How was your time in Africa, my friends asked after I returned in October. For the first time in the five years I’ve been doing this, I was not sure at first how to respond.
This was a difficult year for Marion Medical Mission. So many good people had died. Tom and Jocelyn Logan’s son Martin was killed in a tragic diving accident. Two of our most experienced field officers, Nedson Malata and Migriton Banda, died, felled by tropical diseases. Two of our coordinators, Mr. Khosa and Mr. Mhango, were incapacitated by malaria just when they were most needed to cope with the unfolding crisis.
And, crisis it was. Malawi had a severe hard currency shortage. Oil companies could not get hard currency to import fuel. Stations all over the country had no diesel fuel for sale on most days. How will the trucks get to the wells to install the pumps? Our suppliers could not get hard currency to import some critical fittings needed to finish making the pumps. How can we complete the wells? This is just not going to work, I thought, as we counted down the days. Surely it will be a disaster.
So, did I tell my friends what a horrible experience it was this year? No. I had to tell them the truth. It was a joyful experience. Once I began driving to the villages with my partner Robert and the pump installation team, everything just seemed to work out better than ever before. Thanks to the hard work and resourcefulness of many people, we had enough fuel and pumps to do the job. The people in the villages were wonderful. Women, men, and children were eager to greet us, to shake our hands, to say “Tawonga” – thank you. They were eager to help carry the pump, pipes, and tools from the truck to the well site. The women often danced and sang while the crew installed the pump.
After we installed each pump and dedicated the well, the village headman or other community representative expressed thanks on behalf of the community. “May God bless you and the good people in America who have helped us get this new well.” “Please remember other villages near here that also need a well for good drinking water.” “I am an old man, and I never thought that in my lifetime my village would have a good water to drink.” “Tawonga chomeni (thank you very much).” “God has blessed us today.”
The villagers’ enthusiasm never failed to lift my spirit. And, despite the difficulties, 2,500 rural communities, working together with MMM’s African staff and American volunteers (and one Australian), built more wells this year than ever before.
How did this impending disaster turn into such enjoyable, successful experience? How did we all work together so effectively to overcome the difficulties? Could it be that the Holy Spirit was there, guiding, supporting, and encouraging us, and bringing joy into an otherwise terrible situation? Yes, I believe so. The Holy Spirit was there with us.
So, what did I tell my friends about my trip to Malawi this year? It was a joyful experience, I say. We helped 2,500 villages build a well for safe drinking water. They were happy to see us. We were happy to be there. It was a joyful experience.