We spent the day in Mpingu, a village just outside of Lilongwe. This was our second village visit in Malawi, and we were welcomed by a beautiful chorus sung by a group of women just inside the village gates. We were greeted by both the chief of the village and his wife with handshakes and broken Chichewa greetings. My Chichewa is getting better and now people understand enough to laugh at my poor pronunciation and word usage. Chichewa is a beautiful language used throughout Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique and is very similar to its sister Bantu language, Swahili that is spoken in Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, and Tanzania.
After we were welcomed into the village we were showed to our seats, simple wooden chairs situate inside a small plot of land surrounded by a bamboo fence. Men and women sat around us on the ground, shaking our hands and smiling at us.
The drip irrigation training started shortly, with everything explained in Chichewa to the villagers (mostly people who do not know English). Most African countries are populated with rural villagers, people living in small communities of 100-200 people where everyone is a farmer. The men grow cash crops of maize, soy, and beans while the women grow tomatoes, onions, garlic, peppers, carrots, pumpkins, and different kinds of lettuce greens in their backyard.
I would say one of the most difficult challenges that Andrew and I have faced here in Malawi is the lack of food and crop variety. I can list on my hands and feet all the crops that are grown here. A few products such as apples and crackers are imported from Kenya and South Africa, but besides that there is not much variety in the products available here.
I amazed at how much you can do (the variety of foods that you can cook) with such few crops, although 99 percent of the time people choose to eat nsima and relish (usually pumpkin leaves). Our purpose in taking these village visits is to observe how technologies are distributed in rural Africa. We are specifically working with the distribution of agricultural skills because at this moment in time the entire country of Malawi revolves around agriculture.
(Below Andrew’s post)
Church today was a special experience. The previous evening Kylie and I had made a series of calls to identify where church would be for us today. Unfortunately we got several mixed messages and had to resort to using our hosts Internet to find the chapel address. I snapped a couple photos of the directions and hoped for the best. This morning as we set out I continually prayed we would find the building safely and quickly. As we walked Kylie and I watched as dozens of people made their way to church. It’s a sight you don’t really see in the United States. It was nice to see a large religious community, while divided by their methods of worship, share a common point of prioritizing religious activities.
We walked for nearly 30 minutes before encountering a sign that read ‘Mlambe lodge.’ This was one of the landmarks given to us yesterday. Kylie and I hesitated and wondered if we should turn or continue on to the next road. Internally I said a prayer and felt we should continue on to the next street. As we walked to the next intersection I felt calm about our decision, despite our uncertainty. When we rounded the corner we saw a sign, nestled between half a dozen other signs reading ‘The church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.’ I couldn’t help but smile at yet another simple answer to prayer.
The service was wonderful. We had several people come speak with us and ask why we were visiting and genuinely make an effort to get to know us. For me, the most special part of the three meetings we had, was the hymns. They were warm, familiar, and comforting.
Even though Kylie and I have had the chance to attend church in a couple African countries now, I still find myself touched by the spirit at each service. The saints in these villages, towns, and cities truly are Christlike in their service and conduct. One particular moment that touched me was during the sacrament hymn I saw the senior missionary (serving as the branch president) tear up as we sang. It was such a touching sight and made me contemplate what things he’s seen here. I thought of the the humble conditions that I’m sure many of the saints live in, and in spite of those, the sacrifices they make for the gospel. I’ve learned many lessons in my time here, about traveling in third world countries, about people, about myself, but the most significant have come from the members of the church I’ve met. I’ve learned more from them about faith, about service, Christlike attributes, and true Christian living than I have in a long time. It’s been an incredible blessing from my time here in Africa.