Both Bev and I have wanted very badly to come back to South Central Africa. We have developed an eternal relationship with these people. We feel we know them well and that there is a special bond between us.
The Work of LifeNets
Yes, we have done many nice things for them through LifeNets, but our relationship goes far beyond that. We have gotten to know them, their children and their mates. We value them as human beings with the same potential as any other human being on earth. On this earth people are rated by what they do, how much money they make and their authority. Malawi and Zambia are the third and fourth poorest countries in the world according to United Nations statistics. They typically make 50 TIMES less than their counterparts in the modern Western countries. Yet, they have the same thoughts, emotions, love, family relationships and on and on as any of us experience. We value them as EQUALS in that regard and thus our relationship.
In the past four or five years Beverly has done much of the day to day work with keeping track of all the scholarships, livelihood development grants, agricultural needs and all other humanitarian help we have provided to the area. We provide in excess of $100,000 a year in various forms of assistance to the people here in the form of projects that help in practical ways, develop self-sufficiency and teach these people to help others. On the whole our work has accomplished just that. We have tremendous stewards people on the ground such as Kambani Banda who understand our philosophy and administer our aid.
Never had I so many plates spinning before a trip as I did now. I not only pastor the Lafayette and Terre Haute, Indiana congregations, but have some time consuming tasks with the Council of Elders plus am Senior Pastor of the Eastern Europe / Scandinavia region. Then, there's LifeNets which I really enjoy because it's taken on a life that I never imagined it would. We've provided hundreds of people support and hope. Next year we'll be ten years old and during this time have provided more than four million dollars in charitable help. You can get a feel of our outreach through our Web site at www.lifenets.org. You can request an eNewsletter on our site....or just send me an email and I'll add you to the list.
In the past two years we've had others who have gone to Africa on our behalf or whom we had sponsored. They have shared a voice of spreading the word about the area and our work. In the summer of 2007 two medical students Aaron Blue and Phil Myers spent about a month at the Chizeni Clinic in Balaka, Malawi. Accompanying them was Jennifer Myers from Northern Indiana. Their story is so well told in Phil's blog. I have some of their photos and stories to post on our LifeNets Web site.
We've had Rebecca McClure, a 14 year old young lady in Indianapolis raise $1000 towards one of our wells in Malawi. My Rotary Club has generously contributed. This coming January a junior college student from Seattle University will go and live in Lilongwe as part of a school project and, as her assignment, do an assessment of all our work, mostly our providing scholarships.
We will be keeping the Feast of Tabernacles in both Malawi and Zambia. We've done this four times before. It's great as we can share this joyous time together and get to know each other better.
The day to leave finally came. TODAY! October 2, 2008. We flew from Indianapolis to Detroit. Then on to Paris and will be continuing on to Johannesburg arriving Friday night. On Saturday morning we will fly up to Blantyre, Malawi for Church services.
An interesting thing happened, however, this past week.
One of our acquaintances in Malawi is Agnes Katsonga Phiri who we know through Rotary. We met her at the Blantyre Rotary Club in 2004 when Rotary International donated two ambulances to the two clinics we have built in Malawi. Since that time we have gotten to know each other quite well and have stayed in each other's homes. She is the head of Malawi's Inland Revenue, Custom and Excise. A great resource! Her husband Mark is a Member of Parliament. He has been former head of the Chamber of Commerce in Blantyre and quite well known.
We were about to call them and let them know that we would like to drop in on them, but they beat us to the punch! Agnes called us from GREENCASTLE, Indiana. Their youngest daughter started DePauw University there and they wanted to know if we could drive them from Greencastle back to Indianapolis. They also have a son Steven who lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana. One reason they were back was that he was able to buy a Hummer H-2. He's wanted one for a long time. He will have it shipped back by container from the East Coast. We got to see his new Hummer. He'll be only the second one in Malawi who owns a Hummer and this is a big deal for him.
Anyway, last Monday I dropped everything and headed for Greencastle. Bev and I took them out to lunch and got them on their way to Ft. Wayne. They are also leaving TODAY for home in Malawi and we'll be together on the last leg of our trip to Blantyre. We feel that there is more than a coincidence to these events. The Phiri's have been so helpful in helping us with snags we've had in Malawi...perhaps in some way we have more to do.
We are paying for this flight over with Frequent Flyer miles. It wasn't that much more to go Business Class. We're on the Paris/Johannesburg leg of the trip as I write. We're on Air France and it's been just wonderful. Regular coach flying has become so unfun. The food, service and room has been great. We're flying on Air France. There are so many biases against the French and their snobbishness and attitude towards Americans. This flight has been anything but that. The courtesy, conversation and kindness has been unlike any flight that I've ever been on. At the end of our leg that ended in Paris, the chief flight attendant came to all passengers and said good-bye - au revoir! It was very sweet. Very family-like.
On this trip my laptop use will be more limited and I may have to post most of my photos after we get back from this trip.
On to Paris, France
Friday, October 03, 2008