A Letter from Jeremy and Luta Garbat-Welch, serving in Malawi
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Increasingly in the past few years the spiritual practice of lament has been lifted up and explored. In this year in particular, it has been a good reminder that we have permission to raise up our complaints and sorrows to God. And as we lament it is important to remember that, despite possible feelings to the contrary, God is still present and faithful. Our situations might change, but God does not.
Lamentations 3:19-24 (NIV)
19 I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
20 I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
21 Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
22 Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
Verses 22-24 are often summarized as “The Lords’ mercies are new every morning! They never fail!” And we take hope from that. What I (Jeremy) hear less, is the part that comes before. Both are important to our understanding of God walking with us.
As we approach the end of 2020, in this year that continues to be referred to as “unprecedented times” we have been reflecting on the laments and the hopes of this season.
For the Garbat-Welchs, we lament:
In light of the incidence of COVID-19 in the USA and around the world the PC(USA) has instituted a travel and in-person meeting ban which has been extended until June 30, 2021. This means that our time in the USA is much longer than anticipated and we find ourselves “stuck” in Kentucky away from our community, and the ministries in which we are involved. Some days we are overcome with sorrow and worry being separated from our home in Malawi.
We rejoice that we have more time with family (even as time with family looks different). We rejoice in consistent electricity and water. We rejoice in fast, affordable internet that allows us to participate in online learning opportunities and stay connected to loved ones here in the USA.
We lament the loss of in-person worship.
We rejoice that online worship has allowed us to be able to participate in worship with so many of our supporting churches. Joining you in worship has given us a feel for the culture and rituals of your congregations, enriching our understanding of who you are.
We lament the loss of jobs in Malawi as schools, churches, and businesses closed for an extended period. We lament the deaths and impact of COVID-19 as well as the increased deaths from other causes. Friends tell us that while schools have re-opened, many other restrictions remain in place, yet many people ignore them.
We rejoice that the impact of the illness has been so much lower than many anticipated back in April. We rejoice in the technologies like WhatsApp that have allowed us to stay in touch with friends and colleagues despite being an ocean apart. We rejoice that the CCAP, our partner church, continues to worship and minister despite the many challenges the pandemic offers.
For the Chaplains of the CCAP, we lament:
We lament the difficulties chaplain report in being able to provide care to those they serve. We lament that school closures meant loss of jobs for many, as tuition fees are the main source of income. School chaplains report that many students lost focus on school and, due to early marriages, pregnancies, or other distractions, have not returned to school. We lament the decreased support that hospital patients and prison inmates are receiving. Chaplains have struggled to provide patients or inmates with the physical assistance they usually give, since congregations have less to give and are not able to visit.
We rejoice that many of the inmates who were pardoned early due to the virus have been able to return to their communities and maintain a productive way of life. We rejoice that the chaplains are still able to serve those in the hospitals and prisons, despite restrictions on other visitors. We rejoice that chaplains been able to facilitate trainings for staff members to provide psychosocial support during the pandemic.
For the CCAP CHE programs and communities, we lament:
We lament that several of the planned trainings and activities were cut short due to COVID-19, and community meetings were postponed for a time.
We rejoice that the CHE programs of the CCAP Synod of Zambia, and Nkhoma Synod, have been active in training their communities in COVID-19 prevention activities. We rejoice that the existing CHE communities have been a great way in which to disseminate information and build trust. The trust developed through the CHE programs facilitated medical teams to enter communities to care for individuals with COVID-19 when fears of the virus were bringing distrust against health care personnel. We rejoice that the Nkhoma Synod CHE program chose 2 trainers to receive training in soap making and then shared this training with their communities. This knowledge of soap making allows the communities to continue to be self-sustaining as they work to prevent COVID-19 in their communities.
For all of our supporters and partners, we lament:
We lament the losses of routine, financial security, and life that have resulted from this tumultuous season.
We rejoice, as always, for your ongoing prayers and support! It has meant so much to us this year. And as so many have struggled with finances and other forms of security this year, we are especially grateful for the gifts you have been able to continue to give.
In Christ’s Service,
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Tags: CCAP Chaplains, CCAP Community Health Evangelism (CHE), CCAP Synod of Zambia, Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP), COVID-19, Lamentations 3:19-24, malawi, Nkhoma Synod, pandemic, prisons, schools, soap-making, training, virus prevention
Tags: Jeremy and Luta Garbat-Welch
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