Today has been cold, windy and overcast in Blantyre. The warm and sunny weather may well have continued if it were not for yesterdays post.
After a long hard winter I am today beginning to feel as though it is beginning to warm up. In town this morning, I mean well before mid-day, I had that feeling of a warm sunny pleasant morning. You could feel warm at anytime of course – but earlier on in the month it would require thick trousers, a jumper and even socks. Today, wearing short sleeves, sandals and shorts gives that warm (only just) but fresh and sunny feel.
Now we can look forward to slowly but unevenly rising temperatures as we approach October and November. My opinion is that truly oppressively hot days, even then, are rare (of course it is different at lower altitudes like in the Shire Valley). Then it is all the fun of the rainy reason with great tropical thunderstorm spectaculars. All in all, I think that the climate up here in the Shire Highlands is pretty good.
I received a nice comment on the blog today. Maybe I should write more. I see that the reading stats are quite steady despite the scarcity of posts these days. At the Mountain Club Social on Saturday night two people commented with surprise on my presence. They didn’t think I was in Malawi anymore and accused me of hiding.
The last house I lived in during my childhood in Malawi is being converted into a radio station. Next to the Blantyre Synod offices this radio station will begin broadcasting, for Blantyre Synod, to the whole of the Southern Region of Malawi.Blantyre Synod’s geographical area is basically the Southern Region of Malawi and is, as everyone who knows Malawi’s history will understand, the same as the geographical area covered by the old Church of Scotland Mission. The rationale for a radio station for the denomination can be understood with a few simple, and striking, facts. These facts are quite different from the normal situation for a church denomination in the west. The CCAP (of which Blantyre Synod is a component part) is one of the few denominations that fully trains it’s ministers in theological college before ordaining them. The cost in money and time for the training of a minister is quite high and this has an important effect in a poor country. So, relative to the number of members (and congregations), the number of ministers is very small. Blantyre Synod has well over a million members but only about 185 ministers actively serving in congregations together with the numerous ‘prayer houses’ attached to full church congregations. Prayer houses are like individual church congregations that meet on a Sunday and are like daughter church congregations that may become full congregations in time. Blantyre Synod has about 600 churches and 700 prayer houses. This means that each Sunday about 450 churches, not to mention prayer houses, have no minister with them at their service. Bear in mind also that many larger congregations have more than one service on a Sunday, including English language services in urban areas.
From this it should be clear that the burden on individual ministers is quite high. Elders of the church have to take up the responsibility of preaching and much else. While in Scotland and elsewhere the minister may be expected to do much of the work, in Malawi this is practically impossible and the burden of leadership and responsibility falls heavily on the elders. I do remember my father saying (he being a fluent and expert Chichewa speaker), that some of the best, deepest and most profound sermons he had heard came from almost completely uneducated Malawian elders. More recently I remember the Dutch minister, Rev Lieuwe Schaafsma (himself a fluent Chichewa speaker), saying something very similar. I mention the views of these expats because you sometimes hear the opposite from western visitors, so I am keen to counter with the views of outsiders who know the language. Never-the-less, despite the good things that can be said about elders with varying degrees of training, there is an understandable feeling that those who are theologically qualified should be enabled to reach the whole of the flock. This is where the need for a radio station comes in.
Most Malawians have access to radios. Even if each individual or household does not have one people can listen together. There are many influences arriving in Malawi. Understandably the CCAP as a whole, and Blantyre Synod as part of the CCAP, wish to keep the bible at the forefront of people’s understanding of how to view a rapidly changing world with a growing cacophony of new voices.
At the time of writing the Blantyre Synod website has an interview with the Deputy General Secretary, Rev Nyekanyeka, on the new radio station.
Daniel’s first holiday was on Zomba Plateau last weekend (middle of October).
This blog post is mainly for the benefit of grandparents and uncles and aunts etc. I have not made much effort to write anything that I think might be interesting for people wanting to read about Malawi.
These last three pictures were in Ku Chawe Inn, just in case anyone is wondering what the Zomba Plateau connection is.
We are in Malawi and have been for a few months. Here are some photos.
The first photo is of Daniel John Taylor. Born on 7th August 2012 in Blantyre. He was actually born on the historic Blantyre Mission (in common with other Scottish babies going back to the very first Scots born in Malawi I think). The land is on a long lease to a private hospital….
Well, I have tried to upload some photos from my iPad. The problem is that the photos here are not well organised so I will try again from somewhere else.
I apologise for not approving and responding to all comments during this period when my blog is dormant. I will approve and reply, in particular to an important critical comment, when I find enough time to breathe.
Today I have been communicating my wife’s pregnancy in a haphazard way on email and facebook and am even thinking of sending a couple of text messages.
Sadly, I am not quite well enough organised to have a systematic way of reaching everyone I should – so I am announcing it on my Malawi blog… If anyone says that I did not tell them that my wife is pregnant I will pretend to be shocked and outraged and will say “Have you not been reading my blog!” The baby was conceived in Malawi.
On another point: my blog posts have been infrequent recently. This is because I am not in Malawi right now and am very busy with other matters. It is my intention to resume writing regularly and to get to ‘Part 2′ of various series that I have begun. I feel no guilt or pressure over delayed blog posts.
A few yards from where we are staying in St Andrews, Fife (Scotland) is a small aquarium.
To do something different and to entertain the kids we decided to go for a visit. The St Andrews Aquarium is really quite a small place. Strangely for an aquarium one of the main attractions are meerkats. I took a bit of interest in them as they are from Africa so I enquired about their exact range – The Kalahari Desert (Botswana). Others you will get elsewhere in Africa.
Once we got onto the tour of the fish tanks I decided to try to avert my eyes from the headings and attempt to identify the Lake Malawi fish tank based on the fish. I cannot remember the exact point when I realised that there were Lake Malawi fish here but sometimes I have the feeling that every aquarium has to have Lake Malawi cichlids.
Within a few seconds I was looking through the glass at some suspiciously varied and colourful fish. Sure enough, this was the Lake Malawi section.
The other aquarium that I know of in Fife (North Queensferry) also has Lake Malawi fish. Still, the thousands of different species of fish are certainly better seen with a snorkel or scuba diving gear. Nothing prepared me for the first time, as a child, that I went snorkelling around some rocks in Lake Malawi.
I wrote recently about how being in Malawi affected my sleeping patterns (hint: the word ‘pattern’ became appropriate).
On returning to the wild west (the western world) somebody said something I had not been anticipating “you have lost weight”. Sure enough, my belly had retreated.
Confirmation came when I attended a wedding in Glasgow. The kilt belt test showed clear progress.
I should say that almost all of my life I have been lean mean machine. Only recently have female (and not only female) relatives started making comments.
I suspect that the change has something to do with fresh fruit and vegetables, climate and exercise. Whatever the exact reasons, I simply add this evidence to the case for living in Malawi being a good thing.