The Merry Family

Merry Mission Journal

July 11, 2005


What a difference a year can make. When Alfred’s family moved into their home on our property, it was a huge change for them. The children had never been out of the village. Their new home had electricity, running water, a shower, a toilet and a roof that did not leak. Their hut in the village had none of those things.

It was also obvious to us that the children were suffering from malnutrition. Both Chrisman and Dophrine had extended bellies. This soon changed. With their father gainfully employed, they began eating good, nutritious food on a regular basis. Every time Dan came home from preaching at a church with a live chicken, it went to Alfred’s family. Soon the listless children became bright eyed and laughter and the sounds of them playing filled our yard.

When the wall was being built and there was a big pile of sand in the yard, Brooke and Heather taught the children how to play “King of the Hill” and build sand castles. The children loved our girls.

They got used to seeing us come and go, but the middle daughter, Dophrine, who is three, did not like me. When she saw me coming over to say hello to her, she would run inside the house. If I got out my camera and tried to take a picture of her, she would burst into tears. (Therefore, I have very few pictures of her.)

Dophrine is a typical middle child in many ways. She has to fight for her space in the family. She is no pushover. She will bite or scratch or kick her siblings or cousin if she is not getting her way. She has the best pout I have ever seen. She crosses her arms and stomps off across the yard when she is angry. Some might consider her quarrelsome, but I think she is adorable. Then again, I don’t have to deal with her dark moods and her temper. Margaret, her mother, knows just how to finesse her out of a snit fit and can coax giggles from Dophie’s sour face.

Dophrine walks around the yard with authority. It is her turf. Woe be unto the person who crosses her path. This child is going to be a force to be reckoned with when she grows up. No one will push her around. I am very glad to see her spunk, because she will need it as she grows up here in Malawi. Life for girls is especially difficult.

Despite her sometimes abrasive behavior, she worms her way into your heart. Each day she charms Michael into sharing his lunch with her. The two of them sit on a straw mat, rolling nsima in their palms, chatting amiably.

Dophie can be seen strutting around our yard almost every day in her mother’s or older sister’s shoes. She loves footwear. When her parents got her a pair of shiny red Mary Janes for Christmas, she was ecstatic. Yesterday her grandfather sent her a pair of hot pink flip flops that squeak when she walks. Now we can hear her no matter where she goes. However, even when Dophie is happy, she seldom smiles. She is too cool for that. She just lifts her chin and gives everyone a rather haughty stare.

Dophrine enjoys eating. She comes running when Heather treats her to a piece of fruit, and claps her hands when Brooke buys them sugar cane.

Despite her improved diet, Dophie has not grown very much this year, and we worry about her health. She seems to get sick more than any of the other children, and until she reaches the age of 5, she is at risk. She is almost 4 and when people look at her they think she is about 18 months or 2 years old. She is very small for her age, even here in Malawi.

But she has certainly become an engaging person this year. Maybe it’s because of the marshmallows or crayons I give her occasionally, but Dophie now smiles broadly when she sees me. She waves when I go out in the car, and jumps up and down when I return.

The other day she posed regally when I took her picture. When I then aimed the camera at her older siblings, she marched right up and pushed her way into that picture as well. Dophie is a fighter. She will survive.

And you have to love her style!

Beth Merry

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