In a word, I can tell you our trip was truly “Blessed.” Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers as we traveled to install well pumps for remote villages in Malawi. The Malawi people are truly the “warm heart of Africa.” Everywhere we went we were greeted with warm smiles, friendly greetings, and thankful hearts. In the six weeks that the two MMM teams worked in Malawi this year, through the Grace of God and to His glory, we completed over 500 shallow well installations. The net effect of this work is that 125,000 more people now have safe, clean drinking water in their villages, and thousands of their children will be spared from death caused by water born diseases.
As you can imagine, the work is quite intense. Our typical workday consisted of 10-12 hours of 4-wheel, off-road driving to get pumps, pipe, cement and other materials to participating remote villages. Our team members worked independently with local shallow wells maintenance crews, installing wells in about 20 regional areas of northern Malawi. The ruts, potholes, and washboard roads (if you can call them that, usually foot paths at best) were brutal on the body because of all the bouncing and shaking in the vehicles. We typically started each day around 5:00 AM and fell into bed exhausted around 8:00PM each night.
As we completed each well installation, the village headman dedicated the well in prayer to the glory of God. The villagers were taught the proper care and operation of the simple, tire-pump style manual pump. We also explained the local maintenance crew infrastructure and the villagers’ responsibilities in maintaining the well and the program. Each village had prepared all the local construction materials, hand-dug their wells up to 20 feet deep, and provided all the unskilled labor; it was gratifying to see their total buy-in to the program.
The weather was very hot, reaching almost 100 degrees daily, sometimes dry, but near Lake Malawi, quite humid. With no electricity for miles, the thing I missed most was ICE — a cool drink to quench the thirst. The Lord provided safety, reassurance, and grace wherever we went. No one on our teams had any serious accidents or illnesses. From the simplest things, like a bit of cloud cover on an especially hot day, to divine intervention when we needed special help, we continually felt His presence with us. Let me give you an example:
The evening of the second day, I found it difficult to sleep. Even though my body felt tired and jet lag had thoroughly set in, I could not turn off my brain. I tossed and turned with only brief moments of sleep. Initially, I fretted about how tired I would be in the morning with a particularly grueling schedule planned for me that day. Then I started thinking about how God works in Malawi. “Do My work and I will provide everything you need.” Indeed, the 2-3 hours of sleep the Lord had provided was all the rest I needed and to my surprise, by daybreak I was invigorated and good to go all day.
Here’s another: Our last week of installations included more than our share of vehicle problems. On Wednesday our back-up truck “A” was experiencing some bad gas, if you know what I mean. So back-up truck “B” was dispatched to rescue us and keep us on our daily schedule. It was a rented 1987 Toyota 2-wheel drive pick-up with over 200,000 miles on the odometer when it quit working a few years back (along with all the other gauges!) Had it not been for the existence of bailing wire and duct tape, this vehicle would have long been history. But George Moyo, the vehicle’s owner, was confident we would be okay. To his credit, we took this vehicle on remote Malawian roads and trails where I would have been leery with a good, 4-wheel drive truck. At every stop, George would get out to repair, replace, adjust, or “tape” something while we were off installing a well pump. But this truck kept us going (although sometimes only 10-15 miles per hour) the rest of the week. Many times I truly felt it was the Lord carrying us along.
I am reminded that in mission work (and everywhere else for that matter) miracles occur everyday. For a short term missionary, it just seems that the presence of the Holy Spirit is significantly enhanced to focus on His leading in the short time allowed. He is right in your face, if you get my point. It’s almost like putting your hand on one of those static electricity generator balls. You can feel the static electricity build up in your body. Your hair stands on end.
In Malawi, the Holy Spirit blooms in your body the same way. This enhanced presence of the Holy Spirit is everywhere. Whenever you encounter a minor problem, the solution is provided within minutes. You can be fearless going about the Lord’s work. As it should always be, you get a comforting sense of total reliance on the Lord, that His solutions to daily problems will soon be forthcoming. You are filled with a new dimension of freedom from anxiety or worry, a relaxing, almost carefree attitude, which is confirmed time and again by His promise to “provide everything you need.”
Still, in the days ahead, there where times that I was discouraged, or tired and aching, or hot and thirsty, wishing my day was done. Always on these occasions, within minutes, I would see someone along the side of the road or in a village, and in that person radiated the face of Christ. The smile and wave of a half-naked child, the weathered stare of an old gentleman, the joyful tears of a young mother – everywhere the Holy Spirit manifested Christ to me through these gracious Malawians. Quickly, my attitude was reinvigorated and my body refreshed.
As we completed our work and prepared to leave Malawi, I had a sense of melancholy because we would be leaving this place where the Spirit of Christ is so vividly present, and “the warm heart of Africa” makes us feel so welcome. But then I came to realize that the light of Christ shines throughout the whole world, and that the Holy Spirit vividly enhances Christ’s presence wherever His believers fearlessly seek Him and acknowledge Him Lord.
During the season of Advent, as we anticipate the commemoration of Christ’s birth, it is my prayer that we Americans will all strive a little harder to follow His example and set the right priorities during the season, in our families, and in our lives.