The African Diary (5)

 On to Malawi!

July 4,5 2000   




Photos that go with this report

Tuesday July 4 and Wednesday July 5, 2000

We left Kitwe, Zambia early in the morning back for Lusaka on a Zambian Airways flight where we connected to an Air Malawi flight to Lilongwe.  So far all our airline arrangements have been excellent. Not a single missed or late flight.  As we were waiting for our flight we are surprised by UCG member Patrick Langamu coming to the airport to visit with us.  He is a math teacher at the Monze secondary school in the direction of Namibia. He came to say hello because he was not able to come for our meetings either in Lusaka or Mumbwa on the weekend.   

After an hour and a half flight we arrived in Lilongwe. Gladstone Chonde, two of his sons and Dr. Sam Chilopora from southern Malawi came out to the airport to greet us.  It was so good to see them!  My last personal contact with the Chonde's was in Mutare, Zimbabwe nearly four years ago.  But, with all the communication and working together since, I feel that know each other fairly well.  

Dr. Sam Chilopora with his wife Grace

Dr. Sam Chilopora and Gladstone Chonde have known each other for many years, actually since childhood days. Dr. Chilopora has become a member of UCG and will be attending the fall festival in Harare, Zimbabwe this coming fall. He had written to Mr. Les McCullough a few months back asking about the Church and reminisced about a visit he had with Mr. McCullough years ago in Blantyre, Malawi. Mr. McCullough passed his letter on to me and one of the stops on this trip was to make certain we visited with him. He was kind enough to take the bus up from Balaka, Malawi to spend the afternoon with us and the Chonde's.  He brought his wife Grace with him.  What a wonderful and distinguished couple!  He is 72 years old and received his medical credentials studying in France.  He is currently building a clinic in southern Malawi which his son will manage.  

When we came to the Chonde home I was most interested in seeing their clinic that I have only seen in photos. It is about 1/4 mile from their home.  I was shocked by how little this clinic has and the photos I had of it actually made it look better. The Chonde's rent an old movie theater. The reception room is the disproportionately large main cinema room. Two tiny rooms in back are the consultation and treatment rooms. The glass louvers in front of the building have almost all been stolen as well as the curtains. and cold air rushes into the clinic which is not heated.  July is winter in this hemisphere and there was a constant breezy chill. The day we were there someone had stolen the fuse box and there was no electricity.  I am now fully convinced that what we are doing in building the new Malakia Clinic and Birthing Center is the right thing to do. 

Afterwards we all came back to the Chonde home where Mrs. Chonde along with Grace Chilopora prepared a delicious meal of chicken, beef, vegetables and sodza.  We talked for a long time with all of crowding the Chonde's sitting room.

We thoroughly enjoyed being with the Mr. and Mrs. Chonde and their family. He has been a faithful Christian for many years. He was the first member of our church in Malawi. Now, there are new people expressing an interest in the Church.

We had considered visiting a group of over 20 in Mzuzu in northern Malawi. But, Mzuzu is nearly 300 miles north transport was a problem. We had to rent a car which is not easy in Malawi. The cost is horrific. But, we needed something to get around in while in Lilongwe.  A representative of BOSS car rental came to the Chonde's home to talk about a car which we thought we'd need for parts of three days.  He quoted us an outrageous price.  We kept asking if that was the bottom price....and there would always be one more tag-on charge.  There were no free miles and each mile cost 50 cents. Plus gasoline at nearly $4.00 a gallon.  And a 20% VAT on the entire bill.  And about a $60 per day base charge.  It adds up! Because the leader of the group was visiting in Zimbabwe and because Mr. Chonde had contact with these people, we decided at his suggestion that he might visit them at another time.  These people had expressed interest in UCG literature and audio/video tapes.

We were supposed to get the car early next morning about 8:30.  Unfortunately, the person using the car had a delayed flight and was using the car until past noon.  We finally had it delivered to us at the Guest House we were staying after 2 PM.  We went back to the clinic to take some more photos. 

I wanted to see the process of patient intake. It's mostly women who come to the clinic with their children. Each day there are about 20 - 45 people who come. During epidemics there could be as many as 150 or more who crowd into the clinic.  The clinic charges 200 Kwachas for an adult patient which at 56 Kwachas to the dollar is less than $4.  Children are charged half that amount. Some are too poor to pay and the Chondes will not turn them away. As Mrs. Chonde said to us, how can I turn people away who are desperately sick just because they can't pay for our service. The clinic receives no subsidy from the government or any other source. The only support they have received has been from us.

It is tragic to see the people arrive at the clinic with various diseases and physical ailments. We witnessed one three year old girl arrive with swollen ankles and distended abdomen, a common sight in Malawi and other countries of Africa. These symptoms are a result of severe malnutrition. The vast majority just cannot afford what we refer to in the western world as a balanced diet.

I was amazed to see the clinic uses mostly the items that we had shipped via 40 foot container last year, the furniture, wheelchair, computers, typewriters etc.  All the furniture and medicines had been supplied by victor and others who support his humanitarian efforts. Without this aid the Chondes would have found it virtually impossible to keep their clinic open.

Ground-breaking ceremony July 5, 2000

Afterwards Gladstone and Alice Chonde, Andre and I  held a little ground-breaking ceremony on property that the Chonde’s bought last month about 200 feet from the current clinic. There were dozens of curious onlookers as we tried to get photographs from various angles. The clinic construction will start immediately and hopefully will be completed by year’s end. We are glad to make this contribution in the third poorest country in the world. Only Mozambique and Lesotho are poorer.   

In the evening we took the Chonde family to a Chinese restaurant. A nephew of the Chonde's, Diverson, drove us in the car we rented. Neither Andre or I were much interested in driving on the dark pot-holed Lilongwe roads.  We had an enjoyable evening happily talking and eating Chinese. It was a bit strange with all the black waiters in a Chinese restaurant. On the way out we actually did see a Chinese gentleman who we assumed to be the owner.


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