Friday, June 18, 2010

Transformation -- It Can Really Happen!

As our 4-Wheel Drive vehicle pulled off the dusty, rutted road we had been traveling on for the last half hour it was immediately clear that Chikudzulire was not your average Malawian village. It wasn’t the large, newly constructed Community Center that was just a few feet away that made this a different place. It was what we saw happening all around us – and what we sensed as we
got out of the vehicle.

This was a community in the process of transformation!

Everywhere we looked there were children running, playing and just being happy! We immediately saw several groups of people sitting in circles on the ground and under trees. Theresa Malila, the Executive Director of Somebody Cares told us who these groups of people were:

Over there, is an HIV/AIDS Support Group!
• There, under the tree – the youth leaders are meeting!
• Over there – on the benches – the pastors of this community are getting together to pray!
• In the Community Center – the women’s group is meeting and learning about bead-making.
• In the classroom – about 80 children are in the Early Childhood Education program.
• In the covered kitchen we saw a group of women preparing the fortified porridge for the children’s daily feeding.

What a difference from just a few years ago! I remember Mr. Makena coming to the offices of Somebody Cares in November 2006 – asking for help on behalf of his community. The traditional leaders and the pastors of Chikudzulire had heard that Somebody Cares helped communities with their orphans and vulnerable children and helped them “develop” – and they wanted to change the way life was in their community.

In May 2007 I visited Chikudzulire along with Theresa and a group of 15 pastors that I had organized from Arizona, Wisconsin and Maryland for a Vision Trip. Mr. Makena was there to welcome us – as were the traditional leaders and pastors of the community – along with over 1,000 orphans and vulnerable children, widows and families. They came to meet us with hope and expectancy – but it was not very hard to see the hopelessness in their eyes and their hearts.

Life has always been difficult in Chikudzulire. This community composed of about 48 villages and around 50,000 people is far from the beaten path. It is in the “African bush”. The great majority of people were living on less than $1 a day. There were literally thousands of orphans and vulnerable children in the community and hundreds of widows – all barely surviving. One meal a day was seen as a blessing. The scourge of AIDS had taken its toll on this community.

Today, after three years of partnership between Mission Community Church (Gilbert, AZ), Visionledd, Somebody Cares and the people of Chikudzulire, transformation is underway. The community has two wells that provide clean drinking water to thousands of people. A feeding center for children and a Community Center have been built – and the children have a playground – perhaps the only one in rural Malawi!

But, it isn’t the physical buildings that have caused the transformation. As I greeted Mr. Makena, the man sent by the community to visit Somebody Cares almost 4 years ago – he made that clear to me. I told him I was “blown away” by what I saw – and the difference three years of partnership has made. He immediately said the following to me:

While we are very grateful for the boreholes and the buildings – but the real transformation in Chikudzulire is spiritual. We have hope! Traditional leaders are coming to know the Lord! Churches are working together! Orphans are being cared for! Widows are learning how to make an income! God is transforming our community! We are looking forward to the day when we can help other communities, just like Somebody Cares helped us!

As Mr. Makena and I talked some more, it was clear that he was convinced that God is doing a new thing in Chikudzulire. I introduced Mr. Makena to Amanda Cox of the Faith to Action Initiative. We were in Chikudzulire to complete a UNICEF
research project on partnerships between North American and African churches ministries that do community-based care for orphans and vulnerable children. The result of the research is a publication coming out this fall highlighting effective partnership models. What was happening in Chikudzulire was clear to Amanda. At the end of the two days we spent in the community she told us that this was one of the best partnerships she has ever seen in Africa!

Debbie and I just want to tell you how much we appreciate your partnership with us. In the same way that Aaron and Hur held up Moses hands in battle (Exodus 17), your prayer and support is holding up our hands -- as we hold up the hands of ministries like Somebody Cares, who in-turn hold up the hands of African communities infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. Each of us cannot do what we are doing without the other. You are helping to bring hope and change to Africa even though you are here in North America.

Looking Forward to July

July is an exciting month! On July 6 Donovan and Hyesun come home, after being in Korea for 13 months. We are looking forward to seeing them in-person rather than just on Skype.

Then, on July 13 Debbie is taking a short-term missions team to Malawi. Pray for her and our team members that God would prepare them and that they would have a fruitful time of ministry.

Thank you so much for your partnership with us.

Karl and Debbie