Everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away. Isaiah 51:11
What would life be like without joy? We don’t want to know. Joy carries us. We are not rejoicing about the devastating floods, or the loss of lives and destruction of homes. In some areas, entire villages have been completely washed away. These days are full of trials, yet at the same time we are experiencing joy. Joy is found in the most unexpected places, in the camps among the poor. The joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10).
We rejoice in God’s provision. We have been participating with other NGO’s distributing food, soap, and blankets to the displaced but the real excitement is bringing to them what is of most importance – Jesus! The Lord is calling out for people to follow Him and many are responding. They have lost everything, stripped of even the little they had, and now they know that Jesus is all they need. He’s at home with them in their tents. He’s with them in cue waiting to receive their daily rations. He’s with them in their loss of loved ones carried away by the flood waters. I have wondered how the flood victims can rejoice under such circumstances. In the present darkness, there are many reasons to complain and get angry. Yet in the midst of this there is a great Light overcoming darkness and bringing hope. The least of these are receiving the joy of the Lord, the fruit of the Holy Spirit. We are seeing Scriptures come alive before us. The Apostle Paul wrote about an inexpressible and glorious joy that fills those who believe in Jesus (1 Peter 1:8). We see this in Malawi and we are seeing it afresh in the camps now. The hearts of the destitute are being filled with joy!
So we join with them and pray, and worship. Our Iris kids together with missionary kids lead children in games. We host net ball and soccer games on the weekends and afterwards the players from the camps have a shower, a hot meal, and a gift of soap and a blanket to take back to the camp. Our Bible school students and pastors are bringing encouragement by comforting those who have suffered trauma and great loss, organizing Bible study groups and leading church services.
Now more than 7 weeks since the flood struck, there is still relief work. The World Food Program continues to transport food by helicopter to the areas still inaccessible by roads as well as providing food to the 230,000 displaced people living in the camps. Iris Africa has been providing 15 metric tons of maize flour weekly to flood victims suffering with hunger. Some haven’t lost their homes but have lost their source of food in their gardens. It is the hunger season, this year exacerbated by the flood, and it affects everyone for months to come.
Relentless rains keep falling. We recently had a second flood surge move through the Lower Shire area. At the Iris base we have measured 880 mm (34.5 inches) of rain since Christmas. That’s almost three times what we are expected to receive during the entire rainy season. Heavy rains are expected through to the end of March. People will remain safe in the camps for at least another 7-8 weeks, or until such time when the land dries up enough to ensure safe travel back to their villages. Some will be shocked when they arrive to their desolate land, they won’t find a trace of what they once knew.
In the months ahead we want to be able to assist flood survivors with seed as a way to start production of their own food. In May, farmers will be able to plant a winter crop which they will harvest in August. We also want to assist people in rebuilding their homes on higher ground by providing cement and metal roofing after they mold bricks and provide the labor.
Please continue to pray that people will continually give their hearts completely over to the Lord, wholeheartedly following Jesus. We also need prayers of healing to overcome the extensive sicknesses such as malaria and chest infections that are infecting many lives here, including many of our children on the Iris base.
It is our prayer too that the God of hope will fill you with all joy and peace, as you trust in Him (Romans 16:13).