Our biggest burden the first part off this trip is all the luggage that Bev and I have to handle. We have exactly 200 pounds of weight between the two of us. We were able to take all that without any extra overweight charge all
The Flight to Blantyre
We got to the very large Johannesburg airport early. Again, porters galore, but we were happy to have one particular really help us get everything up to the check in. We wonder sometimes why we do all this. We have lots of things to get to our people and it will be a great relief when we unload most of what we have with us.
We meet Mark and Agnes Phiri at boarding. It is an amazing coincidence about our ending up on the same flight with both of us unbeknownst starting in Indiana and ending up in Malawi.
It's interesting to note who the other travelers are to Malawi. Almost every American is connected with an NGO or church mission. Some have been to Malawi several times, others never. Some have high hopes of making a difference. I really respect these people who take time out from their comfortable lives in the United States and consider the disadvantaged and vulnerable people in another land.
Agnes Phiri who is in charge of the Customs and Excise for the country of Malawi is a good person to have along at this very moment. She helps us whiz through immigration and customs. She has been extra thoughtful and helpful.
At the airport Eliphazi Salawila, Gracious Mpilangwe, Bilton Salawila and Innocent Khembo are waiting for us with two vehicles. It's great to see them! We exchange hugs, get loaded and off to the Neyac Classic Lodge where it was recommended for us to stay. You must remember that we are not five star ministers. We're more like one star. We try to get by as inexpensively as we can for the security we need.
The Lodge is very new operating only since last January. It was once an estate home turning into an Inn. We have only 15 minutes here before we go to Sabbath Services about two miles away. We are notified that there is no Internet. To use any kind of Internet we have to go into town. I've given up on Dial-up a long time ago. My computer capacity will be lower on this trip because my email files were corrupted when I tried to transfer them to my laptop from my flash drive. The only place I can receive email will be from firstname.lastname@example.org.
We're still reeling from the length of just getting here. It is very hot. Back home we're getting used to the lower temperatures, but here it's going into summer and more hotter days are expected.
Church Services in Blantyre, Malawi
We walk into Sabbath services and everyone is quietly seated waiting for us. They looked so somber as we walked in but quickly everyone broke into smiles and we vigorously started shaking hands It's been two years since being here and it was absolutely wonderful to see everyone again.
It was time to start services. A table was set up front, but quickly a glass podium discovered in the back of the stage and we decided to use it.
Lewis Salawila led songs, his brother Bilton played the keyboard. Mr. Eliphazi Salawila went through the welcomings and announcements. The Blantyre choir sang beautifully.
Then I had the sermon. Since the Day of Atonement is coming up, Mr. T. K. Chirwa was commissioned to translate for me. While most of the congregation understands English, some are much more comfortable with the Chewa language. While the translation can sometimes be arduous and awkward, it greatly adds to comprehension.
My subject was humility and how God's view of it is not casual, but that it is a vital component of Christian character.
After services we talked to the brethren. People dispersed and Innocent and Mr. Salawila took us back to the Neyac Classic Lodge. He will be here tomorrow at 10:30 am when we will begin touring of all our projects in Blantyre. This will be a three day event. We really want to see how everything is going.
As we come back to the room Agnes Phiri comes by. She is so watchful of us and so kind. She notified us that some of their luggage was stolen on the trip back from the United States. They had their luggage checked straight through to Blantyre from Indiana and on the last overnight a suitcase containing some valuable items was taken. Another one did not arrive, but was supposed to the next day.
Agnes is a very caring person. As mentioned, she is head of Customs and Excise for Malawi. She had earlier been over the equivalent of the IRS for the southern part of Malawi. She is a Rotarian leader and does a lot of charitable work. Her big personal project is running a micro-credit program for 800 Malawian women that she has well-organized.
We invited her to stay for dinner with us, but she had to go. Bev and I had dinner alone. We are the only ones staying at this lodge.
After dinner I was absolutely tired and wanted to wait until the next day before doing any more planning. After the long trip and Church services, it was all I could physically handle and I fell asleep.
But, shortly after I did, Agnes appeared again. She wanted to make sure that we had a Malawi mobile phone and brought an extra one she had with a SIM card. Such thoughtfulness. I have my Blackberry, but it is very expensive to use for calling. I have been using it to send TXT messages to my son Michael back home, but otherwise I'm out of the loop of the Internet until I get to a café and can send all this out. We enjoy Agnes and her enthusiasm very much. We see why she is so highly regarded in this country.
Tomorrow, Sunday, we are going to start visiting our LifeNets projects.....we are very anxious to see how our people have done.
Saturday, October 04, 2008