The Hanging Bridge

Evidently, this is the most interesting photo I’ve ever taken:

Kandewe Hanging Bridge

To date, I have posted 241 Malawi photos to Flickr. The photo above just received the highest “interestingness” ranking of all of them. Since other people seem to enjoy it so much, I’ve decided to share this photo here too, along with more about this very interesting bridge in a remote part of Northern Malawi.

Zuwulufu Suspension Bridge

Before the Kandewe Hanging Bridge was built, people risked their lives to cross this river by canoe. An enterprising man from the village devised this bridge. Since then, everyone from businessmen to schoolchildren will cross on this bridge. Crossing it made my heart race, but it’s definitely better than braving the rapids in a dugout canoe!

The bridge was first built in 1904, so obviously none of the original materials remain. One story says that a hippo tried to cross this bridge once, and broke through!

The bridge crosses the South Rukuru River, one of many rivers running down from the Nyika Plateau in the background.

The bridge crosses the South Rukuru River, one of many rivers running down from the magnificent Nyika Plateau in the background.

High water on the South Rukuru River. Man running across bridge

LEFT: High water on the South Rukuru River. As you can see on Google Maps, there are some rocks visible in this part of the river during the dry season.

RIGHT: This guy was amused by my fascination with the bridge. “Did you know I can run across?” And so he could! He only put his hand down once.

The bridge uses clumps of trees as support pylons on both ends. During this rainy season, the river extends to the very end of the bridge.

The bridge uses clumps of trees as support pylons on both ends. As you see, during this rainy season, the river extends to the very end of the bridge.

The bridge is constructed from bamboo running the length, to provide strength, and roots running the width, to provide flexibility.

The bridge is constructed from bamboo running the length, to provide strength, and roots running the width, to provide flexibility.

Be careful where you step. My foot, and the holes, for scale.

Be careful where you step. There were a lot of holes as big as my foot!

Some well-meaning donor provided two steel cables and some cement pillars to reinforce the bridge. You can see one slack cable on the bottom right. It seemed to me that they weren't doing much anymore.

Some well-meaning donor provided two steel cables and some cement pillars to reinforce the bridge. It seemed to me that they weren’t doing much anymore.

These men are repairing the bridge with cord made from bark.

Sometimes, the old ways are best. These men are maintaining the bridge with cord made from bark.

It's not just for adventurers. People of all ages cross this bridge every day.

It’s not just for Indiana Jones. People of all ages cross this bridge every day.

The South Rukuru River was in flood stage as we went. It had recently washed away a concrete bridge about 50 km downstream, but the old bamboo bridge flexed and remained.

The South Rukuru River was in flood stage as we went. It had recently washed away a concrete bridge about 50 km downstream, but the old bamboo bridge flexed and remained (there’s a sermon illustration in there somewhere…)

I watched this guy with a bike approaching, and asked if I could take his photo. To him, having someone take his picture was much more unusual than crossing a bamboo bridge with a bike over his shoulder.

I watched this guy with a bike approaching, and asked if I could take his photo. To him, having someone take his picture was unusual, but crossing a bamboo bridge with a bike over his shoulder was totally normal.

The hardest part for this guy seemed to be the steep descent at the beginning.

I learned a few tricks from watching him. The hardest part seemed to be the steep descent at the beginning.

There are no handrails on the bridge. Most people employ the "lean over and grab the side" technique. This is what I used. :)

There are no handrails on the bridge. Most people employ the “lean over and grab the side” technique. This is what I used. :)

Children running and playing on the bridge. I didn't try this technique for crossing. :)

These kids enjoyed running and playing on the bridge. I didn’t try this technique for crossing. :)

The water was so high, I used a pole to get my camera out past the trees. These kids were fascinated to see my antics!

The water was so high, I used a pole to get my camera out past the trees. The kids were fascinated to see my antics!

Want to see more? Every week, I try to pick five Malawi photos from my archives and post them to Flickr. You can view 240 slightly less interesting photos here. :)

 

Respite

Today I do not mind being wrong at all! As we went to bed last night we heard thunder rumble in the distance and the desire for cool rain was more a wish than a hope. But we woke in the middle of the night to the beautiful sound of soft rain on our tin roof! It rained for several hours through the night, and all day today it was cool and at times drizzly. It is SO WONDERFUL!

So I was completely wrong in my post 2 days ago when I said it would be a month before the rains. But I’m very happily wrong!

And as promised, here’s our neighbor’s roof… green!

First rain

It’s Hot!

Smoothies, popsicles, and fans are really important in our house right now, because it’s hot!

Hot season

The cold season petered out the first week of October, and this week the heat hit full force, making up for its late arrival. It’s been 90-95 degrees (F) the last few days! With no air conditioning, we close up the house about 8am to keep the cooler air inside, which means it’s 82 degrees in the house at 3pm. That’s not bad – it’s actually enjoyable with a fan and a popsicle!

But we know what’s coming next… in about a month it will start to rain! One thing we watch is our neighbor’s roof. Weird? Maybe. But it’s the most obvious sign of the season. Here it is now:

Hot season 2

Nice and rusty looking. We’ll post another picture in a month of so once the rain washes it clean!

The Hamlines

We had the great opportunity to host Paul and Gail Hamline for a couple weeks this past month.  Paul had come to teach a biblical counseling course at Central African Preaching Academy (CAPA), and Gail came to serve in any way she could.

Floreen 2

This couple blessed us like few people can. They were missionaries in Tanzania for 16 years, and their love for the Lord and understanding of east African culture were a great example to us. Spending time with them made us better love Christ, His church, and Africa.

Our girls loved Paul and Gail too, as they played surrogate grandparents during their stay. Gail and Abigail had more in common than rhyming names: they blew bubbles and read and made up great stories together. Naomi would light up and start waving as soon as she saw Paul. We’re thankful that the Lord has given us a home we can share, and for those who come to strengthen the Lord’s work here in Malawi!

Staying in Touch

Missionaries aren’t the only ones who make sacrifices when they move to the missions field. Parents of missionaries make enormous sacrifices! Their kids and grandkids move very far away, often to difficult or dangerous places. They spend a fortune to send small care packages (that may not even make it), and save money for years to go see where their kids live and who they live with, and what they do and how they do it. And they just hope their grandkids will like them – or at the very least recognize them!

Screen Shot 2014-09-27 at 6.39.30 AM

Enter Skype, the best invention ever for grandparents of missionary kids! Abi can show off her new ballet skills, Naomi can show off her adorable wave and her daredevil climbing skills. Matt can demonstrate the new screens he installed in his office so that his parents understand what he’s talking about, and Rachel’s parents can show us their kitchen remodel in progress. We can share a bit of real life together, every Saturday morning with the Smiths and Sunday afternoon with the Floreens.

Both sets of parents love the Lord, and because of that joyfully let us be missionaries and go (taking their grandkids!) 10,000 miles away. We know that despite their willingness this is a sacrifice for them, so we cherish every chance we have to Skype with them. It sure beats waiting for the mailboat to arrive every six months!

A Biblical View of Money

Bible Study Begins

For the last 5 years, Matt has taught the youth group at our church.  But this year, Matt and Brian switched it up so Brian took the youth, and Matt took over the adult Tuesday evening Bible study.  We host it in our home and eat dinner together beforehand, so it’s a full family, full house ministry for us.  We have an average of about 12 adults attending, and about 3 kids who watch a What’s in the Bible? video in the next room.  Matt is teaching on a biblical view of money, so we’ve had some great times looking at the Bible together and discussing what God wants us to do with our money and possessions. This is an enormous topic that we face and must struggle with every day in (any part of) Africa.  Pray for this group when you think of us – we want to be certain that we are obeying what God calls us to in every area of our lives, including how we handle our money and possessions.

Vacation and a Boat

When we were in America this summer, we kept saying to ourselves – let’s do as much as we can now, and we’ll rest when we get back to Malawi.  It took us over a month of settling back in to life in Malawi to finally take a few days away to rest.   But it was so nice to get away!

14Sept Vac1

Getting anywhere in Malawi takes a while.  And even though it would take us only about 2 hours to get to Lake Malawi if we drove straight there, we packed a lunch to eat along the way and took our time.

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Fortunately, there are some nice places to picnic along the way!

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Abigail has turned into quite the explorer!

14Sept Vac2

So after lunch, she and Matt went to watch the cows and goats drink from the marsh.

14Sept Vac4Once we got to our destination – an anglers’ club that’s nice enough to let us stay in their chalets periodically – we had lots of time for sitting and chatting about the different shapes of popcorn…

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For reading Stuart Little together…

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For playing, and learning, and standing, and clapping…

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For dancing!…14Sept Vac5

And of course for taking pictures!  This is what Rachel saw…

14 Sept Vac20

 

And this is what Matt saw!

Then, we decided to buy a boat.

Yes, a boat.  A wooden dugout canoe to be exact.  We’ve seen these turned into tall bookshelves before, so thought that if we could find a boat that was no longer usable to a fisherman but still in good enough condition to make a nice bookshelf, we’d buy it.  So early (4:30am) Friday morning, Matt left with a guy from the village to drive down the coast about an hour or so. They got to the village about dawn and Matt was able to take pictures of the fishermen coming in from a night’s work.  You’ll have to watch Matt’s photos in the next couple weeks to see some of those pictures.  But then the village men took him to see a boat.

14Sept Vac14

There she is – our very own boat!  Hmmm, a little waterlogged, eh?

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So waterlogged that it took 9 guys to lift the boat onto the roof rack of our car!

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But they did get it on.

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And through the sand and herds of cattle.

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And Matt brought it back to show the rest of us.  It’s 11 feet long, and by the time we cut off one end and fit it with some shelves, it’ll sit very nicely in the corner of our living room.

Driving Home

14Sept Vac7

Then it was time to go home, back through the marshes and hills and beautiful scenery of central Malawi.

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Through the town of Salima and countless villages.

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With a stop at a produce stand along the side of the road.

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Just a few vegetables, and we’re on our way home.  A great little time to relax and rest!

Oh, and, (ahem) if you’re in the area, we could use a few strong guys to help us get the boat OFF our car now… =) please?

 

What is Justice?

I was in town on Thursday and witnessed something I’ve heard of but never seen before: mob justice. Apparently two guys were scamming people by stuffing stacks of bills with cardboard rather than actual bills. When they were discovered, a small crowd chased them down and a group of about 20 guys were taking turns punching and hitting them with metal bars.  As the 2 men tried to run away, they were tripped and the beating continued.

mob justice 1

I kept my distance, which wasn’t all that far away because I was paying for my groceries in a little shop across the street.  The crowd eventually moved down the street, following the men as they tried to get away.

mob justice 2

I watched along with everyone else.  And I thought.  A lot.  I’ve thought about it for 3 days now. The American part of me has strong feelings about what justice should look like, and it doesn’t look like 2 thieves being beaten on the street. But the American in me is reliant on a strong, honest police force and a right to a speedy trial by jury. “There are no police close by. They will do nothing,” said the lady in the shop. And I’ve heard of people sitting in overcrowded prisons here for years as they wait for their trial. As for juries, they are not used here. Loyalties are too easily bought, and the level of education – both general education as well as education about laws and justice – is too low to make juries a viable option.

So is mob justice the answer? It is immediate, and it is an extremely effective deterrent. It is also filled with anger and the passion of the moment. In an ideal world, it is not the answer. In my small, American brain, mob justice is categorically rejected. But I live in Africa, in Malawi, and more often than I’m comfortable with, mob justice has become the people’s answer to a broken system, to a broken world. I don’t like it.  I’m not comfortable with it – I’m not even comfortable with thinking about it!  But it is a part of this world I live in.

Thankfully, I won’t always live in this world. I know the Judge, and I know that He will bring justice to all.

Oh, let the evil of the wicked come to an end, and may you establish the righteous – you who test the minds and hearts, O righteous God!
—Psalm 7:9