I think it’s time I shared some of my religious and spiritual experiences here in Malawi with you. As I’ve mentioned before (I think) Christianity is the majority religion here in Malawi; approximately 70% of the population practices Christianity. I’m not sure what percentage of Canadians associate themselves with Christianity, but I imagine that whatever that number is, many of that percentage doesn’t actively practice Christianity. I don’t find that to be the case here in Malawi.
From my experience, pretty much all Malawians who practice Christianity go to church every Sunday, pray, and trust in Jesus to protect them and their families from day to day; they unwaveringly trust in God to provide for them. Christian and gospel music and dancing is much more popular and I’ve heard a couple of songs my church sings in Canada on the radio (Geoff Moore’s ‘He knows my name’ anyone?). One message I’ve heard preached to Malawians is that “their individual situation is an opportunity to be a witness and that others will find salvation from their situation.”
As someone who would call themselves one of Canadians actively practicing Christianity, I was very interested to experience the faith of Malawians. I think that being a Christian has definitely helped me to bond with my family; because we have little in common and because I can never escape white privilege, there’s something powerful about being able to meet in the middle and share the same core beliefs. I’ve been quite moved being able to hang out with the kids and have them sing “I have decided to follow Jesus” and to then later play some songs on guitar for them that they sing in church.
Over the past few months I’ve really been looking for God in Malawi, but I have to admit that I was finding it difficult to find him. I’ve been going to the Salvation Army church in Thyolo, but the entire service is conducted in Chichewa and so I wasn’t getting a whole lot out of it after the initial excitement. However this morning I felt incredibly moved by the service and the display of love and passion for God shown by Malawians.
Church usually starts at 10 and is attended by about 15 people on average. There’s tambourines, a drum, and lots of singing and dancing. I got quite a surprise at the scene that met me when I arrived at church this morning though. There must have been 100 people lining the road in Salvation Army uniforms and SA chitenges and there was an actual brass band! (very exciting for me – I’m sorry if I confuse some of you with Salvation Army references now). It turns out that there’s a new District Commander for Blantyre Division and so people from churches all throughout Blantyre and Thyolo had travelled to the Boma to celebrate.
It was a service of energetic dancing, singing, and fellowship. What really moved me though was at the end of the service each corps had the opportunity to present a gift to the Commanders to welcome them to Malawi and help them get settled. As each corps name was called out, everyone would get up and dance excitedly to the back of the church to grab their gifts. In true Malawian fashion, huge stalks of bananas, baskets of tomatoes and cassava, and chickens were all brought to the front of the church as people sang happily. My friends at the church made sure I knew what was going down and when we were called I got to dance up to the front of the church with them and offer the couples dollars of kwacha that I had, feeling so inadequate next to such generosity.
A bunch of bananas or a chicken are not small gifts for a Malawian family, they are huge gestures of generosity and thanks, and the manner in which people are excited to give them away amazes me! Anything you give away is money you will not make. So it was there, in a small brick church, on a wooden bench, that I found God in Malawi; it was pretty simple. Not that I don’t see evidence of Malawian generosity every day, but it was presented to me in a different way this morning. Malawians may be poor by our Canadian standards, but they are so rich in spirit. I hope your internal image of Malawi, and dare I say Africa, is not one of desperation, but one of passionate, energetic and intelligent people that unfortunately lack opportunity and security in their lives.
I had no intention of doing this, but on that note, I’d like to make you all aware that EWB has kicked off it’s holiday campaign and that I, in turn, have also kicked off my own personal campaign to fundraise for our overseas programs. I have learned so much from this experience and I would formally like to ask you for your support. So I’m asking you to support me and EWB’s work like Malawians support each other and in Malawian spirit, (if you feel so inclined) to support me generously 😉 (I promise this entry was not a plot to get donations!)
To donate or to read more about what EWB actually does overseas, go to https://perspectives.ewb.ca/mariaadey
Thank you all so much for the support you’ve been offering me already, I appreciate it enormously and I am very excited to see you all again in three weeks.
With much much love,