Field Notes from Malawi Disaster Survey Team

Posted by djaspersen on Thursday, April 9, 2015 Under: Malawi
By Jennifer Lee

As I made my way to the airport in Phoenix I was reminded of the previous trips to Malawi I had taken and prepared for. This one however was very different, I was not moving there it would just be a very short trip with a very specific mission/task. The first time I made this very long trip(27hrs) in 2006 I was going as the new Sister in Charge of Lutheran Mobile Clinic, tasked with overseeing operations on field for the Central Africa Medical Mission. This would be my first return trip since leaving in 2010. A trip to conduct a training for Malawians to be able to implement their own surveys during disaster times.
There were a lot of things I was already prepared for, delays, waiting, water and power outages, living behind walls and having help living on the property. I also had basic knowledge of the language and customs which always comes in handy. However, there were many things I had pushed to the back of my mind.
Malawi is now considered the poorest country in the world according to World Bank based on GDP/per capita. “Poorest country” is one of those things that goes back and forth between a handful of countries over the years and the poverty is real. You really do see people wearing tattered clothes, malnourished/starving children, people begging in the streets, poorly constructed shelters/homes, women toiling in their fields with babies strapped to their backs. But what you also see that might be unexpected given their circumstances, are smiling faces always eager to greet you, the real life example of why this country is referred to as the Warm Heart of Africa.

Prior to my arrival our team of relief workers had suffered a significant setback. While delivering flood relief items 3 members were in a horrible car accident. Hospitalized and thankfully on the mend, we were praising the skills of the medical staff and the amazing healing that had occurred. The reality is that the majority of Malawians would never be able to access such a well-equipped healthcare facility.
The immediate response from WELS/CAR/Kingdom Workers had been in full swing prior to my arrival with the delivery of plastic buckets, plastic sheeting, blankets, and nails. My job was to train our fellow Christian LCCA brothers to be able to conduct basic surveying regarding current needs surrounding food security, malaria, water and sanitation, and general safety. It’s true that you could argue that those needs were there before the flooding, are for sure a current need and will most likely be a future need as well but the actual data and feedback are very useful for many reasons. The information helps the national church empower the communities in which they live and look for future outreach opportunities. Surveying also helps to identify needs that supporters of WELS/CELC might be able to assist with if asked by the national church. The training also provides a skill that we hope they surveyors can use for future humanitarian aid needs.

I can say that our team of 4 were a very excited bunch and the enthusiasm for the work and very large task set before them was encouraging to see. Keep in mind that the challenges presented to surveying in a resource poor country can be daunting. How many of you would be willing to take a bicycle taxi from your home village down a long dusty, muddy road, to a mini bus taxi, to a drop off point, to another bicycle taxi, to maybe a hand made boat to cross the flooded river, just to get to one congregation? Never mind the environmental risks of mosquitos, cholera, access to clean water. These surveyors are doing just that. The planning is very detailed.
Loaded down with new information and skills, equipment, first aid kits, and many prayers for safe travel the team divided the areas needed to be covered and headed out.
The devotions we had opened our training sessions with were in front of us to encourage us and keep us focused…
1 Peter 5:6-7 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Matthew 6:25-27  “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?
It’s easy to read and say these words aloud but to believe in the message that it provides is so important. Our Savior knows us so well and his purpose for us was already in place from the beginning. He sustains our lives, knows where we fall short and is always there to pick us up. His blessings are found everyday in that we are provided with just what we need. Humble us Lord to be good servants, grateful that you sent your Son to make all things new and right.
Thank you Kingdom Workers for giving me the opportunity to serve my fellow brothers and sisters in Malawi.
One of our surveyors Davie out in the field. Transport in the Lower Shire by boat and at the home of one of our LCCA members. Her home has fallen down and she is living in her outdoor kitchen.

In : Malawi 

Tags: "malawi flooding" 

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