Thursday, June 10, 2010


Selah. Pause. The heady rush of reggae rhythms, Chichewa (the native language), laughter. The smell of trash as a man pushes a wheelbarrow past and then the dusty aroma of legumes, gourds, the oily odor of a pot of potatoes frying. Stimuli in the most beautiful, most holistic sense. People. Stories. Everything slows to slow motion.

The Trading Center is busy. I want to stay long. I want to watch. I want to paint the story unfolding all around me.

We fill our bags with tomatoes, carrots, onions, green beans, and bananas. Lots and lots of bananas. The plan is to take this with us to Dzuwa, the village where we'll stay with Ronald and Ulemu. I pass a young girl carrying a baby on her back and a bucket of potatoes on her head. A smile and request to take her picture. She smiles back and nods. Selah. Zikomo (thank you).

The evenings are spent working together to make dinner. Everyone pitches in. We work by candlelight as night grows dark.

Funa amazes us over and over. I think we're pampered and spoiled out here in the Deep Village, almost 3 hours out into the African Bush, in the middle of nowhere... because Funa takes care of us. Her food is delicious, creative, and satisfying. I think I could live here for good... if Funa, Ulemu, and the other women will teach me how. I am enraptured by the rhythm of the day. Each hour has its own task. It is consistent. Focused.

Keep the coals hot to cook the stew and later the water for a 'shower.'

Someone carries the bucket to catch water poured over hands before we eat.

We pray and my stomach growls softly as I add my own silent word of deep gratitude.

Later, hot water is poured into the wash basin and a 'pour pitcher' is offered for a shower. The day's dust and sweat splash onto concrete slab, soapy scent left on skin instead.

And each task, each moment, it's very own rhythmic Selah.

This African sky. These stars. So many stars. Whole galaxies. An entire universe so close I can almost touch it. This Creator Who knows every star by name. Who knows every thought, every care, every burden... each beat of my heart. Indescribable. I think God loves me most.

To gaze up into the starry host. Selah.

To press garlic, spicy fragrance mingling with evening's warmth and stew's steam. Selah.

Morning chores. Carry water from well to house. Wash laundry, drawing water from a well, sloshing elbow-deep in bucket of suds, rubbing each stain, knuckles against knuckles. Toss water and draw clean rinse water. Hang on line, African sunshine saturates laundry mm-mmm fresh. Wash, dry, and put away dishes. Sweep. Start fire to prepare lunch. Of course, all these chores are after getting up at 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning to work in the fields. Each task done within the rhythm of the day. No 'to-do list'. No frenzied schedules. It's all within the context of daily, hourly... life. Selah.

And always my children are surrounded by many, many children from the village. I am overwhelmed because I'm not the creative, crafty, "VBS" kind of gal. And yet, my children rise to the occasion, teaching them game after game. Tic-tac-toe in the dirt with a stick. Tag. Hopscotch. My children take charge while I stand back, admiring the way they connect with these children. Israel introduces me to her "best friends" -- a large group of girls, their smiles transcending all language barriers. She runs off into the sunshine with them, each of her hands holding the hand of a new best friend. Selah.

The teachers give us a tour of the school, the classrooms divided up into various concrete buildings. Each one filled with beautiful children who greet us with their heavenly accapella song. The rhythm of this delicious culture filling the space all round. Filling spaces in my heart.

Beautiful, strong Ulemu. Strong in spirit. Her quiet, humble strength, her moment by moment living by conviction. Her heart for these people. She is a hero.

The smile that remains involuntarily steady on my lips, a constant on this African adventure.

The church building in the village with its benches of brick and concrete. This space that yields to cultural rhythms... the men entering and sitting on one side first while the women wait together outside. Once the men are seated us women enter from the back and take our seats on the other side. These quiet gestures of respect and honor.

Our new friend, Ronald -- our hero, the Village Chief, and LeRoy. The, "Will you come back and teach us some more about marriage? About how to honor one another? About how to communicate better?" The humility that comes from working out of our weakness, falling headlong into His grace, knowing He takes our messes and makes beautiful mosaics that tell a story. The gift of the offer, "We'll build you a hut if you come live here in our village with us." And I find myself wanting to stay forever because I'm suddenly overwhelmed by the realization that it's not so much what I might teach as the wealth of wisdom I need to learn from them.

And all the while, as LeRoy and I are inside the church with the adults, our children are left alone with the village children. And I don't think about it once the entire time. Until we're finished and the adults are singing a hymn which draws a crowd of young faces to the doorways and the windows. Then I wonder. How did my children fare for the last two hours? And then I find that my children taught them how to play four-square, kick ball, and dodge ball. I'm overcome. In way over my head, unable to "set the scene" or control how it will all go, my children are brilliant. Heroically, enthusiastically, they've tumbled into the same Grace, playfully seizing the moment. And I'm humbled all over again. Selah.

Willing to serve in whatever way the moment requires, my children rise to the occasion over and over in a hundred different ways. I notice the lack of complaints or whining. Each job, from holding a baby to washing dishes to cutting vegetables to carrying water... carries with it a child with an eager heart, a cheerful countenance, an attitude of gratitude. (And I wonder how I can make these attitudes permanent... how I can transfer these hearts into the everyday "normal" lives back home. How to live out this Selah in the everyday -- even the monotonous -- moments.)

"Before you leave, may we have a picture taken with you?"

To spend late afternoons preparing food, kicking a ball around, talking and sharing stories. To end our stay, begin the week bathed in intercessory prayer. Selah.

To arrive back in Dzuwa later that afternoon to find that Funa has ingeniously found a way to bake banana bread over a fire! Funa! You're amazing! You spoil us! We enjoy still-warm banana "cake" with our dinner. Selah.

Ronald brings us home the back way -- the long way. The men and boys ride on the back of the flatbed truck. We get the off-roading adventure of a lifetime. I am blessed beyond words because of Ronald's thoughtfulness, his attentiveness to my mama heart and the fears I admitted regarding the main roads. I would have been at peace whatever way we traveled home. But Ronald is like that... generous, kind, accomodating. I am honored.

We arrive back at the African Bible College refreshed, perspectives changed, hearts enlarged. For me, it all went by too quickly. Isn't that funny? Even the lifestyle filled with pauses, the long lingering tasks and conversations and quiet moments basking in sunshine, walking dusty roads hand in hand with children, gazing into an endless sky filled with stars... I want to linger longer. But LeRoy says four days was perfect. He just laughs when reminded about the house they'll build for us if we move to the Bush. smile.

Eli says five or six days would be good. "My stomach would have to adjust."

Israel says, "I'm going to live there when I grow up and travel all around to all the villages and learn their language and teach at the schools."

Ezekiel says, "I think 10 days would have been good."

Isaiah tells me, "Maybe six days..."

These friendships. So easy. So much grace. So unconditional. Filled to overflowing with encouragement. Selah.
We are abundantly blessed. We are forever grateful to Amy and Bob for making arrangements and to Ronald and Ulemu for hosting us out in the Deep Village. Spending time with the people there has changed, enriched, and inspired us. Zikomo kwam biri. (Thank you so much!)


  1. Barb Warrick says....I loved your post and makes me excited for our year in Malawi that is coming up in 2011/2012. We get to see God at work all around us.

  2. I'm mopping up tears.

    Each footstep, I'm there breathing in each detail you share. And in the tiny space between the words, there it is, the Spirit of God fills me even here from afar.

  3. Thank you for taking us with you. Somehow I can smell....and taste....Thank you for letting us love them through you........

  4. Such a feast of words that makes me yearn...Here, so rich in goods, and stuff, and all that doesn't matter...there, so rich in quiet, rhythm, serenity, joy.

    Thank you, and don't ever stop writing.

  5. Speechless, Sharon. You realize that's quite a feat, right? :-)