A couple of weeks ago I was once again in Malawi with a Links International Team – this time partnering with River Church who provided a large proportion of the team personnel.
When we go to nations such as Malawi and visit rural communities it is easy to get overwhelmed by the obvious enormous needs. How will we ever be able to provide enough training, mosquito nets, water filters, latrines – the list can go on. And yet….
Over the last few years we have been training a group of people from the village of Chapsinja, just outside of Lilongwe, to form a Community Healthcare Team. These people have been going out into their local communities with some simple but life saving teaching, and on this visit we wanted to hear a report about how they have been getting on.The report was very encouraging, as they spoke about training they have been delivering in around 20 other villages. They then said that it would be good if we could go and see one of those other communities for ourselves. It seemed a fairly casual request, but my programme had a gap which meant I could go right then, with another team member Dave Boniface (of new Community Southampton). Along with a couple of the Community Healthcare Team members, and an interpreter, we got into the 4×4 and were driven out the 25 minutes or so to the village of Gunde. Quite a short, if dusty, drive for us, but about an hour and a half’s journey by foot, which is how the Healthcare Team travel. It was my expectation that we would go to the village, talk to a couple of people and return. I was wrong.
We were greeted by a larger proportion of the village – singing and welcoming us. They had been expecting us! Chairs was set out for us and 8 village headmen form the area. About half the village gathered under the cool shade of a large, spreading tree. An official welcome was given by the chiefs, along with an apology that more people were not there, a funeral taking many away! Several people from the village then proceeded to tell us all they have learned from the Chapsinja Community Healthcare Team. It was impressive!! They had learned so much – mostly, by the way, without such benefits as literacy, written resources and so on. As we sat and listened, a cool breeze and dappled sunlight giving an idyllic air to what was actually a situation of great poverty, it all seemed suddenly quite surreal. This feeling was enhanced when suddenly an enormous pig walked by in the background, shepherding 6 tiny piglets as she went! I turned to Dave at this point to ask him to pinch me (to make sure I wasn’t dreaming) – only to hear that he was about to ask me the same thing!
Jesus taught a multitude all day and as the sun was about to set, the disciples appeal sounds quite familiar to me. “Where will we get enough for all these people?”. But what did it take? Just 5 loaves and 2 small fish – but actually that was all the boy had. Jesus took all he could give – and multiplied it to make it more than enough. As Dave and I listened – humbled – in the village of Gunde it felt like we were witnessing that same principle in operation all over again.