Friday, August 12, 2011
We were up and out today. Benjamin picked me up and we drove from the Bishop's home to a Church and picked up Father Makweya and then to the Diocesan Offices to pick up the secretary of the Diocese Godfrey. Both Makweya and Godfrey visited the United States when we signed the papers making Texas a companion diocese with Southern Malawi.
These three were my companions for the day. We headed through a series of towns out into the area of Malawi known for its tea plantations. The tea was very green and some of it was being harvested. We arrived mid morning in Thyolo Parish. It is located in the Shire Highlands. The town itself is an administrative trade center.
The Congregation is called All Saints. This congregation has two outlying mission posts and is served by Father Willard. He was present to meet me as were the founding families of the parish and a number of other members of the congregation. Dottie one of the members of the congregation said that she had met Bishop Richardson many moons ago. She was taking pictures and like the other members were very hospitable and gracious. Chip's family had founded the congregation as an ecumenical church and the building had been erected in the 1950s and then after that a number of outlying buildings.
The Diocesan Health Officer, Geoffrey, who I believe will be with us this October if all goes well was also present.
The congregation while beginning primarily as a English parish is now mixed with services in both the native language and in English.
They put me right to work. I joined the elderly for grace. Then we served porridge and tea. Originally the congregation had served some 40 elderly on a daily basis. Today they are serving 90 or more a mixture of soy, corn, sugar and milk which provides them with more nutrition than they are able to get. When you can no longer work then living is difficult.
The congregation also serves a population of about 30 HIV patients.
And, the day I was present they were having a creche. A creche is when they gather the children and teach them their numbers and shapes. Today the parish hall and church were filled with children and volunteers. We served them porridge as well.
After some time of being present, learning about the different programs (sewing and brick making) I was able to visit with these wonderful servants who were trying to transform the lives of the community around them. They gathered and I offered them greetings from the Diocese of Texas and the Episcopal Church. I talked to them about our value of reaching out and serving others - transforming lives. I shared with them some of the ministries that the Diocese of Texas does: El Buen and Lord of the Streets. Then I told them how amazing it was to see servants of God working so hard to heal the world around them. I shared with them that while we are far away we are very close in the kingdom.
They had told me that before the outlying buildings were finished they served the elderly and the children in the midst of the altar table and sanctuary. The image of God's kingdom spiritually fed that it may feed the world was a powerful metaphor for this visit.
I then invited them to share with me and they were gracious and glad of my visit. They had been waiting and were I think proud that I had recognized their good work. These were great people and it was a wonderful beginning to my pilgrimage to see the mission work of the Diocese of Southern Malawi.
After the visit I did a radio interview which aired Thursday morning on national radio. And, I was video taped as the Diocese is putting together a tape of their mission and ministry. They had also interviewed the parishioners and the community.
We left to see the paper recycling center. Operated by four women and one man this small operation is a central ingredient to a redevelopment plan which teaches new sustainable farming techniques hand in hand with health education and technical training like the paper recycling. You can learn more about their work at this web site:
They showed me how they soak the paper, pound it into pulp, press the paper and dry it. They also showed me how they make bricks out of the left over material for fuel to cook.
When we were done touring the site we left for lunch. We first made our way to the foot of Mount Mulanje which is the tallest mountain in Southern Malawi. Then we went to one of the parishioners restaurants on a game preserve where we shared a delightful lunch.
Then the guys took me to an open air market where we purchased tomatoes and onions before heading back into town. It was a great day and we laughed a lot as I enjoyed the company of my friends.
By clicking the title of this post you can go to my picassa web album and see the pictures of my trip; they include captions.
- "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
- "Most people are willing to take the Sermon on the Mount as a flag to sail under, but few will use it as a rudder by which to steer." Oliver Wendell Holmes
- "Perfection, in a Christian sense, means becoming mature enough to give ourselves to others." Kathleen Norris
- "Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can." John Wesley
- "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried." G. K. Chesterton
- "One of our great allies at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy. But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans." C. S. Lewis
- "When we say, 'I love Jesus, but I hate the Church,' we end up losing not only the Church but Jesus too. The challenge is to forgive the Church. This challenge is especially great because the church seldom asks us for forgiveness." Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey
- "Christians are hard to tolerate; I don't know how Jesus does it." Bono
- "It's too easy to get caught in our little church subcultures, and the result is that the only younger people we might know are Christians who are already inside the church." Dan Kimball