Angelica's Reflections on Malawi 2015
A Journey with Love a Village
Little did I know that when I attended the launch for “Love a Village” on September 12, that less than three weeks later I would find myself on a plane travelling to Malawi to meet Julie!
At the end of that evening, after a very powerful commissioning service, I was saying good bye to Julie and Trevor when I blurted out - “Jules, I wish I could go with you!” Julie responded in her incredibly infectious way, “Come, you have to come!”. I dismissed the idea as simply crazy, yet my spirit felt completely compelled, and I could not let go of the idea. That same night Julie sent me an email, listing all the reasons why she thought I should go and asked me to pray about it. So I began to pray, and so did my husband Tony, my children and parents and many friends, and then something extraordinary happened. I started receiving verses of encouragement, words of affirmation, from at times the most unlikely sources - it was like God was sending me a giant arrow pointing me to Malawi.
So in an act of faith and obedience I got on a plane on October 1st and flew out of my ordinary North American life and into something different.
My primary role on the trip was to provide feedback and support to Julie as she met with key community leaders in the Village of Luhomero in order to establish a 5 year plan to help the community become independent and self-sustainable. My secondary role was assisting Julie in providing emergency relief, limited first aid and inspecting the efficacy of ongoing projects that Love A Village had already started, such as water filter distribution, girls hygiene initiatives, sewing programs to teach life skills, bore hole repair as well as chicken and rabbit distribution.
I also had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with her local NGO partner Daniel and his young family, and the local volunteers that partner with Julie to improve the lives of those who are in most need in their community. Julie has been able to build strong, key relationships with them on a foundation of trust, a real testament to her personable and authentic character.
Additionally, I was so impressed with her huge heart of compassion that embraced, quite literally, the hurt and suffering we saw in so many people. Whether it was donating the use of our vehicle to a dying man who was being carried on the back of a relative to the hospital miles away, or cleaning up the many “oh my gosh” wounds we saw on children while insisting and providing for ways that the parents could get them seen by a medical professional, or praying over and providing emergency relief for the family that lost their livelihood and most of their shelter to a fire, with such sincerity and empathy, it was as if they were her own family: Julie showed Christ’s love.
I also appreciated how careful she was to work with others to accomplish community goals, holding beneficiaries and volunteers accountable for the resources that have been provided through the charity. She encourages a spirit of giving by insisting that they “pay it forward”. Her hope is that Love a Village is not perceived as just another “western” organization that drops off some free stuff and leaves, but rather seen as a long term partner that is coming along side the community with the very attainable goal of being independent and self-sustaining.
During this journey there were many opportunities for reflection, spiritual growth and to use my own personal gifts to help some of the most needy on the planet. I would like to conclude by sharing a story of the shade tree.
One day driving into the village for our daily work I was struck by the number of sand mounds. Some mounds were made up of just dirt, some had dried out shrubbery on them, while others had burnt and scorched shrubs. But each of these sand hills had one tree or shrub that was green and full of life - enough to provide shade and respite from the burning hot sun for a person or small creature. I call them the shade trees. As I continued to observe them on the long bumpy, hot, dusty dry journey to Luhomero, I felt a challenge in my spirit: “Be the tree that provides the shade". In that context it was easy to see how I was providing shade to individuals in need, how Julie’s work through Love a Village was providing shade to the community of Luhomero, but the real challenge is how I will be that shade tree in whichever context I find myself in. Providing life to all my relationships, my community and in all my work. I would like to challenge you today to think about how you can be used to provide shade in your own context and perhaps how you might be challenged to support those who are called, like Julie and Love a Village to provide much needed shade and respite to our brothers and sisters in Malawi and even in other parts of our planet.