Anyone growing up in the West of Scotland or Northern Ireland is very familiar with the word ‘driech’. It is a word that seems to so perfectly describe the dull, overcast, drizzly, cold, and misty weather so prevalent in those climates, and the associated long faces of people facing yet another interminable wet day. However, last Sunday we were taught that in Malawi it is quite the reverse: it is the broad smiles you see in Scotland on that rare ‘braw’ blue-sky day that you see on Malawians’ faces on these most dreich of days.
Why? Well the last few weeks have been worrying ones for Malawi as the initial rains dried up and we had three or more weeks of unseasonably hot and dry weather. The result was clear to see as we drove to Luchenza: maize planted long before Christmas that should have been bright green stalks over 6 feet in height sat stunted, dry and turning brown. Fear is rife that an already hungry Malawi is in for a second poor harvest after the floods that hit last season.
So as we struggled through fog, mist and rain in temperatures that for once made us glad of our ‘Sunday best’ jackets, and slithered down the hill to Luchenza ZEC, we should not have been surprised to be greeted by so many smiling (if somewhat damp) worshippers gathered under a thatched roof in a cane-walled church. For the fine, incessant ‘Scotch Mist’ pattering on the roof not only reminded us of wet camping holidays, but meant regained hope for some sort of harvest for hungry bellies.
With the well-being of almost everyone in Malawi dependent on the harvest from their personal ‘garden’, the retelling by Myles of the parable of the four soils from Matthew 13 seemed particularly compelling. Especially given the similarity of the farming methods of Malawi and 1st century Palestine. Visitors and locals alike were left in no doubt of the mastery of Jesus as a story-teller, and the clarity of His call to consider our own hearts. Do we have a heart hardened to the Good News, a heart of faith too shallow to withstand the trials of life, or a heart where the weeds of worldly cares threaten to strangle our faith?
Wherever you find yourself, the next time you are tempted to curse the driech weather, spare a thought for our hungry friends in Malawi, pray for them as they seek to build a stronger physical church of brick and a stronger spiritual church of faith in Luchenza, and pray that the Holy Spirit might clear all our hearts of stones and weeds and till our hearts deep – that we might bring forth a rich harvest for Christ.