Blog: August 2015
Friday, August 14th
Today we witnessed the power of community, the power of commitment and dedication, and the power of God's Love. As we dedicated the girls' SafeHaven home at YouthCare Ministries, we saw a vision realized. Gibozi and others spoke about the history of YouthCare and how the addition of the girls' home expanded their goal of helping children on their path of religious and academic education. In her heartfelt remarks (supported by a translator!), Nancy underscored how so many hands worked together to reach this day: UPI, New Hanover UMC, First Presbyterian, other support organizations, and of course, Gibozi and the team at YouthCare.
We spent time with the girls after the ceremony, and to see their faces, their gratitude, and their hope for the future, for their future, was overwhelming. To be a part of this moment was an honor.
From YouthCare, we traveled to our second site visit for the day, ChristCares. Here we were also amazed at the work being done in this local community. Two hundred kids attend summer camp on this day. Lunch is served during camp and mothers of the children are asked to take a turn making the the meal for the campers. We get to help make nsima, a cornmeal-based food that is a staple starch in Malawi, much like bread, rice, or pasta. After lunch, the kids performed songs and skits for us. After they are dismissed, we are joined by some of the older students to paint two classrooms. Working side by side with these young students, we spoke with them about their academics, their daily lives, and their aspirations.
The final stop on this busy day was a trip back to the orphanage for a pizza party. Although we showed up well over an hour late, these kids waited patiently for us and without complaint. Debi and John shared handmade dresses with the girls, and Nancy and Gene gave each girl and boy their own Bible.
So many things were revealed to us on this day: that the children are so grateful and gracious. That they have and continue to overcome tremendous struggles. That they have virtually no possessions yet still have a profound sense of joy and hope in their hearts. That those working with and for the kids have unmatched commitment, an ability to use their resources to the fullest, and determination to continue their mission. We have seen true grace in action. And, as so many told us before we arrived in Malawi, we have received so much more than we came to give.
We arrived safely and happily on Thursday midday. Transfer through Ethiopia was pleasantly uneventful, and we arrived on schedule in Lilongwe. Before entering customs, each of us was subjected to a temperature check to ensure there was no fever. Customs was easy enough to navigate once we realized the posted signs didn't align with where arriving passengers could go. Some of us went through lines for Malawian residents, others through lines that said special assistance. But the check through was simple: finger prints, photos, and a few questions about where we were staying, and off we went to baggage claim. Baggage claim made the customs line look very orderly, but we managed to retrieve our 20 bags. And then we were in our way to the Baptist Guest House!
With a shortened agenda masterfully reworked by our host executive director Peter Gamula and our mission leader Margaret Wooten, we wasted not one minute getting started on our in-country journey.
Day 1 in Malawi afforded us a brief but eye-opening tour of the city of Lilongwe. As we rode, Peter shared facts about the city, the people, and the culture. We were amazed and overwhelmed at the sights and sounds. The way of life here is so foreign to what we know and how we live. There were sobering sights, like the coffin vendors who lined one street of an open air market we traveled past. But there were signs of thriving people, too-- traveling by foot, by bicycle (often carrying tremendous loads on their backs and bikes), and by car. There were schools, stores, nurseries, and road side vendors of fruits, rubber strips, and mice (a delicacy some of us vow to try before we leave!). In little less than an hour, we had a picture of this capital city in the warm heart of Africa. Despite seemingly abject poverty, the country was starting to reel us in.
That evening, we dined out with friends from Youth Care, Christ Cares, and Rise Malawi! They shared with us dos and don'ts on our journey, and background about our itinerary. As we finished our meal, we headed back to the guest house, excited for our busy second day in Malawi. We are blessed to be here! --Kelly Donlon Hoy
UPI's Director of Special Projects, Margaret Wooten, is leading a vision trip to Malawi. She is taking a team of UPI supporters to visit our ministries, meet our executive directors, and witness the work we are doing in "The Warm Heart of Africa." Check back often for updates from the team!
Day 2: Journey to MalawiAs the second day of our journey comes to a close, we have so much to share already. First and interestingly, we are still stateside. A series of unforeseen challenges served to test us and bless us yesterday.Mechanical failure of ourcommuter hop from Philly to DC resulted in a cancelled flight, preventing us from catching the once daily flight to Ethiopia--our connecting leg to Africa. We implemented plan B: split our party of 10 in two-- half would fly to DC that afternoon and half would drive, and we would try to initiate the trip directly from DC the next day. The driving group got as far as Delaware before getting the call about the new plan. Shifting our itinerary by one day proved not to be possible because another set of once daily in-continent flights were fully booked (I.e., we could get to Ethiopia, but not from Ethiopia to Malawi!). Rerouting attempts through two other African countries and from other airports in the U.S. were also unsuccessful. Finally, after hours of calling travel agents and airlines, we knew we would not leave the U.S. as planned or even as hoped. The car travelers turned around, those at the airport returned home, and we all waited for Plan C. By this morning, our wonderful coordinator Margaret had confirmed our new itinerary: drive to DC , fly . Our trip was shortened by two days but otherwise intact.Second and most notable, our delay of departure (while frustrating) demonstrates God's wisdom and the need to trust Him in all things. No wheels upyielded many blessings we couldn't have had if we had left as planned: one of us experienced an allergic reaction to the anti-malaria meds and was able to get medical care and a new prescription. Another of us was able to say a happier farewell to family, leaving on better terms than the previous day. All of us got a good night's rest, waking refreshed and renewed. Driving to DC gave us a chance to bond this newly formed Malawi-bound "family." Through the changes, we've demonstrated a flexibility and resilience that bodes well for the rest of our journey.We don't know whatwill bring. But whatever happens, we know we are guided by God's Loving Hand. And with His Grace, our next report will be from Malawi. . .--Kelly Donlon Hoy