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A letter from James and Jodi McGill in Malawi

April 2011

Dear friends, family, and family in Christ,

We have mentioned before that education for Michael and Jason this academic year has been challenging. So, with much prayer and support, we have decided to return early in our term to the States for one year so that they can receive some specific help. The girls will begin grade 4 and John and Joseph grade 1. During that year we will be available for itineration and look forward to visiting many of you. We will live at Mission Haven in Decatur, Georgia, again and are so very grateful to be able to return to the same location and to live within that community. Jodi and the children leave Malawi the end of April and Jim a month later in order to complete some work and take care of the final personal arrangements since we are not continuing to rent our house and are putting everything in storage and having friends look after our animals.

While in the States Jodi will remain involved with the management of the Synod’s Scholarship Fund, but the on-site management will be taken over by Mrs. Ethel Phiri, the administrative assistant for the Health Department. She has been on the Scholarship Committee for many years and is well acquainted with its operation.

Jim’s transition to the States is of course not an easy one, but it is facilitated by the shift of many of his projects moving to be within the Synod’s Development Department, a move he has worked toward for several years.

For Jodi, writing a newsletter can be cathartic as well as informative. And currently many situations in Malawi are difficult. Personal and academic freedom is being challenged by the government; the president has encouraged his party to use physical means to control his opponents, reminiscent of the time of President Banda, and there are constant severe shortages of diesel and petrol, which causes shortages of food and supplies, affects hospitals that cannot run ambulances or generators and makes finding public transport very difficult. You may remember that the Rev. Nyondo, the general secretary of the Synod of Livingstonia, was arrested for sedition last year. Last week the president rescinded the charge, although he did it without going through the judicial branch of the government.

The Water Board in Mzuzu is upgrading its delivery systems, resulting in limited to no water for at least four days every week (thank goodness, it is at least rainy season so we can collect water from our roof). Electricity has also often been out as a result of heavy late rains, which is damaging crops and causing flooding in some areas of the country. Recently our daughter Selina fell while playing and seemed to have suffered a greenstick fracture. The government hospital in Mzuzu is the only hospital with a functioning X-ray machine, but since there was no electricity and no fuel to run the generator it was not possible to take an X-ray. Fortunately the need was not crucial and a splint and mild pain control was all that was necessary until power came on the afternoon of the next day and an X-ray showed that she did not have a fracture. But for those who were in serious need …?

Also, another rash of robberies has hit Mzuzu, and Jodi’s laptop, backup memory and paper records were stolen from her car while in town. We had hoped some of the papers might be returned since that is what happened to a gap year student who has been staying with us. Her purse, containing the android from Jim’s office and all of her personal identity items, was stolen while she was at a restaurant in town. She received a small parcel in the mail a few days later containing her personal effects minus the android — but as yet no such luck for us.

All of this sounds terribly dire, but as we said in a previous newsletter, God is ahead and He has given people a wonderful gift, a sense of humor, the ability to find the ridiculous in a situation. There is a joke linking the fuel shortages to the government’s decision last year to change Malawi’s flag. The previous flag showed a sun that was rising, signifying Malawi was developing as a nation. The current government proclaimed that Malawi was now strong and was no longer a fledgling nation, so changed the flag to show a fully risen sun. People are saying that the risen sun is now shining so brightly over Malawi it has caused all the fuel to evaporate!

A couple of weeks ago on a Sunday afternoon we went as a family to a small lake just south of Mzuzu so the older boys could fish and the rest of us could just walk around the forest and play together. But those who know Jim realize that no opportunity is wasted, so we made two stops on our way. The first was at the local city dump to collect compost and the second was at a primary school so Jim could inspect a water collection cistern and the kids could dig for worms. Then off for fishing. An unexpected highlight was a visit by a herd of goats, one of which was quite enamored with Salome.

Photo of Jim McGill standing on a ladder leaning against a tall concrete cylindar.

Jim checking a water collection cistern.

Photo of Salome standing against a wall; a goat us standing in front of her and looking up at her.

Salome and a curious goat.

Photo of Jim holding a shovel and the kids holding a screen, apparently to use as a seive for screening compost.

Jim with gap year student Sara Ebbinghaus from Northern Ireland, Salome and Selina, and a friend collecting compost from the Mzuzu City dump.

Please continue to pray for the people of Malawi, the churches, our colleagues and our family. Your prayers are greatly needed and are very helpful.

Jim and Jodi

The 2011 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 67

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