February 4, 2005
After some long discussions with the Synod, it was decided that one of the gifts that Pittsburgh Presbytery would leave the Synod as a result of our year here would be a brick wall. Now, you may think that that is a strange gift, particularly in a country with problems as big as hunger, deforestation and an HIV/AIDS pandemic, but everyone here feels that it is appropriate.
For the past 20 years, crime has been on the increase in Malawi. Although there are few guns, robberies are commonplace, and the thieves are professional and ruthless. One of the best ways to deter these criminals is to build a security wall around buildings. When a new home is being constructed here in Blantyre, the foundation is not the first thing that is built. The wall is. All of the Synod buildings have some sort of fence around them, and the fact of the matter is, the better the fence, the less likely the building is to be robbed.
The current fence around the Synod home that we live in is made of straw and wire. Obviously, thieves had little trouble breaching it. So, now construction is underway of an 8 ft. brick wall. It has been an amazing process to watch it go up. Malawian masons are very skilled and hardworking. They do not use any machines. The cement is mixed by hand, and even the gravel is made by people pounding large rocks into smaller ones. Careful measuring with simple instruments keeps the wall straight and trim.
When we leave this house this summer, it will be passed on to World Exchange. WE is the branch of the Church of Scotland that sends missionaries to Malawi from the United Kingdom. Most of them are short term – staying anywhere from six weeks to one year. There have been problems finding housing for them in the past, because there are usually many of them here at once. This house will have plenty of room for them. Just prior to Christmas two of them were mugged. One young teacher was hit with a glass bottle and had to have stitches all over his face. So security has been a big problem. Because of the wall, at least their home will now be a much safer haven.
The wall will also make us feel safer for the duration of our stay here in Malawi. We are not scheduled to take any more long trips, but there will be times when we are away visiting churches and other locations, and our home will be more secure.
The Bible tells us to “put on the full armor of God.” We know that God has been watching over us, and will continue to protect us while we are here, but the wall just lets others know that we are protected. We continue to put our trust in God.
Last night, while Heather and I were searching the internet for Presbyterian Colleges, a large bat invaded our kitchen and dining room. Dan was at a church meeting. To say the least it was a bit unnerving, however, we did manage, with Alfred’s help, to get rid of it. I guess that there are some things that even a brick wall won’t protect us from.