Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Contrast Between Blantyre Chapels--George's Post

Last Saturday (November 15th), the local Church District (the Blantyre District) held a special district conference meeting in the Blantyre Chapel, where the two Blantyre branches hold their meetings. The Blantyre branches meet in a beautiful modern US style building, located close to the commercial center of the city. That building is certainly one of the nicer buildings in town. This photo is of Sisters Konika and Rasband standing in front of the Blantyre Chapel. Sister Konika is from Zimbabwe. She decided to come on a mission rather than joining the Zimbabwe women's national soccer game. Sister Rasband is from Alpine, Utah. Her uncle is the Dean of BYU's Law School and was an associate in the Seattle office of Perkins Coie. He was only with our firm for a couple of years, but I got to know him a bit during his stay in Seattle. The second photo is of the chapel in the Blantyre Building. As you can quickly see, it has a modern, clean look, and resembles the chapel of any building in the United States. We are in the Zingwangwa Branch. Now it meets in a large home, converted into a church meetinghouse, located on a dirt road, two blocks off of Zingwangwa Avenue. The home is barely adequate for our current needs; the members don't complain but the branch presidency is actively looking for a new meetinghouse. This is a photo of Carole in front of the Zingwangwa Chapel. Most buildings in Blantyre do not have street addresses, but instead are located in reference to commonly known landmarks. Recently, I saw a description of the Zingwangwa Branch as being located across from the broken truck. As you can see form the second photo below, the description is certainly apt--if one can get to the right dirt road, it's not hard to find the church. One of the minor projects Carole and I are tackling is getting a better sign for the building. Hopefully we can get that done within a couple of weeks. The Church is, we have been told, rethinking how it wants to house its congregations in Malawi. While the Blantyre building is specious and pleasant, it stands out, differing from many other local church buildings. The Church does not want to be thought of as a "rich" or as a "western" church. So, to the extent that the Church decides to building another building in Blantyre, it may build one that more resembles the local buildings in style, scale and building materials. The Church might prefer leasing, at least in the short run, as it gets a better sense for the needs and growth of the Church in Malawi. The problem with leasing, however, is that it is hard to find buildings suited to the Church's needs. The Zingwangwa Branch has certainly outgrown its current building, so it will be a relief to find a building with more space.