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Giving Hope to the Hopeless

Each day I seem to pick up on different insights in Malawian society. I’ve noticed something for the last several days but didn’t become intentional to observe until today. All of the multitude of cell phone conversations I’ve heard there’s something missing. Tony and Joel seem to have the ability to increase their speaking speed 2-3 times at will. To me it almost sounds like the old cassette players that you could hit fast-forward and the voice inflections become too fast for the brain to comprehend. So, I noticed this many times. It was like the maestro bringing the orchestra to a full crescendo. Then a quiet okay and nothing. Just about every conversation I have heard ends with okay and then the conversation is over. I asked Tony about this, and he said that saying goodbye was outdated. That was a thought hard to comprehend. Such a dichotomy to almost everything else about the modernization that exists in the United States, we are still stuck in the Stone Age saying goodbye.

I figured I could register eight vehicles, get the title transferred, pick up proof of insurance, and have a nice five course meal in the time it took me to do one. Literally, the entire day was spent getting the paperwork set for the truck and we still have to stop at the insurance company tomorrow morning to get our sticker. By the way license plates are riveted into place so you have to go to a little side shop that drills out rivets on the old plate so the new one can be installed. Apparently, they get their Internet services from South Africa and it is plagued with reliability issues. We were able to sneak in two trips to the bicycle shop, but due to the interruption in internet service there were long gaps of time, so we left designated individuals waiting in line as we ran some errands.

I talked with my friend Rick until almost midnight last night and explained to him in more detail the gut wrenching side of my experience. The amount of blind, disfigured, loss of limbs, starving and seemingly hopeless individuals is staggering. I’ve been extremely troubled at how to handle these situations. Jesus says what you have done to the least of these you have done unto me. That verse echoes in my mind every time I walk by an individual without doing something. Rick had mentioned something about maybe giving food out instead of money. I thought that would be a great idea and maybe on Christmas day I would just walk around with a backpack full of sandwiches. I’ve included some heart wrenching pictures, but trust me there’s far worse. WARNING the following description is shocking and disturbing.

There’s a man that was walking down the side of the street that caught my attention. I almost had to take a double take because I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing. He was carrying a yellowish bucket most likely for water, no shoes or socks and no foot on his left leg. The poor man’s footless stub was walking on who knows what and carrying a bucket of water. Every time I look at the picture and zoom in on it I get choked up. I’ve seen several individuals that look like their eyes are missing with just sunken empty eye sockets with the look of death on their face.

Another man we saw in a wheelchair of sorts. They have a bicycle type hand crank mechanism to propel the chair. He was in the alley that we were driving through and he had a nice smile on his face, he didn’t reach his hand out or bag for anything. I rolled my window down and asked him how he was doing. I instantly realized how stupid of a question that was. I have never seen deformities such as this, his arm bones were practically looped like a pretzel, one leg was missing at the knee the other at the waist. I wish you could zoom in on his face the way I can. There’s something captivating about him, almost as if I’m looking into the eyes of an angel. There’s a strong, but stoic awareness about him. I handed him a bill and said God bless you, he gently retrieved it from my hand and gave me the slightest of nods. That was a difficult experience but somehow compelling.

Tony had a great idea - when we come down here on our youth trips we are going to sponsor a wheelchair race. We believe we can get local businesses to cover all of the costs and we will have a competition with the arm powered wheelchairs. This culture needs heroes that overcome unbelievable odds that can inspire many. When I return in March for a Pastors conference we will begin collecting the hand pedal powered chairs and preparing them for the race. The top sponsors can pay for the prizes. First place will be 1 million kwacha or $1,400. Being able to sponsor an event like this in the name of Jesus Christ will draw much attention. I’m so thankful that Tony is being obedient to the Holy Spirit, our meeting was 100% God. He would not have orchestrated it if Tony wasn’t the one to head up EchoAfrica in Malawi.

When I picked up the last load of bikes I decided I would try to discreetly give money to some of the children, that was a huge mistake. There was a domino effect that continually expanded. Immediately after giving one child anything it spreads like wildfire to all of them and then literally you will be surrounded by countless children holding their hands out begging for something. It’s hard to move, it’s hard to walk and is even hard to drive. By the time I got out of that area I probably had given money to 20 children and another 20 or so were chasing us down the double lane road weaving in and out of traffic trying to stay up with our vehicle. I was terrified that one of him was going to get hit, it was a miracle of the Almighty that they didn’t. They probably chased us for ¾ mile. It definitely ended up being a dangerous and stupid thing to do. I will still probably try the sandwiches for Christmas Day, or the one-on-one experience such as that with the man in the wheelchair.

We have become a large family at Annie’s Lodge, most all of the staff members get a daily hug. There is a Muslim woman that works here, I may have inadvertently offended her, when I asked her if she wanted a Bible. I continued to be kind and courteous to her for several days. Yesterday she invited me to a Christmas celebration that they were going to have at the Lodge. She is seeing many things happen around here and I believe the power of love can overcome it all. I met the owners of the Lodge Annie and Roger and since our introduction two days ago they come and talk with me whenever they see me.

I occupy one of the smallest rooms and am blessed to do so. Annie offered me the best room in the hotel for no additional charge, I’m sure it was four times the price of what I was paying, but I told her I was very thankful for such a kind offer. I politely did not accept it and I’m not telling you this to score points of humility but to make a point. I have traveled to places where I’ve rented the presidential suite, rooms with the best ocean view, square footage as large as most homes largely because I was foolish. These types of activities feed the ego and arrogance of self. Not guarding myself with great intensity could lead to the return of unwanted and hated behavior. Lord, give me the strength to never be that person again.

Tony and I along with a couple of the guys at Annie’s Lodge helped us remove the seats out of Rhoda’s van. Between the truck and the van we would be able to haul 13 bikes, 100 blankets and 260 pairs of shoes. We also packed in a few hundred more Bibles. We will be heading out to Felix’s village in the morning and I was very excited about seeing the children that I had visited a few weeks ago. The privilege was ours. We could share time with the villagers once again. May God’s presence shine through us as we interact with them tomorrow.

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