As part of the ongoing twinning relationship, a group of people from Ayr Presbytery journey to the Presbyteries of Bandawe and Limphasa (Nkhata Bay) in the north of Malawi (Part 2 – written by George Fiddes)
Day 6 : Another day in the warm heart of Africa and we had to go to the Bank in Mzuzu to cash more travellers cheques. Dealing with money can be a bit of a problem in as much that until very recently the biggest denomination note is a 500 Malawian Kwacha worth £1.25p. There is a necessity to carry large amounts of paper money. We split the team to have some go to the bank where it can take up to and over an hour for the fairly simple process of cashing travellers cheques, some to buy more soap, biscuits and sweets while I went to the Synod of Livingstonia Office to meet with the Deputy General Secretary of the CCAP, Rev Maurice Munthali. We spent over half an hour talking about the church in Malawi and Scotland and the partnership between the Presbytery of Ayr and Bandawe and Limphasa. It was a good meeting which finished with Maurice praying .
Our day in some ways was off to a slow start as we were now trying to catch up as we headed for the church at Nkhata Bay, partnered with Newton Wallacetown. On arrival we were greeted by a large number of the local school children and then ushered into the church for speeches and presentations. We were joined by the local M.P. who was so glad for the involvement in the building of new classrooms that he felt it was very worthwhile to come and meet with our delegation from the Presbytery of Ayr. We were given a tour of the work being undertaken and then lunch at the Manse with the minister, Rev Bright Chirwa.
We departed as quickly as was polite asset off to Nkhata Bay to board a boat taking us to Sanje prayer house and then to Chisangawe. We boarded the boat which was an open boat with an outboard motor and with about a dozen people on board. It was too late in the day to go to the furthest prayer house at Chisangawe. After a 40 minute journey we were welcomed by a crowd of children standing on the beach at Sanje singing ‘I have decided to follow Jesus’ and we paraded to the prayer house where part of the roof had been bought with money from my sponsored slim! There were speeches and presentations and we gave gifts of money to the church, soap powder to the Woman’s Guild and biscuits to the Sunday School and some musical instruments for the children. We were given another meal and then back to the boat for the return trip to Nkhata Bay; after 10 minutes it was dark and after twenty minutes the sky was full of stars. We were met by our faithful driver Owen and back to Phiri Manse where settled in and had another meal and met many old friends. The sleeping arrangements were that Stephen and I were sharing one room and the ladies (all four) shared another room (at 10.30pm I was reminded of some of the noises of giggling and stifled laughter that come from a girl’s dormitory!) What a good day and the team are working well together.
Day 7 : We were woken by an African alarm clock (cockerel)at about 4.15 am and it had a snooze function that went off every twenty minutes or so and then there was the stir of the ladies as they lit fires and started cooking and heating water for us to get washed. The day had begun; we breakfasted, packed and then took the opportunity to have a look around the Arthur Nursery (named after Arthur Christie). This used to meet outside or in the church but they now have three classrooms courtesy of generous donations from some friends in Belgium and Holland. We were heading for the Mlore McAlpine nursery twinned with Dundonald Parish Church. We stopped at the main church at Mjaka and had the usual great welcome and exuberant singing. We went into the church for speeches and we gave gifts to the church. We met with the people there were many children there and Steven and I made some balloon hats for the children and the Woman’s Guild!!
Next, the Manse where were given a meal even although a little after 11 am and we received gifts. From there we travelled to the nursery to be greeted by the children and adults with great joy. The nursery building looked wonderful and they had maintained it very well with primary colours, a chalk board and some toys. The church nearby had added to it with an iron roof and the floor had been cemented but there is still work to be done. We received word that we were expected at Sange vestry although it was on our itinerary for tomorrow but decided that we should go. We were welcomed and a somewhat truncated ceremony and speeches but after the exchange of more gifts and more food we left to the sound of singing and cheers. We had then to travel to Mzuzu for a meal with Rev. & Mrs. Matiya Nkhoma, former General Secretary of the CCAP Synod of Livingstonia, now Vice Chancellor of the University of Livingstonia, and another volunteer from the university from Seattle. Afterwards, a long trip home for the night.
Day 8 : Our day was to have a slower start as we had been to Sanga Vestry later in the day yesterday and we were late back to the Chinteche Inn. I was up shortly after 6 am and took the chance to send my blog. The Bandawe Presbytery Clerk Rev Kachepa Mughogho arrived around 7.30am to greet us and we invited him to have breakfast with us and we went over the proposed programme of events for the next couple of days. We set off for the Mkundi Orphan Care Centre which is now a recognised Community Based Organisation. We had a tour and were shown the fish pond where fish are kept for protein for the children and the pig pen with a number of pigs and some four day old chicks that were being reared for six weeks before being sold. We were shown the kitchen and the production of nsima, the tailoring training and the workshop for woodwork; then lunch was served (not nsima!). Following lunch there was a ceremony with local dignitaries and the five area chiefs and the chief of chiefs. The speeches were many and some were long and we were shown the level of education that was achieved in the nursery. There was dancing from the children and the exchanging of gifts. The people of Malawi are constantly expressing their gratitude for the sense of partnership that exists between them and the people of Scotland.
The team split as time was going on and some went to visit Tiziwne Orphan Care Centre in Malaza (U.K. Charity 3rd. World Hope). We took time to discuss the situation in Mkundi with the costs of food and the building of two nursery classrooms. We returned to the Sambani Inn for an evening meal followed by a lengthy discussion of that had taken place that day. There was a real sense of the providence of God and God’s guiding hand on all that we about on this trip.
Day 9 : Breakfasted and off for 8.20 am for what was a long and busy day. Our first port of call was to the prayer house at Kandwere, belonging to Thipula church. We were greeted in the usual warm and noisy way by members of the church and children from the nursery. There was prayer and singing and the giving and receiving of gifts and we were able to hear of the new church building taking shape behind us, the people were still worshipping in the open air. We found that there were many new churches being built to make it easier for people to worship as many travel long distances to get to church. In the greeting that we received from the Session Clerk he said “be at peace” and felt strongly that this was a word for myself for the day.
We were soon on our way to Bandawe Station where we were to spend the rest of the day, seeing the school and the accommodation there; primary classes with around a hundred pupils and hardly any resources at all. They were pleased that they had electricity so students could work in the evenings. We saw the dormitories where the children of the secondary school were sleeping eight to a room that was intended for four. We split the team again with Julie Griffiths from Alloway accompanied by our resident photographer spending more time at the school as her church and local schools had a link to the Bandawe schools, Sandra McCall went to cash travellers cheques in Chinteche (to be faced with a real interrogation and many phone calls made to ascertain if what she was doing was legitimate). Fiona Ferrans and Fiona Curran and I went to the School for hearing impairment and were able to unveil bunk beds gifted by Ayr Presbytery so the children no longer had to sleep on the floor. We planted trees to mark our visit.
Lunch and presentations were at the manse and again more speeches and kind words. We went later to the dispensary that sees some 120 people per month but is poorly resourced but still giving a service to the school and community. We finally met with the Kawia Widows association and spent some time with them in the Thipula Church and then waited for the presbytery meeting which started over an hour late. Greetings, gifts and our views were exchanged and then we signed a new twinning agreement. A meal was served before we squeezed 16 people into the small minibus to drop some off at their homes before getting back to bed. A long but good day……Oh! I also became a grandfather to twin girls Jessica and Alys.