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Aug 13, 2012 | Jeff Tanner

Commentary: Malawi Mission Trip a Life-Changing Experience

jeff tanner laptop
Jeff Tanner presents a laptop to Malawians
travis and kids malawi
Travis Tanner with two children from Malawi

Malawians are proudest of their nicknames as “the Warm Heart of Africa.” As one of the few African nations without civil strife or ethnic violence plaguing others, Malawians also extend that notion of the warm heart to their open and generous hospitality. For these reasons, and because so many Malawians speak English, Malawi also has the nickname of “Africa for Beginners.”


St. Alban’s, Waco, sent Pat Danley, Ted Tanner, and Gwenn Fairall who all have significant experience in Africa – they are definitely not beginners! But for Karen, Travis and me, this trip was our first experience with Africa. And we are all excited about the possibility of returning.


We worked through the Diocese to deliver basic business training. We also recruited experienced business leaders and provided them with training materials so they can continue to serve current and prospective business owners.


Perhaps most exciting was our trip to All Saints, Nambiti, our parish partner. We were lovingly greeted by singing members of the Mothers’ Union, as we waved to a group of thirty or so children doing Sunday School under a nearby tree. The service was already going, but even in the local language of Chechewa, it was easy to for us to join in as the liturgy is the liturgy everywhere.


There is tremendous need for support. Children are malnourished and in need of vitamins and medicine. Jobs are scarce. But they want a hand up, not a handout, and in spite of the hardships of life, their joy is overwhelming. We left them with a laptop computer, toys for the children, and other things, as well as a cross that had a lariat and boots on it – they had a few questions about why these decorations were on there so a cultural lesson was in order!


Yes, it was a life-changing experience because we know we have an obligation now to serve our parish partners there. At the same time, it was life-changing because of the joy they shared with us in their love for Christ. There’s room for you in Malawi!


-Jeff Tanner is a member of St. Alban's, Waco.