We praise your name, O Lord, my God; you are the Alpha & Omega
Deb and Chuck’s Year of Volunteer Service in Malawi in 2023
We praise your name, O Lord, my God; you are the Alpha & Omega
Friends, I’m afraid we cannot add much news to that which you have heard in the States regarding the catastrophic floods and mudslides that have killed hundreds of people and destroyed many villages in the southern part of Malawi, home of the Synod of Blantyre.
To be clear, Deb and I are living and serving hours north of Blantyre and haven’t even had rain the past few days.
Sadly, the economic resources in Malawi are so limited, I truly don’t know what can or will be done for those who have lost loved ones, who are injured and whose villages have been demolished. I don’t want to be unnecessarily negative, but the daily living conditions of a significant majority of Malawians is nearly as hopeless and tragic.
I am hoping to touch base with some leaders within the Synod of Blantyre in hopes of offering a fundraising effort (you won’t be too awfully surprised when you hear about it 4-6 weeks from know), to help raise additional funds for those affected by this recent calamity. For those who wish to donate to immediate relief efforts, please visit the websites of organizations like The Red Cross or Samaritan’s Purse that have and continue to serve the least of these in Malawi and other struggling nations.
As for our efforts, as mentioned, every dollar donated to us and our service in Malawi beginning February 1, 2023, will be going exclusively to Malawians Deb and I know personally whose financial needs are extreme and to ministries serving hospital and palliative care patients, the elderly and disabled. Up to this point, thanks to humbling, thoughtful, generous donations, we’ve donated over $4000 to such individuals and ministry/mission organizations.
Thank you for your prayers for and donations to the people of Malawi. Deb and Chuck
I did hear this morning (Friday, March 17), at Chapel that over 300 have died with more than 200 who are missing, 40,000 homes heavily damaged or washed away entirely and almost 200,000 homeless. I did forget to mention, for those who wish to donate to the emergency relief happening in the southern Blantyre area, that PDA, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, is present and at work in the Blantyre area–donations can be made to PDA via the PCUSA website. Prayerfully, Chuck
We are so grateful for you. You have supported and upheld us. You have heard the needs and responded. We are in awe.
The situation in Blantyre, the southern region of Malawi, is heartbreaking due to the floods and mudslides of the cyclone. It seems like the people in our village all know someone who is directly affected. The stories of deep mud in homes, homes destroyed, villages cut off from aid, and seeing bodies floating.
People here are grateful and giving thanks to have made it through. How do people and the nation with little to no surplus respond to this crisis?? The church and village hospital in this poor community of Nkhoma are gathering supplies and people to help later this week. (Due to two donations received this past week, we have been able to donate $500 to an excellent relief organization—Villages in Partnership; they have doctors, nurses and contractors on the ground in the hard-hit region.)
During all of this, Chuck and I are settling into a routine. Chuck has his routine of teaching at the seminary; organizing a Food Pantry for seminary students who just don’t have enough money left over to buy food; working to introduce A.A. at the hospital in a country that does not know about A.A. and does not do much for alcoholics other than judge and ostracize them; planning a major fundraising effort for this July, which you’ll be hearing about in a month or so; and, of course, throwing frisbee with kids and young adults each week.
I have been working at the nursing college as an instructor. I spend time assisting in the skills lab and then helping students apply theory in the clinical setting. It is a joy to work with the staff and the students.
The startling thing for me is that health care is so different here. For example, I wondered why there was no urgency when someone had a stroke. There was no MRI done. The families can not afford an MRI. If the MRI showed there was a clot, there is no medicine to give. Because the people here are so poor and must pay for everything, they wait as long as possible to come to the hospital. Mostly, people come to the hospital to die.
Families in the hospital bathe and feed and totally care for the patient. They do most everything except give medication. They even sleep with the patient on the floor or in the hallway. There cook outside over open fires to provide what little they have for meals, mostly a maize dish called msima that has no nutritional benefits but at least provides carbohydrates.
So, 3 days a week I’m at the hospital/nursing school, and two days I’m doing palliative care with the hospital team that includes nurses, the only social worker who is volunteering as an intern without making a kwatcha/dollar or even a dime, and a chaplain. I really get to see how people live. We have seen the poorest people you can imagine.
Cirrhosis of the Liver is common here. I have seen the debilitation of end stage disease with twenty-something-year- olds. If the disease is not caused by alcohol, it is most commonly caused by parasites. If caught early, there is a simply and affordable medication. Public awareness about the parasite is poor but, then again, the people are exposed to the parasites in the soil because they have no shoes or wear just flip-flops. Once they acquire the disease, as always, poverty limits their access to medical care. One palliative care visit was for a 26-year-old who was so full of fluid liver disease that she could not lay down to sleep, could not walk, could no longer take care of her two-year-old. Often in this country, husbands leave their wives and children if the wife gets sick. This woman had no ability to care for herself, let alone her child. The palliative team provided medical care, tapped her abdomen to reduce the fluid, and brought food for her and her child.
As a palliative team we travel far in the hospital ambulance which is a big 4×4 type of jeep that goes in most terrain. It is a vehicle with just seats, and we spend the day bouncing on rough clay roads that are not as wide as the vehicle. They call it an ambulance but there is nothing medical in it. The fellowship in the van is sweet. The people that go on these visits change from week to week. It has been a great way for me to get to know people, and it is a joy to do what we can to help others.
Through the nursing college I have gotten a new friend Patricia. Her Christian testimony shines through, and she is a woman of prayer. Your donations have helped this single mom of three. Her middle child is a 10-year-old boy who just won his school spelling bee. He is headed to the capitol next week. He is hoping to be the national Malawian spelling champion. Your donations have helped him to go. Thank you.
Some other things in our life here. I am no longer waking up to chickens, I can sleep right through (yay). Daily I see herds of cow and flocks of goats walking throughout the village. As you walk you see bent over men using a relatively small machete cutting entire yards of grass. Kids walk long distances to school though some take motorcycle taxis. There might be 3-4 kids on a motorcycle; no helmets of course. Safety precautions are luxuries they also cannot afford.
Mosquitos like us and there are plenty of them. We sleep under netting. Chuck can be found in the morning and evening on mosquito hunts; today’s eradication count: 12. I even have a net set-up to sit outside on the porch. Even so, I get 5-10 new bites each day. We do take a grass-like-tea medication in hot water each morning to prevent acquiring malaria.
Chuck and I walk wherever we go. Everything is within reasonable walking distance. Malawi people pride themselves on being friendly, and they are. When you see people walking, they stop to greet you whether they know you or not. They ask how you are; they might ask where you are going. I find these brief encounters fascinating and enjoyable.
There are no restaurants in the village. We cook all our meals. Chuck regularly makes pancakes for guests we host most every week. We have never entertained more in our life. We spend a lot of time in the dark with LED lights that I brought from home, making meals, reading or getting from one space to the next. The electric goes out every day.
A short-term missionary doctor said it best for me: When you realize who God is and what Christ did for us on the cross (for me), I can’t help but be Changed and Grateful. Being here in Malawi is also life changing. Along with the desperate people who cling to God, again I realize my need for God. With all that Chuck and I see and do and experience…we can’t help but be Changed and Grateful. To God who has begun a good work in us be all honor and glory and praise.
Much Love, Deb