Monday, November 12, 2007

Reflections from Malawi

Over the past 24 months I have been in Malawi five times. Whenever I come back, Katie my co-worker tells me I am cranky for a couple of weeks. That's probably because I am processing all the stuff that has happened. Some of it is simply the shock of leaving a country where the per-capita income is US$180 a YEAR, life expectancy is 37, and in some communities people are so poor that there is no garbage. You know you are poor when there is nothing to throw away.

BUT, despite the grinding poverty, the spiritual warfare, the injustice, the feeling of being overwhelmed by all the challeng
es, I always meet God in Malawi. In fact, I often see Jesus more clearly than I see Him in my comfortable home and pleasant surroundings.

There are 3 people in particular in whom I saw Jesus this time around. Let me tell you a bit about them.

Harriet the GoGo

Harriet is a GoGo -- a grandmother who takes care of 16 grandchildren. Harriet has one remaining child -- the rest have all died, so she is left taking care of her grandchildren. She lives in a mud house with a dirt floor. She has no running water, no electricity and the closest borehole/well is over a kilometre away from her humble home. The first time I met Harriet she came running across the field to our van. She greeted us with great excitement and started speaking of the goodness of God in her life. A few days later we stopped by Harriet's home again. This time we prayed for her sick daughter. As we walked back to our van she told us that until she saw us that morning she was sad, tired and depressed. Who wouldn't be at the age of 72, taking care of 16 grandchildren, and having to work in the garden all day to simply get some food. She cannot read or write, yet that day she quoted Psalm 27:13:

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; Be strong, and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.

She told us that when she saw us, she saw the goodness of God -- and she worshiped Him. The reality is that when
we saw her, and her response to God working in our life -- we saw Jesus in the land of the living.

I intend to visit Harriet every time I am in Malawi.

Two other people made an impression on me this time. Lucious is a "Zone Leader" with Somebody Cares Malawi. As a Zone Leader and a pastor Lucious works with volunteers who visit widows, orphans and vulnerable children and those suffering from HIV/AIDS in their communities. Lucious ov
ersees 15 volunteers who together have 75 patients in their community. In addition Lucious also organizes and supervises a feeding program in his community for over 250 orphans and vulnerable children. He does all of this as a volunteer -- and while he farms his two acres of land and takes care of his wife and 8 children.

Lucious and his Wife in their Cornfield

Lucious is also a pastor and helps to lead the pastors association in his community. Recently there was an opportunity to get some leadership training near Lilongwe. So, every morning Lucious got up at 5:00 am and rode his bicycle for 3 hours to the "pick-up point" where a flatbed truck came by to pick him up. Then after another 30-45 minutes on the back of the truck he reached his destination. After four hours of training, Lucious got back on the truck and then rode his bicycle for another 3 hours home. He did this every day for 6 days! I think Lucious could be my hero.

Lucious is a fortunate man in rural Malawi -- he can read and write, he speaks some English and he owns something very precious -- a Bible. I have seen him carefully unwrap his Bible, read it during church, and the gently and lovingly wrap it back up to keep it safe. He is a precious man, filled with Jesus.

Finally, I want to tell you about another man -- similar to Lucious. I don't remember his name, but I first heard about him about a year ago. This man lives in a rural community called Chikudzulire. A year ago he rode his bicycle more than 4 hours into town so he could ask Theresa Malila of Somebody Cares if they could help their community develop. They knew they needed help, they
just didn't know what to do. So after 4 hours on his bike, and then a brief conversation with Theresa, he rode another 4 hours home -- with the hope that someday help would come.

The Man from Chikudzulire

God has honored this man's faith. In the year since he took the 4 hour bike ride to ask for help his community has been "adopted" by a church in Arizona, a new borehole/well has been dug, a feeding center for the more than 900 orphans and vulnerable children is under construction and the community has come together to work towards their own transformation.

I see Jesus in these 3 people -- Harriet the GoGo, Lucious the Pastor and the Man from Chikudzulire. Each of them is living under what we would consider difficult or impossible circumstances. We would look at their lives as hopeless -- yet God has given them hope, has answered their prayer, and they are seeing Jesus alive in their communities.

God is at work in Malawi. I look forward to going back and seeing Jesus there.


Megan's Mom said...

Karl, thanks for introducing us to your friends. I long for that depth of spirituality and passion. I will be thinking on it today. Roxie

Anonymous said...