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A letter from Jim and Jodi McGill in Malawi

August 2012

Hello from Malawi.  We arrived July 27 and are moved into yet another house in Mzuzu. This one is very close to town and the younger four kids’ school, which is wonderful as fuel shortages, although greatly improved from six months ago, are still a weekly occurrence.

John holding the first chicken presented to them from the boys’ paternal family.

We left the U.S.A. with the same panache with which we left Malawi last year: last minute goodbyes and vehicles broken on the side of the road. On our way to Lilongwe last year we left Mzuzu a day early so we could make a first visit to the village of John’s and Joseph’s birth family. Jodi and the children were flying to the States first, with Jim to come a month later. The car we borrowed for the trip unfortunately broke down on the way, so what began as a five-hour drive with a detour to the village ended up being 12 hours with eight of us, a driver, and our luggage squeezed into a seven-seater minivan and the borrowed car stranded halfway to Lilongwe. Because we no longer had transport to the airport for our flight the next morning, Jim called around and arranged for a vehicle. The next morning the transport did not arrive, so Jim again scrambled around and found two taxis to take us to the airport.  On the way the driver of the vehicle called. He had thought he was to collect us from, not take us to, the airport. We did meet up with him on the road to the airport and made it on time for our flight to Washington, D.C.  That was the flight that ended with Jodi and the children sleeping at the Dulles airport due to tornados going through the Southeast.

Our return to Malawi on July 26 started with a deja vu episode of late night goodbyes to good friends and a car broken down on the highway. The large van we were using for luggage broke down about 10 miles from the airport on the interstate at 3:30 a.m.  We were fortunately being driven in a minivan by a co-worker couple, Dan and Elizabeth Turk, who work in Madagascar, so we switched drivers and plans and Dan made a trip with Jodi and the kids in the minivan to the airport—making it only one person over the passenger capacity this time—so they could begin the checking in process.  Two more trips with the minivan, and Jim and the luggage were at the airport as well.

Mwawi Nyirongo, a dear friend for 15 years and clinical supervisor of the Crisis Nursery through which John and Joseph came to us, organized a visit the villages of John’s and Joseph’s birth father and mother for the day after our arrival. We were able to meet the paternal grandparents who had cared as carefully for John and Joseph as they could and then cared for them enough to allow us the privilege of becoming their parents. Both birth families were thrilled to see how well they were growing and it was important to hear details of the family and the boys’ early months. Each family gave a gift of a chicken to the boys, which they are currently enthusiastically raising in Mzuzu. 

We were fortunate as well to be able to share time in Lilongwe with Dr. Martha Sommers, a PC(USA) co-worker at Ekwendeni Hospital, before she returned to the U.S.A. the 29th of July. She has lent us her five-passenger car for the time she is in the U.S.A. So along with another friend’s borrowed land cruiser and Jim’s work truck we caravanned to Mzuzu…together with a dog, a cat, and two chickens. Dr. Barbara Nagy, who works at Nkhoma Hospital, and her three girls moved into the house we used at Mission Haven a couple of days before we flew back to Malawi.  Barbara is pursuing a master's in Public Health at Emory University, and they have taken on the care of our son Michael’s leopard gecko, which we left behind, while we will take on the care of the Nagys’ pets—hence the transport of a dog and a cat to Mzuzu.

Joseph sitting on Jim’s lap in front of the home of the boys’ maternal family; Joseph is holding the chicken that family presented to them; John is sitting between their sister and brother.

Our entire round trip journey and time throughout our stay in the U.S.A. has been a tapestry of connections that happened because of our relationships with so many people who share one common theme—a love of God and service.

Throughout our year in the U.S.A. we were literally and prayerfully surrounded by friends, family, and members of congregations in the States and in Malawi. It was good to see many of you in person as Jim visited numerous congregations, and we all thank you for the interest shown and hospitality given. This past year, due to the help we received from Eagle Ranch and the schools of the children, we have grown stronger as a family and seen growth in maturity and improvement in the academic aspect of our children. However, growth is not always easy and what helped us to succeed this year was because we have been held up by so many people all along the way. We thank all of you for your friendship, prayers, phone calls, emails, and cards. We really could not have made it to or from Mzuzu nor through the year in the States without all of you.


Jim, Jodi, Jason, Michael, Salome, Selina, John, and Joseph

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


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  • Great letter. Glad you are back in Malawi. Sorry I missed you. I am nursing a broken ankle, wheeling around in Korea in a wheelchair. Blessings! by Sue Makin on 09/07/2012 at 6:12 a.m.

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