When Lena and I finally had our visas for Malawi in hand, we thought it would be relatively smooth sailing after that. We had permission to come and go from Malawi as we please for the time we needed. All we had to do was get there. Once we actually got off the plane, we quickly learned that we were given only the standard 30 day visitors permit meaning we had to either get an extension for up to 90 days and then be forced by law to leave the country, or we could plan a trip sooner. We compromised and did both. Our first extension went through the beginning of March.
There is a man who was called into God's Church a number of years ago who has studied abroad, specializing in photography and journalism
It seemed logical to me to visit Chipata both as a way to renew our visitors permits and to meet Filius and those who meet with him. I had been in contact with him on Twitter over the past few months and I had let him know that we were going to plan a visit early in March. Little did I know the congregation in Chipata had already been planning a special Sabbath for that same time. The pastor from Lusaka in the western province, Major Nawa Talama, had been invited to come to Chipata. The new building was just about complete and an dedication of sorts had been planned to give thanks to God and all those who had contributed to the construction and planning process.
With visiting pastors, deacons, and lay members coming from different areas and different countries, legitimacy was given to what was being done by this small group of people who had come together to worship God
It was amazing to hear of how the bricks had been made and placed, one on top of the other, by members of the congregation. Some of them teenagers or young adults eager to learn and to serve in any way needed. One goal was to be as independent as possible because outside aid may not always be available. This was the idea with the crops as well. The congregation was offered maize to help sustain them during the last period of drought, but instead they asked for just the seed to be able to plant so that they could sustain themselves even longer than just a few months. They are learning how to diversify their crops and how to provide lasting nutrients to these crops through natural methods. Filius not only knows about God, but also about farming so he is a help to the people in more ways than one
We had a wonderful Sabbath day with our brethren, watching and listening, fellowshiping and learning together. We had time to spend with our friends the Talamas, the Kasakabantus, and our new friends, Filius Jere and his wife and congregation. We shared a meal prepared there at the church hall in a makeshift kitchen that was set up the day before. At the end of a very long day we climbed back in the Bongo with our gift of two doves and a few passengers headed back into town. I prayed, as we left, that we wouldn't tip over as we drive again along a road not meant for anything other than foot traffic or offroad vehicles, knowing that if God wanted us to continue on, He would make it possible.
We returned to our lodge that evening and tried our best to care for the birds we now own. It was great visiting more of God's people in a very beautiful location. It was nice to rest a while and be in one place long enough to get a little comfortable. All the same, it was nice to head back across the boarder along the nicest, smoothest highway in Africa (so far), and to see the streets and roads that have become familiar to us in Malawi. I'm sure the birds were happy to be free of their tiny cage.
The past week has been spent visiting the LifeNets office and the church building for meetings, running errands (including paying bills, trying to figure out internet issues and post office box issues, grocery shopping, etc.), writing sermons and blogs, taking phone calls from foreign and domestic friends and colleagues, getting back into a routine of walking in the bush out back, and generally living life like normal human beings.
UPDATE on the birds: We still aren't sure if we were given pigeons or doves, but according to my research there really isn't a difference anyway. They've survived a week in a makeshift cage fashioned out of a laundry basket. We are searching for for cage that will have room enough for a bird bath and maybe some space for both of them to spread their wings just enough. Apparently pigeons are very territorial and they fight a lot. We adore Lil Nugs and Peggy.
P.S. - The beverage that the brethren in Zambia made is called tobwa. It's a slightly fermented beverage, sweet and a little grainy. It's made from a local root, and sometimes maize as well. Sugar is added and the brew is heated for a few hours and set to rest for a few more hours. It's generally made for special occasions. Not too bad in my opinion.
Old Friends and Uncharted Territory
Friday, March 10, 2017
Chipata, Chipata, Zambia