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Archive for September, 2008

Malawi

If you asked me a year ago what I know about Malawi, I would have said “is that a country or a city?”. I know a little more now but thought some of you may not. Some links I’ve found in my research are provided below.

Malawi is a relatively small but densely populated country located in southern Africa (the most densely populated country in Sub-Saharan Africa, in fact). It is roughly the size of my home state of Indiana, but with a population roughly twice that of the Hoosier state. Malawi has a high infant mortality rate; average life expectancy is 43 years. According to government estimates, 46% of the population is under the age of 15. Roughly 15% of the population lives with HIV/AIDS.

Economics. The average per capita income in Malawi is $720 USD. Malawi is a net importer of goods. 37% of GDP and 90% of export revenues come from agricultire (tobacco, sugar, tea, cotton are the primary crops). The economy of Malawi is heavily dependent on external aid sources (roughly $575 million in 2005).

Children. 1 out of every 10 children born die before the age of 5. In the U.S. that number is less than 1 out of every 100. According to the WHO, 4.7% of the population (600,000) are orphans due to HIV/AIDS, and malnutrition affects more than 50% of the population of children under the age of 5.

Wikipedia – basic overview and coverage of major topics.

World Fact Book – more detailed information including comparative statistics (click on the little bar graphs to see where Malawi ranks on specific metrics).

World Health Organization (nice country brief here)

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How did we get here?

A series of loosely connected circumstances brings us here – some from the distant past; some more recent. For me it started in high school where I met many people from other countries — it was also when a teacher said, “the world is a big place, and the United States is not the center of it.” That proclamation spoke to me.

Since we married 12 years ago, Kara and I have frequently discussed a year abroad as a life goal. That goal has become more important now that Claire and Carter have joined the family. We want the kids to experience a larger world, to learn about other cultures first-hand, and gain a deeper understanding of God, faith, and community.

To those who ask, “why not just go to the Nashville Rescue Mission downtown or a VIM trip to Mexico for a week next summer?” I say, “Why not move to Malawi for a year?” Malawi is where we are feeling called; it is where doors are opening for us.

The summer of 2008 has been a time of reflection, discussion, prayer, and discernment. We have both sensed a change afoot. We have become everything the world would have us be – a strong marriage, two wonderful kids, a big house in the suburbs, two cars, a dog, lots of “stuff”, and all the activities that surround these things. And yet, It feels like we have not become what God wants us to be.

And so we started to talk and listen to friends, to each other, and to God. Those interactions have pointed us in the direction of Malawi. That is how we are here today.

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Seeds

It’s amazing to me that seeds could be planted at different times, in different parts of our lives but come to bloom at the same time. The seeds of justice, mercy, service, openness, community, and radical discipleship have been planted in Jeff’s life and my own over years, months and even in the past couple of weeks. Our community of faith, sermons, friends and circumstances have nurtured these seeds seemingly without our knowledge. And now, as they begin to sprout through the soil of our lives they are as surprising and as welcome as the first blossoms of the spring. We wait now – expectantly – to see what fruit will come to bear.

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Inaugural Post

Well here we are. Full of questions. Excited. At peace. Scared.

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