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“For I was hungry and you gave me food.” Matt. 25:35

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A letter from Jim & Jodi McGill in Malawi

December 18, 2012

Merry Christmas family and friends,

It is hot and sticky here and fortunately it is also raining. Although a little late in coming, the rains so far are adequate enough in our area to nourish the much relied upon crops. Nearly everyone in the urban areas like Mzuzu has some kind of garden that they use to save a little much needed money, or to sell produce to supplement their income, while in the rural areas they farm as subsistence farmers and cash crops for their livelihood.

Female recipient of the scholarship. Her middle child was her escort to walk her to the Synod office to ask for help from the Scholarship Fund.

Although I am not a great or even good gardener, I also try my hand at growing food and flowers. Just like during a bus ride, there are spiritual lessons to be learned throughout the process of gardening. As my tween-age daughters would say, “I totally get” Jesus’ agricultural-based parables. It isn’t only the actual acts of clearing the ground, removing rocks, fertilizing the ground, planting the seeds, weeding, and watering or praying for rain that resonate with my spiritual life but also the need for patience, perseverance, and labor.

After having a cold although not snowy Christmas in the States last year it seems a little odd to be using a fan during our Christmas season now. Regardless of the weather we are all glad to be together for the holiday. We are grateful to have all of the kids with us. With Michael and Jason in boarding school in Blantyre we are getting a foretaste of what will be happening in the next few years with children leaving the nest. 

The nursing school continues to be closed for first- and second-year students as the government and schools argue about the amount of fees. Fuel shortages are constant and have become a way of life. Black market prices are higher than the pump price but not as high as they have been; the situation seems to have evolved that black market fuel is an alternative source of fuel rather than a way to take advantage of a situation.

We are saddened by the unexpected departure of Rev. Debbie Chase, who has served as a PC(USA) co-worker with the Synod of Livingstonia for 13 years. For the past several years she has worked at the Theological Seminary and in fact had been there since its inception and construction. As a family we are going to miss “Aunt Debbie” and pray for her during the next steps she takes.

Hand-driller Arjen van der Wal discussing water bearing layers from the cuttings from a borehole

The Scholarship Fund Committee and I say thank you to the individuals and congregations who have written to express concern and help for the Synod’s Secondary School Scholarship Fund. It will make such a difference to those who need help with school fees. One student who was just recently funded because of a recent donation is not a typical secondary student. She is 36 years old and was born sighted but became blind from measles when she was in standard 5. Through various mechanisms and miracles she was able to finish primary school and two years of secondary school. She stopped after two years due to funding and getting married. She has three children who are currently age 11, 8, and 3. Her husband died a year ago and when she attended a meeting for physically challenged people she learned that there are training and therefore job opportunities available for people with disabilities if they have completed their secondary school education. So she has now started back to school to complete her education. She is a great example for her children, people who did not complete their secondary school education, and women. Her schooling costs $50 for the year.

We are pleased to say that PC(USA) mission volunteers Dr. Rochelle and Tyler Holm have arrived in Mzuzu.  Rochelle recently finished her Ph.D. in environmental science from Washington State University and has been appointed to be the manager of the two water and sanitation centres of Mzuzu University—the Centre of Excellence in Water and Sanitation and the Smart Centre. The Centre of Excellence is for water and sanitation sector students and to explore related research questions. The Smart Centre explores and provides training in low-cost technology options, training in business skills, and linkages to financial institutions for both provider and customer. Tyler will be teaching at the University of Livingstonia Theological College.  They have a great deal of Malawi experience and are looking to stay for several years.

The Smart Centre has been growing and improving since its June establishment.  Our focus at this time has remained on the establishment of new drilling, hand digging, and latrine and sanitation services companies and an official certification of those companies.  There have been two short courses on sanitation marketing as well as trainings for the improvement of the technologies for providing water in our area and most recently a training in geology and hydrology to assist the drillers in finding the best sites to improve people’s access to water.   The core companies of drillers have now drilled over 40 wells and are becoming much more proficient in their ability to drill productive wells.

Lastly, as we rejoice in the purpose of the birth of God’s Son on earth and in the time we have together as a family, we cry for those who have so recently had their families torn apart in various shootings in the U.S.A. We recommend that you check the PC(USA) website for its comments and actions: http://www.pcusa.org/news/2012/12/14/aftermath-two-mass-shootings-week/.

Believing in the Hope of Peace,

The McGill Family

The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 106
The 2013 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 117
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