Hope in the Midst of Pain

A letter from Jodi McGill in the U.S. on Interpretation Assignment from Malawi

March 2016

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Write to Jodi McGill

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Easter is approaching and for Christians it is a time of rejoicing since it symbolizes hope through the resurrection of Christ. And for our children it also means another chance at lots of sweets and hard-boiled eggs! As we have been preparing for Easter, our thoughts and hearts continue to straddle two homes, one in Malawi and one in Decatur, Ga.  Easter is a time of gladness, and yet it starts as a time of extreme sadness and pain with the crucifixion of Jesus.  The disciples were told ahead of time that although Jesus would die, he would come back from the dead.  However, in the midst of their pain and sorrow and confusion, they couldn’t see and believe in the hope and joy that they were later going to experience.

Three of our children working at a house for one of the service days to celebrate MLK day: Selina in front, Salome immediately behind her, and Joseph in the back

Three of our children working at a house for one of the service days to celebrate MLK day: Selina in front, Salome immediately behind her, and Joseph in the back

This pattern of sadness and hope reverberates in emails and messages from friends in Malawi and through recent events here. We hear from friends in Malawi about the many difficulties people are facing. Due to the floods in the south last year and poor rains scattered throughout Malawi, the maize crop this year is once again expected to be very poor.  Although the northern part of Malawi is expected to have discrete areas with good yields, it will not be enough to compensate for the poor harvests in the south and central parts of the country. Per the country brief by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, “Although the arrival of new supplies from the 2016 harvest will assist in improving the situation in the immediate period, overall food security conditions are expected to deteriorate in 2016/17, reflecting an expected second consecutive below-average cereal harvest in 2016, and high food prices.” In fact the price of maize has already doubled, meaning that people with a very limited income already can afford to buy only half of what they usually would to feed their family.

And yet we hear stories from people continuing to get their hope from God and to emulate God’s example by sharing what they can, providing for more and more people out of their meager maize stores, and thankful for the food assistance that Presbyterians are continuing to provide.  Our congregation in Mzuzu is having multiple Easter prayer times, songs, dramas, and dancing, praising God in the midst of their trials.

Rev. Paska turning a water pump at a training site in South Sudan

Rev. Paska turning a water pump at a training site in South Sudan

We have also seen the hope of Easter through a family we know whose 20-year-old son died. At the funeral service the father, who is a pastor and dealt with grief in his Ph.D. dissertation, said he has realized that his education is not complete. He is confident that God is helping him as he prepares to be a student again as he and his family experience grief from a very personal aspect. The father continued to say that as a parent and as a pastor he cannot yet read the text that God is giving him to study, so he is praying for “better glasses” to read and understand God’s message to him and his family at this time.  The family’s grief is tangible, and yet they are sustained because they believe God shares their pain and offers hope in it.

While living here we are trying to find time to participate in local ministry through our church and community. It can be hard, as most of you already have experienced, finding time with family and work obligations to serve others. As I mentioned in an earlier email I am volunteering at a clinic, but we have also been part of preparing and sharing food at a local family shelter and we participated in a service project during the Martin Luther King Day weekend.  It was a great day.  To work together cleaning up a house with my children and to see them fully participating in the cleanup, working with strangers to help a stranger, gave me a sense of hope that the experience would inculcate in them an ability to help others anywhere they may live.

Jim continues to travel in the U.S.A. often, visiting congregations and sharing about Malawi and his expanded work in South Sudan. He has recently been in South Sudan for nearly five weeks, working with the support of the Presbyterian Women’s gift for water and sanitation in South Sudan, and will write more about the work that the PC(USA) is involved in with water and sanitation in our next letter. However, I wanted to share this photo he sent me. To me, it again is an example of the hope that people find through God and that is provided through congregations and individuals for the war-torn and severely impoverished country of South Sudan.  The woman turning the pump was ordained to be a pastor just the day before this photo was taken and Jim was able to be at her ordination. She is serving the area of South Sudan where Jim was working with others to drill wells. Her name is Paska, which means Passover and is the word used in both Sudan and Malawi for Easter. Rev. Paska was given this name because she was born on Easter Sunday.

We thank you for continuing to support us and to walk this walk with us, to walk with congregations around the U.S.A. and the world, to walk with other mission co-workers, and especially to walk with our mission partners in the world.

Jodi


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