Saturday, July 5, 2008

Last thoughts about Malawi

Friends and family,

First of all, we made it safely home to the United States, and here we are sitting in our favorite coffee shop in town working on our laptop and sipping herbal tea. Quite a change from the past month in Africa. We'd like to share some final thoughts and reflections from Africa.

First, we are amazed at how the Malawian people waste nothing. They have so little money, that anything and everything is valuable. They rarely use something once, or for one purpose. This picture is of an oil lamp made from an old blown out light bulb. The base of the lamp is made from an old can... It has been so beautiful to be a part of a culture that sees value in things that others would throw away.

The last weekday we were in Malawi, the kids put on a mini-musical that we wrote and organized, together with help from the other mini-missionaries. It was about an hour long performance of narration and song telling the story of the Noah and the great flood. The children sang and read so wonderfully. It was easy to forget that they are all under the age of 8. We taught them the songs all week and practiced reading the narration each day with the Standard 1 children. This lasted 4 days, and on the fifth day, all the children presented what they had learned. Here are some pictures and a short video from the performance:

Some of the children posing by the scenery that they created throughout the week.

Linda reading her narration.

The most amazing thing about this performance was that the Mamas, Aunties, and staff didn't hoot and holler after each song like we expected. They did applaud happily, but each member of the audience went wild with joy after each child read! These children have just learned to read over the past 6 months or so, and not only that, but in a new language. The mamas were so proud of them. It was very touching!

"Who built the ark? Noah, Noah! Who built the ark? Brother Noah built the ark!"

Stanley doing his reading. Rebecca has dubbed Stanley as one of her very favorite children at Rafiki. Some would call him the "class clown." He is always hyper, always crazy, always getting into trouble, but his is so darling and so brilliantly smart. This is the child that gave Nick his nickname of "Uncle Trumpet." His standard one teacher thinks he'll be the next president of Malawi. :-) We love Stanley!

Just about each child painted his or her own square, and some shared. This ark is entirely like Noah's, but isn't it precious?

On our very last day we took a walk with some of the kids around the fence. The picture above is Rebecca with some of the children. It is really good for them to see the people outside of the fence once in a while. While we were on the walk there was a really touching moment that was not captured on film: some of the kids found a pile of branches that had been cut down, and the branches were laden with dried berries. They were so excited to have these little treasures! They were prancing around and playing when on the other side of the fence a group of children walked past. One Rafiki child ran up to the fence and silently extended his arm through the chain links to offer a branch to the child outside of the fence. The little girl took the branch, smiled, and walked on, eating the berries. It was so beautiful and simple. Just when you think we understand these Raiki kids they do something like that!

Some women outside of the fence during our walk.

Nick also took the chance to "slash" the grass on his last day. Here is a video of Nick and Kennan, a national worker, so that you can get a feel for slashing. Keep in mind that these guys do this 6 days a week, from about 7:00am until late in the afternoon.

Our last day with the kitchen staff, Martin is next to Nick and Dickson is next to Rebecca. Speaking of working hard, these guys cook all of the meals from scratch, then wash each and every dish by hand.

A last hug with our favorite babies: Uchizi (with Nick) and Sipiwe (with Rebecca)

Some of the Mamas and Aunties singing to their children after coming home from a wedding on Saturday.

On the road from Mzuzu to to Lilongwe.

So... how do you sum up a month spent in Africa, experiencing and participating in such a foreign but fantastic culture? Can we ever truly tell you all how wonderful the children were, or how deep is the joy of the Malawian people? Or will our pictures and videos - factions of fractions of our time here - impart upon you the beauty of this troubled but magnificent nation? Probably not fully. But we do pray that you have been able to get a small taste of the things we have seen and done, and that you will see that God has richly blessed these people with a spirit of joy and strength, despite the many challenges they face. They struggle each day to survive, and end each evening in thanksgiving with song and dance. God has worked through us during this month to shape our hearts and bend them towards these orphans, who are just as much children of God as we are. He has knit them in their mother's wombs, just as he has done for us, and has plans for them that are so far above our thoughts and plans. God is good. God is powerful and sovereign, and He holds these children and Mamas and workers in the palm of His hands. We thanks and praise God for blessing us with this experience, and for blessing us with you and your support. May God richly bless you and be ever nearer to your heart with each passing day. Usiku Uweme! (Good night!)

In Christ,

Nick and Rebecca DelVillano

A Quick post

Dear Friends and Family,

Already our time here in Africa is coming to a close!!! We leave for Lilongwe airport tomorrow at 6am. This week has been pretty hectic, and we're really sorry that we are just now getting to post some stuff. Anyway, here are some pictures from this past week with captions for you to enjoy:

Monica making a big pot of Nsima for dinner one night this week.

Two of our favorite kids, Nellice and Stanley. We love this picture because Nellice has the most infectious and adorable laugh ever! Just looking at this picture makes us remember her laugh.

Uncle Nick singing "we are walking in the light of God." The kids here just adore their "Uncle Nicky" and they seem to follow him around where ever he goes. Sometimes in the evenings we can hear the kids talking in their cottages, and we often hear long strings of tumbuka with "Uncle Neeky" or "Auntie Reybeykah" thrown in the middle of it, followed by giggles and laughter.

Rebecca and one of her kindergartners, Eves. Eves and others did Rebecca's lovely hair.

Some singing during Gazebo music time on Wednesday. Mama Alice is leading this Tumbuka song. The words to this song ask "how low can you bow down in prayer to the Lord Jesus?" Its kind of a "how low can you go" game with a spiritual twist. I love it. :-)

Music class on Thursday. "We are dancing in the light of God." Rebecca is wearing a typical Malawian Chitenji, and and Nick is wearing his matching traditional Malawian shirt.

Starting weith Rebecca and going clockwise: Auntie Rebecca, Nellice, Bright (the crazy one) Gerald, Yamikani, and Maria. Winnie and Stanley are hiding in the middle.

Starting with Nick and going clockwise: Uncle Nicky, Stanley, Bertha, Winnie, Justina

In the van on the way to the Crisis Nursery. The Crisis Nursery is a place that takes babies in dire situations and cares for them until they are 18 months old, at which point they are either sent back to their families or sent to other facilities. Rafiki in Malawi has gotten 3 babies from here. Once in a while we take some of the Rafiki kids to go play with the babies. It is very touching and precious to see our children comfort and love these little babies, because the Rafiki kids came out of situations not unlike the babies from the nursery.

A Crisis Nursery baby looks up to a Tiwonge, a Rafiki child. This was such a touching moment.

Rebecca and Nick in a sea of babies. :-)
(To the Frye Fam - don't you think Rebecca looks like Aunt Deedy in this picture?)

Rebecca playing with a Crisis Nursery baby.

The African sunset behind our house. The colors are pretty accurate - the sun was even more deep of an orange, though. On a clear night the colors are breath taking - you'd think you were watching the Lion King, or something.
So there's some happenings from this week. The kids also put on a Noah's Ark pageant on Friday, arranged and directed by Nick and Rebecca. We will put those pictures up as soon as we can.
Thank you so much for your support over the past month. Please pray for safe travels for us, and say an extra prayer for the safety of our luggage. The past few missionaries to fly out of Lilongwe have had luggage troubles. Tawonga Chomene! (Thank you very much in Tumbuka)
Love, Nick and Rebecca

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Goodbyes and Hellos!

Dear Friends and Family,
The past few days have been filled with times of saying goodbye to old friends and saying hello to new ones. First the goodbyes:
The long term missionaries Ralph and Bonnie Marron left Malawi after serving two years here at the village. Bonnie was the Standard One teacher (first grade) and she did amazing, amazing things in the lives of these children. Some of her students came to her a year ago, unable to speak a word of English. Now they are nearly fluent English speakers and can read and write at a first grade level or higher - and they love school! Ralph was the village director, and although his job was mainly administrative, he also deeply affected the lives of the children, taking them on walks outside of the walls of Rafiki to experience their culture, playing games and sports with them, and giving them a positive male role model to look up to for 2 years. As the Marrons walked to the gate early on Saturday morning almost the entire village followed them up the winding path that leads of out the Rafiki property. At the end they led a tearful farewell song and posed for some pictures.

On the road to the gate to say goodbye to Ralph and Bonnie

A village pose at the gate.

Paul holding Innocent while saying goodbye.
After they drove off for Lilongwe airport, we went into town for some shopping and wandering around the market and surrounding area. On our way the hotel we came across a very rural village situated on a steep hill. We decided to wander in, and did we ever have an incredible cultural experience!!!
A Malawian phone booth.

Part of the village we explored together on Saturday.
Like everywhere else we have been in Mzuzu, the people were poor, often dirty and hungry, but filled with joy! Everyone greeted us with smiles and laughter. One man chased after us and asked Nick to fix his camera - he probably figured that Mazungus are rich and understand cameras. Turns out the camera was not broken, the man just didn't know how to use it. Nick "fixed" the camera (loaded the film and taught the man how to use it) and the man left, grateful. After Rebecca stopped to take a picture of a small girl peering from behind her mud hut (see picture below) several other kids and adults ran up to us and asked us to see take their pictures! They love to see the picture on the digital camera screen. For many of them it was probably the first time they saw a photograph of themselves.

A little girl peers at the Mazungas from behind her mud hut.

And old "Gogo" (grandma) who wanted her picture taken. This poor women is skin and bones, but still working hard to prepare her corn flour.

A family in the village that also wanted their picture taken.
We slowly gained a small crowd of children following us, and eventually met a mother. We proceeded down a steep red dirt road, and at the bottom by the stream we came to a stop. We had been talking to the mother, who had pretty good English. She knew that we were music teachers at Rafiki, and so she challenged us to sing a song for her and the several children and a grandmother who was with her. So we sang a Malawian song we had learned. They thought this was just a hoot, and in return, they sang us a Malawian song. When they had finished, the mother said, "now we have sung, so it is your turn." This sing off continued until both parties were satisfied. We took pictures of them and said goodbye as we headed up a steep red dirt road to explore the rest of the village. The children waved to us as we went away, and the mother told us that she has 8 children. She asked us to take one with us. We said no. She didn't seem too hurt.

Maize mill.

Video of the children, Mama, and Gogo singing to us during the "sing off."
As we continued up the hill we were met with typical scenes of rural Malawi - little boys carrying unbelievable loads of wood on their heads, women with babies on their backs, or breastfeeding on the side of the road with no cover, lots of men riding bikes, laundry drying in the sun, and people eating sugar cane while singing and laughing. We also saw women washing clothes in a small stream, the source of water for this village. We were so happy and overwhelmed to be experiencing culture first hand like this. Miraculously no one asked us for money, and everyone was warm and welcoming. Many of them laughed at the sight of white people. Some babies were afraid of us and started to cry - many babies are afraid of white skin. I guess if I was a black baby who had only ever seen black faces, a white face would freak me out, too!

Drying clothes in the Malawian winter sun. Those that do not have money for a rope clothes line dry their clothes by laying them on the ground or on the roof.

A Poinsettia tree!
We continued on our way back into the "city," and we bought cassava from a woman selling it in a basket on her head. (By the way, cassava is an excellent starchy vegetable that only grows in tropical climates. It is the staple food in many cultures. When fried it resembles potato.) By the grace of God we ran into another Rafiki missionary at the grocery store and she gave us a ride back to Rafiki.

In the city of Mzuzu. What a priceless shot!

On the road to Rafiki... how men can balance their bikes with this incredible burden is a mystery!
In other news, Monday was our first wedding anniversary! We took a night off and walked around town for about an hour, then we ate dinner at the fancy hotel on the edge of town. Our dinner was... exotic... you must see the pictures!!!
Umm... yeah...

Later that night we opened some small presents that we had brought from the U.S. (Nick got two books and Rebecca got some earrings) and ate a fake wedding topper cake that Rebecca made with a missionary's cake decorating equipment. It was nowhere near as good as Mom Frye's cake, but it did the trick for the night. Who knew that we would spend our first anniversary in Africa!?!?! Serving God as a married couple, however, is exactly what we'd want to be doing.

So now we have less than a week left in Africa. This week is a sort of school vacation in which the kids spend only half days at school and do fun activities like art projects and music rather than regular school. On Friday we are performing a Noah's ark pageant. Here are some pictures of us rehearsing today:

"Now in come the animals two by two, hippopotamus and a kangaroo!"
So we'll keep you updated with how our week goes. We have loved our time here, and a huge part of our hearts are now in the shape of Africa, but we are also looking forward to getting back home and seeing you all again. Pray that our last few days in Africa will be safe and glorifying to God.
Mr. and Mrs. DelVillano :-)
Baby Mercy asleep in her Mama's chitenji after lunch one day.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Pictures and Videos... fun at Rafiki!

Friends and Family,

Here are some spontaneous happenings from this past week!

Uchizi hiding from Nick

Nick suceeded in catching him.

Mwiza and Maria showing off their athleticism

Nick playing a bit of football with the children.

Two beautiful Malawian ladies: Rebecca and Lekani

How many boys and girls we can fit on the tire swing?

Nick giving Stanley a trumpet lesson

A little musical sample for the standard 1 kids

Standard 1 Children singing the Malawi National Anthem
Rebecca with Alex, Estery, and Bright

Rebecca reading "All Things Bright and Beautiful" to her kindergarten class

Rebecca collecting phonics worksheets from her class.

Rebecca carrying a basket, "Malawi lady" style, while one of the aunties carries the guitar!
Rebecca having her hair done by Charity.

Rebecca posing with Chance, Charity, and Emily. They all helped with her hair!
Nick posing with his JSS 1 choir. They sang beautifully!
Nick posing with the JSS 2 choir and two of their other teachers.

Nick directing a choir of Junior Secondary Girls singing "We are not alone"
He had some help from Rebecca and Sandy Moyer.
Nick leads a sing a long at Gazebo time.
An amazing child leading us in the song - "Hello There"

Rebecca reading the children a lovely book called "Lord of the Dance"

A DelVillano Family portrait
We hope you enjoy!
With Love,
Nick and Rebecca DelVillano