Memories of this year’s mission trip to Malawi abound. Sights, sounds, people, experiences, tastes and smells tumble about in my head and heart: the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, South Africa… memories of Biko and Mandela… the struggle for justice…. Ngoni dancers, dancing gogos, spears, shields and war clubs… a smiling face creased with wrinkles and crows feet (“credentials of humanity”)… waking to the sounds of crowing roosters and herons… the smell of wood smoke… women cooking nsima over an open fire… loading the blue double cab Toyota with pipe, pumps and down hole parts… bouncing through the bush… learning about Malawian directional signals and road signs… learning directions: “maryelo” and “mazere” and making up a few of our own (!)… driving on the left… use your horn… stay off the tarmac at night… ox carts… bicycles… free range chicken, goats and pigs… Mary and Dalless shopping for lunch supplies at Jenda… lunch under a shade tree: peanut butter sandwiches, potato chips processed in peri peri hot sauce, “biscuits” and warm coke.. an impromptu frisbee lesson… .driving in the “boonies”… some 4 wheel drive situations.. .watch out for tree stumps… an impromptu dance in a village while waiting for a maintenance man to guide us to our next well (break out the drums!)… Karen will be known forever as “Dancing Mama!”… walking down from the villages into the dambos to install wells… nasty looking water sources… children carrying water in buckets, gourds, and pans… risky foot bridges… young men and children herding cattle… ululating cries of joy as fresh water flows… villagers dancing… a village headman removing his shoes to pray a prayer of dedication… instruction to the children: “If the Big Fish hears in America that you have been sitting on the outlet pipe, he will come back to your village and sit on you!”… celebrating with harmonica music and balloons… Brahms lullaby for a newborn… an inventive solution to a ticklish flat tire situation at a remote village toward nightfall… a slew of nicknames: “Big Fish,” “Yoyo Man,” and “Rev. Jack”… children climbing a tree… children’s homemade toys.. benches made in a carpentry class in school… buckets from a tinsmithing class… needle work from a special girls’ class..
Headmaster Mtonga casting a vision for the Deaf School’s future… a special tea for Mama Carol… solar-powered hearing aids.. .children seated first on a classroom floor, then on benches… new school blocks… gift bags of school supplies for remote village schools… renewing friendships from a former mission trip… the sounds of drums at a well dedication… the joyous chants of”majeoweme!” (“We are drinking clean water!”)… Deaf School children playing handbells… welcoming songs from Women’s Guild members at Kaporo and Loudon congregations… the pride on the face of a village headman sporting a new tie… a thatched roof prayer house where two hundred worshipers frequently gather… an invitation to a lunch of nsima and beans at a village home… a family dancing toward us and singing “We have seen the love of God!”… gifts of wapita pan jalla: ground nuts, eggs, chickens, cassava, bananas… villagers laughing at Polaroid pictures of themselves at a well site… children laughing at their picture on Jeff’s digital camera viewer.. preaching at services in two different congregations.. baptizing, ordaining… celebrating the Lord’s Supper… the Church of Scotland liturgy in ChiTumbuka… English prayers… sermons translated into the Ngonde language by a young theological student interning at the Kaporo congregation (who later wrote in my journal “I was proud to be your right hand man like Timothy to St. Paul!”)…
Conversations about faith with young Irish medical students… a story shared by missionary Beth Rule about being detained in the Congo… a poignant Ethiopian memory shared by Harvey Darrenbos… a conversation with head of station the Rev. Chimwemwe Mhango about the needs of pastors serving their first churches after graduation from theological school… a beautiful hand-carved chiefs walking stick… special baskets from Dalless and Mary… gifts from the Kaporo Congregation… gestures of honor from the Women’s Guild at Kaporo… fabulous choir music… a delightful evening with the Embangweni Hospital Chapel Choir… a mental snapshot of front line mission: PCUSA missionary Jim McGill giving his adopted Malawian daughter a “horsey ride” on his shoulders while talking on a cell phone and looking at a computer monitor… primary school teachers receiving professional development certificates at the conclusion of a series of workshops…. an overnight at Lake Malawi… fishermen in dugout canoes fishing by lantern light… lakeshore pictures at sunrise… a visit to Old Bandawe Mission and the graves of Scottish missionaries… browsing and buying at the Dedza Pottery factory… watching Brad and Keith barter with the wood carvers in Lilongwe.
What does it all mean? My spiritual bucket is filled to overflowing! There’s an old saying that you have to be at the spout where the glory comes out. If we are going to truly drink the Water of Life, we have to be at the places where it flows. Malawi is truly one of those places!