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Malawi - Day 4


Malawi: June 6-18, 2024

Clinic Day #2

We were on the bus and on our way by 7:20 AM this morning. Once again, we stopped at the health clinic to rendezvous with the Government health care workers. It was not farther to our destination today than yesterday, and we arrived at our clinic location about 30 minutes later.

Before sharing about our second day of providing medical services, I’d like to describe some of my observations about the culture and life of the Malawian people. Every morning, we see groups of children walking to school. Hugo, our COR Malawian partner, told us that the farthest he’d ever heard of a child walking to school was 15 km or nearly 10 miles! Most are not that far, but many do walk quite a distance. Hugo says the parents do not accompany the children, but the kids walk to school in groups.

Multiple small fires are burning everywhere throughout the countryside. These fires serve various purposes. Sometimes they are to flush out mice and rats, which the locals roast and eat as a protein source. Sometimes it is to burn cornstalks in preparation for reworking the fields. And sometimes it is for cooking and warmth.

There are patches of corn growing all over the land. These cornfields are not large, but they may be planted right up to the shoulder of the road. The people till the fields by hand, often using homemade hoes fashioned from sticks or the bones of animals. While farming is a very labor-intensive effort, the fruits of their labor are seen for miles and it is a beautiful sight. We even witnessed irrigation ditches on yesterday’s drive.

Their homes are made from traditional bricks which they make locally, or from making large mud “bricks” using tubs that they pack tightly and stack upon each other. We witnessed a mud brick home being built yesterday. The roof is a thatched roof with bricks or other random heavy objects to keep it in place. Corn stalks are bound tightly together and fashioned into a fence, presumably to keep livestock in and to create some privacy.

Our second clinic day was much more organized and less stressful than our first. We saw 206 patients, so not quite half of yesterday’s total. There were not very many people waiting when we first arrived and we were a bit concerned that we weren’t going to see as many people as we expected. However, they began to arrive as we were setting up. Just as they did yesterday, the children came running alongside the bus while chanting “Azungu!”

The exam rooms and the pharmacy were in separate buildings today, which made traffic control much, much easier. Additionally, we had learned from yesterday’s experience what needed to improve, and the pharmacy was a smoother operation. Colin, and often my husband Alan, were in charge of kid control. Colin was once again the popular Bubble Man and he spent much of the afternoon playing soccer with the kids.

As I was at my post counting pills, Alan came up behind me and informed me that he had spent a whole $7 of our money today! He was grinning from ear to ear as he shared this with me. Apparently, he had struck up a conversation with the school principal. The principal, who was immaculately dressed in a coat and tie, told Alan that he planned to visit the clinic himself when school was out. He then said that he had quite a few kids that needed to see the doctor but they didn’t have the required medical books because they cost money.

Alan learned that the medical books were obtained from the government health workers. He went to their tent and inquired about getting some books for the kids. He learned it would cost $7 for 30 books! A message was sent to the government office where we rendezvoused with the workers each morning, and soon a motorcyclist arrived with the requested medical books. Alan turned them over to a grateful principal who was thrilled to learn that they would not cost him or his students any money. Everyone was happy, not the least of which was my wonderful husband.

It is abundantly clear that providing medical care for the people in this community is a blessing of untold proportions. Alan shared with me that he had been “summoned” by a woman whose mother was in need of immediate care. He followed the daughter to a location where her mother lay on the ground. This elderly woman suffered from a severely inflamed and infected leg. She was seen by our doctor Amy and provided with some much-needed antibiotics and pain medications. Alan was quite impacted by what he saw and by the degree of severity of this poor woman’s needs.

We have had some meaningful devotions today that encourage us to reflect upon what it means to serve and to get out of our own comfort zones. We get so much more than we give, and it has been an incredible blessing to be the Lord’s hands in this community.