The Process of Learning


When the interns come to Malawi, one of the first things I tell them is this: “It is not what you come to Malawi to do that is important, but what you learn.” I believe that in this life, God asks us not to be doers, but to be learners. Of course there are many great works to do, many things that God does indeed ask us to do, but the process in getting those tasks done is of far greater importance than the actual task. The journeys—the lessons learned—have eternal value, while the tasks themselves, in time, will fade away. In Luke 10, Jesus himself alludes to this in his conversation with Martha. Martha was distracted by many things, tasks that, yes, were important, but her sister Mary had chosen what was greater: to sit and learn at the feet of the Master. This is something that I hope that every intern who comes to Malawi learns.

This year in Chiwengo we have 15 participants in our intern program (including leaders and nationals). One project that some of the interns set out to do earlier in the summer was to set up and paint a library for COTN and the village kids. “We’ll create a beautiful room! It will have bookshelves lining three walls, brightly painted colors, a mural, a new door…and really, it should only take a few days! After all, it isn’t a huge room, and at home it would only take…” And then, they experienced Malawi, an entirely new process.

“What do you mean draft a proposal? Work within a budget? What’s a budget? Present it to whom? It will take how long to get the supplies? Why is the paint so thin? Three coats? Why does it smell like paraffin (kerosene)? We can’t get any more paintbrushes? This is taking so long! Do we have enough time to finish?!?”

Like I said, the process of learning. The interns have learned many things along the way of trying to do a simple project. They have been frustrated, they have had to stop, start again, redo, overdo…and yet, they keep on. They have learned to adapt, to make do with what they have available, and to make the best of every situation. And the process is worth it.

As I write, the library is nearly finished. Hopefully the interns will be able to finish to their satisfaction and to have a success story to take home with them. And yet, that is not what I, as their leader, am most concerned about. When the library is old and worn out, the things the girls have learned along the way will be remembered for the rest of their lives! The struggles they went through to get to that small finish line are eternal.