It is amazing that the Africa Committee has been in existence since 2007.
It was set up to develop and support our partnership with out sister church at Katalonje – St John’s, named after our St John’s Church after a millennium project here helped to build both the church and the manse there at Katalonje.
We have achieved many different goals with various projects during these years as we have sought to encourage them to in different ways grow and be more self-sufficient both as a community and as a church. For example, we have helped them to install a very basic electricity supply for the church, the manse and the school, we have sponsored and supported the development of women’s craft and various training opportunities. As part of these projects, we have used the Raven Trust (based at Strachur) to transport items to Katalonje and now also support some of their work, particularly in the hospitals (originally Church of Scotland Mission Hospitals) at Ekwendeni and Embangweni.
We have received much appreciated support from members of the congregation in helping to load the minibus with boxes to go to Strachur and also at Strachur in helping to load the container which goes to Malawi.
We continue to send many items which are kindly donated by members and friends of St John’s – eg craft materials, bedding and towels, soap and toothpaste, books pens and pencils (for the school), knitted and crotchet blankets and baby hats, jumpers and jackets. These are all gratefully received and used in Malawi. Occasionally we receive items from Brisbane Primary School to be sent to Milala School – this is the result of the relationship formed when the head teacher from Milala School came to Largs with Rev Reward Gama.
We have had tremendous support from the 1st Largs Boys Brigade during all the years of our links with Malawi. The Girls Brigade also established a link with the Girls Brigade at Ekwendeni and from time to time send various items to them.
There is one project which we have not achieved and that is to be able to share worship between our two churches either using the internet or just by sending CD’s. We also have struggled a bit to establish a real link with the Guild in Katalonje although it may be that we now have a new and stronger contact there.
St John’s Largs has made two visits to Katalonje: the first of these by Rev Andrew McGurk and Allister McGregor (Session Clerk at the time) for the dedication and opening of St John’s Church Katalonje; and the second by some members of Freeway along with Sam Cheeseman (Youth Worker) and Rev Andrew McGurk.
During these years, St John’s Church, Katalonje has had 4 ministers. It was a great experience for St John’s Largs when the first of those ministers, Rev Reward Gama visited us here along with the head teacher of the linked school of Milala. We have also had a number of visits from Rev Wyson Jere (The Black Scot) who was converted through the mission preaching of Rev Jack Selfridge. Both Wyson and Jack, who had retired from both mission and ministry and was an elder here at St Johns, were instrumental in setting up and delivering the millennium project. There is now a school nearby to St John’s Katalonje built in memory of rev Jack and Mrs Isabel Selfridge.
Here in Largs, we were all shocked when the manse at Katalonje suffered a break in and both Reward and his wife were assaulted. This prompted the Presbyterian Church of Malawi to move them to Mlowe on the shores of Lake Malawi and we provided some small support to them there as encouragement. About 18 months ago the second minister Rev Anocks Chisiza went to study for a Master’s degree. The interim minister appointed was a retired minister, Rev Keston Chipeta, but he too has been replaced by Rev Stenbridge Moyo who moved to Katalonje in November 2014.
The focus of the Africa Committee, as part of the mission outreach of St John’s has however, been restricted to this small rural area in the north Malawi. Nonetheless, the people of this remote part of Malawi have much to teach us – they have to have their Bible Study and Prayer Meeting on two nights of the week as there are so many people attending – so many people eager to learn of their God and to pray for Him to work in the Church and Communities as well as praying for us. They cannot understand how we have so few people at our Bible Study and Prayer times.
The World Mission Council of the Church of Scotland encourage parishes to develop a link with a partner church in the countries where we formerly had missionaries. St John’s Largs, has officially partnered with St John’s Katalonje under this scheme.
When the Africa Committee was set up the membership was outlined by the Kirk Session with members representing different areas of the membership of St John’s. Largs with representatives of Guild, Sunday School, Freeway, Kirk Session, Finance Committee as well as the congregation.
As part of the prayer ministry of the Tuesday evening Fellowship for Bible Study and Prayer, many other ministries are additionally remembered and supported by those attending.