On the Streets of Lilongwe

Friday, January 13, 2017
Lilongwe, Central Region, Malawi
Van about town! The Church in Lilongwe owns a van, or as some call them a "vanette." I'm not sure what the technical term is, but it's basically a cross between a minivan and a small bus (it seats 12). This will be our main mode of transportation for the coming year. Haiton, who knows this van better than anyone else, helped immensely by giving me a few pointers about driving in Malawi, and about navigating a vanette through pothole infested side roads and back alleys where no car was meant to go. It has been very different driving on the opposite side of the road than I was previously used to. I have to think about it immediately when I begin so I don't forget. It helps that there are usually other drivers on the roads who I can follow. But often people cross over to the other side while avoiding the potholes or cyclists and pedestrians carrying enormous loads on their heads, backs, bicycles, etc. so it is also easy to forget which side of the road I am supposed to be on.

This week we had the experience of doing some shopping for wholesale items with two of the ladies who work at the LifeNets office . We definitely got some strange looks from people since we are so out of the norm for some areas around town that we went to. The good news is, I had a chance to improve my driving skills, and I only got pulled over by the police once for turning down a one way street the wrong direction. Thankfully they let me off with a warning this time, although they may have preferred a small bribe or a nice cold bottle of water or a Coke instead.

I've learned (so far) that groceries are much cheaper at local produce markets - again I got funny looks from most walking through a local market in a slum area. The mangos in Malawi taste amazing so far. The avocados not so much, although I think they may have been picked too late. I've also learned that there are a lot of people trying to make what little money they can, and some are very persistent. People sell paintings, beg for change, carve wood, sell small trinkets and stickers, offer rides on the back of their bicycle, and some have sob stories about their lack of food and lack of work . The reality is, there is a lack of food and a lack of work. There is also a lack of sanitation for many people. And a lack of nice homes to live in. People here make do with what they have, utilizing scraps from the trash of others to carry produce or create a tool they can use. Although not solely a commentary on the state of the world, Jesus Christ said, "For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good" (Mark 14:7). There is no lack of poverty here in Malawi and also no lack of opportunity to do good to those around us.

We can't help them all, no matter how much money they think we have to spend. I always appreciate when someone is willing to work to make or sell something or to provide a service if they are capable. That isn't always the case. But in some cases there is absolutely a willingness to put in a full day worth of hard work. This week I saw some of the working conditions of weldors and mechanics. They set up shop between houses, on the side of the road, no doors or roof and sometimes only the ground beneath them to work upon.
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Paul Moody

Nice to read of your adventures starting out. You're very bold to be driving so soon. Good for you two! As you say, there are so many needs that they can't all be helped. There are desperate ones you will will feel compelled to assist with no strings attached. With others, you will find ways to help them help themselves. That can be the most rewarding assistance you can offer.
I'm proud of you and Lewis for the manner in which you are willing to serve God's people. Your love for them is evident. You both are in my prayers.

Lupe Gonzalez

Hey there Guys!
I'm so very excited for you both. Thanks for letting me live vicariously though two from the comfort of my home in Big Sandy.

Praying for you both and all that you interact with daily.
Be well

Denise Dobson

Thank you for sharing your observations and stories and great photos, Lewis! Following you and praying for you and Lena and our brethren there. Seeing photos of the brethren help us feel connected. :-D