Rev Bob Milne is a volunteer with the World Mission Council in Zomba Presbytery of the Church of Central Africa, Blantyre Synod, Malawi. Bob was commissioned on 24th February in Comrie Parish Church and will be writing a series of blogs during his time in Malawi.
When arrangements were made for my arrival here the primary consideration was the start of the new semester, which was Monday 11th March. This also fitted in well with what Zomba Presbytery had in mind, so arrival at end of February was agreed. As an added bonus I was told it would mean I would miss the rains as they would be long gone by now.
All I can say is: Ha!
I am writing this on Friday and it is raining heavily. Had I written it yesterday I could have said the same. Had I written it Wednesday I could have said the same. Had I written it Tuesday I could have said the same because’ in fact, it has rained steadily almost without a break since Monday afternoon. Heavy continual rain, the kind of rain of which in Scotland you say “Well it won’t last long like this” but here it does! In fact when it did eventually relent, for a quarter of an hour, the other night the lack of noise on my corrugated iron roof caused me to wake up! Normal service though was quickly resumed.
Flood warnings have been issued for some areas and I was told that heavy rain in March was last noted some ten or eleven years ago. The general consensus is it’s further evidence of climate change. I have had the opportunity to visit Canada in all months of the year and it is very true there that snow, whilst it causes some problems, is expected and catered for, the same goes for rain in Malawi, even when it comes out of season.
Huge channels are there either side of nearly all roads which, even at the height of the downpour yesterday, were coping admirably with the run off and taking it down to the next stream. When all those streams issue into the same river then there can be problems of course. Sadly reports are coming in from the Lower Shire that severe flooding is taking place and tragically lives have been lost as bridges and vehicles have been swept away. This last minute edit has been made to what originally was intended to be a light hearted piece. Please remember those caught up in forces way beyond their control in your prayers.
If you read my last blog you will recall me mentioning the electricity was off when I arrived because a large branch had fallen off a tree and taken down the power cable. Well the penalties for such actions are severe and capital. A programme of felling has been commenced to ensure that in future power cables and houses (which had been damaged too) will be safer.
I awoke on Saturday last week to the sound of chopping and, on going outside, saw the chap in the photograph wielding a machete high up as he took the tree down. The horticulturalist in me might have questioned the need to fell the tree but the arborist in me (before being a minister I was a manager of Parks and Recreation in Local Government) was having kittens at the total absence of even paying lip service to Health and Safety considerations. The tree surgeon merely climbed the tree in his bare feet and hacked off the branches but he did do this expertly and with a very sound methodology. Eventually as he got nearer the bottom and thus into the thicker branches and trunk a chain saw was brought into use, but operated with no helmet with ear defenders, no gloves, no Kevlar jacket and trousers and no goggles but there was a rope. The costly chainsaw was attached by a rope to the tree so that in the event of the operator falling the saw would not be damaged.
There is a connection between these two stories. On Monday morning before the rains broke there was a fierce electric storm for a couple of hours. During which our tree surgeon could be seen sixty feet up an eighty foot tall tree happily wielding an all metal machete above his head. The threat of lightening strike did not phase him but heavy rain did and he and the rest of his squad have not been seen on site since the rains came. Which gives the baboons and vervet monkeys a few more days to enjoy the trees and my former professional standards a chance to adjust, not to mention my nerves!
I shall, from this week, be lecturing on Thursdays and working as an Associate Minister in Sadzi CCAP on Sundays my duties with Zomba Presbytery should keep me out of mischief for another one or two days a week. So I will be busy and very appreciative of your prayers.
Rev Bob Milne
Zomba Theological College