A short cut cut short

Monday 14th April 2014

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We were all up early for our drive from the Chilema guest house to the ZEC operated clinic at Nthorowa. Being the end of the rainy season everything is bushy and green but that did not stop Simon and Luckwell directing us down ‘roads’ that looked more like overgrown bridlepaths. I was driving and as we grew in confidence we decided to take a “shorti cut” that turned out to be a “shorti cut” too far.

As we rounded a corner we were faced by a ditch across the road, but a ditch that had become a stream swollen by the rains. My children’s gift last Christmas was a day’s off-road 4×4 training; I suddenly wished I had used it before this trip!

Neverless, guided by Simon and Luckwell, I headed off down the slope and up the other side. Then, just as the front wheels reached the road on the other side disaster struck as the rear nearside wheel sunk into wheel sized bowl in the steam bed.

There we were, stuck in the bush and unable to go forward or back, and the AA several thousand miles away. However, despite being so annoyed with myself, I soon realised that this adversity was turning into a marvellous lesson for Ruth and I on why Malawi is know as the “Warm Heart of Africa”.

Immediately a passing villager stopped to offer help and then ran off to the village to organise the emerging curious children into a work party that brought bricks, planks and shovels to the site. Men, young and old, emerged to free the front wheels sunk in the sand and push from the back.

Most amazing, and in a perfect (and un-selfconscious) demonstration of true servant leadership, the General Secretary of the second oldest and third biggest denomination in the country took off his socks and shoes, rolled up his trouser legs, and used his not inconsiderable frame to join the team lifting the rear offside wheel out of its rocky bowl.

With Simon at the wheel it took several arduous attempts, and many bouts of giggles from the gaggle of children, before – wheels spinning and showering water everywhere – the truck popped like a cork out of stream and lurched up the bank.

It was relief and smiles all round and we walked the final few hundred metres to the Nthorowa Station where we spent the rest of the day meeting with the clinical staff, the pastor/elders of the church, and the lovely children of the day care centre for orphans.

Once again Ruth and I were overwhelmed by the abundant hospitality of the people of Malawi, and the striking wisdom of the pioneer ZM missionaries in the late 19th and early 20th century who inherently understood the need for what we now call “holistic mission” that aims to show God’s love to society not just through ministry of the word, but also through the ministry of healing and teaching. After all, its what Jesus did!

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