February 7th 2011
The Journey begins here in Malawi Africa. I arrived safely at the Lilongwe airport Tuesday afternoon after two long days of travel. Everything went smoothly, except for when it came time to claim my luggage, it did not come. It turns out that my bag was still in South Africa where I had a connecting flight. They said that it could possibly come in on Thursday, it is now Saturday as I write this and my luggage still has not arrived. I am able to make due because I have three outfits from my carry on, but my malaria medication which I am supposed to be taking is in that bag. As you can imagine, this has caused me a bit of stress over the past few days, but I know that the Lord is my strength and my protection, even He is bigger than malaria and I know that He will protect me.
I am living in the home of Tinashe, one of the leaders of the Rise Malawi Ministries where I will be serving for the first three weeks. She shares her home with her younger sister and nephew. It is a three bedroom home, with an indoor toilet, cold shower, sitting room, and Kitchen. The walls and floor are cement, each room has a bed, and if you are lucky maybe a shelf or small table to hold your things on. My room has a single bed and a window. There is no fridge or stove in the kitchen, Tinashe has an electric two burner stove that plugs into the wall and a sink. There is a small dirt yard in the back where her nephew has planted some corn and Irish potatoes. This house is considered luxury in this village, and I feel very blessed to be able to stay here. We have internet on one computer in the office which runs out of the other leader Za’s home, and it is very slow.
Rise Ministry serves as an After School Program and Summer Camp for 72 children in the village of Madisi. Rise serves children who fit the criteria of falling behind academically, and who live in homes that are under the average level of poverty. There are many children in Madisi who fit these criteria, but Rise only has enough staff and resources for 72. Every week Rise holds After School Program from 2pm – 5pm. I was able to attend program two days this week, and have been so encouraged and blessed by what I have seen.
Each afternoon, program begins with lunch for the children. It is in the middle of rainy season, and is the time in between planting and harvesting the main crop maze (corn) for the season. Most families are subsistence farmers, meaning that they grow enough for their family to live on, and if they are lucky have enough left to sell a little. Many of the families are running low on maze stored from last years harvest and are cutting down on the number of meals a day. For many children, lunch at program is the first time they have eaten for the day. We typically serve rice, and some sort of protein such as eggs or soy, and cooked green cabbage. The children are very well behaved, they come into program, sit in organized rows by grade in the one room school building which consists of cement walls and floor, no shelves, seats, or decorations on the walls, and a single chalk board in the front of the room. We rent this school building to have program in. They file out the door rinse off their hands, and down the line where they are served their lunch. They sit in their rows, eat quietly, clean up and wash all the dishes.
After lunch program consists of a time of tutoring, as the children are divided by grade and disperse to other school buildings for lessons with the youth leaders. They are tutored in all different subjects, and are taught both in English and Chichewa (the local language). The children do very well with English, they are able to ask and answer questions. However, they are not fluent by any means and use Chichewa to speak most of the time.
Education is looked at as a treasure, something that is so valuable. It is the key to a hopeful future. The children are eager to learn, asking questions, and listening intently. They want to go to school, they desire education, but unfortunately education is not something that is easy to get in Malawi. Many times children have to stay home and work on the family farm or help with household chores instead of going to school. Education especially after elementary school is something that only some can afford. The government decides what high school the children may attend depending on what they score on their end of year exams, and many times families cannot afford to send their children to these schools.
Depending on the day of the week, program consists of recreation outside, scripture memory, bible lesson, spelling bee, counseling (where they discuss issues such as domestic violence, academic excellence, HIV prevention, personal higyne, self esteem, etc…), and testimonials. This week I was able to witness testimonial time, in which children volunteer to come up front and tell how they have seen God work in their lives. Some of the stories this week consisted of; Kingsley a little boy who praised the Lord because his mother was very sick and was throwing up, he and his older brother prayed for her and soon after she was completely better, a little girl named Mawi was bitten by a wild dog on her leg, and she praised the Lord because her wound did not get infected and healed quickly, another little boy met some hyenas when he was walking back from his families garden on Tuesday, he quickly took another road and he was praising the Lord that the hyenas did not bother him. These children have such faith, trust and love the Lord with all their hearts, the Lord is very real in this place.
The Lord has revealed to me almost immediately the reason He has me at Rise these first few weeks. Rise received news this week from UPI that their funds are quickly running out. As of the end of this month, they will not have enough money to continue to run their ministry. The agreement with UPI was that UPI would fund them for three years to start this ministry, and after three years, they needed to find a way to sustain themselves, and UPI would help. The three years has now come to a close and Rise does not have many funds in place to continue on with their work. This is exactly the reason that I am here, to work with the leaders of Rise and the other ministries, to help create programs that will help them be more self sustaining. I have already begun to work with both the leaders here to reach out to their 70 donors to ask for help with funding. We are also going to work on applying for some foundational grants, creating and child sponsorship program, and possibly setting up a micro business within Rise to help generate funding. This was my mission, I knew the Lord had called me here to do in the first place, but it was made clearer to me the urgent need for this kind of service for these ministries.
- That my luggage would be sent from South Africa and would arrive very soon
- That the Lord would continue to protect me from sickness as I do not have any of my medications with me
- That the Lord would provide funding for Rise and that the projects that I work on with the leaders will be successful
- For the children of Rise, that the Lord would continue to bless them through program and provide for their every need.