Malawi always has a way of refreshing me. Perhaps it’s just the fact that I get to take a break from my normal day to day activities, perhaps it’s the fresh mountain air in the hill country of Dedza where we are based, perhaps it’s because Malawi people are definitely some of the friendliest people I have met in Africa. Regardless of the reason, as I step across that tiny border post in a little town called Mchinji, I breathe a deep sigh, as the familiarity of a place that is so dear to my heart washes over me.
I have just returned from 2 weeks in Malawi, my first time of being back this year, and in returning my heart is full and yet deeply challenged at the same time.
To give you an idea of what my time in Malawi looked like: we traveled the 2 day bus journey, departing early Saturday morning, and arriving late Sunday evening. The journey is definitely not my favourite part! 😉 And there is much road construction at the moment for a large section of the journey which is currently adding a further 2+ hours already to a journey that is far too long. Crazy thought – I can fly from Johannesburg to Sydney in less time than I spent on the bus. However I did have amazing company on this trip – Bec, who is from my church in Australia who has come for a month to see the work that we do here on the ground, and Ashley, my dearest friend and fellow volunteer here in Zambia. So we sat for those many long hours as 3 sardines squeezed in a row , enduring the obnoxiously loud 30 minute home-made praise and worship DVD that they put on repeat for most of the bus ride!
On arriving in Malawi, we had 3 days with our local Malawi Team, before the International team we were there to host arrived. We had a Monthly meeting with our local team on the Monday (basically to agree the priorities in each of our communities for the next month), then on Tuesday and Wednesday we made the most of the 2 days to get out to visit 3 out of the 4 communities that we work in. For one thing, we got to travel to these communities by local motorbike taxi, which is my favourite form of transport in Malawi. Secondly we were able to do holy home visits to a number of children that we are caring for in each of these communities. It was so encouraging to walk with our local volunteer Care Workers, many who have become dear friends over the past few years, and see how they know our children and families by name, and are genuinely caring for and ministering to these families. I was blessed to be a part of these visits.
An International team from one of our partner churches in Canada, then arrived on the Thursday and for the next week we spent time in Mngwere Community, which their church is supporting. As a part of this, we were able to stay one night in the community with some of our Care Workers. I love these opportunities to really connect with our care workers and their families as you spend time in their home helping to cook, sharing meals, praying as a family in the evenings. We had a very special time, and these community stays always serve to continue to remind me just how much our care workers are living demonstrations of the servant hood of Christ that we are called to live.
The beautiful Care Worker and her family that I stayed with
For our weekend with the team from Canada, we also had the treat of being able to visit Lake Malawi for the day on the Saturday. Definitely up there as one of my favourite spots here in Africa, and we were able to swim in the middle of our winter! (It was even warm-ish :-))
The highlight of this visit was reconnecting with 2 children I first met in 2013. Many of you have heard me share the story of Masamba (http://melwarren.com/2013/03/the-story-of-masamba/). I remember him being such a solemn and withdrawn child. But to see him today – he hardly appears like the same child! I love this photo for the transformation in his life that it captures and represents. I was also able to see a second child whose home I also visited in 2013 and I don’t have a picture of her, but again I can see how the love the Care Workers have poured out on this little girl, has indeed made such a difference in her little life.
I mentioned earlier that I while I have come back with a full heart, I was also deeply challenged at the same time. I was reminded once again of the depth of the poverty, and just how tough life is for some of the families that we are caring for. There were a few home visits that were pretty tough, but there is one that stands out particularly so.
We went to visit the family of one of the boys we care for. The boy has a mother, Mary, who lost her leg to a snake bite and was amputated from the knee down. She has received a prosthetic from another NGO, however, this disability left her unable to care for her son, so he stays nearby with his grandmother. His grandmother is very old and frail, and while in fairly good spirits, she did share of her daily struggles to go out and perform work in other people’s fields in order to have a little bit of food for herself and her family, and also shared of lacking basic necessities like blankets. To add to the struggle for this family, Mary’s brother was married and had 2 children. He up and left the wife a while back, however recently the sister-in-law turned up at Mary’s house, dumped her 2 small children (both under 3 years) with Mary, and hasn’t been seen since. Mary, unable to care for her own child, is now responsible and caring for these two small children. It was easy to see the rapport she already has with these 2 children, caring for them as if they were her own, but you can also see the depth of despair she feels in the situation as silent tears rolled down her face while we visited. To add to the pain this family is going through, the grandmothers sister, who is also very elderly, has a daughter who they asked we come pray for while we were visiting. On reaching the daughter we found it looked like she had suffered a stroke. She was paralysed on the left side of her body and was lying limply on a mat. She gave birth to a beautiful baby boy in December, and then in May suffered the stroke. She went to the hospital for treatment but they said there was nothing they could do for her and they sent her home. She has been lying on that mat for the past 2 months. And the grandmother is caring for her small baby.
My faith was certainly challenged in this situation. It was so hopeless and we were so desperate for God to turn up, to bring healing for her. We prayed in faith, but have yet to receive news of her healing. I’ve got to trust that our Heavenly Father can and will intervene in this situation. That whole family is still heavy on my heart and I continue to pray.
My heart is full, and yet deeply challenged.