Disclaimer: All photos were taken on disposable film cameras. Therefore they are pretty crap. Unless they are ones which I nicked from people off Facebook, in which case they will be appropriately credited.
Church in Malawi was a brand new experience for many of the young people on the trip. A lot of them do not regularly attend church at home, and may find the whole experience to be dull and unimaginative. Going to the local church in Malawi was a completely different experience from church at home, and even I found it new and exciting, despite having been to the very same church on more than one occasion, four years previously.
The first time we went it was the final English service of the academic year, as all of the students had finished their exams and were heading home for the holidays. We caused quite a stir as we arrived in full uniform and kilts, with bagpipes and all. I saw more than one person snap a photo on their phone as we paraded past - some things never change.
One of the students from the school did the sermon and she was incredible! It was the kind of passionate straightforward sort of preaching I hadn't heard in a while. No talk of the wider church, nothing to suggest that we're doing it wrong. Just an impassioned plea to people that if they love God, they should express their gratitude and put their money where their mouths are. Their church desperately needs some renovation work. If you love church, you need to help us to fix it.
Needless to say they had a record offering that week. Thanks to a bunch of rich white people who reckoned that 500MK (about £2) was a perfectly reasonable sum to put in. The girl who was preaching suggested that 100MK was the kind of thing people should be putting in, if they could possibly afford it. I was just glad we could help them with their roof!
After the service, the young people from the school showed us around the whole mission site. It's a boarding school, so we saw where they lived, where they ate, where they learned. There is a clinic there as well, although we didn't see inside. The tour around the grounds was something we didn't get to do last time so it was really great to see everything.
The following week, a smaller group of us went along to the church again to the Chichewa service, which local people attend, rather than the school children. They were very accomodating at the church, and gave us bibles and hymn books in English so that we could still join in. Unfortunately the English and Chichewa hymnbooks don't match up, so whilst they were singing, we were struggling to fit the words to the tunes, even when we knew them! A lot of the hymn tunes were familiar because the church was founded by missionaries from the Church of Scotland, who would have taken their own hymns and tunes with them, many of which are still used here in Scotland today.
Interestingly, the offering at the Chichewa service was given in cash, but also in kind - people brought in food that they had grown themselves - it is a farmland area - and collected this for distribution. I didn't catch the full explanation of what it was for, as it was in a different language, but that seemed to be the gist of it anyway.
Both times we were in church we were asked to sing for them. Fortunately I knew about this, and we were prepared, but if you ever happen to be in a church in Africa with a group of people, beware they may ask if you have a choir. And if you say only one song, they will ask you for two.
Love and hugs
Part 1 - The Epic Journey
Part 2 - The Daily Grind