April 2021 Southern Malawi Ministry Centre Update

October seems such a long time ago, but as I look back, I can see that God has been at work. October and November were interminably hot here in Bangula, most days reaching well into the 40s and setting a record over 50 degrees Celsius. Since schools were still closed at that point due to COVID-19, students were studying under trees or fans, but even that was hard to sustain. Much time was spent in the pool, getting dive-bombed by bats and birds desperate for a drink. After 5 months at home, in which our senior students excelled in teaching their younger siblings, parents and students were all ready for a return to school. When the announcement finally came, kids were up at 5 a.m., scrubbed and clean, and ready for primary school, while secondary students pulled out their bags, some of which had been packed for weeks, climbed into minibuses, and gladly waved goodbye.  

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[Iris house dads having a Malawi traditional game of Bao with some of their Iris boys watching…while under the refreshing water coming from a hose suspended above them in the tree. A great way to keep cool on an extremely hot day in Bangula.]

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[Iris kids cooling off in the pool while at the same time entertained by bats desperate for a drink of water in the upper 40’s Celsius temperatures.]

Our Form 4 students were so ready to write their exams and be done. Unfortunately, partway through the exam schedule, it was discovered that some exam papers had been leaked to the public. The government decided to cancel exams and the waiting began again. Meanwhile, our St.8 students who wrote their exams in July, were also waiting for results and secondary school placements. The tension was high! We used the time with our St.8 graduates to equip them to be stronger students when school eventually opened for them. They got a good head start on their math books with the help of older students and worked their way through a Set Free Bible study together.
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[Secondary school JD persevering with studies while waiting for date final exams will be administrated throughout the nation.]

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[Another Iris girl doing ‘homeschool’ at Iris during the long COVID-19 period of shool closures.]

In November and December, our Iris maintenance team manufactured 40 student desks and chairs to accommodate growth at our Iris Primary School. We have the skills and the equipment to manufacture high-quality furnishings! The Iris Primary School now has 163 students, 132 of whom live in the villages around us. Exciting days!

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[Abraham welding the chairs for the Iris Primary School.]

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[James spray painting the desk frames.]

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[Ernest finishing the desktops.]

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[The team with the finished chairs.]

We were able to complete a new house for one of our Children of Hope families just before the rains arrived in earnest. The family, headed up by a single dad, includes a teenager with cerebral palsy who cannot walk. The house is a huge blessing for them. The door is wide enough for a wheelchair, and the rain no longer pours through their roof. This is a good picture of what hope looks like, and as that home was being completed, we gathered for a 4-day training with our church overseers throughout Malawi, taking as our theme: Jesus, the Unshakable Hope.

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[The Children of Hope family in front of their former house.]

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[The newly constructed home for the Children of Hope family in need.]

Christmas required much creativity this year as we did not have the resources of previous years. Our Form 4 students enjoyed the momentary distraction from their delayed exams, while they searched the container for hidden treasures. Along with the usual peanut butter and sweets, some of the kids received some ‘make your own car’ kits designed by Mo. Each kit included axels, wooden wheels made in our shop, wire for the body, and pipe cleaners for decoration. It was fun to see the cars emerge over the following weeks. In the evening we enjoyed a rice and chicken feast with the whole Iris family, including those who have graduated, and four Iris grandchildren!

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[An Iris boy dressed and ready for Christmas!]

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[An Iris girl excited by her new Christmas doll.]

January came quickly upon us with a whirlwind of activity as we had to get Forms 2-4 and all those needing to write their MSCE exams ready for school at once. It was a bit of a scramble, but we got everyone off. This year our students are spread out between only 6 schools, making transportation a little bit easier to manage. After just two weeks all students except for those writing exams were sent home due to the second wave of COVID-19. Thankfully, the MSCE students were allowed to finish their exams this time.

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[Students at the Iris Primary School began a new school year in early January, only to be interrupted by a second wave of COVID-19 that closed all schools for five weeks. During the school closures the students continued with homeschool with resources and supported provided by the primary school teachers.]

In February, we suffered a tragic loss when Ruth Khofi, housemother to Girls’ 3. Ruth passed away quite suddenly after being treated for malaria at our local clinic. Ruth was a gentle presence in our family, always ready with a smile or a hug. Though she suffered a stroke shortly after taking on the job of house mother, she had made an excellent recovery and became very close to the girls in the process. On the morning she died, Ruth felt well and got up and read her bible. We grieved in Malawi tradition, with many tears and lots of wailing. We miss Ruth every day as we continue our search for a new mother for Girls’ 3. We are thankful that all the girls were at home to grieve together. A week later, everyone returned to school, even though public school teachers were on strike for the first two weeks so there were no classes.

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[Ruth Khofi together with one of the youngest Iris boys. Ruth will be remembered for her kindness, love, and gentle presence.]

Then in March, Peter Nkhoma, our Operations Manager who has been with us since 2004, died very suddenly at his home. Peter was a man who wore many different hats on the base, ranging from following up on families in distress, to interacting with social welfare, to immigration issues, to processing containers. He was involved in bringing every Iris child home, and he was counted by most of them as a source of encouragement and wisdom. He was a humble man who loved mercy and served the cause of justice. He had time for each one, from the youngest child to the oldest grandmother. We miss him.

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[Peter Nkhoma passed away on March 4, 2021. He faithfully served at Iris Malawi since the Morrison’s arrived in Malawi back in 2003.  A humble man who loved mercy and served the cause of justice.] 

As we look for ways to cover Peter’s many jobs, we are restructuring our leadership team and gradually shifting those who can step into new roles. It is a time for innovation in all areas. Our Iris Bible School team has developed WhatsApp groups for encouraging and teaching our 450 pastors spread throughout the nation. Our usual Easter conference has been replaced with teaching materials that include scripture readings, dramas, and sermon ideas. Our bible school teachers will present the material to overseers who will then pass it on in their regions. We will celebrate the resurrection as one body in many locations this year. Hallelujah! Christ is risen!

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[Pastor Henry and Jass preparing for their lessons and talks given through WhatsApp. They are also senior leaders of the Prison Fellowship ministry.]

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[Iris Feeding Program distributing cooked meals to children of Dande Village near Bangula during the hunger period.]

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[The joy on this child’s face reflects the impact that the Iris feeding program has among some of the most vulnerable within the communities of southern Malawi.]

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[Timothy Makwalo, Director of Ministries and Operations, planting one of the1,000 new trees on the Iris Malawi property in January.]

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[Distribution of maize flour to the elderly, crippled and blind during the lean season of March 2021.]