A herd of nine volunteers departed today for a 10-day mission trip to Africa (March 4-15), led by Don Wahlig and me. This trip is the 2nd volunteer mission trip to CitiHope Malawi since we began our relief work there in 2003.

Our March Mission Goal: To encourage our Malawian partners as we together provide practical help and spiritual hope in northern Malawi through Christian humanitarian assistance, relational support, recreational activities, and service projects with vulnerable children and extended families in some of the 40 social service and medical institutions supported by CitiHope International.

Objectives: We will engage in daily mission activities with local CitiHope staff and ministry partners focused on food security, medical aid, HIV/AIDS training in congregations, HopeHomes for AIDS orphans, and a village well community development project. Specific team activities include:

1. Assemble and distribute 1000 hygiene kits using products donated by Colgate-Palmolive to three orphan care centers and two prisons which also have received food aid.
2. Organize and deliver medicine and medical supplies to hospitals and rural clinics, including a strategic delivery of oncological drugs and pharmaceuticals for home-based AIDS care
3. Help feed 300 orphans (toddlers thru teenagers) at FOMCO Orphan Care Center their daily meal, and lead them in recreational, artistic and educational activities, including a soccer match with FOMCO youth,
4. Conduct 3-day Pastoral and Congregational Care Training (PACCT) program event for 30 women in leadership roles in their churches related to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care,
5. Meet with PAACT Committee to process and begin preparing for next training for youth leaders in July
6. Evaluate HopeHome #1 and set up #2
7. Identify location and community group for Village Well project, to be designed, planned and implemented before end of 2007.
8. Preach, teach and get to know local pastors and congregational members at selected Presbyterian and Methodist churches, including: St Andrews, Mzuzu Methodist and the Livingstonia Church
9. Continue searching for a permanent Hospitality House for short term mission volunteers and visitors to stay.
10. Meet with Ministry to Health to facilitate future medical shipments to partner institutions

For educational and cultural enrichment, part of our team we will drive up the mountain to tour the historic missionary compound of Livingstonia, visit the Presbyterian hospital and schools, and learn about the 19th century exploration and mission work of Dr. David Livingstone and Robert Laws. The entire team will discuss with local experts some social justice issues affecting Malawians, including the AIDS pandemic, extreme poverty, tropical diseases and globalization. We will all worship with our Malawian brothers and sisters on Sunday in three different churches where members of our team have been invited to preach, thus strengthening CitiHope’s relationships with the Methodist and Presbyterian churches of Livingstonia.

Reverse Mission: Our volunteers will seek to encourage those who are poor or sick or vulnerable by being fully present to human need. Thus, we hope to offer a ministry of presence (God’s presence through us). This in turn may result in our own spiritual transformation. Henri Nouwen calls this process “reverse mission.” In encountering the rich spirit of Christ in those whom we would serve, we ourselves are transformed in the process and learn to receive the fruits and gifts of others. (See Gracias by Henri Nouwen)

Our hope is that, having seen what extreme poverty looks like in the developing world, we will have new eyes to see the face of poverty in our own backyard, as well as the will to act compassionately and justly in our own context of ministry.