November 22, 2004
Ever since the partnership between Blantyre Synod and Pittsburgh Presbytery began, Pittsburgh has had a special dedication to the Domasi Mission. Over the years, Pittsburghers and Malawians have worked side by side at Domasi on various projects. The Domasi CCAP sanctuary was repaired and restored, a Secondary School, teacher’s houses, guest home and an eating hall were constructed. A lukini pala mill and the H. Parker Sharpe Clinic were built. But the biggest project of all was the “Living Water and Garden Project.”
The idea for this project was started when an engineer named Aubrey Briggs from The Presbyterian Church of Sewickley, PA visited Domasi as part of a partnership exchange in 1993. He noticed that the women were traveling as far as 4 miles, several times a day, to get clean water. He calculated that they were carrying 53 pounds of water in buckets on their heads. He discovered that there was a good source of water up the mountain, and then designed a plan to bring it to Domasi.
Over the years Mr. Briggs has donated his time, talents and treasures to the project. He encountered many problems and difficulties along the way, but his perseverance paid off, and today, fresh clean water is available to the people of Domasi Mission. In fact, he designed the water system so that it could support a 5 acre farm as well. This summer, when we first arrived, the girls and I helped build the aqueduct and get the farm in working order.
Malawians are very formal people and it is important for them to do things according to proper rules of etiquette. So, the Synod planned a huge celebration to dedicate and officially open the Project. They invited Mr. Aubrey Briggs and the President of Malawi to be the guests of honor.
Dan has been working on helping the Synod plan this event for weeks. Frankly, there were times when he thought it would never happen (organizational skills are sometimes lacking here,) but we are happy to report that the dedication went off without a hitch yesterday, and we were thrilled to have been a part of it.
Earlier in the week, the Synod was notified that the President had been asked to attend the special meeting of the UN Security Council in Daresalam, so he was sending his Vice President in his place.
On Saturday, Dan and I drove the VP’s security force (like secret service) and advance team, as well as Mr. Briggs up to Domasi to make sure that all the last minute details were taken care of. Dan got very sick that morning, and took a nap in the guest house for three hours.
Fortunately, Silas Ncozana was there to show the police and officials around. Everything was being scrubbed and cleaned and placed in order for the big celebration. Brooke, Heather and I were asked to be photographers, and I prepared press releases for the media.
On Sunday morning, we drove with the girls and the Neilsons (PCUSA short term missionaries) up to Domasi. The Vice President and his entourage arrived at just a few minutes after 9 a.m. Their first stop was the Water Project’s reservoir for a ribbon cutting ceremony. The Vice President is a distinguished gentleman, and was very interested in how the pipeline worked and how the reservoir was constructed. Mr. Briggs explained things to him. There was a choir singing and a short prayer, as well as a tour or the area.
Then we all proceeded down the rutted dirt road to the Garden. There was another ribbon cutting ceremony, with three Mvano Choirs providing music. The garden’s aqueduct was opened and the attendees got a demonstration of how gravity moves the water throughout the garden. The sun was shining brightly, and the garden looked spectacular. The tomatoes plants are laden with large green fruit, the cabbages are growing and the rape and Chinese cabbage are already being harvested and used to feed the Domasi School children and sell to support the school.
Then the motorcade proceeded to the Domasi CCAP for the dedication service. Dan, as the representative of Pittsburgh Presbytery, sat with the guests of honor. The girls sat with the other “Azungus.”I was wearing my Mvano outfit, and was asked to sit with the other myabusas (ministers’wives).
Because of all the formality and speeches, it took a while and it was over 95 degrees in the freshly painted sanctuary, but Brooke noted, “It was ONLY 3 hours long!”The Synod thanked Mr. Briggs profusely and expressed its gratitude to the Vice President as well. During the Vice President’s speech (which, by the way, I had been asked to write –he used my speech and added to it), he called the project a “model that other Malawians can follow.”Mr. Briggs gave a speech where he said, “…all the glory and thanks for this project should go to God, not me.”
After the service, the VP had to leave, but the rest of us proceeded to the guest house for a festive luncheon (Malawian style) and fellowship. It was certainly a day that we will never forget. (When we got back to Blantyre, Dan showered and then preached at St. Michaels and All Angels CCAP’s 5 p.m. service.) We were honored to have been a part of it.