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A letter from Janet Guyer in South Africa

March 2013

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among people,
To make music in the heart.

“Now the Work of Christmas Begins”
  By Howard Thurman

It may seem surprising to begin an Easter newsletter with a post-Christmas poem.  Perhaps it could be revised as follows…

When the crosses on the hill are bare,
When the stone’s been rolled away,
When the disciples have stopped crying,
And Jesus is back with us again,
Then the work of Easter begins:

To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among people,
To make music in the heart.

—"Now the Work of Easter Begins”

            With apologies to Howard Thurman

Time in the U.S.
Last year, most of which ended up being spent in the U.S., was a time of highs and lows.  The highs, anticipating visiting many of you and actually getting to visit some (but not enough).  Seeing my family and getting together with childhood friends.

Another series of highs was attending conferences, especially the Presbyterian Women's Gathering and the National Conference on Sexual Abuse.  Both were great times of connecting with people and learning new things.  The International AIDS Conference was also a great time to see old friends.

The low...  My mother became quite ill in October.  I then needed to stay beyond my end-of-October departure date until we could at least get her settled, finally leaving the end of November.  I am most grateful to the Presbyterian Church for making this possible.  She continues to be in a nursing home, quite weak, but word is that with the new physical therapist they are beginning to see improvement. With the wonder of Skype I can call my mother’s bedside at a very reasonable rate and talk regularly to my father, so can stay in close touch. Please pray for both my parents.

Malawi

Left to right Rev. Catherine Jailosi, name unknown to me, Rev. Mercy Chilapula, Rev. Annie Kapinda. About half of the women ministers in Blantyre Synod. Pink fabric is the official conference material.

Soon after returning from the U.S. I was off again to Malawi.  Due to lack of time and the Christmas holidays fast approaching I visited only two Synods, Livingstonia Synod in the north and Blantyre Synod in the south. 

The reason for the trip at this time was that the women of Blantyre Synod were convening a women’s conference entitled “Women of Strong Faith, Our Call Today.” The major theme was to look at issues that are important to women.  The three they chose were HIV & AIDS, Gender, and Safe Motherhood.  All three topics could be challenging to talk about due to cultural taboos, especially in front of about 1,000 women, but the presenters did a good job of being open and honest and still being polite.

I greatly enjoyed having a little time to chat with three friends I would like you to meet in the accompanying picture.  They were all active in putting together the conference so were quite busy, thus making our time together even more precious.

Rev. Mercy Chilapula, second from right in the picture, is the moderator of Blantyre Synod.  She is the first woman to hold that position.

Rev. Annie Kapinda, far right, is coordinator of the women’s desk.  She and her team did a huge job to put this conference together so successfully.  They have decided that such a conference should be held biennially.

Participants in Footprints Training reporting back from group work.

Rev. Catherine Jailosi, far left, is the director of the Chigodi Women’s Centre.  For several years she was working as deputy director with Rev. Kay Day, a Presbyterian mission co-worker.  Kay has now relocated to Rwanda.  Chigodi is doing a phoenix act, coming back from some very difficult times and doing very well.  More on Chigodi another day.

(I am sorry I don’t remember the name of the woman who is second from the left.  She is a pastor in Blantyre Synod.)

All three women are doing overwhelming jobs along with pastoring churches.  I know that they would appreciate your prayers.

The pink (actually lavender) material you see in the picture is the "conference cloth."  In Malawi when there is a big event or conference a fabric is made to commemorate the event.  In this case it was also sold to raise funds for the conference.  I first saw it up close the morning of the conference when Annie showed up at my room bright and early saying, "Here is what you are to wear today" and handed me a two-yard length of fabric.  Now putting on a wrap or sarong (chitenje in Malawi) is not the problem, but keeping it on is the challenge.  I was most grateful to a Zambian woman minister who had showed me the trick so I was able to put it on and keep it on all day. 

Footprints
Many of you will remember the Footprints Training of Trainers program that the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in South Africa is doing.  In February we started the training in the fourth presbytery, Letabe Presbytery, in Limpopo Province.  Rev. Maringa and I are doing the workshop as usual; however, this time Ms. Maureen Garrine is joining us both to help facilitate it and to learn how it is done.  This will make it easier for me to bow out and let the church be able to run these workshops themselves.

Lillies by the road in Limpopo Province, South Africa

MCW Gathering
The week after Easter all the Presbyterian mission co-workers (MCWs) from all over Africa will be getting together outside Cape Town for five days of worship and just having time to relax and talk together.  I am looking forward to meeting some of the new folks and catching up with friends I haven’t seen in a while.  Please keep all of us in your prayers as we all travel, some from great distances (including coming from the U.S.) and as we spend time together.

In closing, I would like to share a quote from St. Teresa of Avila (whose biography I am reading):

Christ has no body now but yours
No hands, no feet on earth but yours
Yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion
Looks out on the world
Yours are the feet with which he is to go about
Doing good
Yours are the hands with which he is to bless now.

Happy and meaningful Easter, everyone.  Blessings as we take up the "work of Easter" in the months and year to come.

Janet

Rev. Janet Guyer

Regional HIV and AIDS Consultant for Southern Africa

The 2013 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 123
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