Recently we took a trip to what I call Peter Namakungwa’s primary school, more properly know as El Shaddai Private School. Peter is a man in our church, and he invited me and Lisa to visit a small school that he started about a year ago. Peter is a kind man with a huge heart for kids. Many of the kids pay something small to be in his school, but he has also taken in kids that no one wanted, right off the streets in some cases. They are not just kids to him, they are his kids.
Our day started on a minibus, and then another, and another, and finally concluded with a 20-minute walk to the school. The place was called Area 36. I don’t know the local name, but I think everyone just calls it Area 36. As we got closer to the school and away from the city, it got quiet and kind of peaceful if you close your eyes, but this peace was a contradiction with what we could see around us. The streets were dirt, and dust was always swirling around us. The houses we passed were small; most without power or running water. It felt like a large camping grounds in the western desert of the United States. We passed people cooking on charcoal in front of their houses, some burning trash, or hanging out clothes to dry. One guy was sleeping under a tree, or passed out; it doesn’t matter.
When we approached the school the kids were chanting “Azungu! Azungu!” the word for “white man.” Normally it’s annoying when people walking or driving by say this to you, but, coming from the kids, it had a different tone. We got to the gate of the school and could barely get in. All 150 kids made a small sea for us pass through, saying “hi,” smiling, and shaking hands as we went. They don’t get a lot of visitors, and, equally, we don’t get treated as that important very often. This quickly went to my head, and I start pushing kids to the ground and refusing to pose for pictures. I’m only kidding!
We went in the schoolhouse with the kids and they performed a few different things for us. They sang to us, and a few select kids introduced themselves to us. One of the kids even wrote a poem. In return, Lisa did the “Hokey-Pokey” with all the kids. Peter told us that the next day at the school they were still trying to do it together in the yard. The kids put everything they had into the simple performance; it’s almost a week later, and I’m still a little choked up thinking about it.
Like many of our encounters here in Malawi, we showed up with a heart to minister and we ended up getting ministered to. It made me think of Jesus allowing the children to come and see Him. It wasn’t because the kids needed to see Him, but perhaps because He needed to see the kids. The kids at Peter’s school didn’t need us that day, we needed them; and they gave us a joyful day I know I will never forget.