Category Archives: Malawi


An aspect about life in Africa was the clear focus we were free to have on God. The media didn’t infiltrate every aspect of life. My days were filled with cooking, praying, reading scripture, being with people, teaching, and so forth. This was difficult because the culture from which I came is not one that is filled with those things, anymore.

We eat out much of the time, because people finish the day and are “too tired” to cook. Sometimes we even forget to eat breakfast, but instead we drink that cup of coffee to get us moving in the morning. Coffee is a delicacy, but here it is essential. In Malawi, often cooking means that we build fires, especially when the power is out. It means cooking ndiwo and then nsima in pots. It means the whole family gathers from their respective places, be it work or school. All eat and rest at the lunch hour. It is not rushed. The fastest cooked food is boiled in a pot for ten minutes.

Prayer is what people do on Sundays or Christmas or Easter, here in America, and because we are so comfortable most of the time, we only pray when life stops going along with us. In Malawi, people pray because God has called us to pray without ceasing. They pray at five o’clock in the morning each day, they wake up in the middle of the night to pray, they pray at every meal, before and after every car journey, at night after dinner they pray. They pray together. Community is how life is in Malawi.

In the hot season there is this time of day about two o’clock when it’s too hot to do anything. One must only sit and be. It is a forced break.

Here there are so many happenings that our eyes are on the doing this or that and I find myself at the end of the day without having prayed or read the bible. Not because I didn’t want to, but only because there were all those things keeping my attention and I went from one thing to the next without stopping in between to be. Praise God that He helps us remember and come back.


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Well, you’re in America now and here we…

I only heard this phrase a few times, it came in different forms. It really rubbed me the wrong way. I heard it sometimes after I started a sentence with, “In Africa…”

Living in Malawi for a time changed me. I may be in America now, but the people and experiences there made a lasting imprint on my heart. After a few months of being home, people sometimes asked me if I had made the complete transition back to this culture. My response was that I believe that I had transitioned as much as I would. All the other stuff is just how God changed me from the experience. I find it difficult to stay the same. Especially after going and seeing, living, breathing another culture. Sometimes I hear sermons that impress upon my heart, sometimes it’s books I read or conversations with people. Encounters that compel. I always desire to be open to God changing my heart. Are you open to God changing your heart?

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A few small things..In America

There are so many small ways I have had to adjust back to the developed world. Early on, I saw the frustrations but not all the small things.

Using the dishwasher—It took me a few months to start using the dishwasher comfortably. Remember in Africa there wasn’t a dishwasher. Instead, it was Mrs. Masina and me, and anyone else around who wanted to lend a hand. So once here, faced with a dishwasher to use, I was not very comfortable. Not because it isn’t convenient, because it is. There seems to be so much water wasted in the process. Just thinking about how many people in the world do not have clean water, and there I was with a machine using a bunch of it to wash dishes. Somehow, I figured that washing by hand would save water. Nevertheless, I had to reenter my own culture. Therefore, I had to compromise. I have accepted the use of the dishwasher, but I try to wash most things in the sink, then when sleep or the day is calling, I’m okay with putting some stuff in the machine.

The grocery store—Endless possibilities of cheese! Milk choices galore. Here, there are just so many options. It felt overwhelming. I tried to remember how it was before. What items I used to buy. Since being home, I’ve spent time in grocery stores, just perusing the isles. After not seeing these brands in a while, it has taken time just to get used to them again. Also, there are new things filling the shelves. I might have remembered a certain item that has since been replaced. Just allowing myself to try new things that are not on the grocery list. It has been an adjustment to be okay with that and to get a treat now and again.

Driving—Now this could be specific to Orange County because we are close to Los Angeles and its crazy drivers. The driving in Malawi is on a different level entirely, but what got me here is that, generally, people follow the laws of the road. I had forgotten the rude/entitled factor that comes into play. This is also seen as road rage. The other day I was changing lanes on Beach Blvd., I checked my mirrors, my blind spot and made sure my blinker was on. Then as I switched lanes, a red convertible with a blond girl at the wheel came zooming into view, honking loudly, swearing, and making mean faces. To me, what happened was she was way over the speed limit and wasn’t even around when I was looking for other cars. She had plenty of space to slow down but she didn’t want to. So because other people happen to be on the road, the road that she thought she owned, she had to make a fuss and get a bunch of attention. She was the most important person in her own little world.

Making chapattis, also known as tortillas—Part of adjusting back means continuing to do some things that I started in Malawi. One of these things is making chapattis. Here we call them tortillas because of Mexico’s influence. However, in Malawi, the name comes from India. I learned how to make them from one of our neighbors there. Moreover, I hadn’t really been making them here. The other day, it was breakfast time and I just wanted a breakfast burrito. I wasn’t about to go out and buy some tortillas, so I decided I would just make them! Since I have been able to buy them at the grocery store, I haven’t really been making them, which is silly because they are so much better fresh. That morning reminded me of that. It also reminded me of something else I learned in Malawi; use what you have to do what you want or need right now. In our American minds, we always think as consumers, “oh just go to the store really quick”. Well next time, be it tortillas or otherwise, look around and see how you can make do. Chances are, that you have a plethora of possibilities just lying about the house.


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Kauma Choir

Choir from Hailey Rohde on Vimeo.

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The Beginnings of Reverse Culture Shock

We had some transition time back to the western world in England.

I do believe that I have spent more time in the Amsterdam airport than any other airport. So on this trip home, we once again spent several hours in that airport. But in England, we actually got a chance to see London for a few days. It was absolutely lovely. It was also a good way to experience the western world before being home.

When walking through the Amsterdam airport I was confronted with the media and advertising that invades our daily life. Stimulation overload. There were bright lights, colors, and photographs in every direction. Music filled the background in some places. I was going from a place with limited resources to a place with unlimited.

Consumerism and media go together because one feeds the other. In America, we have so many things that we don’t know what to do with them all. There are even devices for washing your mushrooms. In Africa, there is a limited amount of things and they always want more. While in the villages, a common phrase we heard was the only English phrase that many people in Malawi know, give me money. You may be thinking why. Well, since whenever people started to come from the western world to Malawi, they gave money. In the name of Jesus, they did philanthropy. Therefore, what people know when they see someone from the western world, is that there is money to be had. And they know they don’t have to work for it, they just open a palm. Although the plea for money is prevalent in America, it just has a different face. It is in the constant mailing requests from numerous organizations, it is the homeless people on street corners holding signs, it is the lady in the mall parking lot trying to sell candles because times have been tough for her family. One difference is that in America the poor often seem to be alone, whereas in Malawi the poor are with their families and villages. After living in a place where water and electricity came as gifts, I would now be stepping back into a world where such things are expected as a basic needs. How would I cope?…well as I rode on the moving sidewalk in the Amsterdam airport and walked the streets of London, I was both overwhelmed and refreshed.

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Goodbye Mphungu

One of the many farewells was saying goodbye to Mphungu Primary School.

Goodbye Mphungu from Hailey Rohde on Vimeo.

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Our last full month in Malawi, June.

I don’t know where to start.

So much has happened since my last blog. My parents came to Malawi to visit. The mission trip team came from LJPC. There was our send-off service at Lingadzi. We said goodbye to the team. I came down with a cold. We tried to pack up our life. Then people came to say a few last goodbyes.

Now I am sitting in a pub in Notting Hill drinking a Guinness and trying to figure out what it all means. It’s raining outside. All is wet and cold. I can only hear out of one ear because of my congestion. Where are we going from here? How will our life be different forever because of this experience? Where do I begin in processing the events of the last ten months?

The fact that I am drinking a Guinness shows that I am ready to make a transition back to my own culture.

When visitors came I learned that no matter what I said, wrote, or did, I could not instill a sensitivity to Malawian culture that I had attempted for so many months myself. No matter what, no one could learn in two weeks what took me ten months. What was I thinking?

If people are not willing to learn, teaching doesn’t do much. In Malawi I saw a ton of willingness to learn and desire for further education. I also saw indifference and little desire to learn or change. I do suspect that I would find this anywhere in the world. No matter where I am, I assume that there will be people who want more and those who are content with what they have.

A mission trip is a lot of work. It is unlike any other type of visit. Plus, Americans are high maintenance. We like to be comfortable. We like to have a plan. We like to have a back-up plan. Being in Malawi, life happens. I would be pleasantly surprised when life worked out. But I learned quickly that I should not plan much, because it would fall through. The first month we were there, I searched for a fan; this took several days and multiple stores. An excursion that I thought would take an afternoon took a while longer. So I stopped having expectations. This way, how could I be disappointed? But I like people to be happy, especially if I am hosting. So I tried and failed to make things go exactly as planned. Another reminder that no, I am not in control, God is. One day when we were on the bus, there was worry that we would run out of fuel. Our friend Jason said to me, “Do you believe Jesus is Lord?” and of course I said I did and to this his response was that all would be okay. Of course it was. Which shows how deep faith is in Malawi. This is something that will remain in my heart.

The send-off service was wonderful. David preached. There were speeches from the church session clerk, the synod representative, the presbytery representative. I even gave a short speech. Then many handshakes, hugs, farewell gifts and smiles. My favorite part of saying goodbye came during the following Sunday when I was in with the Sunday School children and they were sharing loving thoughts and words of gratitude. Bester says to me, “I am wishing you a friendly good luck, safe journey, it is a tough world people can die, as believers we live forever”. He is right. This is a tough place to live because death happens. People do choose to live in opposition to God. They do choose to hurt, to smash, to lie, to steal. The wonderful thing is that we don’t have to live that way. We can choose to love. We can choose to love God and love people. It is my hope and prayer that with the power that only comes from the Holy Spirit, that God would help me to live a life of love and not that other stuff.


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Ready to come home

When I went away to college from San Diego, California to Spokane, Washington, I was looking for a new experience and expecting adventure. It is true that my experience at Whitworth shaped me more and my faith deepened. I also found amazing friends there; some who I have lost touch with and others that have remained close despite the distance.

When I came to Malawi, I came looking for a new experience, hoping that it would deepen my faith and I was also expecting adventure. All these things I have certainly found. I have also formed friendships that may fade with distance and time, but I am sure a few will remain close, despite the distance.

In both cases, going away has taught me that home will always be home. There will be no other place where I can enjoy the ocean that I grew up near my whole life. The ocean that I visited daily as a child. The ocean where my husband proposed to me. The ocean where I spent the fourth of July almost every year, playing over-the-line with friends. There will be no other place where I spent countless ours playing soccer starting from when I could kick a soccer ball. No other place where I took my first step, said my first word, squished mud between my toes for the first time, broke my first bone, had my first win, my first loss, took my first photograph, had a broken heart for the first time, considered the value of life for the first time, encountered Jesus for the first time…

When I left San Diego to step into this new adventure, I knew I would miss all the people and places that hold so many memories. I also know that new memories would shape up in Malawi. They have, good and difficult ones.

God has taught me a few things, or reminded me of lessons I continue to learn again and again. God has taught me that God will give the strength to live my faith actively each day. God has also taught me that when I fail, there will be grace and mercy for me. I have also learned that any good fruit that grows in my midst has not much to do with anything that I have done, but has only to do with how much God has done. I just happen to have been nearby to see it happen.

Yes, I will miss our friends in Malawi, and yes, I am looking forward to going, home.

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Being Humbled

I am sure that we have all experienced times when life is, not as we had hoped. We have had to find strength, comfort, or encouragement, to face those things that didn’t quite go as we had hoped. Life is full of unmet expectations and disappointment.

I have written about how, what I considered to be the basics (water, electricity) my whole life, are not always available here. During the rainy season, the water was abundant, clearly. Then come May, the water stopped falling from the sky. So therefore, this week at about nine o’clock in the morning, the water pressure decreased and by ten, the tap was dry. Of course, even though this has happened so many times that I should have been expecting it, but I was, once again, let down. It doesn’t seem to matter where in the world I find myself, life is and always will be filled with disappointment. But this is not really a bad thing; this world is not our home. There is life with God after we leave this place. And while we are here, God can provide what we need to step through each day.

God reminded me this morning in 1 Peter, chapter 5, “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. Discipline  yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of grace, who has called you to his eternal glory of Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.”

So I am being humbled, just a little. However, it is good to know that God is and will continue to sustain me. No matter how small or large the discontentment may be.

One of the many friendly reminders in Malawi.


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Birthday in Malawi

I got to see monkeys on my birthday!

So the evening before, our friend, Sydney decided to come for a visit. He had some business to take care of in town and came here to sleep for the night, and of course chat a bit. When he found out it was my birthday the following day he said I would be a baby again. Then I mentioned that I was planning to wake up in the morning and make breakfast, his response was that I couldn’t do that because I was a baby again and babies don’t know how to make breakfast. Fine with me, David could cook then.

Of course, my birthday breakfast of egg surprise, breakfast potatoes, and tea was lovely. Then we were off to Malingunde to visit the CCAP youth camp, meet with the pastor and take pictures of the school for the blind to send to the mission team who is doing some work there in June. Naturally, we had a quality meeting and then when we were leaving Malingunde CCAP I noticed some monkeys walking around. Pretty fun.

We made it back to the house for a few minutes and then we went off to meet with a friend about our upcoming camping trip. Exciting.

For dinner, Vasco and Mada got a few people from their church together to have a birthday dinner for me. Again, the baby thing, I couldn’t possibly make my own dinner! Besides Vasco and Mada, I had only met the other people one time and they opened their home to us. It was some good fellowship and quite a blessing that our friends here would take their time to prepare a delicious meal. We were able to relax and laugh together which is so fun. There was a gift, a card, and they even had a birthday cake!

Here are a few photos from the day: 

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