Singing, dancing and ululating greeted the moderator upon his arrival in Malawi Sunday night.
Rev. Dr. John Vissers arrived at Mzuzu Airport and was surprised to be met by a choir as he exited the airplane. In full African manner, the melodic chanting is accompanied by dancing. The choir was from the Church of Central Africa Prebyterian’s Synod of Livingstonia in northern Malawi.
Vissers, moderator of the last General Assembly, is visiting Malawi with his wife Lynn and Rev. Dr. Richard Fee, general secretary of the Life and Mission Agency of the Presbyterian Church in Canada.
Singing, dancing and ululating met Vissers again Monday afternoon as he arrived at the remote Mpherembe CCAP Church, after a bumpy, dusty 90 minute drive from Mzuzu.
International Ministries, part of the LMA, paid for the roof of a new church building at Mpherembe.
The congregation, with a membership of over 600, started meeting decades ago under trees, moving over time to a school. The church was first built six years ago; the roof placed within the last year. Next on the agenda is glass for the windows, which the PCC has committed to sponsor. Later will come the chairs and other amenities.
While the congregations within the CCAP in Malawi are large, some several thousand strong, they are exceedingly poor. Churches are built in stages, as monies arrive. A church ‘roofing’ is a very important moment in the life of a congregation.
Vissers in his greetings said he was pleased to see the roof on the walls, and would help with the windows, but “it is obvioius to see, your foundation is Christ.”
The CCAP has churches in Malawi, plus Zimbabwe and South Africa. There are 25 presbyteries with over 200 congregations. According to CCAP documents there are “over 800,000 members, of who[m] almost 300,000 are adult.” There were only three in 1956.
Rev. Levi Njombole Nyondo, general secretary of CCAP told the PCC delegation that its church has been actively involved in evangelism programs across Malawi and other parts of Africa.
It is common for each congregation to also have prayer groups, some with over 200 members, who meet mid-week. The congregational minister does not preach each Sunday, spending more of his time visiting various prayer groups. Sunday worship is often led by trained elders.
In a report to the PCC delegation, Nyondo said the CCAP has many opportunities and resources in Malawi. These include relative peace with political and social stability, several strong church guilds, a multilingual staff, the freedom of worship, many strong local and international partners and a cordial working relationship with the government.
Amongst the challenges he listed, HIV/AIDS, inadequate funding and other economic problems including an unstable currency; plus, “food insecurity, secularism, Satanism and witchcraft. …Technological backwardness too poses as a threat in the sense that we are limited in the manner we can share information with the rest of the world.”
Nyondo described CCAP as the granddaughter of the Scottish Presbyterian Church. It was established by missionaries in 1875.
Vissers will visit the Ekwendeni Hospital which is supported through PWS&D by the PCC, on Tuesday. He will see some other PCC supported programs in CCAP Livingstonia till Thursday.