Reflections on Malawi

August 31

I’ve probably spent close to 24 hours on a plane. I’m back in the States and I just said good-bye to my team with tears in my eyes; so choked up I could hardly speak. Partly because I’ll miss them and partly because I’m realizing all that we just accomplished together through Christ. These strangers have become my friends. I had an hour until my flight to Hartford, so I stopped into the bar for a beer. Granted it was only 10am in DC, but it was 5:00 in Malawi and I wasn’t alone in my company. Sad, but true.

An hour later, I boarded the tiny plane for Hartford. I cried all the way home. It’s so bittersweet because I longed for my family, yet I will always be bound to these people by our Africa experience. It breaks my heart to think I might never see them again. I was beginning to wonder if I had any feelings. I hadn’t shed a tear in Africa and I was beginning to wonder if I had become numb to the struggles of the world. I think I was prepared for it. I think I knew what I was getting into. But I wasn’t prepared to say good-bye to my team, the people I have grown to love. I stare out onto the tarmac and know they’re on a different plane. And I miss them already. I wonder if I’ll ever see them again and I wonder “what’s next, for me in Africa?”

November 6. What’s next?

I’ve been home for over two months now. I spent a year preparing for Africa and I did it. I had the experience. Now I am back to living my comfortable Christian life. My family, my friendships, myself – these are the things I’m focusing on these days.  I’m trying to grow deeper in the knowledge of Christ and I’m open to whatever it is He has for me. I don’t have any strong leading at this point, so I guess it’s time for me to “be still.” I do know that I saw so much poverty in Malawi, so many needs, but also so much love and so much joy, that it can’t be over. I have to be a part of it. I just don’t know what that looks like yet.

There are many lessons we can learn from the Malawian people. Like hospitality, where a widow welcomed us into her one room hut and offered us a seat on her only mat while she sat on the dirt floor.

Like “Africa time” where things only start once everyone gets there. They are not ruled by the clock. It is much more important to greet people on the street than to be anywhere on time.

And like sacrificial giving, when a woman gave us three papayas as we went out to deliver supplies. She wasn’t receiving anything, nor did she have much to give. But I could tell this was a love offering. An offering of gratitude that we had visited her village to offer aid. It reminded me of these words:

“I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on.” Mark 12:43-44

This act of sacrificial giving convicted me to want to do more. If this woman, stricken with so much poverty that her village clearly needed aid, could give us three papayas, what more could I give? By American standards, I live a modest life, but I started to realize all the things I could offer someone in need:

An encouraging word.

A hug.

A meal.

Would I take it a step further and offer our second car? The shoes off my feet? Perhaps even a room in our home, for someone in need? Could I, would I, be willing to give sacrificially?

I also learned more about gratitude. Don’t get me wrong, I still have lots to learn here. But you begin to count your blessings when you have to brush your teeth with bottled water. When you have to drape a mosquito net over your head at night. When you can’t connect with your family because there’s no wifi.  When, as you climb into your questionably clean bed, you know that there’s a whole community of widows and children living a stone’s throw away who are sleeping on dirt floors.  And friends, when you have to wash you knickers in a bucket of hot water,  it’s a wake-up call. We are blessed.  I will never say I *need* anything ever again.

The overall theme I took away from this trip was “Unity in Christ.” Here I stood, a willing vessel to travel to Africa to serve the least of these. In enters God, who tells me to “go!” And my fearful response is, ‘I’ll know this is your plan if you supply the funds.’ A year of trusting and fundraising got me to where I needed to be. And beyond.

And then I’m there. In Africa, worshipping on Sunday in the village of Kachimanga with the locals. There we were, Americans. Middle-class Christians. Mingling with Malawians. Some of the poorest of God’s people. Yet bonded together by our faith in Christ. And brought together by the generous offerings of my family, friends and even strangers. Some of you. It is just powerful! Folks, this is Unity in Christ! We work together to fulfill His plan.

One final lesson I learned was from my team. God takes you as you are, but He doesn’t want you to stay there. He’s in the business of transformation. He takes us as we are. Even if we’re a broken jumbled mess. But he doesn’t expect us to stay that way. He wants us to study His word and draw closer to Him. He wants to transform us into the people He intended us to be.  He wants us to use our gifts to expand His kingdom. According to Psalm 141:14, we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” Uniquely made in His image for a specific purpose. (Read that again, because it’s important.) Once we understand that, the whole kingdom is wide open! There’s no stopping what He can do!

The key is being open to whatever God has planned for us. Big or small. He can use us all, created in His image; fearfully and wonderfully made for a purpose. It can be scary. But it can be exhilarating and life changing. My Africa experience has ended, but I know there will be a new chapter.

Are you open to what He has planned for you?

I love me some babies!

**Thanks for reading my Africa story! If you missed some posts, here’s the beginning.

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