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
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
The MacBean rule of thumb is: Never let Myles in a bookshop or Ruth in a music shop unless you have a day to spare! Continue reading
It is not unusual for a peaceful Saturday at Chipitala Avenue, Blantyre, to be disturbed by music, but usually it’s loud intrusive music being blasted out over loud-speakers from the University sports complex behind. But last Saturday the music was coming from the Zambesi Mission bungalow – and it was much more pleasant to the ear! Ruth was holding her first Song Creation Workshop with a group of 15 young people. Continue reading
Sometimes it is the simplest of things, when you are not expecting them, that catch you unaware and leave you with that psychological version of motion sickness called culture shock. Continue reading
It is now “mid-winter” here in Malawi – and we are wishing we had brought more of our winter clothes from England. When we first moved into our house we were amused to see a fan heater in one of the cupboards – wondering why it was there – this is Africa after all. The windows that did not quite close properly have never been a problem – until June hit. Over the last 6 weeks, here in Blantyre at an altitude of 3400 feet, there have been many cool overcast days, and windy days, and the nights are noticably colder. The fan heater has been used several times, the windows have had to be fixed, and Ruth has been shopping for jumpers and body-warmers! Continue reading
Maybe sometimes dry economic statistics can help bring home the reality of a situation as much as any well shot photograph! Continue reading
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.
Within a few days of giving birth, a young woman was issued divorce papers by her husband. For a woman in Malawi, where there is no benefits system, being abandoned like this meant certain hardship. How was she going to support herself and her new-born baby boy? She was desperate, but she had one comfort, her faith in Christ. So she called her son “God-knows”.
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
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.
Thursday 24th April 2014
All too quickly it is time for us to once again say farewell to Malawi.
As we drove up the escarpment from the Shire River to Blantyre this afternoon at the end of our second road trips, I must admit that I found myself disappointed that it would inevitably be some considerable time before we would be back in what now feels like a second home.
Thursday 17th April 2014
Our last meeting in Lilongwe on this busy day was with Pastor Rex Umali, who is the pastor of Area 23 ZEC. It was to be a perfect example of one of the most exciting things about these visits; their complete unpredictability. Your are just never sure what you will find and how God will use it to shape you. This time we were surprised and challenged to hear this faithful pastor’s wonderful testimony.
Thursday 17th April 2014
It reminded us a little of our time in Plano, Texas in the 90’s as we drove through the large flat plots of land on the outskirts of Lilongwe that were filling rapidly with expanding suburbia. And there, incongruously, in the corner of a giant building lot, sat the small “Gulliver Prayer House” of ZEC.
Thursday 16th April 2014
Tired after a long day of visits we nevertheless stopped off at Namitete ZEC on our way to our guest house at Mchinji in the very west of Malawi, near the Zambia border. However our weariness quickly evaporated in the face of the cheerful enthusiasm of Pastor Masoamphambe, his wife, his family, and his leadership team.
Wednesday 16th April 2014
Via, Veritas, Vita (“Way, Truth, Life”) is the motto of Glasgow University where Ruth and I studied in the 1980’s and summarizes Jesus’ amazing assertion in John 14:6 – “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” And today we saw three different examples of faithful Christians looking to proclaim this truth in modern Africa.
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!
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.
Monday 14th April 2014
We were all up early for our drive from the Chilema guest house to the ZEC operated clinic at Nthorowa. Being the end of the rainy season everything is bushy and green but that did not stop Simon and Luckwell directing us down ‘roads’ that looked more like overgrown bridlepaths. I was driving and as we grew in confidence we decided to take a “shorti cut” that turned out to be a “shorti cut” too far.
Palm Sunday, 13th April 2014
Today we celebrated a very special Palm Sunday with a new group of Malawi brothers and sisters at Malosa Zambezi Evangelical Church. And there was no mistaking it was Palm Sunday either as we spent the 70 mile drive from Blantyre on the Zomba road either dodging long lines of palm branch waving locals on the way to church, or the palm branch selling entrepreneurs desperate to make a quick buck!
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.
8th September 2013
In a country where Christian church buildings are so conspicuous, our time in Malawi is giving us a real insight into the ongoing need for the gospel in the country.
As you drive at night through the Malawi countryside you are immediately struck by the physical darkness of the place as so many struggle with the expense of providing lighting for their home, and the government struggles with the expense of lighting the streets. And certainly during our trip we also had to get used to repeated daily power outages that too often plunge everybody into deep black from 6 pm to 6 am.
However when you talk to the people of the countryside you understand – beyond their physical need for light – their far greater need for the spiritual light that only the Holy Spirit can bring.
20th August 2013
We arrived! Ruth and I arrived early this morning in Nairobi without too much hassle – except I dropped and cracked the screen of my iPhone. Nor did we get much sleep on the plane.
But it is amazing how quickly the Kenyans have set up temporary workarounds at the airport, using big tents to get things moving despite the huge fire they had. It was still faster through immigration than Heathrow on a good day – but that is not saying much!
25 June 2013
Eventually we had to tear ourselves away from the God-given peace of Casa Harului and head across to the ancient city of Alba Iuliu. Strategically located on the Mureş River, this city has Roman roots, was the capital of the Eastern Hungarian Kingdom, capital of the Principality of Transylvania, and sports an immense Austro-Hungarian bastion that excited my love for all things historic.
24 June 2013
On this trip to Romania we were determined to see more of the reputedly beautiful Romanian countryside, and to get a taste of some of the wider Christian ministry in the country. So Ruth and I – accompanied by our daughter and church friend – headed off eastwards on a road trip that took us through the beautiful green pastureland of Transylvania to the Casa Harului (meaning “House of Grace”)Christian campsite near Deva.
On our January trip to Carand we had met Beni Medrea and we were keen to meet up with him and his wife, Maria, to check out the stories we had heard about their alpine campsite that provided holidays, good food and sound Christian teaching to children from a wide variety of backgrounds. With clear vision, starting with army tents, and through decades of hard effort and strong partnership from UK Christians, this very special place rose out of a pasture near their family hill farm. Today it serves the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of disadvantaged families, physically disabled children and children with learning disabilities from a wide area of Romania.
21-24 June 2013
In June Ruth and I had the privilege of returning to Carand in Western Transylvania in Romania. This time we were joined by our daughter and a young woman from our parent church who has a heart for this lovely country and its people.
Last August I traveled to the global headquarters of One Mission Society (OMS) where I had an eye opening, and life challenging, introduction to their approach to church planting and multiplication. One of the biggest personal impacts came from being trained by an amazing group of humble, faithful, obedient disciples who had decades of real hard-won experience evangelizing and church planting around the world. The other big impact was the wonderful opportunity to meet with so many committed church planters from around the world, including the father/son pastor team of Daniel and Danny Ispas.
Wednesday 10th July
Our first full day in County Mayo started with a major discovery: inside two weeks we had been in two places with public spaces that were, for obvious reasons, called “Octagon”. The first was in Budapest, Hungary, and the second in Westport, County Mayo. Perhaps you know of more places by this name?
We were in Westport to meet Pastor Paudge Mulvihill who is the experienced but unassuming leader of Calvary Mission – a network of Christians working together to establish Bible-centred churches in the West of Ireland. Paudge is also a key partner for One Mission Society in the Republic of Ireland.
Sunday 7th July
The primary reason for Ruth and I recently being in Ireland was to meet up with various pastors of newly founded churches in the Republic of Ireland, to understand their challenges, and to see whether we might be called to such an environment. I had met some of those guys in Indiana last summer when we were receiving training together in approaches to “church planting and multiplication” with One Mission Society. For a while I became an “honorary Irishman” and we enjoyed great “craic” together as we cooked and ate together, and discussed all matters scriptural and theological long into the night – as so often seems the habit of the Irish!
One of the folk I got to know in Indiana was Andrew Compton who is the pastor at Midleton Evangelical Church in County Cork just down the road from Youghal where we were camped. The church has been going for a good few years now and, having outgrown their original premises, they now meet in some function rooms in a hotel in the center of the town.
At the start of our recent tour of Ireland, during the evening of 6th July, Ruth and I arrived at our little campsite a few miles outside Youghal as the sun moved fast towards the horizon and the midges, that love my skin so much, started to rise out of the grass. It was a beautifully green and manicured site, if a little cramped for our not-so-pop-up tent.
The lovely people around the camp site seemed determined to fit our British stereotype of the Irish: friendly fun loving hospitable people. The campsite owner welcomed us like long lost friends, and invited us to attend the rather noisy but good natured “Mad Hat” birthday party barbecue underway for her 30 year old daughter. And while erecting the tent I was hindered by the good intentions of an older relation of the owner’s, giving me his life story, his favourable prognosis for the weeks weather ahead, and his depressing if realistic prognosis for the Irish economy for the decade ahead.
But it was when we took an evening walk in Youghal itself that we really saw the contrasts that make this beautiful, welcoming, but troubled land so intriguing.
For Youghal is a lovely place resplendent in the faded 18th century splendour of an ancient walled port. So much so that it reminded us of a wonderful architectural mash up of the grandeur of Crieff in Pershire, the quiet harbour delights of North Berwick in Lothian, and the faded Victorian seaside attractions of Felixtowe in Suffolk!
But Youghal is also a place where – post tiger economy boom – only the pubs and the national church seemed to be getting any investment. We found the local park teaming with youngsters who were partying in the dusk; literally intoxicated by the worlds temporary liquid pleasures in a seemingly vain attempt to forget the spiritual and economic challenges their country faces. Perhaps it is little surprise that we discovered the net influx of young from around the world in the first decade of the new century has now reversed with emigration jumping back to 87K a year in 2012 as Ireland’s young once again strive for a better life overseas.
The more we talked to people as the week went on the more we understood that, with under 200 evangelical churches in the whole of the Republic, and despite the impressive buildings of the established church all around, their was a desperate shortage of people to quietly witness in word and deed to Jesus, the one true hope for a people who feel betrayed by their political class and betrayed by their national church.
While English speaking Ireland might look like an obvious place for us to consider spending the next phase of our lives, it fast became clear that despite the common language we needed to remember the huge cultural differences that appeared to lie just below the surface.
Like so many places we have recently visited, Ireland may give the visitor a lovely welcome, but it is also a troubled land that desperately needs to be loved and reached anew with Jesus’ Good News about true life in all its fullness.
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.