PILGRIMAGE 2005 STORIES:

Christina Mitchell | Lara Case | Catie Hungerford
Lee Livingston | Vance Tilton | Teresa Turner

A SEED IS PLANTED IN MALAWI by Lee Livingston
For the first 2.5 weeks of July, I was part of a group of 6 youth and 8 adults who went on a pilgrimage to Malawi, Africa. One afternoon on the trip, we went to a museum in a town called Mua. One of the exhibits in the museum paid tribute to the great explorer and missionary, my namesake, Dr. David Livingstone. Livingstone brought Christianity to the region of Africa which is now called Malawi. In big letters above the exhibit was a quote from the gospel of Matthew: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown, it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”


This parable is perfect for what is happening to the church in Malawi. Christianity has taken root and is spreading like wildfire. Our group from St. David’s went to a confirmation service one of the Sundays we were there. It lasted 4.5 hours! The service was painfully long, but it was also very exciting to see that there were so many confirmands that even with them lined up in pairs, the line went all the way down the aisle and out the back of the church.
For better and for worse, in Africa, things seem to really take root and spread. The AIDS epidemic is unreal. I had heard the statistics before going, but it is quite another thing to see firsthand the effect AIDS is having on the people. Our group from St. David’s was hosted by 7 families from different Anglican churches in Blantyre, the city we were in for most of the trip. Every single one of these families had at least one relative who had died of AIDS. Most of the families were raising nieces and nephews because a brother or sister had died of this illness.


However, even with the AIDS epidemic and all of the other problems these people face, I can honestly say that the Malawian people are the kindest, most hospitable people I have ever met. Malawians like to refer to their country as the “Warm heart of Africa,” and we found this to be a most accurate description. There was one woman named Esther who was particularly warm and kind. She accompanied our group everywhere we went, helping with directions, cooking, and just looking out for our general well being. She shared with me one evening that her husband had been crippled in an automobile accident a few years back. This meant that she was the main provider for her family… a heavy burden to say the least. And yet, this woman was one of the most joyful people I have ever met. Her joy was contagious: she would start laughing and everyone around her couldn’t help but laugh as well. A seed was planted in me: some people experience pain and they let it harden them. Others, like Esther, experience pain, and with God’s help, their pain breeds compassion, and that compassion leads them to help others who are suffering.


Another moving experience I had was on the first Sunday that we were in Malawi. We went to the cathedral for a service, and during the announcement time, one of the members of the parish got up to let the congregation know how much money the parish had raised in their fundraiser for the tsunami victims in Southeastern Asia. It was a real lesson in stewardship for me. Here were people who have so little money themselves, and yet, they found it in their hearts to give money to people in countries far away. Another seed was planted: EVERYONE has something to share.
During the offertory of the 4.5 hour service I mentioned earlier, the ushers brought up to the altar the monetary donations just as we would at St. David’s. However, the ushers then went to the back of the church and brought up other donations, which included a basket of tomatoes, a container of eggs, and 5 or 6 live chickens.


Our group saw and experienced so many amazing things in Malawi, and I know this trip is going to have many long-lasting effects. We saw things that motivated us to do something to help. Some of the delegates in our group visited a village in Malawi where 1,000 people use one well. Normally, a well can support about 250 people. Many of the women in this village get up at 3 in the morning in order to wait in line to get their water for the day. Some people instead just use water from the river. However, this is quite a gamble, as the river is full of harmful bacteria.


We found out that for $4,000, we could put another well in this village. When I heard that this is what the project would cost, I felt motivated to do a fundraiser when I returned to Austin. How great would it be to plant a seed in this village—to send them a message that Christians half a world away really care about them?! Sure we have people right here in Austin, Texas, who need help too. But when it comes to God’s Kingdom, I imagine that there is no distinction between Texans or Malawians. Rather, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. And these brothers and sisters could really use another well in their village.


In closing, the other delegates from the Malawian pilgrimage and I will sing a song for you in Chichewa. This is a song that Malawians sing to people when they are departing on a journey or trip. As I will be leaving next week for my adventure out West, this song is particularly relevant for me.

Tsalani bwino Mulungu
Akuyang’anireni
Nthawi zones

The words “tsalani bwino mulungu” mean, “Go well with God.” The words “akuyang’anireni” mean, “take care of you” and “nthawi zones” mean, “now and always.” Nowhere in the song does it say good-bye, so I’m not saying good-bye to you all, but instead I offer you these words, “Go well with God. Now and always.”