I remember sitting on a plastic chair in a dusty field, 8000km from home, and about the same distance from my comfort zone, surrounded by a hundred or so laughing Malawians, dancing and clapping as they celebrated a marriage.

I was there because we sponsored the young man called Fred who was getting married through university. The whole situation felt very alien. However, as I consider the event now, I think about my father. 

How did I get here?

Where would I be if my father had not been sponsored to go to university?

Like Fred, my father came from a poor home and left school at around the age of 12. Like Fred he had to work to keep the family fed. By 17, when Fred first received sponsorship to attend secondary school, my father was working down the pit and attending night school. Eventually he received sponsorship to go to university, just as Fred did from us. At roughly the same age they graduated and then married primary school teachers. It is a strange feeling, seeing the same story being played out years and kilometres apart!

We offered sponsorship to Fred, but at the time worried if it might draw us into too much commitment on our part. Not financial commitment but emotional and physical. Suddenly I think ”Why did I worry?” We have been asked for many, many things by our Malawian friends. Sometimes we say ‘yes’ and more times ‘no’. Whatever our answer, they continue to love us and welcome us, doing their best to meet our requests.

Hope, love and laughter
Malawian Smile
Hope for a handshake, a handout, a hand
Love for a stranger in this dusty land
Laughter to soothe the unplanned.
Malawian style.

Hope, love and laughter
Malawian style
Hope for a friendship, a sharing, a bond
Love for the Father, which goes way beyond
Colour or culture, brings laughter and song
Malawian song

Hope, love and laughter
Malawian song
Hope never snuffed out, faith rises, they shout
Love comes from heaven, it never runs out
Praise God of laughter 
It’s what we’re about!

Hope, love and laughter
Malawi goodbyes
Hope won’t forget us, the distance defies
Much contact, yet love; on action relies 
Shared dreams, shared laughter
Entwining our lives