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-    


  1. Oh Derek - I am so excited to see you go to that refugee camp and do what your heart's desire is! God has been preparing you here in the U.S. all this time playing soccer with them and now you get to go to their home and play. I get the chills even thinking about it! You are so blessed!!! I am praying for you two. Be safe and remember that we love you over here!
    Love Denise Cazares and family

  2. You are EXACTLY where you need to be, guys! What a perfect adventure for you.

  3. Awesome,

    Really encouraging to hear your stories. Sounds like God is rewarding your faithfulness with new opportunities!
    we're praying for you guys and thanks for sharing this stuff!

  4. *I don't know why it says that Matthew said this...I DID (Florence)

    I can just imagine what you could have said in your phone call to's not every day you run late from being in a refugee camp. :) Are there any organizations that help provide work/school for the refugees?