November 29, 2004
A day with the Vice President
The past couple of weeks have been a whirl-wind of activity as the General Secretary and I have been working on plans for the dedication of the Domasi Water Project and arranging a meeting with government officials and Mr. Aubrey Briggs.
As you have read about already in a Journal entry, the Dedication of the Domasi Water and Garden Project on Sunday, November 21st was a blessed and memorable day. In attendance that day was Dr. Cassim Chilumpha, the Vice President of Malawi. Dr. Chilumpha was so impressed with what he saw at Domasi that he invited Mr. Briggs to talk further about other projects at a meeting in the capital, Lilongwe.
The meeting was arranged for Wednesday, November 24th at 10:00 a.m. Lilongwe is about a three and a half hour drive from Blantyre. Aubrey Briggs and Silas Ncozana drove down from Domasi and met Daniel Gunya and me about 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday to drive to Lilongwe. It was a pleasant drive through rural Malawi. There are very few towns between Blantyre and Lilongwe, the only hard part was driving the last hour in the dark. Driving at night in Malawi is a challenge!
We arrived safely in Lilongwe about 7:00 p.m. only to find the first five lodges (small hotels) we stopped at to be full. Lilongwe does not have very many lodges and hotels, and they all seemed to be occupied. At one point when Silas and Daniel were in talking at one of the lodges, I told Aubrey that the truck was not too bad to sleep in. We both laughed, but were praying it did not come to that.
Finally we found accommodations at the Mfumu Lodge, a very nice bed and breakfast. By this time in was about 8:30 p.m. and we were all hungry, so we went out to the brand new Pizza Inn (the only one in Malawi) and ate some pretty good pizza. Got back to Mfumu Lodge about 10:00 p.m., and I watched 30 minutes of a soccer match on the television in my room, the first television I have watched in four months...it was a treat.
The BIG DAY started for me at 3:00 a.m. when a vicious thunderstorm woke me out of a sound sleep. It rained as hard as it could rain until 7:00 a.m., and I was thinking about building an ark. But, at 7:00 a.m. it stopped and ended up being a pleasant day. The rainy season is now officially here and those kind of storms will be a part of our lives for the next four months.
At 8:00 a.m. we all gathered together for a delicious "English Breakfast" (eggs, toast, chips, fried tomatoes, baked beans, juice, fresh fruit and of course tea). During breakfast we mapped out the strategy for the meeting with the Vice President.
We arrived at the Office of the Vice President on Capital Hill at 9:45 a.m. We were met by his military guards and ushered into a waiting room for about five minutes. Then we were escorted into a beautiful round conference room filled with windows and seated. The room was already filled with government officials, but no introductions were made at this point. At exactly 10:04 a.m. the Vice President, Cassim Chilumpha entered the room with his security detachment and the meeting began.
Introductions revealed that we were not only meeting with the Vice President but also the Minister of Water Resources, Minister of Transportation and a bunch of deputies. For two solid hours there was fruitful and productive discussion on the extension of the Domasi Water Project and the possible design of the Shire/Zambezi Rivers Transportation Project. Aubrey Briggs has a plan in mind to make Malawi the transportation capital of Central Africa using shallow draft barges. It was a fascinating proposal that really caught the interest and imagination of everyone gathered around the table.
Shortly after noon I ended the meeting with prayer. Plans where made for Aubrey to meet that afternoon with folks from the Ministry of Water Resources concerning the Domasi Water Project Extension. On Thursday morning (Thanksgiving Day) officials from the Ministry of Transportation would discuss the Shire/Zambezi Rivers Transportation Project and then take Aubrey to the airport for his flight home to Pittsburgh.
After a celebration luncheon at a Chinese restaurant we dropped Aubrey back at the Mfumu Lodge and Daniel, Silas and I bid Aubrey farewell. On the drive back to Lilongwe the conversation was lively and celebratory. God is up to something in Malawi, you can feel it.