On July 29, 2017, a team of 11 people (ages 18 to 69) departed from various places in the USA and Mozambique and traveled up to 10,500 miles to Mulanje, Malawi, a remote part of southeastern Africa.
This short-term mission trip was under the auspices of Habitat For Humanity’s Global Village program and led by Mark and Julia McDowell. The focus of the trip was to demonstrate the love of Christ by building homes for two families in a rural village who are caring for orphaned children. In this case, it was our new friends Agnes Kachingwe and Fanny Sponge.
Both families were living in small mud huts with thatched roofs that leaked in the rainy season. Habitat representatives worked with the village chief and his leadership team to select the two families in advance of our trip. The reality is virtually everyone in the village is living in substandard housing, but it was decided these two families would be the recipients of the new homes.
When we arrived on the worksite Monday morning, July 3, the construction had already commenced by the local contractor who is responsible for completing the house. A new pit latrine had been built and the foundation to the new brick home was in place. The team got a quick lesson on how to lay bricks using “matope” (mud ) for mortar and got to work laying bricks on two homes. Each three-room house was about 300 square feet and after we left would be finished by the contractor with cement plastered interior walls, glass windows, a cement floor, and a sheet metal roof. The families will also receive mosquito nets, sanitation, water, and life skills training.
Over the next 5 days we saw two houses rise as the team laid course after course of brick. Our brick laying skills improved and we learned phrases in Chichewa (the local language) to help communicate with the contractor’s helpers who assisted us….and sometimes fixed our work! Interspersed in the workday, the team had opportunities to visit with the new homeowners and their families, as well as play with the seemingly endless throng of children that would congregate to watch us. As the week progressed and the houses rose to rooftop level, the team formed a memorable bond with the village. On Saturday, July 8, we participated in a celebration where about 200 people enjoyed food prepared by local village women. There was singing, dancing, prayers and speeches from the village chiefs and surrounding villagers in attendance.
During the trip the team attended a local church, visited an elementary school and shopped in a local roadside market. All eye opening and warm experiences.
In the evening, the team gathered for dinner, and spent time reflecting on the day, sharing how it fits into our perspective of the world, and using Scripture to calibrate what we were experiencing. It became abundantly clear to the team that joy is not found in material things. We witnessed a joyful and giving community in a remote village in one of the poorest countries on earth.
The motivation and impact of the trip is undoubtedly different for each team member. We were able to do some small work and bless two families with homes that will forever change their lives. However, life change is bi-directional in trips like these, as no one from our team left without being challenged in their thinking on poverty, happiness, relationships, service, and what would God have us do with all of this. As one team member stated, “We came here to change Africa, but Africa changed us.”
To see photos of the most recent mission click here.