Last year, I almost made the decision to go. But I did not. This year, in January, that call came again. This time I answered…”Here I am Lord”. Our first day on our Christ Mission Trip to Malawi began on a Sunday—a day of worship. What a day it was! In a country qualifying for one of the poorest in the world, the resource of a vehicle to take us to church was a commodity that is not common among the inhabitants of Malawi. The fact that we rode on a bench along each side of the back of an SUV that vibrated and bounced our bodies with every bump on the unpaved dirt roads did not seem to bother us as we rehearsed the song “We are Walking in the Light of God” in both English and Chichewa. Once at Church, we rehearsed again outside under a blazing sun with the other members of our team who came from different parts of the United States.
The sermon was given by the wife of the pastor. Preaching the word of 1 Kings 17:8-16 where Elijah encounters a widow and asks her for water and bread although she barely had enough for herself and her son. Elijah tells her that the Lord wanted this to happen and she obeyed. After giving water and bread to Elijah, she and her household ate for many days thereafter. The point of the sermon was that in the face of great despair and great odds against you, have faith in the Lord who will provide. What an important message!
The statistic of being one of the poorest places on earth was not evident as the richness of Christ was superimposed in the eyes of the young children, in the rhythmic moves of the teenagers and in the hearts of the ladies. They are rich in the Lord. They are truly walking in the light of the Lord. This feeling carried us to our home visits as our team broke off into three separate groups that afternoon. Each group were to visit two families and each had a suitcase full of clothes and a bag of towels and toiletries. I was in the group led by Liz Nelson, executive director of VIP. We drove through those unpaved roads to our first home. It was the dry season and I imagined how it would be when it rained, how muddy the fields would be and how the lack of shoes on most feet we encountered withstood the conditions.
The leader of the first home was the grandmother. Agogo is the term for grandmother in Malawi, and this Agogo was truly an inspiration. She had nine children, all of whom are still alive—to the amazement of Pastor Stephen, Liz’s husband. The respect that she commanded from her children and 32 grandchildren, all sitting on the dirt around us, was truly evident and inspiring. This led me to ask for pointers as I enter my grandfather phase of my life. We met in the open air as mats are placed on the dirt ground for women to sit on and men are given chairs. This is their tradition, and we respected it. Agogo eloquently answered our questions. Because of her age, she does not tend the garden that surrounds the home, and pointed to her children and grandchildren. This year the harvest, which occurs in March and April as Malawi is south of the Equator, was not very good as there was flooding.
There was no sorrow in her voice as she described the harvest. For all these years, God has provided and the sense in her words is that no matter what happens, God will always provide. While the conditions which we Americans would consider the poorest of the poor, I did not see any sorrow in the Agogo’s or her children’s words. I did not see any “Woe is me” attitude. In fact, before both home visits were over, women broke into a spontaneous song of thankfulness. After a thorough discussion, we asked to see one of the homes. As we entered a small, and I mean very small, three room home, I saw no dresser full of clothes. In fact, there were no clothes. I did not see a refrigerator. In fact, I saw no electricity. I saw no stove—just several pots that may be used as dishes. The residents of the home sleep on mats which are placed on the dirt ground.
We exited the home and went to our vehicle to get the gifts that we had brought with us. We sized up the children and their parents and Agogo, and we took out clothes that we thought would fit each of them. We didn’t have clothing for everyone. I wish we did. We presented the clothes and the toiletries to Agogo. We also gave her the eggs that were given by the Lady’s Choir. She was very appreciative. Then we took out the soccer ball and the eyes of the children lit up. They clapped with joy. In the yard, there were no swings or slides. There were no toys left by the front doors or on the side of the house. When the children saw the soccer ball, their eyes were filled with extreme happiness. That alone was worth the trip to Malawi.