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Egypt and Returning Home

November 24, 2010

After spending one year in Zambia and travelling throughout Southern Africa for two and a half months it is nice to be in our home town of Spokane, Washington.  Our last stop, prior to flying back to the US, was Egypt where spent four days in Cairo, with Ben and Emily Robinson.  Ben is a PCUSA minister working at an Anglican Church in Cairo while Emily is a nurse at the American Embassy.  It was great to be with friends and to see their life and ministry in Cairo.  We were also thankful to have local hosts to show us around Cairo, a massive city of 20 million people.  We first went to Coptic Cairo and visited some of the oldest churches in the world.   With Ben and Emily, we wandered the old narrow streets of Islamic Cairo and climbed to the top of several minarets.  These beautiful structures were fun to explore and provided incredible views of the city.  We also visited the Egyptian Museum, the famous pyramids of Giza as well as the Sakkara and Dashur pyramids.    

            From Cairo, we traveled six hours to the Sinai Peninsula and climbed Mt. Sinai.  At 1:00 p.m., we began our hike up the old pilgrimage trail and along the way visited a 4th century hermit cave and church.  At about 5:00 p.m., we arrived at Elijah’s Basin, our camp site about 40 minutes from the top of Mt. Sinai.  We had a delicious fire side dinner under the stars and went to bed at 8:00 p.m.  We woke up at 4:30 a.m. and started our hike to the summit, along with hundreds of other people also making there way to the top.  The sun rose at about 6:00 a.m. and we enjoyed a beautiful morning in the presence of God.  There are debates as to if this mountain is the actual Mt. Sinai spoken of in the Old Testament, but regardless we felt blessed to be in the same area that Moses and the Israelites encountered God’s presence thousands of years ago.  After descending Mt. Sinai, down the steps of repentance (3000 steps), we took a tour of oldest working Christian monastery, St. Catherines.  Built in the 6th century, St Catherines was constructed around the supposed site of the burning bush and also contained the Sinaticus, one of the oldest Greek manuscripts of the Bible.

            The last day and a half of our trip was spent relaxing on the beach next to the Red Sea in Sharm el Sheikh.  As I sit at my dad’s house in Spokane, Washington looking out to about four inches of snow it is hard to believe that I was snorkeling in the Red Sea just one week ago.  k

Spokane is a familiar place with familiar faces, so we haven’t yet experienced too much of the “cultural shock” that is expected.  However, here are a few “shocking” observations from the past week.  It’s cold! (13 degrees at 3:00pm); seeing a drinking fountain in the airport; not sleeping under a mosquito net; driving on the right hand side of the road; not using a plug in adapter for our electronics; in a hotel room in Seattle I found myself looking around for bugs and cockroaches; a local news story about a lady rescuing ferrets seemed a bit bizarre! 

            We are so happy to be back home with our friends and family in Spokane, with whom we will celebrate Thanksgiving.  We are also looking forward to next week when we’ll see our friends at MAPC, in New York.  This Thanksgiving we are ever grateful for the year we spent in Zambia and for the last two and a half months we spent travelling throughout Southern Africa.  We had an incredible trip and we will continue to reflect on this experience for the rest of our lives (our 15,000 pictures will help with this process).  Thank you all for all of your prayers and encouragement and we wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving.      

The Anglican Church where Ben works

Yes, there is a truck under there

Satelite dishes in Garbage City

Downtown Cairo at sunset

The bent pyramid in Dashur

The pyramids at Giza

The Sphynx

View from the minerets in downtown Cairo

The minarets we climbed in Islamic Cairo

Downtown Cairo

Ben, Emily, Erin, and I in downtown Cairo

Erin climbing over to the hermit cave

A 4th century hermit cave

Our camp site on Mt. Sinai

Mt. Sinai at Sunrise

Sunrise on Mt. Sinai

Sunrise on Mt. Sinai

St. Catherines Monastary at the base of Mt. Sinai

The "burning bush" looking good for being thousands of years old

Our last day in Sharm el Sheikh

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The Island of Madagascar

November 11, 2010

 When we moved to Zambia, fifteen months ago, we knew four people on the entire continent.  I find it incredible that for the past nine weeks we have been hosted by eleven families, one of which we knew prior to arriving on the African continent.  To further put this in context we have stayed in fifteen hostels/hotels since leaving Zambia meaning that over forty percent of the time we were being hosted people we had never met before.  I told the Dimmocks who live in Lesotho that we may never be able to return their hospitality, but will show the generosity they showed to us to those we host in the future. 

The Asukile family hosted us while in Madagascar and once again we were humbled by incredible hospitality.  The Asukiles are Zambians working for Christian World Mission, formerly known as the London Mission Society.  Hilda teaches English in various settings, leads Bible studies, occasionally preaches and is one of those people who exudes the joy of Christ in a way that makes you want to be around her all the time.  Her equally wonderful husband, Jeff, works for the Church of Jesus Christ of Madagascar (FJKM), in their disaster relief department helping communities recover post cyclone.  With the Asukiles, we visited the FJKM headquarters, met others from around the world working with the Madagascar church and overall gained an understanding of what God is doing in this beautiful country. 

We spent our first few days in Antananarivo, the capital city of Madagascar, and found the city to be quite enjoyable.  Although Madagascar is a part of the African continent its culture is very different from other African countries we have visited.  In fact, if someone were to have blindfolded and flown me to Madagascar when the blindfold was removed I would not have guessed I was in Africa, but rather somewhere in Indonesia.  We wound our way through the narrow streets, sampled local Malagasy fare, perused a few museums and bought our fair share of beautiful Malagasy baskets.

Madagascar, the fourth largest island in the world, has flora and fauna indigenous only to Madagascar.  Perhaps the most famous is the lemur; a primate that to me looks like a cross between a koala bear and monkey.  We visited a zoo in Antananarivo and saw some of these fascinating animals; however the highlight was trekking through the rainforest in Andisabe National Park spotting the lemurs in their natural habitat as they jumped, or in some cases flew, from tree to tree.  A definite highlight of our travels thus far!

The last four days of our time in Madagascar were spent on Ile Aux Nattes.  Off the coast of Madagascar rests the island of Saint Marie with the smaller island, Ile Aux Nattes, lying about 150 yards to the south accessible only by pirogue; a small, hand dug out canoe.  Picture untouched white sandy beaches lined with palm and coconut trees giving way to sparkling clear blue water, and you’ll get a small picture of where we soaked up the sun for a few days.  Upon arrival, I ordered a pina colada.  The bartender subsequently said, “It will be a short wait.  I have to get a coconut and squeeze the milk from it in order to make your drink.”  I said, “NO PROBLEM!!!”   The gracious owner of the hotel was a South African man named Ockie who looked like a pirate and was a devote Christian.  We had some great theological discussions with him and were entertained by him feeding the three lemurs who always hung around the hotel.  While I was sleeping in our room I almost had a close encounter with a lemur as it jumped on to the window sill and was about to leap into our room.  Brent was watching this happen and was torn between scaring the lemur away and wanting to get a picture, thankfully (for his sake), he managed both.

We are currently in Cairo, Egypt with our good friends Ben and Emily Robinson.  Ben is an associate pastor at an Anglican Church and Emily is a nurse at the U.S. embassy.  We have seen their life and ministry here and visited most of the great sites in Cairo.  Tomorrow we head to the Sinai Peninsula to climb Mt. Sinai, take in St. Catherine’s Monastery, and spend a night on the southern tip of the Sinai Penninsula.  We will have much more on Egypt in our next post and on Monday, November 15th, we return home after fifteen months on the beautiful, paradoxical, diverse continent that we have come to love.  

Ring Tailed Lemurs in Antananaravio Madagascar

An Indri Lemur in Adasibe Natioinal Park

Downtown Antananaravio

FJKM Church in Antanaravio

Downtown Antanaravio

With Jeff, Ipyana, and Hilda at their church

Hilda preaching at a JFKM in Antananaravio

Laundry day in Antananaravio

Woolie Lemur and babie in Andasibe National Park

Ockie feeding the lemurs

Feeding time

This was the lemur about to get into our room, a sleeping Erin would have been suprised.

5 O'clock somewhere

The beach on Ile Aux Nattes

The amazing water on Ile Aux Nattes

Sunset on Ile Aux Nattes

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South Africa

October 26, 2010

          South Africa has not disappointed in terms of beautiful scenery, fascinating history, cultural diversity, and the prevalence of the church.  As Erin mentioned in the last post we briefly spent two days in Johannesburg then traveled to Lesotho for a week, before returning to South Africa.  Upon our return, we rented a car and headed into the the Drackensberg Mountains for a brief reprieve.   The freedom that came with having our own wheels, as compared with depending on public transport or other people, was welcome.  After six weeks on the road and constantly interacting with people we took a short mid trip break to relax and to recharge.  We enjoyed driving through the beautiful countryside passing through a couple national parks and several quaint mountain towns.  The much needed rainy season started which was great for the crops, but a little unfortunate for us as we spent a day hiking in the rain and cold.  The rain only lasted a couple of days and we enjoyed some more sunny hikes at Sani Pass where we also drank  a beer at the “Highest Pub in Africa.”  The Kwazulu Natal region was home to several battles during the English and Boer War and we visited a couple of the battle fields in order to learn more about the history and culture.   After our time in the Drackensberg we drove three hours to Durban and spent the afternoon on the beach boardwalk.  The next day we returned the car and flew to Cape Town. 

            The amount of development and infrastructure in South Africa is even greater than I imagined.  The World Cup contributed greatly to this, with the addition of new airports, soccer stadiums, shopping centers, and hotels.   As walked in fancy shopping malls and drove on a six  lane freeway I often felt like I was in the U.S.  After being in Zambia for a year we have especially enjoyed driving on the South African roads.  But with more development comes an even a bigger gap between the rich and the poor.  Cape Town is probably the biggest example of this with extravagant homes on the beach and thousands and thousands of people living in shanty towns on Cape Flats.   It is difficult to know what to make of the extreme poverty amongst such abundant wealth and we are continuing to wrestle with this complicated issue.

            We have been here since Oct. 20th and it has been a great few days.  We have been staying with our new friends Casey and Sarah Prince who have been very gracious and generous hosts.  They have gone out of their way to make sure we have made the most of Cape Town and their beautiful two year old daughter Kieren kept us entertained.  They live in Ocean View which is a colored township just south of Cape Town.  Sarah is an associate pastor at a Methodist church in Ocean View and Casey is leading a youth soccer ministry called Ubuntu.   We enjoyed spending time with them and experiencing their life and ministry in Ocean View.  We were also able to see many of the great sites in Cape Town including: Table Mountain, wine country, the waterfront, Cape Point, and the penguins in Simons Town.   

            This morning we flew from Cape Town to Johannesburg and are currently in the Jo’burg airport waiting to catch our flight to Madagascar.  We are excited for our adventure to Madagascar, as it is much different from the Southern Africa countries we have visited thus far.  More to come on that later. 

In Soweto on our bike tour

Brent's new friend on the bike tour in Soweto

Sunset in the central Drackensbergs

The top of Hodgsens Peak in Sani Pass, 3256 meters

The windy road leading up Sani Pass

The highest pub in Africa, 2875 meters

Our Friend Kamesh on a cheetah encounter in Cape Town

With Kamesh at the downtown waterfront in Cape Town

Wine tasting with Sarah, Casey, and Keiren Prince

On top of Table Mountain in Cape Town

Lions Head and downtown Cape Town from on top of Table Mountain

The view from Signal Hill with Table Mountain in the background

Sunset on Lions Head

Sunset on Lions Head

Table Mountain at sunset

Sunset from Lions Head

Erin, Casey, and Keiren at the beach

Cape Point South Africa

Cape of Good Hope

Erin attended Sarah's womens Bible study

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Lesotho

October 26, 2010

After a fantastic visit to Zimbabwe we headed to Johannesburg for a brief two day stay.  We lodged at a backpacker hostel in Soweto and found ourselves in the midst of a neighborhood of history.  Soweto was formed around 1900 as a racially segregated township for the black working force and later became home to many blacks who were forced to leave their homes, as a part of the Apartheid’s forced removal law.  In 1976, police opened fire on students protesting against Afrikaanas as the official language for education.  Hundreds of students were killed.  However, several anti-Apartheid activists came from Soweto, including Nelson Mandela, is now home to Desmund Tutu and today its residents see their township as a beacon of hope for others who resist injustice.  An excellent way to see Soweto is via bicycle which is exactly what we did, along with others and a Soweto native who gave us a great history lesson.  We also squeezed in a visit to the Apartheid Museum and were blown away by the widespread injustice and violence of Apartheid, but also moved by the courage of the resistance movement captured in the story of Nelson Mandella.  

From Johannesburg we headed south to the mountainous country of Lesotho.  Lesotho is an island country in that it is surrounded, on all sides, by the country of South Africa.  The Basotho found refuge in the mountains during war and continued their herding way of life in the mountains.  Lesotho is a gorgeous country with majestic peaks, green valleys, and of course beautiful people.  We spent a few days hiking at Malealea Lodge, a day in Morija visiting the birthplace of the Evangelical Church of Lesotho, another day driving through the mountains to view Mohale Dam and a final two days with the Dimmock family in the capital city of Maseru.  The Dimmocks are PC(USA) mission co-workers who have lived in Southern Africa for over twenty years, some in Lesotho and some in Malawi.  Frank works throughout several countries as the Africa Health Liaison while Nancy works closely with orphans and adoption in Lesotho.  Lesotho has the highest percentage of orphans in the world and has the third highest HIV infection rate.  These statistics became real when Nancy took us to the MIS Orphanage.  We were taken aback at the number of orphans in just one orphanage, not to mention the other orphanages in Lesotho.  We are grateful for our time with the Dimmocks and the experience and wisdom they imparted to us, the delicious home cooked food we shared and their Christ-like hospitality.  We hope to back someday to visit again.

At Malealea with the Dimmocks

Panoramic view at Malealea

Hiking in Malealea

Herd boys in Lesotho

A typical mountain village in Lesotho

Evangelical Church of Lesotho in Morija

The guest house in Morija

MIS Orphanage in Maseru

MIS Orphanage (I didn't even plan on putting the cross in the background)

MIS Orphanage

Mohale Dam

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Zimbabwe

October 16, 2010

Rev. Nedson Zulu dropped us off in Harare on the 28th of September where we were graciously hosted by the CCAP Synod of Harare who are in partnership with Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church.  Harare is beautiful this time of year, with the Jacaranda trees in full bloom.  We stayed at the home of Dr. Lamiel Phiri who recently received his Ph.D. in Servant Leadership.  Lamiel was an incredible host.  While in Harare, we conducted a three day workshop on entitled “Training of Trainers.”  The course was scheduled to be held at Rock Haven CCAP Conference Center, but due to water challenges we held the course at Mbare Congregation in Harare, where we were generously hosted by Rev. Juma.  We trained lay leaders from CCAP churches all over Zimbabwe.  One participant even travelled 800km (500 miles) taking him 12 hours via bus to reach Harare  The courrse was similar to the courses that we taught with TEEZ in Zambia, but with more of an emphasis on preaching and leadership.  Many of the participants were leaders in their churches, but had little formal training and therefore were very eager to learn, and were full of good questions.  English varied among the participants and we were very impressed by the way they helped each other translate the material.  We had a lovely closing ceremony and we were able to present each participant with a certificate of completion. 

Lamiel kindly showed us much of Harare and on Sunday took us to a CCAP church in the small town of Chegutu, about an hour outside of Harare.  I preached and after the service we went to a nice lunch with several of church leaders.  Chegutu Congregation just expanded their building and is a thriving congregation.  We really enjoyed our five days in Harare and were grateful to meet the people with whom MAPC has established a partnership.  In less than a week, a group from MAPC will travel to Harare to continue this partnership.  We know they will have an enjoyable and blessed time.

After finishing the course in Harare, we boarded a Greyhound Bus on Monday October 4 and reached Johannesburg, South Africa 18 hours later!  The bus was really nice compared to the buses we took in Malawi; we had assigned seats, there weren’t any passengers in the aisles and the bus was chicken free.  However, no matter how nice the bus it was still a long ride to Johannesburg.  We will write more on our time in South Africa and Lesotho in our next post. 

CCAP Mbare Congregation in Harare

Brent teaching in Harare

Erin eating lunch with one of the participants

Rev. Juma giving us words of encouragement at the closing of the course.

Receiving our gifts from the participants

Group photo with all 24 participants

Brent preaching at Chegutu Congregation

With Dr. Lamiel Phiri's family

The Jacaranda trees in Harare

A close up of a Jacaranda tree

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Three Weeks, Three Countries and Thirteen Beds

October 13, 2010

         Someone told me that our trip sounds like the Amazing Race, and in some ways that is true.  Each leg of our journey brings about its own set of adventures requiring creativity, patience, humor, and some collaboration between Brent and me and with locals who continually prove to be extremely gracious and helpful. Eventually, there’s a reward when we get to where we’re going, even if the reward is that we get to take our packs off and take a cold shower.  A recent leg took us from Blantyre, Malawi through Mozambique and onto Harare, Zimbabwe. 

            Monday, September 20 we met up with Reverend Nedson Zulu, a wonderful man who works for the Outreach Foundation; an organization seeking to connect Presbyterian churches in the US to Christians in developing countries.  Nedson, a Zambian by birth, works specifically in the Tete region of Mozambique, located in the northwest corner of a rather large country.  Nedson graciously offered to show us some of what he has been up to for the past ten years, as well as take us to eastern Mozambique where we visited some folks who work with New Tribes Mission. 

            Mozambique felt different than Zambia and Malawi, the major reasons being:  one, Mozambique was colonized by the Portuguese, rather than the British, who were notorious for leaving their colonies in shambles after independence.  It’s said the Portuguese poured cement down wells, burnt buildings to the ground, destroyed factories, and tore up phone lines as they left.  Two, after independence in 1975, the country’s first president had communist tendencies and subsequently expelled all religious institutions.  Third, Mozambique was ravaged by a civil war that lasted over ten years, finally ending around 1994 whereby communism was rejected and religion was invited back into the country.  Mozambique is fervently trying, with some success, to build back into the country an infrastructure that was literally destroyed by the war, as well as to welcome back and provide for the refuges that fled during the war.  In the way of religion, the Christian Church is young and floundering to sink roots and to grow.  For these reasons, Mozambique is a country New Tribes Mission is currently focusing on with the hope of sharing God’s love, peace and hope to a country previously tormented by war.

Matt and Debi Zook, along with their four year old daughter, Melody, and their nine month old son, William, live in Derre, Mozambique amongst the Lolo people.  Derre is a small town/village that was abandoned when the war brutally swept through. Because the war was between two party groups that were interweaved into communities, neighbors killed neighbors and friends killed friends, causing most people to flee to neighboring Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe.  Upon their return, the Lolo people are trying to establish a livelihood they remember from the past.  The Zooks, fluent in Portuguese and Lolo, have lived in Derre for five years and are committed to sharing God’s love and peace with the Lolo, as well as translating the New Testament into the Lolo language; an admirable task.  The Zooks built a brick house, powered by solar energy, and dependent upon on rain water that is collected into a large holding tank, then pumped up to their roof from where it is piped into the house.  They have chickens and pigs, mango, banana, coconut and cashew trees, some kind of bean tree and a large garden.  I was fascinated by their life of simplicity as well as surviving on what is locally available and grown.   

From Derre, Nedson, Brent and I drove east to Quelimane, a city on an inlet of the Indian Ocean.  There, we met some other inspiring New Tribes folks preparing to move to a remote area several hours south of Quelimane reachable only by boat or motorcycle.  I had, for dinner one night, the largest shrimp I have ever seen – they were 4 inches long – marinated in Mozambican coconut milk; definitely one of the food highlights of our trip. 

What struck me most about New Tribes Mission is their commitment to language learning.  Although it takes years, what language learning communicates is that God is not a God of English, Western culture, or white skin.  God is not limited by culture, country or race.  God is a God big enough to embrace all culture, languages and people.  English is not a prerequisite to Christianity. 

Tete was an 11.5 hour drive from Quelimane, to the west.  If you can imagine, we went south from Blantyre to Derre, east to Quelimane and then west to Tete.  However, in order to reach Tete we had to drive a few hundred miles south, and then a few hundred miles north, within 100 miles of the Malawi border, so we ended up making a big circle.  Tete is HOT, on the mighty Zambezi River and is developing like crazy. 

The Outreach Foundation realized the great need in Mozambique that resulted from the civil war and has worked to, in cooperation with the Mozambican people, to build churches, schools, clinics, to drill wells and provide training to a young and fledgling church.  We visited several of these churches and wells, and visited a newly opened clinic and renovated school.  Nedson, who is intricately involved in each building, well and training explained to us that this ministry is holistic and works to encourage sustainability and ownership among recipients.  In other words Outreach does not  build a church or drill a well to attract people to the Christian faith, rather because of what it means to be a Christian and how Jesus calls us to live, they share what they have which results in a cooperative effort between Outreach and the local people to build, say, a school.  This is drastically different from ministries whose goal is to provide food, water, a new church, or clothes in exchange for listening to a sermon.  When the food is gone, so are the people, and when the well breaks or the building needs to be repaired no one fixes it because it was never theirs.  Of course, when a community gains a well that provides safe water people experience God’s love which hopefully transform their hearts and lives. 

I can’t adequately explain what a humble, patient and servant minded man Nedson is.  Brent and I learned so much from him and are still processing all that we saw and talked about.  I am fairly confident that my view of partnership, “mission projects” and development will forever be influenced by the week I spent with Nedson Zulu. 

Erin, Rev. Zulu, Mrs Zulu and their grandaughter

In front of an old Catholic Church in Quellimane, Mozambique

Dinner in Quellimane with the Schaffers, Ruby, Arnie, and Nedson

Brent speaking with Nedson translating at a Presbyterian church in the Tete region

A deep well constructed with help from the Outreach Foundation

Beautiful faces in the crowd at a Presbyterian congregation in the Tete region

A newly constructed Presbyterian church in the Tete region

Nedson dropping us off in Harare

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Malawi in Two Weeks

September 20, 2010

We are two weeks into our trip and are having an incredible time!  We have encountered gracious hospitality, glimpses into how God is at work in Malawi, spontaneous adventure and the joys and challenges of travel in Africa. 

We arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi on September 7 and met up with David Chimgama, a man whom we met during our time at Princeton Seminary.  Although we had met David, we didn’t know very much about the ministry he was involved in and were surprised to hear that we would be partaking in what he explained as a mission; a week long effort to evangelize Area 25, a neighborhood in Lilongwe.  This meant loading 15-20 people in the back of a pick-up, along with a PA system playing loud music, and cruising the streets of Area 25 occasionally stopping to preach a 10 – 15 minute sermon.  Both Brent and I were uncomfortable with this and as we were riding along in the pick-up looked at each other and said, “Is this really happening?”  However, it was helpful to be exposed to what others are doing and how God is active – we certainly don’t want to limit God and how God is at work.  David was a gracious host and we enjoyed the time we spent at his home and getting to know his family.

From Lilongwe we headed north to Mzuzu via the bus.  We took a bus that stopped wherever its passengers want to get off which made for a long trip to Mzuzu.  The busses here have two seats on one side and three on the other, along with anywhere from 25- 40 people standing in an already small aisle plus their luggage; bags of maize, rice, buckets full of clothes, cabbage, HUGE suitcases, mops, brooms and my personal favorite, live chickens.  My favorite part of the bus ride was when a live chicken fell off the luggage rack and survived.  My least favorite part was when a woman asked if Brent was my son!  She said we looked alike. 

Once in Mzuzu, we stayed with Jim and Jodi McGill who have lived in Malawi for 20 years!  Jim and Jodi have six kids and both work with the Central Church of Africa Presbyterian (CCAP).   Jim is a geo physicist and focuses on water and sanitation. We spent one morning hearing about the newest sanitation technology.  Basically, human waste becomes some of the best fertilizer there is, therefore decreasing cost and chemicals, all while improving sanitation in villages.  Fascinating!  Jodi is a nurse practioner and teaches Chemistry and Physics at the CCAP School of Nursing as well as does various work for the CCAP.  Having lived in Malawi for 20 years Jim and Jodi had wonderful insight into life, the Church and development in Malawi. They were wonderful, generous and hospitable people and we feel blessed to have spent time with them.   

On Sunday, Brent and I traveled three hours to Livingstonia Plateau, the birthplace of the Presbyterian Church in Malawi developed by the Scottish missionaries around 1875.  To get here, we drove north from Mzuzu and meandered our way through the mountains getting glimpses of Lake Malawi, as the road twisted and turned.  Once down on the lake shore we drove 10 kilometers and then began our ascent up a steep, rocky road with 21 switchbacks, to be exact. As we drove, we looked down upon lush, green hills rolling into the sparkling blue green water of the lake; the scenery was spectacular, and immediately I wanted to stay here for two weeks.  Once up on the plateau it was if we entered an English village.  I was amazed at how much infrastructure was on the plateau knowing that most of it came up before there were cars to carry any material.  Even at the present, transportation up and down is difficult.   The Scots built a church, a few schools, a hospital, a post office, and a water system that used gravity to bring water from the surrounding mountains to the plateau – still in use today.  I found it significant that when the Scottish missionaries came to Malawi their goal was not only to proselytize, but also to make education, health care and commerce available to the people with whom they were sharing the Christian faith.  On Sunday morning I preached, and after lunch we headed back to Mzuzu enjoying the beautiful drive.  However, this time we imagined all of the trips taken up the hill on foot to make Livingstonia what it is today.

Monday morning we visited the Mzuzu Crisis Nursery, directed by Paul and Darlene Heller, employed by the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA).  Brent found a little friend here, Eunice; it was pretty cute how she was instantly taken by him, and he with her.  The nursery does not function as an orphanage; rather its purpose is to provide adequate care for babies during the “crisis” part of their lives.  The goal is for the babies, around 18 months of age, to return to their families.  The nursery works to educate the babies’ families, so they are ready to care for their child at 18 months.  It seems as though institutionalized orphanages aren’t the answer.  While orphanages are necessary in some instances, the goal should be to reunite children with their families.  Rather than putting money and energy into orphanages, money and energy should be put into preventing the very things that cause orphans i.e. HIV/AIDS, maternity death, poverty, the cultural idea that fathers are incapable of raising children etc.  An interesting discussion, for sure. 

Monday Sept. 13th was also Brent’s 30th birthday which I don’t think we really celebrated until the 15th.  Our original plan was to take an hour mini bus (vans that function as busses with as many people as possible squeezed in) to Nkhata Bay and from there catch the Ilala Ferry to Monkey Bay; a 36 hour ride.  Unfortunately, Brent and I were both suffering from a stomach bug and it seemed neither wise nor appealing to be on a boat for 36 hours.  So, we decided to catch the ferry in Nkhatoka reducing our trip by about 20 hours.   This meant we needed to catch a bus to Nkhatoka, so we headed to the bus station around 3:30.  Due to a fuel shortage, we stood on the bus (there wasn’t any room to sit) for an hour and a half and then we FINALLY started moving.  I cannot describe how many people were on this bus!  And, we were going down a very steep hill which for Brent, who was at the very front of the bus staring directly out the front window, was a little nerve wracking.  Four and a half hours later, around 9:30 pm we arrived in Nkhotakota.  Just in case you were wondering, there aren’t taxis in Nkhatoka.  So, in the dark we started walking up and down the road with our huge backpacks in search of a place to stay.  Grace Hotel had huge cockroaches, Nowa Guest House was full, Chamba Guest House was completely dark, but Pick and Pay Guest House saved the day, which for $9 a night wasn’t bad.   On Tuesday, we learned that the ferry usually doesn’t show up until about 3 or 4 am – I’ll spare you the details, but this took about 2 hours to figure out.  Fortunately, there was a nice guest house on the water where we could wait for the ferry.  The ferry didn’t come until 6 am on Wednesday and wouldn’t leave until 9 or 10 which meant we wouldn’t get into Monkey Bay until the middle of the night and wanting to avoid a situation similar to that when we reached Nkhotakota we decided to skip the ferry and take the bus south.  We also had a reservation at Boadzulu Lodge, a nice hotel on the beach where we wanted to really celebrate Brent’s birthday.  Wanting to make the most of our time there the bus seemed like the best option. 

We started off around 8 am on a mini bus which reached Salima two and a half hours later.  From Salima we needed to get another bus to Mongochi.  A large bus was leaving and I pushed my way in a got two tickets; again, standing room only.  For whatever reason, the bus company decided to take us off one bus and move us to another bus.  The only way I can describe this experience is shopping at Walmart the day after Thanksgiving in hopes of getting a flatscreen for $200.  It was insane!  Malawians are peaceful, but not when they want on a bus.  I tried to get on the bus, but finally gave up and just watched.  We did manage to get on, again standing in the front, which made our bus ride from Mzuzu to Nkhata Bay luxurious.  Eventually, we got one seat in the very front.  A guy came on with a bag of fish and put his hand on the wall above Brent’s head to help him balance.  The bag of fish was dangling in front of Brent’s face.  That lasted about two seconds and Brent swatted the bag out of his face, and subsequently the guy moved his hand.  It took us about four hours to get to Boadzulu Lodge and I was so ready to get off that bus.  While relaxing under a grass thatched umbrella on a beach lined with papaya trees I finally told Brent, “Happy Birthday!” and meant it.

From Boadzulu Lodge, our friend Kay Day picked us up and drove us to Blantyre where we have spent the last few days.  She is a PCUSA minister and works with the CCAP and has graciously shown us around Blantyre as well as introduced us to the wonderful work that she is doing.  We have enjoyed good food and conversation wit Kay as she has been a wonderful host.  On Tuesday, we’ll head further south to Mozambique. 

Selling rats at a market in Lilongwe

The chicken on the cargo rack right before it fell

The 8 hour bus ride from Lilongwe to Mzuzu

The view from our seats

With CCAP Livingstonia General Secretary Rev. Nyondo and Mrs Nyondo

On the road from Mzuzu to Livingstonia

Lake Malawi

The Livingstonia Plateau in the distance

The top of the Livingstonia Plateau

We picked up some passengers on the way up the plateau

Sunset on Livingstonia Plateau

Sunset on top of the plateau

CCAP Livingstonia Church

Stained glass window of David Livingstone

Erin preaching at Livingstonia

Holding 2 week old babies at the crisis nursery in Mzuzu

Mzuzu crisis nursery

Erin on a bicycle taxi in Nkhotakota

The Ilala Ferry that we didn't end up taking

The chaos of getting on the bus in Salima

This guy next to Erin was helpful and he was the one guy who easily shoved his way through the crowd

Lake Malawi

A woman selling fish

Another woman selling fish

Daily activities at Lake Malawi

Brent's bday cake

Erin relaxing on the beach