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Showing posts from May, 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 = $23…

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 comp…

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.

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 othe…

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 …

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. …

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 …

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…

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.


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.

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…

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-…

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, tw…

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 re…

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 fi…

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 Cou…

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


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 di…