Suffering is real; God is real. Suffering is a mark of our existential authenticity; God is proof of our essential and eternal humanity. We accept suffering; we believe in God. The acceptance and the belief both come from “the depths.”
I often write with trepidation about the difficulty, struggles and grief that we find on our journey here in Malawi. I do not want to seem ignorant or apathetic to the challenges and grief in every home and every land. What I think is different here is that we do not know – or even have available – the resources so readily at our fingertips to deal with them. The need for resources can range from the most mundane to the most critical. And as I’m discovering, what I used to consider mundane can become quite critical.
For example, I have never given much thought to the process of waste disposal in the US or here in Malawi. My biggest challenge in the US was remembering to put the bin at the curb on the pre-arranged day. (The bin that was delivered to my door with clearly printed instructions on the lid – in my first langauge.) And I have not given it much thought here because Wilson just took care of it. Not a very good excuse from someone who claims to care about the environment. I have heard passing conversations between him and Jeff about garbage pits and the need for a new one. At the old house I tried to explain composting but I’m not sure what happened to the food scraps once they left the kitchen.
But now we have been informed that the area we were using as a trash pit is off limits. And there is no other place nearby. I have sent a text message to my landlord and she assures me that Blantyre does provide trash pick up for a small fee. Wilson thinks she is mistaken. In the meantime, we’re waiting for the landlord to get back to us and I see Wilson is storing our trash in plastic bags out back. This cannot be good.
Then there is the Rav4! Jeff is a saint for dealing with the car. In a country where the cost of original Toyota parts are sky high and the labor astronomical, it takes a long time to find the necessary parts – still Toyota (I think) but not factory direct – and the mechanics, who have specialized garages scattered all over town. After all the driving and searching and paying and hassle, the breaks still squeal, we’ve been informed that the suspension is permanently wrecked, “but safe to drive”, and the passenger side seatbelt does not hold anyone in her seat. Car hassles are car hassles wherever you are, but at least you know where to go and can have some assurance of safety.
The church thinks Jeff and I and our western ways are crazy. We don’t understand the enormous faith factor that enables them to take action, move forward and break ground without a plan or clear way forward towards their dreams becoming realized. But we work and serve together, extending grace and hoping for the best.
Then there are more weighty matters, like domestic violence. What happens when the first news (well, second news after the guard asks you for a loan to repair his roof) you receive in the morning is that a husband was attacked in the night by his wife? How does one react as employer? as pastor? as a very poor Chichewa speaker? The YWCA does not have a branch here. There are no hotlines to call – as far as I know. And I DON’T SPEAK CHICHEWA!
So today I have a heavy heart. Not unlike the challenges of those facing unemployment at home or lack of health insurance. Or waiting for test results or mourning loved ones. Or struggling in marriages or worrying about kids. But today I wish I knew how to get a trash bin, where to REALLY get the car fixed, how to be in ministry together, where to direct friends for help and how to heal a broken heart.