By John Bannerman, minister at Chalmers PC in London, Ont. and PWS&D committee member

I’m writing this just over a month after returning from a PWS&D monitoring trip to Malawi and yet it seems like so long ago now, as we deal with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. I worry that the coronavirus will lead to even greater devastation and death in Malawi. I pray that this will not be so.

As a member of the PWS&D committee I had the great privilege to travel with PWS&D staff and visit with Malawian partners engaging in the crucial relief and development work that we are doing through PWS&D.

At each and every field visit to rural villages in the south and north of Malawi we were welcomed with warmth, enthusiasm and often beautiful singing. Village leaders expressed their deep gratitude for the ways in which the projects and partnership with PWS&D have improved their quality of life. They told us that the very fact that we made the effort to be with them, to listen and to learn, was a source of encouragement and gave them hope for the future. And I learned so much from their strength, resiliency and perseverance.

Veronica, a teenager who has been able to return to school after dropping out, with her mother and daughter.

We gathered for a field visit in Manganani village. Standing before us was a 15-year-old mother in her school uniform. With tears streaming down her cheeks, Veronica shared her story, saying, “I love school.”

With the support of her parents, village leaders and PWS&D’s local partner, Veronica had been able to return to school after leaving when she became pregnant. What a difference this will make for this teenage mother, her child and their future. The hope is that through this project many other girls will either remain in or be able to return to school so that they may enjoy the benefits of a formal education.

As I reflect on my experiences in Malawi, I am left with the clear impression that we are making a real and enduring difference in the lives of the people supported by PWS&D projects. The work we are doing is making an impact and providing help and hope to families and communities in rural Malawi.

During another field visit to Kaweche in northern Malawi, the women of the village demonstrated how a new outdoor oven allowed them to bake bread for their community bakery business. Following the demonstration, they invited us to come into the small mud-brick house of the village chief so that they could serve us lunch.

John Bannerman with Dunny Lusale, a staff member at PWS&D partner Embangweni Mission Hospital

Although we had a busy schedule that day they insisted that we stay. The hot meal of chicken, nsima (thick porridge made of maize flour) and greens was delicious. Even with their limited means the women of the village cooperative generously offered their gifts of hospitality in a way that I will not soon forget.

The women and men we visited in Malawi taught me much about resiliency, leadership, hospitality and hope. May God inspire us as we strengthen our partnerships with the people of Malawi and as we continue to be with and for our sisters and brothers there in the name of One who is with us always.

*This article was first printed in the Summer 2020 issue of Presbyterian Connection newspaper.