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Sherard Graham

Entrepreneur Day by Sherard Graham

Standing in front of Zowe Shop

July 3, 2018

One of Pamoza’s focus areas is entrepreneurship.  Pamoza helped to establish a Grinding Mill, the Zowe Community Grocery Store and community run Muzi banks.  The grinding mill is the first business that Pamoza started in response to the women in the community’s need to speed up the process of being able to use maize/corn which is a staple food in Malawi.

The process of making flour intense.  The women bring buckets of maze to the mill to be pounded to be used later or ground you into flour.   Pamoza measures the maize to determine how many kwachas it will cost to process the maize.  The women take the pounded or grounded flour home to be used for cooking or selling goods.  Pamoza also has a community grocery store that provides a variety of goods at an affordable price for those in the Zowe community. We brought some snacks to support the store and satisfy our sweet tooth cravings!

The Pamoza staff do it all because Nya Zumala who runs Zoe grocery store left the store to go with us to the grinding mill (they are down the street from each other).  She was there helping to measure, sort and grind the maize but she left the grocery store unattended.  No locked door, no sign on the door that I will be back soon, she just left.  There were kids outside the store so I asked Dr. Mitika is this ok?  Won’t the kids go in the store and get stuff and he said “they will not”.  After we left the mill we went past the grocery store and there was a line outside when she returned.

If that was the US, some inventory would be missing, some items taken but I was surprised that they did not even go inside until she returned.  After leaving we visited a few Muzi banks.   These are community run and organized savings and loans group that are a self sufficient way for people to invest in themselves and hold one another accountable with their finances.  Group members agree upon the amount one has to contribute to a social fund and the amount one can contribute to buy shares in the loan pot.  Members are allowed to borrow money up to three times their share amount from the group and have to pay it back with interest.

One lady said she was able to borrow 10,000 Kwacha three times and use it to buy ingredients to make foods which she sold for a profit each time.  This particular group started in March and as of July they have a combined pot of 99,000 Kwacha which is amazing.  Pamoza has a really integrated approach to sustainable community development and empowerment.  Instead of giving people fish so they can eat today, they are teaching them to fish so they can eat for a lifetime!  I was really impressed by the entrepreneurship program and how it is impacting the lives of people in Zowe.

Education in Zowe, Malawi by Sherard Graham

July 2nd – Education day

Today we split into two groups to visit two schools, Mseza Primary School and Zowe Community Primary School. I was on the Mseza team with Momma Pam and Anna. We arrived at the school around 7 am and the children were in rows according to their grade. The school has grades 1-6 but only 5 teachers, so one teacher has to run between two classes and teach 9 subjects in a day! That’s crazy!

Pamoza has a school breakfast program that feeds up to 1500 kids everyday. Breakfast consists of porridge which is made each morning in the school kitchen. When I say kitchen, I mean a rocket stove and a fire pit. Most Malawi kitchens are outside pits where they cook over direct flames – the build a fire with wood supported by bricks. We helped to prepare the porridge by gathering water which you have to pump from a borehole, carry the bucket of water on your head back to the kitchen and pour into a huge pot to be boiled. After it is boiling you pour in the flour and corn which they make at the Pamoza grinding mill. Later they add sugar. It reminds me of Cream of Wheat.

The kids bring their own cups or bowls or Tupperware container and spoons and they walk to school some from miles away. The kids who did not have a cup had to wait until someone else finished and then they would use the other persons cup. We also saw some kids using their finger because they did have a spoon. Some kids were sharing their cup of porridge with other siblings.

The classes do not have desks so the kids sit on the cement floor or in some classes on red dirt and rocks because the floor is not finished yet! I could not believe that. We complain about our schools but our kids have desks, chairs, pens, paper, book bags etc. Despite the conditions, the children were well behaved, disciplined and eager to learn. Many come for the porridge to make sure they get a meal but many actually want to be in school learning.

Pamoza’s programs are integrated and at 12 noon they have bible study which is part of the Christian outreach initiative. We all gathered out by this huge tree, sat on the ground and heard the word of God. This was a mixed emotion experience for me. I was delighted by some things, saddened by others, encouraged and impressed by others. I just know we have to do something to help provide more resources for these schools. Not just giving them stuff but help with capacity building and sustainable resources.

They are planning to add 7th and 8th grade to this school and they already have started on the foundation of the new building. I found it interesting that they want to expand and build two more classes and they are already short on teachers and some of the floors in the other classes are not even finished. Keep the education program in prayer!

Kids lined up by grade before going to their classes. This is the auditorium/soccer field/school yard.

Starting the fire for the porridge.

Selfie with the kids.

Preaching in Malawi by Sherard Graham

July 1

Today we saw God move in a mighty way. I was invited to preach at a church in Malawi but God had already prepared me. I was not able to sleep Friday night. I tried playing games, reading a book, reading the Bible but nothing worked. I finally prayed and asked God what is the reason I can’t sleep? I got out my notepad and began taking dictation. A few hours later I had a sermon on paper. Saturday we are driving and Dr. Mitika says says they will probably ask you to preach ata the second service we are going to.

I said if they do I have something to give them and I explained how I was up all night. Fast forward to the service. We were supposed to go to two services but the first church is mostly students and they are on break so there was no service when we got there (no internet or website to see about service announcements). So we left and went to the next church.

We arrive and sure enough I am invited to preach. The entire service was in Timbuka except my sermon, so it had to be interpreted. My sermon title was “Unity in the Body” from I Corinthians 12:12-27. The church has 1 Pastor but 7 prayer houses. Once a month all of them come together to worship. Today was that day. My message was about unity on the Sunday where they come together in unity.

Also, we got to witness 4 children be baptized. One of the young ladies, who walked 1 and a half hours (yes an hour and a half by foot) to get to service so her child could be baptized, works at the complex where we are staying. We met her when we arrived. (Yes, we did give her a ride back with us).

The service was great, the singing from 8 choirs was great and the Lord gave me an on-time, in-season, easy to understand and relative message. To God Be the Glory! I am still amazed at how ALL things worked together for our good today! We serve an awesome God.

Church outdoor service

Today Was Awesome – By Sherard Graham

June 24, 2018

Today was awesome. I had the opportunity to preach at Community Baptist Church on the topic “Anointed to Serve”. It was an amazing service and it concluded with my pastor Reverend Thaddeus Kirkland, praying for Ms. Pam and me. He anointed us with oil and consecrated us for this amazing missions trip to Malawi. There was such an outpouring of love, encouragement, and support from our church family.

I am excited for this opportunity to be of service with an amazing and diverse team as we journey together to Malawi. Going through the checklist to make sure everything is in order. I am mentally packed but now it’s time to actually pack my bags so I can say “I’m ready to go!”.

“Dad, it’s ok.” – By Sherard Graham

June 22, 2018

It’s hard to believe that our trip to Malawi is less than a week away. I’m feeling excited and anxious at the same time. Excited to be returning to Africa and the mission field, but anxious about getting things in order for my departure. This will be the longest period of separation from my family ever. My daughter qualified for USAIG World Gymnastics championship in Orlando, Florida but she competes the same day that we leave for Malawi. So, I’m disappointed that I will miss her competition but praise God that my daughter told me, “Dad – it’s ok. You go to Africa and do the Lord’s work. You have been to all my other competitions – it’s ok, Mommy will record it.”

Proverbs 19:21 says “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” I am ready to align my plans in pursuit of God’s purpose for my life.

Time to finish packing! It’s crunch time.