Bringing the word – Kirk minister heading on a mission to Malawi
An Edinburgh man hopes to deepen Scotland’s relationship with Malawi by exploring parallels with Gaelic culture and the local language.
Rev Dr Kenneth Ross of Newhaven officially takes up his new role as the Kirk’s new mission partner in Malawi next month and is very keen to develop his knowledge of the language and culture.
The 60-year-old is learning Chichewa, a language native to Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
Dr Ross said: “Most people think going from Scotland to Malawi is chalk and cheese – completely different.
“But these are both places that have a very strong heritage of language and culture, which to some extent have become marginalised with the advancement of English.
“In Scotland, we have realised that we will lose a lot if we lose the Gaelic language and culture and it is worth putting in a good effort to revive it.
“Gaelic and Chichewa are both very relational languages and it will be interesting to work on those connections.
“It can be extremely beautiful and haunting in the way the Gaelic psalms are in Scotland.”
Dr Ross, a father-of-three, will be moving to Malawi alone while his Open University lecturer wife Hester remains at their home in Edinburgh.
Moving to the Zomba region is a homecoming because he lived there with his family from 1988-1998.
He also helped to establish the first theology degree at the University of Malawi Chancellor College.
He said: “The call of God sometimes does not let you go and the idea of being a mission partner in Africa once again has been gripping me for a while.”
Dr Ross plans to return to Scotland a few times a year to visit family and friends and will rely on technology for regular chats with his wife.
Scotland and Malawi can trace their links back to the 1840s when explorer and Christian missionary David Livingstone arrived in Africa.
Scottish Christians decided to embark on missionary work in Malawi in honour of Dr Livingstone, who was born in Blantyre, Lanarkshire, in 1813 and played a leading role in the abolition of slavery.
The Church of Scotland founded a mission named Blantyre in Malawi 1876 and by 1957 there were 67 Scottish missionary families in the country, managing a large network of schools and hospitals.
Today, the Kirk has a partnership with The Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP) in Malawi.
Dr Ross, who was made an OBE in 2013 for services to Malawi and to Scottish-Malawi relations, will be based at Zomba Theological College.
He will also support the Nile Theological College in South Sudan, the Giffen Institute of Theology in Kanyama refugee camp, Kenya, and a theological department in the Igreja Evangelica de Cristo em Mocambique.