What a difference a day makes! Wednesday found us full of excitement as we headed toward the village of Kainga. Approximately 200 families call this home and for the last 10 months, Phyllis has been teaching Bible and dignity classes to the women while George has repaired their well and begun the process of building energy efficient cook stoves. A primary part of each woman’s day is the collection of water and wood. Replacing 3 rocks and a pot, the stoves reduce the need for wood by 70% with the added benefit of reduced smoke and fumes. TeamAfrica built a total of 14 stoves that first day…with a slightly slow start, we continued to learn and become more proficient. By dividing into 3 teams, each with an indigenous interpreter, we began to find a rhythm that moved us along more quickly. Part of the process is to insure that the homeowner (we’re talking mud brick huts with thatch roofs and dirt floors) knows how to construct the stove through full participation and therefore, positioned to ‘pay it forward’.
Certainly an impressive difference I’ve observed in these villages is that nothing goes to waste. Literally, our trash was carefully observed and much recycled (each water bottle, tic tac box, wet wipe…easily can be washed and repurposed if it’s all you have). The dirt lawns are swept smooth and spotless throughout the day; while impoverished, these gentle village folk are stewards over the little they possess. As we completed a stove, the lady of the hut and her neighbors sang and chanted in celebration something loosely translated…my God has brought me forward and lifted me up! We topped off the day with a lesson in dental hygiene, family Polaroids, village frisbees, tootsie pops, necklaces, bracelets, and a prayer of thanksgiving stressing that this isn’t about Opendoor or even Sure Foundation Ministry, but about our loving Heavenly Father that provides all good and perfect gifts! Though thoroughly exhausted, we returned to our base camp blessed and celebrating,
Thursday found us most hopeful for an even more productive day in the neighboring village of Pahuwa, and in fact it was…19 stoves. Each woman is required to have 26 small brick (some find/buy fired brick, some make and mold their own). Also, two types of mud…typical village mud + mud made from ant hills (which dries harder and better serves for the pot stand) + water…which she drew and carried from the well…on her head. It should be noted that within this culture all of this is beneath the dignity of the men. So, you can imagine the impact our guys working, lifting, digging, consulting, laughing and blessing these lovely ladies had…a living testimony to how God Himself desires to love and value each of them!
As we worked, our teams noted a growing number of children following us and pressing in. Moving from one house to the next took on the feel of a small parade with singing and dancing, laughing and learning…but it began to feel a bit different from the previous day…a little more pushy, a bit greedier, different. As we gathered for our hygiene lesson and distribution, we became aware that the numbers were much higher, imbalanced and frenzied. Apparently word of our gifts had spread overnight from one village to another and 50+ unattended children had migrated into the village as the day progressed. Though we were never in any real danger, standing there unable to meet the expectations of so many was not a great feeling. Trying to explain why we didn’t have enough, why we couldn’t continue in the frenzied fray, let alone what was our heart’s intent to begin with, through the language barrier was most frustrating. Even in the villager’s disappointment with us, positioning the Crispi’s for continued ministry here was tantamount…and we saw God do something as only He can. As Phyllis lovingly talked with her students and friends, she invited them to partner with her in policing future meetings and empowering them with dignity and responsibility. We saw frowns turn again to smiles as understanding and forgiveness crossed cultural and language divides. She assured us this morning during devotions that this was a platform of growth, that the ladies level of trust and partnering will grow and that God is using all things for good…a missionary’s heart!
I’ve run a gamete of emotions in the last 24 hours as I’ve considered the previous 48….from the highs of accomplishment, giving, laughing and loving…to the lows of frustration, anger, embarrassment and letdown…what a difference a day makes. Phyllis asked me if I felt the principles of God are relevant in Malawi and therefore if the people in the villages could prosper. Certainly, I believe God’s word is universal and applicable to every single circumstance and culture. I believe that proverty and affluence are two extremes of the same sin…greed. That Satan, forever the liar and confuser that he is, uses these extremes to trick us into feeling the world has somehow balanced itself and therefore is in correct order. I’ve learned that there is the American way and the wrong way, but ultimately know there is only ONE way; one measure, His standard, so….I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene; and wonder how he could save me, a sinner condemned unclean! How marvelous, how wonderful and my song shall ever be, how marvelous, how wonderful is my Savior’s love for me…my deepest desire for this journey is that my newfound friends in Malawi and my TeamAfrica mates know that same amazing love.
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Co-Pastor & Life Groups Director