April 2023 Iris Malawi Update
A Season of Leadership Development & Growth:
It was our pleasure to travel with Timothy Makwalo (Director of Ministry and Operations) to the Iris Global Family Gathering in Tennessee in October. It was Timothy’s first journey to North America and it was fun to see things afresh - airports, planes, even a side trip to the White House, meeting people from all over the world, and worshipping together in many tongues. We heard teaching from Iris leaders and visitors. Rolland Baker's message stuck with me, ‘God helps us because he loves us - not because we prayed hard.’ How often do we mistakenly think that if we pray harder or fast longer, God will answer us?
Rolland asked, ‘What would make God feel loved?’ and I have pondered this question since our return. We don’t really love anyone until we are deeply interested in the fine details of who they are. This is an Iris core value, that we will seek God. We are not primarily seeking solutions to problems, but God himself. We were challenged to take delight in God.
[Joanna, David & Timothy together in front of the White House in Washington, DC (Oct 2022).]
We returned to Malawi to find a women’s Bible school in session. These are always exciting classes as women enjoy a rest (perhaps the only one in their lifetime) from the rigour of carrying water, fetching firewood, cooking, and cleaning, and taking time to study God and to learn more about his love. Following the women’s class, we have been enjoying a class for church elders.
[Joanna leading women in Bible study.]
All around us, there is great hunger. After last year's devastating cyclones, many people did not harvest the required food for this year. Many are eating once a day and waiting for relief. Incredibly, God provided for those who really have nothing. We were not anticipating donations of MannaPack (rice/soy meals) this year because of the world's financial situation, but God has been steadily releasing containers of MannaPack to feed his hungry children all around us. Amazing!
[Serving village children MannaPack at an Iris feeding program.]
[A Children of Hope family in the community receiving MannaPack food.]
Another answer to all this hunger is prayer. We have long wanted to build a place specifically for prayer and finally the dream has become reality. Last Christmas, a Canadian church that partners with us gave us a gift with which to build a prayer house.David began to dream and create. Our team of builders tried a new medium and built the prayer house out of rock. It has a rocky path leading to the cross. To enter the prayer house, you must bend low, under the arms of the cross. Evening light streams through the arched windows. The prayer house has three walls and the fourth is lying down in front of you, as you look out to the orchard where mangoes, oranges, and grapefruit grow. We trust that God’s people will be drawn to the prayer house as a place to intercede for Malawi and the nations.
[Prayer house adjacent to the mango and citrus orchard on the Iris base.]
As soon as the prayer house was finished, the builders moved on to a bigger project, a church hall at the site where the feeding program takes place, as well as our national conference once a year. This project is very involved, and the builders have been instructed and trained by our good friend Andrew (from Canada) as they work. Building trusses, lining up containers, welding, and constructing, all require skill and ingenuity. We look forward to having a large, beautiful meeting place soon.
[Pouring the footings for the new church building located beside the Bangula airfield.]
[Manufacturing the trusses for the new church building at the Joe Martin Skills Training Centre.]
As the Iris children grow up, we need to make space for them to learn skills that will be useful in the community and earn them a living. At the moment, we have an automotive mechanic in training working with our drivers, and several young men learning from Andrew as they assist him. Several of the girls have been assisting me with sewing and sorting, and I have enjoyed having Grace come by to pick up some cooking skills from me. My advice is always to learn as much as they can from the people around them on base. There is so much collective wisdom here.
[Learning automotive maintenance at the Joe Martin Skills Training Centre.]
Mwayiwathu grew up at Iris and has finished secondary school and Teachers’ College. She is now working at the Iris Primary School as a teacher and we are enjoying having her living on base as well. Recently, I asked Mwayiwathu to host a visitor from Brazil who speaks very little English. They have become good friends, slowly learning each other's language. Mwayiwathu has been able to assist Taynara in finding her way around Bangula and purchasing food.
Tatenda, also an Iris Children’s Home graduate, has finished secondary school and a diploma in Community Development. We were able to offer him an internship on the base, serving our Children of Hope program and also covering for house parents when they are away. He is a big asset in the community as he knows what it is to be a vulnerable child in a village. It is a great joy to see these young men and women take on leadership roles in the work of Iris.
Our Cerebral Palsy support group continues to grow. With 128 families on the list, we felt it was time to break into smaller community groups. It has been so good to see some of these groups thrive as they establish trusting friendships. We have 10 groups in a 20 km radius around the base. Esther is a volunteer physio who moved to Bangula because her husband is working here. Esther has been so helpful in giving the mums some hands-on training in physiotherapy. Also, one of the Iris house mums has become very involved with the Cerebral Palsy group which lightens the load for me.
[Bangula Cerebral Palsy support group meeting on the Iris base for training and encouragement.]
[Joanna helping one of the precious children at the CP support program.]
All in all, we have had a good season of leadership development and growth. Malawians are taking the lead in many areas, leading with integrity and confidence. We are grateful.
[Papa Lameck playing with one of our little ones.]
[Iris church overseers gathered for training at the Iris base in December.]
On March 12, 2023, destructive Cyclone Freddy arrived, destroying fields and homes in the whole southern region of Malawi. The death toll is expected to exceed 1,200 lives with over 500,000 people displaced. This was the third cyclone to hit our region in 15 months, and certainly the most devastating. Iris took immediate action by rescuing flood victims trapped in the Makanga area using our boats, providing clean drinking water to the Bangula displacement camp from the Iris water system, and providing cooked meals for thousands. Iris pastors head into the camps daily to bring encouragement and peace. Iris social work students have been going into the camps to meet with girls to talk about their safety and health while they are in the camps. Pastor Ali and his team continue to cook thousands of meals for the hungry and provide social support to vulnerable people.
Thank you for supporting us to provide necessities during this critical period. You can view flood relief reports/see pictures on the IMC home page in the 'News' section.