A letter from Debbie Chase in Malawi
Warm greetings from Malawi!
These are painful days of transformation in Malawi as we travel the road to new life. A new era in the life of the nation began when Her Excellency Mrs. Joyce Banda was sworn in as the President of the Republic of Malawi on 7 April 2012. Her predecessor had left the nation in a state of global isolation and economic deterioration under autocratic rule and suppression of human rights. Under the new leadership amiable relationships with partner nations and human rights have been restored. But the road to new life is fraught with bumps and potholes. It will take time to repair all the economic damage that had been done under the previous administration.
The local currency, the Malawi Kwacha (MK), which was artificially inflated and set in steel by the previous president, is now floating freely with the global market economy and continues in a downward spiral. The current exchange rate is MK 288 to $1. The fuel crisis is now over in terms of provision. No longer is fuel in short supply, no longer are there long queues waiting for days for fuel to arrive. But the price of fuel has been increasing monthly, increasing by 11 percent this month, driving up the prices of basic commodities for daily living.
Austerity and discipline are the order of the day but difficult to embrace. To downscale one’s lifestyle in the midst of an already impoverished nation challenges the hope in and support for the new government. An economic cushion is needed, but not yet present, for the poorest of the poor to survive. The light at the end of the tunnel is a challenge to envision even for people of faith. People are taking life one day at a time (not a new phenomenon for the people of Malawi), hoping and praying that economic recovery are on the horizon in this seventh poorest nation in the world. However, on this challenging journey we remember that we are not alone. We remember Emmanuel, God with us—to lift up every valley, to make straight the highways, to make the rough places plain.
As you can imagine, life at the College of Theology has not escaped these trials and tribulations. It is only by the grace of God through God’s faithful people giving sacrificially that the college has been kept afloat this past year. In addition we have begun to experience glimmers of restoration. For the past four years the college has been without textbooks. Students have depended on books on library reserve and photocopied lecture notes for their reading material. However, thanks to a Presbyterian Church in Ireland congregation and a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) presbytery, our students now have new textbooks for most of their courses. So life continues and hope is reborn as life is being restored. Thank you for sharing the journey, for being those glimmers of hope and life through the gifts of your lives, your love, your resources.
There is much more I would like to share with you and I will be available to do so in person while I am in the U.S. on Interpretation Assignment, January through August 2013. I would be greatly honored to receive an invitation from your church or organization to tell you more about Malawi. There are many ways to fit mission interpretation into the program of your church or organization. The following are some suggestions:
- Potluck dinner, luncheon, prayer breakfast or Bible study group gathering for a mission presentation on Malawi. This will include a PowerPoint presentation and other visuals. Any day of the week would be fine.
- Sunday school class, confirmation class, youth group, or Presbyterian Women gathering for mission presentation on Malawi with PowerPoint presentation that is adapted to your group and your requests and possibly a simulation game that youth often enjoy.
- Preaching during worship with a focus on Malawi.
- Message to the children during worship with a focus on Malawi.
- Minute for Mission on Malawi during worship. This would hopefully be in addition to one of the other options such as a potluck dinner presentation or meeting with a Sunday school class or youth group.
- Presbytery meeting, congregational meeting, committee meeting, or other church group gatherings at which I would be glad to do a PowerPoint presentation on “Sharing the Journey with the People of Malawi” with other visuals on display.
- Community organization or service group meeting at which I would be glad to do a “Sharing the Journey with the People of Malawi” PowerPoint presentation with other visuals on display.
If you would like to learn more about Malawi and the blessings of partnership you can contact me directly via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or use the link below to schedule a time. You can also contact Julie Burton, Eastern Oklahoma Presbytery Director of Congregational Resources. Julie graciously and efficiently assists with scheduling and is able to answer many questions that might be more easily expressed and answered in a telephone conversation. Her address and phone are as follows: Eastern Oklahoma Presbytery, 700 S. Boston, Suite 200, Tulsa, OK 74119-1629; Telephone 1-800-533-1324; email@example.com.
From my home base in Tulsa, Okla., I will be free to travel throughout Oklahoma and other areas of the U.S. to share about Malawi from mid-January through July 2013. I hope to be with family in Wisconsin for Holy Week/Easter celebrations and would like to schedule speaking engagements in Wisconsin, Michigan, and surrounding states during the weeks that follow Easter. During August 2013 I plan to attend the PC(USA) Sharing Conference and the Malawi Mission Network meeting.
The host church, group or organization is responsible for travel expenses, lodging and meals. Auto mileage reimbursement is at the government standard reimbursable rate and airline travel reimbursed for the cost of the round-trip airline ticket. If I am visiting several churches/groups in your area the cost of travel can be shared. I am salaried for this interpretation assignment so there is no need for honorarium. I look forward to being with you to renew old friendships and meet new friends as we share the blessings of being one people, one family of God, in Malawi, in the U.S., and throughout the world,
Sharing the Journey is the Gift of Life!
Grace and Peace,