As we continue our series sharing personal stories from individual's time in Africa, we bring you Katie, who spent time in Malawi and learned more about what it means to be Christ's Church from a group of mothers and widows.
Who: Katie Kuykendall Where: Malawi When: 2011
What was the biggest thing you learned during your travels? Geography does not change our call to be the Church—the hands and feet of Christ to a broken world. It should not matter if the people around you are part of your congregation, your community, or your culture. We are called to love.
A lot of people say they felt their life changed after traveling to Africa, was this true for you? If so, how? My life has definitely changed since this trip! Specifically, Malawi changed my perspective about community. One of my favorite parts of this trip was getting to see how Malawians live, work, and play with each other. The people we spent time with live in small huts just a few feet apart from each other, surrounded by family and neighbors. In many cases, school, church, and the market are within walking distance. They share resources with each other like bowls, buckets, and brooms. They share meals together. Daily chores like laundry become group activities. Everyone cares for each other’s children (for free!) They are deeply involved in each other’s lives.
My team spent a day getting to know some of the families and helping them with their daily tasks. I sat outside one modest house—the home of a single mom with several kids, one of which was suffering from malaria—peeling flowers for their meal. I watched the women around me talk, hug, and help each other as they cared for their families like all moms do. But unlike other moms, these women did it together. They bear each other’s burdens. Until I saw it carried out practically, I never realized what we’re missing in our culture. Do we really experience what it means to bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ?
That sense of community manifested itself in intangible ways, too. I remember piling into a van with my team, and the Malawians who were helping us after a long day of service. The team was quiet and tired—not feeling very chatty as the van bounced down a dirt road, heading back to where we were staying to have dinner. But I watched the Malawians together at the front of the van, laughing and smiling, sharing pleasant conversation together. Then they started to sing—softly at first, growing louder until their worship filled the van. They’d spent the day taking care of malnourished, impoverished kids and this team of Americans, but all they wanted to do at the end of a hard day was enjoy each other and worship their God together. They didn’t complain about the work and the heat. And they didn’t jump in the car and immediately crank the radio up or get on their smart phones. It was such an effortless illustration of people that genuinely love each other. I saw these glimpses of the Acts church unfold right in front of me throughout my time in Malawi, and I envied their intimacy. I want that for the American Church.
Was there a specific person/people you met that had an impact on you? I will never forget the women in the widows program! They struck me because, truthfully, they are living one of my greatest fears, and they do it with such grace and strength. I learned so much about perseverance and faith from them. They are mothers who love fiercely, and strong women who endure much and give much of themselves every single day to support their families. During a ceremony at the end of my trip, I had the honor and privilege of washing the head widow’s feet.
Have you spent time in Africa? We would love to hear your story and have the chance to feature it on our blog! Email Grace, firstname.lastname@example.org, for more info.