Jayne and Sam in Malawi!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A New Month and a New Home

Tomorrow is the 1st July – amazing! I am pleased to report that Sam and I have a new home. It has been an extraordinarily difficult time; moving home in the UK is notoriously stressful and over the last few months I’ve discovered that moving home in Malawi can be equally demanding! Actually finding a house that is secure and within my budget has proved a massive challenge: Kasungu has suddenly become a very popular location and a lot of people are moving here – mainly for business purposes. Housing has therefore become a real problem – supply is now outstripping demand and landlords are really cashing in on the situation. A Lighthouse customer finally located a house for us and after lengthy negotiations, was able to secure the tenancy. I actually had no part in the negotiations that took place; I simply had to sit on the sidelines and suffer in silence. It took several meetings to reach an agreement and that’s when the fun really started! At that point, we were able to actually view the inside of the property, only to discover that it was in a very poor state of repair – holes in the ceilings, doors, walls and floors, together with some very dodgy electrics! What a disappointment. So stage two of the negotiations began – negotiations to get the landlord to carry out the numerous – and expensive – repairs. Fortunately he agreed to do the work in question and over the last couple of weeks, a builder, a carpenter, a painter and an electrician have been hard at work transforming it into something that resembles a home. Sam and I actually moved in last week and we are now fully settled; it’s a wonderful feeling. The house is actually ideal for us; it’s in a fantastic location – about ten minutes from TLH – and it’s secure. It’s a lot smaller than the house in which we have been living, but in many ways, I’m actually very pleased about this; I’m hoping it will be a real home to us for however much longer we remain in Malawi. My customer has been truly heroic in his efforts to secure me a house; not only has he negotiated tirelessly with this particular landlord, but has organized and supervised all the renovations that have had to be done. A really mammoth task! He’s actually been visiting TLH since we opened last October and his life has been transformed by his time here. When I first met him, he was struggling with drug and alcohol problems - not any longer though. He is completely free of these addictions and credits TLH with helping him to turn his life around. He is a wonderful inspiration to me personally; a reminder – if I needed one – that TLH is making a huge difference to people here. The work is hard and we work long hours, but it is so worthwhile – we see God doing the most wonderful things here each and every day.

This month TLH gained a new member of staff. Harold has been working with Joy to the World Ministries for three years now and is a graduate of the African Bible College; he has moved to Kasungu from Dzuwa village and will have particular responsibility for the ministry side of TLH. This is a fantastic step forward because it means that my Deputy Manager and I can now concentrate fully on the business side of things here. Harold will work to develop the library, a children’s ministry and a programme of outreach activities within our local community. These are things that we simply haven’t been able to do here because of a lack of time – running the Internet café and all our IT services is a full time job which has been leaving us with less and less quality time to spend with our customers. However, this daily juggling act can now stop; in many ways, Harold’s arrival marks a new chapter in the life of TLH and it’s a very exciting time for us. Our finances are a lot healthier and we will now be able to balance the two sides of our work here much more effectively. TLH will be a genuine ministry as well as a successful business. In August, work on our proposed Secondary School will begin in earnest and it is my sincere hope that TLH will eventually be able to offer this project financial support. We are in a wonderful position and I thank God for everything He has done to bring us to this place.

Sam and I have now been in Malawi a year – give or take a couple of weeks - and if you have been reading this blog regularly, you will know that it has been a year full of extreme ups and downs; just making it through the last twelve months has been a huge, huge challenge. However, here we are and we are looking to the future with great hope and high expectations. As you know, the purpose of this blog site was to give friends and family a commentary on our life here in the town of Kasungu and an understanding of what life is like in a developing country like Malawi – the good and the bad. I hope it has achieved these things; it has certainly been fun writing it. For various reasons however, I have decided not to continue with the blog. It is the right time to stop.

That said, you are most welcome to email me directly at powers.jayne@yahoo.co.uk and I would love to hear from folk.

As I write this, I do not know precisely how long Sam and I will remain in this fascinating country; I hope that I will be able to hand TLH over to my Deputy Manager next year and that I will then be able to devote my time and energies to the school project. However, we shall see what 2011 brings. It’s all in God’s hands.

I thank you all for your good wishes, thoughts and prayers; I look forward to hearing from you.

God Bless you all.


PS – How right was my prediction about the England football team and their performance in the World Cup? Am I feeling smug? Of course not. Jayne Powers – Librarian, Missionary and expert football pundit!!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Money Talks!

Last time I was telling you about the extraordinary case of the two men who had been sentenced to fourteen years hard labour for the ‘crime’ of homosexuality. This case has caused the most enormous stir – both here in Malawi and internationally as well. A few days ago, the President of Malawi – Dr Bingu wa Mutharika – personally intervened in this situation and issued a presidential pardon to the men; they were immediately released. The outrage generated by this pardon – as I’m sure you can imagine – has been enormous and it has been absolutely fascinating to watch. The reason this situation is so interesting, is that it strikes at the very heart of this country; it pits core Malawi culture and values against the relationship the country has with its foreign donors. Recently, the two have most certainly been in conflict. The problem of course, is that Malawi’s stance on homosexuality is completely at odds with many of the countries that give aid to it. Countries like the UK and the USA have been particularly vocal in their objections/protests at the way in which these two men have been treated; both have threatened to withdraw aid as a result.

Significantly, the pardon was announced after a meeting between the President and the Secretary of the United Nations; officially, it was granted for humanitarian reasons. However, it is clear that few ordinary Malawians believe this explanation and from an onlooker’s perspective, it would seem to be a classic case of the administration not wishing to bite the hand that feeds! The bottom line of course, is that Malawi is a chronically poor country and is absolutely dependent upon the foreign aid it receives each year. Could the President really risk putting this aid in jeopardy? Unfortunately for him, there doesn’t seem to be much sympathy for this argument and for the dilemma he has faced; many have argued in the press that Malawi is first and foremost a Christian, God fearing country and that what this decision has done, is show to the world that it is actually a donor fearing country!

Once again, it is very easy to sit and be judgmental and I actually feel very sorry for the President and for the position that he has found himself in – this was always going to be a lose/lose situation for him. If he stood firm with the Judiciary, he risked the wrath of foreign donors and the loss of vital aid. On the other hand, by granting the pardon and by appeasing the international community, he has infuriated and lost the respect of many people. His own position may well be undermined as a result of this perceived ‘sell out’.

If nothing else, the President’s pardon has brought the issue of money and the lengths to which people are prepared to go to, to secure it, into sharp focus. How many people – when faced with potentially dire financial consequences – would genuinely be prepared to hold firm to their beliefs and principles? It’s a hugely challenging question.

Finally of course, this pardon raises some awkward questions about how the issue of homosexuality in Malawi will be dealt with in the future. What happens when the next gay man/woman /couple comes to the attention of the authorities? Not an easy situation – for anyone.

Love, best wishes and thanks to you all - Jayne and Sam

PS - We are still looking for a house - more on that next time!