Last week I celebrated Independence Day twice. In addition to the 4th of July, we celebrated Malawian Independence on the 6th. While the lack of fireworks was disappointing, I was able to have a cookout with some of the members on my team and their visiting family. Speaking of visiting family, my sister Erika came to visit me for a month in May and June. I know many of you supported her on her trip, so thank you for that! She brought me many small tastes of America in the form of candy and cards from some of you. I am very thankful to you all for thinking of me.
Erika amazed everyone by attending a team get-together a few hours after she stepped off the plane, and she just kept on going. It remains a mystery to everyone here how she managed to show no ill effects of jet lag whatsoever. She was in the refugee camp the morning after her arrival, and at the clinic where she interned the next day. Erika impressed me yet again with the interest she shows in everyone. On her first day in the refugee camp with me I introduced Erika to an acquaintance I had made. While they each spoke different languages, Erika and Berta became fast friends while she was here, and I was reminded of the tremendous importance of relationships in what we do.
My role here has a lot of elements that make it easy for me to hide behind the scenes a little bit. I do a lot of project evaluation and implementation, as well as help out with accounting, marketing, and sales of our Kibebe products. I have also planned business-training classes for our loan beneficiaries. On top of that, I have spent a lot of time doing research to help grow the soap business. While these parts of my job are important and needed, they do tend to separate me from direct contact with the people I am trying to serve.
Since being here, it has become very clear to me how much value I place on close relationships. I have missed the friendships I had, and put a lot of energy into maintaining them. Perhaps this has been at the expense of potential relationships here in Malawi. As I continue to work at building strong bonds here, this quote by Jedidiah Jenkins rings very true, “If you want love, you must give it away. If you want people to like you, you must first forget yourself and like other people.” As I continue my time here, I desire to step outside the normal and comfortable and be vulnerable with the people who I am surrounded by.
Lest this all sounds depressing or scary, I would like to say that I DO have friends, Africans and Americans, and I have enjoyed playing basketball, going to concerts, climbing mountains, and meeting together at church with them. Please pray for me as I continue to work on putting others first by stretching outside my comfort zone to deepen existing friendships and build new ones. It is my hope and prayer that Jesus will shine brightly through me in these new relationships and others will come to a better understanding of his love through our conversations and interactions.