Dear Family and Friends,
Many people ask us, “What is it like over there, in Malawi?” When asked this question I get speechless, which aspect should I start with? The villages filled with poverty, living in dirt, the roaming two-three year olds alone at the side of the roads? The culture, the customs, the weather, or the types of food? Should I talk about the lifestyle we have at the base of Teen Missions with running water and electricity (when there is electricity) and about what it’s like being on call 24/7 for our students and staff and the village workers? Should I tell them about the administration and accounting I do in the office and Mathew’s endless hours of driving, negotiating in person and on the phone, planning and giving direction as our leader, the counseling of people and problem solving for the 16 locations and 50 people? The funny part is that even with the ministry half the size it was three years ago, we still had only 50 people then. Amazing how God still works with a “Gideon’s size army”.
If I had to pick one aspect with which to start, I would speak about days like these to describe what it is like living in Malawi as a missionary. You see, five years ago we had a dream. We wanted to be able to reach all of Malawi in the main tribal languages used in all four regions of the country. In 2006 we started a Chichewa taught Bible School, in addition to the English one already running in the central region. In 2010 a Chiyao Bible School started in the East. We had North and South left. We spent about eight weeks constructing the new Orphan Rescue Unit’s wooden panels with the students, so we would be ready for a team who was going to assemble them in the North, in Rumphi, as a start for our ministry in that region. It was really difficult to find time to make it, as our 23 students were already busy on the 160 acres, without adding special projects. Mathew was in Canada half the time, and I only had two other male staff with me to run the base because one wife was giving birth and the rest had to go to a Unit where we had personnel problems. This left four classes without teachers, me as the only driver, one brand new base staff and another one who was already up to his ears with responsibilities. The drill bits kept breaking, there were fuel shortages all over the country, vehicles were breaking down, Mathew’s one month sickness, student discipline problems, and, to make a long story short, by the end of eight weeks, we finally made it.
Before Mathew came back from Canada I wanted to have both trucks serviced. I hoped to take the panels on one and the “toilet building and clearing the bush” crew with the tools, food and other supplies on the other one, and drive both the eight hours to the North. The 3.5T truck didn’t get ready, because of an overheating problem. Mathew went on Tuesday to Rumphi with the people and the equipment and came back the next day. We had such a perfect plan for Thursday. He was going to take a two hour detour to drop me in Lilongwe to pick up the other truck, with supplies for our fastly approaching Boot Camps, then he was going to continue on to Rumphi, and we would be all done by the weekend. Divide and conquer we thought.
When we got to Salima, a 30 minute drive from us, there was no fuel at any of the five gas stations. During the two hour drive we met eight police checkpoints instead of the three regular ones, making the drive three hours long. When we got to Lilongwe, there was no fuel in the whole capital. We headed to the Toyota service place, paid the bill, got the keys, but the 3.5T wouldn’t start. I went to the counter, telling them that I brought in a working vehicle and now the engine wouldn’t even start. They didn’t fix the light problem, even after nine days in the shop, as I had asked, and it drained the battery, and the brake lights and would still be on when the pedal was released. They told me to sit and wait. “Practice patience, Heni.” – the little angel on my shoulder whispered in my ear. In the meantime the full Unit (named House of Patience Orphan Rescue Unit) with roofing sheets, was on the other truck. Mathew was still looking for fuel with an eight hour drive ahead of him, and daylight was running out.
Finally, by 3 PM the 3.5T was ready, and by 3:30 PM Mathew got some fuel in the 4T after waiting 2.5 hours, and he was the 6th vehicle in line! So, finally, Mathew was on his way to Rumphi, and me to Chipoka. I just wanted to pick up cement to make the trip worthwhile, and not come home with an empty truck. I got to the cement place just outside of town and I got out of the vehicle, but I felt something was not sounding right as I drove. I looked behind the cab, and smoke was coming out, and oil was dripping. I phoned Mat and he turned around. We took the truck back to Toyota and had to spend the night in town.
What is next Lord? Does everything have to be an uphill battle? Even a simple thing like getting wood and cement for Boot Camp, taking the Unit to Rumphi and bringing people back to Chipoka? Does it always have to be so hard to do anything here? At this point I was crying. Here we are in the middle of Africa doing all we can to spread the Gospel of Christ and having setback after setback. I know it is forming character in us. I know Christ won the battle. I know His love for us cannot be measured by our circumstances.
At the Lodge I awakened at 4:45 AM by the prayer of the Muslims. I couldn’t believe that even this side of the town, prayer towers are just popping up everywhere. Malawi is being taken over by Islam. Approximately 80% of the stores are owned by Muslims. They know we are Christians and they still sell us goods, because they want business. But how long will they need our money and how long till they’ll refuse to serve us at their shops? How long until the country’s leadership decides they don’t want Western Aid? They even kicked out the Brittish Ambassador from Malawi, because of criticism about the President. How long are we going to have Malawi as an open country in Africa for the Gospel of Christ?
These questions were burning in me as I started my day. The questions are still in my head often, as I listen to the news and continue living my life here. We did get up to Rumphi with the panels, they did get built, we did manage to get the supplies for the two Boot Camps. Yes, the Lord did all that, but we have to go through this battle each and every day for the spreading of the Gospel and making this ministry happen. We are so thankful for all the Malawian and Indonesian missionaries who are standing beside us in this daily battle, not falling back, not giving up. When we get to this point, we must fight to not be defeated and turn away from God, we may get too busy, and lose sight of the best way to do good. It is a tricky technique of the devil. Sadly it works many times.
So how is it really living in Malawi? Two words: hard and fulfilling, but never boring! I cried out, “I’m slipping!” and your unfailing love, O LORD, supported me. When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.(Psalm 94:18-19) He will certainly not let us run away from battle.
Recently there has been rioting in the country, we never really got fuel back in the gas stations since May, laws were changed for foreigners in August, and it seems more change is coming. Not long ago, in a matter of four days, we lost six missionaries, some due to unfaithfulness and some due to problems with visas. Last week we had to pause our two full Motorcycle Sunday School Circuits till the end of the year, because of a lack of personnel. It seems like we go two steps forward, one step back. But at least we are doing what the Lord wants us to be doing.
Please pray for us and for the missionaries here, as well as the missionaries in training. We praise God for protecting us each and every day, like the day when Mathew was crossing a fallen tree across our little river, and a python shot out of the water and snatched at his trousers. It’s a good think he likes baggy pants! The funny part is that he even looked at its head carefully to see what kind of a snake it was before shaking it off, all of this while still standing above the water, on a piece of a trunk, with the huge python and a mama crocodile and her babies in the river. What a man! It really made his day though! Thank God for His protection.
May the Lord bless you and thank you for standing with us through your prayers for this ministry.
In Christ with love,
Mathew and Henrietta Wylie Psalm 91:4