by Kimberly Drake
We were picked up around 8:15 in Africa Windmill Project's double cab truck that many helped us to purchase last year. Because the truck has "character" it started the morning with interesting conversation about working in Malawi. This vehicle in the US would probably be worth maybe $700 (and I am being kind) but in Malawi $10,000. It runs off of diesel, which currently is available in Malawi (at least for the past month or so). While we were driving past long (really long) queues (lines) of cars waiting for petrol (the other kind of gas / unleaded) we were very thankful that the Africa Windmill Project vehicle used diesel. I can remember after Hurricane Charlie hit Florida the gas shortage that lasted one or two days, but in Lilongwe, Malawi it is "normal". Then we began discussing various reasons for shortages (lack of buying currency, government regulations, privatized industry). We got a crash course in Malawian policy and economics. Thank you Christopher!
The Demonstration Garden takes us about 20 minutes to get to once we turn off of the main paved road. This intersection is where the closest market is too many of the farmers we have been working with for the past couple of years. (20 minutes by car is much longer on foot or with a bicycle.) Once we turned toward the garden we began talking about the agriculture conditions in the country. We were driving past maize that had little to no harvest potential. This area had seen heavy hail a couple months ago and the hail tears the leaves of the crop and reduces the ability of the plant to photosynthesis which then inhibits crop growth. We passed by some tobacco but due to the reduction in price many farmers chose this year to plant ground nuts (peanuts) instead. One of our employees asked me why I didn't like tobacco, fortunately Blessings our Malawian field director answered for me. His response was this, "if you cannot sell your tobacco it goes in the trash, but if you cannot sell your ground nuts it can still be eaten."
Imagine a country where every day people are dying of hunger but many chose to plant tobacco instead of food. Imagine a person that would rather spend "their" money on a cigarette rather than a meal for someone dying of hunger. I put their in quotation marks, because I believe that we are stewards of the money that we have but not owners. That God has given some much and some not enough but has said that there is enough for everyone, because in his economy people are worth more than addictions, than stuff, than savings. I am NOT just picking on smokers. This is true of me; this is true of all of us. We talked so much this trip about how in the United States $1 really isn't worth anything, you might lose a dollar and spend a couple of seconds looking for it, but then shrug your shoulders and reach into your wallet or drive to the ATM and pull out a twenty. We don't realize that $1 for many is the difference between LIFE and DEATH. Last year it cost AWP $17 a month (that is only fifty-seven cents a day) to train and empower a farmer to grow food year round.
God has given this world more than enough food, more than enough provision that no one should be hungry, no one should be without education, no one should be without parents, no one should be without medical care…..Yet, the reality is much different.
That gap between the United States and Malawi is staggering. Carlos who was on the trip with me who attends Summit Church had made the comment that he knew this to be true, but because he hadn't seen he didn't understand. He said that you have to see it to believe it. Somehow the news articles, the blogs, the photographs, the movies aren't communicating -- we allow ourselves to believe that it is fiction rather than TRUTH. We feel our heart stirred just the same as we would when watching Lost, we might even talk about it the next day. But for some reason the plea for help, for compassion isn't reaching our hearts in a way that makes us change.
How can we be a people of action, of purpose?
As you can see in the car on the short journey we were touching on hard realities. For me, the car ride was just the beginning.
We arrived at the garden and Blessings and Chawezi gave the group a tour. They kept talking about ENDING HUNGER in Malawi. They were talking about what they had done and were doing to work toward that end. This isn't a dream for Africa Windmill Project, it is the goal. There are so many steps that God has laid out right in front of us, relationships with the Ministries of Agriculture and of Water in Malawi that He has begun developing. Farmers across Malawi are calling Africa Windmill Project and other non-profit NGO’s that are asking for help. Teaching rural village farmers who farm about 1/4 acre or more to grow food year round, Empowering them with knowledge about composting, planting and cultivation and Equipping them with the ability to irrigate these gardens year round will END HUNGER in MALAWI.
I found myself taken back by this reality.
Why am I not more passionate about this? Why am I not calling all of my friends and asking for their help? Why am I afraid to explain to my children why they can't have that toy that cost $199. Why do I feel awkward or embarrassed for caring about ending hunger more than I care about my favorite thing to drink?
I care more about ENDING HUNGER than I care about wearing socks, jeans or shoes with holes in them. There, I said it.
I hope that today I finally GET IT! I finally STOP being QUIET, I stop looking and thinking as the world does and I see ONLY with the eyes of the ONE who sees ALL.
A song that my friend Meghan sings quite beautifully goes like this….Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, lean not on your own understanding. Acknowledge Him in all of your ways and He will make your path straight. Don't worry about tomorrow He's got it under control, just trust in the Lord with all of your heart and he will carry you through. Sometimes it gets so tough when things are going rough, but then I lift my eyes up to the sky and I hear Your voice and it says to me. Trust in the Lord with all of my heart and You will carry me through.
Today, I realized that John has been doing this every day. He didn't know in 2007 what would come of this decision to work on irrigating Malawi. All he does every day is do what God has placed in front of him. He is a man who walks into a board room full of strangers and asks for help. He walks out saying a prayer that maybe just one heart was stirred and will come alongside to help. He just keeps TRUSTING.
Today I was surrounded by people who get it. Another trip member from Summit Church, Annie-Grace's heart and hands are searching for a way she can work in sustainable development. Today she used those hands to begin gathering grass for compost. Mike worked to clear land for a windmill. John and Brian dug trenches so that water can reach crop beds. We laughed and got dirty, played with kids and made new friends.
I am so thankful for today.