Today we worked on a building project at the site of the Mbidi congregation. Ed Peters assisted with laying bricks while the rest of our group carried bricks to the building site. We worked along side our companions. Some of the women were also carrying children on their backs in addition to transporting bricks. This building will either be used for a Deanery or Diocese Headquarters. There are also photos of the Mbidi congregation's church, which is where we ate lunch. The meal consisted of nsima, rice, goat meat, and cooked greens. I've been waiting to have goat because it's delicious. You can see from the photos that this church has running water. The Abusa informed us that they had to put that area inside of the church because people were stealing the cups. If I'm not mistaken, this church also operates a feeding station. Upon our return to the motel after taking showers, several of us went for a walk into Zomba to purchase some shampoo and snacks. It was a long walk which was downhill on the way there and uphill all the way back. In total it took us an hour and a half round trip. It was quite a workout.
This morning we attended worship with the Sadzi congregation at the Zomba Deanery Zomba Parish. Our companion, the Balaka Parish, is part of the Zomba Deanery. You can see it listed in the photo of membership statistics. The service lasted approximately three hours with lots of beautiful singing from three choirs. Afterwards, we had lunch at the pastor's residence. We stopped back at the motel to change clothes and then went on a drive up the mountain. It was a wonderful day. Dick Tyson, I found some Mzuzu coffee that I will bring back for you to enjoy.
Here are some photos from the land and water safaris this morning. We traveled to Zomba and are getting settled in at Annie's Lodge. There was an elephant in our camp this morning around 5:00 AM, but I didn't get to see it. Either I was still sleeping or it was too dark out. However, yesterday I saw one across from my chalet on the other side of the river.
Today we arrived at Mvuu Camp around lunch time. It was great because we can eat the fresh vegetables here. We went on a land safari and watched the sunset.
We visited another congregation in the Balaka Parish today, which is the companion parish for Christ Lutheran Church. This church is located very close to ZUC Lodge where we are staying. We were greeted once again by Abusa Francis and many congregation members. I’m told that Balaka Parish has 519 communicants and 676 children for a total of 1,195 members. I summoned the courage to greet one person in Chichewa. He asked where I learned to speak Chichewa, and I had to confess that he had just heard everything that I know.
Today is a holiday where Malawi celebrates their country’s independence. They were a British colony just like the United States. Even though we are very different, we have many things in common. We were saddened to hear that today there was an independence celebration at a stadium and unfortunately five children were trampled to death and five others injured and hospitalized. This is something that you likely won’t hear in the news in the United States.
I gave Abusa Francis copies of our pictorial directory, which are being shared with the congregations in the parish. Everyone is very interested in looking at them and find our church building very beautiful. The biggest challenges for this parish are Islam and disease including Malaria, TB, and HIV/AIDS. They request that we pray for them and do not forget our companionship. They are praying for our group for safe travel throughout Malawi and our return home. I’ve also requested that they pray for our congregation as we call our new pastor. We gave them gifts of a soccer ball, a volleyball, a ball pump, and some frisbees. Abusa Francis was very happy to receive a Christ Lutheran Church coffee mug along with two pens. Since he travels to serve 14 different congregations, I am certain he needs to drink coffee. We spent some time visiting with the members of the congregation. The teenagers in the group enjoyed playing with the many children there. They also have a nursery school at the church. I brought a Polaroid camera with me today and took photos of many of the children, as well as some of the adults for them to keep. Once they saw what I was doing, several people came up to me and asked for me to take pictures for them. It was a great way to interact with each other. One group of young ladies also had their picture taken with me.
We learned how to play netball, which is similar to basketball except there is no dribbling. I’m afraid there may be a video of me falling to the ground trying to get the ball posted to YouTube by one of the young adults watching our game! Let me just say in my defense that it isn’t easy to do wearing a long skirt! But it was still fun. In visiting with them, a young boy who is in Standard 5 indicated to us that there are 100 students in his class and two teachers.
We were welcomed into the parsonage for lunch which was white rice, delicious chicken, cooked spinach, and the best tasting bananas you can imagine. Bananas in the United States have no taste in comparison. When we returned to our motel, I also enjoyed a Coca Cola in a glass bottle made with real sugar.
Mphatso brought the dongle today so that we can use Internet. So glad that I had a shower last night because after breakfast, the power was off. We traveled to Balaka today. This is Christ Lutheran's companion parish. Got a late start in heading to Balaka because Pastor John needed to go with Mphatso back to the airport to get one of the bags of gifts that was missing. We stopped for lunch and some shopping at Dedza Pottery. At 5:00 PM we arrived at one of the congregations of the Balaka Parish. It was a long drive on a very bumpy dirt road to a remote area. The Abusa and another gentleman on a dirt bike led us to the location. There were two congregations at this location. They had been waiting since 2:00 PM. That is how Malawi time works. They greeted us with singing. They had greetings where Abusa Francis introduced them and told us about their parish. He serves 14 congregations. They have a feeding station for children five and under that operates three times a week and is funded entirely by their congregation. They also provide nursery school and participate in a Malaria program, which has helped the problem of Malaria within their congregation.
Their church building collapsed recently, and they have rebuilt walls in a new nearby location. However, they are in need of a roof.
Still no water in the morning. Went to the preschool/nursery and brought the children some toys, a soccer ball, and volleyball. One member of our group took photos of the children and gave them to the teacher. My Polaroid didn't work. We think the film may have froze in cargo. There were 22 children in the class with one teacher. Later on met with the Bishop and his staff. I was able to see the Southern Cross in the nighttime sky. After dinner, the water came back on and we were able to take cold showers. First shower since New York.
The gifts were packed last week and are ready to go. Each person will check an extra bag or two in order to get these transported to Malawi. Please pray for our group's safe travel. We begin our journey Saturday morning.