Tuesday 15th April 2014
As we left the Anglican guest house at Chilema little did we know how long a day it was going to be of travel interspersed with interesting visits and conversations before we found our way in the dark to the Roman Catholic guest house in Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi. Regardless of the state of the truck’s suspension, by then our personal “rear suspension” was painfully sensitive after sitting in the cramped rear bench of our 4×4 truck. Little surprise that the plain quiet comfort of the guest house run by nuns was very welcome indeed!
Our first stop after leaving Chilema was to meet Henry Muhiye (above) who is one of the three Regional Superintendents for ZEC. Without any form of transport beyond the ubiquitous public minibuses and bicycle taxis, Henry is responsible for overseeing the work of dozens of churches across the large Central Region. Particularly encouraging for me was to hear of his enthusiasm for on-the-job training of elders and pastors – something very close to my heart.
Then we were off to our next stop, driving through the remotest of dust roads, for a return visit to the ZEC operated health center at Muluma which Ruth and I had visited back in September 2013 (see here). This was one of those early ZEC “Mission Stations” where the intrepid early missionaries so naturally put into practice ‘holistic mission’ a hundred years before the term was coined; building church, clinic and school to meet the spiritual, educational and health needs of the people. It was great to see how far work had progressed on the new clinic that – no doubt to the relief of modern heavily pregnant women – been built at the bottom of the hill rather than the top. And to hear that – while the new clinic was not yet fully open for all maternity services the medical officer was seeing at least 100 patients in a day, 75% suffering from malaria.
It was also good to meet up again with Abusa (ie Pastor) Hembayani who 6 months down the line was well settled into his new charge and enthusiastically showed us round the clinic with Administrator Chipulumutso (means salvation) Benn. And what a smile we got from Pastor Paul as we showed him the photo we had taken last summer of him and his wife sitting contently on the veranda of there simple home looking out over the stupendous sky line of Muluma.
At the end of the long day, as we rested in the relative comfort of our Lilongwe guest house, we could not help but reflect on the courage of these early missionaries; their courage in setting out into the unknown at a time without mobile phones and 4×4’s; their courage in confronting the rise of colonialism in their fellow British; and their wisdom in establishing the sort of holistic mission that aimed to fulfil the great commission and the greatest commandment by transforming communities spiritually, socially and economically. How wonderful that in the modern ZEC we saw that same spirit persisting.