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.