Sunday, October 11, 2009

Refugee Camp (A story from Derek)

The day started off pretty well.  Jeannette had to run off to school at about 630am to get ready for her School day which started at 715am.  The school is only about a 5 minute walk which can seem like just a 20 second walk or a 30 minute walk depending on the day.
We wake up each morning around 530am to 600am.  I usually try to get the coffee going and then take some breakfast out onto the back porch.  I don't do it every morning, but I try to sit out on the porch, wait for my coffee to cool off a little, and enjoy the sunrise.  The back of our house looks at a small yard area and then a wall which surrounds the campus.  Our garden is against the wall as is our little goat pen and Chicken Coop/structure.  I enjoy walking in the back and see how some of the new seeds have come up and how the Maize has grown.  We have a small garden but it is growing (....I did not mean for that to be a pun.)
   This particular morning was a Thursday and I try to meet up with a good friend around 7am.  I do not have to teach any Jr. High or High School PE classes on Tuesday or Thursday Mornings so usually I try to network with the other Colleges and Teams in Lilongwe and try to arrange some games with our ABC teams.  I also will stop by a few stores and re-stock the Gym Snack Bar (called a Tuck Shop here).  We use it to raise money for the Sports Program here.  My friend James and I try to pray and just talk about life.  He is one of the Doctors here at the ABC clinic and he is fast becoming a great friend.
   I have a heart for forgotten people, particularly refugees.  I had heard about this refugee camp about 50 minutes from our ABC Campus past the Airport.  When I was meeting with James I asked him if he wanted to come with me to the refugee camp to check it out.  I had heard that at the camp they had a soccer team and I wanted to get our College team to play them.  James said he would try to go with me and we arranged to go in the early afternoon.
   That morning I tried to get some sponsors for our Gym, to sell some advertising space so that the Sports Program would have money to maintain the gym, the Soccer Fields, and help the teams with various expenses.  I spoke to a few people but nothing officially happened.  I also had to check on a few games that we had on Friday and the following week, making sure the teams were still coming and at the correct times.
   At around lunch I had to meet with a student so I called James beforehand and asked him if he was still interested in going. He said that he was and so I asked him for a favor, to look up the directions to how to get to the camp. He laughed, here I invited him to come and I didn't even know how to get there.  Well in Malawi there are not a lot of road signs and this refugee camp was not particularly well known and not really marked out as to how to get there. James and I left in the middle of the afternoon with some directions but we were pretty confident that we would find it and were very lighthearted about it.....meaning we were okay with getting an extent.
    In Africa, especially here in Malawi, people will give you an answer even if they do not really know the answer.  As we asked for directions when we were driving we got a wide variety of responses.  So we decided to ask at least 5 different people and take the average....this gave us a better idea of the general direction.  Well we turned off the main road onto a dirt road which seemed to require 4 wheel drive at times. It seemed like we were going into the bush/rural areas 10 minutes, 20 and then 30 minutes. We were having fun and getting a bit nervous when I noticed that I was down to  half a quarter tank of gas.  We coasted down the hills and then realized we were pretty far out and had no cell phone reception.  Well now we had to go forward, praying that there was gas somewhere up ahead.

(One of the dirt Roads before it got a bit rough)
    We asked up to 10 different people on where the refugee camp was, and where there was a petrol (gas) station.  After about an hour on the dirt road we got a good average that the camp was from 5Km to 20Km up ahead.  We pulled up and saw the UNHCR offices to the right and turned up there.  Of course the offices were closed but right next to it was a soccer field where guys were just starting to play.  As it turns out it was the guys I needed to talk to about arranging a soccer game.  I got their contact info and we started to head out to leave.  We got mobbed by about 30 to 40 kids trying to get into the car and asking for money.  After that we drove about 150 yards to some local shops trying to find some petrol as we were on fumes now.  James got out while I tried to phone Jeannette to let her know where we were and that we might be just a bit late.....
(Clinic & Admin Buildings at Refugee Camp)
                                                                                       (Road to soccer field & UNHCR offices below)
   When I got off James was walking out of one of the small shops with a 5 liter container of what was mostly gas/petrol.  The shopkeeper had a funnel that we poured the gas in, while James and I enjoyed some Cokes that he bought for us.  While we were by the car we were mobbed by about 30 Ethiopian refugees (most were trying to get to South Africa to find work.....they were illegal aliens and no one really wants them so they are stuck in the middle there at the camp)   I started to get uncomfortable as some of the guys started adamantly asking for new clothes and money etc.... We listened but they seemed a little upset.  I used my one Amharic Phrase (thank you) and started naming off some of my favorite Ethiopian foods and that made them all laugh and smile.  By the end of it, many of the guys asked when we were coming back.
   As we drove off I prayed that the petrol/gas like substance would power the car back to the African Bible College Campus.  The gas tank read that it was more than half full and we were directed to the main road which saved us at least 30 minutes on the way back.
   We laughed a lot on the way back going over what had happened and just the context of being lost going to a refugee camp in Malawi Africa.  I am looking forward to going back and sharing with you the next interaction at the refugee camp.  It is neat to see what God is doing in the lives of others as well as how he is allowing me to pursue the desires he has put on my heart. 
   More to come soon.  Thanks for your prayers and support! Please keep us up to date with your lives and we will keep you updated with what God is doing in our lives!

Tee-wan-ah-na (goodbye in Chichewa)

-Derek Breuninger-    

Thursday, October 1, 2009

September in Malawi

Well it has been almost a month since we last wrote.  We have been posting on Facebook a lot, while including a few pictures of our recent travels and happenings in Malawi.  If you have not seen our new pictures, we will be including a few in this blog as well.
   The past few weeks have been our official introduction to our Malawi everyday lives.  Getting a few weeks of teaching school, working as Athletic Director, living in a community of "missionaries", weekly shopping, and just living a normal life has been good.  We are getting to know what to expect to some extent, and that has allowed us to get into a groove where now we can look and try out other things/options for getting involved in different things going on here in Malawi. 
     I have been going to  a lot of Colleges in the area meeting and connecting with the different people in the Sports Programs. Many of the Colleges do not have the luxury of having a stand alone Sports Director but have a faculty and a student who helps to organize it.  I have been to many of the larger schools in our city, Lilongwe and it has been a great way of connecting with people.
  Along with being the Sports Director I have been able to do many other things that I did not expect.  One of these things is to sometimes drive our teams to games as well as pick up other teams and bring them to our school so that we can play them.  One of the professional soccer teams here has a "B" team. Their name is the Silver Strikers and we had the opportunity to play their youth team (their B team).  This last week I took another guy from ABC who was on our soccer team but was injured. I could not take our school bus so I took the schools 9/10 passenger van to go and pick them up about 10 minutes away.  We got to the stadium where we were meeting them (it was one of the stadiums I had played in back in 2004 when I played soccer there).  Most of the guys were younger, in their 20's.. When I went up I shook hands with everybody and told them to get in the van. There were about 20-25 guys so I had to make two trips. Some of the guys had been smoking pot and were pretty relaxed but I secretly thanked God that I was getting to hang out with guys who were hurting and a little forgotten about...a little on edge. I feel more comfortable there and that is where my heart is.  Well the first trip we (Richard was the player from ABC who helped me know where I was going) took about 10 people and then dropped them off. I told them that anyone who was interested in coming to ABC for school to talk with me (I was recruiting as well as hopefully planting some seeds for guys think about coming to ABC)  We then dropped off the guys and went back to pick up the rest. Well we got back and there were about 14-15 guys left. I looked at Richard and he looked at me and then we told them that we thought they could all fit in the van and save us a trip.

I told them that they had to want it.
  So I put two guys in the trunk. 5 guys in the back seat, 5 in the front and then Richard and I in front.  Richard told me that we would be fine as long as we did not run into any of the authorities. I found that comforting.  Well we got back to the school and as we all got out we went to let the guys out of the trunk.  The trunk would not open and we all tried not to laugh, except the teammates of the guys in the trunk. They laughed hysterically.  After about 5 minutes they wormed there way up and over the back seat and we were good to go. ABC won the game 4-1 and our guys had some good prayer and talking time with the team before and after the game.  (See pics of the sideline below....hardest part is not playing with them!)

  By the time that the game was over the school bus had come back but the driver had to go.  I took Richard from ABC and another guy names Happy from the ABC team with me and we took the team back home.  We were dropping the Silver Striker youth guys off at what I thought was going to be 2-3 stops. Well we went about 15 minutes outside of town and dropped off just 2 players....I then realized I was delivering door to door. Then suddenly as we were going Richard jumps up and yells at a truck full of people beside the bus. The truck drives off and then some cars get in between us and the truck. Richard sits down and says that there was a guy on the truck wearing a uniform that was stolen from the ABC soccer team and that we needed to catch up to the truck, and get the guy and take him to the police.  Well I prayed, put it into 1st gear and went after the truck. The bus seats around 35 and there were about 20 of us in there. I was driving it....quickly but safely passing cars and going over speed bumps, but eventually we caught up to it and I parked in front of it so it could not go. The guys got out and went after the alleged thief.  5 minutes later they came back and said that it was the same uniform design but it was the wrong logo on the jersey.   I laughed.
  After that we dropped a few more guys off, stopping to get some diesel as we just about ran out.  About 40 minutes later I told everybody I was doing one more stop as we had to get back to campus. they were very thankful at our driving them home and I think it has left the door open for us to play with them again.  Many good conversations were spoken by our guys and theirs.  They even offered to have us play them at their stadium....something we hope to do.

This is Jeannette now. Since the last time I wrote on the blog, we have had three fire drills at school. One practice one, and two other ones where something electrical started sparking and/or flaming. Quite exciting! The first "real" one was in a classroom. Thankfully the kids were out and the teacher was the only one in there. Her light bulb broke, there was a small flame, and then smoke and sparking afterwards, so the whistles (blown by the secretary) sounded, so we headed out to the field. Thankfully everyone and everything was fine. The second "real" one was this Friday. The power went out (which is kinda normal) during Social Science, and two minutes later the whistles sounded. I wasn't nervous until I saw the look on the secretary's face. The main electrical box had sparked and I guess caught flame (nothing big), so by the time we were headed toward our escape route, I saw the fire extinguisher go, and it was in our escape route, so we headed another way. This time around was a little "scarier", but still, everything was fine. We didn't have power at school for the rest of the day. So that's the excitement at school. Aside from school, I've been going to the Crisis Nursery Center once a week with a friend from Mississippi, and she and I just go, hold the babies, play with them, feed them, and talk to the "mothers" who work there. It has been neat, but also tough seeing it, as there are 16 babies in a three bedroom house. For meals they simply have pureed beans, nsima (the stapel food in Malawi made from Maize), and sometimes some "greens" thrown in there. There are babies that look like there are weeks old, but they are actually months old, and I think it'd due to malnutrition, even though they're being fed and taken care of now, and also maybe due to what their mothers were eating/doing while they were pregnant. These little ones are so cute and so easy to love. It can be hard leaving them, and I have gotten attached to a little girl who is about a year and half old. Please pray for these kids and for the ladies who care for the babies.
We were also invited to our first Malawian wedding!

One of Derek's friends that he met in San Diego, Paul (who is Malawian), is back in Malawi, and we ran into him our first week here and got invited to his wedding. Wow! What a celebration. Eveyone was so excited dancing around, and throwing money at the bride and groom. Over here, instead of presents (even though they still got a few gifts), they take turns dancing, while holding a basket, and people go up and throw money at them. This lasted for a good three hours. It was interesting and also very fun to watch. We both danced up there and threw money at them, and in the end we also got asked to open up the sparkling cider bottles. It was really fun because I had leaned over to Derek, saying, "wouldn't it be fun to be in a Malawian wedding sometime?" because they dance up to where they're supossed to go (like the candle lighters dance up, throw money and light candles and dance back down while throwing money). Anyway, we didn't get to dance our way up there, but it was still fun. Hope you enjoy the pictures and the stories! Please keep praying for us, and for the people in Malawi. Praise God for His faithfulness and goodness!

Below are some Pictures of some of our recent travels up to Zomba (in the mountains) where we got to hike and get away with about 8 other people for the weekend 2 weeks ago.