Deep within the heart of Africa lies a country whose people are calm and gentle, gracious and appreciative. They are, as many travel books would say, “the kindest people on earth.” To work with the Malawian people was indeed an honor and privilege, for many reasons, but most especially, because they made me feel like I was most welcome and it was my home too.
Many ministerial colleagues, church members and friends have asked me what Malawi was like and the two words I most often repeat are “paradigm-shifting.” Like most third-world countries, Malawi has little in terms of gross national product and they struggle with many challenges economically, being third poorest country in the world by some accounts. As most families in the rural areas rely solely on subsistence-agriculture, a drought means no food and no food means death. The infant mortality rate is quite high in comparison to most of the rest of the world, primarily due to unsafe drinking water, and according to some sources, the levels of those infected with HIV are anticipated to climb to be about 25% or 1-out-of-4 by 2005.
Yet despite these many, many challenges, they are a happy people and thankful for all that they have. Often I would see children without shoes because they could not afford them – most of us Americans have never been without shoes. They have little to no access to clean water – yet we tend to wait impatiently by our running taps until the water gets hot enough to serve our purposes. We tend to place a value on tasks and status and financial gain. They place a value on faith, on family, and on survival.
I have traveled many places including the Holy Lands. In Israel, I was fortunate to see the places where Jesus my savor lived. But in Malawi, I was honored to learn how He lived, as the culture is not all that different in Malawi. It is much like what it was in Jesus’ time in Israel some 2000 years ago. Perhaps Malawi is, for most who have been there, a sort of new holy land-it’s a place where we see an outpouring of the Holy Spirit among people who have so much to teach us about living by faith and faith-filled living. It’s a place where the love Christ is shared to the glory of God in nearly all facets of life.
It was indeed an honor to serve the people of Malawi. Through the shallow wells that I helped install, both the villagers and I received a new lease on life. I also received a new and deeper understanding of what it means to be “One body in Christ,” with my sisters and brothers in Malawi. Looking back, my one prayer is that I have been as much of blessing to the people of Malawi as they have been to me, and I want to thank all of you that have contributed to this wonderful ministry – words cannot express the love and gratitude these people have for your generosity and quite literally a gift of life which they received from you.