You don’t need languages when you meet Hearts wide-open
Being a guest in „Africa’s Warm Heart“ – a travelog from Malawi
I was lucky enough to visit Malawi in October, this year. The reason and, which is more, the highlight of the journey was to get to know Kaphatika. I experienced something very special there, being able to really BE there in person, as I have been monitoring the building of the parish for more than three years now – from the planning phase to the current status. From my office in Germany, which is thousands of kilometres away form the “real thing”.
Now being able to visit Kaphatika was a very emotional experience for me. Getting in touch with the country, the village and the people there, all of it left permanent traces within me – but it also assured me that we are heading into the right direction.
Confirmation in Kaphatika
On October 13th, I visited the new parish house which can be moved in very soon now. It was also confirmation day, that day. There was a colorful bustle going on: A huge square covered by tarps made from cement bags that had been sewed together, seats provided, the sanctuary decorated with red covers, ribbons and balloons. People had brought school desks and straw mats to make space for everyone. The trees on each side of the square also functioned as extension to the open-air church. While everyone was waiting for the bishop to arrive, the square was busy with choral singing, allocation of seats, instructions for confirmands and parish members. Only a few yards away, it was like Grand Central Station: chickens were being plucked, meat and vegetables being sliced right under the trees. Water was being hefted. All this for the reception to take place at the new parish house. Children in excitement, confirmands, dance groups, goats and hens everywhere – and me being the only white woman amongst all these. I received an extremely heartily welcome. I was hugged and everybody wanted to be photographed. There were almost no difficulties due to the differences in languages. No English? No problem. Gestures, smiling, touches – open hearts don’t need languages.
A Five-Hour Service with Songs and Dances
The bishop’s arrival marked the beginning of a five-hour lasting service. A vivid, noisy service with dances and songs, waxing and waning. A wonderful experience! Yet, what impressed me most, were the children who sat well-behavedly on the ground (some of them in the blazing sun) and participated in the service. Or the boys and girls dancing enthusiastically despite the heat. There weren’t only monetary gifts and sacrifices for the bishop and the parish. There were living goats and hens being brought along, eggs, flour, and other kinds of food were brought down the aisle, accompanied by loud music and ceremonial dancing – a truly impressive experience: a vibrant service at its best!
Fr. Hau, Fr. Jones and Fr. Mangwele co-celebrated the service and Fr. Hau’s speech was translated from English to Chichewa, as most of the attendants didn’t speak English.
Visiting the Construction Site
I spent the day looking around the village and having a look at the improvements that have been made since the Pallottine’s arrival. One of the most important is the well which considerably improves the living conditions of all villagers. Furthermore, I could visit the school which was renovated using donations. An unbelievable improvement of the conditions for many of the students. Beside the renovated buildings there are still many straw huts being used, “stuffed” with children sitting on the floor. Sometimes, the heat in there is simply unbearable, and the lessons are held under the trees. There is need for many more school rooms to be built. But, how does the old saying go: Rome wasn’t built in a day either!
The church is being renovated too at the moment by personal contribution of the villagers supported by donations. The old roof has just been removed. There is considerable improvement there and people are proud of being able to help re-erect their church.
I find it highly impressing that nowhere on the construction site you’d find machines. No matter if with the parish house, the school, the church – everything is done by hand. Concrete and plaster are mixed in a little pan in the ground, water carriers keep on bringing supplies to the construction sites. Once the buildings are finished, it’s unbelievable. But I was able to assure myself of this. At the moment, the new postulancy is being built right next to the parish house. And wherever I turned my head, I saw happy faces. Kaphatika’s people are proud and happy about the Pallottine presence and they’re showing it again and again.
I took off for my two-weeks tour through Malawi on October 2nd. My travel mates were Brother Bert and Rudolf Bäuml (an old friend of Brother Bert’s whom he met during his “Cameroon Days”). Fr. Hau joined the group on October 11th. Stops included: Lilongwe, Kaphatika, Balaka, Blantyre, Thyolo, Mangochi, Nkothakota and Kasungu. Brother Bert who has been living and working in Malawi for almost three years now, gave me an understanding of both the country and the people. I was allowed to visit all locations where Pallottines will start working in the near future and places where they have already been working for quite a while. We travelled almost 2000 km! Again, it’s impressive to see what he has achieved so far, considering the circumstances! You definitely need sensitivity and patience to get things going in Malawi.
I am really thankful for this intensive time that I was able to spend there. I didn’t only get to know impressing landscapes, Lake Malawi, and colorful markets but also: poverty. I saw what women in need they you don’t talk about, the shack villages, the fields and streets covered with plastic waste, the unbelievably high number of children, the many, many young and only very few old people, the lack of medical care, they exploitation of nature by deforestation, and I could go on and on….
Despite all of this, Malawians are mostly very heartily, friendly and thankful humans – this is how I found out that Malawi is also called “Africa’s warm Heart”.
Last but not least, I want to give special thanks to Brother Bert who made time for me, showing me all of this, who drove for miles and miles and who took good care of me. He had planned the journey extremely well and he showed me corners of the country that normally tourists wouldn’t be able to see. He also introduced me to many wonderful people. Thanks for the time we spent talking and for the uncomplicated way of travelling together. Which I consider very special as this is not to be taken for granted when you spend almost all of your days together for a fortnight.
So far for my travelog. The lesson is clear: There are many things yet to be done in Malawi, but from what I saw, the Pallottines are heading into the right direction and they’re more than welcome in Malawi.
Travelog: Patrizia Bauer
Images: Bruder Bert Meyer & Patrizia Bauer
Translation: Stefanie Ettenberger