An update from Greta (8-2):
Hello all! The Malawi team is just about finished up, and I'm sure the other teams are wrapping things up as well.... And I'm guessing the five of us in Malawi aren't the only ones going, "WEIRD, it's over already." For me personally, this summer has at times seemed to pass slowly, but other times--now especially, it's slipping from us like tightly held sand.
In the last update I'd mentioned that we were planning a trip to the Lake, which all the kids-- and us as well-- were super excited about. We found out later that day however, that COTN couldn't afford to send all of us to the lake this year. They decided to postpone the lake trip to December when it will be hotter anyway, and when more of the older kids will be able to go... This news was definitely a disappointment, initially, but it worked out well in the long run, I think. We ended up planning a "Camp" at Chiwengo, where we're staying for the week we would have been at the lake.... and that was a BLAST. We based a week-long devotion series on Colossians 3:12-14 which talks about clothing yourself in Christ-like virtues and had morning devotions with skits, in smaller groups, and evening devotions as a group. We played a lot of Capture the Flag, and had a talent show one night.... which turned out mostly dramas, these kids have turned out to be UNBELIEVABLE actors! They are so incredibly creative, they make plays about Bible stories, or will make up their own stories, and they LOVE to do them. I was teaching three boys daily skits to go along with our devotions, but they just took these ideas and ran with them. That has been super fun for me (Drama major), to see this wealth of theatrical potential and creativity.... And TALENT, the kids really are fantastic! And they love watching each other! In this last week, I'm hoping to talk with the main "actors" about incorporating skits into their village evangelism, because the kids really hold each other's attention by acting. Another night during the camp we had a bonfire.... couldn't find marshmallows in either of the main cities we're close to, so we ended up making about four hundred cookies.... Yes. Yes that is the correct number, we made four zero zero cookies, and the kids were over the moon. The five hours of baking were totally worth it. :) The other major feature of camp week was a big football (soccer)/netball tournament for the COTN kids, the Chiwengo village kids, and also the Gideon and Kapiri village kids, which are the two principle villages our COTN kids minister to. One of our visiting teams from America had brought TONS of soccer balls and beautiful jerseys, so we were able to outfit our kids like the soccer stars they are. YOU SHOULD SEE THESE KIDS KICK A SOCCER BALL. They were playing on a field full of burrs and dry straw-like grass in bare feet with no shin-guards and they are some of the best soccer players I have seen PERIOD. Chris has been our main footballer and he, along with one of our Malawian interns, Henry, pretty much coordinated the whole thing and ran the show, they did a fantastic job. Our kids played really well, and it was CLOSE for every game, but they ended up taking last place. I was so proud of them though-- all of us were-- to see what great sports they were and how graciously they cheered on the Chiwengo village kids in the final game. There has been evident tension between the COTN kids and the nearby Chiwengo kids... I think the Chiwengo kids are jealous of the COTN kids' better situations, and the COTN kids often come across as an exclusive clique. They frequently get made fun of for being orphans, which causes them to bond together and come across as this exclusive group.... but we had been disheartened to see our COTN'ers be rude or mean to the village kids at times. This tournament was really a wonderful way that everyone came together, and like I said, we were thrilled to see our kids practice the virtues we had been teaching them about all week. There were about 400 people at the final game, which is UNHEARD of, it was such a HUGELY exciting event in this village--- The kids play football every day, I think they must wait for this kind of event. :) We were able to award these beautiful jerseys to the winning team, and our COTN kids got a set as well. The winning girls' netball team got new sitenjes (wrap skirts) that we had picked out for them as well... and many kids got medals for high-scoring or great playing or whatever. The kids don't take the medals off now, they wear them every day. :) It was just fantastic, it was so much fun. And to see how it might have improved relations between COTN and Chiwengo village.... was very much worth missing out on a week at the lake.
I think we're all having a bit of a hard time wrapping up.... Erica and I have talked about how we finally feel as though we're at a point where we CAN be effective. The older girls are finally opening up to us a little, we can speak various Chichewa phrases, we know how to sing many of the songs, we know the kids, we are FAMILIAR to them and they to us, we're familiar with their darling, hilarious personalities and we finally understand how to access them.... We've each found our "niche," Erica and Chris are great at ministering to the kids through sports and general play, I've realized this fantastic wealth of dramatic ability that I'd love to stay and encourage, Ben and Errol are finding their unique grooves as well...Even the mundane chores like hand washing laundry, cooking with random ingredients, cleaning without running water, or operating without electricity are now routine. I mean this place has really begun to feel like a home, I think everyone has started to recognize us as "real-life" Chiwengo aunties and uncles. It is unfortunate that we have now run out of time to take advantage of this final familiarity.... but we are looking forward to how we can apply what we've learned back in the states. I know we're all going to immensely miss our Malawian interns, and so much the kids. I wish I could go through and describe them all... Tikambe's ginormous smile and her adorable exuberance, Doreeni's crinkled nose, Alfred's drumming, Miriam's warmth, Wyson's hilarious, rascal 3-year-old antics, baby Drew's WIDE eyes and his round Buddha belly, Sayinbeau's grace, M'phatso's regal swagger at only 11 years old, David's habit of catching our eye and covering his face in delighted bashfulness, and then immediately looking back, grinning, to see if we're still watching him... The kids are truly precious and they impacted all our hearts in major ways. Please be praying for us as we wrap up our time here, and say goodbye. It is a GOOD note to end on... to know that we'll miss this place. We have been homesick and frustrated at times-- well, I speak for myself I guess, but I think the others have had similar feelings--- we have been frustrated at times, but we are leaving this place loving this place, and I'm so happy about that. We look forward to seeing you, our friends and family soon, and of telling you each the many stories we've accumulated this summer in Malawi.
God bless, and safe travel to our other Dep teams, Greta and the Malawi crew