Sunday, May 31, 2009

Mission Accomplished

After 12 days in Malawi, we felt that our mission was accomplished. Together we...

Supplied two student interns to work with Pastor Copeland and the UMC to create a shalom zone community development project within 1km of the church during the month of June.

Supplied soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes and beauty products to 400 prisoners at Mzuzu Prison.

Donated school supplies (pencils, paper, crayons, books, highlighters, construction paper, colored pencils, sharpeners, chalk, scissors, notebooks, flashcards, and markers,9 Calculators - 4 prisoners, 5 to HopeHome children)
Donated 11 used soccer balls with pumps

Handed out over 250 greeting cards made by American children
Handed out small toys (plastic balls, harmonicas, balloons, bubbles
Handed out 25lbs of chocolate candies
Donated 20 hand-made baby blankets to Ministry of Hope
Donated 10 sets of stationery paper to various churches
Donated 26 hygiene/make-up kits
Donated over-the-counter medical supplies to Zowe
14 Blankets x $17/per = $238

Evaluated six village well projects in Masonto, Kampenda and Zowe areas.

Assessed need for five more village well projects in same areas.

Arranged for the repair of the well and reservoir tank in Geisha village.

Mutual exchange of ideas and relevant information with St Augustine HIV/AIDS support group and CitiHope PACCT staff.

Preached and offered ministry of presence at two church services (Presbyterian and United Methodist)

Offered love and raised hope, while receiving faith, hope and love from over 1500 kids in community-based orphan care programs and HopeHome program.

Facilitated on-going support for Esnart’s Children after she died of AIDS

Found Sponsor for next well in Euthini Village

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Day Nine: Mission Trip Concludes in Lilongwe

Mission accomplished in Mzuzu! (details to follow when time and access allow. We are now here in Lilongwe, capital of Malawi, safe and sound. We enjoyed a great feast at the 4 star Four Seasons restaurant/resort last night. Really good food, festive setting, koi ponds, gardens, etc to help us process the nine day mission and celebrate our activities and accomplishments, lessons and gifts received from the faithful, loving people of the 'warm heart of Africa.' I do love this kind of work, and all the fun, debriefing and process times, personal transformations, and contributions to God's work in the world I witness on these missions.

No one got too sick (me not at all) on the trip. Those most physically fit got off their health and diet routine a bit, but its all good. Claire and Christian, who we left behind to continue the work as shalom interns, plan to move out of their new digs because they can't close their windows to the bugs. Back to Katoto Guest House which comparatively works better for them. Claire preaches in the UMC today and Christian will preach next week (his first sermon). Both seem comfortable and confident in their surroundings, and eager to serve and make a difference.

Three of us will continue on to JoBurg later today. The rest of the team is eager to return home (but not too eager because it really was a good and important mission trip, with significant contributions made and lasting gifts received). We all wonder how well we will re-adjust to our nomal life and routines.

I'll upload photos and details when I return home, and ask each member of the team to add a post to this mission trip blog.

Day Eight: Hope Crisis Nursery

Stacy, Elaine, Claire and others visited Ministry of Hope Crisis Nursery and donated 20 baby blankets. Opened in Mzuzu in 2006 by Ministry of Hope, the crisis nursery provides temporary care for babies born with AIDS or babies who have been abandoned or are in other life threatening situations. With a capacity to care for approximately eight infants, the children are cared for during their crisis period while arrangements are made to place them with relatives or adoptive families.

The rest of the day was spend packing and preparing to leave Malawi via Lilongwe.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Down Time in Malawi

Visited Nkhata Bay for woodcraft shopping, and Chintheche Inn to have lunch and swim in Lake Malawi. Relaxed and ate at Future Vision lodge and restaurant. Drove through Game Reserve as dusk to see what animals we could. We saw a few impalas and birds, but most memorable were the Tzu Tzu flies that pestered us through the windows (and threatened to bite and give us the dreaded ‘sleeping sickness.’ Last dinner together at Four Seasons restaurant in Lilongwe (always the best).

Shalom Interns in Malawi for a Month

Claire Colcord and Christian Ciobanu are two of our eight shalom interns from Drew University, and are assigned to Malawi to help the United Methodist Church of Mzuzu start develop a new ShalomZone in the city. I have posted two of their reflections below:

Hi colleagues in Shalom from Mzuzu:

Africa is both more and less than I expected - the city of Mzuzu is in fact a bustling metro area with downtown shops and business, outlying offices and markets and a hospital, clinics and loads of "top up" stands to recharge one's cell phone batteries (since having electricity is still a luxury in more rural areas). I'm impressed by the graciousness of the people and by the laundry lists of needs. I'm distressed by the sexism and apparent neglect of education among nearly half of the people who don't send their kids to school, even though the government supplies schools for primary (elementary) students. Sometimes these schools are far away and kids must walk but the other problem is that they are overpopulated - in Zowe there were 2 classrooms (approx 12' x 15') and 3 teachers for 675 students. Though writing notebooks cost less than 8 cents, only one in 20 students have one and some of those are missing the requisite pencils to write in them.

These are today's issues on my heart as we begin today to work with our site supervisor to begin to scope our Zone for physical and individual resources.

God's glory is evident all around us - each night the stars have put on an awesome show for us - the milky way is clearly visible! And the landscape is incredible though we have yet to see a wild creature - the locals tell us they've all been eaten long ago!

Claire Colcord

Greetings from Mzuzu, Malawi Africa!

The trip has been quite intense.

Since last week, I have visited the Mzuzu Prison to distribute toothbrushes, St. Augustine’s HIV/AIDS clinic, Geisha Well (a small well in rural Malawi), Zowe (an extremely small town that has one small clinic), and of course, the local United Methodist Church. The Church is a one-room shack where about 50-70 members of the local village attend every Sunday.

In terms of my tasks, I have been assigned the tasks to help raise money for a local sewing business that some of the women of the UMC are trying to start in the local village, as well as an egg laying business (a business in which the local villagers can sell chicken eggs) to the markets in downtown Mzuzu.

Currently, I am trying to find small businesses and local foundations to provide startup capital to help these businesses. I am also trying to plan some type of meeting with the community leaders. I have been discussing these ideas with Claire who is also helping me. Well, I hope all is well.

Christian Ciobanu

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Day Seven: Kamphenda Village Wells

Kamphenda Villages:
Most gratifying was our visit to Rumphi in an area called Kamphenda which had been assessed by the Presbyterian Synod Church and Society program to have severe water problem. During the rainy season, water in the streams becomes muddy and contaminated resulting into water borne diseases like dysentery, diarrhea, cholera etc. During dry season, the water table goes deep down which makes it difficult for the villagers to find water table by sinking hand dug wells. In 2007, I met with 20 village chiefs who did not have their own village well, and I promised them at least one well, and more if I could find sponsors. What a delight to return two years later to find three thriving village well projects, and a significant decrease in waterborne diseases.

Kamphenda is about 100km away from Mzuzu. The CCAP Church and Society program continued to be quite active in the community through the Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) program which takes a Human Rights promotion approach to Development in Malawi. Church workers wearing their colorful Church and Society vests had organized the community and helped them start community gardens near the well sights. I’m convinced that this kind of prior community organizing and development work is essential before CitiHope and WorldHope Corps comes in and digs a bore hole.

I hope to find sponsors for at least three more wells in this area before the end of the year.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Clare's Reflection on Zowe Village

We're all back safe and sound from Zowe Village. Here's is Claire's report to her sponsoring church--Central Presbyterian Church of Summit:

Hi all - greetings from Malawi!

This morning I'm sitting at the CitiHope Accountant's laptop banging away at church email. It seems a world away. Looking at emails about the $24k we're going to spend in the CE wing this summer makes me wonder how far that same relatively small cache of cash would go here. Surely it would build a school, a feeding center, a clinic, pay for 2 deep wells, the options go on & on. There is so much need here. And the inequities in our way of life and those of the people here seem unbridgeable. I have to constantly remind myself that our job is to bring hope when I see so little myself.

Yesterday we traveled 3 hours and 92km to the village of Zowe. Zowe is a grouping of 18 villages with 2250 people where CitiHope placed a well (thanks to some faithful CPC donors!) a couple of years back. It is much like an ADP in that there is a clinic - open one day a week and very ill supplied with medicines, etc. We brought a couple of plastic grocery bags full of ointments, over the counter medications, bandages and we doubled easily their available supplies - so sad!

All but 1 or 2 of the km traveled yesterday were on a dirt, rock, sand road. Amid the jostling, jarring ride we witnessed incredible scenery -rocky outcroppings, termite hills ten ft. tall and 12 ft in diameter, 8 ft. tall poinsettias, amazing trees and corn planted everywhere, along with millet (local beer anyone?), soy beans, etc.

When we got to the village of Zowe - we greeted the people, got a tour of the pharmacy, presented them with 2 soccer balls, and sat in their school getting our bearings. Then we went into a local house where we shared a picnic-style lunch amongst our group out of the eyes of villagers - it is hard to eat when folks with so little await your return.

After lunch part of our group went to scope out another well site several km away and some of us stayed to play with he kids. Elaine, a retired school teacher in our group and a great sport began a pick-up kick ball game. It was a delight! A lot of talk over rules of the game finally ceased so kids could just laugh and run and watch at least 3 grey haired folks (me included) play with them. I don't think adults in their culture ever really play. Kick ball without rules is really more fun
than the ruled variety and the faces of the children here when gleeful or laughing at the antics of white people is intoxicating. It was almost impossible to get the girls to join our game - ultimately we were successful with only a few. The girls here are taught to be totally deferential to men/boys of all ages - even younger than themselves. They are taught to be shy, many are painfully shy.

Children as a general rule are impressively well behaved throughout the country. They sit in rows on the ground for church without tugging at kids near them or whispering to them. They follow requests of adults with very little time lag. It's truly incredible. However all that goes out the window when we begin to hand out treats. Then we are overrun, swamped by the hordes. We've learned to make the selection of children to receive goodies random or to leave goodies with their teacher for distribution after we go. When we figured out that the girls and youngest kids wouldn't join our kick ball game, Stacy pulled out a bottle of bubbles and began to play with the pre-schoolers. I took out a bag of balloons and began to blow them up and sail them over the heads of the kids clamoring around me. I was surprised when the mothers intercepted the balloons, wrestling for them as much as any scrappy kid. They wanted them to decorate their homes a translator told me. So I gave each mom a handful to take home hoping they wouldn't feel the need then to compete with the kids to grab them. A few quit but not all! Anyway - more later - gotta go to lunch.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Day Six: Visiting Zowe and Euthini Villages

Since 2007, I have found sponsors for and facilitated 7 village well projects through CitiHope and WorldHope Corps. The mission team was able to visit five of these and hear a report on the difference fresh water has made.

Zowe Village:
In 2007, Copeland had taken the mission team out to a remote village called Zowe where he had a UMC preaching point and mission. It was his number one priority for a village well, right next to the plot of land given to the church by the village on which to build a church. What a joy to re-visit the village and see that the borehole was installed and the well working beautifully. Half the group decided to stay overnight in Zowe and had purchased wool blankets for the camping experience. We were given space on the floor of a house and it worked out fine. We had time to play with the kids, visit a nearby village that did not have a well, and hike to the top of a mountain where the 360 panoramic view was breathtaking at sunset. Copeland’s missionary evangelist friend, McDonald, and his wife, fixed us a good dinner. A roaring camp fire outside the house kept us warm until bedtime.

Several of us also got up at 4:30am to make the climb again to see the bright and majestic sunrise. After breakfast we enjoyed a children’s program during which we presented our blankets to the ‘most vulnerable’ as determined by McDonald. Also presented over-the-counter meds to help replenish their clinic closet/pharmacy. Next year, I hope to return to Zowe for an overnight visit. We will need to bring more medical supplies.

Euthini Village: Last year, our mission team visited Euthini village with the hope of installing a well there. It is a very poor and primitive village largely forgotten by the world. And most deserving of their own borehole. Their only source of water is a shallow well that is contaminated. And a stream 1km away during the rainy season which is shared by all the animals (and thus contaminated). The nearest well is 4km away. Euthini is surrounded by four other small villages where Copeland’s pastoral assistant, Felix, does evangelism. They have a nursery school for 38 children in two half built brick buildings already serving as classrooms. A total of 500 men, women and children will benefit from a new well near the nursery school and proposed church site. A plot of land has been given to the UMC on which to build a church near the anticipated borehole. The village headmen (and one headwomen!) agreed to donate the sand, bricks and labor force for the project. And to collect a fee from every family for a maintenance fund for any future breakdown. They also plan to grow a community garden near the spillover from the well.

One of our mission team members agreed to fund the long-awaited Well in Euthin within the next few weeks.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Rice for Education

Toured CitiHope's Warehouse to learn about their Rice for Education program. Still some rice left for distribution to community-based institutions this year, but not enough for the entire school feeding program. The program feeds 10,000 kids a day.

Bolero Primary School is one of the institutional beneficiaries of CitiHope’s Rice for Education Program. When we arrived and got out of our vehicles to pay a visit, over 1000 kids surrounded us and nearly devoured us with love and affection. Their rice supplies were depleted. What a worthy project. I hope the program can continue here.

Visited FOMCO , another beneficiary of CitiHope’s food aid. We participated in feeding over 200 Orphan and Vulnerable Children (OVC). Donated school supplies and soccer balls. I inquired of the Director (Violet) how they used the $500 donation from WHC last year for the repair of the leaking roof. She said it was used to build the now half finished new brick building next to the old one that is falling apart and still leaking water. I assume they know best how best to use donated funds.

Day Five: Visiting Orphans at FOMCO

This morning we visited Friends of Mzuzu Community Organization (FOMCO) to help feed 160 Vulnerable and Orphaned Children (VOC). This is one of the many social institutions supported by CitiHope International which provides nutritious meals to over 10,000 children a day. It was a shocking, disturbing, moving, and at the same time an inspirational and joyful experience to witness how Malawians care for their orphans. Instead of institutional orphanages, they organize and support extended families and guardians who bring the children in their care daily to a Care Center and Feeding Station that provides food, education and recreation through community volunteers.

Last time we were here there was a rain storm, and we collected enough funds to repair the leaking roof of one of the rooms used for feeding the kids. This year we brought the kids two soccer balls and pumps, school supplies, and promised to make another donation to the long awaited classroom still under construction.

During the afternoon we hiked a long ways to visit a 21 year old girl and her younger sister whose parents both had died. They had been living in a small mud brick house until last February when a week long rain storm blew the house down (walls caved in and the roof blew off). Their pastor invited us to assess the damage and see if this was a construction project we might consider sponsoring.

Later this afternoon we went shopping for camping supplies: blankets, mosquito nets, and food provisions for our 2 day trip to remote villages. Tomorrow we will travel 3 hours to the Ethini Village where we plan to install a new well for 1000 villagers, and then stay overnight in the Village of Zowe where we installed a well for 1500 villagers in 2007.

Esnart’s Children

After the mother died of AIDS last year, team member Bob Robinson felt compelled to sponsor her three children who no longer had a place to stay or means to eat and survive (see story on blog). Bob returned this year to visit Esnart’s children and provide for some of their material needs. They now are living with their grandmother who has received quarterly donations for food, clothing, rent, and medical assistance through Bob’s donations to WorldHope Corps.

The House Blew Down

Pastor Copeland took us out to see the site of a small brick and mud house whose roof was blown down and walls broken and nearly washed away by a rain storm earlier this year. His young parishioner and her sister lived in the house and survived the storm. They are staying in temporary quarters until the house gets repaired, which apparently won’t happen until building materials and labor can be found. Copeland asked if our team could rebuild it. We assessed the damage and prospects for rebuilding the house, but it was beyond our capacity. WorldHope Corps will consider sponsoring the project if a donor can be found.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Success story: Chickens for Education

Rev. and Mrs. Maurice Munthali are founders of HopeHome #1--a ministry household of 15 children (3 of their own and the rest taken in after the death of Maurice’s three brothers and their wives from AIDS). Initial funding was provided by Hopegivers, but after two years, funding for HopeHome #1 was depleted. We heard from Mrs. Munthali of how Josie had given her some money to buy some chickens to raise for meat. How the business grew to 50 chickens at a time. After 6 weeks of feeding, she sells them for twice the amount she paid. Minus the price of seed, she still almost doubles her money, enough to put her three remaining children through secondary school. What an inspirational story of how a household can become self-supporting, at least enough to sustain the high cost of secondary school education.

St Augustine’s RC Church HIV/AIDS Support Group

Within 1km of the young Mzuzu UMC is the well-established RC Church which, after participating in our PACCT program, now hosts an HIV/AIDS Support Group meeting on its primises. Edwin… who participated in our training as one of three publically HIV positive pastors, is the Chairman of the Group of 105 men and women currently on ARVs. For over an hour our team interacted with 60 or so people living positively with HIV/AIDS.

I shared the story of how WorldHope Corps began as ‘believers without borders’ crossing over into Macedonia during the war over Kosovo, and how we as Christians are called to cross all kinds of borders, boundaries and obstacles to demonstrate God’s love. Despite geographic, economic, cultural, social, religious, and medical boundaries and borders, “we are all one in Christ Jesus.” Stacey told the story of her friend with HIV, Bob asked focused questions as part of his psycho-social research of abandonment issues, and Gabriel inspired the group with his passion for PACCT.

They had many questions for us, including: “What will we do when the rice and soup you gave us runs out?” “Is it true that a person who is HIV+ have a child?” “Is is true that a child will AIDS will die before 18 years?” “How to prevent HIV being transmitted from mother to child?”… We explained that there were many new procedures and interventions for both transmission and treatment that make HIV no longer a death sentence but a chronic, manageable disease. The oldest in the group was 69 and the youngest 4 years old. The person who has been HIV+ the longest was diagnosed in 1999. 18/60 has lost a family member to AIDS. 30/60 have lost multiple family members to AIDS. 7 had lost a child to AIDS.

Were you supported by family members after you were diagnosed, we asked the group.
One woman, Rose. told her story of how her husband made her pack her bags and sent her away to live wither mother for 11 months. Another woman, Erupy, told how her husband sent their daughter away for 5 years. Edward shared how he had received spiritual support from his family.

St Augustine’s programs included: Adult Group Therapy, Home Care and Visitation. Outreach Educational Campaigns to mobilize for testing and stigma reduction. Income Generating Activities, and Community Gardens. This community group is one of the beneficiary institutions of CHI’s Rice aid. We donated samples of Upper Room pamphlet for use in small groups.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Hope Home no. 2--'It takes a village...'

We visited the UMC HopeHome program today. Initially supported by Hopegivers International (2006-07), it now is supported by WorldHope Corps (2008-09). What started with 15 now totals over 100 Orphaned and Vulnerable Children (OVC) who are cared for by local families and fed at the church with local food products purchased by WHC funds ($1000/month).

Our mission team participated in the church ‘picnic’ or feeding program today and fed over 107 kids. Last week there were 125, Copeland told us.

In addition, WHC sponsors 10 girls and 10 boys as recipients of Hope Scholarships for secondary school and vocational training. We interviewed some and photographed as many kids as we could who were in need of sponsors.

Urgent Need: So far, WHC has only two individual child sponsors, though we provide food for 60 registered OVC in the HopeHome program. The UMC Global AIDS Fund grant runs out in July and no new funding is yet in place.

Part of the solution: Micro-businesses. Two income-generating business ideas that Pastor Copeland Nkhata is committed to are these: 1) women’s sewing, tailoring and dress-making training and production, and 2) hens to lay eggs to sell.

Christian Ciabonu, a Drew college student and shalom intern, is working with Copeland and the UMC Mzuzu leadership team to develop these two economic enterprises during the months of May and June. The sewing business already has started with 2 Singer sewing machines, seven motivated women, and a trainer.

Since funds are limited, I recommend that WHC give priority to funding Hope Scholarships with cash donations, and help the UMC of Mzuzu to transition the HopeHome program from a local church project to a community-based and locally owned community initiative through ShalomZone Training and initiative.

As for the Hope Home feeding program, 'it takes a village' as they say...Within 1km of the UMC are a number of churches and institutions, including: Assembly of God, St Augustine’s RC, an indigenous Pentecostal church, and a Presbyterian Church. Also a computer training school, government office, hospital and Mzuzu University.

Together, all the resources within the 1km radius constitute the ShalomZone that Claire and Christian are developing as part of their internship. Shalom work starts with mapping the geographically defined community, then mobilizing resources, aligning the assets and connecting the dots so that the entire community collaborates and cooperates in caring for the orphans in the zone. It is our shalom conviction that “there are sufficient resources in any community to do the development work that must be done to prosper.”

The church and community working together, I believe, can access the food they need through income generating micro enterprises, mobilizing local resources, and aligning assets through the ShalomZone initiative led by Pastor Copeland and Christian Ciabonu.

Day Three: Visiting Monsanto and Geisha Village Wells

Mansonto Village Well: In 2007, I sent WorldHope Corps volunteers Don Wahlig and Dennis McQuerry out to Mansonto village with Rev. Levi Nyondo of St. Andrews CCAP Church to assess the need for a borehole (see my “Chicken for a Well” story of how the village captured the hearts of these two volunteers.) We determined that Mansonto needed a well, because the closest source of water was 2km down to the stream. And the water from the stream was not safe. Dennis’ church ended up sponsoring the well and paid for it directly through the CCAP and my facilitation. Dennis and two church members were able to return to Mansonto a month later to help install the well themselves on April 20, 2007. Locals report that the soil was tested and two attempts were made to find water before settling on the right spot for a borehole that went 75 meters deep. And that it was difficult for the well rig to drive into the remote village. Gratifying indeed to see that the well was still pumping water, two years later. Ten villages, with a total population of 2,000, we were told, now access the water from this well. 675 kids in five different grades benefit from this well, according to Sammy Mphepo, the teacher we met. “Our lives have now changed,” he said. “We are drinking good water.”

Geisha Village Well: Dennis’ church group also paid for and installed a village well in Geisha Village just outside Mzuzu City. It was a pump and play type well where children turn the merry-go-round to pump water. Half goes up into a tank tower reservoir and half spills into a basin on the ground for filling buckets and washing clothes. Unfortunately, the pumping system was broken and not able to provide water after only two years. When I returned to town, I met with Rev. Levi Nyondo, now General Secretary of the CCAP, and informed him of the breakdown. I offered to pay for its repair from WorldHope Corps funds, and left him enough money to do so before I left Malawi. He promised to get on it that week and I need to follow-up this month.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Prophetic Imagination:

'I have a dream that…heartless men no longer defile innocent children, including their own daughters; where every village has access to clean drinking water; and health clinics with available medication nearby. All youth who want to go to school may do so without cost, and no child need walk over 5km to class. That our 50% illiteracy rate is erased, stigmatization of HIV patients is reduced, TB and malaria are cured, extreme poverty eliminated and AIDs becomes history.’

(Gleaned from sentiments expressed in The Nation newspaper following the landslide re-election of the President and election of the first woman VP of Malawi.

Day Two: Visiting Prisoners

On this second day in Malawi, the Team continued to function at high level of energy and committed action, with no sickness, culture shock or major snafus. (There was some anxiety when Claire and Ruth got temporarily separated from the rest of the group (my failure to keep us all together on our walk through the city), but they were resourceful and found their way back to the mission center.

Good news for Bob: His luggage was recovered, but he will have to go all the way back to the airport in Lilongwe tomorrow to retrieve it (a 10 hour round trip in a taxi).

Mzuzu Central Prison

We visited Mzuzu Regional Prison today--always an incredible experience. It was built to house 250 prisoners. Today there were 445 prisoners in the yard, including: 398 men, 12 women, and 37 juveniles. (I know, it doesn't add up). All were either convicted or awaiting trial for crimes from murder to petty theft.

Both the prison warden and inmates acknowledged and were grateful the support being rendered to them by CHI and requested more rice. The guitar we gave them last time is now in bad shape and the musicians could at least use new strings, if not a new guitar next time. Unable to secure another Colgate product donation, we purchased locally and donated 400 colgate toothbrushes and toothpastes, and soap for all.

The women inmates got extra gifts such as lip gross and perfumes brought from the USA, and they danced with joy. We also donated a box of school supplies and notebooks as requested last year.

Although we were late in arriving at the scheduled time, the Warden allowed us in to distribute 800 bars of soap (2 each), toothpaste and tooth brushes; and hygiene kits to the women. It seems like such a small gift but because they lack such necessities, our simple gifts were enthusiastically received.

The Warden introduced us as the NGO that supplied rice for the prison. I introduced our team as volunteers working with CitiHope Malawi to foster international friendship, share the love of Christ in tangible ways through food and medicine, and to let orphans, widows and prisoners know that they are not forgotten by the world.

Bob and I shared a word with the men and Helen with the women prisoners. Josie as usual captured as much as the Warden would allow her and more. Bob spoke from his heart about how he are all connected in God’s love whether inside or outside the walls of a prison. Helen conveyed our team’s love to the women in moving language and gestures that evoked smiles, songs and jubilation. Truly, it was love-in-action; and a mutual exchange of faith, hope and charity.

All in all, we’re having lots of fun, enjoying each other, learning and sharing together, and doing some good work that makes a big difference in people’s lives.

Dinner tonight was Pizza at a new restaurant run by Pakistani immigrant family to Mzuzu. We’ll be back.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Day One Team Arrives in Mzuzu

After 30+ hours en route, we've finally arrived in Mzuzu. All eleven exhausted team members are happy and excited about our ten days together in Malawi. So far, the only snafu was that Bob Robinson's bags did not get off the plane. But this inconvenience has not dampened his spirit in the least.

We were me with open arms and hearts by our friends from Mzuzu: Gabriel Mosongole, CitiHope Country Director, and Rev. Copeland Nkatha, pastor of the UMC of Mzuzu and director of our HopeHomes program. They and their assistants seemed delighted to see us and made us all feel at home.

After the five hour drive from Lilongwe to Mzuzu (stopping to watch the golden sun set over the green hills), we enjoyed a fab dinner together at the new Indian restaurant in town before turning in. The men are staying in Mzuzu Lodge and women at the Katoto Guest House--our mission headquarters for the week (I'm in my familiar digs at the CitiHope Office guest room round the corner).

This is my fifth trip to Malawi since 2005. Its fun to sit here in the CitiHope office and see my daughter, Rachel, in many of the historic photos from that first 2005 mission trip. I look forward to bringing my whole family here during next year's annual mission trip.

Tomorrow we visit the Mzuzu Prison where over 100 men and women (and some children) need to be reminded that they are not forgotten by the world.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Team Ready for Departure

Here at JFK ready to depart for Malawi via Dakar and JoBurg are eleven mission team members, from all walks of life:

WorldHope Corps Mission Team (May 20-31, 2009)

Ministry Partners: CitiHope International, United Methodist Global AIDS Fund

Hosts in Malawi: Gabriel Wesley Msongole, Dennis Singini, Copeland Nkhata

Team Leader: Dr. Michael J. Christensen, Ph.D., National Director, Shalom Initiative, Drew University, and Founder of WorldHope Corps

Mission Team Members:

Michael Christensen teaches practical theology at Drew University where he directs a training institute and community development network known as Communities of Shalom. Dr. Christensen has worked with CitiHope International as a volunteer, staff, consultant or board member since 1990, and founded WorldHope Corps in 2007. This will be his fifth mission trip to Malawi. He plans to post daily travel blogs about the mission trip on his blogsite at
Ruth Bashe is chair of the Mission Council at the Presbyterian Church in Basking Ridge. She was part of a small group that was instrumental in having the church accept Malawi as one of their mission projects. This will be her second trip to Malawi.

Michael Bond recently retired, is a past board member for the New Jersey Symphony and New Jersey Shakespeare Theater. His has traveled the world extensively for both business and pleasure reasons and has developed a deep appreciation for other cultures. He feels “it is his time to get directly involved” and is volunteering with WorldHope Corps in order to have the opportunity to offer a ministry of hands on hands work.

Christian Ciobanu just graduated from Drew University where he majored in Political Science and Economics. He will extending his trip to a one-month Shalom internship in Malawi focused on helping the United Methodist Church in Mzuzu develop an economic enterprise to support its orphan care program.

Claire Colcord, in the final throws of completing her MDiv degree at Drew, will extend her stay in Malawi for a month as a Shalom intern. Her "regular job" for the last several years has been as Director of educational programs at Summit's Central Presbyterian Church. She also has organized educational programs for Tokyo Union Church in Japan. Loving God's kids (of all ages) comes easily so Claire expects to have her heart soar while in Malawi and knows it will be broken as well.

Helen E. Hoens was trained as a Stephen Minister in 2003 and, since January 2004, has served as one of the leaders of the Stephen Ministry program at Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church. She has taught Sunday School both in Basking Ridge and at the Third Presbyterian Church in Elizabeth where she also served as a Ruling Elder. She has long been active both in mission work and in volunteer work on behalf of autistic children and adults and their families. Her professional calling involves working for the cause of justice as a part of which she is a frequent author and speaker.

Robert Schwaneberg is now a full-time student in the health law and policy program at Seton Hall University School of Law. He previously spent 30 years covering state government as a reporter for The Star-Ledger. He is a member of Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church and serves on the Church Relations Committee of Raritan Valley Habitat for Humanity. He lives in Basking Ridge with his wife, Helen Hoens, who also is traveling to Malawi.

Stacy Radmore serves as a Deacon at Oxford Second Presbyterian Church where she helped initiate and expand a local ministry called "Bountiful Sharing." She also serves in a leadership role in the Presbyterian Women's Fellowship. Working in the travel industry, Stacy has developed a deep appreciation for other cultures and has previously volunteered with CitiHope and WorldHope Corps to offer a ministry of presence and practical support. She hopes to be a source of encouragement and affirmation to the women and children of Malawi during this trip.

Dr. Robert Robinson is a pastoral counselor by training, working as a Child, Adolescent and Family Psychotherapist at the Family Center in Ellicott City Maryland. Dr. Robinson has both personal and professional interests in understanding and helping youth-at-risk in Malawi, and is eager to volunteer where needed most. He was a member of the 2008 Mission Team and is eager to return to Malawi this year.

Elaine Scheetz, a retired teacher, has served as an officer in two Presbyterian churches: the first as a Deacon, and the present church, the First Presbyterian Church in Pitman, NJ, as an Elder. Presently serving on the Mission/Membership and Publicity Committees, her most recent service was as coordinator of her church's first hosting of Family Promise-Interfaith Hospitality Network of Gloucester County. This trip will be her first International Mission trip which comes after 50+ years of nudging to follow God’s call to go wherever, do whatever, for whomever, and however God wishes.

Josie Dittrich – former CitiHope International staff for the last five years, has traveled to Malawi twice before taking pictures and video simultaneously – meaning one camera in one hand and the other camera in the her other hand. (As Josie will be taking video she is ecstatic that a professional photographer will also be along on this trip.) Josie is the producer for the “Alphabet of Needs” A-Z video series that Dr. Christensen has designed in an effort to bring to light the critically important needs of the people of Malawi. Prior to working for CitiHope, Josie was a television producer, professional singer, PR/Coordinator and has traveled to 32 countries, as well as all of the United States, usually in a professional capacity. Josie is delighted to have this opportunity to not only travel to Malawi again, but to travel with the 2009 Malawi Volunteers of WorldHope Corps. FYI: Josie will be flying stand-by on SAA, so pray there will be seat availability.

Yes, we are excited about our mission trip over the next two weeks. Follow my daily travel blog if you're so inclined, and pray for our good success in participating in WorldHope Corps' village wells project, orphan care, and creating a new ShalomZone with the United Methodist Church of Mzuzu.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Now Feeding 125 children

Dear Michael,

I send you these photos to greet and welcome you as you prepare for another long flight to Mzuzu UMC--a place where many people see God live as you minister to the orphans. They are waiting for you.

We have paid school fees and also provided food to 125 children, as you can see on the photos.

Love from


Friday, May 01, 2009

Three Villages Need Wells

WorldHope Corps seeks sponsors for three new village well projects in northern Malawi before I leave for my annual mission trip to Malawi on May 20.

Each village well project costs about $9,000, including the expense of bringing in heavy equipment to drill a deep borehole, installing pump apparatus, materials for constructing the covering, creating a community garden, and maintenance of the well that will provide a steady flow of fresh water for 1000-2000 villagers.

Please contact me if you are able to pledge or contribute to the Village Well Fund for 2009.

I asked Rev. Copeland Nkhata, pastor of Mzuzu UMC, for profiles of three local churches in remote villages within his preaching circuit that are desperately in need of clean water:


2000 community members would benefit from the well. They have no clean water. They often draw drinking water from places or swamps where animals drinks. They nearest river is 5 kilometers away. The risk for water borne diseases leading to high infant mortality. Water problems are also a barrier to schooling for young Children leading to multiple other crises. They Need DEEP wells since water table goes so low in hot summer

2. JANGAVYA II Local Church

1200 community members would benefit from the well. They have no clean water. They often draw drinking water from places or swamps where animals drinks. They nearest river is 5 kilometers away. The risk for water borne diseases leading to high infant mortality. Water problems are also a barrier to schooling for young Children leading to multiple other crises. They Need DEEP wells since water table goes so low in hot summer


1000 community members would benefit from the well. They have no clean water. They often draw drinking water from places or swamps where animals drinks. They nearest river is 5 kilometers away. The risk for water borne diseases leading to high infant mortality. Water problems are also a barrier to schooling for young Children leading to multiple other crises. They Need DEEP wells since water table goes so low in hot summer

Finally we are very thankful for your graceful disposition to help us with clean water. It is a serious crisis among our people and your help is the best intervention./

Please greet Chappy Valente