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Homemakers: A journey to Malawi
Making a difference with missions
By RuthMoïsa Alleyne
It is not for vacation. It is not for the sake of experiencing something new. But every year they take the long journey to Africa with one thing in mind – to touch lives, bring change and make a difference. This year is no different.
For the last eleven years, the members of Uplift International Barbados – a short-term inter-denominational missionary organisation – have dedicated themselves to uplifting others in obedience to the Great Commission of Jesus Christ. As you read this story, they are in the winding down stages of preparation for another love mission and will be leaving for Malawi on September 12.
The team’s primary mission is to evangelise the people in the interior parts of Malawi with the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Apart from that, they provide medical assistance through the supplying of medicines as well as medical personnel. They also help in the areas education, sports, business and entrepreneurship. Through these avenues, they have, over the years, interwoven themselves within the lives of the Malawian people, to bring hope, to fill a need, and to embrace them with message of love, “ You are my brother, and I am your keeper”.
There are many persons who ask the question, “Why do you need to go all the way to Africa to help somebody?” Certainly, life for many in our parts of the world – and right in our own backyard – has become more difficult since the recession. Earlier this year we were informed that poverty levels were on the rise in Barbados. Ever so often we read of the plight of several persons who find themselves living under unfortunate circumstances.
Yet, on a larger scale, Barbadians are a blessed people. We have much to be thankful for and – having seen the living conditions in some parts of Malawi through the eyes of Uplift members, as well as having seen what the support of Barbadians has helped to achieved – I am convinced that we too, are a caring people.
I recently had the opportunity to meet Mr. Benjamin Freeman Moyo, a Malawian interpreter who works with the team when they arrive in the country. He was here for the first time – in fact this was the first time he ever left his country by plane – to promote the work of Uplift across churches in Barbados.
“There are some people even right here in Barbados [the sending country] who do not know what Uplift is all about... and even if they know the name, they do not know the amount of weight that it carries behind it,” said the young man who had nothing but praises to sing about the beauty, people and warm welcome of our country.
As he goes around the churches, Benji, as he is affectionately called by members of the team, shares with Barbadians, what Uplift has been doing in his country.
Though they initially lodge at a theological school in the capital city, Lilongwe, they travel into the inner parts to target the less privileged – people who cannot access medication, education, business facilitation. In Malawi, the government schools are so filled to capacity that many children are turned away from accessing education. In schools there are in excess of 100 children to every teacher. Teaching cycles are for half of a day, so that a new roll of students can be taught in the evening. They sit with there legs buckled under them because there isn’t enough space.
Malawi has hospitals and clinics, but many people do not go. Why should they? What use is a medical facility without enough doctors and without medication?
So, many people remain afflicted with diseases which could have been avoided if infections were treated in the early.
There just aren’t enough resources to fix all the problems, at least not enough that are getting to the area.
Benji continues to reflect on how life has changed since Uplift came to Malawi. He shares one notable memory.
“One time Uplift took a six-hour drive to the northern region, to a place called Nyungwe. When they reached it, the area... it was very pathetic to see people who brought their sick to the health centre, sleeping under the tree... waiting. Those persons were not simply trying to get shade. There was no shelter anywhere. Uplift decided to build something for these people... a wonderful Guardian Shelter. People sleep there now. That is incredible. The health clinic is under the Government but the Minister of Health could not do that. They did it. People from all the way in this Caribbean, in this Barbados did it. They did it to save lives and make a difference.
There are so many more testimonies...”
The work of Uplift International Barbados has been recognised by the Government of Malawi. Each year, the team meets with the high-level officials, primarily the Ministers of Health and Education. Despite the ongoing work however – and the fact that it is voluntary work – local doctors and qualified nurses are required to pay a yearly fee of $US250 in order to practice. Bear in mind that a mission lasts for 3 weeks and that the medication used is either brought or bought there by the team. It is hard, but the people who truly stand to suffer are the people.
Challenges like these aside, Benji says that the people themselves look forward to Uplift’s
return each year. Benji’s role in the team is to mobilise the locals to get involved with the missionary team.
“I organise local interpreters as well as the mobile clinics. I meet with the local chiefs, as well as the pastors. We target the churches and set up clinics on their premises. For the most part, most are welcoming and willing to cooperate. There are some who are skeptical. They ask, “Who are they, what are they here for, I don’t think this is going to work…”,” he says.
‘Lover of the Lord’
One of the things that inspired me about Benji was that he was young, passionate and his one “title” was that he was a lover of the Lord. Perhaps, what he says here will be of inspiration to some other person.
“I always used to see myself as becoming a missionary one day... it was only when I came to Barbados that I realised – “Wow, I am a missionary, I am here doing God’s work!” Now, for one to be a missionary, it does not necessarily mean that you have to be a pastor, evangelist, apostle or bishop. God can use anybody else. As for me, my mission with Uplift is not yet over. I am looking forward to greater things... to working with them and touching lives. I love to see lives being changed.. to see that God is doing something real and practical in persons’ lives. I want to see people touched.
“These people [missionaries] take time out of their lives just to touch somebody in Africa. Just imagine, had there been no persons going to Malawi, do you think there would have been a Guardian Shelter at that clinic? The support of the Barbadian people helped them to do so. I encourage your country to keep on supporting. It is always a pleasure to see someone having joy because you have impacted their lives.”