June 28th 2010
The other day I had the privilege to join the staff on their bi-weekly home visits, where they rotate visiting the parents of the children in camp to build relationships and communicate about how they can better partner to help the children. I was a little nervous, feeling like there might be confusion about who I was or why I was intruding on their lives. However, it was one of the most insightful times so far for me to understand the RiseMalawi children and for them to feel more connected to the program staff. I was on a team with the CampLeaders Jane and Annette and we put on our traditional chitenje wrap skirts and started off walking about 20 minutes to one village where 3 of the children live: Mphatso, Anastasia, and Florence. When we arrived, a 4th kid Henry (who wasn’t on the day’s list) was so excited to see us, he declared we must also visit his home and ran off to prepare his mom before we could say no!
The parents of each home were so welcoming to us and my fears left (or rather just shifted to slight awkwardness as the crowds of younger siblings and cousins gathered from near and far to look at the weird American visitor). Annette and Jane spent time discussing the children’s progress in school and any issues that are challenging in the home. They mentioned things ranging from a lack of soap to wash school uniforms to inadequate food for the large families to difficult relationships between stepfathers and children. Annette shared with Mphatso’s mom that she has faced similar challenges when her education had been halted due to the death of her father and limited family resources. She encouraged her to trust God, and shared how she is now a CampLeader and able to further her education at teacher training college in September. At another point, Jane also shared a bit of her story about how she has made it through issues of divorce in her family. It was a good time to give the kids some personal attention that can be difficult in the large group setting, and let them know that there are adults rooting for them and caring about their futures. Seeing Annette and Jane in action, I was struck by the importance and power of equipping indigenous leaders who can relate to members of their communities in ways that outsiders never could. Even with noble efforts or immense resources, I would not have been able to minister to their needs in the same way. I still think there is a call for cross-cultural service for myself as well as the church as a whole, but it was beautiful to see these young women sharing their experiences and gifts in a setting where they are uniquely relevant.
Picture: walking back to town after home visits with gift baskets of groundnuts. Back row: Jane, Annette, & Henry Front: Florence, Anastasia, & Mphatso