A letter from Tyler Holm serving in Malawi
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Greetings from Malawi and from Mzuzu. It has been a while for some of you to hear from us, first, because there was a glitch in the mailing process of physical letters from the PC(USA)—we are sorry to those who missed some communication. If you receive letters via the post mail, consider signing up for email updates, which are faster and less expensive for us and the PC(USA) to send out. Drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com to be added to our e-letters. Of course we will continue with paper letters for those that prefer it.
Quite a lot is going on in our ministry in Malawi. The first semester of studies at the University of Livingstonia, part of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP) where I teach theology, has come and gone and the second semester of the year is well under way. I am teaching three courses to the residential students this second semester: Systematic Theology I and II to first- and second-year students respectively, plus second semester Greek to second-year students. I am very grateful to continue to develop relationships with these students and thankful to be in such a rewarding position. Our students will become parish ministers in the CCAP and church leaders in Malawi, and all have a heart for serving. But, I find that beyond academics it is time I spend with students outside the classroom, whether chatting between a class break in the corridor or having students over to our home that builds the student relationships that are the core of my work. One aspect of developing these relationships beyond just in the classroom is described below, partnering with one fellow lecturer and a former student in a recent academic conference.
Since mid–last year, Rochelle has transitioned out of serving with the PC(U.S.A.) and is working directly with the local partner, Mzuzu University continuing to focus on water, sanitation and hygiene needs of Malawi. She continues to love serving in the same work, supervising student research and working alongside local churches, including the CCAP.
Our daughter Mphatso is now three years old, and bilingual in both ‘American’ English (rather than British English as if often spoken here) as well as the local language of Chitumbuka. Somehow she is able to seamless switch between these two languages, as for example her Sunday School class is all in the language of Chitumbuka but she tells us about it after in English. She is also thriving in preschool, a local ‘Montessori-like’ program run by the CCAP. Currently she is attending just in the mornings and enjoys spending time with all her little friends.
One big event last month was a Research Conference hosted by the Church and Society Department of the Synod of Livingstonia CCAP. Church and Society an advocacy desk of the Synod on issues of human rights, governance and democracy. This research conference was one of the first of the type to be held here. It can be difficult to share information and meet with others working in other areas, for the CCAP Synod has grown to include about 20 different departments addressing both spiritual and physical needs of many sorts. An organization as large as the Synod has countless employees, and this conference was an opportunity to connect with others and share ideas. Not only the Synod but also many other organizations–including NGOs and universities–participated, including all faculties of the University of Livingstonia, Mzuzu University, the University of Malawi and others. In the U.S.A., such collaboration between academics and industry may seem unremarkable, but such opportunities are truly one of the greatest challenges that we face in our work in Malawi.
I was able to present two papers at this conference, “Tradition as a Theological Source: A look at Ancestor Veneration as a Local Model” and “A Dream Deferred: Dr. Law’s Vision of Theological Education in Northern Malawi.” It is important that I was able to collaborate with another Faculty of Theology lecturer, Rev. L. Moyo, and former student Rev. Gloria Molwka, who is looking to begin her master’s degree in theology, once the University of Livingstonia gets this program accredited. Utilizing these opportunities to step out of the classroom and into innovative academic research more common of academics in the global north is a chance many lecturers at the University of Livingstonia do not take advantage of which, and does create a real limit on our faculties growth. Rev. Molwka, who has been ministering in her congregation for two years and has preached countless sermons, expressed her anxiety about speaking in an academic setting: “I cannot get up and speak in front of all these people. I cannot talk as a researcher.” In the end, she did wonderfully and was one of only three female presenters. Incidentally, her studies at the University of Livingstonia were made possible by a congregation in the U.S.A. that provided her scholarship. Such support is truly raising the future leaders of Malawi and the church in a sustainable cycle.
Please continue praying for and supporting work at the University of Livingstonia Faculty of Theology. Please pray for continued progress of both our residential and ODL (distance learning) programs, which are undergoing expansion and a formalization of its institution and policies; the students at both Mzuzu University and the University of Livingstonia; and the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian Synod of Livingstonia.
We appreciate your faithful support for our ministry. We are grateful to all of you who shared in our ministry during 2016 through your prayers and giving. Many of you stepped forward, and approximately 80% of our family’s sending and support was met for 2016. We are truly humbled by your partnership in coming alongside us in meeting this goal.
We pray for you that the Lord may bless you abundantly and meet all your needs from his riches.
Tyler and Rochelle
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