Chuck Monts, a former temporary supply pastor at Pleasant Valley Presbyterian Church in Brodheadsville, PA, and his wife, Deb, are in Malawi for an 11-month time of service that began in January 2023. What follows is a report of their first two months in the African country. For some background on this trip, click here.
What to say, how to describe just our first seven weeks, in a brief update from Nkhoma Synod near Lilongwe, the Capital of Malawi!
Without question, there are the simple, beautiful, dazzling, serendipitous things we have thoroughly enjoyed:
- seeing monkeys playing in trees outside our apartment.
- being awakened each morning to the squawks of roosters beginning as early as 3:30 a.m.
- observing Malawi’s rainy season, the deafening downpours on our tin roof and how the rains produce endless green fields of maize (which won’t mature and produce their staple stalks for another couple of weeks while people are literally starving for the day) as well as flowers and angiosperms (flowering trees and bushes, a term I had to look up).
- having electricity more hours than not on good days.
- hiking Nkhoma Mountain, the namesake of the village and Synod in which we are volunteering.
There are also those things that spark gratitude for life and faith here in Malawi:
- being welcomed and shown such hospitality by the warm-hearted people of Nkhoma.
- the young children on their way home from school who love practicing saying “Hello, hello,” and having us stop to give them attention despite the language barrier.
- throwing frisbees with scores of kids and beginning to teach a group of high school boys the game of ultimate frisbee.
- Deb, an RN, working with students attending the School of Nursing. She also goes on palliative care visits with teams from the hospital.
- my service with students as a guest instructor at the Josophat Mwale Theological Institute and guest preaching from time to time
- meeting talented, faithful expat volunteers in mission and service from Germany, Korea, Mexico, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the U.S.
- even switching, by necessity more than choice, to a healthier vegetarian diet without access to evening snacks in front of the TV.
But then there is the significantly staggering, off-balancing burden, bewilderment, deep soul-searching quandary of witnessing such pervasive traumatic poverty and lack of potential movement up out of poverty while wrestling daily with our witness to Christ and Christ’s example and teachings to love and serve him in those who are facing such grave needs:
- people dying from disease in the hospital without tears by loved ones and without urgency from the staff because Malawians, in general, have become numb to suffering and death.
- so many families we know, and countless families we don’t know, striving to pay school fees, charged to all from first grade through their university years (the vast majority can’t even dream of attending University). They are trying to scrape up school fees while barely having enough for rent and food each month.
- palliative care visits further out into rural areas to people’s homes that are the size of prison cells with roofs that almost keep out the rain.
- a nation that cannot afford any garbage collection whatsoever, leading to burn areas for every home, school, business and organization, and plastic bags and food wrappers on every dirt path.
All of which has led us to this determination: of the $35,000 goal to cover our year’s expenses coming to, living in and returning home from Malawi, we have already received about $24,000, which we are so thankful for. However, we have capped donations we will use for ourselves at $20,000. We have already donated $4,000 to people we’ve gotten to know who are in great need of financial support either for school fees, food or medical services and to service organizations like Alinafe that serves 1,800 elderly and disabled people in villages surrounding Nkhoma. And, beginning Feb. 1, we have decided to pass on every dollar donated to us to as many desperately deserving Malawian individuals, families and organizations as possible.
We are not giving to Malawians out of guilt (though we are exceedingly aware we have more than adequate retirement savings awaiting us once we return to the States and fully retire in a year or two), but because we can and because we feel the Gospel of Jesus Christ requires it of us. Members and friends of PCUSA churches in PA, dollars go so very far in Malawi, we would humbly ask you to consider donating $25, $50, $100 to our giving to those in need here in Nkhoma.
For more information about Malawi, to follow our weekly posts or to donate by check or CC, please visit: montsmalawimission.org.
P.S. I am planning to bike from the northern tip to the southern tip of Malawi this summer, 620 miles, as a fundraiser for the three CCAP Synods of Malawi — I can’t believe I’m doing another road trip, but it is going to be another once-in-a-lifetime experience and opportunity to raise additional donations for people and service organizations within Malawi despite the absolutely terrible and dangerous conditions of the roads. To read about Chuck’s cross-country cycling trip in 2021, click here.