Pastors Thokozani and Nixon Nzunga have attended four funerals and six tombstone unveilings in the past week. They sang as they buried their grandmother several hours away and they cried at the burial of an 8-year-old attendee of their Children’s Development Center who was hit by a car in Lilongwe. There has been no diagnosed Coronavirus in their area, but they say that old people in their village die without being seen by a healthcare provider because the hospitals are too far away and there is no readily available transportation. They stay up late and wake up early to pray for community members. Their long waking hours are filled with activities for their local churches and the businesses which help finance church programs. Tomorrow Nixon will travel East to preach and help re-establish a Nazarene zone in that area. As Nixon enters his second year as the Malawi Central District Superintendent, overseeing more than 150 churches in the area, these are busy times indeed for the couple.
But today is a day of rest. Thoko and Nixon made a special 2-hour trip out to visit us in Nkhoma, driving their personal vehicle which they bought after selling hundreds of hand-carved giraffe statuettes. And we’ve been pampering them ever since. It’s been a while since they came and visited us just to rest; we started these visits years ago when we lived in Lilongwe. We realized that these pastors work so hard and have a difficult time getting away, but planning a pastor’s retreat just takes too much time. So we invited them to our house, where they can enjoy running water, electricity, internet, and nobody coming to the door to see them for at least 24-hours.
And we have a lot of fun, too. Yesterday we started filling the small fish pond that our gardener built in our yard over the past week. It was warm, so we used it as a wading pool and enjoyed the refreshing cool. We rocked on the porch swing hanging from our big tree (which Thoko later decided to climb ten feet up for glamour shots.) We played ping pong and lounged on the day bed on the screened-in porch. Thoko and I roasted some marshmallows over briquettes made from recycled paper while the guys tried to solve an issue with electricity. Greg and I whipped up a quick dinner which we enjoyed between wall-projected nature video episodes. They went to bed early but said they slept better than usual because there were no interruptions. This morning we followed up with breakfast, tea, and scones on our front porch, where a rose garden is slowly blooming. I couldn’t stop Nixon from planting a few potatoes in our garden but after that it was resting on the couch, by the pond, and on the shady porch into the afternoon.
I guess you could say Greg and I have perfected days of rest here in this lovely house at the foot of Nkhoma mountain. Much of that was intentional – we knew we would need to rest well if we were going to survive the stress of the COVID pandemic and staff shortages. And it has been such a blessing to be able to share this place of rest with two of our favorite pastors. Sure, we also spent the time planning for agriculture and theological trainings for the pastors serving under Nixon, and we knew the two of them would need to be on their way before too long, heading out just 24-hours from arriving. But it was a great day – a chance to connect with friends and share a time of rest with them.