At first glace, Malawi was what I expected. Simple. Communal. Rural.
It was dusty- with a dry, red dust that swirled around you, coated your lungs and stuck to every inch of exposed skin. It was quiet- not an eery hush, but the sense of a slower pace of life lingered in the warm air. There was a contentedness and peacefulness. It was desolate and impoverished. Bumpy dirt roads. Thatched roofs. Goats meandering. People sitting in the noonday sun. Children with tattered clothes hanging on distended bellies. Women carrying water from the single village well.
It was the picture I had painted in my mind… except that it wasn’t.
I thought I would be shocked.
I thought Malawi would rock my core and cause me restless nights on tear drenched pillows.
I thought I would feel uncomfortable and forced to confront a radically different understanding of the world.
I thought I would be perpetually fatigued from heartbreak.
But I wasn’t, not entirely.
Because Malawi was more than I expected.
There was life. Real VIBRANT Life. It wasn’t a shell of existence. Or bleak hopelessness. It wasn’t a cracked and barren wasteland. No- there was LIFE. Color erupted from every chitenje and plastic water bucket. Laughter burst forth from the children playing with makeshift balls. Joy and hardship mingled in aged hands and weathered eyes. Vitality erupted from a different part of their soul through song. There was community. Rich. Deep. Community.
I didn’t expect to find so much life in Malawi. I didn’t expect to find such kindness and warmth in their smiles and handshakes. I didn’t expect to feel such love from people with so little. But there it was. I was reminded that blessings don't only come in the form of development. That sometimes, less actually can be more. That family and community is supposed to be treasured. That God's people are everywhere. That Love is a universal language. Malawi was beautiful life.
It looked me in the eyes. It resounded in my ears. It held my hand.
And now… it cradles my heart.