The Rains Down in Africa 7/52

Trip Start Dec 22, 2016
1
7
16
Trip End Dec 21, 2017


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Flag of Malawi  ,
Sunday, February 5, 2017

Sunday Lewis and I got up and drove to Salima to visit Mrs. Nester Phiri. She is a lovely woman from our congregation in Lilongwe. For her to come to services each week she gets up early and catches a minibus that will drive the 111 Kilometers to Lilongwe; where she will then walk several more kilometers from the bus stop to the church building. She is faithfully at services each week, weather permitting.

111 kilometers does not seem like very far, but we are in Africa after all. It took us nearly two hours to make the trek, but what a beautiful drive it was. Lilongwe sits in a valley; in the distance (to the west) you can see a faint line of a mountain range. If you look toward the southeast it's quite flat, except for two mountains that seem to pop up out of nowhere… we really want to go to those mountains.


What I didn’t realize was that to go to Salima you have to drive through the mountain range to the west of us. It was spectacular! Everything is so green! Little villages nestled amongst the hills create a beautiful reddish brown contrast to the sea of green. The sky was perfectly blue on our drive up the mountain.

We have to go through three police checkpoints on the road to Salima. We misunderstood some of the directions that Nester gave us; and we ended up in a tiny village traversing dirt tracks that almost pass as roads. We thought we were looking for a school in this neighborhood (we had turned off the main road far too soon); and a very helpful gentleman climbed into the van with us to direct us through the bush to where the school was. It was only after several attempts did we discover we were in the wrong area completely! We still had 15 (or so) kilometers to drive. Each time we stopped for directions our van would be surrounded by little children grinning and waving and shouting UZUNGU; which means white man (plural). We are a conspicuous novelty; the population of white people is less than 2% in this country. My blonde hair tends to stand out.


Nester made us the most delicious lunch of beef, chicken, nsima (a cornmeal mush type food that is the staple for most Malawians), and green beans and tomatoes. It was wonderful; she then took us on a tour of her town; and showed us where she works as a palliative care nurse. She’s getting close to retirement, so she’s building up her homestead now while she still has an income.

We didn’t get to stay as long as we would have liked because a storm was brewing and we wanted to make it down from the mountains before sunset.

We commissioned Alfred Mitomoni, a welder from the Lilongwe congregation, to design and make screens for our windows. They were installed on Monday. It is wonderful to be able to have the windows open into the evening and not have to worry that we’re putting ourselves in danger. We’re still taking precautions (sleeping under mosquito netting, using anti-mosquito soap, using bug spray, and keeping citronella oil handy, and taking our anti-malaria medication), but it’s wonderful.

But our elation over the windows was just a tad short-lived. Unfortunately, houses in Malawi (in general), don’t seem to be built very precisely. This means that while our screens are custom made and perfectly straight pieces of metal; unfortunately the ledge that they are supposed to fit in is not perfectly straight. We *think* we’ve found a solution. For the smaller gaps we bought some bathroom silicone sealant, and filled them up. In the wider gaps we have shopped plastic grocery bags. We’ve seen much fewer bugs since we’ve done this; unfortunately, we still have bugs that like to creep in from under the doorways. We’re looking into a solution for those cracks too.

On Tuesday Gracious and Loney Mpilangwe came to visit. We were to discuss some logistics for the Malawi church (budget, buildings, visits, etc.). It was nice to get to know these two; and we managed without work out a schedule for us to visit the Blantyre congregation just about every other month; we worked out possible dates for the United Youth Camp, and discussed the possibility of a Women’s Weekend. I think, overall, it was a profitable visit.

We’ve had very heavy and prolonged rains the last two days (I think it rained through the night both Friday and Saturday), making for rather muddy conditions in town. We’ve been working on getting services started on time (10:30am). We’ve slowly cut the time down; and our plan was to start at precisely 10:30am this week; due to the rain and the difficulty people have getting to services we did delay slightly, and got started at 10:40am… it’s been our earliest start yet. We’re getting there.

Also because of the rain we had the opportunity to drive people in the church van either home, or to their bus stops (so they’d get less soaked). The last drop off was Miracle and Lancy Kachali. They are sweet sisters original from the north of Malawi in Mzuzu. Miracle is married and has an adorable son named Asher; Lancy is staying with Miracle and her husband to help take care of their son while they both work; Lancy is also taking care of Triphonia (her brother’s daughter). Since they were our last stop they invited us in for tea and cake. We had a lovely visit getting to know these wonderful ladies, but also getting to know some of the challenges the brethren face here.

I’m reminded again, what a privilege it is to serve God’s people. Regardless of location; we’re all God’s people, and that’s such a beautiful thing.

This morning I had one of those moments where I saw something so outside my scope of experience that I didn't quite process it until it was too late for me to actually do anything about it. Lewis and I were taking our daily walk; and it was raining,so we were using our umbrellas when we came upon a young girl walking fully in the rain. We asked her where she was headed; and if she'd like to share our umbrella. We didn't have a specific destination in mind, so we didn't mind taking her where she needed to go. She said she was going to buy bread. We stopped at one little shop, but they were out of bread, so we head out to one a couple of blocks away. When we walked up to the shop there were four men and one young lady sitting around the outside of the shop drinking soda and eating snacks. While the young girl was buying bread a car pulled up. The young lady drinking soda finished her last gulp. handed the empty bottle the shopkeeper and got in the car. While this was happening the driver got out of the car and walked around to the shop. He had a bottle in his hand and was taking swigs. As we started to walk away with the young girl the shopkeeper handed the man another bottle and he turned around and headed back to his car.

It wasn't until we were about 20 feet from the shop that what I saw actually sunk in. The man was drinking a beer! And he got another beer from the shop. It was at that point that Lewis turned to me and asked, "was that a beer?" And I said, yes! I can't believe what we just saw. We were turning back to say something, but he was already driving off.

I'm still a bit in a state of shock that he was so blatant about his drinking and driving at 9:30 in the morning; I also feel guilty that I didn't process the scene more quickly and try and do something about it. Don't drink and drive people; it's stupid and dangerous and selfish.

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Comments

Sandra E Hammons on

Lena, again such an inspiring blog and I love the pictures. Please let the church brethren know that we love them and although far apart in distance of miles our commonality is sharing God's Truth. I do enjoy reading about their cultures and about you and Lewis. I have never met you but I feel that I know you as a sister in Christ. Keep up the good works. Warm Regards, Sandra E Hammons

Gayle Hoefker on

Thanks so much for your eloquently written story of your life in Africa. I know the hardships and frustrations that you face. I pray for you and that you will have strength and wisdom to deal with the unending new difficulties and adventures.

laura meidinger on

Lena, thank you for laying down your life in service to the brethren. Do you drive on the opposite side of the road in Malawi? Do the people of that country wash their clothing in basins then dry them over bushes? Are the mosquitos that carry malaria the kind that come out at night? I wish I could send you chocolate chips.... but they would arrive melted, am I right? I admire you and Lewis so much for taking on this adventure and we pray for you protection and health (and sanity). Cheers, Laura Meidinger, Payson, AZ

laura meidinger on

Lena, thank you for laying down your life in service to the brethren. Do you drive on the opposite side of the road in Malawi? Do the people of that country wash their clothing in basins then dry them over bushes? Are the mosquitos that carry malaria the kind that come out at night? I wish I could send you chocolate chips.... but they would arrive melted, am I right? I admire you and Lewis so much for taking on this adventure and we pray for you protection and health (and sanity). Cheers, Laura Meidinger, Payson, AZ

Candace Abd on

I hope you both have had a peaceful Sabbath, and also to all the congregations there. Your all in prayer. Hugs and Agape

landlshenanigan
landlshenanigan on

Laura,
some people wash their clothes in basins and dry them on bushes; some people wash them in the river; and some have washers (like us, thankfully). And, yes, it's the mosquitoes that come out at night (generally) that carry malaria. Thank you Sandra and Candace, I'll share your love! Thank you Gayle, I appreciate the encouragement.

Reggie Warren on

Lena and Lewis,
It is so awesome that you are sharing your experiences with us. It seems like we are right there with you as you write your blogs. It is so nice to learn about the things that the brethren experience in Malawi.
Reggie and Sandy Warren

doodlemama
doodlemama on

I am enjoying getting to know what life is like for the brethren in Malawi. Thank s for the views through your eyes. It makes you realize how much we take for granted. I will pray for you and the brethren there.

Terri Lussenheide (we met last Feast in Italy)

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