Lilongwe District

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    • Day 21

      Last day in Malawi

      May 29, 2023 in Malawi ⋅ 🌙 61 °F

      Today is my last full day in Malawi. We did a couple of errands in the morning, including stopping at Ethiopian Airlines office to confirm some changes they made on my ticket. Stopped for lunch, then headed to Dzaleka one last time. I spent some time talking with a young lady who is on the YWAM team. She is from Democratic Republic of Congo and was kidnapped when age was 18 by militants, but somehow managed to escape. She hitchhiked and was picked up by a couple of truck drivers, and while she didn't say it, inferred that there was some "payment" for the ride. When they got to a border, the drivers went to show passports, etc, and left her there waiting for them to return, but they never did. She had nothing, no ID, passport, money. Didn't know where she was. There were others stranded there in similar situation, so Malawi police were called and made arrangements for them all to be transported to Dzaleka Refugee Camp. She has been there ever since- 6 YEARS. Has applied for resettlement and now just waits for her request to be approved. Once they are approved, they then wait for an assignment to a new country. She loves the ministry at YWAM and has been there for 4 years, working with women, widows, disabled, and young girls- teens(her favorite). But her dream is to be a doctor. And she would love to get married and have children. So much unknown, but she has hope and joy. Won't you remember to pray for Dorcas when you think of her story? There are over 50,000 people at Dzaleka and EVERY ONE OF THEM HAS A HORROR STORY that brought them to the camp. It is sobering to think about the trauma, the despair, the poverty, the frustration of these people.
      Next, we went into the village just outside the camp and next to the YWAM base. Over 20 women showed up for Bible study, led by Roberta today. But first, they sang. Their joyful worship makes me so happy. I said my goodbyes to my new friends, and we headed back to Lilongwe. Roberta wanted to go out to celebrate my last night. There are only one or two restaurants on her side of town that stay open for supper. So we were back at La Cantina mexican restaurant. The food is so good!
      It has been an amazing and wonderful almost 3 weeks here and I hate to see it end. Thanks for coming along for the ride. Now 2 days and 4 flights to get home Wed evening.
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    • Day 13

      Day 11 in Malawi

      May 21, 2023 in Malawi ⋅ 🌙 64 °F

      We got up EARLY for church, this is the first of three services at Capital City Baptist, and the one Roberta usually attends. After church we went back home and packed up everything we needed for this afternoon. We went to a beautiful place owned by friends of Roberta's called The Four Seasons. It has beautiful gardens, with water features, and a lush tropical feel. There are a few different restaurants, coffee shop, ice cream shop, fancy gift shop and a beautiful nursery garden center. We went for an early lunch and walked around the grounds. It took so long for our lunch to be served that we didn't have much time to eat so took most of it with us. I will have it for supper. Then we headed out to Dzaleka Refugee Camp and the YWAM base for a fun project with a group of teenage girls. Katie will guess what it is, I am sure. When I was here 14 years ago I discovered/realized that women and girls dont have access to sanitary pads for their periods. They use old rags, and when they wash them, they have to hang them to dry where no one will see them. Often, the girls don't go to school during their period because they have leaking onto their clothes, nowhere to change rags or wash their hands. So the leader of the girls group asked about having the girls sew by hand a period pad that has a waterproof/leak proof layer and a way to hold an absorbent cloth that can be changed. We also gave each girl a pad already made and a pair of underwear. So I did not have high hopes for this project because I just didn't know what to expect. I didn't know if the girls knew how to sew or even thread a needle. I decided to save time by cutting all the pieces out and pinning them together with a needle. It would have taken all day if I had them cut it all out first. As it was, we were there for over 2 hours. The girls did a great job. It appeared that most of them knew how to stitch at least a little and were able to complete the project. They were pretty shy at first and didn't talk much. I asked them to sing for me as a way to say thank you and will attach a video of them singing for me. I had 30 kits and 37 girls. But the last seven came an hour late, so they didn't get to sew. Then when I asked them to join me for a photo, they went crazy and all jumped in front of me, so the pics aren't great. Roberta took most of the pics, and she is already asleep, so I will add hers tomorrow. It was a very special and rewarding time for me, but boy, we were wiped out when we were done. I am thankful that traffic was much lighter on Sunday. We had an adventure in driving as we left the camp. Just before getting on the main road as you leave the camp, there is a very narrow space between two buildings that you have to drive through and then turn right away. As we approached that turn, we were met by a small herd of cattle, maybe 12-15 of them, and had to stop and let them pass. We never know what's going to be on the road!Read more

    • Day 4

      Day 2

      May 12, 2023 in Malawi ⋅ ☀️ 79 °F

      After sleeping for 12 hours, I expected to feel better, but still ached all over, had a headache and felt dehydrated. But a shower, breakfast and a glass of water and some Tylenol helped a great deal, and so we headed out on a shopping expedition. We went across town to a very congested shopping area that is impossible to describe. But you can get anything- hardware, plumbing, electronics, plastic warehouse, clothing made for you, and on and on. Our goal was two treadle sewing machines, fabric, thread, scissors, with a plan to give them to a group of women at the refugee camp and teach them how to use them so they can begin to earn a living. We were able to get all that we needed, and a few things that Roberta needed. Then we went to the chitenje market, where all the wonderful African fabrics are sold. A chitenje is a 2 meter piece of fabric that most women wear as a wrap skirt. They are also used to spread out on the ground to sit on or to wrap around a baby to wear on their back. The colors are beautiful, the patterns so varied and the choices are many. On my previous trip, I came home with a LOT of fabric and still haven't used it all. But the colors seemed brighter, the patterns prettier, and I DID need a couple of chitenjes to wear in the refugee camp, so got three pieces only, this time. I may get more before I leave here, but it was SO fun to look.
      I didn't talk about driving here, they drive on the opposite side from the US, I had forgotten that. It is jarring and scary as a passenger. To make it worse, there are pedestrians, bicycles, motorbikes, and lots of cars all sharing the road. You have to be a very aggressive driver here.
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    • Day 15

      Day 13 in Malawi

      May 23, 2023 in Malawi ⋅ 🌙 64 °F

      We took the morning to do laundry and pack for our adventure tomorrow through Friday. We are going on a 2 night safari in South Luangwa Park! Four game drives! Don't expect much internet there. It is 4 1/2 hr drive from Lilongwe. I will still write up each day, and if there is no service, I will upload those days when we get back.
      We went out to Dzaleka to
      have another conversation with the family who had asked for money to pay off "someone" who would help expedite their exit from the camp. This time the son was present, and he speaks English and was able to explain that no one had asked them for money, but his mother was worried and wanted to be prepared in case someone did ask. I am trying to find out more about the refugees' plight, what the process is to get out and be resettled. I have so many questions and not many seem to fully understand the process. There are many rumors spread also. We returned home, had Supper and I almost finished a second cushion cover, but quit so I can get to bed early. We meet the driver at 6:30 am😴🥱
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    • Day 12

      Day 10 in Malawi

      May 20, 2023 in Malawi ⋅ 🌙 64 °F

      I am halfway through my time here! It is going too quickly. This morning we drove back to Area 2 shopping district to get the belts for the sewing machines, thread and zippers for the cushions and a few more supplies for tomorrow's project. We were back by noon, and I spent a few hours getting the final preparations for tomorrow. I have no idea how this will go, but it is what was requested of me. We will see. Then we went to a big party for Roberta's friend Val, who I mentioned on Day 3. The theme was "Out of Africa," and it was a potluck picnic out in a field. There were lights, firepit containers, and so much food. Val was making the rounds and speaking with all her friends, 40-50 or so. And that was about half of who was invited. She has many friends who all care about her a great deal. She came to Africa over 60 years ago to work in telecommunications. It was such a nice time. We watched the sunset, looked at the stars, ate so much good food and then had to drive home in the dark. It is so much worse than during the day. There are no streetlights, there are still people on bicycles, walking, on motorbikes all the while still having to dodge the many, many big potholes in the road- and traffic was still heavy at 7pm on Saturday night. It is nerve-wracking and exhausting for Roberta and for her passenger!
      We made it home and were in bed early so we can go to her regular church service at 7:30am🫨🫨😴🥱
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    • Day 10

      Day 8 in Malawi

      May 18, 2023 in Malawi ⋅ 🌙 63 °F

      This morning we returned to Dzaleka to visit Grace and see how the new machines were working out. There were six machines, all humming away. One of their older machines was not working, and I looked to see what the problem was. Couldn't figure it out but will discuss it Saturday with a machine parts guy to see if they know how it might be fixed. We have to return to the shopping area, Area 2, where we went last Friday to get the machines. I was assured that good, strong belts were included with the machines, but when they were assembled, no belts were found in the packaging. So the man we bought them from is giving us four belts as compensation. But it means another trip to Area 2, which is daunting.
      The good news, as we knew it would be, was that those using the new machines had made temporary belts by making a string out of a strip of fabric(pics below), which worked well. But it is temporary, only lasts a couple of weeks at best. The strong leather ones can last more than two years. Then they asked me to help some beginners get started, so we started with just getting the feel of the treadle. It takes some precise to get the feel of it. Then they get a piece of lined notebook paper and have to practice running the paper through the machine, without thread. The needle punches holes in the paper and they have to keep the row of holes in the line on the paper. I had 2 men and 2 women getting their first sewing lesson. They have a couple of teachers there who will continue to teach them tailoring. Today while I was sewing, one of the ladies made a dress for Roberta. It fit her beautifully.
      We stopped on the way to the YWAM base at a restaurant in the camp for a lunch of rice and beans and greens. It was tasty and was less than $2. The restaurant was just an 8x10 room with a few tables and benches.
      At the YWAM base, Roberta got on a video call to Baltimore to introduce some of her friends to the YWAM director and his wife. Then Roberta had a hard conversation with Trason about the lady we visited yesterday who is paralyzed and has been approved for leaving the camp for the US. It is difficult to describe the complexities of the issue and all the challenges faced by these refugees- human trafficking is rampant, people think nothing of stealing from their neighbors, sanitation and running water is minimal, most have to carry water from a central well for cooking, bathing, drinking. Many have no way to earn an income and are always hungry. Small children wander alone everywhere, I guess they know where they are going. It is impossible to imagine the horror that brought them there, and the despair of being there.
      We privileged ones get to drive away to a nice home and plenty to eat and flush toilets. Lilongwe even has a Mexican restaurant, where we stopped for margaritas and chips and guacamole on the way home.
      After a light supper, I got back to the cushions, I got the first one cut out and will start sewing tomorrow afternoon. I also spent time prepping for Sunday's project.
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    • Day 9

      Day 7 in Malawi

      May 17, 2023 in Malawi ⋅ 🌙 63 °F

      This morning was for errands. We had to meet a person to pay for the safari we are going on next week🤩! Then we picked up friends of Roberta's who had loaned her their second car while hers was in the shop and went to get her car. It wasn't ready so her friends dropped us off at the immigration office so Roberta could get an extension on her visa. Car still wasn't ready so we walked to a coffee shop to wait until someone from the shop came to pick us up and take us there. And that was our morning. Back at Roberta's, she fixed a late lunch while I started on a sewing project for her. She asked if I could make new covers for her porch sofa and chairs. We got new thicker cushions and fabric last Fridsy when we got the sewing machines. I cut the corners off one end of 5 cushions to match the rounded ones that were on the furniture. Then I started ripping out the zippers from the current cushion covers so I can use them on the ones I make. It was a nice afternoon. We had our late lunch, then went to Roberta's Bible study. Ten ladies from several different countries-Korea, South Africa, Canada, Malawi, US, and UK-met - to discuss their study on Elijah. It was a great group and a great discussion. We got home around 7, had a light supper, and I ripped out one more zipper before bed.
      The only picture I took today was of the only traffic light I have seen here, in front of the Convention Center and hotel. There are so many intersections that really need stoplights. Malawi, actually Lilongwe, has grown so much in 13 years. Large office buildings, much more traffic, nice restaurants, grocery stores with many choices. The population has actually grown by more than 5 million since I was here last.
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    • Day 8

      Day 6 in Malawi

      May 16, 2023 in Malawi

      We left Roberta's house at 6:40 am to get to the YWAM base for team devotions at 7:30. 🥱🥱🥱 We had a good discussion about loving and praying for your enemies. Then there was a short team meeting to welcome several new members to the YWAM team, all refugees, most from DRC(Dem. Republic of Congo). We gave one of the Bibles I brought to a team member and he was thrilled!
      A short excursion to the Tuesday market just outside the camp, a huge open-air market where you can get most anything. I looked at more chitenje fabric, and only bought one piece, less than $2 for a 2 meter piece! Stopped on the way back to YWAM base to pick up fresh chapatis(like flour tortillas) for a friend of Roberta's, then back for lunch and a video phone call to some friends in the US. Then out to visit disabled who are housebound to encourage them, provide some company and pray with them. We went to three homes, two housed family groups who have been approved to leave the camp. One group of 12 was going to Canada, the other going to US was about 6 or 7. Sadly, the UN. officials who process the paperwork for the second family to leave were asking them to pay an exorbitant fee(over $3000)- which is illegal and despicable. They were asking if we could help them. Roberta made it clear that it was wrong for them to ask, and will discuss the problem with the team leader at YWAM. It was later than Roberta's usual leaving time of 4pm, so we got stuck in rush hour, which is complicated by the fact that there are no traffic signals here, everyone just goes when they see a sliver of an opening. It took an hour and a half to get home and we are tired. Driving here is a scary adventure, between bad potholes like you've never seen, bicyclists, motorbikes, and cars passing each other-playing chicken- constantly. You need nerves of steel on the roads here and Roberta's got them.
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    • Day 7

      Day 5 in Malawi

      May 15, 2023 in Malawi ⋅ 🌙 66 °F

      This morning we went to Dzaleka Refugee Camp, about 40km north of Lilongwe. There are "52,678 persons of concern (PoCs) as of 2021. The majority live in the Dzaleka refugee camp located in the Dowa district, some 41 kilometres away from the capital Lilongwe.  

      Dzaleka is a protracted camp with a monthly average of 300 new arrivals (62% are from the DRC, 19% Burundi and 7% Rwanda and 2% other nationalities). 45% of the PoCs are women, and 48% are children. The camp was initially established to host between 10,000 to 12,000 PoCs but now hosts over 52,000 individuals.

      Of the total PoC population, 21,530 have refugee status, 30,910 are asylum seekers, with 238 others of concern, making the refugee situation a protracted one." Info from United Nations High Commission on Refugees
      The camp is noisy crowded and home to over 50000. It is really a small city. There are schools, health clinics, churches, very small gardens, restaurants( someone with a hotplate in their doorway cooking for passersby). Streets are narrow and deeply rutted, filled with people on foot, bicycles, and scooters. A very few cars brave the very rough terrain, including Roberta's. It is an amazing feat to see her navigate places I wouldn't dream of attempting.
      We first took the sewing machines to Roberta's friend Grace. Grace has gone through an extensive training course to facilitate trauma healing. After two months of counseling in small groups to process their own trauma, participants are then trained to be Facilitators to teach those who complete the counseling how to counsel and then teach others what they have learned. She currently has about 20 groups of men and women at different stages of the training process. Part of that healing comes by finding a purpose and something to do to keep busy. She has training programs for sewing/tailoring and for cooking so that they can earn a basic income. They have four sewing machines and we brought two more. They were very excited about this gift and how many more would be able to learn this skill. These are actual Singer treadle machines, much better than the ones I used on previous trips. Roberta is helping Grace to write a grant proposal to obtain funding for her organization and they spent time discussing the information needed. While having that discussion, less than an hour, one of the girls made a dress for me! I did not get the picture yet of me wearing it, just you wait! Edited: photo added! What do you think?
      Then we went to YWAM Dzaleka where Roberta works with their team. I got to hear the amazing story of how God provided funding for the buildings and a couple to lead the team there, who are regugees themselves. We had lunch and then a women's Bible study led by Roberta. At least a dozen women were there, and translation was from English to Swahili to Chichewa. Usually there are more, but there was a funeral and it is harvest time so many were not able to come.
      I was so busy looking I did not take a lot of pictures but we will be at the camp several more times so will get more for future posts
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    • Day 6

      Day 4 in Malawi- Mothers Day

      May 14, 2023 in Malawi ⋅ 🌙 64 °F

      We went to Roberta's church, Capitol City Baptist Church, where she has attended for most of her time here. It was a good service, and the pastor's message really spoke to me. We made a quick stop at a very crowded grocery store and then went across town to pick up an old friend, Obed, who was our driver for all the teams we brought here. He is a hardworking man and has become a good friend to Roberta. She is going with Oved and his wife to his middle daughter's graduation from secondary(high school). His older daughter is just finishing her first year of college, and his youngest is finishing grade 8.
      Obed's birthday was Thursday. I brought him a small gift and we had a nice lunch at Mama Mia's, an Italian restaurant.
      Quiet afternoon and evening.
      Mother's day in Malawi is in October.
      If you have any questions please ask in the comments, or want to see pictures of anything. Tomorrow we go to the Dzeleka refugee camp and the work begins. Delivering the sewing machines and some other things I brought.
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