Greetings from Malawi!
These are bags of maize. A full one weighs 50 kilograms, which is just over 110 pounds.
Yesterday, we bought a bit of maize… about 881,500 pounds of it, which is about 441 tons, or roughly 8,000 of the bags you see pictured here. I’d love to show you what 441 tons of maize looks like, but I don’t think that I have ever seen that much maize collected in one place.
Maize is the staple food of Malawi. Grind it into flour and boil it into a stiff porridge and it is called nsima (NSEE-mah). You can eat it with your hands for lunch and supper. Or make it a little runnier and people will call it phala (PAH-lah). You can eat it with a spoon for breakfast, or just scoop it with your fingers and feed it to the baby.
I said, “Yesterday, WE bought maize,” but actually, I should be more precise. YOU bought all this maize… 441 tons of it for the members of the Lutheran Church of Central Africa (LCCA).
Earlier this year, the southern region of Malawi was hit by very severe flooding. Thousands of LCCA members had damage to their homes, and many lost their homes entirely. Some fields were completely eroded. Others were buried under several feet of sand. Fertilizer was washed away. Crops failed. Even in other areas of the country, the harvest was very small. Everybody in Malawi knew what this would mean. These people are subsistence farmers. They depend upon their harvest to survive. But for many Malawians, this year’s harvest did not come. There will be hunger ￼in the coming year. Malnutrition. Even some starvation. Nsima
So “we” went out and bought some maize. Mr. Mark Vance, the Director of Operations for WELS Christian Aid and Relief, was the one who manned the pen. He signed both copies of the contract and initialed every page. So did Mr. Lawson Tewesa, the Malawian maize vendor with whom we made our agreement. Mr. Stefan Felgenhauer and I were looking on as witnesses. So was our lawyer, Mr. Elton Jangale.
Hundreds of hours of work had preceded the actual signing of the document. The WELS Christian Aid and Relief committee tirelessly discussed the various options for relief together with the leaders of the LCCA. They considered all the possibilities. Kingdom Workers gracious donated Mr. Stefan Felgenhauer’s time and considerable expertise. We grilled the vendor with questions and inspected his warehouse. We hired the lawyer and hammered out a contract. Stefan, almost singlehandedly, arranged the complicated logistics of buying, storing, treating and shipping almost 450 tons of maize to something like 20 different distribution sites. LCCA national pastors were assigned to oversee the handouts and to conduct devotions and prayers at the time of distribution. There were many, many planning meetings, personal visits and conference calls. Gradually, a plan came together that almost 4,000 families in the LCCA would receive 20 kilograms of maize each month for the months of September, October, November, December and January. It was a ton of work… actually, more like 441 tons.
Yesterday, we signed the contract. But we have never forgotten that none of this could have happened except that hundreds just like you donated thousands and thousands of their own hard-earned, personal dollars to make this project possible.
Some surly and unhappy people might wonder why you did that. But as for us over here in Malawi, I think we all know why.
Missionary Mark Panning Lilongwe, Malawi, Africa