The Day of Atonement in Blantyre

Monday, October 02, 2006
Blantyre, Malawi
Today is the Day of Atonement. Mr. Eliphazi Salawilla will be coming for us at noon for a 1:00 pm service at a hall within walking distance. The Chichiri Lodge where we stay is just barely adequate. It is secure, but not exactly five-star. But, $28 a night is not bad either.

We enjoy taking in of the sights and sounds of Africa. Mr. Salawilla came about 12:15 pm with his son Bilton, the musician who carries the electric keyboard with him. LifeNets has helped Bilton expand a private music school that has provide a service for people in Blantyre as there is only one other private music school that is pricey. It also provides him with a living. He is a talented musician. He has been able to teach more than 20 students. The latest achievement has been to write new music with students and record it. Some of the new music has been played on the local radio station in Blantyre.

Altogether we walked to the meeting hall which is right past the property of the Worldwide Church of God which included the church building and where the pastor lived and perhaps still does. The property is now a school called the "Young Ambassadors" and was quite busy with children entering the gates. The gate into the property has an imposing "Worldwide Church of God" sign.

United Church of God members filed into the hall for services. Beverly and I knew almost everyone. It was a warm and wonderful reunion. We had more than 60 in attendance for the Day of Atonement. The Malawian nature is warm, quiet and meek. They area pleasure to talk to. This is the fifth Feast of Tabernacles we are keeping with them: two times in Zimbabwe and now the third time at Lake Malawi.

I asked Dr. Sam Chilopora to translate into Chewa for me. While it slows the message and lengthens the service, it really helps the women who marginally understand English. While English is the public language in which business is conducted, Chewa is normally spoken by the people. School is taught in English and children don't learn English until then. When we are not there, services are conducted exclusively in Chewa.

After services we fellowshipped for about an hour and a half. I also called my Rotarian friend Agnes Katsonga Phiri. She is an active member of the Blantyre Rotary Club. Next Year she will be Rotary District Governor that includes the countries of Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Last year she and her husband were our guest in Indianapolis and stayed at our home. We went together to Rotary's 100th anniversary convention in Chicago. Her occupation is being in charge of excise and customs for the entire country of Malawi. Before that she was in charge of Inland Revenue for the southern half of Malawi. She met us in the evening and invited us to her home for dinner the next day. Her husband Mark is a member of Parliament and was in Lilongwe, the nation's capital. They wanted us to stay at their home while in Blantyre, but we have so many items of Church business to take care of that we just couldn't do that.....our time would get taken up with other things. We always appreciate their hospitality. Agnes met us in the evening after our dinner and it was good to see each other again. She is quite the capable lady!

We had dinner with New York Malawians Henry and Cindy Khembo. He married Cindy, an American, after she came to the Feast in Malawi in the early 90's. On business he travels to Malawi three or four times a year. He is quite the colorful character. We had dinner at a restaurant called the Hotel Training School in the center of Blantyre. It's a place where waiters get training to serve Malawian style. It was a fun evening and very satisfying after the Day of Atonement.

Tomorrow Bill and Cheryl Jahns arrive at 5:00 pm. Mr. Eliphazi Salawilla will come to meet us 10:00 am. Maybe I can find an Internet café to send these messages.
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