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A Celebration of Ten Years’ Service in Malawi

A letter from Tyler Holm serving in Malawi

October 2017

Write to Tyler Holm

Individuals: Give to E200532 for Tyler Holm’s sending and support

Congregations: Give to D507572 for Tyler Holm’s sending and support

Faculty of Theology: Give to E052124 to support the University of Livingstonia Faculty of Theology

Churches are asked to send donations through your congregation’s normal receiving site (this is usually your presbytery).


We are happy to write to you this month celebrating the long-term work that has been going on in Malawi. This work long predates our (Tyler and Rochelle’s) arrival in Malawi in 2007, and partnership will continue between the church in Malawi and in the USA long after we are gone. As our title makes clear, the impetus for remembering this partnership now is that it was in July and August of 2007, 10 years ago, that Westside Church in Richland, Washington, sent Rochelle and me to partner with St. Andrews Church, Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP) in Mzuzu, Malawi. This was a direct relationship between these two congregations. Beyond sending us, Westside Church paid for the installation of a water borehole at a remote prayer house that St. Andrew served. This kind of direct congregation-to-congregation relationship has become more and more common in the past decades, as many American congregations want a tangible relationship with their mission work.

Rochelle and Tyler Holm with the Village of Monsanto in 2007

The development of these relationships is also helpful in illustrating some of the differences in the global church. Westside is typical of many midsized American churches in that it has multiple ordained ministers in the congregation, while St. Andrews and most churches in Malawi hold multiple gatherings that the sole minister of a congregation is responsible for. While organized as one church, with up to seven or twelve “daughter” assemblies or prayer houses, the minister cannot be at all locations on one Sunday. This has led to churches relying upon greater engagement of lay elders and church leaders, something that the American Church often states is a desire despite their comfortable staffing.

Another noticeable difference between Malawian and American Presbyterian systems is that the parish system is alive and strong in Malawi. Whereas in America many people drive long distances to find a congregation that “fits,” it is easy here. Our closest CCAP church is a five-minute walk from our house, and the communal nature of living and worshiping with our neighbors is a beautiful part of our life here that we enjoy. There is more focus on geographic community than on individual needs.

Our first experience of short-term volunteering in Malawi in 2007 led to two further visits with small groups in 2008 and 2012. During these short, three-week to three-month trips, Rochelle and I always knew that eventually God might call us to long-term service. It was difficult to imagine, however, that just months after our three months here in early 2012, we would both be given great opportunities to continue our work fulltime, Rochelle leading the Mzuzu University Water and Sanitation Center, and I teaching theology at the University of Livingstonia. The PC(USA) and the worldwide Presbyterian church, especially from Scotland, have been working in Malawi since 1874.

We started working through the PC(USA) in 2013, and there are many different roles in this partnership. There are the CCAP and the university as local partners, the PC(USA) and all of its staff who support the work here and our visible role “in the field,” but there is also the critical role of all those who are supporting the work through prayer and giving. We could not be doing the visible work without all of this often-forgotten support from you. Thank you!

Today, I live with my wife, Rochelle, and our daughter in Mzuzu, the largest urban center in the northern region of Malawi and the third largest city of the country. Mzuzu has a population of about 200,000. We speak the local language of Chitumbuka. Though life has changed for our family, we are blessed to live in a neighborhood that has taken us in as one of their own.

One example of how we are blessed by this community is that, recently, we had several weeks of water problems at our house. Our house temporarily reflected the reality that thousands in Malawi live with water challenges every single day. One of the most amazing things was how our neighbors helped us, and each other. Instead of keeping their limited stock of water for themselves, they shared with us a five-gallon bucket of their water even when none of us knew at that point when the water would be back on. It is very humbling to all have the same shoes. We truly feel at home and a part of the community and the amazing vision that God has for our family ministry and for Malawi.

It has been very important to us that the local partners we work with invite us into partnership; we recognize the importance of having long-term relationships. I am a lecturer in systematic theology, Church history and Greek at the University of Livingstonia, a private university that is part of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP). The University of Livingstonia was established in 2004 and currently has approximately 300 students in its residential, distance learning and masters programs. The Faculty of Theology campus is located in Ekwendeni, about 10 miles north of Mzuzu.

Within the CCAP there is one ordained minister per 6,000 church members—most of our students will be ordained as teaching elders, and all will be future leaders of the church and Malawian society. Despite daily challenges, reflecting on my role of training future leaders of the church and Malawian society motivates me.

Rochelle is the manager of the Centre of Excellence in Water and Sanitation at Mzuzu University, a government university located in Mzuzu. The Centre of Excellence in Water and Sanitation is established within the Faculty of Environmental Sciences, where Rochelle’s team works together on water, sanitation and hygiene concerns for Malawi. The Centre participates in research, training and community outreach programs, and it works together on a common mission with government, church and non-governmental organization partners.

The Holm family now

As we remember our ten years of service and the over 140 years that different global north churches have been in partnership in Malawi, we pray for the CCAP Synod of Livingstonia and our small role in God’s plans. We also invite you to join us in partnership, to visit us in the field here in Mzuzu and to experience our home and the community we have been blessed to be a part of over the past 10 years.

Please continue to support our ministry and the work of the University of Livingstonia. You may support my position with the University of Livingstonia through E200532 (Congregations D507572) and the growing programs of the Faculty of Theology through E052124.

Grace and Peace,

Tyler Holm

Please read this important message from Jose Luis Casal, Director, Presbyterian World Mission

Dear Friend of Presbyterian Mission,

What a joy to send this letter! As Presbyterian World Mission’s new director, I thank God for your faithful support of our mission co-workers. The enclosed newsletter celebrates the work you made possible by your prayers, engagement, and generous financial gifts. We can’t thank you enough.

After I began in April, I met with mission co-workers and global partners and was blessed to see firsthand the mighty ways God is working through them! Our global partners are asking us to help them move forward with life-changing ministries. Because of your support, we can say “yes” to these creative and exciting initiatives.

I write to invite you to make an even deeper commitment to this work. First, would you make a year-end gift for the sending and support of our mission co-workers? We need your gifts to end the year strong. With your help, we filled two new mission co-worker positions and plan to recruit for others. The needs in the world are great, and World Mission is poised to answer the call to serve.

Second, would you ask your session to add our mission co-workers to your congregation’s mission budget for 2018 and beyond? Our mission co-workers serve three-year or four-year terms. Your multi-year commitment will encourage them greatly.

Our mission co-workers are funded entirely from the special gifts of individuals and congregations like yours. Now more than ever, we need your financial support.

In faith, our mission co-workers accepted a call to mission service. In faith, World Mission sent them to work with our global partners. In faith, will you also commit to support this work with your prayers and financial gifts?

With gratitude,

Jose Luis Casal

P.S. Your gift will help meet critical needs of our global partners. Thank you!

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