Monday, October 31, 2011

If you have time, and if you dare to read :)


I took a deep breath of unfamiliar air, but still my lungs made use of the oxygen. I stepped off the bus and took my first step into a foreign country : Ethiopia. I never expected to leave the country at age 16, let alone go to two different countries in Africa. Ethiopia was my first stop before arriving in Malawi, Africa. Malawi is approximately three countries north of South Africa, and is surrounded by Tanzania, Mozambique, and Zambia. And I was going to Malawi with a group of 23 people I'd never come into contact with before. I was not very prepared for how to handle the emotional, physical, and mental struggles that I would go through. Adjusting to the culture was crucial to a pleasant trip, and it took a little bit of adjusting, but by knowing what is appropriate to wear, and being aware of some phrases in the language were simple things that demonstrated respect towards the people. I honestly did not think that I would be moved by the people of Malawi, not as much as I was. Through my experiences, I developed a sincere compassion that I wanted to share with anyone and everyone. I was most impacted and shocked, however, by the culture.
I don't know if you can tell, but the monkeys are kissing :D

The phrase “take a turn walking in their shoes” never became so personal or real to me until I was visiting Malawi. We flew into the capital of Malawi, Lilongwe, and saw a few white people in the airport. After that, save one other time, my team of 16 white girls and two boys were surrounded by only black natives. As best as I could, I tried to embrace the beautiful people and interesting culture. When my team first arrived in Malawi, two of our five team leaders went into town to by groceries and clothes. It was an important necessity to have skirts as soon as possible because a lady who wore pants was considered a prostitute. In the city, this was less of a concern, but wherever my team was, we needed them. In the summer of 2010, I, for the first time in my life, was the minority. It was a very humbling experience for me. Although, I would not trade that summer for the world! I really learned a lot from the Malawians I interacted with.


I was the one entering the country with wonderful intentions, the one serving these people, how could I be taught a lesson? Indeed, I was taught a lesson. The houses are made of mud and the roofs are thatched with sticks and hay. Children of all ages wander around their various villages most of the day; as long as the children are home by dark the parents don't mind where the children go. While the team was working on building a goat pen for the missionaries that we were staying with, we had to gather rocks to mix in with the concrete. Within 10 minutes of starting the project, several children began helping us collect rocks and place them in the wheelbarrow. I couldn't speak much Chichewa, and the kids couldn't speak much English, but we all smiled and gathered rocks together. This event was probably the highlight of the kids day. The saying, “It's the little things in life” is really true. These children wanted to help us, but while also having a great time! I was floored. The people I was with were living in the third poorest country in the world, but their joy levels were higher than mine. It was a foreign concept to me: these Malawians had less things and more happiness. The purpose of my team's trip was to wash orphans feet and give them socks and shoes, little did I know that a boy whose feet I washed would be something I'd remember forever.

 

He looked to be about 8 years old. He was cute, full of smiles, and his white teeth glistened in contrast to his skin. I washed his feet, put his socks on, found him a pair of shoes, I smiled and he went on his way. Over the next several days, we had four or five foot-washings. I gathered that this little guy lived around the area we were because he would hang around us while we were in that particular village. When he found me, he would come up to me, stop, point at his feet, socks pulled up to his calves, shoes on, smile and give me a thumbs up. We would smile, make silly faces at each other and, laugh, laugh, laugh. Justin Beiber has a song called, “Somebody to love” but that song is referring to somebody to love as a girlfriend. But I felt that these kids actually needed someone to love them. Who knew what attention or care these children received at home? I didn't know what home life was like, so I would cuddle them anyway. I wanted to spend time with the natives and show them love. Whenever I was around them, sincere love and compassion overflowed from my heart. At the end of each day, my team and I would dance, sing, and play all sorts of games. The Malawians favorite game was “duck, duck, goose!” It was a family event in all respects, fathers, mothers, and all relatives would cheer the kids on. I will always have Malawi on my mind and the memories in my heart.



My perspective about the world pre-Africa was selfish, sheltered, and ignorant. I had heard about world hunger, terrible natural disasters, and about a world in need of Jesus, but what could a teenager in America do to help the world? So easily I assumed that America was the center of the round globe and all other life on the planet revolved around America. I now see the world through eyes that have a view of life outside America. My teammates and I would tell the natives who asked, that we were from America, they would smile and nod, as if they understood. Odds were, they did not even comprehend the life of the Western world. They knew the word America, and that is about all. The lifestyle comparison between Malawi and the Western Civilization is quite a drastic one. In America, everything is at your finger tips and if you want something now, you get it when you want it. 'Life on demand'. It's sickening. In Malawi, everyone is very laid back and most everyone meanders around from place to place, in no hurry. Malawi is in no way perfect, but their lifestyle allowed my team and I to spend a lot of time with the women and children during our presentation times and foot-washings. Through this trip, I gained a deeper understanding about people. People are basically all the same; in a way it sounds dehumanizing, but at the end of the day, black or white, a person is still a person. A child in Malawi wants to have fun and live life to the fullest, filled with fun and games, just as anyone else would. I never expected to fall in love with these people; yet I did. I never thought that I would leave the country at 16, but I left, to Africa no less. I showed compassion, love, joy, cried, laughed, and gave my all into what I was doing if it could help these men, women and children. I went to Malawi with high hopes of transforming lives, however millions of people transformed mine.

 
I had to write a descriptive narrative for Composition I, and some of this info is from my support letter, but I thought I'd post it anyway :)





2 comments:

  1. That's beautiful (:

    I'd love to go on a missions trip. It sounds like suh an amazing, heart-changing experience. Thanks for sharing (:

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  2. Thank you love :) It is all of the above! I hihly, highly recommend going asap especially at a young age, but really any age! :D

    p.s. I wanna read the book o' yours :)

    ReplyDelete