October 19, 2004
A Day in the Life of the Acting General Secretary of Blantyre Synod
Daniel Gunya informed me on September 20th that he would be taking holiday (vacation) from October 4 to November 8, 2004, and that I would move into his office and be the Acting General Secretary in his absence. Daniel chose to tell me this as we were driving to attend a graduation and I nearly drove off the road. What??? Acting General Secretary ... no way!
Well, it is now October 19th and I am beginning my third week as Acting General Secretary. The good news is ... Blantyre Synod is still functioning.
Let me share with you what a typical day is like in the Office of the General Secretary of Blantyre Synod for a pastor from Pittsburgh. I arrive in the office at 6:45 a.m. after having dropped Heather and Brooke off at St. Andrews International High School. I am always the first person in, except for the two young men who open and clean the offices. The Office of the General Secretary is a really nice office, and the best part is that it has a secret bathroom ... complete with soft toilet paper.
The first half hour of my day is spent reading Scripture (I’m currently in Jeremiah), praying (remembering many of you by name), and journaling (which I have really been enjoying).
By 7:15 a.m. Mrs. Flora Banda arrives. Mrs. Banda is the Administrative Assistant to the General Secretary, and she brings me a copy of the two main Malawian newspapers. I spend about 30 minutes reading both papers carefully. It is a wonderful way to keep my finger on the pulse of Malawi. Almost every day there is an article about something or someone in Blantyre Synod.
By 8:00 a.m. the office is hopping. For the next two hours I will have a steady stream of pastors, elders, church members, reporters, staff, government officials, etc., coming to see me. They have a variety of requests: money to re-roof their church, the need for further study outside of Malawi, a quote for an upcoming news story, a complaint of a particular pastor, a complaint about the church they have been posted, help paying school fees, transport for a family funeral ... they are many and varied ... many of which cannot be met.
At 10:00 a.m. the world quiets as Malawi breaks for tea. (This was a British Protectorate at one time.) I am often in a meeting at this time with Mr. Lellie Longwe, the brand new General Treasurer, working on the myriad of financial issues that face Blantyre Synod everyday. Mrs. Banda will bring in tea to the office, although she has already learned that I prefer Diet Coke (which is available sometimes) to tea.
The rest of the morning is spent with more meetings, working on the endless amount of correspondence and email that comes through the General Secretary’s Office ... and before I know it ... it is 12:15 p.m. ... time to go home for a bit of lunch. Home is about a five minute walk across the Chileka Road from the Synod Office (a much better commute than from Bethel Park to the North Side).
I’m back in the office by 1:30 p.m. after working on even more emails at home. The afternoon is more of the same. The pace is a little slower as the heat of the day is in full swing ... and people are beginning to think about how they are going to get home for the night.
About 3:30 p.m. I usually spend about half an hour checking in with all of the departments of the Synod. The departments are: Accounting, Building, Property Management, HIV/AIDS, Relief, Projects Office, Botanical Gardens/Grounds keeping, Music, Women’s Desk, and Transportation. I stop and have a word with everyone I meet ... shaking hands ... exchanging pleasantries, encouraging, thanking, and generally letting everyone know that the jobs they are doing are vital to the ministry and mission of Blantyre Synod. It is really my favorite time of the day ... God has gifted me as an encourager.
I am usually back to the General Secretary’s office by about 4:15 p.m. to take care of any of the pressing issues of the day that need immediate attention; there are usually several. By 4:30 p.m. Synod employees are heading home, there is only about an hour more of daylight left, and it is important to travel in daylight. I organize my messy desk (believe it or not it really is) a little and usually start for home about 5:00 p.m. As I walk home I realize how tired I am ... it is draining to work in a system that you do not fully understand. I firmly believe though that this is truly where God wants me to be at the present time and Daniel Gunya really needs some time away from this demanding office.
I can not end this journal entry without sharing with you how much I am looking forward to the return of Daniel Gunya into the office. I am more than ready to go back to being the Assistant to the General Secretary. But, Daniel Gunya has already informed me that he will be gone January, February and March on Study Leave in South Africa working on a book he is writing. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it ... just like I do now, one day at a time . . . with God’s help ... and with your prayers. One thing is for sure there is never a boring moment in Blantyre Synod.