Malawi is a small country in central Africa. Over the last several years, we have received many requests for Bibles and invitations to visit. In July 2021, the day finally came to travel to Malawi to meet the friends we made by email.
Our purposes were to build relationships with the folks who handle the Bible distribution for Heralds of Hope and develop a better distribution system. There were times of frustration in dealing with the many requests and disagreements between people “on the ground.”
Are We Going?
Going on a journey of 8,600 miles requires planning. I was unprepared for what was in store when I planned to travel to Malawi. When I purchased tickets in March and began planning an itinerary, I foolishly believed COVID-19 would be just a memory by July. As the weeks went by, I became less sure that we could make the trip. We needed to make a final decision at the beginning of July.
The deadline came and went without a message from Victor, our contact in Malawi. Thinking he may have forgotten, I sent another email. Soon, he called me on WhatsApp. I listened with confusion as Victor told me about sending an email to call off the trip, but he was surprised to find the email stuck in his outbox. He explained how he had been rethinking his decision and thought we should continue planning the trip. My head was spinning—we are going, we are not, we are going, we are not.
The last hurdle to our entering Malawi was a special letter from the Minister of Health. We had everything except that letter, including negative COVID-19 tests. As we found our seats on our first flight, I received a message from Victor: the needed letter from the Minister of Health had arrived!
Early on, I sensed that I would learn something significant from this trip. I can go plowing through life thinking I have things under control: been there, done that. This time so much of the preparation was simply outside my control, and the only way we could make the trip was if God made it work—and He did.
When I think of Africa, naturally, I don’t think of lush gardens, I think of the Sahara Desert. But we found gardens that could easily out-produce the most fertile land on the east coast of the USA. With ingenuity and creativity, almost any kind of fruit and vegetable can be grown in the rich ground of Malawi.
They grow corn, lettuce, peas, sugar cane, coffee, Macadamia nuts, tea, sweet potatoes, green beans, rice, bananas, and “Irish” potatoes. Many gardeners and farmers have developed irrigation systems to grow crops year-round, wet and dry season, allowing fresh produce to be available the whole year.
We spent several days traveling in Malawi, distributing Bibles and meeting contacts. Partway into the trip, we finally solved our question on how to improve Bible distribution.
In Malawi, there are local groups of pastors who meet for fellowship and accountability. These groups are called Pastor Fraternities. They can hold each other accountable for shared resources such as Bibles. In the future, we will send Bibles to the chairman of the fraternity and allow the group to distribute as they see fit. This plan seemed culturally appropriate and well-received by most of the leaders.
The trip held many surprises and a few anxious moments, such as a missed landing in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. During the trip, we built good relationships and learned how to support our Malawian brothers and sisters in the Lord.
– Tony High