Walking Beyond the Walls

Saturday, January 21, 2017
Lilongwe, Central Region, Malawi
It's one thing to drive from place to place and see the countryside and street corners. It is a completely different experience to walk through the countryside and along the streets, passing people on the pathways as you greet each other. This week we walked beyond the walls of our house.

If you peered over the wall that keeps intruders out, you would see fields of green maize stocks with a few groups of trees scattered around . There is a valley there with a river that runs rapidly between the hillsides. In one spot the water pools up and spills over rocks and continues on below, traveling further down into the heart of the city. At this point there is an outcropping of rock where people come to wash their clothes or bathe or cool off after a long day of work. For some people this spot is perfect for crossing over from one side of the river to the next. The only problem is, it's the rainy season and the river is swift.

Just above this pool of water, before the river really picks up speed, there is a narrow bridge that looks like it was pieced together from sticks found in the forest. The railing is thin in places and doesn't feel secure in your hands. There are some actual boards for people to walk on, but they are inconsistent and look as if one may fall at any second. I crossed the bridge on one of my very first walks through the maize fields. I took my time and made it safely to the other side, looking down and watching each of my own steps the entire way .

When I arrived I met two men sitting in a small open air hut. One man, Jimmy, informed me that it is his bridge and he charges people 50 kwatcha to cross it. They either use his bridge or go through the water below to make it to work on time. I told Jimmy a little about myself since he asked. Most people at least want to know where we're from and what we are doing in Malawi. I thanked him and headed back across the bridge. I had purposely left my money at home during my walk.

Lena and I have started walking each morning for at least an hour. It's my favorite part of each morning. The scenery of the valley is better than we could have hoped for. Sometimes we walk through the streets instead of the fields. We meet school children setting off in the morning, house maids on their way to their first job of the day, men carrying loads of wood on their bicycles, dogs full of fleas, and cars driving from both directions. We walk and wonder which streets we've been down before and which ways will get us back to our home.

Sometimes we walk through the local golf course. We've seen many people walking that direction and I doubt that all of them are golfers. Some are on their way to work at the course while others are probably just passing through. No one seems to question our presence there, and when I asked the man at the front desk if I could walk there, he said it was fine as long as there weren't a lot of golfers around . It's a beautiful course with well maintained grass. Forests line its edges and there are trees all throughout. There's no fence or even a sign telling people to stay out. The course sits up against the corn fields and its less than a mile from our house. It's the perfect spot for a walk. In the background you can hear the commotion of the city as people go about their business.

Today I met Jimmy walking back from the golf course. It turns out that he not only built the bridge that helps people get to the other side of the valley. He also runs the water pumps at the golf course, making sure the grass is green even during the drier parts of the year. Here's worked there for over twenty years. He told me that he would have used cables to secure the bridge but he's worried that people would steal them.

Other than walking, my days consist of writing sermons in our spare bedroom. I don't have an office yet since the new church building is not quite complete . Progress is happening though, and we are all getting very excited about it. Imagine the church socials we could have there, and enough space to sit comfortably during services. Even a place to have tea and coffee and to fellowship after services. It will be such a blessing to our congregation here. The solar panels and batteries have been installed on the LifeNets building. The power will be shared with our church hall. This is unique in the area and will be such a benefit over and over again.

In the evenings sometimes the little neighbor boy comes over to play cards. I've been working on practicing English with the gardener a few times a week. He is a young man who dropped out of school early and does odd jobs to earn money. He keeps our van clean.

So many people have difficult lives here. I met one man who said I should take him as my servant because he has no work. Whenever we go shopping we are constantly bombarded with starving artists who will run and buy fruit for you from the local farmers market to make some money . There's a young man in our congregation who, last week was told he has gotten malaria. I visited him today. We sat and talked, getting to know each other. He expressed how difficult life has been for him and how hard life is for everyone in this country. It doesn't seem to be getting any better. No amount of money or food or shelter or health or safety would do any good. Hope is what is needed.

There are a lot of religious people in Malawi. I meet people on the streets. I tell them I'm a pastor and they want to come and pray with me in my church. I explain to them that they have to make sure our beliefs are the same and that they might be surprised by what we don't have in common. Most insist that we all worship the same God. I'm trying not to just bring every stranger with us to church.

The rains continue to fall here. Sometimes the power goes out and sometimes the mosquitos get in. Things don't always turn out the way that we hope they would, and many things are different than what we are used to. You can buy stamps outside the post office from men at tables covered in brown paper envelopes. They sell them at the same rate as inside the office, but the lines are shorter and they actually lick and stick the stamps on for you. Some things I can get used to. Others it will take me some time.
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I love that you guys are documenting this great adventure! Keep it up! Have a great Sabbath, friends!!

Victor Kubik

Bev just read aloud your last great report!!

Gayle Hoefker

No picture of the bridge--or would you be charged to take a picture? Thanks for the wonderful update. You are in our prayers!


Thanks for all your work for our brethren.

Terri Lussenheide