Pastor called to become a mission co-worker in Malawi

It all started with an email that was heaven-sent

by Kathy Melvin | Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Cheryl Barnes is in orientation preparing to serve as a mission co-worker with the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian. (Photo by Richard Keller)

LOUISVILLE — The Rev. Cheryl Barnes was at her computer getting ready to go teach Bible school when the Lord sent an email.

Of course, it wasn’t actually the Lord. The email was from World Mission about a mission co-worker position with a strong focus on education. She went down the list. It was as though it had been written for her. Then she saw the location. It was in Malawi. She shut down her computer and went to church determined to forget all about it.

But, she said, the Lord had other plans.

On her way to church, she got a call from her daughter Mielan Barnes, who had served a year in Peru in 2017 as a Young Adult Volunteer. Her daughter told her, “Mom, I had a dream that you were in a foreign country and you were teaching a group of girls.”

Barnes laughed and asked her daughter if she had seen the email about the mission co-worker position. She gave her mother a sincere no. When Barnes told her about the job opening, her daughter said, “Mom, you have to apply. They tell us in YAV, you have to see where God is leading you and you won’t know until you apply.”

When Barnes arrived that day at Bible school, she was to teach from Genesis 12, which opens with this verse: “Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.’”

And the confirmations kept coming.

Barnes applied and is currently in orientation to become the education facilitator for the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP), where she will collaborate with the CCAP Education Department and the education departments of the five CCAP Synods — three in Malawi, one in Zambia, and one in Zimbabwe — to improve the quality of primary school education in the many schools under the CCAP umbrella. In her role as an education advisor, her focus will be on improving the quality of teaching and implementing best practices in educating children, including those with special needs.  She will also work to develop and implement child protection policies with an emphasis on protecting young girls against violence, empowering them and encouraging them to continue their education.

The Malawi Mission Network was the driving force behind the creation of this position, and took on responsibility as a key constituent in raising the first half of the funds needed to move the position forward.

CCAP has a membership of more than three million in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Its holistic ministry has multiple departments, including education, health and development. The organization educates children in more than 1,500 schools.

CCAP schools face numerous challenges. They are chronically under-staffed and over-crowded, with student-teacher ratios as high as 100:1. Books are in short supply and the schools struggle to address issues such as early childhood development, child protection, the rights and needs of young girls, clean water and sanitation.

Prior to entering the ministry, Barnes taught special education and worked in early childhood education. She grew up in Georgia, earned her Bachelor of Science in special education at Morris Brown College in Atlanta; her Master of Business Administration at Nova University (now Nova Southeastern University)  in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; and her Master of Divinity at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Ga. She is a member of the Northeast Georgia Presbytery.

Anyone wishing to donate to Cheryl Barnes’ ministry can click here.


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