Malawi!!

Thursday, March 22, 2018
Lilongwe, Central Region, Malawi
We are ff to Malawi for the umpteenth time for Bev and me.  The route is well-known to us from Johannesburg which is the once daily 10 am two-hour flight to the country of Malawi.
As Arthur Fisher gets us closer to the airport, I’m tightening up side.  We have such a huge amount of luggage, 100 pounds each plus carry-ons that were obviously over-stuffed.  I was prepared to pay substantial overweight as has happened in our history of travel. 
The last three times at Johannesburg airport we got dropped off at the wrong terminal and had to walk a considerable distance to the right one.  This time the signs point to the usually wrong terminal and I said to myself: not again!  I said let’s go to the terminal that we end up with.  So we did, but the porter at the curb said go back to other one.  I said NO.  Sure enough, I was right.  First time!
Then, we wanted to make absolutely sure that our bags were no more than 50 pounds.  An overzealous worker (and they hang and hang around for tips) told us that he could get us checked in at a Premium location with an agent that would just take us because he was not busy.   We weighed and then had all four suitcases wrapped in plastic.  The premium gate agent then checked us in, didn’t care about the carry-ons.  Not a cent in overweight and all done for the cost of a $5 tip. But, I’m concerned now about customs to possibly pay. We have four laptops, 120 solar lanterns, phones, video projector, battery packs, chargers—all kinds of electronic things. 
Then our two hour and five minute flight to Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi.  Malawi has  a distinctive landscape with jutting peaks like in western South Dakota.  It’s the closest place to Malawi that I had seen in landscape. Verdant.  Looks well watered as we head now towards winter. 
First thing we were asked for was yellow fever certifications before we even entered through immigration.  I’m glad we brought ours along! 
Then the maddening and chaotic pre-immigration process of getting a $75 visas to enter Malawi.  Chaotic in that an Ethiopian plane arrived at the same time as ours.  The airport does not normally have much traffic through the day and with having two major airlines arrive at the same time caused quite a line through immigration.   What you need to do is first stand in line to get your visa form.  Then you find a way then to fill it out which I did for Bev and me.  Then you have to take it to the payment center.  Then get it stamped into your passport.  It’s not exactly clear at the airport what you need to do. 
We’ve gone through this exact process the last three times at this airport in the last three years and there’s been absolutely no improvements in the process.
Finally, we got to immigration and then pick up our luggage.  I was concerned about all the goods we had.  But, we sailed right through.  Only one bag randomly was checked and it passed! 
Brennan and Michala Hilgen were waiting for us. It was so good to see both of them! What a relief to get through what I consider the hardest day of our travels as far as getting in and out of countries with goods.
We really wanted to get over to the church hall and the LifeNets Business Centre and see how it looked.  It is located in Area 8 on the Mchesi – Biwi Lower Road.   Brennan and Michala live in Area 3. 
It was so good to immediately see Chimemwe Kalima working in the grocery.  Also, it was good to see the beauty salon and the Internet café.  There we saw Juliana Kachali working in the Internet Café.  I didn’t recognize her at first as she had a new huge feminine Afro hairstyle. 
Then we saw Joseph who is the Business manager.  We saw Esther, the widow of Alfred Mitimoni.  Her husband was a faithful and wonderful deacon, died just a few months ago in January.  She cried and we sympathized with her. 
We took a look around the grounds of the Church and it was so heartening to see the people start getting a sense of ownership of this property and its use.  Emmanuel Rashid placed plants all around the building which really made it come alive.  Much rubble had been cleaned up. The windows were cleaned.  This was all important to Bev! 
The inside of the hall looked great.  There is an office, an extra room for overnight guests in the building.  And, a new mirror was hung in the bathroom! 
This was so exciting for us to see.   I should have taken more photos, but we were just awe-struck in seeing all of this.  I’ll have lots more when we come back through here next Wednesday when we return for the Passover.
The hall is beautiful and spacious for the Lilongwe church. 
We spent our time talking with Joseph and then Brennan and Michala about the church and all the activity here in Malawi.  They have done a marvelous job of serving here and have really filled an important functioning role.  He is speaking most weeks of the month by necessity.  They both have taken to the tasks of visiting all the brethren.  Most weeks on Saturday nights after services they have a family or two to their home for dinner where they want to become better acquainted with the people.  They have a club going in the congregation to help develop speaking and communication skills. They told me more about all the things that they are doing.  They are also keeping up the church grounds.  They have also been quite active in counseling with the brethren on various questions.   They are a success story of desire, commitment, learning and continual improvement. 
We still regard Lewis VanAusdle, who along with his wife Lena, live in New York City.  Lewis will continue to give general direction to matters here.  This makes Brennan his trainee, even though he is 8000 miles away, but it works with modern communication.
For dinner we all went for an early dinner to Mama Mia’s… one of our favorite places. 
On the way to the restaurant there was a cloud burst of the proportions I had never seen myself.  Water poured from the skies and over the roads.  Water rose in the streets literally in minutes and drainage was overpowered.  We just made it to the restaurant.  There our conversation continued about all their adventures, and their day to day life that is fulfilling a vital role in the spiritual development and the proclamation of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God and Jesus Christ.
When we got back to the hotel, we found Haiton Thungula there waiting and desiring to greet us.  We invited him into our room and we talked about things.  He has been a big help in this church, especially since 2011. We talked about the church dedication ceremony which will be held on March 31.
We are staying at the Mafumu Hotel which we really liked last year. 
What a full day!  
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2018-06-25