Visit from Malawi

My church was graced with the presence of three directors of community development projects in the Kamenzi area of Malawi for 11 days at the end of September. I have been a member of a community development partnership team from my church called Ubuntu for the past couple years. Since we sent a small group from Calgary to their community in 2009, we thought it would be beneficial to bring a group from Malawi to Calgary so they could meet our community and so that our whole community could meet some people from the community we are working with.

Jane, Bornface, and Christina arrived in Calgary in mid-autumn. The first time the last two left Malawi was this trip (also the first time they boarded a plane). They went from the small capital city of Lilongwe to a couple layovers in Addis Ababa and London and then to chilly Alberta. They seemed a little overwhelmed to begin with, but some winter coats and many warm handshakes brought out smiles and eased them into a very busy and relationship building week and half.

Amber and I were privileged to host Jane and Christina for their four final nights and all three of them for a supper. It was a pleasure to hear of their work first hand. Jane oversees several development projects in conjunction with the CRWRC (Christian Reformed World Relief Committee). Bornface and Christina are the chair and vice-chair of the committee implementing the four projects in Kamenzi we are cooperating with them on. As committee members, neither of them are permitted to benefit from the projects – a sacrifice they are willing to make in order to maintain integrity among their villagers and in order to see the projects through. The repeatedly expressed their desire to see conditions improve among their people.

The trio visited my school to speak (and sing!) at the secondary chapel service. I interviewed them and gave them a tour of our facilities. We outlined the projects we were involved in and shared a bit on how our mutually beneficial relationship functioned – something I am very proud Ubuntu emphasizes.

Their last Sunday in Calgary, they were able to share with our whole church on how the seed loans, goat program, eco-san latrines, and orphan breakfasts were transforming their community. But they were also able to give us their impressions of we as Canadians live:

  • Our wealth is good. We have done things well.
  • Men treat their wives very well, helping with child care, housework, and cooking – an inspiration for Bornface and a shock to Jane and Christina.
  • We are generous and have been a blessing to their community.
  • They want to see many of the ways we do things, taught to them.
  • We are very friendly. We don’t use hand sanitizer after shaking their hands (as they had feared we might based on previous experience with North Americans) (how absolutely heartbreaking is that?).
We received a report from our contact in Malawi concerning their debrief. It essentially communicated how much they all enjoyed the trip, but most impacting thing for me was this:

Christina said she was going to miss the bed!!

If Christina’s bed is anything like the beds so many Guatemalans use it is nothing more than boards or the ground with a blanket. Christina had shared with us that a typical day for her is to wake at 4 AM, work in the field until 2 PM, prepare a meal for herself and her family of 6 (a couple of her children have grown up already), then volunteer teach adult literacy in the late afternoon.

I was deeply moved by all of this. It brought so much clarity to the inequity on the planet, but more importantly how a relationship can forge a desire to do something about it.

I am hoping to join the crew that Ubuntu sends to Malawi in 2013 and with that, I hope to spend quality time continuing my relationship with all three of these Christians.

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