Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household. – Ephesians 2:19
First Presbyterian Church has partnered with Jeanes CCAP (Church of Central Africa Presbyterian) Congregation in Domasi, Malawi, since 1997. Through the years our sister church relationship has been nurtured through visits and communications by letter, e-mail, and Facebook.
First Presbyterian supports a shallow wells program and student scholarships, and provides food security and other assistance to the Domasi community. Members of the Jeanes congregation share their generous hospitality and inspire us with examples of faithful and joyful living. Our partnership has allowed both groups to better understand the strengths of and challenges faced by our respective congregations, communities and countries.
First Presbyterian has sent seven teams to Malawi to worship together, learn from each other, work on mission projects, and engage in joint planning. In 2014, we initiated a program to bring our Malawian sisters and brothers to Champaign-Urbana. Our congregation served as the hosting partner while our visitors enriched our community and learned more about our daily lives in America.
The sister church partnership between the First Presbyterian and Jeanes CCAP congregations has been fruitful. A summary of the major outcomes is listed below.
Safe Water and Shallow Wells – The partnership has resulted in construction and maintenance of more than 800 shallow wells in the Domasi community. Each well provides safe water to 100 or more men, women, and children in nearby villages; prevents disease; and helps girls to spend time in school instead of carrying water for long distances for their families each day. The shallow wells program offers employment to a team of local wells technicians; uses parts made and purchased in Africa; and promotes community cooperation independent of religious affiliations.
Education – Education is underfunded in Malawi and higher educational opportunities are scarce. The costs of school and exam fees are a significant obstacle for many families. The partnership bursary committee is composed of Jeanes members and grants scholarships to secondary students. It recently has expanded to include support for university students. A proposal for opening a preschool on the church campus is under consideration.
Women’s Guild – The women’s Mvano Choir meets regularly for rehearsals and also for educational opportunities. Each Urbana delegation has been joyfully greeted in Domasi by a Mvano performance. First Presbyterian members offer support for sewing classes and other initiatives by the Women’s Guild.
Church Facilities – With the growth of the Jeanes CCAP congregation from a small prayer house to a large church community, First Presbyterian Church of Urbana has contributed to the construction of the Jeanes church and manse, followed by a Sunday school building. Discussions are currently under way for additional classroom and multipurpose buildings on the church campus. A partnership building committee oversees the church facilities locally in Domasi.
Fertilizer and Relief Assistance – The partnership empowers a relief committee to sponsor the purchase of seed and fertilizer for individual family farms during the annual growing season. The committee also has been called to distribute food assistance in times of famine and shortages.
Spiritual Growth – Personal relationships uplift individual members on each side of the partnership. We hold each other in prayer. We also have grown spiritually from examining how each church implements the basic tenets of our Presbyterian faith.
Worship – Worship at Jeanes CCAP includes hymn singing; choir music from children, youth, and women; keyboard accompaniment; children’s time; reading of scripture; prayer; sermons; the sacraments; and an outpouring of thanksgiving, joy and love. Urbana delegations carry back in their hearts a piece of Malawi to spark our worship back home.