Sunday, May 30, 2010

I Loved Malawi! - More Favourites

Alex with a wee little baby at Open Arms Infant Care Centre
Andre at Maula Orphan Care with the Chief of the village.

This 3 month old little girl at Open Arms was not thriving.  Not sure what will happen to her.

Ezzy and Lara enjoying the goats at Ana Di Atu.

Ezzy and Talia eating lunch with the children at Maula.
Dr. Dixie Bandu and his wife Mary so graciously invited us over for a traditional Malawian meal.  It was delish!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Some Favourite Things

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.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Scary Homeland Security Chick

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.

More To Come

Stay tuned - I am planning on more posts to update you on Nixon and our other adventures.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I Woke Up Singing

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

See you in a couple of days.
Darlene & Sydney

Monday, April 19, 2010


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.

Another Funny Sign
Toilets 4 U 2 P – get it?

By for now 

Scary Incidents, Parasites and Other Adventures

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. :)

Scary Incident
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.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Pictures From Our Trip

Soccer Sad

So I must tell you about our little mishap that has created some trouble for our friend Nixon.  When we visited his village, someone brazenly took one of the soccer balls from inside the truck. We didn't discover the theft until we were counting the balls for our next locations.  Andre mentioned the issue to Nixon and told him that he could have the ball if he found it.  Sadly the rest of my story is not good.  Unfortunately, Nixon found the culprits who took the ball and he asked them to return it, mentioning that it was wrong to steal from the white people who were trying to help people in Malawi.  Nixon is a soft spoken type of fellow and strikes me as someone who would make this request in a quiet sort of way.  What followed was really quiet troubling to me.  The fellows (who are from the village on the other side of the field) told him they weren't going to give the ball back and told him to leave.  When Nixon turned to go they started throwing sticks and rocks at him.  Somehow, and I am really not clear on the details, Nixon's arm got broken.  All of this over a soccer ball, truly very sad.

Friday, April 16, 2010

To go to the hospital or not - that is the question.

Monday started bright and early with another trip to Ana ndi Atu to bring more items (teach aids) for the Amays to teach the children. As soon as we drove up children started running behind the truck and the orphans started singing and welcoming us. It was a beautiful sight and was wonderful to make another surprise but short visit.

Guard Family #2 Visit
Nixon and his wife have 5 children. Their 18 yr old daughter is pregnant with her boyfriend’s baby, their son Steven (14 yrs) needs an operation for a painful swelling on of his testicles (boy I bet that word caught your attention), called Hydrocele. He has had the problem for 3 years and is scheduled for surgery on Wednesday. The family is very scared. Hospitals here are equated with death - so many needless deaths that just simply wouldn’t happen in Canada. They also have fear that Steven will loose his manhood and not be able to father children. Nixon explored the topic of traditional medicine with Andre. They trust him and value his advice. To complete our visit we brought gifts from Canada and clothing for Nixon and his family.

At the time of writing this, Nixon did not take his son for the surgery. He said he was too tired and didn't have the funds to take him. Health care is free here so I think the funds were for other expenses. I think food for Nixon or something.

Mbidi School
Last stop of the day and there to bring soccer balls (or as in Malawi, footballs) and whistles. Last year the school was provided with Malawian footballs which didn’t last very long so bringing them good North American soccer balls was a hit. The headmaster made a point of introducing us to every class and pointing out Sydney, how old she was and what grade she was in, for the purpose of encouraging girls to stay in school and not get married. Village life has a tendency to force girls into early marriage simply because it is one less mouth to feed (she then becomes her husband’s responsibility), or because she is the one who does the basic care-giving chores like fetching water. By-the-time she’ completes those tasks, she is often late for school and then a lot of girls don’t bother in going. After the students played a game of handball and football, it was time for speeches. The headmaster made a speech and then I was required to make a speech. I encouraged the children (ages 6-16) to stay in school and informed them that Sydney’s father and I would not allow Sydney to get married until she has finished school.


Simeon Orphan Care and Misangu School and Guard Visit #3
Simeon Orphan Care had about 18 children that morning. They have a new facility and are truly geared for learning. In the classroom the had different stations where the children could learn specific things such as numbers, letters or sciences. These stations do not look like the brightly coloured classrooms Canadian children get to enjoy. They are just scraps of paper with information written on them and put on the wall. We were able to bring brightly coloured teaching aids for hanging up on the wall. We gave all the children the same things as the other centres but gave the extra clothing. Andre showed me that they still had the few teddy bears right there on the mats for the children from when his mom and dad brought them last September.

Misangu School
The school has a wopping 2,047 students. Okay remember my sign earlier about people always complain ... well these teachers have everything to complain about. Poor working conditions, huge classrooms and terrible living quarters. The standard 1 classroom had 400 children sitting on the floor right up to the chalk board. There was barely room for the teacher to walk back and forth as she taught. Andre has been working with other organizations here to provide latrines for the school. They had 3 before for over 2,000 students and now 18 are being constructed. Unfortunately, everything takes so long. The teachers live on site and really are doing sacrificial work here. You would be shocked if you could see where they were living.

Guard Visit #3 - Musa

Jealousy is an ugly monster here and people will do others physical harm or make life difficult because of it. Musa is one such individual and has made life challenging for the other two guards and Alex and Andre as they try to effectively navigate through ongoing conflict. The result is that we had to make sure we visited all of the guards in their homes and brought them gifts. I think it is good in sense these people who have been seeing us bring all of this stuff to the children will themselves also be blessed by Jesus. I thiink this is particularly important with Musa. Out of all of the other guards, he is the most surly and difficult at times.

That's all for now.

All Things Malawian

I Love Malawian Food

Maize is a Malawian staple and it seems like it is provided at every meal.  The other night a traditional Malawian meal of Sema, Diwo and Fatelli was made for us. 
Sema = Maize flour made into a porridge with only water which is then made thicker by adding more flour to a make very thick consistency that can be rolled in your hand and used for dipping.  Kind’ve like a Thumbprint cookie.
Diwo = Pumpkin leaves stewed with a bit of flour and salt – this is called relish.
Fatelli = Sweet potatoes cooked and mashed with sugar (not sure what else is put into it). 

So you roll a small ball of Sema, press your thumbprint in the middle to make an indentation which is then used to scoop/dip in the Diwo.  I know it doesn’t sound like much but it is very good – well I like it anyway… Sydney not so much.  By-the-way all of this is eaten with our fingers.  Malawians eat their food with their hands and not with utensils.
Oupha is a breakfast dish that I am also enjoying.  Oupha is made with Maize flour and slowly stirred into boiling water with a bit of sugar and powdered milk.  It looks like Cream of Wheat and is very good.  Again, I enjoy it … Sydney not so much.

Malawians lay branches on the road to signal there is a funeral in the village.  Anyone who is riding a bike must get off and walk their bike through the funeral zone.  Cars must slow down to a crawl.  People do this to show their respect for the family and the village.

More Signs
This one is the best – “People Always Complain Hardware & Investments.”  Okay I find this one hilarious!
“Pack N’ Go Coffin Shop” – Coffin to go, you just pack it up and go.

Malawians put Canadians to shame - they recycle and use everything.  Their most common all-purpose string is made from tyres (yes it is correct – Malawian spelling).  They use tyre string for everything and is the only type of string or rope they have.  They even make sandals from recycled tyres and they look quite fashionable.

Friday, April 9
We went to Isaac’s village and visited his mom.  Isaac is Alex and Andre’s gardener and guard during the day and his wife provides house-help.  In Malawi everyone has guards 24 hours, 7 days a week to protect their home and family.  Having guards is a must.  By employing Isaac and Florence, not only are Alex and Andre providing much needed employment and support to a family who are on the very edge of poverty, but they also develop a friendship with the family.  Isaac and Florence have two little children, Sophie (5 yrs) and Cadden (1 yr).  Alex and Andre help 2 other families like this as well. 

Anyway back to our visit.  Isaac’s mom lost her husband last year and 2 grown children.  No one knows what caused the children’s death.  Isaac’s mom was very happy to see Alex and Andre and very thankful for the gifts they brought.  She invited us to sit on her mat on the front porch of her hut and then several village friends and family came over to greet us. Very quickly a young man was called to translate.  He asked for a job right away.  Everyone you meet needs help and I desperately want to help them - sometimes the need is overwhelming.  Isaac’s mom wanted me to grind maize so she took me to her kitchen (that would be outside and around the back of the hut.  She seemed surprised with my maize pounding skills.  I know so many untapped gifts.   Well after that Isaac’s aunt wanted me to go to the watering hole with her.  We walked a good distance and then took our turns at the pump.  Alex and Andre informed me that she was also surprised that I could pump the water.  But the defining moment came when these women discovered that Sydney was my daughter … ahhhhh… then I was accepted.  Motherhood is universal.  Isaac’s mom shook my hand and beamed, she said some things but it didn’t matter that I couldn’t understand because her gestures told me all I needed to know.

Age Reversal
Apparently I shock and amaze people with my youthfulness.  After I visited Isaac’s mom, Isaac asked me how old I was and was very shocked when I told him.  People have been thinking that Sydney and I are sisters.  Yahhhhhh!!!  I guess the under-eye cream really does work.  Sydney, she no like the sister thing.  Everywhere we go people show surprise when I introduce Sydney as my daughter and it has become a common reaction.

We finished the week with some much needed rest and relaxation at a cottage on Lake Malawi near the end of the Great Rift Valley.  It was beautiful weekend after such a hectic week from working all day, everyday and late into the night making sure we had things ready to go.  Sydney really needed the rest.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Activity Days at the Orphan Care Centres - Grab a coffee, it's a long read.

April 5, 2010

We started off our week trying to compensate for the loss of our luggage and some of our supplies and then come up with Plan B for the programs that we would be running at the centres.  The first thing we had to do was buy a bale of clothing at the Dapp.  When we pulled up there were two soldiers with big guns (okay very big, big guns/ semi-automatic actually) sitting outside of the shop.  I thought it wise not to take pictures :) and just got one pic of Andre looking over the bales.  So this is what happens to those clothes you send to second hand stores - they end up here and are considered very valuable.

Ana ndi Athu, Grace,  Maula Orphan Care Centres:

On Tuesday, April 6, 2010 we visited our first orphan care centre – Ana ndi Athu.  Ana is an orphan care centre in a small village, out in the country, nestled in amongst the crops near Jali, outside Zomba District.

When we arrived they put three chairs out in the open area in front of the centre for Sydney, Alex and I - chairs for their honoured guests.  The children sang songs to us and recited their numbers.  More children came from around the village to stare at us and see what all the excitement was.  Quite a few of the orphan children were crying or would start crying if we came too close.  It appears that the wee little gaffers are afraid of white people.  When the children were done with their special presentation for their guests, we then were introduced by the Director of the Centre Mr. William Magamedi (not really sure if I got his last name correct).  Mr. M. is a professor at the local college who is responsible for starting Ana because he had a deep desire to help the children who were not receiving an education or proper care.  Ana provides the children with basic school instruction and a meal everyday.  They will often identify children who are malnourished and then endeavour to help those children.  In January, 10 children were very malnourished and Andre through E.I. provided 50-10lb bags of maize for the centre to help feed all of the children and get them through the hungry season to harvest time (which is now).  Mr. M. told me that it was because of this food that those malnourished children are doing much better.  This amount of maize was also provided to Maula.

Now it was our turn. Our basic program for all of the centres looked liked this:
Geography – basically that we came from Canada to see them and gave them some brief info on our country.  I felt it was important to tell them that there were a lot of people in my community and in my church that cared very much for them and have been praying for them.  I taught them a little bit about the world by showing them a large map, where we came from and how long it took us to get to their country.  Many people in Malawi don’t know that the world is round so I asked the children if they knew what shape the world was.  Only an Amai knew the answer.  Amais are the centre’s moms.  Amai is also a name for woman or Mrs.  Each centre has a few Amais to teach the children and help care for them.

Bible Story – Malawian misconceptions
One of the untruths in Malawian culture is this idea that white people are smarter or more important than them.  The story of Zacchaeus was effective in showing the children that Jesus doesn’t favour some people over others and loves everyone the same.  It was important to me to articulate to the children that they are very special to Jesus.

Bubbles, face painting, skip rope and soccer
The children loved it all.  While we got a few of them doing bubbles, some played soccer or skipped rope with the village children  and others got face painting.  Definitely these activities were a big hit and I would do again.

Gifts -Teddy bears, school supplies and clothes
The teddy bears were so cool!  Seeing this little girl’s face when I handed her a soft little bunny holding a carrot was amazing - she was ecstatic and for me it will be a lasting memory of Malawi.  Each child received two school books, two pencils, pencil sharpener and an outfit (pants & shirt).  The centre received 5 soccer balls and a pump, boxes of chalk and erasers, extra school books, pencils, pens, teaching aids, and whistles.

Traditional Malawian meal of rice, stewed cabbage with tomato and goat meat was provided for lunch.  Everyone received a generous pile of food.  Some people don’t get to eat meat for a very long time.  Andre and Alex’s guard, Isaac told them at Christmas time last year that he hadn’t had meat in more than 6 months.  Rice is considered a luxury so to have the rice and meat together for the children was more than what these children had eaten in a very long time and a real blessing. 

In all we provided for 87 children at Ana ndi Atu.

Grace Orphan Care Centre
On Wednesday we went to Grace.  Grace Orphan Care is run by a fellow named Ernest who had the same desire to help orphaned children who were wandering around with no care.  Grace provides for more than 220 children of all ages.

When we arrived there were only 3 kindergarten children and we were expecting at least 15 for the morning program.  We were told that there was a funeral in the village and that was why there were not very many children at the start. Very shortly though many children showed up and before we knew it we had 30.  The children were afraid of us again but it almost seemed like they were more afraid then at Ana so we started off with bubbles.  This was the perfect activity for such little children to help them feel more comfortable with us.

Again we did our program for the children.  They loved colouring at Grace.  I mean they really loved it.  They coloured with such concentration for quite a while and since they were enjoying the activity so much we were flexible and adapted to them.

Playing games with them was a lot of fun.  By this time many older children had arrived and my time working with the Youth, VBS and Children’s Church came in handy.  We played red light/green light with them and they loved running their hearts out so they could show me who was the fastest.

We met some children with disabilities.  The Amai showed me a little girl that looked like she was no more than 3 or 4 years old and I was told that she was actually 10 years old.  It is hard to believe.  Something I have noticed and been shown that children in Malawian culture are often malnourished resulting in their growth being stunted.  Not that this was the case for this girl but it is for many.  Andre showed me a picture of twins and told me that one twin was sent back to the village while the other one kept at the centre because of health issues.  The twin that was sent back appeared to be at least 3 or 4 years younger than his brother.

Finishing off with Grace – about another 100 children showed up for the afternoon program of lunch, soccer and introduction/stories and activities.  We face painted for at least an hour, handed out stuff and had fun with the kids.  It was a long day for our small team at this facility.

Maula Orphan Care
Many of you saw the photos from Maula before I left and maybe are aware that Maula already held a special place I in my heart, but all the more so now after Thursday.  Maula is situated in the country amidst the crops on the outskirts of Zomba District. The Chief of the village greeted us - yes I said Chief.  Maula is a 2 room hut basically and is by far the poorest orphan care centre that we have visited.  The Chief explained to me that he was very concerned for the children and their education and Maula was borne out of a desire to help the orphaned children of his village.

After we did all of our activities and had lunch with the children it was time for speeches.  First the Chief made his speech about Maula and how it started, then he thanked us for coming all the way from Canada to bless them.  He said that no other people had ever done anything for them like we had done that day.  I was surprised and it made me hope that maybe there would be another opportunity to do more.  Then I had to make my speech.  I have had to make quite a few speeches since coming here (it is the custom of Malawi) and I think I’m getting the hang of it.  The village, the orphans, caregivers and the Chief know that many people in my community care very much for them and were responsible for the wonderful things that were provided to his village.  Not only were we able to bless the orphans of Maula but we were able to feed the village children and provide them with school supplies as well.  The village children (many of them teens) also got to enjoy a very competitive game of soccer. When speeches were done and we were getting ready to the leave one teen boy started singing and then all of the children started singing to us.  You just can’t imagine what it was like to hear these beautiful children singing – it just brings tears to my eyes even now as I write this.

Blessings from Generous Supporters
All of the wonderful gifts we gave the children and provided for them were because of the wonderfully caring people in Canada.  Not just from Chilliwack but Saanich and Nova Scotia as well.  It is because of you all that these children had fun, were fed a nourishing meal, received practical school supplies and clothing and then went home with a stuffy.  Truly Canadians have blessed Malawians during this time.

Until next time…
 In His Service (and so grateful to be there)

Friday, April 9, 2010

Dorothy You're Not In Kansas Anymore

Yes that is what I feel like.  I am in a totally different world then what I am accustomed to.  So let me start by saying I am sorry we have been in 'radio-silence' since we left.  This is our first opportunity to get to a computer and do a post.  Sydney and I landed in Blantyre last Saturday (Apr 3) without any travel problems. Other than I couldn't sleep on any of our flights, things went pretty smooth.  We did however, have only half of our luggage (3 pieces missing).  Yikes not good.  All our clothes and some important items for the orphan care centres.  What would we do and how were we going to find the luggage?  When we landed on the airstrip in Blantyre I looked like it was out in the middle of a maize field, the upstairs open-air seating area of the airport was packed with about 70 children cheering and singing for someone who is obviously loved by them.  It was an amazing sight for our first look at Malawi.

First Impressions:

Africa is everything I thought it would be and more.  I love it! I wonder if I could live here - I don't know but it is appealing.  There are people everywhere walking, making deals and trying to sell you all sorts of things. They sell anything and everything, which means that a lot of the stuff we throw away they will sell in the market.  Quite often you will see women carrying bowls of peanuts, 5 or 10 lb bags of maize (could be quite a few of these bags) or any other items that may need to be transported, on their heads.  We are told that in a lot of cases they are carrying way too much and that it probably causes harm to their backs or spines. We have seen men carrying long poles of pine down from the mountain on their heads, walking barefoot and travelling an incredible distance to sell their wood.

It is very warm here and some days quite hot.  I estimate about 28 on some days out in the villages. I am enjoying the sunshine.  The countryside is very lush as it is near the end of the rainy season - and I'm told it is Malawi's most beautiful time of year.  I can believe it!  I am fascinated with the people and their way of life in Zomba and the surrounding villages.  They have the most interesting signs to advertise their business.  For example 'Toys Saloon.'  Not sure what that is - is it toys or alcohol?  It may be neither actually  - they may have chosen the name because they like it and not because it advertizes anything about their business.

Leftover British Influences & Greetings:

Everything seems very proper here with a hint of a British flavor or tone. Signage especially is where I seem to notice it.  They seem to use words just for the sake of using them and trying to make them sound more important. You can totally get by speaking English here but Chachewa is the native language.  When you greet someone or are greeted it is impolite to say anything negative.   Muli bwanji = How are you?  Then you must say, Dee lee bweeno = I am fine.  Followed by, Ki ya eenu = and you? Zikomo = thank you.  They say thank you very much all the time even when not appropriate.  Takes a couple of days to adapt but you get the hang of it very quickly.  People are very friendly and gracious here.


Our first day Andre took us to the market.  I tried to take pictures but it is difficult sometimes because some Malawians get very upset.  Having said that Andre informs me that we have accumulated over 600 pictures just on his camera already and that doesn't include mine.  The outside market was an adventure.  Everything is out in the open.  Produce, dried fish (mostly very small fish which is where people get most of their protein), grains, tomatoes, strange fruit (can’t remember the name), clothing, car parts,used plastic bottles - you name it you can find it at the market.  Sydney and I are constantly stared at wherever we go.  People of all ages will stop what they are doing and stare at us.  Even though it is 2010 I guess white people are still a rare commodity.


On Sunday we went to Zomba Baptist Church for Easter services.  It was a small, subdued service with four teens leading worship.

I must go now - more another time about our 3 program days at the orphan care centres.

Bye for now.


If you keep a Goldfish in the dark room, it will eventually turn white.

we are in africa!!

Because of my super pale-ness I'm ultra atractive here, i can also make babies cry.
We've been to three orphan care centers so far they were all amazing but in my mind Maula was by far the my opinion.
Malawian food is different x35967836583363 it has 60% more salt and oil than necessary but alas it's delicious.

Our Adventure Here:
1. Airplane eggs = probably not the best idea, unless you have a stomach of me ;)
2. I'm pretty sure sitting for over 20 hours isn't good for my figure but oh well.
3. If Johannesburg tries to steal my clothing again I may be forced to kill them (:

Thursday, April 1, 2010

cockroaches can live upto 10 days without their head.

we fly out of Vancouver tonight headed for London then onto AFRICA!! 

super stoked for 2 days of Yahtzee.....

(: thanks to everyone who helped us get here

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

We're In The Paper Because of McCammon & Meredith

Just look at my little girl - she makes her mom proud!
Thanks again to Meredith Connelly and the students at McCammon Elementary.  You guys are awesome!

The story can be found on the Chilliwack Times website.
Here is the link if you would like to read the article.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Please God Don't Let Mommy's Hair Fall Out

We are scheduled to leave one week today and we were praying for very important things, such as:
  • travelling mercies
  • that the luggage would all arrive when we do
  • that our stuffies, crayons, teeshirts and soccer balls would not cause concern for anyone (airports)
  • and that nothing would be stolen - apparently that is a concern when you arrive in Africa.
My son had important things to pray about as well.  You see tonight was our first night of Malaria medicine and second week of Dukoral.  Dukoral is a vaccine for Cholora and other less pleasant illnesses.  Well Elijah happened to be listening to me (as all children do when we least expect it) describe side effects from our Malaria medicine.  Hair loss was one of the side effects and Elijah felt that it was important for God to know that he would like it if mom didn't loose hers.  I think it is important too! Thanks for praying everybody. :)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

How much have we recycled?

This is my truck on day when we had a full load.  Sometimes I was so packed I had very limited visiability.  Not-to-worry, I usually didn't pack it right up unless I was on my way directly to the depot ... usually. :)

So I thought I would share with you some of our recycling stats.  We have raised approximately $750 dollars through recycling bottles and cans.  That might not seem like a whole lot but it works out to approximately 11,000 items that were recycled.  In a way I feel that we have done our civic duty in picking up bottles and cans from the side of the road, parks and campgrounds and all this in 8 months.  It didn't matter if they were dirty, mucky, disgusting, flattened or cut in half we recycled them.  No can or bottle was turned down.  Thank you to everyone who did turn down other organizations that came knocking at the door, so they could save them for us.  Thank you also to those who helped us collect recyclables while they went out on their walks every day, garbage cans or even from their staff recycling. :) You guys are heros.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Such wee little ones and so precious in His (Jesus) sight.

Maula Orphan Care Centre

Check out this link to view children from Maula Orphan Care Centre in Malawi.  Sydney and I will be visiting this facility with plans to purchase the children clothing and a black board.   We also plan to give them some stuffies too.  These are a couple of the children we will be visiting.  They have already found a place of love in my heart.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Technology = hating on us this week... sooo
if you were perhaps thinking of donating to our worthy causes ha ha
Gooo to Emmanuel Internationals website...(on the side)
Press the sophisticated 'Donate Now' (button midway down their page)
Then siiiiince you love us select the 'EIC Personnel: Worthylake Darlene & Sydney: Malawi'

Gracias a su fantástica

Saturday, March 6, 2010

In The End Only Kindness Matters

That is what the sign read that was nestled in approximately 400 or so stuffies.  Thanks to Meredith Connelly and McCammon Traditional Elementary School we now have all the stuffies and teddy bears we need.  I didn't know Meredith was going to do this.  She went to the school with a request on our behalf.  To send stuffies to Africa for children who don't have any toys.  These tender-hearted children at McCammon brought in their teddy bears and in some cases, teddy bears that still held emotional attachments, so they could bless children in the orphan care centres in Malawi. 

Not only did they give but they wrote as well.  Take a minute and read a couple of the precious letters that a couple of the McCammon students wrote to boys and girls in Africa.
Thank you Meredith and McCammon Elementary.

Sunday, February 28, 2010


Today we counted the stuffies and so far we have 130. At least 70 more needed.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


We have put the link to the VanWoerdens blog on the side, sooo, you know, check it out and stuff

Sunday, February 21, 2010

sooo i can put up videos...

no big deeal.
soo instead of helping out with Malawi this weekend I went to a conference in Kelowna = fantabulous. And I saw this...

Monday, February 15, 2010

Boiled Rats


Yes they boil rats and sell them.

(image from

I saw this image on the 2009 Photos of the Year and it reminded me of the one that the Alex & Andre VanWoerden had on their website from last year. Yes apparently they do boil rats and people eat them. Crazy can't believe it. So I told Alex not to worry about food for me when we come at the end of March because I would be good with leaves.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Malawi Bound

Well for 7 months now we've been collecting bottles and clothes and saving money for our missions trip to Malawi, Africa. I've literally become the bag lady. I've been know to pull cans out of the garbage and comb the woods at campgrounds for cans or bottles. Syd and Eli have become very quick at sorting at the local bottle depot. We've all got it down to a science now.

We are on the home stretch and have sorted out details of what we will be doing and where.

Orphan care centres and schools in Zomba, Malawi that is our mission and destination with the VanWoerdens.