A letter from Kay Day in Malawi
Dear Family and Friends,
August in Malawi has been a time of tension and a time for the unexpected. We have seen God’s hand of protection and we continue to trust him for his provisions.
Civil tensions built the first half of the month with talks of more civil demonstrations against the government. The rhetoric on both sides escalated the closer we got to August 17, the announced day. The civil society groups decided to stage a vigil instead of a march, in the hope of containing violence in response to the president’s threats to confront the marchers in the streets. Reports circulated that the president had retained mercenaries from Zimbabwe in case the Malawian police were unwilling to shoot at unarmed citizens. People were afraid for the outcome, since 19 died in the July 20th confrontations. I was scheduled to hold an ordinands’ retreat on the 17th but we postponed it for safety’s sake. That was the tone everywhere. On the 16th the Malawi Council of Churches held a day of prayer, inviting both sides of the dispute. At the end of the prayer time the civil organizations announced that they were calling off the vigil for the next day in order to engage in talks with the government, mediated by a United Nations team. The citizens relaxed a bit, but people were still hesitant and many did not go to work that day. Only a few shops opened. The streets were almost deserted. But we praised God for the calm. The talks are not progressing well and there are plans for a September vigil if the process does not produce results. There is an air of tension again, but not yet to the degree of earlier in the month. Prayer is once again needed.
Then on August 21 the Synod's Biannual Conference convened. Elections were held on Monday, the 22nd. Again, it was a time of tension. Since the dismissal of two of the top officials because of political involvement, there has been great campaigning for the posts, amid speculation of government involvement by supplying money for some candidates to campaign. The tension was so great that the field was not reduced to three per post, as is usual. That meant seven or eight candidates contested for one position. Church rhetoric was high as well. Many of us committed to pray. The elections were quiet and respectful and the results were not as close as some projected, but everyone had support. Of historic note is that we elected the first woman moderator in Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP) history, Rev. Mercy Chilapula. She served as vice moderator for the last four years and with the dismissal of the officials earlier in the year had stepped up as acting moderator. This is a great vote of confidence for her and gives some continuity to the office. For that we praise God. We are trusting God for the faithfulness to the church of all those who were elected. This will be an ongoing matter for prayer.
I want to thank all of you who prayed prior to the demonstrations and prayed for the elections. Prayers were answered. I ask that you keep the country and the church in your prayers. There are still tensions and challenges ahead and God alone has the answers. He has been so faithful this month in particular, and we trust him for the future.
Yours in Christ’s love,