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A letter from Jodi McGill in Malawi

October 2012

I began this newsletter while riding on a Deluxe bus from Mzuzu to Blantyre. I was checking on Michael and Jason at boarding school, then proceeding by bus the next day to Lilongwe to pick up a used car for our family and some people from the airport. Deluxe means in theory everyone has a seat and stops are scheduled and few.  In practice, all seats were full with some having three passengers in a seat for two, people were standing in the aisle and sitting on the engine cover of the bus, and passengers were being let off along the way, which although they were not scheduled stops were brief.

Dr. Msilimba, the Director of the Centre of Excellence for Water and Sanitation at Mzuzu University, with Chrissy Zimba and her mother on graduation day.

I like traveling. I like planning for travel as much as I like the travel itself; it fulfills the organizational need in me. For Jim, travel is a necessity, something that has to happen so you can get to where you need or want to go.  His idea of planning is making sure he has a back pocket on his jeans in which to put his toothbrush, and since he wears blue jeans six and a half days out of seven he is ready to travel at nearly any moment.

Traveling also provides analogies to my spiritual journey. On a journey my planning often comes to naught with detours and delays that can frustrate and disappoint me. I confess I have the same impatience when I don’t recognize God’s plans or I see my plans aren’t coming to the fruition I had hoped. It is then that the well-known verses of Jeremiah 29:11 reassure me that the Master of planning has everything in His control. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

We are mostly settled with only small things left to complete in the house.  Salome, Selina, John, and Joseph resumed school and the routine is getting established, friends are coming over after school, and our additional pets, the dog and cat we are animal-sitting for Barbara Nagy, have made friends with our other animals.  The second week after our arrival one of our dogs, one we had had for about 11 years, became sick and died, which was very sad, but we are glad he died after we were here and not while we were away.

I have been handed over the Secondary School Scholarship Fund. Due to the retirement of Rev. M. Banda there is a new Education Secretary for the Synod, Rev. Timothy Nyasulu. Additionally, Mrs. E. Phiri, who was the Acting Fund Administrator and Administrative Assistant to the Health Coordinator, has retired. There were only 48 non-designated students funded this year due to a decrease in donations; however, it was 48 more than would have been supported without the Scholarship Fund.  Everyone is grateful for the chance they have received to continue their education last year.

A couple of weeks have passed since I first began this newsletter.  The Scholarship Committee recently met and could pay only for Form 4 (that is similar to seniors in high school) students who were previously sponsored. We are unable at this time to pay for any new or previously sponsored students.  We are praying for those parents and guardians and children who are in need of sponsorship for school. It is at times like these that I realize how privileged we are in the U.S.A. to have free primary and secondary school education available. Having recently been able to avail ourselves of the educational opportunities provided by public school systems and public libraries, the shortage of government schools, teachers, and resources here is even more striking.

Although the general atmosphere in Malawi has improved, the country continues to face significant economic problems resulting in climbing inflation rates—10 percent in January to 25 percent in August—fuel scarcity and rising fuel prices, and continued currency devaluation causing increasing costs of goods without concomitant increases in people's salaries. In tandem with those challenges the increase in school fees to an average of $250/year/student, though necessary, makes finding school fees more difficult.

We do nevertheless have wonderful news. Chrissy Zimba, whom we have mentioned since 2007, graduated with honors from the University of Mzuzu with a degree in Information and Communication Technology.  Jim has been anxiously awaiting her graduation so she could be hired as the Monitoring and Evaluation Officer for the Centre for Excellence in Water and Sanitation Centre at Mzuzu University.  The Synod of Livingstonia is an implementing partner to the Centre. Her responsibilities will be to maintain spreadsheets with all the products of the Centre, including all trainings and installations, programming surveys on Android smartphones, and then compiling and mapping the data collected, as well as establishing a Resource Centre at the Centre where anyone will be able to locate information related to water and sanitation in the northern region.  But mostly Jim has been waiting for her hire because of her strength of character, her infectious spirit, which builds and encourages people, and her faith in Christ, which will be a tremendous addition to the Centre.

We pray for you as you continue to face economic, political and congregational turmoil and ask that you remember us and Malawi in your prayers.

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

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

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  • We are so proud of you. Jeremiah 29:11 says it all. Stay safe. Keep Jim in those jeans by Dorothy Murphy on 11/28/2012 at 6:20 p.m.

  • Thank you so much for your letter. We are looking forward to seeing you next summer. God bless all of you. Lois v by Lois Vermeer on 11/24/2012 at 6:45 a.m.

  • I loved your warm and newsy letter about your life with your family and your work. It was my great privilege to spend an evening with your family in your home when i was in Muzuzu in 2003. The girls were just babies then and i loved holding them. I admire the way that you live and think that it is wonderful life. Thank you and god bless you in all that you do. by Rosemary Curtis on 11/21/2012 at 9:44 p.m.

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