April 2018 Southern Malawi Ministry Centre Update
The other day I took a walk in the back property where we have planted hundreds of trees over the last year. There are trees at all different stages, from tiny seedling to fully mature. Each tree must be cared for according to its present needs. The littlest ones can’t survive without regular watering and weeding. The more mature trees can use their established root systems to find the nutrients that are required.
We planted the tiniest seedlings as a large Iris family in January. It was such a good morning with workers, children, and pastors, all working together. Our tree specialist had prepared the holes and each was marked with a stick. We were instructed on how to properly transfer these baby trees from their black potting bags to the ground. As I looked around I saw some were participating because they had to and others really entered into the joy of planting trees. One of our newest boys gleefully told me he had planted five trees. The oldest children gladly accepted the help of little hands, so that all could participate. By the end our hands, big and little, were all muddy and our hearts were happy.
[Iris family working together planting over 1,000 trees on the Iris property in Bangula.]
Planting trees is really a good picture for what we are doing here. Our goal is that our children and those we work with would be established and mature, able to withstand drought and hardship, because their roots go deep. The challenges in southern Malawi are plentiful. Drought, flooding, pests, and even birds threaten the crops every year. An illness or a funeral can quickly exhaust meager resources. People don’t get married because they cannot afford to feed their families at the party. Children are often weaned very late because there is no food available. Houses carry no value because termites move in, or heavy rain eats away at the foundation. We need leaders who are so rooted and grounded in truth and in love that they will not be shaken.
[A typical Malawi village house in Bangula, Nsanje District.]
[A local farmer stands guard on top of a termite ant hill, watching over his field of maize.]
An office is an unlikely place to plant trees, but that is precisely what we have been doing. Our office has moved from a one man show to five minds working together. First, we had a missionary join us from South Africa with accountancy training, and then we added a Malawian accountant who is committed to our vision. Working alongside them are two young people, learning the skills as they go. They are being trained in integrity, excellence, and accuracy.
[Iris Africa Malawi Administration Team (from left to right) Maricia, Chenela, Sekanayo, Dalitso & Charity.]
We have some mature trees among our team of builders and carpenters now. It is a joy to see the good work they produce. Recently they have been working on a washroom facility that will serve the Bible school learners and staff. Among the skilled workers are younger men, most of whom did not finish secondary school. They are learning the skills from those who are more experienced. Trees are being planted even as a washroom goes up.
[A visiting Canadian engineer training Iris staff in washroom partition installation.]
Last week, ropes went up around a new building at the Iris Primary School. It is awesome how someone envisions the building, draws it out, and then others dig the foundation, and prepare the ground. Still others come in to lay the foundation put up walls. Builders, electricians, plumbers, and painters, are all being trained in integrity and excellence as we raise the standards.
[Construction begins for the new Iris Primary School administration building.]
This year we have a number of secondary school graduates working around the base in varying capacities. The pathway towards the future is not obvious. University entrance is not guaranteed or even affordable. Jobs are scarce. Our graduates are going to need courage and perseverance to proceed. As they work at the office, or in the school, at the skills training centre or with our Dreamrider program, we aim to equip them with these attributes which will enable them to think creatively and find their way. More trees are being planted.
[Enida, Secondary School graduate, gaining work experience at the Iris Africa Primary School as an assistant grade 2 teacher.]
Sheer numbers make it difficult to employ all our graduates. We wondered what we could do that would employ more people in meaningful work. Last year at this time we had a visitor from Canada who came with an idea. That idea was planted during his two week visit, and now it is growing. Twenty five young people from our community are currently working in a small business, earning a living wage. Though this business is still in the early stages, it is clear that it can be done. The potential for employment is awesome in this community where jobs are so scarce. Amazing!
[ 24 young people have completed training and now earn a living wage capturing and entering computer data. There are another 24 young people currently in training, learning typing and computer skills at the Joe Martin Skills Training Centre.]
As trees are planted and tended all over the base, we continue to focus in on our key leaders, the ones who enter into the joy of planting trees with us. Over the last months we have been meeting to clarify our vision, our mission, and our goals. As our leaders find words to express their hearts, they begin to own the mission. It is an exciting process which empowers Malawian leaders to spread their branches and extend their influence. Trees are growing to maturity.
IRIS AFRICA MALAWI April 2018: Report by David & Joanna Morrison