THE FRIENDSHIP CLUB

We had fun recently putting together some packs for our Friendship Club members which we hope you have been enjoying. They seem to have been very well received and we look forward to seeing the fruits of your labours in due course. Our Club may not be able to meet at present, but we hope it helps to know that you are not forgotten!!

As we settle into Autumn with shorter days and darker nights, we could be forgiven for thinking that there is very little in the way of good news. However, as we look around the beautiful countryside in which we live, it is still easy to be inspired and in awe of nature’s wonder. It is not difficult to see the creator’s hand in these sharp, sunlit October mornings and beautiful evening skies. 

Please remember that no matter the season we are always here to help. In the first instance, please ring Irene Robertson.
 

NEWS OF THE 'GREAT SNOOZE' FROM MARATHON MEWS

(Or as the running books would have it; ‘Post Race Recovery Strategy’)!

On Sunday 4th October 2020, after a 6 month delay, 43,000 runners in 109 countries across the world, ran the 40th anniversary ‘’Virtual’’ London Marathon. Amongst these vast numbers, was the small carbon based life form known as ‘Mrs Marathon’, (homage to Douglas Adams here!)!

Mrs Marathon was privileged to be part of ‘Team Parkinson’s’, a 75 runners chosen to represent Parkinson’s UK and raise funds for the charity by running the London Marathon.

When the Marathon in London was cancelled and competitors were asked to run their own individual marathon from home, Mrs Marathon gloomily envisaged 26.2 miles of long, lonely tedium, with only an audio book for company….. how wrong she was! Firstly, Mr Marathon offered to cycle the whole route to provide back up, next, friends said they would set up ‘feeding stations’ at specific points on the route. A couple of Kirkcudbright running club team mates also said they would try and run a couple of miles of the route to provide support. It felt so humbling, to have such kind offers of help and encouragement.

The start of Mrs Marathon’s Virtual London Marathon was scheduled for 7.30am at Marathon Mews and she anticipated that she and Mr Marathon would set out themselves, quietly on that dark October morning. But when half a dozen friends and neighbours appeared at the end of the drive at 7.20am to cheer Mrs Marathon across the ‘start line’, followed by a Kirkcudbright runner who arrived to run the first few miles of the route, and a photographer came to catch the moment on camera….Mrs Marathon knew something special was happening!

Running club had very generously organised themselves into a ‘rota’ for keeping Mrs Marathon company along the whole route (about 12 runners in all) providing fantastic team spirit. A number of  friends also appeared  on bicycles from mile 16, giving additional cheers, waves and welcome support and encouragement! Around the course at various points, about 50 lovely folk raised flags, gave cheery waves and applauded the runners, and the ‘feeding station team’ ensured that water and food were always on hand to keep Mrs Marathon refuelled. Truly amazing generosity and enthusiasm!

The first 13 miles whizzed by in a flash. Miles 21 to 24 were the toughest, with legs tightening and fatigue setting in, but with so much cheery support and enthusiasm Mrs Marathon was carried along.

And finally…..the finish!!! About 25 friends, neighbours and fellow runners had gathered in the sunshine at mile 26.2….some of whom had lovingly created a finish line, complete with finishing tape, banners, bunting and balloons! What a  welcome  sight!  The emotional cheers on crossing the line were so special! Mrs Marathon had completed her first marathon…… in a time of 4 hours and 40 minutes!!! (Much later Mr Marathon checked into the London Marathon results website, and Mrs Marathon actually came in the first 25% of the entire field….although she does appreciate that those running whilst dressed variously as red telephone boxes, Daleks, and Eiffel Towers, would have faced their on particular and unique challenges)!

Apart from some stiffness in the quads for a day or two, and slightly less energy than usual, Mrs Marathon suffered no ill effects as a result of the mammoth challenge. Over the next few days, lots of sleep, food and extra fluids helped to begin marathon recovery. And still, in the days following the marathon, amazingly, folk are still generously making donations to the fundraising effort, so the current total to be sent to Parkinson’s UK stands at £4,714, an overwhelming amount of money.

And Mr Marathon? Now there’s someone who really does deserve a medal! (Perhaps an O.B.E.)! Having recovered from his 26.2 mile ‘slow bicycle race’(!) bless him, he now has 7 ½ months of respite, before Mrs Marathon’s training begins for the ‘actual’ London Marathon, which will take place on Sunday 3rd October 2021…..!

Sometimes the words ‘thank you’ simply don’t seem enough. But, they are the words we use to express appreciation and gratitude. The kindness, generosity and thoughtfulness of so many, in the run up to the ‘Virtual London Marathon’ and on the day itself, have been truly humbling. It’s something Mrs Marathon will never forget.

Thank you!

Sue McMinn
 

CROSSREACH - ITS CHRISTMASTIME! (WELL ALMOST)

CROSSREACH (the social outreach division of Church of Scotland) has produced a tremendous catalogue of Christmas cards and calendars for 2020. You can view and order these at http://www.shop.crossreach.org.uk OR we have a few catalogues available:

Ask Ivor (Session Clerk) or Howard (Newsletter Editor) for more information.
 

GREETINGS FROM EDINBURGH! OUR MISSIONARY PARTNERS ARE HOME FROM MALAWI AT PRESENT

I hope this belated update finds you well as lockdown begins to ease. It’s been a while since our last Partner Plan letter, and a lot has happened in that time. Let me bring you back up to speed.

Our planned deputation visit for April and May was cancelled when UK restrictions would have prevented our meetings. We began making plans to stay in Malawi when the Church of Scotland decided that our family should return home before border closures prevented our return. With less than five days to prepare, leaving wasn’t easy, and farewells were rushed. However, we were mostly at peace with the decision – particularly when thinking of the children.

We’ve been living in a furlough flat in central Edinburgh which is operated by the Faith Impact Forum. We’ve had the full lockdown experience of home-schooling, searching for flour and attending church online. As things have eased, we’ve seen some of our family and friends, but Edinburgh isn’t home to us so we have to be satisfied with each other’s company until we can travel further.

Amongst the uncertainty, this has given us precious time together as a family. We’ve enjoyed the comforts of home. When things around us were changing quickly, we have been challenged by how important it is to find our rest in God and our identity in Christ.

It has been exciting and frustrating to watch developments in Malawi from afar. We’re thankful for a peaceful rerun of the presidential election and are hopeful for change in Malawi following the election of Rev Dr Lazarus Chakwera. Colleagues, and indeed the nation at large, are buoyed by his appointment. He came to power with Vice President Saulos Chilima, leading a broad alliance of opposition parties which promises to address corruption and foster economic development. In the days since they swore their oaths of office, they have been faithful to their word taking decisive action on farm subsidies, tax for low-income workers and tackling corruption in government contracting. There’s certainly reason for hope!

As I write, today is Malawi’s Independence Day. As a result of coronavirus, celebrations are more subdued, despite it also being inauguration day for the new president. Malawi was one of the last countries in the world to record cases of coronavirus, but now it is spreading more quickly. A significant number of cases have been recorded in Mzuzu, considering its size relative to other cities. Within the figures are two concerning trends. First, the high number of healthcare workers who are contracting the virus – this is grave concern in a country where healthcare workers are in desperately short supply.

There has also been a large number of cases recorded at the border among those returning from South Africa. Dozens of people at a time are testing positive on the flights and buses repatriating deported Malawians. Many Malawians travel to South Africa for work to support their families, however with lockdown restrictions in place, this hasn’t been easy or even possible. It’s unclear whether people are contracting the virus in detention centres or in transit, but it’s a concern to see people put at higher risk.

The response to coronavirus lived in the shadow of the election campaigns, but it is at the front of people’s minds now. Malawi’s new government has ruled out a strict lockdown; this makes sense in a country where poverty and hunger already present a real threat to life. The World Health Organisation predicts that African nations will begin to see the peak of the virus around the end of July.

Like here in the UK, prevention efforts have painful consequences. Schools in Malawi have been closed for over three months, with little in the way of support for home learning. Along with the economic impact of closed borders, this creates significant pressure on households – stress that can lead to an increase in violence against women and girls.

Our Gender Based Violence programme worked closely with the hospital to identify potential survivors of violence and begin the process of helping them gain access to justice. However, this isn’t possible with hospital services changing to deal with
coronavirus.

The scale and impact of COVID-19 in Malawi are as yet unknown. The way out of coronavirus will likely be longer and harder than for countries with developed economies. However, we find hope that with a younger demographic, the direct impact might be lower than in other countries. Malawi has experience of dealing with health crises such as HIV and AIDS and can draw on the experience of its neighbours’ response to Ebola. The details of our own return to Malawi are known only to God at this stage, but we’ve felt relatively at peace in this time of waiting. We’re keen to get back when it is right and possible for us to do so. We continue to appreciate prayers for patience and wisdom as we work out when that might be, and for arrangements here in the meantime.  I’m now beginning to return from the government’s furlough scheme. I will be supporting colleagues in Malawi remotely as well as finding creative ways to communicate about our work with congregations here in Scotland while we can’t meet or travel. Jacqueline continues to work supporting a friend Malawi, and they are close to publishing their handbook on preventing lower back injury in rural communities.

Eilidh is coming to the end of her Mzuzu school year and has adapted well to home school – though she prefers the role of teacher. Morven’s energy cannot be locked down, so there was great excitement when playparks reopened last week – she’d have little memory of previously playing in one. While our return to Malawi is uncertain, we hope to see family in the coming weeks and perhaps some of you.

As ever, thanks for your continued prayers. If we can be supporting or praying for you too, please let us know.

Every blessing,

Gary, Jacqueline, Eilidh and Morven
 

IT'S A FAIR QUESTION

The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Reverend Dr Martin Fair, has been active online since he took office in May, following a virtual installation service.

On the Church of Scotland website, among other things, you can catch up with episodes of his ‘ It’s a Fair Question ‘ interviews. They last approx 30 minutes and cover a wide range of issues, including science and God, racial prejudice in Scotland, the impact of drug addiction, the future face of the church, and tackling poverty. The style is relaxed and the discussions make for
interesting and easy listening.

You can find them at: http://www.youtube.com/c/churchofscotland/videos or search for ‘videos ‘ on the Church of Scotland website.