A letter from Kay Day in Malawi
April 30, 2012
Dear Family and Friends,
The end of April marks the end of a most eventful month here in Malawi, ending the month much differently from when we began it. The changes invite reflection on the presence and power of God in the midst of life.
Yes, we celebrated Easter and the reminder of the power of the resurrection and all that means for our lives as Christians. That is a major event each year, but this year in Malawi it has taken on new meaning. On Maundy Thursday the president of Malawi, Bingu wa Mutharika, had a massive heart attack. The public was not told anything about it until the international media began to report it. We were told he was in a coma and had been rushed to South Africa for treatment. We knew better from the BBC and other international news services. He was already dead. Saturday morning, after many closed-door meetings in the government, the death was announced, and Saturday afternoon the duly elected vice president, Joyce Banda, was sworn in as president. The new president had been at odds with the late president and the government loyal to the fallen leader had spent two days trying to plot a way to replace the late president with a candidate of their own. In the end, the military leaders refused to be a part of a government coup and the vice president was elevated to president according to the constitution. Easter morning felt different. There was a sense of freedom and hope. There was the realization that the constitution had worked and we were spared the violence of a coup.
The state funeral for Mutharika was set for April 23, with his body being presented in all three districts of the country for viewing by the citizens before the burial. Flags were flown at half-staff; the media played only somber music; the country was officially in mourning. But at the same time the new president was making changes in the governing structure. She fired a number of controversial cabinet members who had been at the center of the late president’s policies, replacing them with people from various political parties. She met with the international leaders to discuss renewing diplomatic ties and to begin to solve the shortage of foreign exchange. She received promises from neighboring countries of emergency fuel supplies to stem the acute fuel shortage. She met with sugar manufacturers to address the country’s sugar shortage. After the state funeral, she made a clean sweep of cabinet positions, replacing the old members with a cross section of representatives of the various political parties. Immediate solutions are working. We have fuel in the stations and sugar in the stores, all at the old prices. While there is sadness at the death of a person, there is hope for the new government. There is a separation between the personal and the political in most people’s thinking. This is not to say that all problems have been solved—far from it. We still have poverty and great need for development countrywide, but we have a hope that time and energy can be focused on those issues and not on political struggles for freedom of expression and unjust government decisions. We will watch in hope for what the long term holds.
On the day of the funeral I was reading John 21, a passage I have read many times. Jesus is reinstating Peter after Peter’s denial of Jesus. He discusses Peter’s death, and then John says, “Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God”—that his death would glorify God. I was struck by that. None of us knows the day or the manner of our death, but God does. We think a great deal about our lives glorifying God, as we should, but will my death glorify God as well, or will it happen as a matter of fact? God forbid that it should bring relief to those around me. How we live our lives will determine whether or not our death will glorify God. This is not about death but about how God is calling us to live. That is part of the power of the Easter message that we are invited to live out. Please continue to pray that we live it out well here in Malawi, as we have begun again.