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Susan O'Brien's Trip to Visit Malawi Daughters
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Follow the journey of outgoing US National President, Susan O'Brien, as she visits the Daughters in Malawi for their Triennial Convention.

 

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Reminiscing

Posted By National Office, Wednesday, August 15, 2018

August 2, 2018

 

The best thing about “photo ops” is the trigger the photo provides to my memory.  One photo tells a story that leads me to remember another story and, before I know it, the 23-hour flight (plus hours spent in layovers) is over and I’m home, to be greeted by a very special “welcome” party of one – my husband.

 

 

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Goodbye, Malawi

Posted By National Office, Wednesday, August 15, 2018

August 1, 2018

 

The days that seemed to stretch forever when I landed have passed all too quickly and it is time for me to return home.  Just as I had a “welcome” party to greet me on my arrival, I have a “farewell” party to see me off.  

 

As we say our “goodbyes,” I recognize three phrases that, whenever or wherever I hear them, will always remind me of this special time in Malawi.

 

          “One more photo!” (Daughters in Malawi to me during our photo ops)

          “I have another question.” (me to the Daughters, always)

          “I miss you already.” (all of us, every time before our goodbyes)

 

As I fly over the Malawi countryside, I can pick out some of the sights we saw during our travels to visit Daughters and I smile with memories.

 

 

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Debriefing

Posted By National Office, Wednesday, August 15, 2018

July 31, 2018

 

This last full day in Malawi is set aside to “unpack” our experiences of Triennial and to review the concerns that had been expressed to me during our visits with the Daughters in the parishes. Of course, I also had to pack to return home.

 

This was the first time Triennial in Malawi had been held in a secondary boarding school and there was much to discuss regarding what worked and what did not, would it be worthwhile to try this kind of venue again. Ireen and Florence wanted to discuss our experience of Triennial in the U.S., specifically what might apply to their planning of future Triennials.

 

The concerns and challenges faced by Daughters in Malawi echo those faced by Daughters in the U.S. Daughters in Malawi want prayer partners, as do Daughters in the U.S. Budgets for dioceses and parishes in Malawi are tight and do not include funds for Bibles; often, there may be only one Bible for a chapter of over 50 Daughters. Daughters would like more Bibles, not only to offer more Bible study in chapter meetings but also to use when visiting the sick or elderly. The Daughters would also like a more current version of the Study Guide to be translated into Chichewa and we discussed how that could be accomplished, especially given that the Study Guide is available online. Daughters have the hands to perform many service projects, but funds to support those projects are also limited; that is a concern I have heard Daughters in the U.S. also express.

 

With our debriefing complete and each of us assigned a “to do” list, a small group went to dinner my last night in Malawi. Ireen had chosen the restaurant at the Sunbird Ku Chawe Hotel as the site, a beautiful setting on the mountain overlooking Zomba. The food, chambo prepared in a Malawian way, was excellent but the company was even better. We exchanged heartfelt thanks and prayers for the opportunities afforded all of us during this trip and made arrangements to stay in touch.

 

 

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Visit to the Diocese of Southern Malawi

Posted By National Office, Wednesday, August 15, 2018

July 30, 2018

 

The excitement of Triennial has calmed to a joyous contentment this Monday as we head to the Diocese of Southern Malawi. Many of the Daughters who would have attended a special meeting had already met me at Triennial, so it is the Diocesan officers who meet us at the Bishop’s office. It is the Bishop’s day off so we do not meet him but are given a tour of the offices. Christine, his secretary and a Daughter herself, serves us tea and biscuits (cookies) as we chat about the history of the Anglican Church in Malawi, the history of Daughters in Malawi and service projects the Daughters have undertaken in the Diocese. One of the projects was a day-long gathering of women. The Daughters sponsored and organized this day of prayer and Bible study, inviting not just the women of the parish, but also inviting women of other denominations and women who belonged to no denomination. The day of prayer and study was well received.  To celebrate this special gathering, a day when all belonged to Jesus, the Daughters designed fabric for all participants to receive and wear as wrap skirts, in the tradition of fabric denoting membership in a group. This specially designed fabric was one of the gifts I received from the Daughters in the Diocese of Malawi.  

 

After tea, we drove to All Saints Anglican Church in Thyolo. The parish was established to care for the spiritual lives of the workers on the surrounding tea estates. As he gave us a tour of the main church (similar to the setup in Magomero, there is one main church and three satellite outstations), Father Scott, the parish priest, described for us an interfaith outreach project the Daughters in his parish organize. Other churches provide the funds for the project and the Daughters provide the hands as jointly breakfast five days a week and lunch once a month is provided to disadvantaged members in the village: 120 elderly, 80 children and 20 villagers infected with HIV-AIDS. Of note, the preacher from Sunday’s Closing Mass at Triennial is from this parish.

 

This has been a very special day for me. Amidst an outpouring of hospitality (including a dinner invitation to Agnes Salaka’s home), we shared learning and sightseeing experiences as we deepened our bonds of sisterhood in the Daughters of the King.

 

 

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Closing, Triennial Convention of Daughters of the King in Malawi

Posted By National Office, Wednesday, August 8, 2018

July 29, 2018

 

Daughters joined parishioners for the Closing Mass on Sunday. Although the church was good sized, everyone would not fit, so the Daughters arranged to have tents set up on the school’s football field (think soccer, not American football). Daughters’ fabric covered the tent sheltering the altar, priests and server, and from the processional through the recessional, Daughters played an integral role in the Mass. Daughters served as lectors, leader for prayers of the people, and choirs for the post-communion hymns. A Daughter also preached the sermon, focusing on the theme “Salvation Is Today,” emphasizing that salvation occurs in an instant. The newly elected Office Bearers were also installed at this Closing Mass. Rather than the familiar gavel, the outgoing President presented the plaque of the Daughters of the King in Malawi (a gift presented to Alice Mtenje by Grace Sears in 2012) to the incoming Office Bearers.    

 

In honor of the Daughters’ presence for Triennial, welcome greetings and speeches were made.  Many gifts were presented, including gifts to the incoming Office Bearers, to Malosa Secondary School, and to the parish. The gifts were of a practical nature: wafers and wine for communion, fabric for vestments and altar linens, buckets and brooms for cleaning, etc.

 

With departures scheduled immediately following lunch, cellphones snapped photos at “one more photo” opportunities after Mass ended. With joy shining from faces, hugs and goodbyes were exchanged as we returned to our homes renewed in the Spirit.

 

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Triennial Convention of Daughterrs of the King in Malawi

Posted By National Office, Wednesday, August 8, 2018

July 28, 2018

 

When reflecting on the happenings of today, two events immediately come to my mind as most inspiring to me, a visiting Daughter.

 

Following the Opening Mass on Saturday morning (beginning at 6:00 a.m. to accommodate the Bishop’s schedule), the Daughters organized a parade from the church through the nearby village to an open-air market on the main road.  Dressed in their uniforms and singing and dancing for Jesus, the parade is a powerful visual evangelism tool. During many parades, the Daughters break off from the line to greet passers-by.  In this instance, some of the Daughters take a “fuel” break, stopping at the market to purchase sugar cane to eat during the final leg of the parade back to Malosa Secondary School.

 

The election of the National Office Bearers is conducted Saturday afternoon immediately after lunch.  To prepare for elections, the Daughters first sing songs of prayer.  Then, before addressing the Daughters, prayers are offered for the speaker.  The speaker instructs the Daughters on the qualifications they should look for in the candidates for the National Office Bearers, especially the National President.  The candidates should be spirit-filled; they should be good domestic managers; they should have a knowledge of God; and they should be of good character, exhibiting traits of humility and perseverance.  After that preparation, the elections went smoothly.  Bahati Kaliyah (Diocese of Lake Malawi) was elected president; Florence Mdala (Diocese of Upper Shire and one of the team accompanying me on my visit), vice president; Carol Mphande (Diocese of Lake Malawi), secretary; Jacqueline Chidandale (Diocese of Upper Shire); vice secretary; and Agnes Salaka (Diocese of Southern Malawi), treasurer.

 

The rhythm and pattern of the day reminds me of Triennials in the U.S. because Daughters are gathered into both the business sessions and teachings with music.  We are invited to “stand up and sing to Jesus.”  I retire this night with the tune of one of those songs of praise playing in my head.

 

 

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Triennial Convention of the Daughters of the King in Malawi Begins!

Posted By National Office, Monday, August 6, 2018

July 27, 2018

 

The site of Triennial is Malosa Anglican Secondary School, a boarding school (like all secondary schools in Malawi), in the Anglican Diocese of Upper Shire. As the students are on holiday, the Great Hall is available for meeting space and the Daughters bunk in the girls’ hostels (dormitories) and classrooms. Taken from 1 Corinthians 6:2, the theme of Triennial is “Salvation Is Today.”

 

Picture the arrival scene at Triennials in the U.S. and you can imagine the scene Friday afternoon at Malosa – with less luggage being carted, however. With all the “business” of Triennial being packed into the weekend, the program this first evening of Triennial includes a teaching, which commences immediately after dinner. Thus inspired, we may finally retire at the end of this long day.

 

 

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Preparation

Posted By National Office, Monday, August 6, 2018

July 26, 2018

 

With Ireen involved in last-minute preparations for the Triennial Convention beginning tomorrow, for me today is a day of rest, writing and a bit of sightseeing with Alice Mtenje (first National President of Daughters in Malawi) as my guide. In previous entries I have referred to our exchanges of gifts. I thought I’d take the time today to describe some of those gifts.  

 

Before our first visit, I explained to Ireen the Anglican Prayer Beads (made of fine blue cord by Carol Townsend, a Daughter in the Diocese of Chicago) I brought to give Daughters in positions of leadership. There is something of a ritual involved in the exchange of gifts, beginning with singing as the recipient of a gift meets me at the front of the group. With Ireen translating for me, I would explain the design of the prayer beads and how Daughters in the U.S. use them as prayer tools.  Ireen noted that the prayer beads were not well known in Malawi and she appreciated the directions I included in the presentation (which she later wrote up to share). As one translator explained to me, the Daughters who received the Anglican Prayer Beads would share the beads when leading prayers at chapter meetings.  From my observation, I would say this gift was very well received.

 

On the receiving end, I have been showered with gifts, gifts that are used in everyday life in Malawi. Song again is a part of the presentation of the gifts, and a gift themselves, with songs being sung as the gift-bearers present their gifts. From the Daughters I have received baskets, hats, pieces of fabric (to be used as a wrap skirt), a mortar and pestle, a grass mat, and brooms. I think I’m going to have to get a second piece of luggage to bring all these gifts home! 

 

For several reasons, not the least of which is tradition, Daughters in Malawi have formal and informal uniforms; we have seen the formal uniforms in photos in The Royal Cross and other communications. As a gift, Ireen arranged for uniforms to be made for me, and today Alice takes me to pick up my uniforms from the tailor. The formal uniform must be blessed before it can be worn, so the Triennial Convention will be the first occasion I have to wear either uniform.  There is nothing like “retail therapy” to become excited, pleased, and to feel like a “princess” – aka a Daughter of the King in Malawi.

 

 

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St. John’s Parish, Monkey Bay

Posted By National Office, Monday, August 6, 2018

July 25, 2018


We remained in Mangochi District overnight Tuesday, staying at La Riviera Lodge on the shores of Lake Malawi. Wednesday morning, then, we traveled on to St. John’s Village in Nkope village.

 

Today, the Daughters meet us at a junction in the village.  Once again, Irene and I join in a procession of song and dance, once again to the beat of drummers.  This time, though, we process almost a mile through the village before arriving at the church. 

 

To this point now, I have met with Daughters in a rural areas (Magomero and Nkope) and in urban settings (Zomba and Mongochi).  The repeating pattern of these gatherings has finally dawned on me.  The programs have been a direct response to making the most of this opportunity for Daughters to meet and share experiences on an international level. Each group of Daughters and the priests whom they support have expressed how honored they are that the U.S. National President herself – and not her delegated representative – came to visit them. I am equally honored and actually believe I am learning more and receiving more benefits on this journey than I am giving.

 

The songs I have heard by the choirs share similar themes, especially focusing on how their faith in Jesus shapes their lives or familiar Bible stories.  To me, these songs, always sung a capella, are more approachable and singable than the hymns with which I am familiar.

 

Once again, as we gather for our multiple group photos, one can see our joy and happiness clearly reflected on our smiling, laughing faces.

 

 

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Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral, Mangochi

Posted By National Office, Tuesday, July 31, 2018

July 24, 2018

 

After paying a courtesy call to the Bishop of the Diocese of Upper Shire, we embarked on our two-hour drive to Mangochi to meet Daughters at Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral. Observing us turn off the main paved road, the Daughters greeted us about a quarter of a mile away from the Cathedral. Ireen and I exited the car to join them in the return processional, although first we had to maneuver free of welcoming hugs. Led by two drummers, we joyfully sang and danced our way to the Cathedral.


Once seated in places of honor, the priest expressed the gratitude he and the Daughters felt because I took the time to travel north to meet with them. (I am the first National Officer of the Daughters of the King in America to make a dedicated trip to Malawi for the purpose of attending the Triennial.) After the various choirs of all Daughters sang their songs, complete with choreographed movements, a choir of five Daughters danced and sang a song in English. The gift of sharing their song's story in my language moved me even more than the words themselves. Reports were presented and other gifts exchanged. 


We had listened respectfully to the remarks in the Cathedral, but the joyful exuberance of the parade into the Cathedral returned as soon as we adjourned outside. It was as if restraints fell away. The drums played and we sang and danced and laughed our way through several group photos. Just as hugs were given in greeting, many hugs were exchanged as goodbyes were said.

 

 

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