MZUZU, Malawi

“Mrs. McGill, I am sorry to call and tell you that the student you called me about earlier died during third term last school year. She [became] pregnant and left school. I just found out she died.”

This news was from the headmaster of one of the schools through which the Scholarship Fund had supported a student. I had called to confirm her enrollment for this academic year before the fund administrator authorized payment for term 1 fees. 

I do not know any other details other than those few sentences, but my mind sorts through a myriad of too familiar possibilities: from very dark tales of abuse to promises of true love, from inadequate obstetric services to malaria. 

I kept thinking about this girl and praying for comfort for her family as well as wondering how to prevent something like this. Then I realized that because of the connectedness of the body of Christ, through you and the church here, there is much being done to prevent another tragedy as well as to bring comfort and hope. The Synod of Livingstonia takes the well-known verses of “love your neighbor as yourself” and “what you do to the least of these you do to me” and puts them into practice through the different programs of the synod.

The synod’s AIDS and youth programs work to prevent early marriages and pregnancies through youth and community programs, encouraging and providing HIV testing, and offering home-based care for the very ill.

The Ekwendeni College of Nursing trains nurse midwives and the hospitals of the synod provide preventative services for malaria, HIV, and maternal issues as well as curative and palliative care services.

Pastors, elders, and women of the women’s guild of the local Church of Central Africa Presbyterian congregation visit bereaved families and help the families handle many of the arrangements as well as provide malaria prevention methods, support child-to-child community health initiatives, and care for orphaned children in community-based orphan care centers.

Fortunately I have been, and am currently, a part of various aspects of the work of the church and I do see progress being made to reduce maternal mortality. I am also fortunate to be part of the body of Christ that sustains in times of doubt, sadness, and frustration and with whom I can rejoice in times of gladness and successes. Thank you for also being a part of the work and life here through your interest and support.

Jim is quite excited that he has just been asked by the synod to build public toilets on the synod’s property. The Rev. Levi Nyondo complains that people are always coming to use the synod toilets, so why not use this problem as an opportunity? This may not seem like an answer to many of your prayers, but this request is indeed a blessing for Jim as it will build up the perceived value for both water and sanitation.

The request for public toilets also supports the overarching work of the Synod of Livingstonia in water and sanitation in Northern Malawi. In 2009 a Center of Excellence in Water and Sanitation was established in Mzuzu University with the Synod of Livingstonia as its primary implementing partner, opening a network of expertise within the water and sanitation sector to collaborate and share information throughout the world in exploring solutions to local water and sanitation problems.   

In 2012 the SMART Center opened under the Center of Excellence to provide training in technology and business to our local producers of water and sanitation facilities, strengthening the local private sector in providing low-cost and sustainable solutions for local water and sanitation needs. 

This year the final piece of the trilogy began with the establishment of the WaSH (Water Sanitation Hygiene) Shop — a one-stop shop where the local private sector can find space and support for their businesses. 

Although financially independent from donor funding, the WaSH Shop is supported by the two Centers at the university working together to find solutions to the problems being experienced by the newly established businesses. 

We now expect to begin the process for establishing the “WaSHroom” — a franchise-able public toilet facility built by our WaSH Shop artisans and run by a local entrepreneur. The first “WaSHroom” will be built on synod property as an answer to the synod’s request for public toilets, providing a great opportunity for the Malawian private sector to take over responsibilities for water and sanitation issues within the country.  

A problem we face is that private enterprise is business, and the best water and sanitation implementers may not be the best at establishing and running businesses. Therefore we have entered into conversations with visitors this month from several PC(USA) partner congregations ― including Myers Park from North Carolina, Wilmette from Illinois, and Preston Hollow from Texas ― to identify people with business expertise within their congregations who are able and willing to be sounding boards and offer business and marketing advice. We hope these partners, together with the technical expertise of the SMART Center professionals, will help our local companies become successful and sustainable.

You are important to us and to those with whom we work as partners and helpers. We could not be here without your prayers, emails, and mail providing encouragement, without your gifts that support us financially, and without your interest. 

You are like the Macedonians Paul writes about in 2 Corinthians 8:5: “They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us.” We rely on your spiritual and financial provision and humbly ask if you have not yet given to support us or other mission co-workers that you consider doing so. Thank you!

Jim and Jodi McGill have been under appointment as mission co-workers since 1995. Their most recent assignment, which began in 2000, is in Mzuzu, Malawi, just two hours from Embangweni, where they had lived for 10 years. Jim and Jodi moved to Mzuzu at the request of the Synod of Livingstonia of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP), the PC(USA)’s partner in Malawi, in order to widen the scope of their work to include the entire synod.