Friday, February 19, 2016

Liwonde Trip - Carole's Post

Last November, George and I accompanied President Matale, our district president, and President Banda, branch president of the Blantyre 1st branch, on a trip to Liwonde, where there is a "group" of LDS saints.  I wrote about this in a previous blog (Nov 9, 2015, "Our Liwonde members").  

In January, we took supplies to the members who were suffering because of the poor 2015 maize harvest.  President Matale had purchased many bags of maize meal and we stored them in our garage for a week.  That meant we had to declare war on the mice, but Davie was a master mouse-slayer.
At this time of year, it is actually less expensive to purchase maize meal than the maize itself.  Maize is in such short supply that when we drive past ADMARC (Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation) distribution centers, there are always large numbers of people waiting and milling around.  ADMARC is a government-owned corporation that stores and/or purchases maize so that when prices become inflated because of drought, flood, or simply time of year, they can sell it to Malawians at a fair price (albeit the quantities are small).  Many still cannot afford it - at any price.

A few days later, George and President Matale drove to Limbe to purchase additional maize meal, beans, and small packets of dried soy/vegetable relish that they reconstitute with water and cook.
It was not an uneventful shopping trip, as robbers tried to enter the car through the two rear unlocked doors while George was stuck in traffic.  President Matale, in the front passenger seat, turned and grabbed the arm of one, yelling and forcing him to drop the bag he had grabbed in the back seat.  They fled, leaving two very shaken men!

The large bags of beans will be divided up among members.
Early on Sunday morning, George and I drove to Liwonde, following the large flatbed truck that had now been stacked with the goods.  President Matale was with the driver of the truck.
When we arrived at the building, there were waiting several members, along with the Group president and his two assistants.  It looked like a normal Sunday because they were dressed in their Sunday attire, but clearly everyone knew that this would be a very special sabbath day.
Everyone  participated in unloading the bags of maize meal,
and beans,
and the packets of dried relish (that were in the back of our truck).

There was a large attendance at church that day.  George and I each spoke in sacrament meeting.  Aaron Benjamin, the group leader's son and a recently returned missionary acted as interpreter.
During the second hour, Aaron taught the Sunday school lesson and I attended Primary.
At the time of the third hour, everyone was dismissed to go outside.
The members sat and quietly waited while the leaders discussed the best way to make the distribution.

There seemed to be far more bikes than usual that day.

We think that our members in Blantyre have to walk so very far to get to church.  In Liwonde, the distances are even farther.  When the heavy rains come, many members are not able to get to church because the creeks flood and are impassable.  Many even have to cross the Shire River to get to church, since they live in Sitima Village, site of the original KDS meetings in Malawi.

We had visited this sister at her home last November.  She had joined the church in 1992, one of the original members in Malawi.
In a very orderly fashion, the first half of the maize meal was distributed.  One of the leaders read the name of a family off of a list and a family member came forward and took their allotted bag or two.  There began to be little piles all over the parking lot as different families moved them to a spot and then came back for the next distribution.
It became a little more complicated when the bags had to be divvied up.

After awhile, it was clear that people were getting hungrier.  Some of the children got first dibs on the relish packets when parents allowed them to eat them as snacks.

Aaron, on the right, and his brother.  Aaron just received the great news that his PEF (Perpetual Education Fund) loan has been approved and he will begin this fall at the  Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources to work toward a degree in Environmental Science.

I was getting tired too, and these kind sisters gestured that I should come sit with them and lean against the wall.

At one point, I went back inside of the building, and some of the teenagers were singing.  I decided to give an impromptu lesson on how to lead music, which they thought was great fun.
The beans were divided up and the relish packets.  First, I had been worried that no one had brought any plastic bags to make it easier to divide things.  That didn't seem to be a problem, as women removed their chitenges and wrapped the beans or meal inside, tying it up nicely.
I also could not figure out how they were going to get these large bags home. Yet, one way or another, those welcome burdens were hoisted or tied on and delivered to the various homes.  
We were exhausted by the time we headed home because the distribution had taken far longer than any of us anticipated.  But the Liwonde members seemed REALLY happy and that made it all worth it.