October 1, 2004
As I have mentioned previously, at the suggestion of the Synod and Silas, we hired a young man named Alfred to help us around the house. He is 28 years old. Today I am going to tell you about Alfred Banda. He is originally from the Mulanje region of Malawi. There were 10 children (one girl and nine boys) in his family. In 1985 the family moved to Blantyre. Alfred went to primary school, but not secondary school. That means that he completed the eighth grade. He told us that his father lost his job at that time and couldn’t pay school fees (school is not entirely free in Malawi, fees are imposed for books and uniforms.) So, he began working. His oldest brother was married and had five children, then died, so those children were (and are still) living with Alfred’s mother as well. It was a big household to support. So Alfred went to work.
His first job was as a cook for a Malawian gentleman. Through the years he has also cleaned and worked as a gardener. Alfred got married and the couple had a daughter, Ruth. But Alfred’s wife died, so his mother cared for the infant until Alfred remarried five years ago. His second wife’s name is Margaret.
On our property here in Blantyre, there is a small building with a bedroom/living room (about the size of a one room garage,) a shower, a toilet and a covered cooking area, plus electricity. When we hired Alfred, we didn’t know he was married and thought that these accommodations would be perfect for a single young man. Then Alfred told us that he was married and would bring his wife and family to live with him. His English improves each day. We thought the building would be too small for a family, but he insisted that it would be perfect.
So, one Sunday afternoon Dan and Alfred drove to Mulanje to pick up his family. (Both Alfred and his father had been working in Blantyre and sending money back to support their families in Mulanje.) They drove way out into the bush. Dan says that he can see why the family is thrilled with the house on our property. Their home in Mulanje was a hut with a straw roof. There was no water in the village and no electricity. Meager crops were planted nearby.
You can imagine our surprise, however, when Alfred arrived in Blantyre with Margaret, Ruth (now 7 years old) and the couple’s three children, Chrisman (4), Dauphine (3), and the baby, Erin. We thought the home was entirely too small, but once again they told us that they were thrilled with it.
It has been over two months now, and we can say that having this family as neighbors is the best part of living in Blantyre. Every day when Heather and Brooke get home from school, they change out of their uniforms and run outside to play with the Banda children. They are teaching them English and the Bandas are teaching us Chichewa.
Alfred usually walks Ruth to school across the street, but yesterday Dan was walking to work at that time so he took Ruth’s hand and walked her to school. I wish I would have had my camera. When Ruth gets her homework back from the teacher, she runs up to me to show me her good grades.
When the Bandas first arrived here, the children showed signs of malnutrition and were often listless and sick. We make sure that they are well fed now and share eggs, fruit and vegetables with them often. (They are also thrilled when I cook a chicken and give them the feet, heart, liver and gizzard - Alfred smiles from ear to ear when I present him with those delicacies!) Alfred is also paid a very good salary for a Malawian. Yesterday was pay day and he bought a new outfit for each member of his family. He also sends a portion of his salary back to his mother in Mulanje to help feed his brothers and nieces and nephews.)
Alfred’s children now run and play in the yard (with toys that the Merry girls have given them) and are much healthier. Margaret is planting a garden, which is thriving, around their house. Alfred tells us that his family is very, very happy here.
We are even happier that the Lord has brought them into our lives.