Friday, May 22, 2009

Day Two: Visiting Prisoners

On this second day in Malawi, the Team continued to function at high level of energy and committed action, with no sickness, culture shock or major snafus. (There was some anxiety when Claire and Ruth got temporarily separated from the rest of the group (my failure to keep us all together on our walk through the city), but they were resourceful and found their way back to the mission center.

Good news for Bob: His luggage was recovered, but he will have to go all the way back to the airport in Lilongwe tomorrow to retrieve it (a 10 hour round trip in a taxi).

Mzuzu Central Prison

We visited Mzuzu Regional Prison today--always an incredible experience. It was built to house 250 prisoners. Today there were 445 prisoners in the yard, including: 398 men, 12 women, and 37 juveniles. (I know, it doesn't add up). All were either convicted or awaiting trial for crimes from murder to petty theft.

Both the prison warden and inmates acknowledged and were grateful the support being rendered to them by CHI and requested more rice. The guitar we gave them last time is now in bad shape and the musicians could at least use new strings, if not a new guitar next time. Unable to secure another Colgate product donation, we purchased locally and donated 400 colgate toothbrushes and toothpastes, and soap for all.

The women inmates got extra gifts such as lip gross and perfumes brought from the USA, and they danced with joy. We also donated a box of school supplies and notebooks as requested last year.

Although we were late in arriving at the scheduled time, the Warden allowed us in to distribute 800 bars of soap (2 each), toothpaste and tooth brushes; and hygiene kits to the women. It seems like such a small gift but because they lack such necessities, our simple gifts were enthusiastically received.

The Warden introduced us as the NGO that supplied rice for the prison. I introduced our team as volunteers working with CitiHope Malawi to foster international friendship, share the love of Christ in tangible ways through food and medicine, and to let orphans, widows and prisoners know that they are not forgotten by the world.

Bob and I shared a word with the men and Helen with the women prisoners. Josie as usual captured as much as the Warden would allow her and more. Bob spoke from his heart about how he are all connected in God’s love whether inside or outside the walls of a prison. Helen conveyed our team’s love to the women in moving language and gestures that evoked smiles, songs and jubilation. Truly, it was love-in-action; and a mutual exchange of faith, hope and charity.

All in all, we’re having lots of fun, enjoying each other, learning and sharing together, and doing some good work that makes a big difference in people’s lives.

Dinner tonight was Pizza at a new restaurant run by Pakistani immigrant family to Mzuzu. We’ll be back.