I was sitting as Guest of Honour in the Blantyre Synod of the Church of Central Africa, Presbyterian, in Malawi in 2005. On my right sat Rev Joseph Juma, General Secretary of the Harare Synod of Zimbabwe; on my left sat Rev Lazarus Mbewe, General Secretary of the Synod of Zambia.

 Rev Juma was invited to address the Synod. ‘Moderator,’ he said, ‘we have losted (sic) our people. President Mugabe has sent the bulldozers through the area of Harare where many of our people live and they have fled to the jungle between Zimbabwe and Malawi. Would you please keep a lookout for them?’

My heart melted.

Rev Mbewe was invited to address the Synod. ‘Moderator,’ he said, ‘we are trying to throw the Mantle of CCAP across Zambia. Please pray for us.’

My heart leapt with joy. President Kaunda had imposed a union of Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregational Churches to form the United Church of Zambia. The CCAP was re-established as a continuing Presbyterian Church through the good offices of a venerable retired minister from Livingstonia (in Northern Malawi), Rev Dr Jele. Here was a Church which had gone through a similar experience to the one we had in 1977 – but without a property settlement – and was restarting, literally from the ground up.

I have since discovered that wherever in the world there is a uniting or united-type church, there is almost always a continuing Presbyterian Church, and it is almost always a theologically conservative Church. We have assisted numerous other sister churches, particularly in the Sub-Continent.

What could the Presbyterian Church of Australia do to assist like-minded sister Churches? The 2007 General Assembly of Australia set up PresAID. Congregations would be invited to send in their Good Friday and Christmas Day offerings to fund two worthy causes – a Gospel Project such as church buildings, and a work of mercy such as provision of a toilet block at a school. (There’s a complete list of these works, totalling almost $1.5 million on the PresAID website, www.presaid.org.au ).

Did you know that there is a Presbyterian Church at Livingstone (Victoria Falls)? Yes, there is, and we built it. Today, thanks to PresAID and the Australian Presbyterian Church, the CCAP Zambia has church buildings from Livingstone in the West to Lusaka and from Lusaka to Chipata in the East. They also have a theological college at Chasefu, again set up largely with aid from us.

Why should we participate in PresAID?

For three main reasons:

1. Every cent raised goes to the works advertised. Not one cent is diverted to administration.

2. We follow up to ensure that all donations have been used for purpose and responsibly.

3. In a very real and tangible way we are participating in Kingdom-Building through assisting our sister Presbyterian Churches in the Developing World.

Is your congregation participating in PresAID? If so, please give generously. If not could you ask your minister if your congregation could join in?

Go to www.presaid.org.au for further details.

                                                                                                                                                – Bob Thomas