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The Coronavirus Diaries: God Has Been Faithful To Us

The Coronavirus Diaries: God Has Been Faithful To Us

Wednesday May 12 2021

The Rev Dr Billy Gama, General Secretary of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP) Blantyre Synod, in Malawi, reports on how his church has coped with the pandemic

In early 2020, Malawi was one of the few countries without reported cases of Covid-19, but when the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced that the outbreak had degenerated into a pandemic, apprehension and anxiety started building up.

Our church reflected that health systems had significant gaps and that poverty and illiteracy levels are undeniably high in Malawi, and so guidelines on preventive measures were given. Despite this, even the cheapest means of prevention - hand washing with soap - would prove to be unattainable for most  members of CCAP Blantyre Synod, their families and the community at large. Also, social distancing in a society that has a communal lifestyle like Malawi was a social behavioral change that would require special skills to attain.

After the first state announcement on March 30 2020 by the then President, Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika, that Malawi was in a state of National Disaster in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic, the nation remained calm, especially when experts revealed that there was no confirmed case. However CCAP Blantyre Synod took a proactive approach by sending a communiqué to all Presbyteries on how congregants should conduct themselves to prevent the disease. The assumption by people in local areas was that the disease would miraculously pass by, as they saw that  most neighboring countries like Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa already had registered Covid-19 and yet Malawi had been spared. 

The worst news was announced on Wednesday April 2 2020, that Malawi had three people who had been confirmed positive for Covid-19.  By this time, CCAP Blantyre Synod had already set up a Task Force on Covid-19 while its development arm Blantyre Synod Health and Development Commission (BSHDC) was strategising on possible ways to respond to the pandemic.

Following the presidential declarations, Malawians responded to the guidelines laid out by government for prevention of Coronavirus. The CCAP Blantyre was already prepared and information about precautionary measures was sent to all Presbyteries; urban congregations managed the situation quite well  but rural congregations failed because of inadequate resources.

Move forward to May 2021. The three cases have become 34,171 confirmed (and many likely unconfirmed cases) with 1,153 confirmed deaths. The CCAP Blantyre Synod (which was established by Scottish Missionaries in 1876) has never been hit by a pandemic to the level of Covid-19. The budget of the Synod had a deficit of 279 million kwacha (£247,000) -  and the pledge money which paid through membership monthly contributions, and covers 81% of the budget, had a shortfall of K205 million (£181,000).

The pandemic is a rare occurrence that human life has never before experienced. This shall have life changing impact. As a church based organisation, we have been working with relevant stakeholders to compliment the efforts of the government while alongside this continuing to preach the love of Christ. The Synod through the office of the Moderator created a whatsapp group where messages of hope were being sent and received. This helped a lot of people to regain their hope in the midst of the pandemic. We have lost three church ministers and many elders and Christians. But all in all, God has been faithful to us in Malawi because the number of Covid-19 cases have not been much compared to other countries. Together we can overcome Covid-19.

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The Coronavirus Diaries: reflections from Church of Scotland partners around the world

France: Thankful For What I Have
India: Love Your Neighbours
A Nigerian in Scotland: Alone But Not Lonely
Taiwan: When We Work Together, We Achieve the Best Results
Hungary: We Mourn Each Loss
Zambia: Preparing for the Vaccine, and a Third Wave
World Communion of Reformed Churches: The 'Covid and Beyond' Church
Pakistan: Passing the Light
Lebanon: The Lord Will Not Forsake Us
South Korea: 'It is Time For Christians to Hear the Marginalised'
Cuba: Keep Moving On
Canada: Cracks Have Been Exposed
Kenya: Leave No Child Behind
USA: Homes of Prayer
Mozambique: Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread
A Spaniard in Scotland: The Power of Movement
South Sudan: Being Positive
A Nigerian in Scotland: God is in Charge
Trinidad and Tobago: New Frontiers
Czech Republic: A Challenge for Everybody
Switzerland: An Outpouring of Solidarity and Creativity
The West Bank: A Landscape of Broken Dreams
Nepal: So Many Premature Goodbyes
Malawi: We Must Hold Each Other Close
Nigeria: A Fresh Spiritual Connectedness
Egypt: 'This Is A Time To Witness God'
Guyana: The Strength of our Connectedness
South Korea: A Harsh Reality
Zimbabwe: Convenience or a Wake-up Call?
Sri Lanka: Service is the Highest Form of Worship
USA: Testing Positive
Portugal: The Mission of the Church Has Not Changed
World Council of Churches: A New Dawn is Upon us
Hungary: Physically Distant but Close in Spirit
A German in Scotland: Something New Has Already Begun
Myanmar: We Will Overcome this Hardship
Ghana: This Too Shall Pass
Brazil: The Least We Can Do
Kenya: Caring for One Another in Christ
An Indian in Germany: A Time of Enrichment
Argentina: Time in Between
Malawi: 'My identity in Christ remains unchanged'
Jerusalem: Being Rather than Doing
Malawi: No Lockdown and an Election
Zambia: 'I will never leave you... or forsake you'
Czech Republic: The Covid Cover-up
Zambia: 'All Life is Sacred'
Israel/Palestine: 'The Air is Clear'
Nepal: 'Please Pray for Us'
Malawi: Tough Dilemmas
Italy: 'Together, We Will Get Through It'