not mistaken, this church also operates a feeding station. Upon our return to the motel after taking showers, several of us went for a walk into Zomba to purchase some shampoo and snacks. It was a long walk which was downhill on the way there and uphill all the way back. In total it took us an hour and a half round trip. It was quite a workout.