Thursday, July 1, 2010

Welcome back!

Welcome back to the Malawi blog. With the new year comes another new team and we'll use this site to keep you updated as best we can.

The 2010 Team Malawi is now in the final preparations for our trip, which we'll begin on July 16th. Our team has 12 members, ranging in age from 16 to 60 + and all are first timers to Malawi. Kim Songer & Stephanie Warner will lead the WACC team as we join the other Y-Malawi Hands & Feet teams from churches all over Southern California.

The team includes 2 doctors, a retired EMT, 5 teachers, 2 high school students, WACC’s short-term missions coordinator, and a apologetics teacher. We have had several training meetings, preparing ourselves not only for what we hope to accomplish, but also what to expect on our trip. For most of us, we will see and experience things that were only imagined; from the beautiful country, to overwhelming poverty, to exposure and interaction with many new people and a completely foreign culture. Many of us have never been farther from home other than short trips into Mexico so everything will be new.

We will spend most of our time in villages in the Nkhoma region working in the chiefs ministry, gardening God’s way, teaching sewing, construction to finish Louise Laubscher’s house, and assisting in kid’s clubs. Our two teens will experience it all while working with the Nkhoma youth. We will also compete in the Iron Chef dinners, preparing food for 80 people! The trip will include visits with our World Vision sponsored children, a short stay in the Mvuu Game Preserve and two nights at the African Bible College to see the Tiyamike Pedriatic Clinic. We will also get to visit some of the orphanages. As we continue our preparations, we ask that all of you who are friends, family members and otherwise supporters to lift us up in prayer. We are praying for God sized days!

The team members are (in no particular order) Kim & Kelby Songer, Steve & Gwynne Watson, Hector & Christopher Gonzalez, Diane Holzinger, Jennifer Alhandy, Lindy Clark, Art Leslie, Stephanie Warner and Phil Nugent . As opportunity arises, we will take turns posting some of our thoughts and experiences to keep you updated as we can.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Final Thoughts

We are glad to be home but also glad to have been privileged to have been able to be a part of this trip. We talked about some of the things we missed, will not miss. We missed our families and friends, our own beds and familiar food. We didn’t miss TV, cell phones or e-mail. We will not miss passport wallets, malaria pills or mosquito nets. We learned some new words, like “Zicomo”, Thank you and “Nzunga” which means White Person. We talked about how this has been a life-changing experience and we will each process it differently and in a different time frame. One evening Kari mentioned that she was excited to see how the trip will impact each of us in the future, especially the 8 in our group who are 30 and under and have not fully established their life’s path. Only time will tell what and how wide the impact will be.

I hope I have brought you enough information so that you’ve gotten a taste for our group’s experiences but not so many that you only get the ingredients without the overall flavor. Malawi showed us that it is truly “The Warm Heart of Africa.” We experienced it over and over. We stuck out as a group of visitors but I never felt unsafe or threatened. Each of us has a different view of what we saw and experienced and each will process these experiences in different ways and at different times. On behalf of the team, I want to thank each of you who supported us in so many different ways. Your prayers lifted and held us up and lightened our feet when they tired. For that we are grateful. It was always comforting to know there were many who cared actively for us. This beautiful country has many and tremendous needs which we saw as overwhelming. Where do you start? Please take time to talk to the team members. We will try not to dominate the conversation but will try to share what we’ve seen and experienced.
We believe that the Y-Malawi organization is a viable one to help to not only improve individual lives but to impact them for the Gospel. This is why we came and our goal has always been to support those already on the ground here and not impede or interfere with what they are doing. Please do your research and see where you should plug in, whether in an organization that works in Malawi or somewhere else, it is important that each of us reaches out beyond our own walls. We have seen that things aren’t enough but God is enough and his timing is always perfect no matter our plans.

Thank you for reading.

Our (uneventful) trip Home- Almost

Thursday/Friday 7/23-24

We figured that once our luggage was checked in that it would be smooth sailing from there to home. Ahh, but not to be. On each flight to and from J’berg to Lilongwe, the flight staff took our carry-on bags and stowed them underneath because they were too big for the overhead bins. Upon arrival the bags were waiting for us. Not this time. When we asked, staff said they would get them to us. After an hour where we got the boarding passes for our next two flights, the bags and staff were nowhere to be found. I went in search and was directed to leave the International passport control area and pass through customs into the main portion of the airport. I found the bags in different areas but now I was not allowed to backtrack into the transfer area. I was directed to exit the airport (Yep, past those folks waiting with the name signs, etc.) and re-enter the departure area. OK, easy enough and I found the next customs area. When I showed my boarding passes, he showed me that I had 2 passes from London to LAX but none from J’berg to London. Plus Kari had my ticket information and we had no cell phone contact. So now I find another British Airlines rep who is able to print out the missing pass.
OK, find the next Customs area and hope that neither Verna nor Sarah C. has anything in their bags needing explanation. Luckily no issues at the X-ray machine but the next line has around 75 people in it, it is 7:40 and my ticket says the gate closes at 7:45. A clerk redirects me to the Ambassador/VIP line where I approach the next clerk. She doesn’t believe that I am either but after another explanation, my passport is stamped and I now rush to the far end to find my gate. I arrived as they were boarding and am happy to see the team waiting. I also spot Team Leader Kari telling the employees there that this plane was not leaving without the assistant chief.
The rest of the flights were uneventful but long and tiring. Without counting the airport layovers, our flying time was almost 24 hours each way. All were mentally tired so as several were awakening, I asked several to look out the window and see if they could see the Utah/Arizona border as we flew over. A couple tried but told me they couldn’t because they were sitting over the wing. Oh well, maybe next time. :)
We landed on time and got in line for our luggage only to figure out 30 minutes later that none of our checked luggage was on the flight, NONE! An airline rep approached and had a list with all of our names on it indicating our luggage “may not have been loaded.” We made the necessary delivery arrangements and went home for much-needed rest. Most of the bags showed up over the next two days. We’ve spoken to the team and several are feeling some aftereffects of the trip. We are praying that everyone physically recovers quickly.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Continuing in Mvuu

It had rained lightly Monday and through the night. This morning it continued the light drizzle, which affected the number and variety of animals we'd be ab;r to see. The Rhino Enclosure is around 30 sq miles or so of fenced area in which they now have 10 rhinos and many other animals. The electrified fence protects them from poachers and predators. This is Malawi's winter which is usually dry and they said it had not rained all winter (until we got here). As we drove we saw more of the animals we'd seen outside the enclosure but also saw Water Bufffalo, Eland, Hartebeest, Zebras, and probably my favorite, a herd of Sable antelope. We returned for breakfast and then took off on a boatride safari on the Shire river. Because of the rain, only hippos were seen primarily. Also bcause it was comparatively cold, the crocodiles do not lay on the shores, where they usually stay in the sun for warmth. For most of the trip we only saw 1, who was swimming in the distance and quickly submerged as we approached. As we continued though, Natalie became our croc spotter. She spotted most of the 12-15 we spotted. Again the variety of birds was amazing. Lunch was a short break (interrupted by a thieving Vervet monkey in the dining area) followed by several of us talking Henry, our guide, into taking us to an elevated observation tower, where we sat quietly for 90 minutes or so just observing from our perch 15 feet above the ground. Before the next outing, we were walking around the cabins and our girls had mentioned hearing some type of animals outside their cabins making noises. Besides the hippos, warthogs, impala and elephants Henry told us go through the camp almost nightly, we spotted the culprits- a number of Monitor Lizards feeding right by the cabins. They were beautifully collored and marked and we saw them from 1 to over 4 feet in length.
We again took the afternoon safari ride in a different area but still no rhinos or elephants, although we saw 2 herds of Sable and a porcupine and 2 beautifyl owls later in the dark. We also came across the bleached out bones of an elephant, hippo and waterbuck. Again a little disappointed, especiallly since when Kari, Verna and Lamar came last year, these animals were in the river by the handful. But we were happy that tonight it was dry and not quite as cold. Another filling dinner and off to bed for our last safari boat trip in the morning.

Wednesday 7/23
No matter when you plan to get up, in Liwonde, the animals get you up by daybreak and with enthusiasm. Dozens of birds squawk and the hippos with their sonorous grunts and splashing in the water. We ate and took off in the boat again. Henry tried hard and we did find a lot of crocs. One of the disconnects is looking for these animals in this light forest area, which does not look too different than some of hte forests around here, instead of the savannah grasslands we are so used to seeing on TV. Just as our time was running out, Henry spotted 6-8 at the edge of the trees and he got us as close as the reeds allowed.
We were already packed and our driver Max was waiting so we headede off back to Lilongwe to finish the trip. Max has been wonderful, very patient with us, taking us whenever and wherever we wanted or needed. As he drove out on a different road, we realized he'd driven the harder way in so we could take the boat ride and approach the camp that way. As we drove, we suddenly saw a large male elephant feeding in the roadway. Max explained to us neophytes that we would drive on when he was done and not any sooner. As we sat there, we quickly realized he was not alone. Behind a large tree were 2 more young males. As we watched, we realized that to our left, in some heavy brush, there were another 12-15 elephants feeding including a dominant female and at least 2 calves. All Max quitely said was, "This is dangerous." We took whatpictures we could and just marvelled at them as they slowly moved on, continuing their feeding. Max explained that when elephants and vehicles mix, elephants always get their way regardless of the size of the vehicle. Max has been to this area many times and we were safe the entire time time. When they cleared the road, we quickly moved past and continued our trip.
One of the things I''ve learned is that the police in Malawi do not want their picture taken, including police stations. No one was able to explain why but as we slowed for a police checkpoint, I took a picture of a bicycle taxi area next to the checkpoint. The supervisor saw that and asked (directed) that I exit with my camera. Since I had digital, I showed him what I had taken and he said, "Enjoy your trip. Have a nice day." I had only walked 30 feet across the sreet but upon my return, there were 5-7 wood vendors who appeared from who knows where. Within 2-3 minutes, 6-7 more deals were negotiated through the bus windows and we continued our journey.

We got back to Madidi Lodge and prepared for the evening's end-of-trip dinner with representatives of several of the Y-Malawi partners and another Y-Malawi team from Newsong Church in Irvine. They had just landed in the country and we shared some of our experiences with them. Louise and some of her staff, Amos, Vasco and their wives were among our guests. Vasco also brought his church youth band and we ended the evening singing worship songs.

To the parents of some of our younger travellers- I had renewed admiration for your ability to own homes while having fed your kids. Some of the travellers were very in-tune as to when the next meal was scheduled and always (politely) took advantage of additional servings when available.We understood why they were out of the granola bars and other snacks they brought by the beginning of the first week. One question Kari got was"Do you still have anything left in your food suitcase?" Of course by now that suitcase was just a Zip-Lock.

We had given away several suitcases and a lot of other materials and gifts but you couldn't tell by the bus when we loaded up for the last time.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Our next few days in Lilongwe

The story continues Saturday night as 4 of the women went to the "Bottoms Hospital", a Labor and delivery site. It is a hospital in name only as the conditions are only the very basic and many women from the villages come here as soon as they think they might be in labor too get here because of the great distances.

Sunday 7/20
Well Kari and Emilio got a touch of the flu or something last night so they missed our trip to church. They did recover in a couple of days, but the length of the trip may have something to do with it. We left for Amos' church and were warmly welcome there. As has been the norm on this trip, it was a special Sunday because 14 congregations had been meeting all weeking for their annual conference. Since the church was packed, we were seated on the stage, right behind all of the pastors and the church elders. The first service at the Kafita church was in English and the pastor challneged the congregants to leave our comfort zones (sofa set as he called it) and go wherever God leads, which was also an appropriate message for our group. Between services, we saw Betty, one the nurses from the Crisis Nursery. We were also introduced to Mabel, who runs the widows ministry, who had made some of the small purses we sold at the World Vision experience at WACC. This group has purchased a large plot of land outside of town and is building training and eventually residence buildings for the widows, so they can work towards financial indepence, almost impossible for most of them now. They teach them sewing, candle making and other skilss. The second service was identical to the first, with one minor exception- It was in Chichewa, and we are not too fluent in it (or as Verna accidentally called it one day,"in Chihuahua". Because of the many introductions, including us both times, the services lasted 4 hours. Afterwards we were invited by Pastor Kachipanda to join him and the leaders for lunch. We were treated to the now familiar Nsima, rice and the mustard greens we'd become accustomed to when out in Nkhoma.
Another "short" drive took us out to a youth camp that Pastor vasco helps run. We were pleasently surprised when after driving on a lond dirtroad alond some fairly desolate area, suddenly there were trees and a beautiful river at the edge of the camp. They are also in the process of adding more buildings to expand their outreach capabilities.
One of the greta things we've done is get together each night to debrief, and prepare for the next day. We close each time in prayer and this has allowed us to share what was memorable that day for whatever reason.

Monday 7/21
Today we headed out to the Liwonde national park, specifically what's called the Mvuu camp. You will have to ask team members for their pictures from here. Of course, we had gotten the bargaining bug at the wood market so we made a "quick" stop. Luckily the vendor who was selling to kelsi saw our mini-bus leaving and let her know. That would have been hard to explain to John and Sharon how we left their daughter in a market in Lilongwe. We had made it a habit to always count before leaving but forgot this time in our hurry.
We've seen that in Malawi pedestrians and bicyclists have no road rights. They are aware and always look over their (right-they drive on the left here)shoulder when a vehicle is heard approaching. We've been amazed at the amount and variety of things carried on bicycles and by the women as they balance large and heavy loads on their heads. Bike repair is a thriving business here, as we saw dozens of them, many just under a tree or by the side of the road.
So the plan was to getto Mvuu as quickly as possible, because it was a "4hr" trip. As we've learned, their time and our clocks don't always match. The trip took 5 1/2 hours, including the last 10 on another narrow single-track dirt road. Enroute, we stopped at the Liwonde woodcarver's market (because it's closer to the source, I think). Kari busily negotiated several necessities with help from Fred and Lamar at the same time on different items. The Kramers out in force. The only question after leaving is how are we getting this stuff homebecause a couple of......well, you'll see when we get back.
As we actually entered the park, the scenery suddenly changed, as we saw palm trees, some monkeys, birds and evidence of elephants. We aslo saw a lot of Fish Eagles, a beautiful bird similar to our American eagle, that is Malawi's national bird.We took a short boat ride across the Shire river to the lodge, where our cabins were. They were very nice with cement floors, but the walls are screen fabric only so you can see and hear the wildlife all a round you. One of the fun things is hearing the grunts of the hippos. Although they are 1/2 - 3/4 mile away, you think they are within 20-30 feet. the sound really carries across the water. As soon as we stowed our gear, we were off in a Land Rover and out into the park for 3 1/2 hour tour. We encountered dozens of Impalas (not Chevy's Ron!) water buck and Warthogs along the river. Numerous pods of hippos in the water and a young elephant feeding along the reeds. Some of the 400 bird varieties were also pointed out to us as we drove. We kept our camers busy and we'll be sharing them later with you, maybe more than you want. A highlight was a group of 6-7 elephants feeding in the trees, including a calf. The 2nd half of this trip was in the dark as the search was on for night predators. Several White-tailed Mongoose and an African Civet cat were seen on the prowl. This day ended with a late dinner which included some African dancers. We went to bed early because tomorrow, our day would start with a 0530 drive into the Rhino enclosure.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Another day in Lilongwe (Friday)

After the posting on Thursday night, we returned to our hotel and enjoyed a great dinner. The next day we waited (some of us in extreme anticipation) as we awaited the arrival of 2 additional World Vision sponsored children. Due to errors, these 2 live in southern Malawi. The staff drove them about 4 hours for us to see them. Jennifer Wagg was especially happy to see her child. When they arrived, they initially were shy, possibly due to being a little car sick as they had rarely travelled from their village. After some gifts and a meal together, they were enroute back to their homes.
We then went out of the city to Children of the Nations (COTN)where we visited the place where Adijah calls home. We were able to give her and her brother Happy some gifts from the Ankerbergs. We also toured the farm and took some pictures of little Steven, who worked the room with his smiles.
Our travels next took us to the Crisis Nursery, where abandoned and orpahened infants are cared for. A quick tour ended with us holding and playing with a dozen of the about 20 infants being cared for there. It was evident from the children's reactions that they are well cared for and loved there by the staff. We returned to our hotel (The Madidi Lodge) for a refreshing and filling meal. Not to disparage the meals we had in Nkhoma, but here we have been treated to some exceptional meals.

Saturday (7/18)

Today was a break day where the plan was simply to go out to the various markets and do a little shopping. Dallion from FTS and his wife became our guides, translators and negotiators as we negotiated the tiny back alley ways in search of treasures we didn't even know we needed.
For those who were wondering, Louise and Dallion assured us that our little portion of the wall was still standing, and without the wood supports we'd left to keep it in place.
The day was successfull and a lot of fun as we learned the art of bartering, something new for most of us. It was a challenge as we stood there with anywhere from 3-6 or more vendors around you, each telling you what he's selling and why you should buy from him.
After returning to the hotel, several of us took a walking tour and came across a soccer game. A local Lilongwe professional team was playing against an apparent rival from Blantyre, in the south. We rarely experience the passion and fever displayed by these fans. We paid and entered the stadium, in which the best seats seemed to be by sitting on the top of the exterior wall. Well since we had other things to do, we only stayed until halftime with \blantyre leading 1-0. We did hear the crowd as we walked on our way.
We are on the way back now and are planning to have a BBQ at the hotel and possibly have some "S'mores. We would have had some earlier on the trip but a couple of people entrusted with the chocolate couldn't keep their hands off and ate all of it. Chocolate is not easily found here but we've managed.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Finally an update from the Malawi Team

I'm sorry for the delay but we have been in Nkhoma and computers with internet access are very limited in availability. We will try and give you an update by date as to what we've been doing for the past several days since the first update. The previous entry was provided via phone call so some of the details are a little different. I want to thank Nina Dohoda and Lindsey Plattner for taking notes over a poor phone connection and placing the information on the blog. So this entry is from the notes I’ve been keeping. This entry is courtesy of Louise Laubscher of FTS, who allowed us the use of her computer. I’m sorry we haven’t been able to update pictures but be assured we’ve taken a lot. We’ll be sharing them soon.

Saturday ( 7/11)

We were still at ABC Saturday morning and after a quick breakfast went to Pastor Vasco's church. Enroute we saw some of the common sights in Malawi, vendors selling field mice on a stick on the street corners. We also saw several chicken salesmen, who rode by on their bicycles with 10-15 chickens fastened to their handlebars. We knew they were still alive as they were craning their necks to see what was ahead.

Sunday (7/12)

We packed up this morning and drove to Nkhoma where we are being housed at the Nkhoma Theological Guest House, a 65 year-old building in the Josaphat Mwale Theological Institute. Soon after depositing our mass of luggage, we drove off with staff from Fishers, Trainers & Senders (FTS, another Y-Malawi partner) into one of the villages in the hills. As we approached a school built by World Vision, we saw kids from 2-14 running towards us from every direction. We quickly had 130-150 around us and we were able to spend the next several hours playing games, and telling Bible stories. Our group then put on a very simple but enthusiastic version of the story of Joseph and his brothers. The poverty was evident but there was no lacking in the joy in their faces. It was a pleasure to participate in a small way but we hope that 1) seeds are sown for Christ to take root, and 2) that through the efforts of groups like FTS and World Vision that both their spiritual and physical needs are met and their lives impacted for good. I'm writing this several days after this and we have been extremely impressed with the FTS staff members. Dallion, Tokusun, Panda, Lucia, Tinga and Doreen have a gift for loving and reaching children. Time after time, we have seen them as Pied Pipers in the best sense, as they quickly gain control of dozens of youngsters and use what ever opportunity is available to impact them.
This was our first evening out away from a city and by 6:30, it was dark and the stars were out in force. It was amazing the number of stars God has placed there which we aren't able to see in our night skies with the city lights.

Monday (7/13)

We walked into town, which is very small, and visited to Nkhoma Hospital where we had the privilege of handing out basic medications not easily available there and quilts made by WACC members to babies and young children there in the hospital. We then walked to the local woodworker's shop where a couple of us picked up some mementos.
After lunch, we again packed up our "coaster" bus and returned to that same village. Our driver, Max, was incredible. He took us safely over dirt tracks that can scarcely be considered roads, some so rough that bicyclists get off and walk. We again were met by around 100 kids and this time we also added some craft time. Our group had prepared for a couple of days of what we expected as our traditional VBS classes but adjusted on the fly to meld in with the FTS team. Our teachers took the lead and we soon had all age groups involved in activities. We culminated the afternoon when we passed out 2 cases of bibles in Chichewa, the local language. These bibles were purchased with money we'd raised by the sales of bracelets during the World Vision Experience at church this June. It was tremendous to see the gratefulness of the children especially as many sat down where they received them and began reading right then.

Among the group, we saw boys who were playing homemade banjoes made out of wood and old kerosene lamps. Their innate musical abilities and love for music were evident as they played, not for us but for the love of music. Emilio Tello, our group guitarist, had brought a guitar on the trip. He brought it off the bus and the older of the banjo players almost went into shock as he caught his first glimpse and heard his first notes on this instrument. Several of them spent the next 30-45 minutes playing and enjoying the sounds this instrument was able to produce in trained hands. After discussion with the FTS staff, Emilio made him an offer; trade the homemade banjo for the guitar and case. When the offer was translated, all his friends accepted for him in unison but all he could do was sit there in stunned silence. He quickly recovered to accept and was soon going up the hill, gently carrying his new treasure (We saw him again another day and his joy was still evident).
As much fun as we had interacting with these warm people, we saw their need for so many of the things we take for granted. Malawi has been in a drought for over a decade which is evident in the countryside as there are few mature trees because they are cut down for firewood. One of the bright spots is the growing number of wells which impact the people in many ways. Close proximity to water allows families to spend their time on other things like allowing their children to be educated rather than spend hours each day just retrieving water.
We don't know the impact any of our actions will have for eternity but we saw many kids who returned to find someone in our group they had met the day before. Especially touching was a girl of no more than 2 years who returned each day to see Jennifer Wagg and quickly grasp her hand.

This was the last time we'd see several of the FTS staff members so we shared some thoughts and remembrances of our time together. We interspersed prayer with a song and a bible game. All of this, including our dinner, was while the electricity was out, which I think added to the intimacy. The power did come back on a few hours later so we headed to our rooms to rest up for the next day. We have plans but aren't expecting things to go as we have planned but looking forward to whatever comes at us.

Tuesday (7/14)
Each evening we get together as a team and discuss the day we've just finished and the plan for the next day. Breakfast has usually been planned for around 0800 but no one has told the local roosters, who insist on helping us out by crowing no later than 0500. If we ignore that, the church bells remind us at 0600 and 0630 that a new day has started.
As mentioned above, although we have plans, Kari has repeatedly reminded us that of the need to be flexible. The team has done that. Today we were to meet with Pastor Amos, of the Chief's Ministry (another Y-Malawi partner) at 0800 to go to a Chief's meeting. Due to a large village funeral, the meeting became meetings and the time became afternoon. To fill the time, 9 of us went on a quick hike up Nkhoma Mountain, just outside of town. A "2 hour" hike turned into 3 hours as the hike distance and difficulty was underestimated. Seven of the group made it all the way to the top, clambering up the steep and rocky granite slopes. As we hurried down, some of us heard what sounded like a strange dog barking. A closer look revealed a pride of baboons nearby. With our cameras at the ready, we were able to bring back proof of this unexpected surprise.

After a quick bite, we jumped back on the coaster and headed back into the villages. The first was back at the school we had been the prior 2 days and we saw some of our friends again. There was a difference though. This time we were welcomed by a group of the village chiefs and by a choir of the chief's wives (although they do have woman chiefs). They sang several songs of welcome and worship. We then received places of honor as we witnessed one of their meetings. The regional chief spoke about the importance of the chief's leading their villages and being examples to them. The importance to them of Bible study was evident. Two provided short testimonies and their maturity was clear. They love their people but they also love God and his Word. Kari was asked to participate and gave a short message of encouragement using Ephesians 2. The second meeting was in an even more remote location and was headed by a regional chief over 48 villages, each with 20-50 families (probably between 6-8,000 people). He challenged us to make their challenges our challenges and not to go home and forget them. Melissa and Brenda also spoke briefly in one of the meetings, giving encouragement in spite of circumstances.

We finished our dinner and then several of us spent part of the evening lying on the front yard grass and enjoying the bright stars in the sky. The weather has been nothing but fantastic, the temperature being around 70-75 every day. This is the Malawian winter and it is a little funny to see people in jackets and babies with knit caps on in the middle of the day. Our food has also been excellent with the cooks here cooking us familiar foods such as rice and chicken and the local staple, Nsima, a thick doughy meal made of corn meal.

Wednesday (7/15)
Today was one of the highlighted days on our group itinerary, the day many would get to meet their World Vision sponsored child for the first time. Several World Vision staff joined us as translators as we drove to several villages. We met with a total of 11 sponsored children and several of their families as well. So many were very shy and a little overwhelmed with the sudden attention and the gifts. It brought us joy to see them as they began to understand that these people cared for them. The parents very eloquently expressed their thanks and appreciation for our support, not just for the specific child but also for the concrete differences World Vision support is doing in their lives. The community wells and the schools were specifically named. It was an honor to be able to participate in such a small way to impact lives for the better. At one stop, we met with 6 children at their school and after we'd met privately, we were welcomed by the whole school and serenaded by 2 choirs. After this we were able to return to the Guest hose for a little down time.
With this group, down time is a little of a misnomer. We soon had convinced Dallion to accompany us on a walk to the local market. The sights and sounds were unlike anything we are used to here. Each vendor and stall sells something different, and very little of it is processed to say the least. That did not phase this team at all. We were soon sharing foods we have never seen before, at least not in this form. We shared some pastries made of wheat and corn; we bought bread, great tasting bananas, tomatoes, fried potatoes, and sun dried smelt (small fish which our cook fried up for some of us later). Needless to say we spoiled our dinner appetites a little but did enjoy seeing how the people here really live.

Thursday (7/16)

This morning we said goodbye to the Nkhoma area, packing up and heading back to Lilongwe, where we checked in at the comparatively luxurious Mididi Inn. After unpacking, we drove to the FTS building site. Seven years ago they bought several acres and have been slowly building as time and funds allow. We tried to help (actually trying not to hinder the actual workers) and cleaned up several rooms and the outside of a lot of construction debris. A few also tried our hand at building a small wall but the truth is we hope it is still standing at least until we get on the plane next week. A few hours of this and we retired to Louise’s home for a short time. We will be returning to the hotel and are looking forward to dinner and hot showers.