We spent the first few days in the Zomba/Taulo area having an opportunity to see directly the work. The feeding program continues to be a good source of nourishment to the 400 preschool children who attend the school FVM built a few years ago. The school is still being used by a few families who lost everything in the heavy February rains and flooding. It was interesting to see teachers handling a class of 125 students and actually having the children listening and learning. I would hate to hear what teachers in US and Canada would say at class sizes that large.
We were able to sit in on a Bible study led by Pastor Falinya and it was very moving to see the impact the gospel and instruction in the Word is having on their lives. Both Newton and Pastor Falinya commented on the changes they are seeing in the last year with the increased effort in pastoral care. It was a lesson to me on thankfulness and lives changed by the power of God - folks were not talking about what they had lost in the flood but how God had provided and lives are being changed. The additional funds spent last year on this effort are paying eternal dividends.
We spent quite a bit of time with Newton as he went over the impact on the families, his proposals for food supplies necessary to meet their needs in the coming year until gardens could produce again and his wisdom in how to administer the program. We did not tell him ahead of time how much had been collected but let him work out a plan and a budget and then rejoiced together as we saw how God had provided exactly enough to cover all expenses. At MCF in Columbus folks of all levels of income gave whose hearts were touched by the needs. Some gave very sacrificially from little children emptying piggy banks to former drug addicts living at poverty level in US – all gave. We purchased all the necessary food and delivered it to the families. It was touching to see their extreme gratefulness to all that had been done. It made me feel as if I had not done any sacrificing but I was having the chance to observe true sacrifice as they came forward to share pineapples, a live chicken, eggs, mangoes, bananas, etc. From their extreme poverty they gave to us.
In Taulo, we also had an official ceremony with government officials where the school was officially turned over to Malawians. FVM has demonstrated and is recognized as an organization who really cares about the community and is "putting their money where their mouth is" as we might say. They see how the care is not a one time donation but an ongoing involvement that is impacting villagers over the long term.
We then were able to go to a SCOM (Student Chistian Organization of Malawi) conference in the Mulange area for a day and later in Zomba area. It was good to have the chance to see how they are ministering to the youth with good practical teaching from the Word and to hear how SCOM is having an impact in their schools and communities. We had to leave early as Newton's son Ebenezer had put his arm into boiling water and had to go to the hospital to treat first and second degree burns. He seemed to be recovering nicely by the time I left.
We had the joy of attending the non-official opening of the new school in Nandolo, constructed through funds donated by MCF, and see the impact it is having on the 200 children there. Ellena is doing a GREAT job in teaching the kids and we could see growth as they put on a program for us with the little kids showing some of what they had learned and the adults putting on a skit to convince other villagers of the value of sending the kids to school. Singing and dancing made it also memorable as did their generous giving at the end - similar what we had seen in Taulo. The school is very well constructed and I was impressed by the quality of the work. We can pray Ellena gets some additional help but she is amazing.
I felt at times like I was being cleansed from the culture I had come from of materialism, selfishness, pride etc and just learning in some small way how God can meet every need and much of the junk I deal with at home just clutters up my life and makes it unfruitful. I loved getting back to basics for a while and loved being able to see what God is doing. I almost feel as if some of this good is slipping away as I am now home and dealing with the challenges again of our culture. Before coming back to our culture, Dan and I did provide a meal for about 20 at the house on Saturday night before I left and I have not heard of any food poisonings that lasted more than one day.