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.
In both Mzimba and Mzuzu Myles has run a 2-day “Preach the Word” course for those involved in preaching in ZEC churches and prayer houses – pastors, elders and leaders of the women’s fellowship – helping them to understand and practice expository preaching. And in both places Ruth and her CFCM colleagues, Elevate and Joseph, have helped train the Sunday School teachers from various denominations. For many of the elders, women’s leaders and Sunday School teachers, this has been their first ever experience of training of any kind. A few had walked 20km to attend! One elder speaking on behalf of a class commented that “Preach the Word” had opened their eyes to what preaching is really meant to be. Several Sunday School teachers admitted that up to now they have merely been telling Bible stories, and have never explained the message of salvation to their children because they just didn’t know how to.
Language is even more of a challenge for us than it is normally. Chitumbuka is widely spoken, but so is Chichewa, and we’re never quite sure which greeting to use. We are indebted to those who have been translating for us while we have been training; in particular, Duncan N’goma (Regional Superintendent for ZEC in the North), Gift Mphongolo (the National Youth Coordinator for ZEC) and Aaron Senkeya (the Training Coordinator for Disciple the Nations) who have worked in relays to interpret for Myles; taking great pains to make sure any technical terminology or difficult concepts are clearly explained and understood. Myles hopes this experience will mean that when he returns south, Duncan will be able to continue supporting the pastors as they in turn coach the preachers in their church and prayer houses. Myles and Aaron also contemplate working together to extend and deepen the course for DtN to run as part of ZEC’s new training program.
Ruth has also run a couple of music sessions so far. In Mzimba, she worked with the ladies of the Chiyanjano cha Amayi, encouraging them to create new Bible-based songs in the spoken language and the musical style of their Tumbuka neighbours, as an aid to outreach. It was a very lively morning, enjoyed by all, and hopefully the start of the Chiyanjano being more mission-minded about the songs they sing in their choir, and using their Chitumbuka Bible to provide lyrics for new songs. In Mzuzu, a small group of the Sunday School teachers trained over the last weekend were interested in finding out more about creating new songs for children, so met with Ruth on Tuesday afternoon for a music session, and had a go at turning memory verses and one Bible story into songs.
We are seeing the advantage of being in one location for a full week, rather than just swooping in on a Sunday for a preaching engagement. We are really getting to know the pastors and some of the members and teachers well, and we have flexibility to add and to adjust things in our schedule. Myles has also found this greater understanding of folk a great help in his preaching.
Ahead of us now is a weekend of training at Rumphi, followed by a few days of complete break at Livingstonia, a famous mountain-top site where the early Free Church missionaries established their mission to Northern Malawi. But, more about that next time.