The final few days have been about meeting up with friends whom we used to serve with here in Malawi. I met several when I attended a National Youth Conference, and others I have visited in their homes, or they have come to find me at the ZM office. It has been good to hear about what has been going on their lives and ministries, and to see their growing families.
When I return to the UK I will be quarantined for 10 days in a hotel because of Malawi’s sudden promotion to the Red List. At times I am sure I will wonder if it was worth it! I will try to remember the warm welcome and hospitality I have received with every visit. It is quite humbling to see how much these friends appreciate our lasting interest in their lives – they do not seem to realize how much an encouragement they are to us, each one a trophy of God’s grace.
Today (Tue 24th) was probably the day I have been looking forward to the most – being back with the Children for Christ Ministry team, on the road, doing Bible clubs.
Joseph, Elevate and Lackson collected me from the ZM office at 7am, and we headed to the beautiful mountainous area of Phalombe. Four of CFCM’s volunteer trainers live in this area, and they are doing an amazing job at establishing Bible clubs, training teachers, and generally raising the profile of children’s ministry in that area. Gazeni and Chipoya had organized three Bible clubs for us to visit today, each with about 150 children. Everything ran to schedule, with the children gathered in each location as we drove up, and the singing already started. Unfortunately, as the day got hotter and hotter, the mango trees we sheltered under were getting smaller, till at the last club there was very little shade!
I taught the story of the siege of Samaria from 2 Kings 6-7. These children really understand hunger. They know what it’s like to go to school or to bed hungry because there’s only enough food for one meal in the day. They know what it’s like to survive on a diet of mangos when the maize has completely run out. So it was good to teach them those wonderful verses from Lamentations 3:22-23, “The Lord’s compassions never fails. They are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness”. They memorized the verses well, and we pray that they will be able to recall them and be comforted when they go through bad times as well as good times.
When we finished and started heading back home, the wind was getting up, and then the rains came. This is the usual pattern at this time of year, and people are relieved to see the rains arrive; they are already preparing the ground for sowing their maize next month, and if the rains are good, and their crops do well, their hunger will be minimized.
The problem is that sometimes the rains come with a bit too much gusto. The area of Phalombe has suffered badly in the past because of sudden heavy rain destroying homes and crops. A few years ago CFCM provided blankets for some of these children whose families had lost everything, and the steel sheets for the roof of Chipoya’s house which had to be completely rebuilt. Teaching children God’s Word is always CFCM’s priority, but in a land as impoverished as Malawi, where life is lived on a knife edge between having just enough and having nothing, the physical needs of the children and their leaders cannot be ignored.
A few months ago our pastor at home in Bedfordshire was preaching about encouragement, and used the example of the different kinds of encouragement received by those who run in a marathon. Marathon runners get encouragement from their friends who have wished them well and sponsored them. Then they get encouragement from those who turn up on the day and line the streets to cheer them on. Then just occasionally a fellow marathon runner stops to help someone who is struggling, by running alongside them and helping them reach the finish line.
Ruth is now (Monday) in the Zambesi Mission office in Blantyre and can take up the story herself!
My rescheduled flights mean I was three nights “in the village” – as they call it in Malawi. I had no idea until I arrived just how far away from “civilisation” Mlambuzi ZEC is! Even the ubiquitous minibuses don’t go there, and a bicycle taxi is quite perilous given the huge gullies in the road carved out by the rains. Not surprisingly, there’s no mains electricity or running water. But such lovely people waited to give me a warm Malawi welcome. And to my relief the Chichewa greetings came back to me easily, indeed more and more of the language came back to me as the days went by.
Ruth’s schedule in Malawi is as busy as it always is. Yesterday (Friday) Ruth landed in Lilongwe and immediately traveled to Mlambuzi in the rural outskirts of the capital city. There Abusa Matthews Khumaloh pastors the Zambesi Evangelical Church. Ruth got to know Mathiews well when he was studying at the Evangelical Bible College of Malawi.
This morning Ruth was straight into action with coaching sessions on the topic of Leadership to a gathering of the elders and chiyanjano (ie woman’s fellowship) leaders of the church. This afternoon she continues with further training at the chiyanjano meeting.
Since we logged off in early 2019, Ruth had one more trip to Malawi in late 2019 in her ongoing role as a representative of Zambesi Mission, but then Covid locked the world down. How exciting that she is at present back in Malawi for the first time since!
For those who have not seen it, the ZM website is carrying an article (based on our last newsletter if you get that) which reviews our three years in Malawi…and the way ahead. Why not go and have a look at the article, and all the other faithful activities of ZM in Malawi.
Our last weeks in Malawi were full of farewells as our normal work pattern seemed to take us to so many places we first visited, and to so many people we first met, on our very first trip to Malawi in 2013. And it was made very special as everyone realising this was the last time we would meet before our departure for the UK.
The last few months have been hectic so time for posting has been close to zero. We therefore have a few posts to catch up on. This imaginary story is based on the real facts of life for many Malawians and was inspired by a chance meeting with this old woman during the November planting season. Imagine you are this widowed grandmother (agogo).
In June 2016, as we returned from our trip in the north of Malawi, you might remember that we found the ‘New Bandawe’ Station (or Thipura) that Jack helped build in the 1920’s. This was after we became fascinated by the ‘must read’ story of the wonderful Scots couple Jack and Mamie Martin (see the original post here). Continue reading →
Some of you may remember our post back in January 2015 presumptuously titled Sonjeka Village RIP. Back then – still relatively new to Malawi – we were shocked by the devastation that resulted in a whole village nestled in a wide meander of the River Ruo being wiped out in a single afternoon by the rain-swollen river. Continue reading →
Sunday 24th September dawned bright and sunny, and by mid-morning children’s choirs were gathering in the beautiful surroundings of St Michael’s and All Angels CCAP church to prepare for the launch of Ananu Ziimbani. Continue reading →
It does not seem that long ago that we were talking about being on the “back straight” of the running track of our time here in Malawi. We felt fully acclimatised and able to power along in our partnership with our Malawian brothers and sisters. Continue reading →
Last weekend Zambezi Evangelical Church was joined by friends from Zambesi Mission and other friends from around the world to celebrate 125 years since Zambesi Industrial Mission was founded by Joseph Booth. It was a time for a typically Malawian celebration: a riot of joyous colour and song combined with heartfelt praise, thanksgiving and worship. Continue reading →
As we count down the remaining weeks in Malawi, we find ourselves asking more and more “What will happen to this when we leave?” It has always been our goal to try and avoid dependency, so that things can carry on as we bow out. Continue reading →
Ever since we first visited Malawi, Myles has been captivated by the challenge of how to develop a truly contextual, scalable and sustainable way to equip and release ZEC’s grass-roots preachers to better expose the original meaning of Scripture, and better communicate that meaning to today’s Malawians within their rural oral culture. Continue reading →
“Teach them to your children and to their children after them”
While we were back in the UK, we mentioned our plans for when we return to the UK at the end of November. For Myles, the next step is still to be discovered, but Ruth is looking forward to working in the UK with Zambesi Mission, especially to promote the work of their partners, Children for Christ Ministry (CFCM), with whom she has been working closely. Our latest tour of the Northern Region was really a CFCM tour, where Ruth, Elevate and Joseph carried out 5 Sunday School teacher training seminars in 5 centres in the North. The tour has really helped affirm to Ruth why she wants to help spread the news of the work of CFCM in the UK. It has highlighted the vital work and the dedication of the Malawi team. Continue reading →
Last week Myles had the privilege of staying for six nights in the home of a ZEC pastor in the capital city of Lilongwe. It was a very comfortable home by Malawi standards and Myles quickly relaxed into the very different, calm rhythms of life in a Malawi household. Continue reading →
The last 2 weeks of our home visit were, like the first 2 weeks, a blend of time spent with family, with old friends, days off to do things on our own, and visiting churches to report on the work we have been carrying out. Myles continued to preach from Isaiah 6:1-8, and to remind people that to “Go” in the Lord’s work is a sate of mind, not a state of geography –being ready and willing to witness to Christ wherever we are, and not necessarily travelling 4000 miles. It was great to meet so many people answering that call just where they were. Continue reading →
Two weeks today (20th March) we will be heading back to Blantyre, Malawi, after over four weeks in the UK. But it has taken until today for us to reach the most northerly point of our trip and – passing along the western shore of Loch Lomond – reach Myles’ dad’s home in Crieff.
Since returning from our post-Christmas trip, Myles has been snowed under as he picked up all his normal activity again, helped organise the distribution of over 60 tons of maize, and – the biggest load of all – assessed the preparation and presentation of 28 sermons by second year bible college students at the Evangelical Bible College of Malawi (EBCoM). That’s a lot of video to review! Continue reading →
What was your drive to church like last Sunday, 29 Jan? Myles had a wonderful drive deep into a rural area of Malawi, with the General Secretary of ZEC (Pastor Mtima) and the Regional Superintendent (Pastor Muhiye). Continue reading →
Back in November we wrote about the project Ruth has been involved with to bring old and new children’s praise and worship songs together into one book, in the 3 main languages of Malawi. Work on Ananu Ziimbani (in fact 2 books – one with music, and one with words only) is almost complete and she hopes will be with the publishers while we are in the UK in March. But with the arrival of Calum from UK, a selection of the newly composed and the newly translated songs have been recorded to make a CD. Continue reading →
Those of you who follow us through our Facebook group will know it has been a busy few weeks for us. So, later than planned, here is the second post inspired by the hymn “Facing a task unfinished”, and the historical sites we have been able to visit during our ministry in Malawi.
We bear the torch that flaming
Fell from the hands of those
Who gave their lives proclaiming
That Jesus died and rose
This fictitious letter from a young rural Malawian was written by us for a Scottish friend to use at his secondary school Christmas assembly; a school with strong ties with Malawi. We based the letter on information gleaned from conversations and observations concerning Christmas and rural life in Malawi over the last two years. But our Malawian friends will probably be able to pick some holes in it, and add their own anecdotes. Nevertheless we thought our wider friends and supporters might be interested in a typical Malawian Christmas.
For Ruth, Christmas has always been all about the music – preparing the church choir and school choirs for Christmas services, teaching her piano pupils a few Christmassy pieces, accompanying Mhairi when she sings for a special Christmas concert or service, and spending hours at the piano herself playing through her books of Christmas arrangements before they get put away for the next 11 months…. Continue reading →
Apologies to Bing Crosby for distorting his famous seasonal song but after a few years in Malawi it is a green Christmas that we find ourselves praying for as so many of our friends send us greetings with frosty snowy scenes. Continue reading →
Two weekends ago, Ruth had one of her “cultural experience” trips to Lilongwe in a local bus with Joseph and Elevate of CFCM. It is undoubtedly the cheapest way to get to Lilongwe, at 4000MwK (about £4) to travel 300km – as long as you don’t mind standing all the way, or arriving at least 2 hours before you would like to travel to secure a seat; as long as you don’t mind having all your luggage crushed around your feet or on your lap the whole journey; as long as you don’t mind having absolutely no personal space since standing passengers are packed like sardines down the aisle, and inevitably lean over the people who have got seats; as long as you don’t mind zero air-conditioning, or being by a window that is either permanently stuck open, or cannot be opened at all; as long as you don’t mind 6-7 hours of music with the same jangling accompaniment and rhythm being pumped out of the loud speakers. Ruth doesn’t mind – but is glad when it’s over! Continue reading →
Many years ago, CEF worker Etiny Thole, had a vision of a throng of children standing on a stage singing praises to God. As a child growing up in Mzuzu, she remembers her grandmother teaching her hymns in Tumbuka in her home every evening. Continue reading →
Members of Kubabalika ZEC receiving there ‘seed corn’ goats
A few weeks ago I (Myles) headed off for a ‘day trip’ with Rose Chirwa (ZM Project Officer) and a couple of others, to the Lower Shire for a review of the projects that ZEC operates in partnership with ZM to create income for church members and the local church. Continue reading →
It is generally accepted that prospective settlers who leave permanent employment in Great Britain or South Africa for outposts of the Empire do not want glowing accounts but reliable facts.
(“Notes for Intended Settlers”,Department of Agriculture’s Nyasaland Protectorate, 1916)
One hundred years on, Lee Furney (our friend, and pastor of Blantyre Community Church) recently set out a short, starkly honest, synopsis of modern “reliable facts” for those intending to settle and sow the seed of the gospel in Malawi. It is the best short summary we have seen and we thought it would help you, our friends and partners, understand the context that we all serve in here. Continue reading →
This time of year, as Malawi steadily heats up, the trees of the Shire Highlands burst forth in the most splendid display, and none more so than the brilliant purple/blue of the Jacaranda tree that seems to turn even the most run-down parts of Blantyre into a botanic garden. Continue reading →
“There has never been a Synod like it!” was the comment to Myles from quite a few ZEC leaders as over 250 delegates began to leave the Mitsidi headquarters of Zambezi Evangelical Church to head home last Saturday afternoon after “Synod 2016”. Continue reading →
School’s out in Malawi, and in some places that means special events for the children. Last weekend, the Children for Christ Ministry team travelled to Chikwewu, 30km along a dirt road north-east of Ntaja, to help with a children’s rally for several combined CFCM Bible Clubs, and organized by local school teacher and Bible Club leader, Dula. Continue reading →
After 5 weeks of egg and chips for breakfast (standard breakfast in Malawian motels!) it was good to be back to muesli and fruit juice yesterday morning! We returned to our home in Blantyre on Monday evening after 5 weeks of living out of a suitcase and moving from one motel to another. The biggest shock has been the weather. Our last stop was Dwangwa, by the lake-shore, where we enjoyed temperatures in the high 20s, with the accompanying mosquito bites. But we have returned to Blantyre’s cold season – 17 degrees which seems very chilly now we are fully acclimatised to Malawi weather. So we have put on a few extra layers of clothing– but we are glad to escape the mosquitoes. Continue reading →
We’ve been trendy and “off-grid” for a few days, but now (Wed) we have finally reached Karonga, and in a guest house that not only has electricity – but air-conditioning as well – a first for us!! This is our most northerly base for this trip, though one of our planned day-trips will be to visit the church at Chitipa, which is almost at the Tanzanian/Zambian border. We will then be able to say we have been at the most southerly and the most northerly points in Malawi during our stay. Continue reading →
Today is exactly 2 weeks since we left Blantyre for our mission trip to the Northern region of Malawi. We have already travelled almost 1500km, and have completed training in the first 2 locations, Mzimba and Mzuzu. On the days when we have not been training, we have visited some of the more remote churches and prayer houses, experiencing some very bumpy roads, and enjoying a very different landscape from the one we have got used to in the South. Continue reading →
Myles enjoys the more strategic work that keeps him working away in his office most of the time, or buried in meetings. However, every now and then he manages to escape from the office and indulge his passion for training local church leaders.
We know quite a few of you were interested in the pig rearing project in Mulanje that we posted a few weeks ago. There luxurious pigsty was built with a zm grant to create a revenue stream for Mulanje ZEC supported by a committed group of leaders and members in the local church. Continue reading →
It is exactly one year this weekend since a group of young people approached Ruth to ask if she would help teach them more about music, because they had a vision of forming a choir and going out into the villages of Malawi with the Gospel, using music as their way of reaching the people. She was impressed back then by their desire to take the time to become better musicians themselves before rushing into this ministry. And also by their enthusiasm for writing their own Bible-based songs in Chichewa so that the message they bring to the villages is God’s Word, and is conveyed in a language and musical style that speaks to the hearts of the people. In a culture where choir competitions, and making recordings, seems to be the end goal of most church music groups, it is refreshing to find a group of mission minded young people, whose only desire is to grow God’s kingdom. Continue reading →
Another post for those interested in the underlying economic context of Malawi life. For there are no easy answers to the spiritual and material challenges faced by this wonderful country, but the more time we spend here the more we realise that the solutions to the material issues are bound up in the solution to the spiritual ones.
Malawi must appear to the rest of the world as if it is always complaining. Last year we were complaining of too much rain flooding vast areas of maize, this year we are complaining of too little and too sporadic rain across the south and much of central Malawi. Continue reading →
It has been a tiring but wonderful week at Khombwe, 30km from Blantyre. Hundreds of children gathered every morning from 8.30am for the CFCM 5-Day Club, and enjoyed a morning of games, singing and Bible lessons. Continue reading →
It is about a year since our shipment, containing some of our musical instruments, arrived in Blantyre. But only recently has Ruth got round to making protective covers for them – and very attractive ones at that, we think you will agree – to keep them safe as they get bundled in and out of the car several times a week, and bounced around in the boot over bumpy roads. Continue reading →
There is no tradition of evening services here in Malawi where lighting is expensive and public transport difficult to obtain after dark. So we have been listening on Sunday evenings to online sermons on the minor prophets, taking us to places in the bible we too rarely go, and bringing to light wonderful truths. Continue reading →
Here is the most recent post from “Echoes of Grace” who Ruth helps direct. You have got to admire their dedication and enthusiasm. They produce a bit of a different sound compared to the Mickfield Evangelical Church choir!
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The 3rd of March saw us all at Jesus Outreach Church in Mbayani as the rain storms passed through Blantyre. But even the heavy rain on the iron roof could not drown out the echoes of grace that ran…