From Joel Sherbino:
This past year I was given a year leave of absence from my congregation in Paris, Ontario to serve as overseas staff with the Presbyterian Church in Canada (International Ministries) partner Church in Malawi. This is our second time to live and work in Malawi as we previously served from 2004 to 2007.
This time around my main responsibilities are to work as the Associate Pastor at Kachere CCAP (Church of Central Africa Presbyterian), and as the Associate Prison Chaplain for Blantyre Synod.
Here are two ‘stories’ from some of the ongoing ministry…
So, we ramped ourselves up for the incoming Manse (pronounced manse-y) visit.
Kachere, the church where I serve as an Associate Pastor, is divided into 9 districts (geographical locations). Each Sunday afternoon these districts or ‘cottages’ as they are often referred to, meet for afternoon prayers. Sort of like ‘small groups’ just with larger numbers of people. They spend time singing, praying, and basically holding a mini church service, complete with teaching and formalities. Once a month, one of these cottages holds their ‘afternoon prayers’ at the minister’s house. Along with the prayer service, the cottage brings some food to help provide for the minister (the level of generosity of the congregation is amazing – on this visit they brought, 25 kgs of rice, 40 eggs, and 80 bottles of coke — Isaac’s eyes lit up until I told him ‘relax, they weren’t all for him!’. ) At the end of our service together we ate snacks, drank pop (we drink TONS of pop here), and spent time getting to know one another. They had many questions: asking us what Canada is like, what church life is like – the differences and similarities, and what we think about Malawi.
By the time they left, we had worshiped God together, learned some new things, ate snacks and had lots of laughs. We were grateful for the visit, and their efforts to encourage and meet with us, even if it wasn’t in our preferred (informal Canadian) style.
As they were leaving, I was reminded of the words in Hebrews ‘let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another.’ (Heb 10:25)
To build community, it takes effort and takes time, but it is so worth it.
A highlight for me occurred when we decided to head out to a few more rural prisons in Malawi to see if there was a need for Bibles. We were told that they would likely have no Bible studies in place but we figured we’d give it a try.
Much to our amazement, when we met with the prison chaplain at Mikuyu Prison (Chaplains are government appointed guards to oversee the spiritual needs of the inmates – and some take this responsibility more seriously than others) we were ‘blown away’. This chaplain had received previous training and had started running ‘ALPHA’ program (an evangelistic course which seeks to introduce the basics of the Christian faith through a series of talks and discussions. It is described by its organisers as “an opportunity to explore the meaning of life”.) with 150 inmates involved. Their greatest need??? Bibles! They only had 8!!!
We were more than happy to help out. We left 50 Bibles, 50 Hymnals and 50 Mlozo. But wait, it gets better! The chaplain told us of the neighboring prison where he had trained the chaplain so they too had started a Bible study…so off we went.
This day was yet another reminder of how God is working in the prisons and I was thankful to have been given a glimpse.
To follow along in some more of our adventures you can check out our blog sherbinosinafrica.weebly.com/