Guildford United Reformed Church

83 Portsmouth Road, Guildford, Surrey GU2 4BS

Harry Gombachika’s story: Sharing some of my experiences at GURC

I arrived in Guildford from Malawi on Monday morning, October 2, 2000 to pursue a PhD in Telecommunication Engineering. This was not my first time to be out of Africa. I had spent two years in the USA before. Nevertheless, I did not take for granted the support that I would need to successfully complete my studies. I had seen others who left Africa for studies and due to pressures had indulged in unacceptable behavior. As a Christian, my strength was in church establishment. That is why within a week of my arrival in the UK, I consulted the University Chaplain for recommendation of the church that I could join. The Chaplain pointed out that there were two reformed churches within Guildford, and he recommended the Guildford Reformed Church on Portsmouth road. He thought that the church minister Reverend Alastair Pratt would provide the appropriate pastoral care for me.
It took me a couple of weeks before, finally deciding to give it a shot. I surveyed the place, I checked the time the service starts and the following Sunday, I made it to church. At the door I was greeted by a lady. Then several people welcomed me such as George MacLeod, Linda Lobey. The service was great and I liked the intellectually stimulating preaching. After the service, a lady in her check coloured skirt and green jersey approached me and had a discussion. At the end of the day, I felt welcome. From that day, I never looked for another church. I remained with the GURC up 2003 when I completed my studies.
The church provided me with all the support that I needed. First, the church provided me with the warmth that only can come from close family friends or relatives. Though I was several thousand miles my country and away from my family, the church was my family. I remember one day, I had a terrible toothache. I called Alastair Pratt and he helped just as if I was his biological son. I lost my mother in 2002, the church comforted me. They even organized a trip for my family to visit the UK and provided accommodation. Several families opened their doors for me. Because of the support I got from the church, I managed to complete my studies within 3 years and during the three years; I never suffered any depression or felt loneliness. I had an anchor of my social life, I had a lamp for my spiritual life and that was the church.
After my studies, I came back to Malawi and I maintained the relationship with the church. Specifically, the church has since 2004 supported girls from Mlanda Girls Secondary School. The story of one of such girls touches my heart and I think it’s worth narrating.
The first day, I visited Mlanda girls informing them that through GURC we plan to support some girls with their school fees, I came across this small girl who was about to leave the school because her mum could not manage to support her. She had lost her father a couple of months before. Her name was Mumderanj Balakasi. We supported her throughout her secondary school programme. She managed to pass very well and was selected into the University of Malawi. This is no mean achievement because only less that 10% of students eligible for university education get selected into the University and she was one of them. Four year later she graduated with a Bachelors degree in Mathematical Sciences. Currently she is employed as an analyst with one of the business Consultant Companies. I have met her a couple of times in town recently. I could only shed tears of joy as I reminiscent the power of education. How education can transform someone.