Week of firsts 5/52

Monday, January 23, 2017
Nkwazi, Central Region, Malawi
I was going to post each Friday, but that's silly, because the best day of the week is the Sabbath, so Saturday evenings (or early Sunday mornings) I will post a new blog.

So this blog post will contain two Sabbaths!

This was a week of firsts, in many ways. We had our first visitors to our place, we had went on our first visits, and we had our first special music!

This past Sabbath was lovely. We met a few more members of our congregation, and got a few more pictures to add to our directory. I was going to take a map to services to figure out where everyone lives, but the map we have is inadequate at best… completely inaccurate at worst. But we have a plan! We are going to try and have our first visits on Saturday evenings, so we will either drive the family home, or follow them to their home, and then place a marker in our Google maps. This way we will get a visit in, and we will learn where our members live.

We had one young lady over for dinner on Saturday evening (1/14/17) and she spent the night with us. We had the opportunity to drive her home the next morning. We only got stuck in the mud once. Some very kind young men helped push us out, and we took a different route.

Last week we got pulled over by the police because we went the wrong way down a one way street (in our defense, the sign is not well displayed, it’s kind of far from the road, and surrounded by people selling things, it blends in… also, it was a dirt side road); the police were very kind to us. We were informed we would need to pay a fine, but a fourth officer showed up and decided that since it was his first offense, and he is a pastor working in the country that they would let Lewis off with a warning. Because of this we are a bit paranoid about going down the wrong way on these side roads. After dropping Juliana off at her house we were doing fine finding our way home, but at one turn it kind of seemed like we were on a one way road again. We quickly backtracked and found a different route… we’re still not entirely sure if it was a one way or not.

Monday was a national holiday in Malawi (I’m still not sure what it was), it seemed the only change was schools were closed (everyone else still seemed to be working). We decided to visit a local animal preserve about 15 minutes from our house. It’s a beautifully forested area, and we got to see quite a number of monkeys, a couple of baboons, two crocodiles, and an owl. We chose the wrong time of day to go though, as most of the animals were hiding from the heat of the day. We missed the giant python, the lions, one group of baboons, and the serval cats (I got a brief glimpse of a bobbing head in the tall grass, but that was suspect).

On Wednesday afternoon Lewis and I drove out to visit Cephas and Patricia Chapamba and their three children (Delles, Memory, and Rachel). It was an hour and a half drive to their place, including two police checkpoints. While there we got to tour the medical clinic that Cephas and Patricia manage, along with their garden and home, and two of their maize fields.

Something Cephas said really struck me. His fields are beautiful; the maize (corn) is tall and growing well. Directly across the small road from his fields is another field with corn about 1/3 the size of his. I thought perhaps they had planted at different times, but no, they planted the same week. The difference is fertilizer. Cephas has the resources to fertilize his fields, and his neighbor did not. He talked about how everyone in the country has at least a plot of land (even if it’s small). The problem here is not space, nor a willingness to work. The biggest problem is a lack of resources. They have the land to grow things on, but lack the resources to really let the crops thrive. It’s a difficult situation for many.

While we were at the Chapamba’s home the power went out (it’s something that we’re quite used to by now), but in speaking with them, we realize how blessed we are to be in the area that we are. We lose power quite regularly, almost every day (though we’ve had several days in a row where we have not), but when it does go out it’s rarely for very long, six hours has been our record, but generally it will go out for a couple of hours and then pops back on. Here is why we are blessed: most areas lose power for hours at a minimum, and sometimes for an entire day. We live in area three of Lilongwe, and the power company gives us priority in our power supply. This is why the LifeNet’s internet café and shop has recently installed solar panels to feed their generator. They can now carry perishables in their freezer and refrigerator; they will finally have a reliable source of power. The church building for Lilongwe is being built in the same compound as the café and shop so it will have access to the same power supply. It’s a huge blessing for the shop, for the church, and for the area; it will be one of the few places to have continuous power!

We had another lovely Sabbath service this week, with special music! It was quite the treat to hear them sing in the local language (Chewa).

Lewis and I have started a basic English class after services; mostly to help strengthen their Biblical vocabulary, so they can get more from services (though Lewis has a translator each week).

After services Lewis and I drove several people home or to a central bus stop (so they wouldn’t have to walk so far). The church own a 13 passenger van, it’s great to put it to use for the brethren.
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Sandra E Hammons

Lena, Thank you so much for providing the information contained in your blog about Malawi and surrounding areas. I could envision the muddy roads, the maize, the animals as if I were traveling with you all. Please continue to post the blogs so as we can learn more about the people's culture, food, Sabbath service. How many attend service?
Lena, I have never got to meet you but I am a member of the United Church of God, Rome Georgia. Mr. Bill Cowan is our minister. One of our proposed projects this year is to become pen pals with a few churches in other countries. We would like to send letters, cards, prayer request between the churches and good tidings. Are you able to receive mail regularly? Do you have any advice as to how we could do this? We have only a few children in our group but they would love to send drawings, etc.
Thank you so much Lena and God willing I hope to meet you someday.
Sandra E Hammons

Denise Dobson

Wow, beautiful countryside and beautiful people! It's amazing that everyone in the country has a plot of land. That's a blessing, of course, but with drought and lack of resources, it can't produce to the max. Thankfully the rains have come, so that will help if it's not too much rain. There's such a fine line sometimes, isn't there?

Of course we knew you would find a way to visit and get to know the brethren, regardless of obstacles. You're dedicated and resourceful! And how wonderful that you could drive some people after church so they wouldn't have to walk so far.

Thanks so much for sharing your experiences! Lots of love and prayers!