Darris McNeely talks with Victor Kubik about his upcoming trip to visit UCG brethren in Africa.
[Darris McNeely] This is Darris McNeely, Associate Media Producer here at the United Church of God. With me today in the studio is President of the United Church of God, Victor Kubik. Vic, it’s good to have you with us today.
[Victor Kubik] Hello, Darris, it’s great to be here in this particular role of being interviewed this time.
[Darris] You’re on the other side of the table today and I’m talking to you. You’re about to take a trip to Africa, and we thought we’d have you in today to talk about that.
[Victor] Well, that’s great. We are leaving in two days. We’re leaving on Thursday, April 14th, and we will be visiting a number of countries, and I’m glad to talk about it.
[Darris] Well, where are you going, exactly? I believe southern Africa, correct?
[Victor] Right, to southern Africa, where we go quite often, but we’re limiting our trip only to South Africa, which is a first-world country, and to Malawi only, which is according to the United Nations, the fourth-poorest country in the world.
[Darris] What do you have going on in Malawi that will take you and your wife there?
[Victor] We have worked in southern Africa for a long time, going back to 1996. And we first were there for a Feast of Tabernacles, and we met some people that were from Malawi – Zimbabwe, actually, at that time – and we learned about their needs and found out that they were a lot worse than we could have ever imagined. And that began a whole series of trips to that area to help them out.
[Darris] So on this trip, exactly what is being coordinated and what’s the purpose of the trip?
[Victor] Well, the purpose of the trip is for us to have twofold – one is the church side, where we’re working with congregations, that is a primary purpose for the travel.
[Darris] And how many members do we have in Malawi?
[Victor] In Malawi we have about 175 members in 2 congregations, and there’s a third group. Malawi is a very, very long country – about 700 miles long – but only 75 to 100 miles wide. And it’s really strung out over a large area.
[Darris] Okay. So you’ll be able to see all of the members while you’re there?
[Victor] No, we’ll be able to see members in two areas. Still wanted to go up to the way north, but it’s too much to bite off.
[Darris] All right, so you’ve got some humanitarian projects to work with?
[Victor] Yes, we’ve been working humanitarian, actually going back to 1996. And that began when we met one of the nurse practitioners in southern Africa, or Zimbabwe, at that time, and we were just curious as to what they needed. We started a non-profit at that time and when we went there to see them two years later, we found out that it was a lot worse than we could have ever imagined. They had nothing. They had no medicines, they had no equipment, they had absolutely nothing. And through several container shipments of other things and building a few clinics, we feel like we’ve contributed remarkably.
[Darris] So are there any building projects currently working that you’re involved with, or is it just kind to a check-in, see how things are running currently?
[Victor] Both, because there are building projects in both areas and we have completed a number of projects, like I mentioned with clinics. But on this particular time, we have combined some projects with the church and with humanitarian, notably, church buildings, which we have remodeled. And in one particular case – this is in Lilongwe, the capital, we bought a property that we use for church – it’s actually a house that we expanded to actually be a very nice church hall, but there’s frontage property on it, on a very busy street. So we built three shops out front that generate income, and one of them is like a little Kinkos –
[Darris] A copy shop?
[Victor] A little copy shop. It’s a shop that does copying and that type of thing, but mostly internet. Another shop, which is a produce shop, where church members can bring produce and sell it, and then we have an office there, as well.
[Darris] So what are some of the challenges that the people in general, our members in particular, have in Malawi? It sounds like they’re challenged even in the basics.
[Victor] Well, they are, physically. But we really want to come at them first from the spiritual side – people who are interested in this. Because if you’re looking for helping people physically in Africa, there is no end to it. And people will be very happy. And we want to make certain that the people we meet and the people that come to church come for the right reasons. There’s a term called “rice Christians”. People come when there’s food. And you know, we really want to put God first and their salvation first. And we have those people, even extremely poor people, that are committed as much as any one of us here to Jesus Christ, to the church. But you cannot go to Africa without considering the physical, because they are so poor – we just hired some people right now to run the shops for $70 a month. I mean, that’s a good wage in those areas. And the poverty that they go through is just incomprehensible.
[Darris] Do we have even a subscriber base for Beyond Today Magazine there?
[Victor] Yes, we do. We have an office in Malawi. It is run from the home of our elder, Gracious Mpilangwe, and he sends out, mails out, the Beyond Today Magazine and literature. And we were there a number – we’ve been to his home several times, and he’s got literature racks, and he’s got a little mini office. It’s quite interesting to see.
[Darris] So you’ll be engaging with – at that level as well, then, with some of the subscribers?
[Victor] Oh yes, yes. Their subscribers continually come to our services. By the way, the Beyond Today is printed in Cape Town, South Africa, and distributed to drop off points that’s remailed in Zambia, and Malawi, and also Zimbabwe.
[Darris] So English in Malawi is a easy language to communicate in?
[Victor] Yes, because this was all part of the British Protectorate. These were three British areas. Malawi used to be called “Nyasaland”, which means “Lakeland”. Zimbabwe used to be Rhodesia, and Zambia was Northern Rhodesia. And they were all under one administration.
[Darris] Will you be going to Zambia on this trip?
[Victor] No, I would love to have gone to Zambia, but we find out if we go to too many countries, we spend more time in airports than we want to, and we want to be focused on being in three places and spend a good five days in each.
[Darris] So you’ll be in South Africa for five days, as well?
[Victor] Yes, total – we’re actually a little bit more than that. We’re coming into South Africa before the weekend, and we’ll be there for Sabbath services, and all day Sunday. The flight to Malawi only leaves three times a week, so we leave on Monday, and then we’ll be in Malawi and come back for the Last Days of Unleavened Bread, which will be from Thursday, Friday, Sabbath, and Sunday. So we’ll have quite a bit of time and we want to meet with as many of our ministers in South Africa as we can.
[Darris] Do you have any training programs planned with the ministry and the leadership in South Africa? How are they doing in that regard?
[Victor] Well, yes, they have leadership, they have leadership seminars there that they run themselves, and also from here. But we really want to move the more comprehensive training program that we are going to be talking about, you and I, here very, very shortly.
[Darris] We will. We’ll probably come back to this table and I’ll be on the other side, and you can talk to me about that.
[Victor] Or the other way around.
[Darris] Well, we wish you well on your trip, both you and Bev, and safe travels. And certainly send along our regards to the members both in Malawi and South Africa from all of us here at the office.
[Victor] Well, thank you very much, Darris. It’s been very, very pleasant talking to you and we look forward to giving a report on what’s coming back. We also are going to feature our trip on a travel pod, and this’ll be my 17th trip on a travel pod and the easiest way to find it is to go to “Vic’s Travel Blog” on our ucg.org website . So if you go to ucg.org and in the search box type in “Vic’s Travel Blog” , and you’ll get to it. I’ll start making entries in it starting tomorrow or the day after.
[Darris] Good, we’ll look forward to seeing the progress of the trip as you go along. Thanks for joining us on Inside United today. Come back again soon for more.