“You are carrying diseases into our country! Where is your yellow card?”, the official at the Malawi border barks. “What kind of diseases are we carrying?” I asked with a huge smile. “Yellow Fever” he barked.
Now – Africa 101 teaches a few things about border control and immigration/customs control:
- Never ask why?
- Always smile – grin or show your teeth (in a nice way). If you only have gums to show – do it gently without mocking any official.
- Have as many paperwork available as possible.
- Never ask why?
- If you have to pay – pay! (And don’t ask why!)
- You need a good updated worldview on sport and family life – NO politics or economics!
- Look half confused but never over enthusiastic.
- Always speak a foreign language!
- Always show them what you are smuggling!
“Where have you been?” The question is rhetorical more than anything else, so we keep our mouths shut. We anxiously look for our yellow cards which shows that we did receive all our vaccinations. Off course I can’t find mine. Alta found hers (she’s just that kind of a person – organized you know!) It doesn’t help me though. “You have no stamp to prove you have been vaccinated against yellow fewer. He looks up and reminds me of my school principle just before a hiding. (Yes, I have been in the principle’s office once – or twice, I think.)
As someone once said on a border: My stomach sinks. I go blank and reboot in tourist mode – raised eyebrows, a stupid smile and a shrug of the shoulders. It works – the official dismisses us with the back of his hand and signals us on to the immigration department. Before I could even enter the immigration desk I was whisked away by another official for car papers which was not stamped at the Mozambican border. Why? I don’t know ……. I didn’t ask. I have to admit it was a very very small border post where very little white Mazungoes passed. We were the first for the year! Anyway ….. my “Malawian Vehicle Officer” …. well had a few drinks behind him when we arrived at 08:30. He was as clever as can be and immediately tried to intimidate us. “It’s a nice day to die, isn’t it” he laughed looking at my “un-stamped” car document. I replied with a smile: “Yes sir it is – that’s if you know God!” We had no chemistry ….. he looked at one of the pastors next to me which he knew from Malawi. “If it wasn’t for that good man …. you would not have entered our country!” I thanked the pastor -paid my dues which I received no receipt for and thought: “I know that the missing document may come back to haunt us!” But I didn’t care – I was just glad to get into Malawi where more than 100 women were waiting for their first visit.
The joy and expectation ran high when we arrived at a local church in Malawi with more than 100 women and (to our surprise) more than 70 pastors joining us. Malawi is very poor. Although Mozambique is still rated by the UN as one of the poorest countries in the world, Malawi has something else added to their woes. There is little hope. People looked tired and hopeless. There is little food, political turmoil and most of the people work through bribes – at least in the southern parts which we visited.
But …. here in the middle of nowhere in Malawi was 100 women together praising God and I though immediately: “This is why Malawi is still standing – because of people like this!” It was a joy to watch them testify. Lady after lady came forward to glorify God because they have been taught to read and write. One lady said that she can for the first time get on a bus without asking people if it was the correct bus to get her to her destination. “I could read the sign by myself”, she said proudly. She shows off by writing her name on the blackboard. The women in the meeting yells loudly to show their appreciation. The meeting gets loud and I rush outside as they start dancing.
It gets quiet for a while and I peep inside to see why everyone is quiet. A lady gets up and shares her story which was amazing.
She said: “I cannot read and write. Last night I got a dream and I saw a scripture in front of me which said
John 14:14. I asked God why would he send me a message and dream like this if I couldn’t read or write? God answered me that HE would send someone who would help.” She continued her story and couldn’t wait to tell the rest to the ladies and pastors watching in anticipation. “I came to get some food at a small market this morning which is very close to the church. I saw a vehicle and white people and God said: THERE, NOW YOU WILL BE ABLE TO READ AND WRITE – GO!
And I took my Bible and opened John 14:14 and it said: “From now on, whatever you request along the lines of who I am and what I am doing, I’ll do it. That’s how the Father will be seen for who he is in the Son. I mean it. Whatever you request in this way, I’ll do.” (Message, John 14:14)
And oh yes ……….. we did arrive back safely over the borders – lack of paperwork and all!