A Happy New Year to all our family, friends and partners around the world. “Lang may yer lum reek”! [See translation here] We are back in Blantyre after our Christmas break in Livingstone (Zambia) and Johannesburg (S.A.) and looking forward to settling back into our regular routine when things start up again here next week. Our break was a great opportunity to relax, reflect further on 2015 (see our December Newsletter) and look forward to 2016.
We made a virtue of necessity and used our two layovers in Jo’burg (as the locals seem to insist on calling it) to see something of this historic city, and to do a bit of shopping for essentials not available in Malawi.
Jo’burg is certainly a city full of stark contrasts. Fascinating old buildings – such as the Old Fort Prison on Constitution Hill where Mandela and Gandhi were once held – stand as carefully tended monuments of mankind’s inhumanity to mankind. However they are surrounded by the dirt and squalor of mankind’s continuing inhumanity – where to show a camera is to risk all. But then, in the centre of an area where even a policeman says it’s too dangerous to use an ATM, you find an oasis of art and centennial architecture!
The Apartheid Museum was particularly impactful. Even the wonderful architecture – with its stark concrete blocks, steel bars, and prison-like windows – reinforced the message. The museum certainly made a powerful impact on all who emerged with us into the sun afterwards. And, if the architecture reminded us of the Getty in LA, the emotional impact reminded Myles of the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem.
The Victoria Falls themselves were stunning. While we were at the wrong time of year to see the full curtain of water, the falls were still breathtaking and it was fun to watch all the youngsters proving themselves on the bungee jump from the famous bridge. We prefered more sedate walks, and lovely meals in colonial splendour at the Royal Livingstone and the sun-set cruise onboard Lady Livingstone.
However, amongst all these grand experiences, it was once again the people rather than the sights of Africa who were most memorable: the myriad of friendly and helpful folk so keen to reach out and welcome the visitor. In particular, where else in the world would your Sunday morning taxi ride involve a discussion with the driver – on his way to church and displaying deep biblical knowledge – on the wonder of the Incarnation and how it necessarily must drive us to our knees in awe, seeking forgiveness, and in turn forgiving others. This is the true hope for Africa in 2016: that despite all its challenges, in a strong and faithful few the gospel burns bright and burns openly.
And what about us in 2016? Do you remember running the 400 meters at school? As we celebrate our second African New Year, the image that comes to us is of entering the back straight of the 400 meters! The start of our ‘race’ is over, the last 12 months have given us a good understanding of the environment, the track and the partners we are running with. We have found our ‘second breath’ and are well into our stride.
However, as we enter the back straight where little is new anymore, it would be easy to get complacent and forget that it is in this part of the race that much of the real hard work is done; to forget that initial calling and enthusiasm that got us to the starting line; and to lose sight of the finishing line and the real reason for being here.
So please do stay with us, partner with us, pray with us, message us, and help us run our race here in Malawi through 2016.