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
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
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
A look at Ruth’s typical Tuesday (hint about title!) gives a good picture of the activities she is involved in the rest of the week here in Blantyre. Continue reading
We have been helping CfCM with a holiday bible club at Maliya primary school. It is only a few miles from Blantyre but in a different world. The school has only 13 staff for nearly 700 pupils, and hardly any material resources. The only access to this isolated village is by using a long rough dirt road which has no minibus or bicycle taxi service. Piped water, sanitation, or a mobile phone service is just a dream.
The Easter school holidays continue here in Malawi, as in schools back home, and every year CFCM organise a Five-Day Club during this holiday period. This year they chose a rural location, some 20km outside of Blantyre, a village called Maliya, where there is a primary school for almost 700 children from the surrounding area, an AquaAid orphanage, a ZEC church, but no regular children’s Bible Club. Maliya can’t be reached by public transport – even the ubiquitous minibuses can’t make it down the bumpy road, and for people to go up to town (and it is uphill all the way) involves a 2-hour hike, or a motor-bike taxi if you can afford it. Continue reading
There was almost a Swiss alpine feel as we had a pitstop at Dedza on our morning drive to Llilongwe today. Clean flushing toilets, a fridge that works with cold cans of Fanta, warm sun, cool breeze, lovely views.
Malawi is one of the most densly populated countries in Africa, seems to have few if any planning laws, has little resources for infrastructure development, and in desperation many are forced to build in places that make them very vulerable. On top of that, rural homes are built from burned-clay bricks formed out of the soil around the house, and sometimes cement isn’t even available for use in the mortar.
It is no surprise therefore that, soon after the delayed rains started, we now hear and see the tragic results of a few weeks of heavy rain falling on such a needy land.
This week Ruth had the exciting opportunity of starting to work alongside Joseph and Elevate of “Children For Christ Ministries” (CFCM). Their focus is training people across Malawi to lead Bible Clubs and Sunday Schools but this week their emphasis was on re-starting the clubs they run themselves in the Blantyre area. Ruth immediately got a sense of the breadth of their work, the challenges they face, and the privilege that is theirs of being able to run and support weekly Bible Clubs. Continue reading
Our traditional British Boxing Day walk usually involves a brisk long walk with our dog along Sizewell beach or similar in the few hours that a UK December gives you between dawn and dusk. We were determined to do something different in Malawi! Continue reading
Thank you for so many messages via email, Facebook, WhatsApp and phone. It ensured we knew that, far away as we are, you were thinking of us on this special day. Rest assured that – while missing you all – we had a great time once we had positively embraced the fact that this was going to be a different Christmas without our family, and we should enjoy it for what it was! Continue reading
As Blantyre greens up in the rains we have got into the habit of doing an hour of walking each day to try and fight off the effects of our otherwise sedentary lifestyle here in Blantyre. One of the consequences – exacerbated by the fact that we rather stand out from the crowd! – is some interesting conversations. Continue reading
One student spontaneously got up during our meeting; let’s call him ‘George’. Pulling up his trouser leg he showed us scar tissue and eaten muscle from his ankle right up his calf. He told us all how some years ago he had a wound that just would not heal. For over a year this wound got worse and worse, and he got weaker and weaker as infection set in. Eventually he got to the stage where he could not move, could not speak, and felt his breathing getting shallower and shallower. Continue reading
Thanks to everyone for supporting us in prayer at this week’s end-of-term event with the zm-sponsored students at the Evangelical Bible College of Malawi. With trusty interpretation by our Field Director Simon Chikwana, Myles had the privilege of speaking on Christ’s call that all disciples be His light in the world, warning of the way the world tries to snuff out that light, and encouraged the students to commune deeply and daily with the Holy Spirit throughout the holiday to ensure they have the strength to keep burning bright for their Lord. Continue reading
I (Myles) had my first experience training in Malawi when J-Life and Kerusso Trust invited me to facilitate the session on Integrity at their Learn-2-Serve workshop this week in Michiru ZEC, Blantyre. Continue reading
This video article by The Economist caught my eye this week for obvious reasons. In the run up to Christmas – which so many of us in the West use as an excuse to over-consume – this video is a shocking reminder of the reality of life for so many of our brothers and sisters arround the globe and the complexity of issues involved. Continue reading
A week or so into our stay, it does seem that there are two ways to live in Malawi* – at least as evidenced by the way people shop.
As I (Myles) worked at my PC yesterday evening, once again completely focussed on my dissertation research, I caught myself subconsciously saying this before I suddenly remembered I was not sitting in my livingroom in a cold British winter but was sitting in my livingroom in a sticky tropical Malawi waiting for the rains to break. Continue reading
As we got off the plane at Blantyre airport last Thursday and were met by our Malawi Director we were quickly reminded of the basic life challenges that so many face here in Malawi.
As we drove to the city we remarked at how dry the small fields were compared to our visit last Easter, and we found that even the relatively well-appointed mission house we were staying in had taps that ran dry.
It has been quite a couple of weeks as we have emptied our old house and completed its sale. Twenty-three years of stuff and fond memories to let go of, and two days of hard work as we got the new house ready to be rented out to friends.
It was a week or so ago, as I burned decades of sensitive old papers, that it struck me how much we were leaving behind as we move into this next chapter of our walk with God.
Back in 2012 – when God made clear he wanted to see a dramatic change in the direction of our lives – we prayed, we read scripture, and we talked to trusted long-standing Christian friends who had been on this path before us.
One wise lady warned us to take significant time before deciding what to do next. This would allow me (Myles) to “decompress” from my “always on” life in global media, to slow down, to learn to be more fully a man of prayer, to learn how to go at God’s pace rather than man’s, and above all to wait on the Lord.
In their recent newsletter here, zm publicaly introduce our new roles.
Things have been so busy over the summer that our posts have dried up. But that will soon change as we head back to Malawi in the not too distant future. In the meantime, if you can join us tomorrow for our commissioning service at Mickfield Evangelical Church then we would be very happy to see you.
Monday 14th April 2014
Having got to Nthorowa we were keen to see the fish pond project in the next village that is operated by Zambezi Evangelical Church in partnership with Zambesi Mission.
Saturday 12th April 2014
Ruth and I were privileged to be asked to return to the Evangelical Bible College of Malawi (EBCoM) on the student’s only real rest day (Saturday) to be able to meet with them socially over lunch.
It was a great time to see these committed men and women relax together over a game of “bottle-top drafts” or strumming a guitar. But it was even more inspiring to hear their personal testimonies of sacrifice and calling as we chatted through lunch.
Saturday 12th April 2014
We were delighted to returned to EBCoM on Saturday to meet with a remarkable lady, Mrs Mercy Mkwezalamba, who some time ago established a course for the wives of the male 3rd year students. In a culture where women so often fail to complete high school this is an innovative step.
Thursday 10th and Friday 11th April
As with our first visit, the start of this return visit to Malawi has been relatively slow as we have recuperated from the long flight, readjusted to Malawi life, and had some important coordination meetings with the leaders at Zambezi Evangelical Church and the leaders of the Evangelical Bible College of Malawi.
What images will persist, I wonder, for Ruth and I as we leave Malawi and Africa? For sure there will be images of rolling seas of tea bushes, of bright lilac colored jacaranda trees, of vast planes of dusty bush, of proud exotic animals, of litter strewn slums, of mud floors and tin roofs.
However I am convinced that the truly persistent images of Malawi and of Africa will be of the faithful brothers and sisters we leave behind. Compared to our homeland we found friends materially poor, struggling with a lack of education, and adrift for the want of more of Christ’s shepherds. But we also found friends with faces shining with the love of Jesus, humble homes thrown open in wonderful hospitality, and lives where the little they did have was completely dedicated to the growth of God’s kingdom.
10 – 11 September 2013
I wish I knew more about Jessie Rowland whose grave sits all alone at the top of a prominent hill that commands an amazing 360 degree view of a huge plain of African bush between Blantyre and Lake Malawi.
Monday in Blantyre was quiet but interesting as we met with Pastor Mvula J Mvula, the leader of the River of Life Evangelical Church that has recently become a partner of Zambezi Mission. Formed in 2001 ROLEC is an indigenous church that aims through the preachong of the Word of God to transform people’s lives and their communities both spiritually, socially and economically. In looks and in force of character there is something of Nelson Mandela about Pastor Mvula, and we had a fascinating time understanding his primary need to rapidly train ROLEC pastors to be better shepherds for their flocks.
7th September 2013
Kondwani and Evet Kwerani epitomise what it means to be good and faithful servants of Christ whatever our culture. They live in a small rough brick house in rural Choda, south east of Blantyre, with their three children Hope, Paul, and Kondwani jr.
Kondwani was born in the country and, even with a time studying in the relative comfort of Blantyre, he says he is more able to cope with being back in the simple rural life than his wife who was born in the city.
I say “simple life”, but in an area where the church members are essentially struggling to survive – and although they would never say so themselves – it would be more accurate to talk about a life of material “survival”.
A change of plan meant that Ruth and I had the opportunity to travel with Michael Priestley and his ZM driver Anthony, to visit five ZEC churches in the Mulanje area east of Blantyre.
Michael is the sort of older Christian who is a challenging example to us all. He must be well into his seventies and he has been visiting Malawi from England for 23 years. Initially he came with his wife Joy, they fell in love with the people and the place, and even after her death eight years ago Michael has been coming back regularly to buy and distribute bibles in the local Chichewa language using money gifted by Christians in the UK.
I got my history fix early in our visit to Malawi when we visited the gallery, museum and cafe within Mandala House, the oldest standing house in Malawi.
David Livingstone was the ultimate “Jack-of-all-trades” whose contribution to Africa’s development covered aspects as wide as missionary, linguist, explorer, anti-slavery advocate, anti-apartheid advocate, physician, and zoologist. However he was also a great promoter of commerce as a way of helping improve the life of the indigenous people whom he loved. One response to this was the formation of the Africa Lakes Company, headquartered in Glasgow. They traded under the name Mandala, and Mandala house was built in 1882 on a strategic hilltop in Blantyre to act as their trading centre and a strong defensive location for settlers during the intermittent inter-tribe conflicts.
2nd September 2013
We Scots usually think of the “auld alliance” being the one between Scotland and France to contain the expansionist plans of mediaeval England. However there is another “auld alliance” between Scotland and Malawi that is already making me feel very at home here in Blantyre.
Ruth and I arrived in Lilongwe International Airport too late to catch our noon bus to Blantyre (a four hour journey) and instead killed a few hours absorbing the new atmosphere of Malawi. Initial impressions were: less litter, less threatening, less people, less colourful clothing, more heat!
Saturday 6th July
It is 2pm Sat 6th July. Ruth and I are sitting in the sun on the ferry in Fishguard harbour after a drive from the east to the west of mainland Britain on our way to Youghal, County Cork in Ireland.
This is the second part of our great adventure this summer as over the next few months we visit and share with Christian missionaries in Romania, Ireland, Kenya and Malawi. (Our second visit to Belgium has been postponed to October). It’s all part of our quest to understand God’s call for this next phase in our lives.
The first part of our summer adventure was a return visit last week to Daniel and Danny Ispas in Carand, western Transylvania, Romania. Over the coming weeks we will post more about that physical and spiritual journey as time (and internet connection) permits.
Please support and encourage us by following our posts on Facebook and on our new WordPress blog. At both places you can leave your own contributions and comments to help us on our way.
The idea of the blog is to allow our friends to share in our thoughts and experiences as we spend time in so many different places. However, perhaps more importantly, it will give Ruth and I a mechanism with which to reflect on the experience and the lessons learned.
We hope you enjoy sharing in our great adventure this summer as we step out with God.