A Malawi Memory


Sarah Barrios - 17 July 2001

How can you possibly describe a trip to Africa in one setting? There is no simple answer to the question, "How was your trip to Africa?" The one word answer is WONDERFUL. My trip was WONDERFUL. The real answer requires many stories, stories that hopefully begin to portray the joy, the overflowing hospitality, the genuine excitement to see us, the happiness that was shared with me by these people of Malawi.

Instead of trying to describe the entire trip, I'd like to relate one story that for me was one of the most meaningful moments of our trip.

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We had visited the primary school at Ekwendeni the day before. They had expected us to come first thing in the morning, and were disappointed that we did not arrive until the afternoon. "The children had prepared some special songs for you. Won't you please join us for morning assembly tomorrow?", the headmaster urged. We accepted.

So after breakfast that next morning, we walked toward the school. It was just a short walk. From the guest house we walked across freshly swept red dirt, past the brick church bathed in a golden glow from the morning sunshine, toward the group of people we could see in front of the school. The headmaster led the six of us to the front of the group. To my right and in front of us were rows of schoolchildren, organized in rows by their class. The youngest primary school kids were in the eight to ten rows to our right. The older primary school kids were in the rows straight ahead. And to our left, was another group of children, mixed ages, the choir. There must have been between 200 and 300 kids there! As I stood looking out at all of these children, my gaze was returned by shy, curious eyes. Taller children standing further back in the rows stood on tiptoes to get a better view.

Morning assembly is a time of worship, a short chapel service before beginning the school day. I know there were introductions and a message given in the native language, 'Tambuka. But what I remember most is the singing. The choir sang multiple songs, some in 'Tambuka and some in English. Joyous voices rose above our heads, and it was simply beautiful. On some songs the entire group of children sang along - we were surrounded by song. In Malawi choirs don't just stand and sing. There is movement to all the songs as well, an organized foot pattern and motion to the beat of the music. I had previously noticed that, regardless of how many people were singing, the sound of their voices would fill the space they occupied - whether a small chapel or a large church. I was touched to discover this was true in this outdoor setting as well, as the children's voices, unaccompanied by any instruments, filled the air and filled my heart.

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The morning sun was just working its way over the buildings to the east and spilling its rays through the leaves of the trees and onto the smiling faces of the people surrounding me. As I was embraced by these pure voices, singing words of praise on this crisp, clear morning, tears came to my eyes. I was struck by the beauty of this world that the Lord has made, by the great number of blessings I have received, and by how privileged I was to be able to see this special corner of the world. This was definitely special, and I was awed that I was able to be in this place. A place where people incorporated their love for Jesus Christ into their daily lives, and celebrated his grace through song. All I can say is, it was WONDERFUL.