Thursday, August 25, 2011
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
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: http://www.compassrosesociety.org) 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
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:
Monday, August 15, 2011
On Saturday before we arrived they delivered 15 babies. They avers some 165 births a month. They do check ups for new borns. They see the mothers before and after they give birth. They are a clinic who serve some 51,000 people from the surrounding villages; some even come out of Blantyre to their clinic.
They had very little space and supplies were everywhere and they went through them very quickly. The first area I visited was for the mothers and their children. It was packed I bet there were over 50 families waiting in line to see the doctor. While they are waiting they listen and are encouraged to watch videos about malaria and HIV/AIDS prevention. They also watch pre-natal, childcare, and family planning videos.
We then made our way to another building were expectant mothers were waiting. They had about 25 waiting for check-ups. I met the midwife who then gave me a tour of the delivery room and then took me in to see the new mothers and their babies. They can only stay one day after they give birth and then must make their way home. One of the mothers was supposed to go home but waited to see us. We were there to meet them and give them all malaria nets.
While they are in the clinic they have a number of nets so most, though not all, are protected from the mosquitos. We then went to another part of the building where the mothers waited to deliver. Many times the young mothers would arrive to early. So they stayed in this other ward. Unfortunately, they did not have nets. The midwife confessed that they did not have enough beds sometimes.
Malaria continues to be a major factor in healthy mothers and children. You can make a difference and help the Diocese of Texas meet its goal of giving 30,000 nets by going right now to our website and giving: http://www.epicenter.org/give-online
Each net will help cover 5 people and can save the lives of many young children.
The Diocese of Southern Malawi partners with Doctors without Boarders, the EU, and many other groups to help make this clinic successful. It is a government run clinic but without the many NGO (non governmental organizations) it could not make a go of it.
The Diocese of Southern Malawi has built and is now putting in the windows to a new maternity clinic in another part of the region. This clinic will be very similar but will be run solely by the Diocese and its partners and it will serve an area which has no medical care for mothers and their children at this time. We the Diocese of Texas along with other Episcopal partners and the Anglican Communion are making a tremendous effort take shape here in Southern Malawi. There is still a lot of work to be done. We will need to furnish the clinic before it opens.
After our visit to the clinic we headed to the Leonard Komungu Theological College. We were met there by Dean Alinafe. We began with tea which was nice after our busy morning and drive. We visited with the professors of New and Old Testament as well. Dean Alinafe teaches systematic theology. A number of the clergy in the diocese serve as adjucts as well.
The school property was purchased by the province and stood vacant for some time. The students mostly went to the Presbyterian seminary down the road which had an Anglican study program. The students grew maize on the property.
Then a company came to build a dam in the area. The company offered to build the buildings and use them in exchange for the lease. Then when they were done they would give it to the church. So that is how the College came to be built. Later funds have redone some of the spaces and built classrooms and the new library.
The goal of the college is sustainability. The different diocese of the province all are responsible for dues which keep the college open. However, not everyone pays or pays on time which creates a problem for the school. So, the school is combining agricultural technology with revenues and education. They have a crop which they feed some portion to their pigs, which multiply, and they sell. They already have a goodly number of pigs and the crops have prepared them for a good return this year. The seminarians help and they too learn the trade. So as they go out and serve congregations many are implementing the same skills to create revenue and self-supporting congregations.
We went down to see the chapel which was originally designed as a garage. You would not have known it from the outside or inside. They showed me around and then we went up to the altar. They pulled back the frontal and told me this story about the altar.
One of the great men of their diocese was a man whose name was Chauncey Maples. He was a missionary and went to England to be consecrated their fifth bishop. Chauncey made his way home by way of a boat. Not just any boat but a river boat steamer which was used as a floating Anglican Theological College and missionary tool to reach different parts of Malawi. (It was later given over to the government and was used as one of Malawi's official fleet). The steamship had a chapel and library on it. Along the way Chauncey died before reaching his see in Malawi. He was thrown over board and new the steamer cold not return to get him. So he left his cassock on that they would know when they found him that they had found the bishop. The Steamship was later retired. Some years ago in a mission not far from the college they found the altar from the Anglican Missionary Steamship. That today is the altar in the chapel!
We then toured the library and classrooms. The library now holds more than 17,000 volumes and is the largest library of its kind in the city. Most Malawians do not have books. They are too expensive. So a library is an essential treasure to the school. Somba where the college is located is an education town with a number of universities and colleges (secular and theological).
They are hoping to open up a computer lab. This will have the obvious impact for the students who attend. But as part of their revenue plan they will lease out time on the computers to other students in the town.
They also lease space in a dormitory for students who do not attend the school using space that is not otherwise occupied and bringing in funds.
I was very impressed and echoed Dean Travis interest in exploring ways our two schools might be in relationship with one another.
After the tour we headed up for lunch on top of the nearby mountain which overlooked the lake created by the damn builders. They had a wifi hot spot so we were able to do a little work before heading back into town.
You can follow my photo journal from my trip here:
Sunday, August 14, 2011
We drove out of Blantyre and down out of the Shire Highlands onto the Shire plain itself which is called Chihkwawa (pronounced something like chick-wa-wa). This is a great valley along the Shire river which flows into the Zambezi river. The valley is in fact the souther end of the great Rift valley that marches northward to the horn of Africa. This part of Southern Malawi is where much of the sugar cane is grown.
We headed for a late afternoon drive in the Nyala Game Preserve which is in the midst of the Illovo Sugar Plantation; just one of the plantations nearby. We saw monkeys, giraffes, wildebeests, several species of deer, water buffalo and zebra. Then as the sun set over the valley we made our way to the Illovo Plantation headquarters and club where we would spend the night.
As we made our way we could see the fields being burned. They actually burn the fields before they harvest the sugar cane. This gets all of the small creatures and snakes out of the field. Then the cutters go in and cut the fields. The cane is piled by the side of the road and then these giant sugar trains come and pick up the cane and take it to the plant which works 24 hours a day. They use everything here; making use of all the byproducts and refuse. An example that I found fascinating was that they pour the byproduct of sugar - molasses - on the roads like tar. This keeps the dust down. Most all of the congregation that we visited and many of the surrounding parish stations are filled with workers from the different layers of people it takes to run the plantation; from the cutters to the managers.
We spent the night at the "Club" and ate dinner. We saw bats flying low to the ground. I assume they were gathering up mosquitoes. There were also a lot of frogs hopping around. We had a good dinner and headed to our rooms. I had a small room with a desk and bed (every bed has a mosquito net - a constant reminder of malaria). Though I must say there have been very few mosquitoes on this trip. I sat at the desk and finished my sermon and called the girls at home.
I woke up and went out immediately to get a closer look at the Shire river whose banks ran up agains the gardens of the club. I ate breakfast Bishop James informed me there were hippos! So I got my camera and went out and watched a small group of three hippos snooze in the Shire river; wiggling their ears and swimming around from time to time.
Then we headed to All Saints for our parish church visitation. Here the parish will have several churches and several mission stations; organized similar to our convocations back home. When the bishop comes he comes to the parish and the Archdeacon tells him which church they would like him to go to and everyone meets the bishop there. We were going to All Saints which is one of the smaller but growing churches in the parish. Father Raphael is doing excellent work and his stations are expanding in the parish and he told us they were about to increase the size of the church because they could no longer fit when everyone came. The people work in shifts so not everyone is there at the same time.
The people who attended our service came from the plantation village nearby. But some came from the stations that are 15, 30, and 70 km away. They came by foot, bicycle taxi, and bus.
When we got about a quarter mile away we could see the blue and white uniforms of the Mother's Union, and the junior girls group called the St. Agnes guild. They came out to meet us. James and I got out of the car and the women danced, clapped, and sang as we made our way the last few blocks to the church and clergy residence. They were singing something like "praise God, praise God, our bishop is here, praise God, praise God, our bishop is here safely. It was a beautiful moment as I remembered Bishop James praying for us in the car before we left home the day before. And, there was a sense of grace and peace to the event that was wonderful.
We dressed and got ready and then processed in the same fashion into the church where the congregation was waiting and all were singing. I recorded some of the singing from the worship service. Some of the singing was unaccompanied and strikingly beautiful like the Gloria. Other parts were just as exciting and filled with praise and accompanied by electric piano.
The service was just like our prayer book service in many ways. I preached and Father Raphael translated. Then Bishop James and I confirmed together. I prayed our prayer in English, then we anointed them with oil as he prayed in Chichewa, the most common native language. We celebrated Eucharist together.
When we were finished the Sr. Warden, then the head of the Mother's Union, and then Father Raphael gave a parochial report to the bishop in front of the congregation. This included everything from youth events, mission numbers, finances, outreach programs, and upcoming work.
Then Bishop James spoke and ended his address to the parish with a teaching on HIV/AIDS. He asked those in the congregation to raise their hands if they had been tested. Then he asked the congregation to repent from non-testing and we prayed. It is essential to be tested because of the conditions. There are many ways in which people pass on the HIV/AIDS virus; the biggest problem is that those who don't know don't take precautions.
After he was finished I was asked to speak again. I said a few words. I told them about that Lyle Lovett song called church and described it to them this way. I began, "Now I am the preacher. And the song says preacher you have been preaching, but the food is ready, its time to eat, so let your people go home...go home..." They laughed. Then I said, "As a bishop though...I always have a few more words." They laughed at that too. I greeted them again and told them how strong a parish they were and how I would be proud to be their bishop given the missionary work they are doing.
When we were done. Father Raphael invited me to come forward. "Bishop," he said, "The congregation has a few words for you now!" They brought me forward and made me sit in the middle of the congregation. Then a the head of the Mother's Union, an elder, one of the wardens, and a church leader came forward and singing and dancing. They brought me two gifts. Father Raphael made me open them. He said, "The people of this congregation has decided to make you one of their chiefs. And, if you are to be a chief they need to know you are a chief, and a chief needs beautiful fabric to wear, so they have given you this hand made fabric." Then they wrapped me up in the fabric. It was really cool. Also, they presented me with a carved chalice which has an elephant, giraffe, and hippo on it, with a baobab tree.
Then it was Bishop James' and Josie's turn. I remembered in that moment that the last several places they had been he had received a goat. All I could think of during the procession of gifts was what if they give him a goat. Our car was pretty full with all of us traveling together and our luggage! There wasn't much room.
They didn't give him a goat this time. They did give him several sacks of maize, rice, and sugar. The gave him a basket and some very good plates for the kitchen. They also gave hims some beautifully ripe tomatoes and a live chicken. Then all I could think about was how were we going to get that chicken home.
Well, the chicken's feet were tied together, and they shoved him in the back of the car with the luggage and other gifts. He was fine when we got home...except he had loosened his foot ties and got out a little ahead of schedule! I think they will have to chase him to put him in the chicken coop.
Certainly this was out of the ordinary for me, but it was very moving. The gifts they gave were tremendously generous. In a congregation on an average Sunday with several hundred members that gives about 25 US dollars total, to have brought forth such generous gifts - real first fruits - was amazing. It was certainly a modern day image of the widow's mite.
Father Raphael asked if I had any animals at home. I said we had cats. He said, "I mean cattle?" I said, "No, JoAnne and I would love to have chickens but our neighborhood doesn't allow it. So we have to buy all our eggs and meat." I did mention to Bishop James that Bishop Rayford does have a longhorn on his property.
When we left we traveled a little way back towards the Shire Highlands. But before we crossed the river we drove off the road to a shrine. The shrine overlooks the Shire river and is erected near the graves of the first Anglican priests that brought medicine and the Anglican Church to Malawi. I could tell for Bishop James, who is a historian that this was very special and that it was very important to have this in his diocese. I was glad he brought me there as I am reading the history of the Anglican Church in Malawi written by him. But I was also glad because was special that he shared it with me.
We arrived home and Bishop James did some work with religious leaders from the Council of Churches and the government on the national prayer service that is planned for Tuesday afternoon. I relaxed a little and began the process of writing this blog and updating the photo journal.
It was a good day, a full day, and a long day. I was blessed by my experiences today and the pictures and blog cannot capture the images I have been privileged to experience over these last few days. It seems as though the time has flown by and soon I will leave. There is still more to do though and the next two days will be experiences in and of themselves. We travel to a different part of the diocese tomorrow morning.
Blessings to you all.
Follow this link to the photo journal:
Saturday, August 13, 2011
The topic of my conversation was leadership - a big surprise. I talked about our Diocesan vision and how we are trying to drive that through the organization. I talked about the key elements of our work: leadership, connection/networking, and formation. Then I Bishop James asked that I talk with them about how the clergy in the Diocese of Texas work together and some of our successes in common ministry.
They found out that I am like many bishops and can talk quite a bit. So, I kept them busy and then we had a nice tea break on the lawn. I was able to visit with some of them. As I mentioned in the photo journal I saw Charles who studied at General for a while and was present when Bishop Harrison was consecrated bishop. I also got to meet Martin who is a VTS grad and who knows a number of our good priests.
When we returned we had a time of conversation where in they shared with me some of their challenges and asked some questions. I think one of the most interesting take-aways was how much we have in common. These were good men who are working hard for the Lord and trying to do their best. They have challenges regarding time, prayer, study, and rest not unlike our own clergy; not unlike me...
They asked me the following questions: what is our diocese like (stewardship, number of congregations, size)? They were interested in the demographics and our particular mission challenge in the U.S. They wanted me to speak about the nature of our youth and young adult mission work. They asked me who was responsible for the mission; and I explained that we all were. It was a very good give and take.
Then I asked them what would you like me to take home? What would you like me to share with the people of my diocese? This is what they said. Tell them they have two homes now; Texas and in Malawi and we would welcome them to come home. Tell them that we are hoping that more parishes will link with our parishes so that we can learn from one another. Tell them we are grateful for allowing the Bishop to come and be with us as it reminds us of our connection to a global communion/church. Tell them we are interested in possible "distance learning." Is it possible for us to connect electronically with one another, between our seminaries, so that we can share and learn together? And, finally I am to bring back with me to Texas their deepest love, and regards.
When we were finished I was presented with a beautiful embroideried table cloth sewn by the HIV/AIDs community in Thyolo. It is wonderful and a very kind gift. This is where I visited my first day on the ground.
I then had another radio interview on my trip and what I was seeing in the church and mission field here in Malawi.
As my luggage has still not yet arrived I went shopping after a brief lunch with Bishop James. Best food of the day was: sweet potato leaves, surprisingly excellent; a little like spinach.
On Friday afternoon I had a bit of time to myself. I caught up on some preparations for Sunday's sermon.
Then I joined Bishop James and the Development Board for a meeting and dinner. This group is something like a combination between the Diocese of Texas Executive Board and Church Corporation. They gave a great presentation. I will be bringing it back with me and using it to inform our own diocese about the work being done here. The highlight was seeing the tremendous amount they are doing!Thanks to the generosity of the Diocese of Texas we have helped with their strategic planning, to support an orphanage, to help students stay at Trinity school (I will visit there next week), and Boreholes. The boreholes are wells. Many of the people who uses these boreholes must walk some 4 km and then wait in line for 6 hours in order to get fresh water - one bucket full. Each well is serving some 300 families which is about 1500 to 1800 people!
Here is a link to my photo journal or you can click the title of this article and be taken directly there: https://picasaweb.google.com/ajsdoyle/AfricaTripToSouthernMalawi
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.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
I was invited to greet them; which I did in the name of Jesus Christ, and told them of my family's and diocese's wishes for them.
We went straight to the Bishop's home where we had coffee together and visited. We spent much of the afternoon talking about Southern Malawi and the country's challenges. We also reviewed our schedule and made plans for the week. Then we went into town to several grocery stores for some items, and the Bishop explained the economic life of Blantyre.
We had a delightful evening with his wife Josie and their daughter Susan. Susan is a law student and is currently working on an internship. Josie works as an accountant at the International School here. It is a small school with some 400 students. I explained that that would be a very big private school in the U.S. Many of the private Anglican schools here, while not many in number, have 600 to 800 students per grade!
We ended the evening sitting on the back porch doing what friends do ... solving the problems of the world. It has been a great day and the hospitality has been so generous and kind. I am truly overwhelmed by their welcome.
On Thursday we travel to a tea plantation and visit a congregation there.
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