Malawi African Youth Choir tours the North Country

CHAZY In the late 1990s, Dr. Fred Stone, a physician from Watertown, and his wife Nela, a nurse, went on a medical missions trip to the Presbyterian Hospital in Malawi. The trip ended up lasting three years. The two fell in love with Malawi, known as "the warm heart of Africa," because of the friendliness of the people.

When the Stones returned home they shared their love for the Malawi people with their church family at the Watertown Presbyterian Church.

That love has spread throughout the entire Presbytery of Northern New York. In 1999 they established a partnership with the Synod of Livingstonia in Malawi Africa and began organizing exchanges.

"We send teams back and forth to share knowledge and ideas," said Darlene Heller, a public health nurse and wife of Pastor Paul Heller of the Plattsburgh First Presbyterian Church. She and her husband have been four times, including a 2-month sabbatical in the bush country of Malawi.

This is the first time that the visiting team from Malawi has included a choir. Twelve members of the Mzuzu, Malawi Presbyterian Church Youth Choir made the trip along with their choir director, Grace Chiumia, and their pastor and his wife, Norman and Jennifer Hara.

The youth in the choir are not as young as one might expect. A youth in Malawi is someone who is not married, does not own land or other assets, and does not have a job. Members ranged in age from their late teens to their late twenties.

The group entered the United States on June 24th at JFK airport. They began singing as soon as they reached the terminal and they haven't stopped since. They have been touring the North Country giving concerts almost every night. All concerts are free and love offerings are taken to help cover the expense of bringing them to the United States.

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