A woman in Malawi, a nation in southern Africa, taught me that. She asked me to hear her story so that I might see the bigger picture.
This woman taught me one of the greatest lessons I learned while my family and I were Volunteers in Mission in Malawi, and I am embarrassed to say that I don’t even know her name. My pastor, Abusa (“pastor” in Chichewa) Kaunda, and I were walking to one of the rural churches outside the city of Blantyre. We parked about 200 yards from the church and walked down a steep ravine, across a small creek, and back up the other side of the ravine to get to the church. Just yards from the church building we passed a borehole well donated by my local church back in Nashville, Tennessee.
I saw with my eyes a borehole well that provided the families of the area with clean water for drinking, cooking, and cleaning. I was proud and excited to see this testimony to my church’s goodwill and generosity. Yet, as we returned to our car, walking past the well and down the ravine to the creek at the bottom, I saw with my eyes a woman with a large basket of clothes, a baby on her back, and a toddler who was playing in the water beside her. The woman was bent over, washing her clothes in the creek.
Kara and Abusa Kaunda
Confused and a little offended, I asked the pastor why she wasn’t using the clean water from the well at the top of the ravine. He translated my question for her. She stood, adjusted the baby slung across her back in a bright African cloth, and patiently explained that the walk up that steep hill was too much for her with the basket, the baby, and a toddler. Then she returned to her washing.
As the mother of a toddler and a 9-year-old, my eyes and my mind opened wide. I thought about the hassle of getting laundry done when my kids need attention and care, even with the convenience of a washing machine and a dryer. How much more difficult it is for this woman to walk a mile or more to this creek, carrying everything she needed. What I had seen a few steps earlier as a gleaming source of health suddenly seemed a taunting dream, desperately out of reach.
If only we had asked. If only we had listened. How our eyes could have been opened to see what would have been truly helpful.
Kara Lassen Oliver no longer lives in Malawi, but her heart is there. By day she trains writers and editors in Africa and the Philippines so that they can continue to tell their stories and open all our eyes wide to the work God is doing around the world.
OCTOBER 8, 2017
NEXT DAY STRETCH
Proverbs 20:12 (NKJV) says, “Ears to hear and eyes to see—the Lord made them both.” Although it may seem nonsensical, we can see people and situations more clearly when we listen more attentively.
Are you frustrated with an outcome of a particular situation in your life? Journal about the solution that you can see clearly. Write about what you see standing in the way. Then use your imagination to open your eyes to see beyond the immediate situation. Who else is involved? What practical, racial, political, religious, or family realities may be affecting the situation? Does this wider picture give you some wisdom or clarity?
Read Proverbs 3:5–7. Let this passage become your prayer for this difficult time. Trust that God is present and is acting in the situation. Try to see what assumptions you are making. Listen to see how another person’s wisdom might open your eyes wide to see the best path forward.