Wednesday, September 07, 2011

New Crisis Nursery Blog

There is a new blog for the Mzuzu Crisis Nursery that will be updated by the staff at the nursery.  Since the nursery is being run by Malawians we felt it was time to turn over the updates to them.  The easiest thing to do was create a blog just for them.  While we, the Langdons, were in Mzuzu, Matthew created a new blog for Joyce (the director) and Augustine (administrative assistant) to have access to. 
Here is the link to their blog:
They continue to need your prayers and financial support.  They are doing a fabulous job but we need to help in anyway we can.
The Langdons

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Nursery

We have been away from the nursery for 4 years.  We left in September 2007 and the staff ran the nursery until the Hellers arrived in August 2008.  Paul and Darlene left in March 2011 and the staff along with a new Malawian director have been running the nursery since then. 
We have been amazed at this place since we have arrived.  The staff has been good stewards of what has been entrusted to them.  The nursery is housed in our old home here and we left all our furnishings and all the other supplies that we purchased to run the nursery.  Much has been purchased and added but there are many things that are still here from what we bought.  We left a boom box and some CD's and never assumed it would still be here and working but it is.  Much of the pots and utensils are still here.  To some of you that may not seem like much, but it is huge here in Malawi.  Things have a way of walking off here.  The staff here is truly amazing.
For those who have supported the nursery I can tell you that your support has been used wisely.  If you haven't supported the nursery I would suggest that you should as you can trust the staff to use it as wise stewards.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The First Two Babies

After opening the nursery in 2006, our first baby was Mphatso and the second was Bridget.  We are now in Malawi and we visited Mphatso and his adoptive parents.  He was quite shy and ignored us but did play with Bridget and Alina.  It was so wonderful to see him and the relationship he has with his parents.  These two beautiful children just reinforce the need for these nurseries.  Two children that would have died but now have families and an opportunity to live and hopefully someday serve the Lord who saved them.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Where in the World Are the Hellers?

Where are the Hellers? We have not posted a blog for a few months now and are feeling guilty. Our 3 year term as Presbyterian Church USA mission co-workers officially ends July 7th. The last 3 months of our time is being spent in the US speaking at different churches about Presbyterian Church USA World Mission and our involvement at the Mzuzu Crisis Nursery. So we have been running all over the country much to the detriment of our blog site.

Arriving back in the States on April 2 we have had joyous reunions with our children and grandchildren. The latest little Heller (Amina),who arrived on March 11, has stolen our hearts. What sheer joy!! We are also savoring the fabulous variety of food available in the U.S., the drinkable tap water, the dependable power supply, the paved roads, etc. “Gee it’s good to be back home again.”

Thankfully, life at the nursery continues. Our capable and competent staff is faithfully carrying on the Nursery mission. Joyce Nyasulu (our Howard University trained Nurse) has taken on the responsibility of Director, while Augustine Harawa (our dedicated/honest-as-the-day-is-long Administrator) continues to oversee the budget and other administrative details. We could not be more confident and proud of their work.

Nevertheless, the Malawian staff still needs our help (and yours). Hopefully our speaking engagements will be a big part of the Nursery's financial future. We are spreading the word that the Nursery needs ongoing funding to continue its mission. For now,the Presbytery of Northern NY (see address at right)is where to send donations if you are inclined to do so.

We have grown very attached to the staff and babies at the Nursery. Life is never easy and always a challenge. Malawi seems to have more than its share of such challenges. But our faithful staff forges ahead in spite of sometimes seemingly insurmountable problems. They are an inspiration.

So we hold up our Malawi friends as an example to follow in our life here. Keep going, follow God, and be thankful.

(P.S. While you may hear from us again, note that the Langdons, who started the nursery, have added a few blogs and we trust that Augustine will continue to keep us all posted.)

Saturday, April 30, 2011


Mphatso was our first baby at the nursery in 2006. He was a sick 5 month old baby whose mother had died. Mphatso was almost like one of our family as Sarah had unofficially adopted him and took care of him a lot.
Shortly after we returned to the states his father allowed for him to be fostered by a German couple that lived in Malawi. We all hoped that someday he would be adopted by them as his family could not care for him.
I had been unable to find out what had really happened as the nursery lost contact with the family. Last month after we decided to return to Malawi, I emailed his foster family. They happily informed me that he was adopted in 2009 and was now a lively 5 yr. old boy who spoke perfect English and pretty good German. It brought tears to our eyes to think that he was a happy, healthy and very much loved little boy.
Here is a picture that his father sent to us:
Isn't he a cutie? God is so good!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Hello Again

Now that the Heller's are no longer running the nursery and the current staff doesn't have easy access to the internet I (Lisa Langdon) would like to continue updating the blog for the nursery.
Our family started the nursery and this blog in 2006 and we want those who have visited this blog to continue to pray and if so led, financially support the nursery.
Our family is returning to Malawi in June for 8 weeks so we will try keep everyone updated on how things are going when we get there.
I will also post some updates about Bridget and Mphatso who were our first two babies and our now in their forever homes. As we are preparing to return to Malawi, I will also post some of the process that we are going through in returning. We are hoping to have our own family blog but at this time life is too crazy and I don't have time.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Village Discharge

Discharging one of our little “charges” back to the village is one of the most hopeful and heartbreaking parts of our mission. Most of our babies, like most Malawians, will eventually (literally) have a hard row (of maize) to hoe.


How to walk among wild places?
only pictures
only footprints.

How to walk among the poor?
(even pictures)
seems questionable.
(only footprints)
seems miserly.

gratitude and hospitality,
(perhaps even a chicken or a bag of ground nuts or a bowl of nsima)
and pictures, of course.
a small bundle of hope
another mouth to feed. 
                                              Paul Heller 

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31:8 & 9.

Friday, February 11, 2011

My Poor Mommy

 I’m new here. Just arrived a couple of days ago. I was born without a name but at the hospital they called me Moses. Here at the Mzuzu Crisis Nursery there is already a baby Moses, so they call me Aaron.

When I arrived at the Nursery they gave me a private room with my very own crib and a personal nanny who looks after my every need. They say that my private room is meant to protect the other kids from any germs or rogue viruses that I might be bringing with me from the village. By next week they will let me move in with the big kids.

Right now all the other babies here are orphans. That means their mother died shortly after they were born. I feel sad for them. I’m glad my mommy didn’t die.

The only reason I’m here is because my mommy threw me away. My mommy already had a baby and I guess she decided she didn’t need me. My big sister is only 2O months old and when I was born the other women in the village started making fun of my mommy. They said she was stupid for having two babies so close together. My mommy didn’t like it when they made fun of her so she dumped me in a graveyard near our village.

When she dropped me I fell on my arm and it hurt so bad that I thought it was broken. I started to cry. Then the ants found me and started crawling all over me,  biting as they went. Fortunately someone heard me crying. They found me lying on the ground naked, picked me up, and took me to the hospital. The nice people at the hospital x-rayed my arm and decided it wasn’t broken, which is good. But I still cannot use that arm which is bad.

The hospital called Social Welfare and Social Welfare called the Mzuzu Crisis Nursery. It was the Nursery’s third call in one morning from babies in need of crisis care. Fortunately, there were two empty cribs and they reserved one for me. As I settle in here, my arm doesn’t hurt so much and my ant bites are clearing up. They give me warm baths and put lotion on my bites. There is plenty of warm milk whenever I want it. I’m no longer crying. I am a happy baby. .

But now the people in our village are making fun of my mommy because she threw me away. My poor mommy. I don’t think she knows what to do. She says that she wants me to come back. But some people think that is a bad idea. The police and Social Welfare workers aren’t sure what to do.

As I wait for their decision I don’t know what to think. All I know is that I like the way they care for me here at the Mzuzu Crisis Nursery.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

The Winds of Change

 In the midst of selling all our furniture, re configuring the relationship between Mzuzu Crisis Nursery and Ministry of Hope (our parent organization in Lilongwe), finding a new home for our 120 lb dog, dealing with the challenges of rainy season, and keeping an eye on our babies, we keep an ear on the rest of the world by listening to BBC.

This morning BBC's Network Africa reported on late breaking news from Malawi. Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister George Chaponda announced that Malawi will soon criminalize breaking wind in public. The rationale? Call it a top to bottom effort to “preserve public decency”. The bill will be discussed in Parliament this week. (An urgent topic in a country that survives on eggs, cabbage and beans.) Breaking wind, intentional or not, will apparently be seen as a crime punishable by ????  Perhaps, before turning 60, we would have found this prospect less alarming. But now the wind blows where and when it wills and we are nervous about the consequences. Our diet has no bearing on the situation, nor does our health status. Nope. "Better in than out" may be the rule of the day but too often we find that our intestinal system acts as a kingdom unto itself.

Our personal anxiety aside, The question will this new law be enforced? Will police now be on the beat with fart sniffing dogs? How will an infraction even be noticed on minibuses where the olfactory and auditory senses are already overloaded? What about those who have perfected the fine art of SBD's ? (silent but deadly). Will there be degrees of culpability like 1st degree, 2nd degree, 3rd degree farting with intent to foul the air? Will people be able to carry a doctor's excuse to indicate they are suffering from chronic “crummies in tummies? Critics of the proposed ban fear it could lead to potential miscarriage of justice as guilty parties try to pass on the blame. Who knows?

The international press has had a field day. Various papers in Great Britain published stories that Malawi was working on a law to punish people who fart around. The Register exclaimed "Malawi Poised to Outlaw Farting" with a subtitle "Clampdown on undisciplined bowels".  UK's Mirror had the headline “Breaking Wind is to Become a Crime in Malawi” and added “It is already causing a stink.” Local papers have responded with credulity and embarrassment.

But think about it. How many times have you been in public, caught a whiff of foul smelling emissions, and said to yourself, “There oughta be a law!” As one unapologetic official pointed out there already is a law in several places, including Singapore, against “fouling the air” by passing gas in public.

So this is a warning to all those planning to travel to the Warm “Heart” of Africa.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Faithfulness of Our Fathers

 Traditional gender roles are still very entrenched in Malawi. Take parenting for example. A father's sole responsibility appears to be that of impregnating the mother. After making his obligatory donation to the cause, the man feels free to go.
An orphan in Malawi is a child whose mother has died or who has been abandoned. Having a father does not enter into the picture. All of the babies being cared for at the nursery currently have healthy young fathers. Many of these fathers are either useless or could care less. Many, but not all.

Chisomo's parents moved to the area so his father could work on a tobacco plantation. When the manager discovered that Chisomo's mother was pregnant, his father was fired so the owner wouldn't have to pay any medical bills. Chisomo's mother died shortly after giving birth (2 months early) at Rhumpi District Hospital. Dad was left alone with tiny baby Chisomo who weighed 2 lbs 6 oz. The hospital provided formula but no care. Yet Chisoms needed special care. So his dad stayed right there for more than a month, feeding him every 2 hours from a tiny cup. Since he was so small, dad also provided Kangaroo Care, wearing the baby on his bare chest to help with temperature regulation and breathing. During that time Chisomo gained almost 3 pounds! A true miracle. We then admitted him to the Mzuzu Crisis Nursery as we had acquired an opening. We kept him for 7 weeks but dad was unable to visit because he had moved to Lilongwe to find work.  So we transferred Chisomo to the Lilongwe Crisis Nursery last week. He weighed 10 lbs. 6 oz., and was a smiling, happy baby. Dad, also happy, now visits his son almost every day.
Jerrine and Darlene

Our twins, Jerrine and Darlene come from a village about 50 miles north of Mzuzu. Once a month their father visits them on our regular visiting day. This takes bus money. Last month there was no money for the trip but dad showed up anyway. He had left at 2:30 am and ridden his bicycle for 5 hours (some on dirt roads) to get to Mzuzu so he could visit his girls. And it's rainy season (mud, washouts and wet). He then had to pedal all the way back. This is a caring and devoted dad.

Marmen and Mosesn
Moses and Marmen are also twins. Their father is a pastor in a village along the lakeshore. He arrived at the nursery unannounced one day, babies in tow. His wife had died a few days earlier after giving birth. It was heartbreaking to send them away, but we must work through social welfare to avoid chaos and to avoid being shut down by the government. We were able to discharge 2 babies the next week and take the twins in. Not only has their father been a regular visitor, he has presented the Nursery with two of his paintings picturing the plight of women at the hands of useless men who could care less. This man is a gem.

Traditional gender roles in Malawi are changing. Drive around Mzuzu today and you will occasionally see fathers carrying babies, fathers walking with their children - fathers sharing the joys and burdens of parenthood. The faithfulness of all these fathers is, to us, a sign of hope. One day, here in Malawi, a motherless child may not automatically be labeled an orphan.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Snake !

It's different here in Malawi. Instead of oak and maple trees, we have jacaranda and acacia. Instead of robins and bluejays we have mouse birds and kingfishers. Monkeys, not squirrels, steal the corn from our garden and if there is a snake in the garden, chances are it's not harmless.

Factoid: 90% of the snakes found in Africa are poisonous.

We have seen snakes on the road and snakes on the path. Friends have reported snakes dropping from trees in their yard and even a snake dropping from a ceiling rafter into the bedroom. But we never, ever spotted one of these venomous vermin in OUR yard.....

until last night.

True, we had a small snake in the house at Christmas time, and another on the porch last week. Paul removed their heads with a big kitchen knife just to be safe. But they were not poisonous.

Last night was different.

About 8 pm we were sitting in the living room when the guard rapped on the gate with his keys. This usually means he wants tea leaves, or T.P., or some other something of little consequence. I sighed. “What now?” But when Paul went to the door he immediately called to me. “You gotta see this!”

There, dangling from the end of a long branch held by our guard, was a 2 foot long, deadly snake. The guard had killed it with a brick as it was making it's way down the driveway. OUR driveway. Towards OUR house. Just seeing the limp corpse gave me the heebee geebees!

Rainy season saturates the earth so snakes can't go into their holes like they usually do. The result is they are more apt to be out and about, especially at night. They hide in grass and bushes, hang from trees and generally terrorize the psyche of the children of Eve. I try not to think about it.

This morning, when our gardener talked to the night guards, he got thoroughly spooked and nearly turned white. As we left for work he was energetically cutting all the bushes and trimming all the trees near the snake's site of death. The last time he got this energetic was when the guards next door killed three snakes (count 'em—3 big ones) in one night.

At our home here in Malawi we go to great lengths to keep out intruders. There are bars on all the windows and doors. Our yard is completely fenced-in with a locked gate. An Emergency Response Service is prepared to send a crack team of professionals within 15 minutes of being summoned. And we have 2 guards on duty every night.

But none of these precautions are guaranteed to stop a snake in the grass.

God bless our guards.

And our gardener. We will return to our freshly trimmed yard and hope we don't have a repeat of last night's near security breach.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Short Timers

OK, we admit it. We have been slacking off lately. Hiding out. Perfecting avoidance.

Truth is, we are suffering from short-timer syndrome. Our flight home leaves Malawi in 10 weeks and counting.

“Who is going to replace you?”

This is our most FAQ (frequently asked question). Our unflinchingly confident reply is: “The Malawian staff.” It is both humbling and comforting to know that the Mzuzu Crisis Nursery is prepared to do quite well without us, thank you very much.

Who are these faithful Malawian professionals?

Augustine Harawa has been the Administrative Assistant and financial secretary almost since the founding of the Nursery in 2006. He has a Advanced Certificate in Business Management from Mzuzu University. More importantly, his honesty and integrity are above reproach. In fact he keeps us honest when we submit a voucher for reimbursement. His motto is: “No receipt, no reimbursement.” Augustine married lovely Tawonga on December 26, 2009 and their daughter Olivia Sandra arrived on November 28, 2010. He is a true gentle-man who speaks softly and carries a big smile. We sometimes refer to him as St. Augustine.

Joyce Nyasulu became our Nurse in February, 2010. Joyce came to us with many years of experience working for other NGOs (non-governmental organizations). She obtained a BSc degree in nursing from Howard University in Washington, D.C. as well as numerous diplomas and certifications in Malawi, including nurse-midwife. Her husband, Johanne teaches in the Physics Department at Mzuzu University and they have 4 grown children. We hope that she will be willing to function as Nurser/Director for the Nursery.

The plan is to create a local “oversight committee” so that Joyce and Augustine will have a supportive structure right here in Mzuzu. This group will likely consist of 3 Malawians and 2 Ex-pats. Part of the plan is to create a separate Mzuzu Crisis Nursery account in the States to facilitate direct donations. All this should become more clear in the months ahead. We'll keep you posted.

In the meantime, we try to stay focused. Above all we try to enjoy and give thanks for this privilege of living and working in Africa on behalf of God's most vulnerable little ones.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The Christmas Party

It's the Advent season and time for the annual Christmas Party! But what kind of party does one have in a very poor country? How does one celebrate?

The first thing the staff wants for Christmas is a cash bonus. This is not optional – it is expected. We talked of giving the bonus early this year because last year we were robbed on Christmas night. The thieves obviously knew that we would have some money on hand here at the nursery. So now, being the quick learners that we are, we keep no money on the premises.

We suggested that the bonuses be handed out at our monthly staff meeting, three weeks before Christmas. However, the other members of the management team nixed this idea. They assured us that the money would be spent long before Christmas arrived , thereby leaving staff members with nothing to fund their family Christmas Day feast. That would be disastrous. So we will give bonuses out later in the month but the date will be a surprise.

The main topic of discussion for the party itself was “What to eat”. I took a small (but to my mind statistically significant) poll asking several Malawians what special foods they eat at Christmas. Most shrugged and said “We just have a big meal”. “Big” meaning not different food but a lot of the same food. Quantity matters. Even our management team stressed the importance of “A LOT of food”. We're talking more than you can imagine any one person could eat. A gigantic, colossal, “trentrocious” amount!

Back to the topic of “What to Eat”. A goat was ruled out as too expensive. Ham? No way! We haven't seen a ham in three years. Chicken won the day. But at the Nursery, even chicken is special and not on our usual menu. Rice and nsima, served with fried rape, tomatoes and onions, will also be served. These will certainly be nothing special except they will be prepared in enormous quantities.

So the staff will stuff themselves on the same stuff. Add Coke & Fanta and store bought cookies. And there you have it!!!

Of course, more than the food we will be feasting on, is the fellowship—celebrating the Good News of God with us.

Let the party begin !

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Will the Real Jerrine Please Sit Up ?

Last week's blog features the gratifying growth progress of Jerrine Gondwe. 
Or so we thought.
When we picked up baby Jerrine she was not alone.  She was one of twins who we named  Darlene and Jerrine (like me and my twinnie).  Honest, these names were picked at the suggestion of the village headman and the babies' father.   Well, their father came to visit the Nursery two weeks later and announced that he had told us the wrong birth order.  Turns out that Darlene was really Jerrine and Jerrine was really Darlene. This caused no small amount of confusion, but we changed everything and tried to adjust.  I mean we changed everything.  Everything, that is, except all the tags on my early pictures.  Darlene was Jerrine and Jerrine was Darlene on the pictures taken the first 2 weeks they were here.  But then Jerrine was Jerrine and Darlene was Darlene on pictures taken after that time.
Jerrine on left, Darlene on right

SO  when I did the blog, I put the original Darlene (now known as Jerrine) as the picture labeled number 1 and the original Jerrine (now known as Darlene) as the picture labeled number 2.  So the picture labeled number 2 is really the current Darlene. Yikes! It should have been the current Jerrine.  Got it? 

As these twins grow their weight is becoming more and more alike. This is not unusual here in the nursery. In the village, the twin with the least amount of energy usually gets fed a lot less.  This is because it takes more time to feed her and she is labeled as "lazy".  Oh, this one is "the lazy one" they will say. Often the "lazy" one does not survive.  But here at the nursery each twin gets personal care and time is taken with slow feeders.  So they gain weight and eventually catch up to their more energetic sibling. Jerrine (was Darlene ) is now catching up to Darlene (was Jerrine).

Here is a picture of Darlene and Jerrine taken yesterday.  I think Jerrine is catching up quite nicely. And she didn't even know she was behind!

P.S.  Yesterday, an unnanounced picture change took place on last weeks's blog.  Now Jerrine is Jerrine in both photos.