After a week in Malawi with The Grove’s team of 63 people, I just flew up to Kenya to meet up with our other Grove team that is headed to Liberia. As we waited for our connecting flight one of them asked me, “What are some highlights from your week in Malawi?” I love that question. I’ll share a few highlights with you:
Watching a new tin roof replace a widow’s dilapidated thatched roof was a highlight. When I showed up with our construction team to look at one of the widow’s huts that needed a new roof, even I was surprised at the condition of the roof. A few pieces of tattered plastic and a thin layer of thatch was supposed to keep out the rain… but it was full of holes. The guys took turns going inside because they couldn’t believe how much sunlight was coming through the gaping holes.
The next morning we returned with a pick-up full of lumber and tin. By that afternoon the small mud hut had a shiny new roof over the heads of a widow and her seven children. That was a highlight.
Pulling bright new colored t-shirts over the heads of 300 village kids was a highlight. Just before leaving for Africa, The Grove’s t-shirt printer had a fortunate misprint… he had misprinted hundreds shirts and didn’t know what he was going to do with them. I told him, “Let me buy them off you really cheap, and we’ll give them away in Malawi.” He was glad for the offer. So Saturday, when our team held a VBS for hundreds of children in the Chimpampa village, the kids showed up in the one outfit they owned: ragged, torn, dingy shirts, shorts, and dress. It was so fun to watch the expressions on their faces when our team began to pull bright purple, yellow, blue, and red t-shirts on every kid. The dusty village filled with color.
Hearing the stories of our people was a highlight. Every night, for a week, when we came together for dinner I got to hear the compelling stories of our people’s day. One young mother bubbled, “My afternoon with the high-school girls playing net-ball (a Malawian version of basketball only played by women) was the best experience of my life.” Another said, “When we showed up to paint the orphan girls’ bedrooms, we didn’t expect them to help, but they all came in and painted with us. It was the best day ever.” Three ran up to me one evening and exclaimed, “We spent the day taking mini-busses (public transportation) around Lilongwe buying 500 new plates and cups and spoons for all the kids in the feeding program… and together we are sponsoring three children from one family so they can eat every day too!”
Watching our women give giant bags of maize to widows was a highlight. One of our teams is spending their two weeks loving widows whose husbands have died of AIDS. Veronica and the team brought with them from America gifts like dresses and shoes. But on Friday they bought a bag of maize for each widow. A bag of maize doesn’t cost much to us, but it will feed one family for two to three months. It’s the Malawian staple. Without maize people die in Malawi, literally. Watching women from The Grove pull huge bags of life-giving maize through the doors of small mud huts was a beautiful highlight.
Having my twelve-year-old son ask if can give his shoes away was a highlight. In all the years I’ve been doing short-term trips to Africa, this was the first time my sons have been able to go with me. It was good. It was especially good when my twelve-year-old whispered to me, as we loaded up the van after our first day in the Chimpampa village where practically every child goes barefoot, “Dad, I brought two pairs of shoes with me, can I give one away before we leave?” I love it. He’s heard his dad’s passion, but now his heart is bothered. That was a great highlight.