We hope you are all well. We are thankful for good health especially as there is currently a big cholera outbreak. The hospital has had to bring in a second big American Red Cross tent to handle all the cases. I heard last Sunday alone they admitted 69 patients. This small hospital is full and more are arriving from near and far.
Because the people here are so poor and there are fees at the hospital, they wait too long to come. In many cases it is too late by the time they arrive. There have been many deaths and funerals this week. Most Malawians know someone who has died in just the past week or two, including the local minister’s mother and sibling. One of the chaplains has had 3 deaths in his family.
I thought I would share a bit of what our life is like in the midst of this bigger picture of all that goes on within this Synod village campus.
We start our day with the squawking loud noises of the many chickens and roosters that freely roam everywhere you go. (Truly, they are free range chickens.) I am actually getting used to their morning call and on a good day can sleep in till 6:30 am. Then we slide out from under the mosquito netting that totally envelops our beds.
Breakfast has always been Chuck’s favorite meal; a long tradition in the Monts family. The big breakfast has continued here. The unique part of breakfast everyday without fail is a cup of Artemisia (helps prevent Malaria), which looks and tastes like what we imagine chopped-up green grass to be: bitter and grainy. I don’t like it and have to psych myself up to drink it while Chuck gulps it down like O.J..
Chuck began teaching at the seminary this past week. He did not get his teaching assignment and books ahead of time plus he is a first year teacher, so he’s spending a lot of time preparing to teach his courses–the Gospel of John & Acts and The Pentateuch & Books of History in the O.T.. The seminary is about a 5-10 minute walk from the guest house where we live. Since their English is not good enough to take notes, Chuck types out their notes for them, but, thus far, he hasn’t passed out the notes because the seminary’s copier either doesn’t have electric or is broken-down.
Chuck has already had his students come after class for pancakes. It was their first taste of pancakes and syrup! They are nice young men and we had a thoughtful conversation about our journeys of faith around the table.
Chuck has a following of elementary-aged kids that come running when they see him with his frisbee on the football (soccer) field. He has dreams of teaching them to play ultimate frisbee.
When I go for walks, there are many children wandering around. All levels of schooling, including elementary school, include fees and the cost of uniforms and books, so many children do not attend. Other families send their kids not to school but to beg for money. So many children go to bed and wake up hungry. I have seen the tiniest of pencils or a child using just the inside of pen which barely has any ink in it.
This is the rainy season and the season when there is a lot of hunger because maize isn’t harvested for another month or two. The reserves of food are mostly gone. People plant every possible piece of land with maize though very few can afford the inflated costs of fertilizer these days.
So, when I walk I see many children. I say hi to everyone. There are groups of little girls who come running when they see me. We high five, count, and this week I taught them the hokey pokey right out on the roadway. We just giggle while not understanding each other’s language.
As we walk we see many different things, we see goats tied flat to bicycle racks to take to the market. Men use bicycles as forms of cargo-transportation of heavy firewood, grain, you-name-it. The bikes are in terrible condition and are single-speed, so the men push their bicycles up and then ride them down hills. Most often, the pedals are just the metal posts onto which the rubber pedals are normally attached, and many of the bicyclists have no shoes!
There are two kinds of taxi’s we see as we walk. We see overcrowded mini-vans usually with a few guys partially hanging out of the van windows. We also see motorcycle taxis; they cut their motors while coasting downhill to save gas. We have seen motorcycles with a family of four plus the driver! There are few if any safety-laws.
The Dean of the nursing school and the assistant dean have been very good to me and have gone the extra mile in order to have me accepted by the local and governmental nursing boards.. The required paperwork is actually unrealistic, expecting me to produce course outlines and professors’ qualifications from 1982.
In the meantime, I have been working with the chaplains who have been extra kind to include me in anything that I am interested in which includes praying with patients and palliative home visits.
We have met wonderful Malawians, and Malawian Christians doing good work. For example, one of the chaplains has a booth where he makes furniture. The quality of his work and skills are humbling and mystifying as he has primarily only manual tools. He is known in the area for his work, expanding his business to train others and mentor their Christian journey. He hopes someday for better tools and a building rather than an open-air booth in which to keep safe his tools and materials.
This place has a international flare with long-term workers from Canada, Netherlands, Germany, China. Five new nursing students arrived from the Netherlands to do a four-month rotation. I have already had the chance to hike with them.
You can predict the weather every day. A weather forecast is not needed because it is always the same: warm and sunny for a few hours followed by a few hours of torrential rain. The plants, flowers, and flowering trees and bushes are so beautiful at this time of year but will be turning brown by August. You can also count on no electricity for some or all of the day. Thank goodness for a LED flashlights we brought to read and study by most evenings.
We are learning a lot, adapting as we need to and ever grateful to grow as persons and in faith. We are being well-stretched. I have a Christian woman from Canada who has been here long term to talk through the things I see. She is a prayer warrior. It has been so encouraging to have someone like her to talk to and most of all pray with. She has encouraged all things to be given to God. As the beatitudes says… blessed are the poor….. When you are “poor” there is a greater chance that all hurts, generational sins, our comings and our goings, needs, etc….make us desperate and more likely to turn to God. May all things be given to God. May it be so.
Love and Prayers