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A letter from James and Jodi McGill in Malawi

September 2011

Hello from Decatur, Georgia.

As we mentioned in our April 2011 newsletter, we were planning on a fairly abrupt return to the United States in May to enroll our two eldest sons, Michael and Jason, in a one-year holistic academic program.  The facility opened in early June but the home in which the boys are staying was under renovation, so they were unable to begin the program until July. Although disappointed to have left Malawi early, we were blessed to be able to use the time for some family together time and to see a tiny bit of the United States and some wonders of nature.

Michael displaying a fish he caught at Fort Mountain State Park, GA

Jodi and the kids left Malawi a few weeks before Jim so he could try to tie up some work obligations. They flew into the United States via Washington, D.C., and due to the tornadoes that hit the Southeast in May slept in the D.C. airport because their flight, and the flights of many others, was cancelled.  About three weeks later she and the kids drove through north Georgia and into Alabama.  The trip was not only fun but provided a graphic lesson in the beauty and power of God’s creation as well as the chance to pray with a greater understanding for the people and towns hit by the tornadoes. Jim has instilled an enjoyment of fishing in all of the kids but it has become a passion for Michael and Jason, and they had a great time catching different kinds of fish on the trip.  Jodi appreciates their enthusiasm if not the sport itself!

All the children started school in August and overall the adjustments have been manageable for the younger four.  They are attending schools in Decatur and enjoying much about them as well as each of them being able to choose one extracurricular activity that would not be available in Mzuzu. John and Joseph are in first grade, which has many transitions for most students and for some of them we were able to provide anticipatory guidance.  However, others we did not think about—for example, John was verbally reprimanded one of his first days in school because he was caught running and sliding on the bathroom floor and pushing the water faucets on and off.  When I explained that his primary school in Malawi school used an outhouse and had a bucket for hand washing, his exuberance was of course not condoned but certainly understood.

- Jason's catch at Bent Tree, GA

The transitions are greater for the older boys, and we do see God’s hand in their placement. We are all learning to lean on the school’s foundational Scripture, which is Isaiah 40:28–31: “Don't you know? Haven't you heard? The LORD is the eternal God, Creator of the earth. He never gets weary or tired; his wisdom cannot be measured. The LORD gives strength to those who are weary. Even young people get tired, then stumble and fall. But those who trust the LORD will find new strength. They will be strong like eagles soaring upward on wings; they will walk and run without getting tired.”

Trees blown by winds of hurricane near Guntersville, AL

While we are here we maintain communication with our co-workers and friends and church family in Malawi via phone texting and email.  The political situation is worsening, though the violence that resulted in 19 deaths and many injuries in July is not yet being repeated.  Since the July violence there have been two calls for vigils—one in August, which was called off due to promises of talks mediated by the United Nations, and a second in September when those talks failed.  The September vigil became a call to stay away from work for three days because there were fears of violence should there be any public demonstrations. Apparently businesses closed on the first day, but not for the remaining two days due to pressures and intimidation from the government.  Therefore the issues remain unresolved and the atmosphere remains tense.  Our Malawian partners and friends greatly value your prayers for their country.

Jim returned to Malawi in late August for nearly two weeks to celebrate with Rotary International the handing over of the gravity-fed piped water system at Livingstonia, which has been installed to replace the original system now 100+ years old.  Tremendous amounts of work remain to ensure that the management is equipped to maintain the system, and we are very much looking forward to being able to return and work with our Malawian counterparts on the management and maintenance issues.  What we can learn from the management of Livingstonia water system can be shared throughout the region to help reach the church’s long-term goal of improving the livelihood of Malawians by getting safe water to every house. 

We are grateful for your continued walk with us and Malawi as a country.  We have visited some congregations and presbyteries, and although we do have commitments with the program with which Michael and Jason are enrolled, we are available until April or May 2012. We will soon be using a PC(USA) email address, but for now please continue using and copy us at For a presbytery-level visit you can also contact Carol Somplatsky-Jarman at

Please continue to pray for our family, the PC(USA), and Malawi. 


Jim and Jodi

The 2011 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 67
The 2012 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 106

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