March 27, 2009
I’ve been in Kenya this week outside of Nairobi at a conference center called Brackenhurst. It is a nice center with the ability to accommodate large groups. SIM has called together all of its top leaders for a Global Leaders Gathering. We have spent the week listening to speakers, most of them Africans talking about missions in and from Africa with implications for an organization like SIM. It has been good to listen, interact with other SIM leaders and reflect on the issues that have been raised. SIM as an organization has been working hard to flex with the changing realities of a global church that is shifting from the traditional center of Europe and North America to the continents of Africa, Asia and South America. These changes have implication on the way that we do missions as well as the places that missionaries are coming from. What will the next couple of decades in missions look like? It is hard to say, but it will be diverse, creative and much different than missions has looked during the last 150 years.
I received a phone call yesterday morning to say that Pastor Prince Stazio had died. Heidi and I had been to the hospital to visit him again the day before we left to come here. He had been diagnosed with hepatitis which had attacked his liver. He was in good spirits, especially considering his condition. The doctors had not given a good diagnosis, but thought he might live a few more months. I did not know it would be the last time that I would see him this side of heaven. He was released from the hospital on Wednesday and proceeded to his family’s village about four hours south of Blantyre. He died that evening.
I am not sure when the funeral will be, but it will probably be today or tomorrow. It is a tragedy that a young man like Prince should die of a preventable disease. In the West, we vaccinate against hepatitis. I understand the vaccine is available in Malawi, the systems are just impotent to deliver it to everyone. It doesn’t seem fair.
Prince was a good friend. I think that I have eaten in his house more than any other Malawian family. Any time that I went to see him or preach in his church he always had a meal to share. He was one of the most active pastors that I knew. He seemed to never stop moving. If he was pushing the church building project, he was all over town making sure people were following through on their commitments to supply materials. Or he was in the mud with the other volunteers molding bricks. He will be missed.