Malawi Ministry Theology

The Dark Side of the Warm Heart (part 2)

PRAY FOR YOUR PASTOR OR HE WILL DIE!!! The words echoed off the walls of the church.

It was our first Sunday at Lingadzi C.C.A.P. and there was a guest preacher who was, to say the least, fired up about the need to pray for church leadership. I spent the rest of the service combing my Bible and wrestling with the message that was being given. It was the first time here, of many, I found myself wanting to stand up in the middle of the service and scream—no, NO! Where are you getting this?

It’s not that I completely disagreed with the speaker’s sentiment (shoot, we pastors can use all the prayer we can get!); his exegesis was just um, how do I put this gently—terrible. Though I didn’t learn anything about the Bible from the sermon that Sunday, I did learn a very important message about Malawian Culture. Death is real and scary.

The average life expectancy in this country is just over 50. Young children die from curable causes daily. The infant mortality rate, though improved, is among the highest in the world. Malnutrition runs rampant, which is what happens when a coke is three times less expensive than a bottle of clean water. I won’t even get into the appalling effect that AIDS has had on this place.

I know no other way to say it—Poverty Sucks. Poverty kills. And it is a fixable problem.

My grandfather had a saying that my family often quotes, “If money can fix it, it isn’t really a problem.” Some would argue that he was wrong, that it is the appropriate allocation and use of funds that truly fixes problems. Fine. But that doesn’t help the newborn who had a simple procedure done, but won’t live because the hospitals in Malawi don’t have the necessary equipment for the child’s recovery-or her family.

Last week, a neonatal surgeon told Hailey that Malawian doctors are immune to infant death because of its frequency. That is tragic. It needs to wake us up to what is wrong with a world where the rich are more concerned about their souring portfolios and estates than they are about dying children.

Maybe it’s just too overwhelming. Maybe we think we really can’t make a difference. Or we simply don’t know where to start because the problem is just that overwhelming. I don’t think it’s because we just don’t care. Whatever it is, the excuses need to stop. People are dying.

1. Exegesis is just a fancy word for how we look at and attempt to understand the original meaning of passages from the Bible. It is opposed to ‘eisegesis,’ where one subjectively reads his or her own interpretation, culture or experience into what is written.
2. To give you an idea, in 2008 the infant mortality rate of Malawi was 6.9%. That same year, the U.S.  rate was .07%.

3 replies on “The Dark Side of the Warm Heart (part 2)”

I’m not sure who you refer to when you say “we”. Depending on who you are talking about will give you different answers.

If we refers to Malawians, as your comment was based around Malawian doctors, then I don’t think it’s that people become immune because they feel they can’t make a difference. Rather, that death and in particular death in children, is normal. 100 years ago in the USA the infant mortality was 16%. Child death was normal and that shaped how people viewed children. Historically, children have held as low a status as some animals and were described by Ralph Waldo Emerson only a century ago as “curly, dimpled lunatics”. This view of children grew out of a means of coping with the extremely high mortality rate of children and infants in particular. The Malawians are no different. The fact that we think to cope this way is “bad” is merely because we’ve never had to face such things in the US in this day and age.

If we refers to all people, especially those in the US, then I think your first thought was correct and that most people don’t care. Sure they care in that “I know it’s bad and we should do something about it” kind of way but then they expect a government agency to do act out their “caring sentiment” for them while complaining about their taxes and “Big Brother”. But I guarantee you they would be rioting in the streets if it was happening to their child. People watch all the terrible things on the news each night and go to sleep happy and believing it could never happen to them. How can you convince that person to care about something and someone across the globe that, for all intents and purposes may as well not exist to them?

“People are dying.” The reason you and I have a job. One day we will be out of work though, look forward to that day.

Chump, thanks for the comment. I was referring to the second “we” that you wrote about. And my thoughts on the need for these things to be seen as tragic has more to do with those of us that are the “out of site out of mind people.” We (being the privileged) often stick to the “ignorance is bliss” or “the problem is just too big” instead of telling stories, giving voices to the voiceless and confronting those that really should be caring (often the church). And that is the biggest tragedy of them all.

Enjoy Rene’s ordination. You’re gonna have to toast her for Hailey and me as well (looks like there may be a whole lot of toasting coming from your end…).

[…] I threw my Old Testament class for a loop a few weeks ago. We had spent about 20 hours going over the historical setting, context of and the different theories about the Pentateuch’s composition. After the fourth lecture or so I could tell they were less than thrilled to hear about another dead guy’s opinion. Running without knowing how to crawl, let along walk, seems to be a common theme in Malawi—Biblical study is no exception. […]

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