January 25, 2005
Galimoto (Part 1)
Galimoto means “car” in Chichewa. Even though our vehicle is a double-cab Nissan Hardbody pick up truck, it is considered a car in Malawi. This is a story about our car.
Each weekend galimoto takes us to a different church. By the end of the year we will have visited most of the Partnership Churches. This past weekend, while some of you were being inundated with snow, we set off for Ntaja and the Mbenjere Church. This church is partnered with the Crafton Heights Presbyterian Church (CHUP) in Pittsburgh, and the pastor of CHUP, the Rev. David Carver, and his daughter Ariel, are visiting us right now, so we all piled into galimoto and set off. It was a beautiful drive up through Zomba to Liwonde. Galimoto then took us on the brand new Muluzi highway up onto a plateau overlooking the Great Rift Valley. The scenery was breathtaking. Verdant villages and exotic baobab trees dotted the landscape.
When we arrived in Ntaja, the pastor and elders were sitting under a tree waiting for us. They climbed in Galimoto and we went to the manse (where it was about 95 degrees) where we were served cold drinks. Then they showed galimoto the way to our lodging. The three girls stayed with a Mennonite family, and the adults were housed at a government hostel. Then we drove galimoto to the hall that the church often uses. It is normally a teacher’s training center with lovely cabanas adjacent to it. The girls played bau (a Malawian game) while the adults chatted in the cabanas. Then it was time for lunch. We ate rice, tomato sauce, chicken, cabbage relish and bananas. Then we toured the new manse which was under construction. The roof was on, thanks to the Presbyterian Outreach Foundation, the walls were up and the electricity was roughed in. The home was equipped for running water and flush toilets, although it will probably be many years before this is available in the community. Everyone currently gets their water from the borehole in the center of town, and others, which are strategically placed throughout the area.
After that, we were scheduled to visit one of the Prayer Houses of the Mbenjeri CCAP. A prayer house is a congregation of less than 200 member, which, when it grows enough, will become a church on its own. Mbenjere has four prayer houses. Some are not too far from the church, others are in remote areas. Galimoto headed for the closest prayer house. The pastor told Dan to drive on the left side of the dirt road. He did and about 500 feet from the tarmac, galimoto suddenly started sinking. Its left wheels were soon immersed in mud up to the axel. Four wheel drive could not cope with the mud. Everyone but the driver, Dan, got out and tried to figure out what to do. It was decided that boards should be placed under the wheels and a trench dug so the car could back out. This was done. Dan backed up the car and it cleared the mud, but as soon as the boards ran out, galimoto sank again.
By now, a crowd had gathered. Between 30 and 50 people of all ages were assembled to watch and help. After much discussion among the elders, it was decided that that galimoto should be lifted out of the mire and placed on the dirt. When the men (and some very strong women) began trying to lift the front end of the car, Dan told them that the back would be easier to lift, because it was lighter. So after a few failed attempts, the Malawians managed to lift the pick up truck up and over to more solid dirt in about five moves. A huge cheer went up!
The Malawians told Dan to back the car up and over to the right side of the road. He put galimoto in reverse and successfully maneuvered it to the right side of the road where it promptly sank just as deep in mud again. One of the elders motioned Dan out of galimoto and said that he could get it out of the muck. He gunned the motor so hard that we were afraid the transmission would blow.We screamed for him to stop.
He managed to sink galimoto even deeper in the muddy clay. So, once again, young and old, men and women, managed to lift galimoto out of the slime. First they did the back end, and then the front. Dan and I winced every time we heard a crack or a creak coming from the undercarriage, because the car was resting on the axel, but Dave Carver kept saying, “Don’t worry, it’s just the shocks.”
Oh, I forgot to mention that throughout this entire time it was raining, lightening and thundering. At one point the downpour was so bad that we climbed into another truck to try and stay dry. Umbrellas seemed more like lightening catchers than water shields, so we gave up and just got wet and very muddy.
Finally, galimoto was ready for another try at escaping the mud. Dan maneuvered the car forward and then backed it up down the entire road, which was very hard because of all the turns and the fact that visibility was poor, at best. That does not even take into account the dozens of children and scores of adults that were on the road watching his progress. However, he successfully got galimoto back on the tarmac and we went back to the church.
That is when John 13 comes into play. The women provided buckets of water and cups and we all washed each other’s feet. Then Rev. Carver asked us to get in a prayer circle and he led us in a prayer of thanksgiving.
Galimoto was, of course covered with mud. So we drove it to the nearest car wash – which in a community where there is no running water, was a nearby borehole, with a hand driven water pump. There we left it with several elders, who promised to take good care of it. The whole ordeal had taken over three hours.
It was decided that we would forego the visit to the Mkuluwire Prayer House, but we decided to go to our next scheduled stop on the itinerary, Nanyumbu Prayer House. So we all got in another elder’s flatbed truck and drove over a fairly dry dirt road about 7 miles into the bush.
The Prayer House was about 50 feet long and 15 feet wide, it looked as if it was constructed of mud, but it turned out to be cement. Inside there were low cement benches and a chancel area with pulpit up front. The sanctuary had been decorated with paper cut outs in honor of our visit. There was no one there when we arrived (we were 3 hours late) so the girls sounded the church bell (which was an old car wheel), and people started to arrive.
We had a short celebration of worship, which included prayers by Dan and Rev. Benson Matikenya, a short message by Dave Carver, and a song by the Mvano choir. We ended with a Chichewa song with motions that we azungus (white people) had learned for the occasion. It went over very well.
Then we, and the Mvano choir all got back into the flatbed truck and headed out. The women sang hymns until we let them out at their village.
A lovely dinner was prepared for us back at the church. We had chicken, goat, liver (goat liver, I think) rice, nsima, tomato sauce, cabbage relish and juicy fresh pineapple for dessert.
By this time we were exhausted and headed for our lodgings. (The story continues … soon.)