Friday, September 29, 2006
Lilongwe, Malawi
On our international travels what I enjoy most is interacting with people of different cultures and races. As a minister of Jesus Christ, I find it nothing short of miraculous that the values or behaviors of Christianity are universal and were intended to work with all people, no matter how diverse they may be.

I'm not sure why I even started my thoughts today with these words except to say that our mission wherever we travel is promote, preach a way of life that gives application to the maxim in the last paragraph . As we head for poor Malawi which is so different from my culture, background and citizenship, these thoughts flood my brain.

I got up at 3:30 am. ... we left at 6:15 am for Johannesburg airport, but before that I wanted to get another entry on my TravelPod blog which I did. Bill Jahns fortunately has DSL and wireless and it was easy to do. It may be a little while before more postings are made, but I'll keep writing the blog and upload as I'm able.

The traffic in the Johannesburg area is like any major city in the world. The Joburg area has over five million people in a society that has extreme wealth coexisting side by side with poverty.

We were concerned that our luggage was far too much for the internal traffic within Africa. In fact, we were braced to pay upwards of $200 in additional overweight charges. I silently prayed that we wouldn't have to. All that overage was in humanitarian items that we brought over . As we walked through the scales and had our luggage weighed, the airline representative just looked at us and waved us by. We asked no questions. As we checked in were not charged anything at all! Whew!!

We had an uneventful 2 hour ten minute flight on South African Airways to Lilongwe. On the flight there were 28 peace corps volunteers who were headed to Malawi to teach in the villages. Stuart from Rockford, Illinois sat next to us and excitedly related his anticipation of his upcoming two year assignment.

When we arrived at the airport in Lilongwe, a huge banner along with cheers welcomed the Peace Corps.

Of all times we've entered Malawi, we had more than the usual number of questions from customs officials. We were asked to open our case holding the eyeglasses for inspection. We were told that we had to have any accompanying letter from ourselves to customs stating that these were for humanitarian purposes.

Edwin and Mesheck Chonde picked us up at the airport in the Malakia Clinic ambulance. It was great seeing them again. We first met them when they came with their parents to the Feast of Tabernacles in Mutare, Zimbabwe in ten years ago in 1996.

The last time Bev and I were in Malawi was two years ago and we worked with the Rotary Club to help the Lilongwe Boys School with financing to build a 400 plus meter wall around the campus of buildings . The school had gone into terrible disrepair being vandalized by the thousands of people who walked through it daily on the way to work or market. Along with my Northeast Indianapolis Rotary Club and the Lilongwe Club we wrote a $30,000 proposal for builiding the new wall. The wall was just recently finished and we went to see it. It was built in five weeks by 50 workers. What a difference it has made! The school was now shielded from the masses who walked through it daily. Now there was peace on the campus. We spoke with the head mistress Hilda Kuhndi who thanked us and showed us through some of the classrooms. There were desks now for the first time. On our visit last time there none. They were all stolen and cut up for firewood. There is still a lot to be done with the school with sanitation and broken windows, but the wall was a vital start.

From the Lilongwe Boys School we stopped by Emily Chifamuka who we helped three years ago with a livelihood development project to start a sewing business . She is the woman who had a stroke when giving birth to her last child and became incapacitated in speech. She is a gifted seamstress.

She has really applied herself and is building a shop in the Salima area on Lake Malawi where there are many foreign tourists. We want to help her complete the shop. She has financed most of the construction herself and needs another $1000 to finish the shop that will feature a storefront featuring her hand sewn creations. She proudly displayed a man's suit coat she tailored along with other items.

From Emily's we went to the Malakia Clinic in area 21 of Lilongwe where Gladstone and Alice Chonde live. It was wonderful to see Alice and Gladstone again. It was getting close to closing time for the clinic and we saw Gladstone consulting the last patients of the day, a mother bringing in her young son to the clinic.

We walked to the Chonde's home about a quarter mile away. Children were running in the streets playing. A man was loudly chanting the beatitudes of Christ as the children responded to each of them. It was interesting to see this interplay.

Alice served us a dinner of rice, beef and vegetables. We have known them now for ten years and what an exciting ride it's been. This is our fifth visit with them in this period. They have been able to build a clinic . Her husband Gladstone was ordained an elder in June of last year.

After a while Gladstone came home from work and we spent the next three hours just talking and catching up from the past two years. Their son Mark had been our source of communications, but he has moved to the United Kingdom near Manchester with his new wife to finish school. He will be returning to Malawi in November. Since his leaving communication has been sporadic and unreliable. Email is always the best because you can be clear about what you're talking about. We have supplied the Malakia Clinic that LifeNets built with medicine the last eight years and communication is vital for ordering the medicine properly.

We talked about LifeNets support for the various projects and discussed the various ones that have been very successful in bringing about self-sufficiency and others that have been marginal. We talked about ways to improve our program in both livelihood development and educational scholarships . We were glad to have this discussion face to face.

Chonde's son Edwin along with his wife Edda and daughter Beverly are staying with their parents. They joined us in the evening's conversation. They showed us the mosquito nets that were provided by LifeNets as part of the "Nets Save Lives" project by Christina Davis in Portland, Oregon who raised $5000 for mosquito nets. These nets cost about $5 each. It was good to see the entire chain come to its end with the project conceived, money raised for, nets purchased and now used by the intended beneficiaries in Malawi! Eighty nets were distributed in Lilongwe, 100 in Zambia with the remainder in Blantyre and Balaka.

Then Edwin and Mesheck took us back to the Baptist Missionary Apartments where we are staying. We stayed her two years ago. The Baptists allow people on religious or humanitarian missions to stay here at very nominal cost: $16 a night. They room is very comfortable and sufficient for us and saves lots of money. We stopped at a shop called 7-Eleven...just like in the United States for some breakfast items. We were very tired and collapsed for a good night's rest.
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