Sunday, May 20, 2007

Why Malawi for me?


Why am I involved in mission in Malawi?

Among my many reasons and motives, one particular moment stands out:

1. I met a pastor from Malawi in December 2004 who inspired me to join him in his campaign to save the lives of AIDS orphans and train other pastors to deal with the issues of HIV/AIDS in the churches.

The Reverend Maurice Munthali, Deputy General Secretary, Church of Central Africa, Presbyterian Synod of Livingstonia, was invited and sponsored by CitiHope International to come to America and tell the story of what was happening in the churches of Malawi related to AIDS. I hosted him at Drew for a lecture for World AIDS Day, and introduced him to some folks at Central Presbyterian Church.

Over dinner at my home in Madison, my family and I got to know Maurice and his wife, Thandi, and heard their story of how their family of five grew to 15. After losing three of his own brothers and their wives to the AIDS pandemic, Maurice and Thandie, with three of their own children, adopted Maurice’s brothers' 12 children as their own—and began to model for others what it means to be an extended family in Malawi.


Formerly senior pastor of the largest Presbyterian Church in northern Malawi (with 3,000 members), Rev. Munthali now oversees 110 churches and 130 pastors in the Synod of Livingstonia--the spiritual legacy of David Livingstone.

The churches message today, according to Rev. Munthali: “We’re living in extra-ordinary time in the history of our country, and it calls for extra-ordinary measures to stop the spread of AIDS. The time has come to get serious about the moral, cultural and spiritual implications of AIDS in the churches which mirror the general culture in which one-forth of the population was infected with HIV. What is needed most in Malawi is the three M’s—Meals, Medicine and Morals—in our churches and communities, in order to stop the spread of AIDS.”

“Pastors themselves need to submit to voluntary testing and declare their HIV status,” he publicly declares. “They can become role models in the church and community in de-stigmatizing the disease and responding with compassion.”

The time had come for the church in Malawi to seek international help for food, medicine and education in a country stricken with food shortages, lack of adequate healthcare and a need for AIDS education and pastoral training.

Responding to the need and the call, in friendship with Maurice and in partnership with CitiHope International and the Synod of Livingstonia, I decided to help Maurice and his leadership team in Malawi launch a new campaign calling for Meals, Medicine and Morals to save lives in Malawi.

CitiHope’s Nutritional Food Programs addresses the need for Meals.

CitiHope’s Medical Relief Program addresses the need for Medicine.

And the Pastoral and Congregational Care Training (PACCT) initiative addresses Munthali’s third M—the need for moral reflection, behavior change and character development in the church as pastors and people deal with the various issues of HIV/AIDS in the congregations.

After visiting Malawi in August, 2005, with my 16 year old daughter, Rachel, on a mission trip (and delighting in her engagement with the orphans), I accepted CitiHope invitation to spend my sabbatical year 2006-07 as their Malawi Mission Director. What a great year it has been, as I’ve tried to report on my blog site. I hope to remain involved in the Malawi mission in the months and years to come.