Sunday, we attended and participated in church services joining Eston Mgala’s (our permaculture expert) congregation in Lilongwe. Several groups in the congregation took turns singing angelically. Tyler Sommer and Dr. Melanie Carlone were invited to be the guest preachers, and they spoke about charity and servant-leadership. Our team was asked to sing a song for them, so we sang a service-related hymn, “Have I Done Any Good in the World Today?” and we sang a working/serving song as we brought in donations for the charity associated with the church congregation. We repeated our song over and over and the entire congregation joined along. Cam did impress them with his piano playing as well. There were many other songs, prayers and messages and it was an honor to participate along with the members of the congregation. Many of the little ones found their way to the welcoming arms and laps of our team members during the service and gathered around outside afterwards to sing for us and send us off with more smiles and hugs.
After church we had the most delicious PBJ’s or PBH’s (honey) you could imagine (they taste better when you’re hungry)… this meal will be a staple for our lunches during our stay here quite a bit. We visited a historic park, some climbed a tower and a very rare, friendly pet dog came and hung out for a bit (peanut butter lured him in).
The awesome highlight of the day was our visit to a baby orphanage, where each team member played with kids five and under and even held the babies (one was just four days old). There were bubbles blown, balls tossed, wagons pushed, hands held, babies rocked, goofy voices heard, laugher felt and love oozing from each heart. It was such a joy to watch all the interactions of our 45-member team and all the littles just loving someone loving on them… truly touching. Of all the highlights watching and participating and holding the littles, I think the best part was at the very end, where a man, Roland, and his girlfriend from Texas (who ‘happened’ to be on our same flight in to Lilongwe on Friday!) – came to spend time with the kids and hand out pieces of chocolate. He said he lived there 24 years ago, later adopted a daughter who was an orphan and explained that this was ‘his family’ where he happily visited frequently to give back. I was touched about to tears… for this is what life is about and this aligns with our purpose and mission of service.
Monday we made our way to the school worksite in Selengo where everyone divided off into teams, but in a really incredible way it was like a rotating teamwork all day long. From sanding the existing schoolroom walls (pictured is Stefan with Edna), to planing and sanding the desktops. We also carried hundreds of forty-pound cinderblocks to start building the walls with mortar working alongside our local construction team and volunteers from the village for the three-room school block. The children worked with us all day long: smiling, laughing, simply enjoying all of us being together. It was so special to be able to see this project start to literally come off the ground! The children, and even some of the adults, were treated to having their nails painted. Another exciting treat that created quite the lineup was having name tags made for them. Towards the end of the day one of our team members was cleaning her hands with a wet wipe and the kids were curious about that so they were then treated to having their necks cleaned off of all the dust from the workday and they loved having their necks wiped down! It was so humbling to see happiness on the children’s faces for the things we quite often take for granted. Once our work day came to an end, a dance circle formed where we took turns having the children enter the center of the circle to dance with one of our team members. The kids clapped and laughed along, what a wonderful way to end the day! This may be a new ritual to end each workday going forward. We can’t wait to get back tomorrow and experience a whole new day. Thank you again for sharing your families with us, they all miss you as well but just know that over here right now, they are making a world of difference!
At the end of the day, we ended with a team meeting and time to reflect on the activities of the day, along with share some precious moments and learnings together. So may rich experiences and pictures, so I engaged the help of several people tonight to author this together. It’s been wonderful to watch the interactions, the service for each other and the unconditional love toward complete strangers as we serve alongside each other here in the Warm Heart of Africa.
We arrived safely Friday here in Lilongwe with wonderful food on our flights and with happy, yet tired team members all around! We arrived just after noon and our process through the visa line was our quickest yet, though still a hand-written, hand-stickered, hand-stamped, and hand-checked process (yes – four people checked each of us in one by one by one). We are staying at a beautiful hotel in Lilongwe with a cook who is an expert in food from India and we will also have African food too. The hotel staff members are all lovely and accommodating and have been anticipating our arrival.
Last night, we unpacked our 4,500 pounds of donations that we brought and divided it among many orphanages, hospital and medical facility/school as well as a nearby church congregation with a large orphanage program. It was touching to see all the wonderful donations that everyone collected, lugged, packed and unpacked to serve so many! Our 45 team members represent hundreds and hundreds of wonderful people who are all helping with our efforts and we are honored by your support. Today, we visited Child Legacy International (childlegacy.org) and then met the chiefs, top leaders and villagers of Selengo where we will build a 3-classroom school block, library and repair a teacher’s house. They gave us a very formal warm welcome with the leaders in their Sunday best and we toured the site, walked down to the well that we are having drilled for the community (called a borehole) and then had a lot of fun with about 150 kids. The headmaster for the school is grateful for our assistance and support and the villagers are excited to work alongside us. As part of our permaculture and sustainability focus, we work with the community to build a sustainable food source.
From our co-team leader, Dr. Melanie Carlone:
We are very keen on finding sustainable ways of supporting the work of our Malawian partners as they struggle to restore health to themselves and their rather devastated environment. Over the next two weeks we will be dedicated to helping increase educational opportunities with our school building and also into the root cause of poverty with our support and training in permaculture awareness, a systems approach to individual and community health.
Team members are jumping in, serving, helping, working, laughing and learning! Today we bring our hearts and tools to begin a major building process.
We all send our love and appreciation to our family and supporters and are REALLY excited for our adventure!