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Showing posts from March, 2007

Final Reflection on March Mission Trip

I just returned from spending Friday/Saturday at church with my two daughters and their youth group. We were taking part in a “30 Hour Famine” fund-raiser for World Vision and the Y-Malawi fund (which supported CitiHope last year). I really didn’t mind fasting for 30 hours or sleeping in a Sunday School room (at least I had a cot). It was a worthy cause. I got to share my slides of the people of Malawi and their need for food, medicine and fresh water from a well. What joy it was to watch my daughters and their friends get passionate about ending hunger and AIDS in Malawi, and to want to do something about it. This youth group (of about 30-40 kids) raised over $10,000 for hunger relief! Amazing how they were able to articulate the need, get sponsors, and put the funds to good use.

Tomorrow is Palm Sunday. As the season of Lent draws to a close and the new season of Easter begins, it is time for my March Travel Blogs to be filed in the achives. (if you want to read all the Travel …

Don Wahlig's Photos and Reflection

Certainly the highlight of the trip for me was the experience of sharing my faith and a gospel lesson with prisoners at Nkata Prison.

Thank you, Gabriel and Dennis, CitiHope Malawi staff and our wonderful hosts for our mission trip!

As is so often God's way, this life-changing opportunity to help lead our wonderful group to Malawi seemingly came out of the blue. It soon became clear that God had a transforming experience in store for all of us!

For a team of 10 folks who didn't know each other well at the start, we sure bonded in a hurry. (Dennis, Trin & Mo - Fryball, anyone? 8>)

Before leaving, friends and family expressed a sense of fear, bordering on dread, for the despair and devastation they (and I) assumed we would meet in Malawi. "It will be so hard to see that," they often said. Well, they were right, but not in the way they thought.
Our first day with the kids at the day care center run by the Presbyterian Church in Mzuzu, St. Andrews Church. …

Josie's Photos and Reflection

Nearly two weeks have passed since our team returned from Malawi. So many memories come to mind, but there are four images of the people that have found their place in my heart:

We, the CitiHope team, were the first “white people” this girl had ever seen. She lives in the Village of Nkhwali, located in the middle of a rubber tree forest in Malawi. CitiHope delivers food to the Nkhwali Nursery School. Her sense of wonderment and delight is obvious in her eyes.

In the smoky, outdoor kitchen of Nhkata prison in Malawi, a young man steps close to me and says softly, “Please, Lady, take my picture”. I nod in agreement and motion for him to step away from the dense smoke. He went into a posed position. I took his picture, then showed him his instant image on my tiny digital screen. As he looked at his picture, his countenance changed to one of relief and a peacefulness of sorts. He responded, “Thank you, Lady”.

The simplicity of an image . . . the looking for some assurance that ones-s…

Martha's Questions

all right, more than a week has passed since we returned from Malawi, and i'm ready to give this whole reflection thing a whirl.

you know, it's really funny. actually hilarious. normally when i come home from mission trips or any other life completing trip for that manner (read: anything from a band trip to cruise) i am FLIPPING OUT. like can't stop talking about it, breathing it, living it, missing it like CRAZY. but man oh man, this africa trip has proven me totally wrong.

because honestly, i came home on friday sooo excited to see my friends. just so excited to show them pictures, to tell them stories; though more than anything, just really excited to get back to life. and i wasn't really thinking much about africa. more about wrapping myself back up in senior year. and i did that quite successfully.
out with my friends the next night handing out my little tokens for them- a rubber ball, a broom, ostirch jerky, wooden feet- showing them the rainbow bus, etc. but no…

Fun Fotos

Dennis McQuerry's reflection

I thought a lot about "Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs" while I was in Malawi. Ten days in a land of scarcity. Most of the people in that part of Africa operate on the lowest levels of that hierarchy -- focusing on obtaining drinkable water, food and shelter. And yet, everywhere we went, the people welcomed us with singing -- and joyful singing, at that.

This is in spite of the fact that the third largest industry in the country is the manufacture and sale of coffins. And the fact that 20% of children don't survive past the age of 5. And the fact that 14% of the population have HIV/AIDS. And the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of orphans -- many of whom have HIV. I could go on, but you get the point that there are stark realities in the country. Still, those whose lives are characterized by such loss and need and pain expressed great joy for our visits. And after what I've seen of the people there, it's no wonder that Malawi is called "t…

Clarissa's Holy Moments in Malawi

It had been years since I had attended a chapel service at Drew Theological School. A seminary student invited me to chapel in December during World AIDS Week to hear a Children’s Choir from Uganda sing and Dr. Michael Christensen speak about Global AIDS. He invited volunteers to go on a mission trip with him to Malawi in March, and much to my surprise I found myself calling him later for additional information.

In March my 13-year-old daughter Libby and I were headed to Malawi. I wanted her to see firsthand the daily challenges many people face just to survive, and to learn that there can be joy in struggle.

During our two weeks in Malawi, Libby learned more about joy, hope, faith, and Christian community than many people learn in a lifetime. Everyone we met, whether in Orphan Care Centers, hospitals, or prisons, expressed gratitude for our being there to learn about the joys and challenges of the people living in Malawi.

I was especially moved at Nkhata Bay Prison where over…

Libby’s Letter to her Jr. School Principal

Dear Mrs. Hodges,

I was in Africa as you know for around two weeks. During those two weeks I have changed dramatically. The way I look at myself and other people now is very different. Our team visited hospitals, jails, nursery care centers, orphan care centers, places for those with disabilities and churches.

When we went to the first hospital I found it repulsive. The smell was rancid and fowl. My opinion is that if it was here in America it wouldn’t pass the health codes. They don’t have enough supplies to keep it clean.

All the women in the maternity ward stayed in one room (after they had their baby or babies). This room was a little bigger than one of our classrooms. In that one large room many women had their children with them, except one woman. That woman had lost her baby and still had to stay in the same room. She sat in between two women who had had twins. The woman’s face was filled with sadness. Josie, one of the members of the team, said a prayer for her during her…

True Religion is Love-in-Action

As I reflect on our mission trip, my earlier reflection on "breaking the cycle of dependency" became a little clearer to me. CitiHope’s approach to relief and development ministry in Malawi is distinctive, because it is faith-based, collaborative, and inspired by the way Jesus feed hungry people (John 6) and healed those who were sick (John 9), revealing three core values and seven principles of love-in-action.

Here they are in outline form:

1. What we do as staff and volunteers comes out of a heart of compassion:

• “Let your heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.”
• “God looks down with compassion on the arena of human struggle and takes sides.”

2. We show your faith by our actions:

• Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul, mind and strength, and neighbor as self.” (Jesus of Nazareth)
• ‘Salvation is a matter of grace through faith, not of works’ (Paul, a disciple of Jesus)
• Faith without works is dead.” (James, the brother of Jesus)
• “The only Gospel…

Mission Accomplished!

Here's a summary of our March Malawi Mission Goals and Objectives fulfilled:

Goal #1: Provided practical help, offered relational support, and raised hope for the future in northern Malawi through humanitarian assistance, relational/recreational activities and service projects with vulnerable children, youth and extended families in some of the 40 social service and medical institutions supported by CitiHope International.

Goal #2: Provided leadership and resources for implementation of PACCT program by hosting and facilitating CitiHope’s second curriculum development workshop (PACCT II) for selected women in leadership roles (pastors’ wives, guild leaders, lay leaders) and continued process of developing curriculum for training manual.

Objectives: Engaged in daily mission activities with CitiHope staff and ministry partners focused on food security, medical aid, HIV/AIDS training in congregations, HopeHomes for AIDS orphans, and a village well community development project.

In fu…

Safely Home

Our mission team arrived home today after the 17 hour flight from JoBurg. Exhausted but delighted with the fruit of our journey, and ready to continue the mission on the home front in behalf of the 'orphans and widows' we met in Malawi who need our support.

I will update the various Travel Blog entries from last week and post new Team Member Trip Reflections next week for those (200+) who have tracked our journey.

Rarely I have I been on a mission that went so smoothly. No meltdowns half-way through trip, no traffic accidents or road kill, no frustrating moments when nothing went right. Sure, there we some bumps along the way, and a couple days of travel sickness. But, over all, I stand amazed at how wide the doors opened, how the right people showed up at just the right time to help us take the next step, and how God ordered each of our days. To capture all that happened will take a few more days and many perspectives, so stay tuned.

Out of Africa

Lilongwe--last night in Africa

We are now in Lilongwe, Capital Hotel, at midnight, and we will be flying to JoBurg tomorrow and on to JFK for arrival Friday AM.

The four of us who were sick for 2-3 days are no longer ill. Everyone is upbeat, energized, and a bit sad to leave. Great team dinner tonight with fab food and decor. A welcome change. Team is ready to go on mission again. This is really an amazing group and there were no meltdowns at all. I hope to post some of the comments of various team members when we return. There was very little down time on this trip and so not a lot to time to process experiences, but we will begin to do so on the long flight home tomorrow.

Time to rest now.

PACCT II Workshop Concludes

Josie Dittrich, Special Assistant to the President of CitiHope International, Public Relations specialist, television producer, missionary, entertainment/singer, joined me for the production of PACCT II. Josie prepared for this trip by procuring and assembling 45 ‘ladies gift bags’ with high-end products from corporate donors for the PACCT Women’s Guild, including: woven shawls from Venus Co., long, lightweight, colorful neck scarves, panties, long-sleeve pajamas, and bed sheet sets from Blair Corp, and lip glosses, shampoo sets and perfume from Maybelline. She also brought four beautifully hand-woven shawls for the PACCT facilitators.

We decided not to give out all the gifts at once, either at the beginning or at the end of the training, but to make a few of the products available as a special presentation each day as tangible expressions of love, affirmation and significance of this training.

At the close of the third day, 25 wise and courageous women in leadership roles in Presb…


Professor Chimombo faciliated a "simulation" of STD transmission modes by assigning parts and assembling each character on the floor next to their pretend partner who might have HIV or other secrets.

In the discussions that followed, what surprised me most (well, not really all that surprising) was what women in general have to face in Malawi: cultural mores and expectations disfavoring women, sexual exploitation and neglect, lack of communication in marriage, gender violence, family members living with AIDS, weekly deaths of church members and funerals to attend, denial and stigma, and extreme poverty.

It was amazing to me how open and willing these women were to talk about the details of their lives: their daily struggles in marriage and family, church and society, stigma associated with HIV testing, predatory behavior, multiple sex partners, condom-use, and how to deal with a husband or family member with AIDS. Discussion questions like “should you pack condoms for your …