We have started a new blog series entitled Journals From Africa. These blogs will highlight stories from men and women who have spent time in Africa. These stories will come from those who have lived there, travelers who have visited on a mission trip, and others who’ve worked overseas.
Who: Grace Ingram (Market Colors Intern) Where: Malawi When: June 2011
What was the biggest thing you learned during your travels?
That I have a heart for Africa. Since middle school I had felt God calling me toward missions, and I had two opportunities to do work in the Dominican Republic. Although both of those trips were meaningful for me, when I went to Malawi it felt like my second home. I didn't know I could feel so completely comfortable and experience such a sense of belonging half way around the world, but that is exactly what happened. This trip helped shape my career goal, to work for a nonprofit that battles hunger and homelessness in Africa. Working with Market Colors is such an honor because I see it as an opportunity to use my time and talents in a way that makes an impact. I don't know what my next step will be career-wise (I've just graduated from UCF this past December and currently hold two part time jobs) but I am excited for the possibilities and open to what God has in store.
A lot of people say they felt their life changed after traveling to Africa, was this true for you? If so, how?
I learned so many things through my time in Malawi but one that was immediately obvious upon returning home was how materialistic our culture is compared with the Malawians. Initially, it was hard to come back and consider spending money on anything that wasn't a necessity because I was so aware of how much I am already blessed. Malawi's culture is also very relationally-based and it made me acutely aware of how much a role technology plays in our communication here, often allowing us to skip the face-to-face. Having been back a year and a half now, I recognize that God has blessed me greatly and I continue to try and use the resources he has given me in ways that honor him. I have also come to value time spent with people more, and intentionally create space for that even in simple ways, like having a cell phone free lunch with a friend.
Was there a specific person/people you met that had an impact on you?
Every day on our way to Children of the Nations school in Mtsiliza, we took a bus through the village. As we drove we would pass the market, then streets of homes before finally making it to our destination. As some of you may know, Malawians (particularly children) use the term 'mzungu' to refer to us "white people". Although we were greeted by many loud, happy children yelling this when they saw us, there was one little boy in particular that my team and I looked forward to passing every day. As we'd round the last curve before coming to the COTN school, there would be a little boy no more than two years old playing in his front yard. As soon as he saw our bus he would start yelling, "Mzungu! MZUNGU!" and waving at us. The joy of this child and his welcoming nature at such a young age touched my heart and that of my teammates. He reminds me now to reach out with love and warmth to those I meet and that it only takes a small gesture to make someone feel special.