Genuine diamonds are known for both their beauty and their strength. The same is true for strength of character and how this priceless trait is developed takes place through an unexpected process - experiencing joy when you're suffering under pressure. As your character grows stronger so does your HOPE. And this, my friends, allows you to find genuine joy, even in the middle of suffering.
Today Cheryl and I visited the community of Njawa. It was similar in appearance to Deya Center in that it is supported by Somebody Cares but it did not have the same feel for sure. When we arrived the women were dancing and singing for us. It was so sweet to be greeted in such a way. They were smiling and having a good time and you could see their genuine happiness that we were there to help. What bothered me was that I did not see the children right away. I was looking for them but they were not there and that was strange since this was supposed to be a location for widows and orphans. We brought bubbles and books and though the women were singing loudly I was looking for small smiling faces. After we enjoyed the singing and dancing for some time Mary, our community leader, took us on a walking tour of the village. They have a new well so we were excited for that once again, but still there were no latrines.... and as we were walking I realized we had some children following us. I excitedly turned to say Hi! but I paused. The children were not smiling; they were not laughing; they just were there. Curiosity? Maybe. But their eyes told me the entire story and I knew in that instant that I was never going to be the same. You know eyes are the way to see the soul and these childen were telling me volumes without even speaking.
Overcoming my reaction instantly, I smiled and said hi and I as I bent down and shook their tiny hands one of the women spoke to them and they ran off. I was confused and in that moment I put my video down and just walked and looked and listened and watched. Mary asked if we would cook the meal and of course we said yes. We went into a small room with some young girls and they showed us how to cook the fortified porrage for these orphans only meal. I stirred the huge pot on an open fire pit and the smoke was so thick I couldn't see and my eyes burned so bad. While the porrage cooked we went and got some water from the well. Cheryl and I filled the tubs with water and the young girls asked if we wanted to put it on our heads and of course we said yes. They were allowing us in to their life and asking us to see the daily chores of their lives and so two girls lifted the bucket and placed it carefully on my head. UNBELIEVABLE! I could not believe how heavy that bucket was. I seriously thought my neck was going to break. We walked for about 25 feet ever so slowly because there was no way I wanted to spill the water and the young girl stopped me and took it from my head. Now you must know and I am ashamed to tell you, but that young girl took that tub of water and put it on her head and as she turned I saw a baby on her back too! It was so humbling. We washed the cups and by then the porrage was done and we filled 92 cups 1/2 full with porrage. Smiling and excited because we accomplished a chore for these sweet women - maybe even eased their life for a moment when Mary came in and told us we did not have enough. Are you kidding me? That isn't a choice and in that instant we bowed our heads and prayed that God would multiply those cups. We counted the children again...but while counting more children kept coming and we were getting nervous and I could feel my chest start pumping - this is their only meal! are you kidding me? Where is the food? I was telling myself not to panic or make a scene they were watching me. I had cooked everything they gave us to cook. The head teacher had lined up the children and they were watching us; starring at us with huge eyes filled with hope for their daily meal. Cheryl and Bianca were pouring some of each cup into more cups to make enough for everyone there. The children waited and watched. There was no shoving or pushing. There was no shouting or excitement...they just waited and watched. I watched and listened and prayed there was enough. Cheryl, of course, was not going to accept anything else and I watched her and I trusted her that she would make it happen because for some reason to me she was going to be the miracle worker. She looked at Mary with hands open as if to say, "Come on lets get these children fed" Mary got more cups and filled them with the scrap from the bottom of the pot and while the last child waited for his 1/2 filled cup of food for the day we found the amount we needed at the bottom of that pot and handed it to this young man and he said, "Thank You" I know that I was not breathing until that moment. Praise God! He fed the children for this day.
Sandi, Operation HOPE's manager of operations, had a HUGE bag of lollipops. YEAH! After they ate we got to give every child and mother a lollipop. They thought they were funny. They had never seen anything like it before. Isn't that funny? While they were eating them, Cheryl was blowing bubbles and they were laughing and having a good time. Cheryl has glasses that are reflective and so she thought the children were curious about her because they kept starring at her and following her, but what it was they were looking at themselves in her glasses! We laughed about that. They have never seen themselves before it was so interesting to watch them and Cheryl was so wonderful with them because she would just bend over and let them look. I just wonder what they thought about that?After that we went on a home-based care walk and visited the community and their sick people. I did an interview with an aging gentleman. He was super sick and I obviously don't have the skills to know with what but luckily we are with doctors here and so we sent a note to Somebody Cares and they are going to get him to our Doctors. That was fabulous. We talked with a woman who lives is a concrete house with not a stick of furniture. She was so happy to bring us into her home. She has AIDS. She has 7 children and her husband left her. We fetched water for her from her borehole and washed some dishes and then sat and chatted with her. She didn't have food. That was her biggest problem. She needed to find a way to get food for her and the children. We seriously need to work on getting the communities a means to get food for their children. It is not a question of whether or not they want to work it is just a matter of not having the resources and tools to grow food. After our visit with this wonderful lady we visited a 14 year old girl with Malaria. She was laying on a straw mat covered in blankets. It was stunning to see this sick young woman laying in the dirt on a straw mat and feeling so sick and everyone just going about their business around her. It is a way of life here in Malawi. What choice do they have? We talked with her mother and tried to talk with her but she was too sick and so we just prayed over her.
Today I didn't take any pictures. Today I learned to not judge and just love. I love Malawi. I love the people they are truly warm-hearted. We feel so blessed to have this opportunity. They are so very thankful for anything and so accepting of that which we would never accept in the States. Please pray for them. Please love them. Today my character was challenged. I will never be the same.
God Bless you all.
Peace and Joy,