Mr. Masina is a simple man. He is out of bed by four and at morning prayer by five. When he returns he gingerly combs the grounds of Manse #2 for the next six hours. Though he is technically the ‘garden boy’ of the property, make no mistake, he is the master of this domain. His smile and laugh are infectious; no one enters the property un-noticed by him; the chickens and doves roam freely, but they return when he beckons; even the grass and the plants seem to listen to this man, only growing where he deems appropriate (He doesn’t drink beer, but if he did it would be dos equis—Jonathan Goldsmith has nothing on this guy).
Usually by noon Masina (as his friends affectionately call him) can be found under one of his trees, reading and enjoying the shade. By four he is back at it again, either finishing the watering he didn’t get to in the morning or scouring the trees for ripe fruit. Most nights he has a quick dinner of Nsima, greets the night watchman and then is off to the church for one meeting or another.
A few days ago, I was sitting inside our home, hiding from the blistering heat. I looked out the window and saw Hailey sitting with Masina, under a tree. I walked out and found them reading Scripture to each other. He would read in English and then Hailey would read in Chichewa (she didn’t understand it of course). I joined in. For the next hour we read and laughed. Hailey and I struggled with Chichewa and, though he wouldn’t admit it, he had a fine command of the English language.
When we first met, Masina was quick to tell us that neither he nor his wife went to school, so they didn’t speak much English. And here he was reading very clearly. Two days after we moved in he brought me an old mission trip brochure with some Chichewa/English translations and said, “this is how you learn.” After sitting under the tree he handed me a Chichewa Bible and told me I could have it. He then pointed to my English Bible and said, “this is how I learned.” I always wondered what Masina read under the tree. Scripture—in both English and Chichewa.
It is clear that Masina has fought to earn all that he has. He is grateful and I have yet to hear him complain. This is a self-taught man. A man whose work ethic rivals anyone I have met and a father who wants nothing but the best for his family and church. In being faithful in the mundane he has learned to live the relatively stress-free life that many of us spend countless hours and dollars seeking. There are many people in Malawi I look forward to learning from, but my lessons under the trees with Masina will definitely be cherished.