There was a somber silence in the mini bus. It was very early, still dark, and the city of Lusaka was busy with its daily wake-up routine. The Reverend had barely said a word all morning and I wondered what was going through her mind. Was she sad or relieved? Probably a combination of both! As I stared out of the window I thought about the week that had felt so long, but yet passed so quickly. God was good…
After another long bus trip we arrived in Lusaka just before sunset. I was relieved that we were meeting somebody on the other side – The last time I was here with my friend Ryno we were completely clueless. Taxi drivers and touts immediately spot this and like a pack of wild dogs that have identified the weakest member they surround you, attempting to sell their services at ridiculous rates.
Even though I have never met her before I instantly spotted Reverend Chongo Phiri. She was wearing a brightly coloured green dress and her hair was beautifully done, one could see this was a women of distinction. Our eyes quickly met and my assumptions were confirmed – she gave a quick smile and a nod (obviously I was not the only one making assumptions.)
After the dusty camp site in Kazungula we appreciated the fact that we would be staying in a house. Our team quickly felt welcome in the Phiri home and I enjoyed conversations with the reverend’s two younger sons, Miza and Chongo. Both of them now have school holidays, but you won’t say that if you look at how hard Miza studies. Kafula, the reverend’s eldest son is an entrepreneur and he seems like a very bright guy. She also has an eight year old daughter Zennie and a two year old adopted orphan named Joy. Joy was definitely a highlight, she really is a lot of fun! Mr. Phiri is an accountant at Grant Thornton, he works very hard so we did not get to see him much.
Reverend Phiri is the director of Heart of Mercy, a ministry that aims to support widows and orphans in Lusaka. Currently the types of support they offer are nutritional support, educational support and home based orphan care. She was very excited about our presence since she had never received a team before. On Tuesday we went with her to one of the communities she is working in, called Misisi. The conditions in Misisi are terrible and I was almost overwhelmed by the need. Most of the people live on one meal of maize a day, if they are lucky. There are hundreds of kids running around, most of them orphans… Kids being kids, they still look happy and careless and was excited when a few white people entered their township. We soon had a whole entourage of kids shouting “Wazungu!” (White wanderer). Christo replied by shouting “Bafana!” (Children) back at them and soon hundreds of kids walked behind him shouting “Wazungu! Bafana! Wazungu! Bafana!” While we enjoyed the experience I envied Lerato who had more luck blending in.
On Wednesday we had a meeting at the Heart of Mercy office and the reverend explained every thing they are busy with. She also went through their current systems and we realized that a simple Excel database could help them to solve a lot of their problems. She was overjoyed when we offered to build one… I was amazed that such a simple task could mean so much to somebody and it was also a good feeling to use my studies directly on the field. Christo also offered to make a short video of their organization that they can use to market themselves and their needs. She walked out of that meeting with a big smile on her face!
Thursday was a day for hard work. Heart of Mercy had acquired a plot of land, something that is apparently not easy to do in Lusaka and we had the special opportunity to attend the ground breaking for the new community centre they intend to build. We spent the rest of the morning digging foundations, it was quite tough but satisfying work! We took the day off on Friday to wash clothes and to work on the Heart of Mercy video. On Saturday morning we played some soccer with the kids in a poor community and the girls also had a puppet show for them!
Sunday was a good day! We went to a local church… I have been to many African churches this year, and this one was quite different! While the church took place in a run down tent everything was very organised and they had a full worship band, including a very talented tenor saxophone player… I really enjoyed the worship! After church we had our first proper MIA2012 meeting, about 16 people attended and it went really well! In this short time we really grew close to the Phiri family. Reverend Chongo has been a great inspiration, her heart is in the right place and I trust God to do great things in her ministry! I count it a blessing that things worked out as they did!
We arrived in Malawi on Tuesday and we are loving every moment of it. Yesterday’s MIA meeting in Lilongwe exceeded our expectations by far, more on that in the next post. As I am finishing this post we are sitting in a crowed bus on our way to Blantyre. (Christo and Steve are disappointed that they are not allowed to sit on the roof!)We are going to stay in a rural village for five days so we may be out of contact for a while!
Day by day we are being challenged and God is working in our hearts. It is not always fun, but I won’t have it any other way. Many people we meet say it is a great sacrifice. I count it a blessing… Please be praying for us. Thanks for reading!
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