Why Malawi?

Ryan and I in front of Missions of Hope – Kiamaiko Centre

“When did you know you were called to missions?” I have often had people ask. Rather than share about a voice from above experience, I share about people that have influenced my understanding of Jesus over the years. Of a college education that left me convinced that because I follow Jesus, I want to be a part of his mission, wherever I find myself geographically located. Of a time when my plans crashed just before graduation, and an opportunity that came shortly after…

The invitation to move to Africa. And now, after several official years as an alien resident in Kenya, another international move to Malawi.

So another question is asked – “Why, Malawi?”

I shared the first part, because both Ryan and I have never felt particularly “called” to a particular place. But somehow by the mercy of God, he has allowed us to be a part of the things He is doing around the world.

Even as we are invited into these stories, we are also required to respond.

During our first year of marriage, we learned what this can look like when we respond together, as one.

While we could have easily stayed in Kenya, thanks to a wonderful team of colleagues, a welcoming church community and a never-ending need, we prayed together and felt that something new was coming.

Friends in the Wednesday Kiamaiko group in Nairobi, Kenya

Daily prayers over specific places and opportunities that arose, were prayed in faith. Unsure exactly what we were “looking for” in our response.

And, as has happened through many times in both of our lives, the answer came through voices of those we respect, opportunities confirmed, and others that fell through.

The decision to go to Malawi was largely influenced by a desire to share what we had learned about community development and micro-finance through our experience with the Hope Partnership, the need of our family (Ben and Becca Hayes) for teammates after a year of being on the field, and a vision trip of confirmation during March of last year.

During this time of fund-raising, I find myself asking the same question from time to time. When individuals and churches overwhelm us with their generosity, I find myself affirmed by the provision of God. And, when it seems like our goal is a long way off, I find myself asking the same question, “Why Malawi?”

This has been the process. Here are some more of the answers we have learned along the way.

Malawi ranks 170 out of 187 countries on the Human Development Index.

With gender inequality as what Nikolas Kristof calls the central moral challenge of our century, 460 out of every 100,000 women die from pregnancy related causes. About 105.6 live births out of every 1000 live births are from adolescents.

If this wasn’t convincing enough, this was.

But there is need everywhere. Need is enough to paralyze, not to mobilize.

B and Ruth Shelburne, just before the flight to Malawi in 1961

Somehow, we’ve been written into a heritage of faith that has not only impacted our stories, but the stories of the people of Southern Malawi, with the Hayes, Shelburne and Wilks families legacy at Namikango. (Along with other families through the years.) Through their willingness to respond, local Malawian leaders have been raised up within the church, and have started over 1300 churches throughout Malawi… 1300 entrances into community.

Somehow, through our experiences with Missions of Hope, we have learned that without heart and mind transformation, change is not sustainable. That while money cannot solve a problem, access to basic financial services and local ownership of the welfare of the community can play a significant part.

Roland Hayes in the early days of Namikango

We are privileged to have had supporting roles in the work that continues in Nairobi, and have been placed at this time in the path of a mission with a strong history whose vision is growing to include encouraging sustainable community development.

While these are the logical reasons that have led us to Malawi, the answer surely is fuller than we can see from this side.

We look forward to the times when we will develop relationships with Malawians and those from other nationalities and know, “This is Why.”

When we are able to share what we know, and learn from our local partners about what they think the best way to begin CHE would be. When we observe the local economy and are able to dive into discovering a new community to see what skill-sets would be helpful in providing alternative income-generating activities.

We look forward to the families we will get to know through the Maternity Clinic and School, through broken language, graciously relying on others to teach us how to communicate.

I look forward to learning about the needs of young girls in the community who become mothers at a young age, and engaging in their journey of discovering how Jesus is present with them, and how that changes everything.

It’s a new place, and we have spent just enough time living overseas to know that our expectations must be vague enough to allow anything to fit inside, and specific enough to keep us focused on the goals at hand.

Convinced not by an audible voice once heard, but by a grace that extends to us daily and invites us to respond.

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