Visit by Andrew and Liz Thurlow - Summer 2014

We have just returned from a five week visit to the Village Of Light. Our time there was planned to give some time to continue work on the farm and in the churches whilst Julian and Caroline were in the UK visiting friends, family and “The Wedding”.

I felt incredibly privileged to be asked by Julian if we would consider spending some of their visit time helping on the farm and continuing the teaching in the local villages. Julian was eager to have help and a driver available to collect maize stalks from the surrounding farms (where they would be disposed of by burning) to make into a mulch for the crops on Village of Light fields. This is a fundamental part of improving the ground and retaining moisture levels, on poor agricultural land, and since the harvest would finish when Julian was away, unless someone could help in this matter, little would be done.

 
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Loading maize stalk with the help of local children

It is now history that we went to Malawi, on the understanding that we would be occupied in the mornings with helping John and Cameron with work on the farm, and in the afternoons with going to various villages and doing children’s work and teaching for the adults if they were available.


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Piled maize stalk ready for chopping into a mulch

Some mornings were of course spent doing other useful things, like the one morning when there were three poorly children, so we took them all to a local clinic and had them all checked over; in the end no malaria, and simple medicines to alleviate the symptoms. Another morning we spent time in a local wood, searching for tree seedlings to dig up and grow on at the farm to produce trees in years to come.

 


We arrived in Malawi about a week before Julian and Caroline left for the UK, so we had a week to recover from the flight, and learn the whats and wheres of the daily and weekly routine of living in The Village Of Light. This involved such measures as learning to manage the water supply, ensuring the solar water heater always had a suitable supply of water, feeding the five cats and three dogs, where to go to purchase vegetables etc. and of course, learning to navigate your way around the district.

My mornings were subsequently spent helping the men with collecting loads of maize stalk, and depositing it on the land ready to be chopped up.

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John collecting ash seedlings

 

The afternoons were occupied with ministry to the branches in the local villages on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. First Liz would do some bible teaching with the children, telling a story of Jesus with a clear teaching point. The children were eager to listen and learn, and with twenty five to fifty children crammed into a small room, it was a lively experience.

On one occasion we managed to gather in excess of one hundred children, and on that occasion we abandoned the room and taught outside!

 
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Some of the children waiting for the Bible lesson

After the children had received their teaching, they went out for a game of ball with Liz whilst I did a session with any adults who were available. Many adults were in the fields harvesting their maize at this time, so numbers were variable and low.

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Liz using flannelgraph to illustrate the Bible story      The adults waiting for their Bible teaching



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Old person who might be visited by "People of mercy"

 

On Monday afternoons, the local leaders gathered to pray and plan for the week ahead. It was during these meetings that an idea and vision for church involvement in help for the vulnerable and poor in the village was advanced from being something to aim at, to being a reality on the ground, and so “People of Mercy” really came into being. We had seen an involvement of the church in the community in South Africa on a previous visit there, and had walked with “People of Hope” into the houses of poor, ill and vulnerable people, giving friendship, comfort, help and aid etc. into that community. These were exactly the ideas and vision of the leaders with Julian. The difference was that we had seen it working, and the difference it made to the lives of the people.

So with Julian’s encouragement, we shared our experiences, and by the time we left five weeks later, we had done initial visits with Harrison to show the way, and Harrison and his team had themselves visited ten people and started doing repeat visits. The team were encouraged, and those visited were happy to be called on. In every visit the team pray with those visited, and will often be able to share the good news of the gospel as well. Sundays we spent ministering and visiting the various local churches at Bisket, Nyombe and Mphalale, teaching both the children, and adults, and always giving a clear simple gospel message during the service. Liz would use the flannelgraph to illustrate a story from the gospels, then I would follow on with teaching for the adults drawing from the story which had already been told. Wherever possible we would use drama, and objects to highlight as many aspects of the teaching as possible.

We left the Village of Light after five and a half weeks feeling that much had been done both physically in terms of farm work, and spiritually, with the children’s work being advanced and Cameron being very enthusiastic to carry on, and ‘People of Mercy’ ready to continue their work on a week to week basis, knowing that they do a valuable work in the community. We were also thrilled to see the children, both natural and orphans, living and working together under the parenthoods of John and Betha, Cameron and Victoria, Rachel and Mai Peters.

There were many other things that happened during our stay, for which we thank God, and all in all we count it a blessed time.

 
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Teaching on servanthood from John 13

Andrew & Liz