East Africa Trip Report: Malawi

By Laura Walta, Global Mission Director

February-March 2017

Trip Purpose and Summary: 
Believing in the value of face to face conversations with our mission partners, I planned a trip to East Africa, where I hoped to spend time with eight partners.    My purpose was simple: The Lord called me to learn more about what they are doing, where He is leading them, and how the congregations of the Diocese of Massachusetts might form deeper relationships with churches in their Diocese as they accompany one another on God's mission journey. My respect for them and their respective ministries is enormous. I wanted very much to involve each of them in this effort.

It had been three years since my last visit, and I had invitations from two new potential partners that I wanted to assess.  I wrote to each partner in advance, explaining that I planned to be in the area, the purpose of my trip, and asking if they would like me to spend some time with them.  All replied affirmatively, resulting in a five week, five country journey that fed all involved.  We traveled, we talked, we each shared and learned.  It was a trip of mutual discovery, inspired by the Holy Spirit, as we discovered God’s gifts and began to imagine new approaches and opportunities in each community.

The following is a brief outline of my trip, including each of the communities I visited.  My hosts were incredibly generous with their time and attention, sharing history, explaining context, and accompanying me on my journey.  Daily, I met Christ in them and the people around me, in their radical hospitality and loving care for me as a visitor.  For me, “seeking and serving” is learning and sharing a Christian direction and purpose.  For 35 days, that is exactly what happened, as I was blessed with the opportunity to live fully into my Baptismal Covenant with the peoples of East Africa.

Malawi

Diocese of Lake Malawi, Nkhotakota- host: Rev. Baird Mponda, Dean of All Saints Cathedral

This was my first visit to Malawi, at the invitation of the Rev. Baird Mponda, whom I had met first in 2014 at the annual Anglican Conference on World Mission in England.  We have remained in regular communication, and there is a strong interest on the part of Fr. Baird for a relational congregational partnership of the sort that we encourage and support in the Diocese of Massachusetts.  The Diocese of Birmingham (England) has a formal link with all four Dioceses of Malawi.  I have been in touch with them to ensure a collaborative approach.  I was honored to stay in the home of Fr. Baird, with his wife Grief, and his three small children- Chastity (7), Elite (3), and newborn Triumph.  The Cathedral sits on the site of missionary Livingstone, who in 1861 convinced the Chichewa chiefs to stop selling slaves to traders.  British missionaries arrived in 1894 to watchdog the treaty.  They built a church and house, and opened a primary school on their veranda for 100 village kids.  The current primary school on the property (serving 2000 students) was originally a school for the deaf and blind until 1945. 

Location All Saints Cathedral, Nkhotakota

Summary:  Architecture on the grounds was first built around 1900 and additions were made in 1950.  The current cathedral was completed in 1901 in traditional English style.  Eventually, they need to build a new Cathedral as the present one does not hold all congregants (800+ plus over 400 children) I met with the wardens and all of the leaders (chair, treasurer, secretary) of the various church ministries.  These are committed lay leaders, each passionate about their ministry.

Ministries:

  • Development- focused on a new roof, and completion of the Diocesan offices.  Would like to rehabilitate the Guest House, and restore the cemetery grounds where all previous Canons have been buried. Also looking to build a fence around the property to keep out stray goats, and provide additional security to the compound, which includes the primary school and the hospital. 
     
  • Mother’s Union- has 200 members, focuses on maintaining the sanctity of mothers faith, providing marriage support, child rearing assistance, spiritual practice (including Friday prayer meetings) and women’s counseling.  There are also hospital, prison, and aged/shut-in ministries.
     
  • Daughter’s of the King- an alternative to membership in the Women’s Union, its 35 members, focus on prayer, ministry of the Word, and servanthood.  They do door to door evangelism, reach out to the vulnerable, and are building commitment by youth to this way of life.
     
  • St. Agnes- 89 Daughters are aged 9-20 years old.  They are challenged by the range of interests among the various ages, and use prayer and inspiration, along with the wisdom of the Mother’s group.  Focused on ministry of the Word, Christian manners, farming, cooking and knitting.  Traditional and family focused, I encouraged them to take on a role in helping girls to develop and use their mind and voice, particularly around justice issues that affect quality of life- food security, medical care, education, clean water, sanitation, etc.  With several strong women between the two women’s groups, they might also focus on confidence building, and the power of organization. 
     
  • Father’s Union- coordinating with the Mothers on issues of marriage and childrearing, the Fathers support the men of the congregation over the age of 16 to develop spiritual practice and volunteerism with prayer and Bible study groups, outreach, and the idea that it is better to teach a man to fish than to give him fish.  It could also be effective to prepare them to see women as partners, and to respect the ideas and voice of women.
     
  • Sunday School- serves 400 children, toddlers through age 12.  At Age 13, young people prepare for Confirmation.
     
  • Choir- observed at least seven different choir groups of various ages, mostly female but a few have several male members, singing a huge variety of upbeat worship music, some acapella, with others accompanied by clapping, piano, guitar, drums, and other local instruments.
     
  • Elders- 4 per ward in each of 6 wards, elected by the Christians in each ward, look after the affairs of everyone in their ward and refer issues to the church. A social resource, they provide training in local village law, lay responsibilities in lieu of a priest, counseling and psycho/social support

Challenges: Drought and food insecurity are constant issues, as are income instability and difficulty paying medical and school fees.

Opportunities:

  • There is interest in training a few girls to be nuns, either here or abroad.
  • Commit strong women to develop the minds, voices, and confidence of younger girls.   
  • Commit men to encourage respect and partner with strong, educated young women who have much to offer in many areas of development.
  • Creation of a safe place for battered women to stay, and to develop work skills.
  • Build a pre-school/kindergarten for village children. 
  • Would like to revive the School for the Deaf and Blind- connect with the school in Jordon (Diocese of Jerusalem).
  • Restore the guesthouse- 3 singles + dormitory for 6-8, small kitchen, shared bath.

Requests:            

  • Prayers and partnership of a Diomass congregation
  • Prayer books and hymnals ?(Chichewa if possible); Way of the Cross pictures
  • Fr. Baird needs to finish his Bachelor’s degree (Malawi seminary is a 3 year certificate program) and would like to get his Masters in Family Therapy or Social Work
  • Well, bore hole drill to bring clean water to all of the villages, schools and hospitals without it

 

Location: Bishop Mtexateka Secondary School, Nkhotakota, Mr. Jasmine- headmaster

Summary: Rated #6 in the country, 90% of students pass 10th grade, and 80% of the students pass 12th grade, with 18% going on to university.  New curriculum adds topics, pupil centered teaching models, and emphasis on physics and chemistry. Of the 456 students, 50% are female.  Many live on-site in the hostel.  Class size is around 35.

Ministry:

  • The school serves both Christian and Muslim students in a peaceful community where the two faiths often inter-marry.  Muslims adapt to daily prayer and Bible study.
     
  • Lay Leader Training in leadership, finance, liturgy and discipline
     
  • Youth Seminars on behavioral change, HIV/AIDS/STDs, substance abuse, crime, peace
     
  • Agricultural activities 10 acres- maize, ground nuts, rice, banana
     
  • Vocational training- tailoring, carpentry
     
  • Religious seminars-conference room also used by other churches
     
  • Reforestation project, Solar Lamp distribution project to fishermen

Challenges:

  • No government funding, dependent on fees in a fishing/farming community
  • Need additional hostels for students who travel great distance to attend
  • Water and electricity are inconsistent
  • No permanent donors
  • Variable farm results due to floods and droughts

Opportunities:   

  • Accredited vocational training options for the 82% who do not go on to university
  • Fence to provide security
  • Livestock farming
  • Additional Hostel for 160 girls

Requests:

  • Prayers and partnership
  • Headmaster needs a Master’s Degree

 

Location:   St. Ann’s Hospital (Diocesan), Nkhotakota

Summary:
This is a level 3 hospital with 180 beds, providing universal coverage to women and children only, serving an 80km radius.  Salaries are paid by the government.

Ministry:

  • Treats Christian and Muslim community without discrimination
  • Serves 6808 outpatient mothers and 1921 of their children under age 5, with 194 antenatal surgeries.
  • Serves 1234 outpatients with HIV/AIDS and a small number of family planning                     Serves 1552 inpatient (excluding deliveries), plus 210 inpatient deliveries including 104 C sections, and 304 general surgeries

Challenges:

  • Many- a rural area with no health insurance, dependent on inconsistent incomes from farming and fishing, makes for inconsistent user fees to cover fixed expenses. 
  • Only room for problem pregnancies and previous C Sections, 60% deliver at home- government wants 100%
  • A shortage in medical graduates (one school) staying in Malawi makes filling vacancies difficult (up to 2 years) and retaining staff even harder with stiff competition by other providers.
  • The hospital has no computers, and a manual accounting system
  • Unreliable electricity
  • Hospital runs at an annual deficit to the detriment of plant and equipment maintenance and repair
  • Virtually no diagnostic equipment
  • Refer too many cases to worse hospitals for lack of equipment
  • New attention on non-communicable diseases but no resources


Opportunities:

  • Continuing education and advancement opportunities for support staff                               
  • Develop local mentors and resources
  • Low cost prescription medicines
  • Rehab staff housing
  • Identify used medical equipment resources
  • Internship site for a medical school?

Requests:

  • Prayers and partnership
  • 20 computers and an intranet
  • Even just one computer and some accounting software?
  • Medical equipment: Infant resuscitation equipment, fetal monitors, warming machine, nebulizers for asthma
  • EKG machine, Microscope, Centrifuge, Chemistry analyzer, Sterilizing equipment
  • Oxygen machines and Generator
  • Sheets and blankets
  • Scrubs and gowns for the operating theater
  • Surgical scissors and forceps