The rainy season has come to Malawi, a tiny, land-locked African nation of 10 million people bordered by Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia. Quincy residents George Lewis, Jerry Roush, and Dick McFarlin have returned from that country where for three intense weeks they were involved in a rich mission experience. They were joined on the trip by Gary Lewis of Marble, Colorado and Mary Lou Wood of McLeansboro, Illinois. Together the group was known as “Shallow Well Team 3.” They worked under the auspices of the Marion Medical Mission of Marion, Illinois.
Their primary focus was delivering and helping install Mark 5 water pumps on shallow wells near remote villages of northern Malawi where people live in extreme poverty. The villagers were responsible for hand digging and bricking the wells in this self-help project. Marion Medical Mission supplied the cement and pump for each well.
One of the biggest threats to the health of the people of Malawi is unsafe drinking water. Before the construction of the shallow wells, villagers collected water from little streams, ponds or seeps–all highly contaminated with human and animal waste. At one well dedication, team members were shown an old water source which contained a poisonous snake and two frogs. In villages without protected water, diarrhea is a major problem, the second leading cause of death for children. Cholera outbreaks frequently occur. When wells are built and sealed, the number of reported cases drops dramatically.
By the end of the mission trip 312 well pumps had been installed. Jerry Roush worked near Mzuzu and Karongo. George Lewis and Rev. McFarlin helped install wells within a 60 km radius of Embangweni. And Gary Lewis spent much of his time with villages near Euthini. Vehicles equipped with 4 wheel drive were necessary to deliver the well equipment. Roads were badly eroded in some areas. One vehicle became stuck in sand and was dug out by villagers. Many bridges were unsafe to cross.
Mission trip highlights include: attending Evensong worship at Westminster Abbey in London and seeing the inscription on David Livingstone’s tomb, meeting four physicians from Columbus, Ohio, who were engaged in short term medical mission in another part of Malawi and meeting missionaries from the United States and Ireland who were at the Embangweni Mission Station. Team members visited the Embangweni School for the Hearing Impaired, the only such school in northern Malawi. They were impressed with the dedication and creativity of the teachers and the eagerness of the children. They were delighted to hear the students play music on color-coded handbells. The team saw displays of handcrafted items such as baskets, tin buckets, and articles of clothing.
They joined with Tom and Jocelyn Logan, key officials with Marion Medical Mission, at a large celebration hosted by the Embangweni Full Primary School. The celebration honored Marion Medical Mission and Ellington Presbyterian Church of Quincy for their contributions toward refurbishing nineteen classrooms and four teacher homes. Both Tom Logan and Rev. McFarlin were given special gifts of Ngoni spears and shields.
Some of the team members were privileged to visit other schools where they learned of special needs for building repairs, classroom furniture, textbooks, etc. With high inflation in the country and a large portion of the population under 15 years of age, funding education is a huge problem.
Rev. McFarlin was privileged to preach in two different African congregations and celebrate the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Team members found African worship to be very joyful, filled with singing and dancing.
At shallow well dedications and other occasions team members were honored with gifts of chickens, eggs, peanuts, cassava, woven mats and bananas. The gifts were humbling, given the economic poverty of their hosts.
Team members were treated to hospitality in African homes. Dinner was frequently by lantern light. The woman of the home would provide a basin and a towel for guests to wash their hands. Dinner fare usually consisted of chicken, rice, vegetables, nsima (a hot dough made from maize flour), and hot Chombe tea. Table conversation topics ranged from Christianity in an African context to Malawian customs and Malawian politics.
The trip was marred by an automobile accident near Ekwendeni which severely injured Marion Medical Mission President Tom Logan and claimed the life of a Malawian woman. Mr. Logan was evacuated to Pretoria, South Africa for medical attention. In visiting with medical personnel at the Embangweni Mission Hospital, team members learned that HIV/AIDS forms the backdrop for most of the illnesses treated at the hospital such as tuberculosis and malaria. Malnutrition, malaria, and diarrheal diseases are responsible for the deaths of most children.
The mission hospital sends mobile clinics out to villages in a catchment area of nearly 100,000 people. Clinic workers instruct the villagers about HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, malnutrition, and family planning. They sometimes use songs to instruct the people. Children are weighed on spring scales and given vaccinations against various childhood diseases.
The mission trip was the second trip to Malawi for Jerry Roush and Mary Lou and the first for George, Gary and Rev. McFarlin. Jerry was pleased that he could share the experience with friends. Gary Lewis would like to go back for a longer stay. George wondered why he had waited so long to make the trip. Rev. McFarlin discovered that the joy of the villagers as safe water flowed from their wells made an emotional impact. That impact was perhaps best captured by George Lewis in his journal. There he wrote the English translation to a shallow well song written in Chitumbuka by Malawian team member Maria Moyo:
“I have nothing to give to my Lord for what He has done for us. A shallow well with good water. Glory to God! As I have no money, no cows and no wealth of any kind, now I have decided to give Him my own life.”
Team members are grateful for people in Quincy Area churches and others who have financially supported the shallow well program and supported the team with their prayers throughout the trip. They look forward to sharing their stories with churches and civic groups in the near future.