I wish that everyone I know could have been with me this morning as I visited Blantyre’s Ndirande Slum, as there is no way to describe a third-world slum to a first-world reader. Most Westerners cannot imagine how so many of the word’s poor live. Photographs cannot adequately capture it.
They don’t call Ndirande a slum here. It is just a hodgepodge of houses that are clinging to a hillside on the outskirts of Blantrye. All of its residents are very poor materially.
You can’t drive into it. Ndirande’s rain-rutted “streets” and paths can only accommodate pedestrians. So Margaret Makimbira and I, along with Malawian pastor Edwin Nyamizinga, who resides and ministers in Ndirande, parked our van and walked in.
In spite of their deep poverty, Ndirande’s residents are not depressed. In fact, I would say they are generally happy, and as we walked downhill through the maze of simple homes, I was greeted with a smile by everyone who dared to think that I might return their greeting.
Ndirande’s children are oblivious to their poverty, and I found many happily drawing with sticks in the fresh mud of their rain-soaked neighborhoods. Sighting a rare mzungu (white-skinned person) made their day especially delightful, and they gladly posed for portraits.
Pastor Edwin introduced us to a number of the Ndirande saints, including sister Margaret Chakulela, his church worship leader who is also a widow with six children. Two days ago, half of her tiny mud brick house collapsed due to rain water washing by its foundations, and I surveyed the damage. Margaret and her children have already been beneficiaries of Heaven’s Family’s Food Fund, and I spoke with her about helping her start a business so she can become self-sufficient. She told me that she would like to buy charcoal in bulk and sell it for a profit in smaller quantities, as charcoal is what everyone in Ndirande uses to cook. One large bag would cost her only $15. So, by means of a small grant, we’re going to repair Margaret’s house and set her up in a charcoal business.
Pastor Edwin and his wife have taken in ten orphans, all of whom I met. Rather than creating an unhealthy dependency on Heaven’s Family, we’ve been helping him take care of them through an initial $600 loan that he is using to grow an acre of corn (on leased land outside of Ndirande) using Farming God’s Way principles. As he proves himself faithful, we hope to entrust him with more. — David