A letter from Janet Guyer serving as regional facilitator for women and children’s ministries in English-speaking Africa, based in Malawi
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Happy New Year, both Western and Chinese New Years. I hope your Christmas was a time of peace and joy and that this year will be a fulfilling one of following on God’s paths. Here the year has gotten off to a good start. The rains have been good and the maize/corn is coming up nicely. I have planted a plot behind my back fence using sustainable agriculture also known as no till or Farming God’s Way. At first it was not as beautiful as the neighbor’s rows of maize because we did not build up rows to plant on but instead planted on the flat, untilled ground and dug planting stations/holes to put the seeds and some compost in. The crop is almost as tall as I am now with the special seeds that were planted within the wall well over my head. Unfortunately, we are still waiting for tassels on those, but the main crop should be ready to harvest at the end of March, or so I am told. The maize I planted within my wall, a sweeter variety, is taller than I am. Not sure why but it’s OK with me.
In thinking about how to catch you up on last year, I thought I would write it like a blog, what would I have said each month?
June: It was great visiting several supporting churches and churches I had never met before, seeing old friends and meeting new. The sense of connection and of being on the same team working together was, to borrow one of the ‘new’ words everyone was using, awesome.
July: The General Assembly in Portland was an eye-opener for me. So many folks who take the time and energy to come together to think and pray about the direction that the PC(USA) is going and how best to guide it along God’s way. Being a Mission Advisory Delegate, I was honored to be a part of the committee that advised on the adoption of the Belhar Confession. I believe the study of Belhar can enrich our church and expand its wisdom. If you haven’t read it, do. It was the confession that helped the people of South Africa express their beliefs during a hard time and to clarify what it was that they heard God teaching them.
Portland is a special city for me, so being there was an added bonus. My father was born and raised in Portland, so every time we came back to the U.S. we would spend time with my grandmother in Portland.
August’s news was a mixed bag. The exciting news was that we received word from Malawi that Nkhoma Synod, the Synod in whose bounds I live, had a workshop for Pastors and their wives. As part of this workshop a well respected previous moderator of the Synod did a Bible study looking at the role of women in leadership with in the Bible. This news is exciting because Nkhoma Syndo does not yet ordain women but I appreciate any step that they take to look at the issue of women in leadership. Upon my return, I spoke with Mrs. Sophie Mthika, the head of the Women’s Guild about the conference. She and the friend who was with her both were cautiously enthusiastic about the outcome of the conference. The Synod has been very gracious to me and I look forward to the day that I am not the only ordained woman in this Synod.
The frustration of that time was that just before I was to go back to Malawi at the end of July I learned that two of the medications I was taking had potentially fatal interactions, so I ended up staying another three months to get that worked out. Although I was longing to be home in Malawi, I must say that I was surprised how much better I felt once that was taken care of. The silver lining to that cloud was being able to see my parents several times a week. In Pasadena, there are apartments for missionaries who need a place to stay while passing through. That was really a godsend for me. One of the new adventures there was learning about Uber. What an amazing concept.
October/November: Home! I arrived at the end of October, and what did everyone want to know? Did I vote? Who I was voting for and why? People here were very concerned about the outcome of the elections and what impact it would have on Malawi and on their lives. Well, we all know the outcome now, but only time will tell what if any effect it will have on the lives of people here.
Besides learning about ‘awesome,’ emojis and Uber, I enjoyed slipping back into my public radio habits. You can’t do that for long without having a fund-raiser come upon you when you are told of all the wonderful things that gifts to the station have done and will do. In a way, it is like the Presbyterian Church. The funders are the ones who help keep the work—we would say God’s work—going. Yes, there are some differences as well. I don’t have any thank-you gifts to give at any level of membership other than my sincere thanks for your support, but I hope that knowing that we are all a part of God’s work will be gift enough. If you are not already doing so, I invite you to participate as a “member” of what God is doing in Malawi by contributing your prayers and financial gifts to my sending and support.
January: The last week I was in Kenya attending a training on trauma healing that was put on by the Trauma Healing Institute of the American Bible Society. It was the first level and prepared the participants to lead small groups, 3-12 people. The well-designed program laid out basic information in a way that was both helpful and accessible to the non–mental health professional. The materials were developed in the African context and are continually being upgraded especially with the needs of various communities in mind. As you can probably tell, I am much impressed with these materials. I am looking forward to applying what I learned, then going further into the program to better serve the people in our community who have sadly experienced trauma of one sort or the other. My end goal is to become a trainer of trainers to empower people to help their own communities.
And that brings us up to date except to say that I do believe I will try to do some blogging. Quite a while back I signed up for a blog site on Word Press under my name and tried doing a bit of writing there. Feel free to head on over for old news and I hope to start blogging regularly in March/April.
Blessings to you as we all journey down God’s paths together this year.
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