May 18, 2005
It took me a long time to figure out how to pronounce and spell her name correctly, but I am really grateful for getting to know Weike Scaafsma this year.
Weike and her family have been missionaries here in Malawi for six years. They are originally from the northern section of Holland, but lived in Canada for several years before coming to Malawi. Weike’s husband, Liewa, is a pastor who speaks five languages fluently. He was a plumber before he went to seminary. He is my daughters’ hero because he came rushing to our aid with a fire extinguisher when our electrical box exploded in flames.
The Scaafsmas have seven children. All of them, except Aukje (who is the same age as Brooke, and one of her best friends here) have left home and are now in college or married. Weike says that is the hardest part about being a missionary – being away from her children and grandchildren.
I don’t think that she has much time to pine for them, because she is one of the busiest women I have ever met. She is in charge of the weekly sessions for the handicapped in Ndirande. Even though these sessions only occur once a week, it takes days to get all the supplies and food gathered. Each week she remembers to bring an extensive first aid kit, money to pay the women for their knitting, sunscreen for the albinos, tea, sugar, bread, milk, yarn, shredded paper for fuel, Bibles in Chichewa and English, and a craft project for the children. (Although since January, Heather has been doing that as part of her Girl Scout Gold Award Project.) Needless to say, these preparations are time consuming.
Weike is a Registered Nurse, and at the Ndirande sessions she runs an informal clinic. This week she put salve on sores on a teenaged boy’s legs, and examined an unusual bruise on an albino baby’s head. She gave Panadol (like Tylenol) to one of the men who complained of pain in his misshapen joints.
She also helps the people get medical attention for their more serious problems. Often she takes handicapped children to special clinics where they can get braces, prostheses, or crutches. She spends hours transporting them and their families. This week she is trying to get a new wheelchair for an elderly gentleman who wore out his old one on the rutted dirt roads in Ndirande.
The thing that impresses me the most about Weike as she works with these downtrodden people is the dignity with which she treats each one. She holds the hands and shoulders of a young woman stricken with AIDS. She gently examines a baby’s deformed hand. She soothes and comforts a mother who is distraught because there is no food for her children (and then she discreetly slips her some money). She also keeps careful records of attendance and health problems, so she can keep track of each family.
One week there was an argument between two women, and Weike carefully listened to each one’s complaints. She was then able to settle the dispute amicably while a crowd of curious onlookers watched.
This year I helped her get ready for the Christmas party by sorting the clothes she had gathered. We selected outfits that were the proper sizes for each member of the families that attend. She knows their special needs and will say, “Make sure that baby gets a hat, she has sensitive skin.” She knows and loves each person.
Besides all this, she is constantly busy with other work. She always seems to be entertaining visitors from The Netherlands and Canada. She coordinates and cooks their meals, houses them, and makes sure that they see orphanages and elephants.
Weike called me as soon as she heard about our fire and offered food and a place for us to sleep for the night.
She has a beautiful yard and garden and grows all kinds of flowers and herbs. She uses the herbs to make soaps, lotions and teas. Aukje told me about a special tea that her mother brews for their gardener, who has HIV, for strength. She employs several gardeners and house workers, not because she needs them, but because they need the work. Many people eat and have money for school fees because of her generosity.
She finds time to host a weekly Bible Study in her home for other missionary couples and on Monday nights she goes to Community Choir practice. On Thursday mornings she has about ten Malawian women come into her home and she teaches them how to sew. (She is an expert seamstress and makes most of her own clothing.)
Now, I will never have the medical knowledge or sewing skills that Weike has, but I can try to emulate her compassionate nature, her energy for doing the Lord’s work, and her humble attitude. She has certainly taught me a lot this year about what it means to be a servant. I feel privileged to have been able to watch her in action, and will always treasure her friendship.