Wednesday, August 17, 2011

My last full day in Southern Malawi

On my last full day in Malawi I went out with the Diocesan Secretary, Godfrey, to a youth conference that was being held at Trinity Anglican School which is outside Blantyre by about 30 minutes.

Trinity Anglican School is a relatively new school. It was purchased from a school that went out of business. They are remodeling the buildings. Creating a computer lab, library with books in it, meeting space, a school store, and dorms. The dormitories are important because many of the children travel for a long distance to attend school. Being able to stay at the school insures they will attend regularly. Therefore, the school has both boarders and day students from the surrounding villages.

Being able to attend the event and see Trinity school had a multiplicity of purposes. It gave me time with the youth but it also allowed me as a member of the Compass Rose Society (the Anglican and global missionary society. You can read more about the society and how to become a member here: to see how some of our monies are being used. The school is a beneficiary of a mission trip taken by board members some years ago. The Compass Rose has helped to supply the school and get it off to a good start. Also, I was able to bring with me financial support for the diocese from the Society which underwrites participating in the youth event itself. It ensures that orphans, and the poor can attend with no worries.

They do four to six of these youth conferences a year. 100 to 150 students attend. They are there for several days. The conferences are held around the diocese. The conferences bring together youth leaders from the different parishes and different churches across the diocese. It reminds me of how we used to do EYC Council in the Diocese of Texas where we gathered representatives from the different parishes and convocations.

I was invited to celebrate and preach. Then after a tour of the school I was invited to tea with the youth and to receive a number of presentations. They read poems, sang songs, and performed a skit. The latter shows that universally youth skits are silly and hilarious. We had quite the group of performers!

Afterwards there were several more formal presentations from the youth leadership and coordinators. These included insight into the work of the conference. The youth have set as their goals to improve the communities of their churches and Malawi through the work and ministry of:

HIV/AIDS and STD education
Family planning
And job training

They also are very clear about the importance of prayer and reading the scripture.

This work is done as a cooperative project between the youth of the diocese (which make up 60% of the Diocese of Southern Malawi church attendance), the diocesan staff, and the minister of youth from the Malawian government.

I have been struck on my trip to Africa by the notion that the growth in numbers of Christians has to do with the combined evangelical proclamation of the Gospel AND the fact that each of these churches see clearly a role for social interaction and the need to be part of the solution to their culture's needs. It is truly a Gospel that is proclaimed in Word and Action.

I officially opened the conference. I then invited the youth to be in conversation with me about their life and ministry.

I was surprised and delighted when the session turned out to be something akin to what we call in the states "preacher on a hot seat." The youth asked me: Why did Jesus ask Peter three times if he loved him? Why if Paul says we can't see the kingdom of heaven do we even bother praying? Is it possible for God to heal you from HIV/AIDS as some of the pentecostal preachers claim? What is our youth ministry like in Texas? Do the youth of the U.S. believe in God? And, the last question was a liturgical one. The young lady asked why we had done something different during our Eucharist celebration when she understood it was doctrine. This also reveals that most in the U.S. or in Malawi many people think their liturgical customs are the full expression of Anglican liturgy. I wish that people throughout the communion would have the privilege and honor as some do to experience the length and breadth of our worship as Anglicans!

In the afternoon I rested a bit and got a latte! Quite the treat. Then I packed and worked on sorting out pictures and got ready for the evening.

I attended a wonderful event at St. Paul's Cathedral in downtown Blantyre. Where leaders of the diocese gathered to celebrate with me my visit. We had a wonderful traditional meal. Chambo (fish) is a local delicacy and one of my new favorites.

After dinner I was introduced to the leadership which I had not yet met. Then Bishop James gave the history of the Diocese of Texas with Malawi. In the 1970s the Diocese of Texas began a partnership relationship with the diocese here which was at that time encompassed the whole of the country of Malawi. During those early years the Diocese of Texas grew the partnership with a group called "The Friends of Malawi." This group included a number of strong diocesan leaders, Bishop Suffragan Roger Cilley and then Bishop Suffragan Bill Sterling. During those early years before the division the Diocese of Texas funded a small clinic which we supported into a hospital which is called St. Luke's and is even today serving in the Diocese of Upper Shire, north of where I am visiting. Also, Bishop Cilley came to Malawi in 1982 (we think) to open the new Diocesan Center which continues to serve the Diocese of Lake Milawi in Lilongwe. The Diocese of Texas has served to help support each new diocese as it was forming and getting on its feet. Today we are continuing a 40 year tradition as we support the diocese of Southern Malawi in its early stages of building a strong foundation for mission and ministry.

It has been a great trip. I have made many new friends. I have also deepened the friendships of those whom I met on their visit to the U.S. We are hoping that Bishop James will be with us for clergy conference this year and he will be bringing with him his minister of health - Geoffrey.

I now that as we are faithful to our global communion partnership both our diocese will be strengthened.

As we were waiting to go out last night we watched a show on the science of what makes people happy. The scientist talked about jobs, money, relationships and all the many things that seem to be the bedrock of what makes people happy. In the end of the program he said there is one common denominator to all of these things and that is "relationship experiences." I can say after a week of visitations throughout the diocese of Southern Malawi that I have had a rich experience of love and hospitality and I am very happy!

Blessings to all of you have been reading along. I look forward to sharing my slides and the information I have gathered here with the different groups supporting the Malawi mission. I am of course eager to be home with my family (both JoAnne and the kids and the Diocese of Texas). And, I am looking forward to picking up my schedule of visitations.

You can see the last pictures uploaded in my photo journal here:

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  • "Christianity is not a theory or speculation, but a life; not a philosophy of life, but a life and a living process." Samuel Taylor Coleridge
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