Africa: August 21st

There are quite a few runners in our group. They all went out early this morning for a short run, but they all run different paces. They wanted to make sure each one was accounted for once their run was complete, so someone came up with the ingenious idea of leaving 3 bean pods in front of our guest house (one for each runner). Once a runner had completed his route, he would pick up his bean and head inside. When the last runner finished and saw that only one bean was left, he knew that he didn’t have anyone left to wait for. I loved the idea! So simple. Nobody texting, or tracking each other with the Map My Run app. I secretly wished that I had a bean and that I had brought my running  shoes.

We’re still in the capital city of Lilongwe, which looks much different from village life. Each residence is “gated,” but not in the way we would expect. Our guest house is clean and comfortable,  but it’s not glamorous. A gate keeper opens & closes the gate for us as we come and go. This is true of all residences in the city. Glass shards look like they’re poured into the tops of the concrete walls, as protection so no one can climb them. I just found that interesting, as I never once felt unsafe here.

Our driver, Tsalka (sounds like Socka) and Wilfred, our translator, pick us up in the morning to head out to another village. We have bags of dresses, VBS supplies and “give aways” (toys, hats, etc) to deliver to the Malawian people. One of my teammates gave Wilfred a Michigan hat with the tiny plastic tag still attached. We told Wilfred to cut it off repeatedly, each time he refused. He finally said, “it’s new.”  It made me realize that people probably rarely get anything new here. Something that is just for them. I imagined that he might like to go home and show people that he had a new hat. Just for him. One that hadn’t been worn before. I noticed the next day, the tag was removed. Oh how we take for granted anything new.

We arrived at the village of Mpolnela where the MoH has a feeding program for the orphans. We were also distributing Buckets of Hope to the widows. We were greeted with the warmest welcome ever. I have never met a more hospitable group of people! They were waiting for us as we entered through their gate. As we exited the van, they started in with joyful singing. I kept thinking that I’d love to transcribe these songs for a 4th grade music class, if I was still teaching.

We went inside the feeding center. A large concrete building, but open on all sides. A woman grabbed me by the arm and pulled me into the circle where we clapped and danced and sang. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much joy from an entire community. I caught eyes with one woman who was modelling the dance moves. We stomped our feet – twice forward and then back, singing and clapping all the way. She was encouraging me – grunting with a smile and nodding her head as I caught on. It was just so joyful!

We gathered our supplies for VBS (vacation bible school). There must have been hundreds of children there. We made cross necklaces again and each of us had a group of about 12-20 children. Imagine trying to lead a craft activity when you don’t speak the language. Most of these children had never even seen a “craft” before. They have nothing. I noticed some of them even lacked the fine motor skills to string the beads together. In this moment, I tried to point to the cross bead. I repeated “Jesu,” then pointed to them. “He loves you.”

This little guy taught me how to say “Jesus” in Chichewa.

Using Wilfred as our translator, we told a story of a caterpillar who morphed into a beautiful butterfly. The bible verse was “you are fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). It was a beautiful message for these children (and all of us!) to know that we are all God’s children and that He has a purpose for us.

Afterward, we fed these children lunch on plastic plates. If I were serving a crowd, I might consider using paper plates, but that would be too wasteful here. Many of the children even brought their own dishes. Cracked bowls, old tupperware, pencil box containers… anything that would hold food. Each child received a huge portion of nsima (which has no nutritional value, but fills their bellies), about 1/2 cup of beans and about 1/4 cup of vegetables (kale, turnip tops, green onion & carrots). The children cleaned their plates! We had more children than usual, so we even ran out of vegetables. I had a chance to serve with the ladies and the director kept telling us to “go faster.” The line seemed never ending.

At the feeding center, children are served lunch on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Their other meals come from home, if they have any food.

Pete’s keeping the line moving…

Serving some vegetables.

After lunch, we sorted the dresses and shorts and then began distributing them. It was complete chaos! It started out very orderly, but there were just so many children. They were so eager to receive their dresses; it was as if we were handing out a million dollars!

My MIL donated the fabric, I made the dress and Stella made the necklace! Three generations of MacDonalds serving here in Malawi! And, this little girl who has so much to teach all of us!

As we were preparing to leave, we spotted a few boys by the bus. Scott handed them each two matchbox cars and got big smiles!

It made me think of my young son, who used to sleep with match box cars tucked into his pajama pants, and to this day still loves building lego cars.

Does he know how blessed he is?

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