Okay I take it all back ... Scary Homeland Security Chick ... how can I blame her now after what happened recently in New York (bomb in vehicle). She's probably reacting like that because she's freaked out herself.
Anyway I digress. I thought I would do some of my favourite things for you.
Picture above - Alex with wee little one at Maula Orphan Care Centre.
Syd - Maula
Just look at my girl go - I don't know how many balloon dogs she made but she became very skilled at it and the kids loved them.
Girls at Grace Orphan Care - they loved their face painting so much they kept rubbing it off and asking for new ones. We did face painting for more than an hour. They asked for a heart by saying the word "love."
This baby at Ana Di Atu was being carried around on her sister's back. She was soaked with urine (no diapers) but she was a darlin.
Len Coleman - Johannesburg
Our wonderful brother in Christ who helped Syd and I - strangers in a strange land.
This is a picture from our visit to Isaac's mom and her house in the village.
It was not a good thing that Sydney and I weren't wearing our chtanges (sp?). That is the long skirt material you see us wearing in the pictures from our days at the orphan care centres. It is inappropriate to not wear a long skirt and have your knees exposed when you are in the village. Isaac's mom pointed it out to Alex.
Well anyway...back to Scary Homeland Security Chick
After 19 hours in an airplane with crying babies, no sleep and numb legs, Syd and I landed in New York. Wow New York so cool … well you’d think except there was no Statue of Liberty greeting us. After being in several airports by this time, Sydney and I had begun to critique them and New York failed miserably - very dull and unattractive. We made our way to Customs and Immigration where we lined up with about several hundred other passengers to wait our turn going through American security. While standing in line Scary Homeland Security Chick starts yelling at this man (from India in his 50’s) about stepping out of line. He just looked like he was uncertain of where he supposed to go to me and had briefly stepped out of line. Okay let me describe Scary Homeland Security Chick to you. She was about mid-height, spiky hair, all tatted up, beefy and seriously packing (like quick-draw McGraw wild west type). Several of us in line tried to avert our eyes and not make eye contact with her for fear that we too would be subjected to scary interrogation. Thus began a very long time where this man was grilled right in front of us. What are you doing here? You should know the rules by now, you spent 3 years in the States before. What were you doing during that time? Were you watching tv? Were you working … what were you doing? You could tell this guy was flustered, embarrassed and scared – who can blame him? I was scared for him. I know it’s their job and I can only imagine what it must be for like for a nation to experience the psychological effects of a catastrophic event such as 9/11 – I totally get all that. But I gotta say, I think I would have had a heart attack if I happened to be the person in that guy’s shoes.
Anyway after New York we flew to LA, then San Francisco and finally we landed in Vancouver. You know what … in our opinion Vancouver had the best airport by far. It is very dramatic when you walk through and see the huge eagle suspended in the air to greet you. Really good to be home in the land of abundance and plenty.
I thought I would update you on some things and talk about others that I didn’t get a chance to before we left.
Nixon And The Law
You might remember Nixon (one of the guards) and getting his arm broken while trying to retrieve the soccer ball from the other village. After this whole thing happened, Nixon was very scared and frightened about retribution for himself and his family. He talked with us about having to move now because these people would make life difficult for him. Moving would be very hard for him because he is just starting to gain some stability and food security for his family. Andre told me that when Nixon first started working for him (guard), he was not eating because his family was starving and Nixon couldn’t bare to eat any food that would make less for his children. Andre and Alex hired Nixon and helped him put a new metal roof on a new brick house (no small expense I’m sure) and moving would mean he would loose all of that in addition to the loss of village support.
We validated Nixon concerning his situation and fear but also encouraged him to stand firm and trust the Lord and then we prayed with him. A few days later Nixon told us he was afraid but he wasn’t going to let that make him move (this is the general gist I got from the conversation). He told us that the village elders also encouraged him to do the right thing and go to the police. They felt he was in the right and those men had done wrong, so Nixon went to the law. Andre had to also go in and make a statement about the event and then Nixon had to pay $700 quacha to the hospital so he could get a copy of the medical report to bring into the police. Nothing is without expense in Malawi. Last I heard Nixon was going to have to go to court on Thursday. I know fast eh! Hopefully that is a good thing.
They Grow Them Big in Malawi
We had to go to the clinic before we left to get medication for that parasite in Lake Malawi and on the side of the wall was a huge snail. I kid you not, this thing was at least 8 inches long. After that we saw a preying mantis on the roof of the car. I’ve only ever seen the one on the cartoon movie Kung Fu Panda (smiling) so to see one in real life was surprising. So there I am minding my business, taking it’s picture and this thing skitters across the car roof and flies at me. Yes it landed on my bag and you should have heard the screams and yells that came out me. Apparently, I provided some rousing crazy white lady entertainment for those in the clinic (I could hear them laughing).
Another creepy crawly I must share with you is my adventure with this long, black thing with red spots. Creeped me right out. You might not remember but one of my prayer requests was for snakes… or rather that I wouldn’t see any because I go ballistic when I see one. Well my friend and her ladies group started praying for me prior to us leaving and was committed to praying for me the entire time we would be away. Knowing this I’ve been cautious but strangely okay with being in the boonies and other such places where I might encounter such a creature. Well that all changed when we went to the Lilwonde National Park. Andre wanted to show Sydney and I this Baobab tree that has a lot of human bones inside - leftovers of a Leper colony. When I got out of the truck I see this black thing about 2 inches thick curling through the grass and I freaked out. I leaped back in the truck and wouldn’t come out. Andre had to take a picture for me. After I freaked, Syd realizes she is several feet from the truck and there is a snake between her and her safe destination. I confess … yes … I have a flaw. I was safe and that was all that mattered (smiley face). Andre comes over and sees it and then tells me that it is a centipede. I could hardly believe the thing was huge, but on the upside the Lord answered the prayers of those ladies and others, and I did not see a snake the entire time I was there.
Later I’ll tell you about our visit with the Colemans in Johannesburg and other things I’ve not had time to write about.
I’ll leave you with another sign – this one for lodging…
“The place with all the necessary facilities for your convenient living.” Funny … no water or sewer - I’m curious what other necessary facilities do they provide?
Stay tuned - more to come.
Yes I woke up this morning singing,
"Our God is an awesome God,
He reigns from heaven above.
With wisdom, power, and love
Our God is an awesome God!"
But I get ahead of myself - let me back up and share with you this amazing adventure the Lord is taking us on.
Monday was a day of frustration and futility. We received an email from our travel agent that she 'happened' to find 2 missionary tickets for Sydney and I to travel home via New York and Los Angeles. The hitch, getting out of Blantyre. Due to the class of ticket we had we needed South African Airways to change our ticket so they would let us fly out of Blantyre on Wednesday. Needless to say after several phone conversations to Toronto and SA in Blantyre, we were unable to have confidence in South African's 'arrangements.' Not only that but SA had overbooked 10 tickets on that flight which we knew would be a problem because of all the people in the same situation as we were.
So we ended up having to leave Tuesday morning at 6:15 am and drive 4.5 hours to Lilongwe. Alex had to drive us with her broken leg and both Alex and Andre had to make a lot of arrangements with the girls and a vehicle to get us on that plane.
Already I must go now but quickly I am praising God beause of His people. We had no accommodation arrangements for Tuesday night when we left for Johannesburg (don't fly out until Wednesday evening) and didn't know what was going to happen when we got there. We had heard there were literally thousands of people in our situation and no available hotel accommodations. But Bill Boesterd from our church knew someone in Johannesburg and so he made a phone call. Apparently Bill met Len Coleman a few years ago during a business trip to South Africa. Bill phoned Len and his wife Sarie and asked if they could help Sydney and I with our situation. Bill made arrangements with Len to pick us up at the airport and accommodate us at their home for the night. I can't tell you now all of the amazing details that occurred to make that happen and how Len, Bill and Mike cooridinated everything so Len could arrive at the right moment for Sydney and I. We are so thankful and wowed by our Lord that He took care of all of the details and kept Sydney and I safe.
Today we leave from Johannesburg to start a journey that will involve almost 30 hours of air travel, 4 planes, one plane change, 2 stops and several hours of layover time in many airports. We are thankful the Lord can get us home before April 28, which is when British Airways was estimating we would be able to fly out on their planes.
"I love the Lord because He hears my prayers and answers them.
Because He bends down and listens. I will pray as long as I
breathe." - Psalm 116:1&2
So we found out on Friday that flights around the world were grounded due to the volcanic eruption in Iceland. On Saturday morning we were given official word that our flight was in fact cancelled. We could still fly out of Blantyre to Johannesburg and join the thousands of other stranded travelers in Johannesburg or stay in Zomba. We chose to stay. We were told the airport in Johannesburg doesn’t allow anyone to stay in the building and they kick you out at night. With so many people in the same situation, there likely wouldn’t be much in the way of accommodations. Unfortunately, we were unaware that Mike had found a pastor and his wife in Johannesburg (they know people in our church at home), who would have taken us in. We trust the Lord and believe He has us in the best place for our current situation.
Now we have to deal with the uncertainty of trying to get home. Flights only leave Blantyre on Wednesdays and Saturdays and we don’t have anyone on this end who can help us. We tried calling British Airways in South Africa but that was an exercise in frustration. What a comical pair we were – I’m out in the garden because he can’t hear me; I can’t hear him because my hearing is worse here trying to understand English through an accent and I spent a good 5 minutes trying to get him to understand me and spell my name correctly. What a waste of time and precious phone minutes (phoning in Africa is quite expensive).
So if you are a praying person, please pray for us. It is my hope that things will get worked out and we will be able to leave on Wednesday, April 21. Will keep you posted as we know more.
Isaac’s Birthday – Guard #1
On Tuesday, Alex made a cake for Isaac’s birthday. Okay for those of you who don’t know, making a cake here is quite a feat. Living in Malawi is a little like camping in my opinion, so I was duly impressed when I saw this fantastic cake with green icing. After our busy day of ministry work we rushed home to get Isaac’s birthday celebration ready. We had to hurry before Musa showed up for work otherwise he would’ve been put out by our fussing over Isaac. Talk about hurry up, blow your candles out, quickly sing happy birthday and then get out. Okay not quite that rude but definitely that rushed. None-the-less Isaac had a grand time. This was also our time to bless him and his wife Florence, little girl Sophie (5 yrs) and son, Caiden (1 yr) with gifts. Isaac and his family are by far the most endearing out of the guards. Isaac is also the gardener and he works very hard. I think he really loves Alex and Andre and is quite concerned about them going home to Canada in the summer. Isaac’s future is uncertain with the loss of employment he will experience when they leave and he is hoping Andre will be able to secure another job for him. Anyway Isaac turned 28 years old. Life expectancy in Malawi is roughly 46 years for men and 43 years for women.
Wednesday – Liwonde National Park
Wednesday was a day to take a break and we decided to go to the Liwonde National Park. The Park is 538 sq2 in area. We were able to drive our vehicle through the Park and go where we wanted. Unfortunately, the rains had caused some seriously muddy areas and as a result we had to avoid parts of the park in order to not get stuck. Getting stuck in a place where the animals roam freely is not a pleasant idea. The highlight of the day was seeing a herd of elephants. The male spotted us first and came out into the clearing. It was a little bit of a tense moment when we thought he was going to advance toward the vehicle. He watched us for a couple of seconds then turned back into the bushes and a couple of seconds later the whole herd ran through the bushes in the opposite direction. Really cool! Yes we have pictures. Andre and Isaac (Isaac told me this was a personal highlight for him) participated in the elephant count a few months ago and approximately 1100 elephants were counted in the park. These elephants are then used to stock other National Parks.
Doctor Dixie Banda and his wife Mary
Dixie and Mary were (they have just moved to a new house) Alex and Andre’s neighbours and they invited us to dinner after our big park day. It was wonderful - a real traditional Malawian meal. Mary served my favourite Nsima (I had spelled it Sema) and pumpkin leaf relish along with other wonderful dishes to try. We had a great time visiting with the Banda’s and hearing about Dixie’s time going to school in Canada. He remembers it being very cold. :)
On Thursday we went to Blantyre to visit Open Arms and City Pentecostal Church. I must tell you about our scary incident. While on the way, we had to stop by the post office in Limbe and pick up a package. All of the stuff we were taking to Open Arms and the church was in the back of the pick up. Alex, Sydney and I waited in the truck while Andre went in to get the package. Alex told me that crime is very bad in Limbe and often happens in broad daylight. No sooner had she said that when a man walked up to her window offering to sell a rather large knife. She said it isn't unusual for people to sell knives. It wasn’t usual for me so I continued to watch him as he walked past the vehicle and saw him look in the back of the truck and do a double take. As a matter of fact many men were doing the same thing. The man then walked over to the wall and pretended to stretch all the while holding the knife. I looked right at him and made eye contact. I knew without a doubt he was going to try to steal our stuff and kept watching him. I then got out of the truck and got into the back. No way was I going to let anyone steal our stuff. At first I thought I would haul it out but it was heavy and my heart was coming through my chest so I waited and only got back into the truck after the guy left. But men continued to give me the creeps and I thought someone is for sure going to try something and it just made me mad. I got back out, hauled with all of my strength and got everything into the truck between Sydney and I. She was only crushed up against the window for a short while until we were able to unload some stuff at the first location. This incident has really been my only scary moment during our whole time here (other than my initial nervousness in the first couple of days).
Open Arms Infant Orphan Care
First stop - Open Arms. What a great facility and an awesome place for abandoned babies. We were able to bring them a lot of infant clothing and the smaller soft teddy bears from Canada to help with their ministry. Abandoned babies are placed in the care of nurses and Amays for two years. When they are two years old Open Arms attempts to place the children back in a village with family members. If a family member can’t be found they are put in a surrogate or foster home with an Amay they know from the original facility. Usually about 6 children will go into one of these foster homes where they will be raised as a family together. Open Arms has a really good family transition process the children and future care givers go through before leaving for the village. The family member is brought to live with the child at the facility in a village hut on the premises for several days. The purpose is to help the child and the family member adjust to each other and to help the child ease into village life after being in this great environment for the first part of his or her life. When the child goes back to the village a staff member visits the child every month to make sure he is thriving and being loved. Sometimes they are not thriving and it is discovered the family may not even want the child. In these situations the child is then brought back and placed into one of a surrogate home. It is a great system that really seems to look out for the wellbeing of the child.
There are a lot of children that need care. When I toured the facility they showed me an abandoned baby that was not growing despite all of their efforts over the first 3 months of her life. I asked if she was going to live and the nurse said yes they thought she would because she had lived thus far but they were not sure how well she would do.
I was told many of the babies likely have AIDS but they don’t get them tested unless there is a serious medical issue. As soon as it is discovered a child has AIDS they then have a stigma attached to them. It is the same with any person who is found out to have AIDS - they are completely avoided and shunned. It is just simply not talked about here.
City Pentecostal Church
While in Blantyre we visited City Pentecostal Church and brought them Sunday School teaching aids and materials from our church at home in Chilliwack (Sardis Fellowship Baptist Church), the remaining two soccer balls and other supplies for their street ministry. We also intended to bring them the rest of our used clothing (we have quite a bit left over from the second bale) but we forgot it so Alex and Andre will bring it in to them next time they go. The Church’s street ministry is geared to partner sponsors in the community (or outside) with a child on the street in order to help the child receive help for their situation. While we were on our way through Blantyre to this church, we saw a 4 year old child literally in the middle of the street, in traffic begging. Very dangerous! You can see why this ministry is so vital. This church could really use some additional help in reaching out to these kids. It seems to me that their resources are stretched very thin.
Parasites and Other Unwelcome Guests
Friday was our day to finalize details and get packed for leaving on Saturday. We had to go to the medical clinic to get Sydney and I specific medication as a result of swimming in Lake Malawi last weekend. There is a parasite in the lake that invades your body and you need to take this medication called Bilharzia – definition: “An infestation with or a resulting infection caused by a parasite of the genus Schistosoma; common in the tropics and Far East; symptoms depend on the part of the body infected.” Ya so in 3 months we take this stuff and if we get sick that means we had a guest in our body. Woo hoo can’t wait for that.
Another guest we may have a visit from is the Pudsi fly. The fly lays its eggs on your wet laundry and then when you wear the clothing, the eggs hatch and the larvae burrows into your skin where they continue to grow. Apparently it is quite sore and you have to wait for it to get big enough so you can squeeze this critter out. YUCK! There are no fancy laundry facilities here so they iron their clothes to try to minimize the risk. Unfortunately, little 3 year old Ezra has experienced this, twice, and it sounds like it was quite gross all around.
But now the Lord says, "Do not weep any longer, for I will reward you. Your children will come back to you from the distant land of the enemy. There is hope in your future, says the Lord. Your children will come again to their own land."
- Jeremiah 31:16&17
"Commit everything to the Lord, trust Him and He will help you."
Sydney and I will be going to Malawi, Africa to partner with Alex and Andre VanWoerden and Emmanuel International. Our purpose is to connect with children in Orphan Care Centres and local schools in meaningful ways. We plan to share the simple message of Jesus, fellowship with the children by providing lunch and sharing the meal with them and playing soccer.
Sydney and I will distribute teddy bears to orphans who have no toys, hand out tee shirts so kindly donated by Stillwood Camp and provide for other tangible needs (clothing and school supplies).