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A letter from Jodi McGill on home assignment Malawi

December 31, 2011

Hello from Atlanta — Happy New Year!

Jodi and the kids in front of the entrance to the Earth Lodge at Ocmulgee National Monument, Macon, GA

As I write this letter it is nearing midnight on December 31 in Atlanta and we are approaching the entry of 2012. We know that many of our friends and co-workers in Malawi and in other places of the world have already begun the New Year while others have a few hours remaining.  We were fortunate to celebrate the New Year with dinner with Frank and Nancy Dimmock and some of their children.  The Dimmocks currently are on home assignment and live next door to us at Mission Haven and are longtime friends, Jim and Nancy growing up together in Congo. Then Dan and Elizabeth Turk and their children, who serve in Madagascar and presently live on the other side of us at Mission Haven, arrived back from their Christmas travels in time to join us for sparklers and small firecrackers at 8:30 p.m. We have also been connected with them for many years, Jim knowing them from childhood in Congo as well. The fireworks were thrilling for the kids, but it was fellowship for all of our families as we begin a new year that was especially meaningful. There are so many areas in the world that are experiencing armed conflict; political, socioeconomic, agricultural, and health problems; families that have personal losses due to natural disasters or death; and vulnerable children being abused and neglected.  We are grateful that God through you is providing us with work we love as a way to share God’s love throughout the world.

Jim’s mother was able to visit us for a few days in mid-December, which was a joy for us all, and she attended the third Advent church service with us where Salome, Selina, John, and Joseph performed, in varying degrees, in the church’s drama. Salome and Selina sang a Christmas song a cappella, which would be very common in Malawi, and John and Joseph held cue cards for a song later in the service.  Granny was also present when Selina participated in an end-of-year gymnastics performance.

John and Joseph holding cue cards for a song during the Christmas drama at Columbia Presbyterian church.

Attending worship services over the Christmas weekend was spiritually fulfilling, but culturally we were caught unaware. We went to a beautiful and well attended Christmas Eve service at the church we attend when we are in the States. However, we found ourselves greatly underdressed as we went to the church directly from an afternoon of fishing and playing at a park in Atlanta. We were used to a more casual dress for our Christmas Eve services in Malawi. Then on Sunday, Christmas Day, when we went to church we were quite surprised to find ourselves nearly overdressed and among only a few attendees.

Talking to people and even checking on the Internet, we found this to be quite normal for many churches; in fact, we learned that often churches cancel their service entirely if Christmas is on a Sunday.  While surfing this trend on the Web I found that the Ghanaian church experienced massive church attendance on Christmas Day: the Ghanaian News Agency reported that in Accra, Dec. 25, “Ghanaians on Sunday joined the international Christians community all over the world to celebrate Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ more than 2,000 years ago.”

After Christmas we traveled a couple of hours southeast of Atlanta and stopped to see the Ocmulgee National Monument.  It was something I thought would be interesting to see, and although the kids initially responded with a sort of collective, “Oh, mom. Not another interesting thing to see,” they did find the visit at the 17,000-year-old Native American mounds worth the stop.

We recently spoke with friends in Malawi, and it seems that although there is little significant outward change, many people are tense and worried as fuel continues to be difficult to find and expensive, the country’s monetary situation is precarious, there is very little foreign exchange available, medicines in the hospitals are scarce primarily it seems because they cannot get it transported for distribution, food prices are rising, and the country seemingly is unable to even print passports since there is no paper available. We thank God nearly daily that violence is not erupting, but we do pray for the people living in Malawi and we ask that you continue to do so as well.

Jim will be traveling to Malawi for a couple of weeks at the end of January to work on a proposal to establish a centre to provide training on the technical aspects of drilling and the manufacture of water and sanitation hardware and facilities.  The program will also be looking at microfinance and lending facilities that can assist individuals, or smaller family groups, to be able to own their own facilities, as well as allow non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to buy into locally sustainable water and sanitation industries.  He will have a more detailed update after his return in February.

We thank all of you for your prayers and support during this year back in the United States.  We are enjoying getting to visit with some of you during this stay in the U.S. and understanding more of your work and ministries here.

Peace and God’s blessings to all of you.

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

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