This is a reflection I wrote for the quarterly newsletter of the Blantyre Synod Health & Development Commission (BSHDC)
Our group of eleven Canadians landed at Chileka airport at noon on a Saturday and our whirlwind tour of Blantyre Synod began. For the next fourteen days, as we visited the various BSHDC programs, we would experience many things, meet many people, and have many of our assumptions, about Malawi and ourselves, challenged in abrupt and unexpected ways.
There were a few particular words we heard often during our stay in Malawi. One was, of course, ‘azungu’, but another, heard even more often, was ‘welcome’. There was a third word, however, that I heard only twice or three times during the whole trip but it is the one word that has had the most impact on me: Chisomo. Grace.
AMAZING GRACE HOW SWEET THE SOUND
We saw God’s grace everywhere we went. We also saw hope and faith and love being lived out in the words and actions of virtually every Malawian we met. Grace can be simply defined as God’s gift, a kindness. Grace is not earned – it is given freely and can be interpreted as a kind of deliverance – from sin, from danger, and from hardship.
THROUGH MANY DANGERS, TOILS AND SNARES
By any standard, Malawians experience more hardship and more obstacles to a prosperous life than most in the world. Yet every Malawian greeted us with a smile and an extended hand of genuine welcome. It was clear to us that the BSHDC staff and volunteers bring hope to the people they touch every single day. They are God’s grace living and working among His people.
TIS GRACE THAT BROUGHT ME SAFE THUS FAR
It is hard to imagine what the villages and neighbourhoods we saw would be like without BSHDC’s presence: the relatively simple well that has reduced water-borne disease deaths to zero, the goat that provides food and income, the home-care for HIV/AIDS patients, the community-based childcare that enriches young lives, the Likuni Phala produced at Domasi that ensures balanced nutrition, the Uchembere Network that is drastically reducing maternal and neonatal mortality rates. These programs save and change lives. They are God’s grace.
WE’VE NO LESS DAYS TO SING GOD’S PRAISE
I expected to arrive in Malawi and see despair. I naively expected that I could bring some hope to the people I met along the way. The opposite happened – initially I began to despair for my own country and its arrogance, hypocrisy, and greed. Over the two weeks, however, the Malawian people (and the BSHDC) gave me hope. Hope for Malawi, yes, but also hope for the world. I was given the gift of understanding that if the so-called poorest country in the world can be so blessed, anything is possible. God’s grace again. Chisomo chodabwitsacho.
Amazing Grace in Chichewa (the language of Malawi)