Saturday, June 11, 2016

Our 2016 Malawi Trip

We are home from Malawi and currently working through the fun parents with jet-lag + kids who aren't jet-lagged combo. So what better thing to do while the 2 month-old naps in my lap than write up a post about our trip? Just a warning, this is going to be really photo heavy!

Speaking of photos, I've had a few people ask what my purpose is in going with Josh to Malawi, and for as simple as it sounds, my job is to take pictures. The pictures that I take while we are there serve the mission for years to come and allows them to have high quality pictures of the work they are doing there to use on their website and share with their friends and supporters. Even though I'm not directly involved in the preaching and teaching, a photographer who is willing to come and take photos for the mission at the photographer's own expense really is more of a mission trip than it may seem.

We began our stay in Malawi by visiting Pastor Magada's church in Zomba. This was the first church ever planted by the mission team, and is today a vibrant church.

Josh and Mark together taught two modular pastors' schools, one in Zomba and one at the brand-new Lower Shire campus. Josh was impressed with how many of the pastors seemed to have matured in their faith and understanding of the Bible over the past 3 years. Below is the large classroom of the unfinished Zomba campus.

While the men were at the school, Stephanie took Jessi and me to the market. It reminds me so much of the markets in Moldova. Actually the whole country reminds me a lot of Moldova. The big difference is, of course, that in Moldova if we kept our mouths shut, we could blend in and go unnoticed. That's obviously not possible here for light-skinned people, although you do gradually get used to it and learn to ignore the stares and kindly tell the vendors no thanks.

We spent one night at Lake Malawi, because it's just so gorgeous that you can't help but go if even for a quick visit. The cichlid fish in Lake Malawi are found in the wild nowhere else in the world. Snorkeling among them is such an incredible experience!

After leaving the lake, we headed down to spend a few days in the southernmost part of the country, called the Lower Shire region. 

The first thing we did in the Lower Shire was a mobile medical clinic. Eric and Stephanie run many of these, and it was great to get to see it in action. They pack up tubs of medical supplies and, along with a doctor from Zomba, head out to rural villages where healthcare is completely unavailable. They can't treat every ailment, but they do have a decent pharmacy of medicines that they give away. Many ailments like malaria, infections, and parasites are simple to treat, but life-threatening for people without access to the medicines.

The village that we visited was particularly remote. After turning off the main road, we drove 30 minutes down dirt roads, crossed a river in canoes, and then walked through fields for about 20 minutes before finally reaching the village. 

Eric and Stephanie have a very well-organized system for their clinics. We treated 3 waves of people as they showed up. First, the people are gathered and a basic gospel message is presented. Then, Eric hands out tickets to see the doctor.

There are two lines, one for women with babies and children, and one for adults. The doctor sees all of the children, and Eric runs triage for the adults. Simple ailments can be treated without the doctor, and Eric sends the more serious cases over to Dr. Tata.

While all of this was going on, Mark had brought a soccer ball and played with the young men. He was expecting to be playing soccer with younger boys, but they had a full-sized field in this village and apparently the young men are VERY serious about their soccer. They were all excited to get to play with a real ball, they said they usually play with a ball made out of plastic bags tied together. 

After playing for a while, Mark led a devotion and a time of Q&A with the kids and young adults who had gathered by the field. 

The following day was another Sunday, and we visited a church in the Lower Shire, where Josh preached. I didn't get very many pictures there, because the white lady with the big camera was quite distracting, as you can tell in the picture below. When I take pictures of teaching or preaching, I generally try to get a few at the very beginning and then sit down so as not to be too much of a distraction.

Lastly was the second school at the Lower Shire campus that I mentioned at the beginning. This property is brand new and also unfinished. Mark started off teaching in the little church building on the property, but as more and more pastors trickled in, they had to move to a bigger space.

As is always the case when we do schools, while the men learn, the women cook. We are thankful for servant-hearted women in the churches who volunteer to come cook for such a large group.

Michael and Mark wanted to try stirring the huge pot of nsima, which the women thought was quite hilarious.

And that wraps up our time in Malawi! We are so thankful for the opportunity to go again, and for the blessing of working with Eric and Stephanie and the Malawian mission staff. Malawi is a beautiful country that is desperately in need of the gospel and solid Biblical teaching, and we are humbled that the Lord has allowed us to be a small part of the mission there. 

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