June 16, 2005
The Big Welcome
Yesterday the Blantyre Synod Partnership Committee welcomed Pittsburgh’s delegation of 24 youth to Malawi. It was a sight to behold.
Every other year Pittsburgh sends a group of people to Malawi for a partnership exchange trip. On the even numbered years, the Synod sends a group to Pittsburgh. Over 450 Presbyterians from Pittsburgh have traveled to Malawi over the past 15 years and a similar number of CCAP members have visited Pennsylvania.
The welcome that the Malawians gave the young folks from Pittsburgh was an enthusiastic one. When we got to Chileka Airport at 11:00 a.m. there were already several dozen Mvano there. Trucks and busses full of people kept arriving. The plane did not land until 12:50 p.m. The Mvano and other CCAP members gathered on the balcony and waited patiently. As soon as the group began disembarking from the plane, the CCAP members burst into song. Their favorite welcoming song is “O De La.” Committee Members welcomed the delegates as they came off the plane.
Once the youth entered the terminal and began filling out entry forms and waiting for luggage, the choir moved off the balcony and into the parking lot and sang for almost an hour while passports were checked and luggage brought over. (Actually about 2/3 of the group’s luggage never made it out of London and on to Johannesburg, so there was not much luggage to collect, but this meant lots of paperwork and visiting airport offices – which Dan took care of.)
Finally the group filed out of the terminal building and the greeter’s songs became even louder and more enthusiastic. The teenagers walked through the gamut of greeters. They each shook at least a hundred hands as they proceeded down the line. “Welcome to Malawi,” and “Muli Bwanje,” could be heard over and over.
Watching the young adults as they came through was really a treat. Their faces showed a mixture of bewilderment, fatigue (they had been traveling for over 40 hours), surprise, amazement and pure joy. They were all truly delighted.
Then it was time for the formal welcome, speeches, prayers and salutations. After that the crowd broke into song again as the group got on the bus to begin their journey through this part of Africa. I have a feeling that their welcome will be one of the things that they remember the most.
PS. The wonderful person who posts these entries on the Presbytery website, Mary Cullison, is taking a much deserved vacation. So look for new journal entries when she returns to work on June 30, 2005. Thanks!