I didn't know any of the AWP staff before visiting Lilongwe. I've known about the staff. I've read their bios on the website and heard some stories here and there, but I'd never met any of them and didn't know all of their names.
Now I do.
Gibozi, Joseph, John, Professor, Yohani, Alex, Elias, Patricia, and Gerard were so kind and welcoming to our group. We were able to spend time with each of them, hearing their stories, and learning about how they enjoy working for AWP. Spoiler alert: they love it. Each of them said AWP is a blessing and they enjoy working in an environment that's so encouraging and honest.
One of the first moments we had with all of the staff was at the staff meeting Monday morning. The meeting started with a devotional led by Gibozi. He dived into the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 and then opened the floor for discussion. We had a very rich conversation about Jesus and loving others. It was evident that the men and women in that room are Christ seekers and they were excited to talk about what the scripture was teaching them.
Photo (L-R): Kyrsten, Margaret, Gibozi, Professor, Doris, Gerard, John, Yohani, Elias, Joseph, Alex, Patricia, and Wanda (photo by Kimberly).
During our week there, we got to know the staff on a more personal level. We spent our first weekend there with Gibozi, John, and Joseph. These three are compassionate and hard working, and it was evident in their demeanor toward us that they valued us as sisters in Christ. John is one of the drivers on staff and he's so careful when he drives. The roads in the city are paved, but once you start heading toward the villages, the roads are dirt and full of holes, bumps, and deep ridges. It was great to have someone who knew the roads driving us around. Beyond being a driver, John helps the rest of the staff out with windmill repair and trainings - he goes above and beyond to ensure farmers have what they need to be successful at irrigation farming, and it really shows.
Joseph is the project manager and has a great spirit. He spent time teaching us about Lilongwe and Malawian culture. Later in the week several of us had a chance to travel with Joseph to the widow’s program and meet some children from COTN (Children of the Nations).
Photos: Joseph surveying a garden at Mziza (1). Wanda teaching the children at COTN a song, with Joseph and Kyrsten (3). John getting ready to drive us to Chigonthi (3).
Professor and Alex lead irrigation training for farmers in the villages. We had the opportunity on Wednesday to go out with Alex and Elias (another driver) to Mngwangwa and meet with three villages in that area. They all love Alex! He works with over 2000 farmers and based on some of the songs and prayers we heard, we know they respect him and appreciate all he's doing to help. Alex is kind and speaks with a boldness that inspires those around him. Elias worked really hard all day to get us safely to and from Mngwangwa. We got to know Elias a little more on the drive to and and he said he's happy to be with AWP.
Photos: Alex giving us a tour of the office and talking about windmills.
On Thursday, we traveled with Professor, Yohani, and John to Chigonthi where Professors works with ~1300 farmers. Professor led irrigation training for one village we stopped at and it was fun to see him in action. He's an engaging teacher and enjoys his work. Yohani accompanied us on the trip to repair a windmill at another village in the area. Yohani has a deep history with AWP and it was nice to get to know him better. He's funny and likes to joke around, but also works really hard to build and construct the windmills to the best of his ability.
Photos: Professor teaching village farmers about irrigation farming (1&2). Yohani welding a windmill (3). Yohani, Professor, and John repairing a windmill in a village (4&5). Our team with Alex at a village demonstrating a water pump (6).
Patricia started at AWP the first week of March. She works in the office on finance and administrative tasks, but she did journey with us out to Mziza on Tuesday to check on a water pump. One of the things I really enjoyed is meeting other women and learning more about their story, and meeting Patricia was no exception. She's very excited about her position and looking forward to working for AWP for a long time.
Photos: Kyrsten and Patricia in a garden in Mziza (1). Kimberly and Patricia (2).
Gerard! I have to say his name with emphasis because he cooked our lunch several times during the week and it was delicious. Gerard lives on AWP’s premises with his family and takes care of the office and workshop. We ran into Gerard on his bike one day earlier in the week when we were walking home after a minibus ride, and he was so excited to see us. He's very genuine and loves the Lord so much!
Photos: Gerard (1). Gerard's wife and daughters (2). Lunch that Gerard made one day - nsima and vegetable (greens) (3).