I am in the middle of a series of posts reflecting on a ten day trip to Malawi, Africa to establish a ten-church partnership with World Vision, Opportunity International, the Presbyterian Church in Central Africa and two local Malawian ministries.
As you can tell from these stories, the people of Malawi are as inspiring as they are in need. They are people of genuine faith, of a deep sense of family and community who are facing a daunting challenge of poverty, disease and now the scourge of AIDS.
Let me tell you one more story. On Tuesday, we visited Nkhoma, the site of the World Vision Area Development Project where we could be partners. It is a beautiful valley. We drove up and parked our cramped Land rovers in front of a single mud hut building.
After greeting us in typical warm fashion, they told us that this building was the only school in the area, for 240 children. The littlest ones sit all day on stones for seats, in the hot sun trying to learn.
Seven years ago, they had been promised by the government enough cement to build a school if they’d make the bricks. So they worked for weeks, burned up all their firewood and made hundreds and hundreds of bricks. The cement never came, the brick piled in decaying heaps and they have no more firewood.
When the World Vision workers asked them what their first priority was for improving their community, the leader of the village said that it was education for their children. When the worker pointed out that they also had a bad cholera problem and needed clean water, the head man replied, “If you help us educate our children, one of them will grow up and solve our water problem.”
Steve Haas, vice-president of World Vision USA, said, “That was a leader with a vision. He wasn’t looking just to the immediate need, but to the long-term good of his people.”
At the end of the tour they took us to a site in the middle of the field. Because they heard we were coming, they had spent two days clearing the grass in a large rectangular area. This was the place where they wanted to build the new school for the children. And these people, led by their visionary leader, wanted to give us a vision for what could happen here if we partnered with them.
My 11 year old son, Brooks was standing with me and I said, “Someday, son, I want you to come back here and stand in this spot and see the school that we are going to help build. You come back here and remember this day when you stood here with your Dad and we prayed that God would let us partner with these people.”
(Later I learned that while the school is the community leader’s first priority, World Vision will work with the leadership of the village to take steps to make their water safer at the same time. They also discovered that in the area there are two previously built wells that are not working. They’ll be able to get those wells going at the same time. So when the ADP is up and running, this community will have water for today and schools for their future.)
Yesterday at church we announced the partnership and already a huge stack of interest forms for sponsoring children through World Vision are coming into our church office. Over the next three weeks we will be pulling together the details, but from Mother’s Day to Father’s Day we will be having a child sponsorship drive for the children of the Nkhoma ADP. If you’d like to receive information on how you can be part of this project, just email me. We’d welcome your partnership with us.