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“For I was hungry and you gave me food.” Matt. 25:35

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A letter from Nancy Collins, regional liaison for East Africa

October 2012

Dear family and friends,

Here I am back in the U.S.A. again, this time for a short visit with son Charles, some speaking, and assorted meetings. The two months have really just flown by. On October 5 I look forward to traveling to Dallas/Fort Worth to participate in Dallas II: Better Together, where about 250 individuals from a wide variety of PC(USA) constituencies, along with representatives from multiple local and international partners, will spend two and a half days brainstorming best strategies to address the three critical global issues: poverty, evangelism and reconciliation, now the focus of World Mission strategy. From there I and the other regional liaisons will travel immediately to Louisville for a week of training. Then I will have a weekend to finish packing and will return to Zambia.

Malawi Mission Network Conference participants

One of the first meetings I attended after coming to the U.S.A. was the Malawi Mission Network conference, held at a lovely mountain setting in Allens Park, Colorado. The organizers did an amazing job of addressing a wide variety of topics and interests through plenary sessions, breakout groups, and lunch table discussions. I was especially impressed by a presentation on drip irrigation and agriculture. It answered many questions I had about crops and agricultural techniques in the Zambia/Malawi area. I learned there are many ways the techniques of subsistence farmers can be improved to maximize production and possible income.

In addition, the quality of worship and the personal experiences that formed and informed it were just incredible. Two worship leaders shared the dynamic that was unleashed by their partnership journeys, and how their experiences of partnership have transformed their lives and deepened their understanding of the life and words of Jesus Christ.

Making my contribution to the conference

Using Luke 1:46 and following, Rev. John Anderson of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Arvada, Colorado, spoke of the “choicefulness” of God and the Holy Spirit in sending Jesus into the world. Anderson envisioned that they wanted the very best for God's son. With “laser beam focus” they passed over all other potential parents for Mary, “a teenager with nothing in her resume to commend her, deciding perhaps what Jesus would need most was the knowledge of how to rely on God.” In his conclusion Anderson shared about his inability to preach in congregations in Malawi, saying that his voice is stilled there. He asked, “How can I counsel, instruct, teach those who dwell in that precarious blessed tension about relying on God for everything?”

Rev. Tom Sheffield, Executive Presbyter of hosting Denver Presbytery, also stressed the richness and transformative power of African Christian witness and love. He shared: “It was a bit more than a year ago that I was in Zimbabwe. It was a bit more than a year ago that the call came from my friend, Paul, to tell me that my mother had died. Some of you may know that to be far from home, far from family, far from the touches and sights and ability to deal with grief directly can be extremely confusing, even painful. Without asking, the Zimbabwean ministers and elders and their families gathered for a service for my mother. They sat in a circle in a large fellowship hall and sang and clapped and rejoiced in the life they did not know but now knew in their hearts was enfolded in life eternal. And then they stood and in love they each came to me, embraced me and told me of their care and assurance. We may speak glibly of partnership between churches, presbyteries, projects. But in my life, partnership has been lived out.  In that time, partnership changed my life.”   

Rev. Vasco Kachipapa, Rev. Davidson Chifungo, Helen Zimba and Kay Day share a laugh during the conference

The words of these two men resonated powerfully with me because I also have experienced the powerful transformation, conviction and joy of witnessing Christians in sub-Saharan Africa living in total dependence on God and recognize how much I have to learn from that about humility and grace. God and the Holy Spirit are working powerfully through the people of Malawi, the people of sub-Saharan Africa—people of joy and faith in the midst of sickness, poverty, unemployment, malnutrition, and violence. They are a tremendous witness to Jesus Christ and repeatedly a conversion experience for me.

These people of Malawi and sub-Saharan Africa and these experiences encourage me to live and love as faithfully and as generously as the people around me. Often we think we are going to Africa to solve problems and fix situations. But the reality of the situation is that, when we go, we learn something marvelous about Christian joy and faith. We become rich with the spiritual riches of the Southern hemisphere. So I challenge you.  Get to know your partner. Figure out ways to communicate across the physical and cultural distances. Listen to the members of the African churches to which you relate. Experience the richness of faith in poverty. I pray that in time you will say with John Anderson and Tom Sheffield—and with me—“Partnership has changed my life.”

Your sister in Jesus Christ,

Nancy

The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 105

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