Many Firsts

Friday, January 20, 2017
Lilongwe, Lilongwe, Malawi
This week was filled with many firsts.

Last Sabbath (January 14th) I gave a sermon titled "Our Foundation ." This was the first in a series of sermons that I have started that will be an overview of the fundamental beliefs of the United Church of God. This was the first of many sermons that will require a translator. In Malawi the official language is Chichewa, a regional language that is shared by people in some of the other surrounding countries. It has become a unifying factor for the people in the three regions of Malawi. Each region has their own language or dialect, but everyone speaks at least a form of Chichewa. English is typically taught in schools and most people do speak or understand at least a little English. However, there are also plenty who don't speak or understand any English. A few in our congregation in Lilongwe don't speak English, so a translator is needed during services. This is quite an experience. Sometimes there is no direct translation so the translator tries to explain what is being said. This means that it might take twice as many words to say the same thing. This means that a 30 minute message could take a full hour .

We had our first guest over to our house. I say first guest, but we actually had a few already, but this was the first time we had anyone over for dinner. Juliana Kachali, who works in the LifeNets business centre, and is in our congregation, visited our home and ate with us. She stayed the night and we drove her home the next day. This was the first time we had been to anyone's home here in Malawi. It is nice to see what the homes of others are like. I feel like sometimes we have an unrealistic view of the lives of others based on what we see from the outside, or what we hear people describe, or sometimes what we see on television. Actually going to a person's home and seeing how they live gives us a different perspective on the struggles and blessings that others have.

As our third week progressed, we did manage to venture out to a local wildlife refuge, the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre which is only about 5k from our house. I guess it was kind of like going on a safari, except for the fact that most of the animals were asleep. And most of them were rescued from circuses or homes where people had kept them as pets, and they wouldn't survive in the wild. It was neat to see at least a few African animals that we might not have seen before. The monkeys and baboons were definitely a highlight.

Another first for us was leaving the city of Lilongwe . We drove West towards Zambia to an area called Mchinji. We visited the Chapamba family there. Cephas and his wife Patricia run a private clinic in the town they live in. They are very resourceful and industrious. Besides the clinic, their family runs a small shop, and has maize crops. This time of year, the rainy season in Malawi, most things are green. Trees and fields are lush and beautiful. The green against the blue of the skies dotted with white clouds is breathtaking. Most of the crops in Malawi are rain fed which means they rely on the rain instead of other sources of water such as wells, rivers, or lakes.

Along with green fields, the rainy season means a whole lot of water falling from the sky. As we drove back to Lilongwe from Mchinji, I drove through my first Malawian rainstorm, and drove at night here for the very first time. Try navigating darkened highways lined with cyclists and pedestrians, sometimes carrying very large loads of wood, grain, fertilizer, or whatever else they might fit on their heads, backs, or bikes . And if that wasn't bad enough, I now drive on the left side of the road - this is a change for me since I have driven on the right side of the road for the past 18 years - plus it was rainy very heavily. As we got back into Lilongwe, there were at least a few cars stuck in the mud and water. Thankfully God protected us the entire way. We made it home safe and dry, and didn't hit anything or anyone. Our trusty rear wheel drive Vanette carried us home.

And now for other firsts: battling timber eating beetles in our handcrafted furniture; figuring out how to avoid mosquitos - do we go the natural route or the chemical repellant route (it depends entirely on who you ask); trying not to worry too much when police pull us over for no good reason; trying not to get trapped by every person trying to sell their artwork or fruits on the side of the road or in the grocery store parking lot; thinking of what to say when people ask to come to our church to pray when we know very well that they most likely don't agree with what we believe; finally feeling like we understand the world of pay-as-you-go cell phone and internet and electricity.
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Beverly Kubik

Thanks for the post! Hope to talk to you this week.

Victor Kubik

What a great story! You are front and center in our thoughts. Thank you for taking on this assignment!

Denise Dobson

Thoughts while reading your blog:
Timber-eating beetles in your furniture?? Oh nooo!!!
Mosquitoes are deadly. Kill them first.
Monkeys are cute and curious, and they're so much like some of the people in our family. Oops, maybe I shouldn't have shared that...
Beautiful people! Studying the faces and putting them with names: Cephas, Julianna, Memory, Haiton. They feel like our new friends, too.
Beautiful countryside and crop areas!

You're having so many amazing experiences even though you've just been in Malawi for a short time. Thank you for sharing them with us through your blog and photos. Love and prayers, as always!

Kayla W

I really enjoy reading about your adventures. The spiders, beetles and mosquitos sound slightly unpleasant. Take care!