What do you get when you cross nine seminarians, one seminary graduate, a parishioner of the Diocese of Fort Worth, Texas, eight airplanes, the country of Malawi, and a fifteen-passenger van? Most might call it the greatest reality television program of the last twenty years. While it might be an appropriate subtitle, we would prefer to call it the 2011 Nashotah House mission trip to Malawi. On January 8, the eleven team members met to train for the experience which would occupy the next three weeks of their lives. Amid learning about the culture of Malawi and sharing testimonies, the members of this dirty dozen minus one began to see that this trip would be anything but normal. Most short-term missions consist of a variety of people, from a variety of ages and a variety of occupations, perhaps even meeting for the first time. As one of the team members remarked, “A mission trip composed basically of seminarians—that’s just not normal.” The team arrived in the north of Malawi and was received warmly by Bishop Fanuel E. C. Magangani, recently elected and consecrated Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Northern Malawi. Due to storms in Chicago and Washington D.C., the team arrived 24 hours late and was thrust into the action: a large room filled with 30 Malawians between the ages of 15 and 30. Over the following two days, individual team members delivered homilies on topics such as faith, reality, piety and grace, among others. The weekend was followed by an excursion into the more rural parts of the diocese, where agricultural demonstration gardens serve communities by teaching families how to grow crops in order to sustain themselves and even provide a source of income. The team then traveled south to Lenard Komungo Theological College. A former student of Nashotah House, Fr. Andrew Sumani, greeted them at the late hour and showed them to their lodgings. Once again, the next day the team jumped into action, teaching classes in Greek, the Bible, history and theology at the seminary. The entire student body gathered on Saturday morning for an intensive teaching on the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which concluded with a powerful hour of prayers for each of the seminarians. While in the South (the Anglican Diocese of Upper Shire), the team was also introduced to a ministry titled SAGHAM (Saint George’s HIV/AIDS Ministry). SAGHAM supports a great number of people in and around the city of Zomba affected by HIV and AIDS, including over 250 orphans.
What may have been the most important piece of the work done through this mission trip was, as simple as it may seem to us here, a ministry of presence. Short-term missions raise the question: “Couldn’t the money we spend on our flight be put to better use?” It is true that countries such as Malawi need tools
to clean their water. They need supplies to build infrastructure and the means to provide food to families. But no matter what gifts were given or support provided, the thing which mattered most to the people of Malawi was that people came to show that they care—to form lasting relationships. And the members of this 2011 Nashotah House mission walked away with several new relationships. Both SAGHAM and the Lenard Komungo Theological College proposed formal relationships be fostered, SAGHAM with individuals, and the College with Nashotah House itself. The Holy Spirit also worked fervently among the members of the team, forming a bond they won’t soon forget. As happy as they are to be home with families and friends, the experience of Malawi and the friendships fostered there are bound to have a long-lasting and in many ways life-changing effect.