Malawi is wonderful! The people are very welcoming and smile often. The sun is shining...and hot. Today I am not in Lilongwe, but instead, Blantyre (I think I spelled it correctly). The Bowlers in their kindness allowed me to join their family for Canadian Thanksgiving, with turkey and ALL the fixings! Well, except brussel sprouts...but really who likes brussel sprouts? Sorry Dad =p My dad loves brussel sprouts.
We are staying with good friends of Steve and Kathy, Harlen and his wife. They are a loving couple who work in Blantyre at City Sentore Church. Harlen is training and discipling Malawian nationals to be pastors and leaders in the community, one of whom was just recently ordained and is now a pastor at CSC. Because their church is in midst of the city there are a lot of beggars and street children in the area. They have a wonderful ministry called 'Street Kids' (not unlike Broadway's old KIDS STREET outreach in Vancouver). I had the opportunity to serve in that ministry this morning. Now before I go calling it wonderful, I should explain what it is. Essentially it's a Sunday school/food program for children aged one to eighteen years old. I was in one of the three rooms where school was happening. The youngest crowd, whom I was with, was in a very small room. Everyone all squished together on the flour, about 90 + in total. There are approximately 130 kids who come every Sunday morning to learn and to eat. However, this is not a totally free service the church offers and for good reason. Kids who make a living off of street life hustling and begging choose to stay on the street. This is terrible. Statistically children on the street over three months will contact HIV AIDS. This is because they are abused and/or raped. This picture became ever so graphic this morning at 8:20 when a young girl walked in who had been badly beaten before she arrived. Her eyes were so puffy you couldn't see the white of her eye, there was also a large gash to her left temple.... So many of us westerners think "WE HAVE THE MONEY TO_______! SO WE CAN FIX IT!", this is a total lie. I don't know her name let alone her story, but from what I have learned from my hosts, giving her money would only prolong her time on the streets leading to more abuse. Who even knows what else happened to her? Because of this huge issue the church asks the Street Kids to play the role of Guard to the vehicles of the congregation. The kids watch over the cars to prevent vandalism and are told not to beg for money afterward. That may sound harsh to us with our Canadian mind set. It should sound strange. We have all watched a few hundred World Vision commercials in our time or at least the equivalent. When we left the service a National came to the window selling mangoes from his tree. Simultaneously one of the street kids was asking for money. Steve blew my mind with his response! First he bargained those mangoes down to half price, secondly... he looked at the young man selling mangoes from his tree and said "Malawian should take care of Malawian. You buy this boy food. You take care of your own." At first I'm thinking, "Man, those were tough words," but this didn't last long, my thought. The young man was nodding in hesitant agreement, but as soon as he got his Kwacha (Malawi Money), he was gone so fast you couldn't see him. Then Steve turned to me and said "Nothing will change until people here start to take care of one another." He's right. If he had given the money to the young guy and let the young man rip him off for the mangoes nothing would change. 'The white man is a cow to be milked.'
Malawi is an interesting place. Like I said, the people are very warm and welcoming. This is how Malawi got the name "The Warm Heart of Africa". However, like every nation, Malawi has its areas of hurt. We in the west so easily point out the 'flaws', we see in another culture, but not everything we call a 'flaw' is one. We do not see the poverty of our own nation in the same way. Poverty is more than socioeconomic status. It's more than human rights or famine. It can be relational, psychological, spiritual, and in love. Now I know what phase of culture shock I'm in, so understand that what I am saying will be biased toward Malawi over Canada. They call this phase: Anticipation and Excitement. Believe me I'm there, all except for my countless mosquito and flea bites. Yes, you read that right. I do not have fleas, but the pets do and they love to share their affections... and pestilent insects afflict whomever takes their fancy. But, I digress. Today I was a stranger in a church without a welcome team. They didn't know who I was with as I wasn't sitting with the Bowler family who came later than me. I was welcomed, sincerely and warmly. Genuinely I felt that this church in Blantyre was home for the few hours I spent there. As I said, I am biased and I know that, so please do not see me as some cultural expert of any sort here when I say, "You do not get that in Canada very often... if ever." Malawi is poor in earthly wealth, but Malawi is rich in love and relationships. Did I mention that almost every little village we passed on our hours long drive down from Lilongwe to Blantyre had a church?
Well...I've been bitten at least 50 times in the short time I've slapped this together so I am going to call it quits for tonight. It's 11:25 here in Blantyre and the malaria mosquitos come out between 2 - 4 AM. I want to be long asleep before they open up their BEDDSC (Blood Exchange and Disease Distribution Service Center).
|After dinner conversation|
Steve is to the left on the coach, and those are my feet.
|To the right is the Bowlers youngest daughter, in the centre is Harlen|
|Bowler's Lion Dog named Sammy|
Lion dogs were bred and trained to chase down lions!
I don't usually get intimidated next to a dog...but this one could
easily destroy me in a second if he chose to. Beautiful, incredible
|Relaxing and sheltering from the midday sun|
|Highway between Lilongwe and Blantyre.|
A huge section of this high way borders Mozambique.
On the drive up we saw several left over bombed out buildings
from the civil war that took place there years ago
|One of many, many markets we passed on our way to Blantyre|
P.S. I uploaded only a few pics from our trip yesterday. They take a while to upload and internet here is expensive when it is available.