A TWINNING of churchgoers in the Borders and southern Malawi has been extended for a further five years.

Partnership working between the two congregations has heralded benefits for both over the past decade.

And during this month's trip to the Zomba Presbytery, the nine-strong Borders party visited schools, churches and even a prison.

The Rev Marion Dodd from the Melrose and Peebles Presbytery told us: "Two current church links were re-kindled by the visits, and the results of repair work aid after the cyclone were witnessed, as well as new desks in the schools, a bull calf produced by the cow which had been donated, and new businesses established with help from Scotland.

"The church people are also keen to share in prayer for our needs over here.

"Thus the linkage is seen to be not just one-way.

"As well as our churches, schools and community groups providing material goods, issues around climate change become very real in Africa, and we can do something about that - in Scotland, the side-lining of the church, and shortage of ministers are the problem.

"The hope is that the linkage will continue to develop personal links and thus encourage both sides to be involved in the needs of the other.

"Thus, through this external link with Malawi, we in Scotland can re-enthuse and build up the Kirk, with young people acting as communicators, through social media."

The visiting group from the Melrose and Peebles Presbytery was made up of the minister from Peebles Old, three members of Stow and Heriot Church, three from Innerleithen, Traquair and Walkerburn, and two teachers from Biggar High School.

They enjoyed a packed programme, which included the Memorandum of Understanding with the Twinning Committee being signed and extended for a further five years.

Marion added: "They came back reporting on the warm welcome, the enthusiasm of the people, and the hope of more co-operation in the future."

During the visit the group were guided around a new edible garden being developed at Thondwe Primary School, replicating the community vegetable garden at their twinned school of St Ronan’s in Innerleithen.

They were also shown around a new three-and-a-half acre maize garden which has been created by a church to feed families with no bread-winner during lean months.

The situation in the prisons was reported as ‘dire’, with overcrowding due to prison sentences being imposed for very menial crimes.

The group noted a shortage of reading glasses, old mobiles, and laptops in the prison.

Anyone interested in the partnership working of Melrose and Peebles Presbytery twinning group is invited to their next meeting on Tuesday, February 4 in Innerleithen Church or alternatively join your local church’s World Mission group.