Hello. Bonjour. Hola. Nǐn hǎo. Konnichiwa. Shikamoo. Selamat siang. Shalom.
There are thousands of words we use to greet each other. Language is fascinating that way—that so many different words can mean the exact same thing. When we step into the unknown, though, we realize how important our greetings are. We have the power to welcome or estrange in just a few words.
When our team boarded the Ethiopian Airlines plane to Malawi, it felt like crossing a border right there. Everything from the language coming through the speakers to the fashion choices of the airline staff told us that we weren’t in U.S. territory.
It’s easy to be scared of unfamiliarity. Languages we don’t understand are “weird.” Customs we’ve never practiced are “strange.” We were stepping into the uncertainty of a foreign country, trusting that God would be able to bridge the cultural gaps that separated us.
After 20+ hours of traveling, we walked out of the airport in Blantyre, Malawi—a little sweaty and a lot tired. We weren’t used to the heat, the language, or the people. But when we walked out of the airport, our partners met us immediately. James, Maxmos, and Pencil greeted us with a chorus of, “You are welcome.”
Every time we went somewhere new in Malawi, we were met with that sentence: “You are welcome.” It felt different from “hello.” Saying “hello” or “welcome” is more of a reflex than a greeting.
“You are welcome” is an intentional invitation. It communicates a sense of openness and belonging—a willingness to be together, despite differences and barriers. None of us were experts on Malawian culture and customs, but our partners invited us in anyway.
I can’t imagine how we must have looked walking out of that airport. Deer in headlights, all of us. We had no idea what we were doing, but we were welcome. Our partners made sure we knew that from the beginning.
In this blog series, we want to shed a little light on some common unknowns:
- What are we actually doing in Malawi?
- What does child sponsorship really provide?
- Where do donated clothes end up?
- How do the self-sustainability programs work?
We want to give you a firsthand look at our partnership in Malawi—so even if you never fly there, never meet the people face-to-face, you’ll still see the work God’s doing in this little country in southern Africa.
We’re glad you’re following along. You are welcome.