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"...a threefold cord is not quickly broken."
Ecclesiastes 4:12

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The Gift of Partnership

Covenant of Giving & Receiving

What you are about in this mission pilgrimage is far more significant than offering help to the Christians in Malawi. Many people will have the idea that Christian mission, either short or long term, is a form of charity. It would be arrogant for us to believe that we could fix anything in Africa. God may choose to do that through someone who goes, if something indeed does need “fixing,” but that kind of change only comes from God. Malawi’s problems are enormous, as are ours here in the United States, but changing anything that is causing those problems is for the Malawian Christians to do. If you are going to change anything, it will likely be yourselves that are changed. You go to see with new eyes and hear with new ears. You go to learn, to give, to receive, and to celebrate the love God has given to all who are part of this Blantyre-Pittsburgh Partnership. You go as agents of mutual encouragement in the things of faith.

Each party in this Partnership has gifts which, when shared with the other, will enrich the life and witness of the other. II Corinthians 8:13-15 is one key to understanding this. We in Pittsburgh stand in need of the Malawian Church’s gifts of joy, faith, love, music, simplicity, and Spirit. The gifts we offer the church in Africa include administration, money, music, love, faith, and Spirit. The gospel calls us to build each other up…to be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.

In a quote attributed to an Australian Aboriginal woman, this idea is spoken well: “If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up in mine, then let us work together.” Our liberation and wholeness in Christ is bound up with that of the Malawians and with people throughout the world, including our own neighborhoods here in Pittsburgh.

When the partnership was established between the Synod of Blantyre and Pittsburgh Presbytery, both parties attempted to be sensitive to the role that money can play in a relationship. Money is a commodity and symbol that can often give those who have it power and control over those who do not have it. From the beginning, our hope for this partnership was that money would not be a primary factor in determining our relationship with one another. Since one part of this partnership (Pittsburgh) had abundant financial resources, and the other party (Synod of Blantyre) did not, we expected there to be many challenges in this area if our relationship was going to be truly mutual.

When you are in Malawi and even after you return home, you will probably be asked for financial support. These requests may be both direct and implied. They may come from an individual or from a congregation. You will probably receive letters asking you to make it possible for a son or daughter to come to America for an education or to receive expensive medical treatment.

You will also encounter people on the streets of Blantyre and in Malawian villages whose circumstances are desperate. They may be hungry, handicapped, unemployed, or sick. Even the poorest travelers from Pittsburgh are rich when compared to many of the people you will meet. Some Malawians will assume you have inexhaustible financial resources. Please consider the following guidelines for giving that have been developed in conversation with our Malawian partners. They are part of our covenant of partnership and not to be taken lightly if the partnership is to continue successfully:

  1. At the request of the General Secretary, any Malawian individual requesting financial assistance should be rejected outright, and there is no need to refer them to the General Secretary. By referring the request to the General Secretary, we are giving people the hope and impression that we are willing to contribute to them. Then, when their requests are denied, it puts the General Secretary in a very bad position.

  2. Requests from church sessions should be referred to the General Secretary and the Projects Office. The Synod would like to have the first opportunity of evaluating and responding to requests. They have better insight into evaluating need and overseeing use of grant money than do people many thousands of miles away.

  3. If the Synod of Blantyre determines that the need is valid, it may respond to the need itself through an existing program of the Synod. If Synod leaders believe the need is valid but are unable to respond themselves, the Synod of Blantyre will submit a request for help to Pittsburgh Presbytery or another of its partner organizations. When such a request comes to Pittsburgh Presbytery and it is a new proposal, it is referred to the Project Coordination Committee. Once the Project Coordination Committee works out the details and approves the project, it is referred to the Blocks for Blantyre Committee for coordination and endorsed for the support of Pittsburgh Presbytery churches. A Blocks for Blantyre brochure, updated quarterly, outlines the projects that have been approved by the Synod of Blantyre and Pittsburgh Presbytery. If you feel that God is calling you to give money to Malawians, you are encouraged to support any of the projects in that brochure and to urge your congregation to do so also. Copies of the brochure can be obtained by calling Cindy Miller at 412-323-1400 ext. 312.

The only kinds of gifts that are excluded from this arrangement are:

  • Financial gifts to your partner congregation may be made but are limited to $2,000 per year. For security, it is best to send the check through Pittsburgh Presbytery, which will then wire the money to the appropriate account in Malawi.

  • Small personal gifts may be made to friends by check sent through the mail. It is not recommended that any such gift exceed $100.

Do not respond to requests with promises. What we want to avoid is for money to become a problem that threatens our mutual relationship in Jesus Christ. We ask you to abide by these guidelines that have been carefully constructed with input from Malawian leaders.

Additional Notes

The Synod of Blantyre has requested that all funds designated for famine relief be channeled through the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. The Synod will then handle the purchasing of food in bulk and the distribution. (Most churches do not have the resources to purchase food in bulk nor means of distribution.)

Any gift over the amount of $2,000/year/church is contrary to the spiritual and financial guidelines established by the partnership. (See item #3) Use of a gift over that amount is best left to the discretion of the Synod – they would be able to better determine where the greatest need lies. 

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