Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Chipata, Zambia

We all have 12 month multiple entry visas, which apparently means we are able to come to country as many times as we want in a year, but we can only stay for 30 days at a time. We can apply for an extension that will let us stay for 90 days, but we still must leave the country after that. Thankfully, we live only an hour and a half away from the Zambian border.
            The drive to Zambia was very nice, with the only exception being the border crossing. However, after fending off all the moneychangers, we finally made it to Zambia! We arrived at a nice little hostel, had dinner, and went to bed. The hostel was on beautiful grounds, had a campsite, and a shower that hosted my first warm shower since moving here (yay!). It was interesting talking to the hostel owners. They were Italians who were born in Mozambique and spent most of their lives going between Mosambique, Zambia, Malawi, and Italy. 
            Our second full day in Zambia we had to opportunity to go to Filius Jere’s house and then to the new church hall. At Filius’s house he showed us pamphlets he translated into Nyanja. Besides using his radio station to broadcast Beyond Today episodes, he also works on translating UCG’s booklets into Nyanja for members and guests to easily read. I was quite inspired by that and want to find a way to translate the booklets into Chichewa so our brethren here who don’t speak English can access the booklets as well. The church hall in Chipata was fantastic! It’s not big, but it will seat around 100 people (most people sit on the ground, not in chairs, so it’s easier to fit more) and behind the building there’s an outdoor kitchen area where we talked with women who were preparing tobwa, the maize drink I talked about in my previous blog. Similar to Malawi, maize is grown everywhere. Wherever there’s an open spot of land, there’s maize. The church hall was surrounded on three sides by maize, groundnuts (peanuts), okra, and pigeon peas (lentils) that were tended to by the members. Filius told us how they organically fertalize the fields with compost and a special plant. The results were amazing! The maize ears were bigger than ones that had been treated with chemical fertilizer. I loved seeing how involved the members were with everything. The congregation’s youth and a few adults built the hall themselves. It was so inspiring to see a family that God had grown together in just two years.
            We didn’t know until arriving, but the Sabbath we spent there was the first time they had ever used the hall. There was a great celebration that included dedications and thanks, personal speeches about how different individuals were called, skits about keeping the Sabbath, a youth rap on the 10 commandments, a question and answer session, and, of course, food and tobwa. Filius had invited the land’s previous owner to services and the dedication where she was given a seat of honor and two live chickens. The members lovingly gave Lewis, Lena, Brennan, and me two doves that we named Peggy and Lil’ Nugs. Brennan got to experience, for the first time, what it’s like to speak while using a translator! When we were introduced to the congregation, we were introduced as “our brethren from Malawi” or “the Malawian brethren,” which I found pretty funny. The day as a whole was just amazing.
            The next day we drove home and reminisced about our time there. I was so inspired by the community God built. How can we bring that back home with us? 
 Hostel cat Gregio. Made me miss Kitty and Sparta!
 Cute hostel!
 Lunch after services
 Peggy and Lil' Nugs
 Giving chickens to "mum"
Youth rap

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Getting Close and Comfortable with the Bongo


            These past two weeks we’ve been to Nkhotakota, Blantyre, Thyolo, Dedza, Mchinji, and most recently Chipata, Zambia. We’ve been traveling in a Mazda Bongo that sits 12 if we use the collapsible seats, and 16 if we squish in. This vehicle, by nothing short than God’s blessing and will that we travel, has made it to all of these cities, over tree stumps and out of small ditches, down dirt roads that are mostly potholes, and dirt roads that you have to “drive very quickly” down to avoid tipping because there’s such a big ditch in the road. I love this vehicle!
            On Wednesday we drove to Chipata, Zambia to visit the brethren there and get our visas renewed. We have 12 month multiple entry visas, but still need to leave the country every so often and reenter. Anyways, we drove about an hour and a half to Mchinji to visit the Chmpalas and their private clinic. The last time I saw their clinic was 5 or 6 years ago and wow! It’s so different now! The clinic is painted in vibrant orange and blue and contains normal patient rooms, a family planning room, two offices, a voluntary medical male circumcision room, a surgical room, and more. It’s huge! After leaving the clinic we went on a short side trip to find a fire extinguisher (may or may not be required to have in our van, it’s kind of hard to tell genuine laws from exaggerated ways to make money) and then onto Zambia!
            One of my favorite things about the Bongo is that it isn’t a “mzungu” vehicle. Once people notice the four white people inside they stare, but before they notice, the Bongo looks like a minibus taxi and we get by without attracting too much attention. That being said, we tend to really confuse police. Four Americans driving around in what looks like a taxi but is actually a private vehicle that’s registered in Malawi and has an American’s insurance on it. Huh.
            We got to try a much-loved traditional Zambian drink made out of fermented maize and sugar. I think it’s an acquired taste… Our time in Zambia was wonderful, but it also feels good to be back home in Lilongwe. It’s amazing how many people are being called all over the world. We’re used to our comfortable congregation where we get excited when there’s one new visitor, but in Chipata they tend to have around 20 new visitors each Sabbath. The deacon there has a popular radio program and broadcasts applicable Beyond Today episodes. I’ll write more about him and the Chipata congregation later—too much for one blog!
            Seeing life here is changing our perspectives in so many ways. It’s sad how we will do ridiculous things like say we’re too tired from work to go to church, or just need an “alone” Sabbath. Here, our brethren are struggling to make it to church because of funds, they’re going without some meals so they can afford the taxi (the taxis like our Bongo) to services for only one or two members of the family. Living here is showing us how much we need God’s Kingdom. One woman asked us, “What do you imagine when you imagine it? How can you picture God’s Kingdom when you are already living in it in America?” God’s children are hurting in Africa; children are balding because of malnutrition, mothers are exploiting their children for money, wars are being fought, and beliefs in witchcraft and potions are destroying lives. This hurting won’t stop until God’s Kingdom comes. Please pray for us for temporary relief in this life and for the permanent relief that is God’s Kingdom to come soon.

            We love you all!
 Cephas and Patricia Chapamba
 Jumpha Clinic
 Jumpha Clinic
 Our new friends! Lil Nugs and Peggy
 Lunch after services
My handsome hubby :)

Monday, February 27, 2017

Settling in

Michala:
I don’t know if I will ever get used to how beautiful Malawi is! Every morning I wake up under my mosquito net and listen to the birds outside. This past week we traveled to Nkhotakota and Blantyre. The trips took us near Lake Malawi, through a game reserve, to the border of Mozambique, and through a neat town named Dedza. The trips were great, but I am really happy to be back home, even if it’s only for a day.
            We live in an apartment (don’t think apartments though, they’re like little town homes) complex in Area3, just outside of the city. Our home is a two-bedroom two-bathroom townhouse with a small kitchen and living area that is surrounded by tall brick walls, barbed wire, and an electric fence. My husband Brennan is an electrician and used to work on new construction houses (you know, with the wood framing and everything). It’s neat seeing how differently the buildings are built here—all brick and concrete! Our house is much cooler because of it, but it’s still strange to see concrete and not wood underneath chipped paint.
            Right now we’re in the rainy season and the land is soaking it up! Cornfields are growing to twice my height and the country is just blowing up in bright greens. My favorite part of the long drives (over 4 hours to Nkhotakota and around 6 hours to Blantyre) is the stunning views. I can’t do the views justice in trying to explain them so I’ve attached some pictures below. Imagine the pictures, but bout 100 times more vivid.
            I’m going to let Brennan talk about Dedza but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my new favorite store! If you’ve ever been to mt Tambourine in Queensland, Australia, you can picture Dedza. Dedza is a quiet small town with some neat places like the famous Dedza pottery, and my favorite store, The Dedza Handmade Art Gallery. The art gallery is run by an incredibly nice man, Henry Ng’ambe and his family. He takes paper trash and recycles it to make amazing cards and notebooks. When we went to his shop he took us around and showed us all the steps that go into making paper. I can’t wait to go back again!
            I’m looking forward to today—relaxing! We just got back from Blantyre last night and tomorrow we drive to Chipata, Zambia, so I’m going to take advantage of our break day and get some house stuff done. Adios!

** update** I did it!! I haggled!! 

 Seeing one of the last steps of making notebooks and cards.

 The soon-to-be church hall in Blantyre
 Michala for scale!
 Tea upon tea upon tea


            This handsome guy :)

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

We're Here!

Wow, where do I even start? We’re in Malawi! We landed Thursday afternoon (after two days of travel) and have been settling in ever since. I’ve been to Malawi twice before this trip, but never in February. I can’t believe how green it is! The landscape is full of vivid greens, reds, and a bright blue sky.
            Our first full day here was spent at the LifeNets office and church hall. While Lewis was in a building committee meeting we took the opportunity to wander around the neighborhood and familiarize ourselves with our surroundings. The highlight of that day, for me, was seeing my good friend Julianna again! I’m so excited to spend the rest of the year with her.
            Last time I was in Malawi, five years ago, the church had just bought a plot of land for the church hall, and now the church hall is useable! It’s not finished yet, but it’s getting there. Brennan is pretty excited to help out with the electrical work.
Services were great this past Sabbath. We had two pieces of special music—one youth choir and one adult choir that Brennan became a part of. After church we were welcomed with a song and lots of handshakes. We had a great time meeting our new congregation—full of old friends and new faces.
            These past few days have been kind of a blur full of hanging out at the office, shopping, hoping for electricity, and finding how early the banks close. One of my favorite things to do in foreign countries is go to grocery stores. One of my favorite memories of that was when I lived in Australia—peanut butter was in the foreign foods section. There are three main grocery stores we go to here—Shoprite (my favorite), Game, and Food Lovers. The produce prices, surprisingly, aren’t too different from Colorado. We tend to buy some produce on the road while we’re on our way home and it’s cheaper so I think that might be the way to go. The only thing holding me back from going to the markets is haggling. I hate haggling, and I also want to learn a bit more Chichewa before I try.

            Today is going to be a first for us—staying home! Every day has been very go go go, so Brennan and I are looking forward to staying home and getting stuff in order. Tomorrow we’re going to Nkhotakota and then Friday we’re heading up to Blantyre to spend the Sabbath with that congregation. We’ll keep everyone posted on what’s up!