It all started with an email that was heaven-sent
July 21, 2019
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: “The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.’”
And the confirmations kept coming.
Barnes is becoming 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 adviser, 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 3 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 to 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, Florida; and her Master of Divinity at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia. She is a member of the Northeast Georgia Presbytery.
Anyone wishing to donate to Cheryl Barnes’ ministry may do so at presbyterianmission.org/donate/e200537-ccap-education-facilitator.
Kathy Melvin, Director of Mission Communications, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Today’s Focus: Rev. Cheryl Barnes, mission co-worker in Malawi
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray:
Gracious Lord, continue to fill our brothers and sisters with your own heart, courage and love as they seek to bear witness to your gospel ways in their communities. Sustain them each day with all that they need. May your love come to reign so that all might live in peace with one another. Amen.