Wow, a lot has happened since we arrived in Malawi!
But first I’d like to go back a little to our last days at Boot Camp, as we never got to send in a report about that:
Classes ended on Thursday. Everybody had a chance to learn to operate the drill rig. On Friday all teams worked on tearing down Boot Camp. Everybody worked very hard and fast and everything was done by 10am! Then we took all our food and items for 5 bases in Africa out of the food warehouse to take inventory.
Saturday we took down our tent site and moved into the (air conditioned!) dorms, had some fun swimming in Bathtub Lake, and then the big moment arrived: Commissioning. The Service included a parade of the flags of all the countries that Teen Missions is active in. Jacob ran with Malawi’s flag, Josiah with New Zealand’s. The end of the service was the actual commissioning: We were sent forth to be a light to the world and bring the gospel of Christ to the ends of the earth. Starting in complete darkness we lit one candle and from there spread the light to a candle in each leader and team member’s hands. Then we marched forth, with the teams leaving later lining the walkway for the teams leaving right away.
After the Commissioning we had a wonderful party that the parents of several kids had organized. It was amazing how many treats they brought! Fresh fruit, ice cold drinks, pizza and other goodies, we were floored! And not only that, they also served us, bringing each item around the circle, so we could just sit and be pampered – so for an hour there we were indeed at “pamper camp” 😉
Then we worked late into the night to tear down the stage, video equipment etc.
Sunday we were under orders to sleep in until lunch, which we gratefully did. And then the packing challenge commenced. Amazingly we managed to pack everything we needed, despite having to take 18 bags of gear for the other African bases with us. Everybody got to pack 35 pounds of their personal items, the other duffel and a half were filled with common goods, like canned food.
In the evening we enjoyed the perfect end to our stay at Boot Camp: Another team put on an impromptu worship service by Alligator Lake, and most remaining teams joined in. It was so beautiful, the worship songs as it was getting dark, fireflies rising from the grass, a brilliant starry sky, herons perched on the carousel, and a lightning storm in the far distance. God’s glory was in full display here!
So now fast forward past the travel days to our days in Malawi:
While Mrs Maher was busy in Lilongwe, buying food to feed this crowd for weeks in the bush, we got to enjoy a relaxed day at the TMI base in Chipoka. We walked into town and visited the open air market where clothes and household items are sold in simple stick booth or just on the ground. The girls bought fabrics to use as wrap skirts. Little kids were following us everywhere and wanted to be photographed. Destiny was in heaven, surrounded by all the little ones – she is so wonderful with little kids!
Along the way we visited Pierre de la Roux (sp?) who is a chocolatier and gem cutter. He taught us how good chocolate is made, and we got to sample some of his dark chocolate- yummy!
The next day (Friday) we headed into the bush with all our supplies. We took the bus as far as the paved roads reached, then we waited for the truck that had taken all our gear to come back and get us. While waiting we had our first chance to entertain a group of kids that had come to see the white people. The team sang a song, which was very popular.
Then we all piled into the bed of the truck and embarked on a quite bumpy journey on a dirt road to our destination. We sure were a sight to behold! We drove along many small villages where the children (and quite a few adults) would come running and wave at us. The villages are just like you would imagine: Tiny houses, most made out of locally made red bricks, with either thatch or corrugated metal as roofs. There is usually a communal oven in the center, as well as a food storage area. There are chickens and goats everywhere, and occasional pigs. The ground is red dirt, and you can see many well established trails. The women carry water and other loads on their heads, the children mostly run around barefoot, the men we often saw carrying huge loads of thatch or wood. Some of the villages have wells, but many do not. The area is very hilly, with banana trees and baobab trees in many places (baobabs look so awesome with their immense trunks and spindly branches). The main crop right now is tomatoes, which are sold everywhere along the road.
As we approached the village where we will be staying, a large group of kids started running behind the truck and eventually jumped up on the bumper (the truck had to go very slow, due to the really bumpy road). We arrived at our base camp, a village where the BMW students drilled a well over Christmas break and a TMI couple lives with their kids. We set up camp around their house, with the tents on one side, the kitchen tent on the opposite side and our eating area facing the well. Jedikiah, Josiah and Gregory are really great helpers who work very hard wherever help is needed.
The well is definitely like a community center, with women and children gathering there at all times of the day. The water is plentiful and clean. We still filter it before using it for drinking or cooking.
Our arrival was a huge event for the villagers, they were cheering and waving and flocking to watch us set up.
On Saturday we went to the site where we will be drilling our well. To get there we walk over a hill for about 20 minutes to the next village. We learned that the villagers built that road just for us, so we could get there with the drill!
We were greeted by a huge group chanting and waving and wanting to touch our hands, there were big smiles everywhere – the people were so excited to see us! We had expected that we’d have to fill two immense water storage containers with the water for the drill ourselves, by walking to the closest river – but the villagers had already filled them, they are so looking forward to get their own borehole!
Part of our group dug the ditch and pits that are needed for the drill water, while the other half went to a shady clearing to sing and play with the children. The favorite local game is “Do what I do”, where everybody in a circle chants and 1 Person jumps in the middle and makes some dance moves that the others then try to copy. Olivia, Zoe and Bo were especially popular with the crowd, they had some great moves and a really good rapport with the kids!
A similar scene repeated at base camp later, where Isaac impressed the crowd and Destiny was really in her element with the littles. Riley has such a tender heart for people that are hurting, especially kids. She spotted a tiny boy, Davidson, who has a burned arm from when he fell in the fire and his shirt started burning. She and Mrs Stencil were able to clean and bandage his wound, hoping to keep infection at bay.
It gets dark between 5:30 and 6, so our days are quite short. We do team time with worship and devotions after it gets dark. The night sky with billions of stars that most of us have never seen is glorious and gives a wonderful picture of God’s greatness!
The weather is sunny and warm during the day (estimated upper 80s), chilly at night (estimated upper 40s).
Today is Sunday and we went to the local church in the next village. We were invited to sing a song and perform a drama. The song we chose was half in English and half in Chichewa, which the locals loved.
Jacob, Marissa, Olivia, Gregory and Jessica performed the “Colors” drama and did a wonderful job!
The congregation all lined up after the service, so everybody could shake our hands. They even gave us a basket of peanuts, which had been part of the offering.
The people here are truly kind and welcoming –
We are very excited to start drilling the well tomorrow. Our other work project here will be to build a bathroom for the TMI couple and the Sunday School next to their house to use.
Right now the kids are doing Bible verse quizzing, then we’ll work on preparing our evangelistic program to use with the crowd in the village while drilling.
Please continue to pray for our team, especially for continued health and safety.