Sabbath in Lilongwe, Malawi

Sabbath in Lilongwe, Malawi
Lilongwe, Malawi

Lilongwe, Malawi


This morning we had a respite from the extra full days of travel and moving about. It is Sabbath morning and we rested well. I had a chance to do some studying for my sermon today plus do some journal writing. Services are scheduled for 11:00 but we were told that people from the country are sometimes an hour late and services can start as late as noon. It is about fifteen minutes from the Baptist Missionary apartments where we stay to the Malakia Clinic where we hold services. We agreed for our drivers in the ambulance to come and get us at 10:45 am. They were there, but the traffic back to Area 21 of Lilongwe where the clinic is located was fierce and in gridlock. It was almost completely stopped and we had to find an alternate route along a dusty road to get to services. We were a half hour late and most of the people were already in their seats waiting for the services to start. It as wonderful to see everyone again. We recognized most of the people. There were a few new people as well. We definitely have a bond after five trips to this area in six years. Also, from New York City were Henry and Cindy Khembo. Henry used to live in Malawi, but has married Cindy and now works in New York. He travels three to four times a year to Malawi and is an aggressive business person. Edwin Chonde was the song-leader and I accompanied him on the electric keyboard on the table next to the podium. Then the elder Gladstone Chonde gave the sermonette, the Cephas Chafumbo from Jumpha gave the announcements and I followed with a sermon about the New Testaments meaning of the Day of Atonement. After services we fellowshipped and slowly worked our back on foot to the Chonde’s home where we had dinner and talked a lot more. Henry Khembo is an intense person who had lots of ideas about improving Malawi. Alice Chonde and her daughter-in-law Edda prepared dinner of rice, beef, sweet potato and greens accompanied by a bottle of soda pop. We just really enjoy being with these people! The Khembo’s took us back to the Baptist Missionary Apartments in their travel trailer. They keep this vehicle in Malawi for travel within the country on their often trips. Tomorrow morning I do the wedding for Lovenace and James Luwanja before Bev and I head for the airport and on to Blantyre. The wedding was to be done by Gladstone Chonde, but when visiting ministers come, a task like this is quickly passed on. So, we’ll see how that goes. Malawi marriage customs are difficult to explain. The couple is really married when they become “engaged.” There is usually quite a celebration at that time with all the families involved. The Luwanja’s have been engaged for almost two years. Usually the marriage follows shortly, but they waited for this time for the formalities of the marriage ceremony. Bev and I ate some bread with jam and an orange where we stayed. You cannot go out safely once you’re in a compound and we have no vehicular transportation.


Lilongwe!!

Lilongwe!!
Lilongwe, Malawi

Lilongwe, Malawi


On our international travels what I enjoy most is interacting with people of different cultures and races. As a minister of Jesus Christ, I find it nothing short of miraculous that the values or behaviors of Christianity are universal and were intended to work with all people, no matter how diverse they may be. I’m not sure why I even started my thoughts today with these words except to say that our mission wherever we travel is promote, preach a way of life that gives application to the maxim in the last paragraph. As we head for poor Malawi which is so different from my culture, background and citizenship, these thoughts flood my brain. I got up at 3:30 am. … we left at 6:15 am for Johannesburg airport, but before that I wanted to get another entry on my TravelPod blog which I did. Bill Jahns fortunately has DSL and wireless and it was easy to do. It may be a little while before more postings are made, but I’ll keep writing the blog and upload as I’m able. The traffic in the Johannesburg area is like any major city in the world. The Joburg area has over five million people in a society that has extreme wealth coexisting side by side with poverty. We were concerned that our luggage was far too much for the internal traffic within Africa. In fact, we were braced to pay upwards of $200 in additional overweight charges. I silently prayed that we wouldn’t have to. All that overage was in humanitarian items that we brought over. As we walked through the scales and had our luggage weighed, the airline representative just looked at us and waved us by. We asked no questions. As we checked in were not charged anything at all! Whew!! We had an uneventful 2 hour ten minute flight on South African Airways to Lilongwe. On the flight there were 28 peace corps volunteers who were headed to Malawi to teach in the villages. Stuart from Rockford, Illinois sat next to us and excitedly related his anticipation of his upcoming two year assignment. When we arrived at the airport in Lilongwe, a huge banner along with cheers welcomed the Peace Corps. Of all times we’ve entered Malawi, we had more than the usual number of questions from customs officials. We were asked to open our case holding the eyeglasses for inspection. We were told that we had to have any accompanying letter from ourselves to customs stating that these were for humanitarian purposes. Edwin and Mesheck Chonde picked us up at the airport in the Malakia Clinic ambulance. It was great seeing them again. We first met them when they came with their parents to the Feast of Tabernacles in Mutare, Zimbabwe in ten years ago in 1996. The last time Bev and I were in Malawi was two years ago and we worked with the Rotary Club to help the Lilongwe Boys School with financing to build a 400 plus meter wall around the campus of buildings. The school had gone into terrible disrepair being vandalized by the thousands of people who walked through it daily on the way to work or market. Along with my Northeast Indianapolis Rotary Club and the Lilongwe Club we wrote a $30,000 proposal for builiding the new wall. The wall was just recently finished and we went to see it. It was built in five weeks by 50 workers. What a difference it has made! The school was now shielded from the masses who walked through it daily. Now there was peace on the campus. We spoke with the head mistress Hilda Kuhndi who thanked us and showed us through some of the classrooms. There were desks now for the first time. On our visit last time there none. They were all stolen and cut up for firewood. There is still a lot to be done with the school with sanitation and broken windows, but the wall was a vital start. From the Lilongwe Boys School we stopped by Emily Chifamuka who we helped three years ago with a livelihood development project to start a sewing business. She is the woman who had a stroke when giving birth to her last child and became incapacitated in speech. She is a gifted seamstress. She has really applied herself and is building a shop in the Salima area on Lake Malawi where there are many foreign tourists. We want to help her complete the shop. She has financed most of the construction herself and needs another $1000 to finish the shop that will feature a storefront featuring her hand sewn creations. She proudly displayed a man’s suit coat she tailored along with other items. From Emily’s we went to the Malakia Clinic in area 21 of Lilongwe where Gladstone and Alice Chonde live. It was wonderful to see Alice and Gladstone again. It was getting close to closing time for the clinic and we saw Gladstone consulting the last patients of the day, a mother bringing in her young son to the clinic. We walked to the Chonde’s home about a quarter mile away. Children were running in the streets playing. A man was loudly chanting the beatitudes of Christ as the children responded to each of them. It was interesting to see this interplay. Alice served us a dinner of rice, beef and vegetables. We have known them now for ten years and what an exciting ride it’s been. This is our fifth visit with them in this period. They have been able to build a clinic. Her husband Gladstone was ordained an elder in June of last year. After a while Gladstone came home from work and we spent the next three hours just talking and catching up from the past two years. Their son Mark had been our source of communications, but he has moved to the United Kingdom near Manchester with his new wife to finish school. He will be returning to Malawi in November. Since his leaving communication has been sporadic and unreliable. Email is always the best because you can be clear about what you’re talking about. We have supplied the Malakia Clinic that LifeNets built with medicine the last eight years and communication is vital for ordering the medicine properly. We talked about LifeNets support for the various projects and discussed the various ones that have been very successful in bringing about self-sufficiency and others that have been marginal. We talked about ways to improve our program in both livelihood development and educational scholarships. We were glad to have this discussion face to face. Chonde’s son Edwin along with his wife Edda and daughter Beverly are staying with their parents. They joined us in the evening’s conversation. They showed us the mosquito nets that were provided by LifeNets as part of the “Nets Save Lives” project by Christina Davis in Portland, Oregon who raised $5000 for mosquito nets. These nets cost about $5 each. It was good to see the entire chain come to its end with the project conceived, money raised for, nets purchased and now used by the intended beneficiaries in Malawi! Eighty nets were distributed in Lilongwe, 100 in Zambia with the remainder in Blantyre and Balaka. Then Edwin and Mesheck took us back to the Baptist Missionary Apartments where we are staying. We stayed her two years ago. The Baptists allow people on religious or humanitarian missions to stay here at very nominal cost: $16 a night. They room is very comfortable and sufficient for us and saves lots of money. We stopped at a shop called 7-Eleven…just like in the United States for some breakfast items. We were very tired and collapsed for a good night’s rest.


With Bill and Cheryl Jahns in Johannesburg

With Bill and Cheryl Jahns in Johannesburg
Johannesburg, South Africa

Johannesburg, South Africa


We left Washington D.C. for the long flight over both the North Atlantic and South Atlantic oceans. Halfway across there was a fuel stop in Dakar, Senegal located on the west coast of Africa. After 17 hours of flying including the one hour stop, we landed at noon Thursday in Johannesburg, South Africa. Bill Jahns was waiting for us. How wonderful to see him! Bill and Cheryl are special friends in the ministry. Bill, Cheryl and I attended Ambasssador College in Pasadena together in 1966….we’ve been friends 40 years. We have gone through many experiences and adventures in the Church. Who would think that we would meeting in South Africa….and this is the third time in the past few years. Bill and Cheryl took an assignment in South Africa to serve here for five years starting in 2002. They will be returning to the United States to serve in a pastoral position. Morgen and Joleen Kriedemann who are native South Africa will replace Bill and Cheryl Jahns. Bill has done a valiant job here serving not only South Africa, but in Malawi and some in Zambia as well. The Church in Johannesburg has grown from 40 when the Jahns arrived to well over a 100 now. Because of our friendship and the Jahns’ love for the impoverished areas to the north of here, we have been able to get a lot done effectively with the people in both Malawi and Zambia through LifeNets. Morgen and Joleen came over for dinner Thursday evening and we had a great time talking about South Africa and the future of the Church here. This is early Friday morning and Bill will take us to the airport as we continue on to Malawi. Not sure what our Internet connectivity will be, but keep checking back with the blog. We will be logging our daily experiences and will upload them as we get to the Internet locations. We are excited about being with the Churches in Africa again.


Finally underway!!

Finally underway!!
Washington DC, DistrictofColumbia

Washington DC, DistrictofColumbia


Our journey actually started TODAY! In doing a travel blog, I like to write days before leaving and talk about we’re going to be doing on our trip. But, there has been so much preparation and other tasks before leaving that I am just now starting to write. I write this from Dulles Airport in Washington DC between our flight from Indianapolis and almost a six hour layover to our South African Airways flight directly to Johannesburg. This is our sixth trip to Africa. Bev and I have had the opportunity of not only serving as a minister at the Feast of Tabernacles, but also with serving in a humanitarian way in some of the most impoverished countries in the world. According to the United Nations, Malawi is the third poorest country in the world with Zambia the fourth poorest. We have seen the growth of the churches in Malawi rise from one family in 1996 to more than 110 total in regular attendance. We met the first UCG members Gladstone and Alice Chonde of Lilongwe, Malawi in Mutare, Zimbabwe at the Feast of Tabernacles in 1996. They operated a basic “clinic” in Lilongwe. They worked with barely any supplies or equipment. I wrote about my talks with them on my website http://www.lifenets.org/malawi in 1996. I received a positive response from then Salt Lake City pastor Bill Jahns who offered to help send badly-needed medicine. I was then able to find a US Government Aid program that paid for shipping 40 foot twenty ton containers. We sent the first one in 1998. Much of the food and supplies was donated by various humanitarian agencies in Minneapolis, Minnesota. We were amazed how much good that did for people we knew that didn’t have much to eat, little or no medicine. In the ensuing years we were able to send two more containers, built two clinics, set up a cattle and farm program, provided orphan care, financed the drilling of water wells, made grants for livelihood development, provided scholarships for higher education and much more. All in all, we have provided well over a million dollars in aid that benefited UCG members and the community through them. We are loaded down going to Africa. New airline rules have limited us from taking as much to help people as we had in the past, but we still managed to take the following items to leave in South Central Africa. 1 Manual wheelchair. This did not count towards our luggage allowance as it’s counted as a humanitarian item. One of LifeNets major activities that is handled by my daughter-in-law Alix Kubik is donating wheelchairs. We have more than 100 chairs given us every year and we distribute them to those who need them. We try to take every opportunity when we or others travel internationally to send wheelchairs. This one was requested by pastor Bill Jahns for someone in South Africa. See more about our wheelchair program at http://www.lifenets.org/wheelchair. 2 Dell Laptop computer donated by university faculty member from Vincennes, Indiana. This is the third laptop donation we’ve had from him. It’s in top shape and in almost new condition. 3 90 pairs of eyeglasses. Most are reading glasses. 3. Long-lite flashlights. Our friends in California and Ohio donate these flashlights to LifeNets for us for those who need them. 4. Soccer balls. Through another non-profit in Indianapolis we were given more than 100 soccer balls. We have sent these to Mexico, Chile, Ghana and now taking the remainder to South Central Africa. 5. 70 Topical Bible indexes. This bound index was produced by Mark Mickelson, pastor of the Spokane, Washington church. It’s an excellent resource tool. Our church members in Malawi and Zambia have wanted resource material in addition to the Bible itself. Mark has produced this 100 page index for a cost of $3 per copy. I asked that if anyone in my two Indiana congregations wanted to donate towards a copy, to also make one available for a family in Africa and Bev and I will hand-deliver them when we go over. If you want to know more about this program, contact Mark Mickelson at mark_mickelson@ucg.org. 6. Other Bible commentaries 7. Cassette tape copies of the Myers Brothers singers. I’m not able to send this from Dulles Airport. For advanced as the airport is, there is no wireless connectivity and I am going to have to send it from Bill and Cheryl Jahns’ home in Johannesburg where we are staying after our arrival. From there we leave for Lilongwe, Malawi on Friday where we’ll be until Sunday when we fly to Blantyre. Stay with us!