What I learned in Malawi


Travis Hill, Middle School Pastor, Springcreek Church

I’ve officially been back for a few months now. I wanted to give it more time. People told me things would be different, that I would “leave a part of me” in Malawi, it would “be difficult to come back home.” Not to sound like a skeptic, but I doubted it. Having been involved in church missions for a number of years, being a student pastor, and being surrounded by an incredible church whose hearts and hands are constantly stretching outwards to people in need, I didn’t know how much I was going to be changed. I had already heard the stories, seen the pictures and watched the videos.

But I knew God was going to work on me on this trip in a different way.

I counted recently and realized I have been dealing exclusively with students for almost nine years. For a guy who just hit 30, that’s practically a third of my life. One of my favorite things is watching a student grow from 6th to 8th grade and see how many different ways that student is reborn. One week the student is silly and quirky, but then they’re dark and moody or boy-crazy. Many students jump on whatever bandwagon is coming through the social media pipeline, whether it’s the Duck Song or Toms Shoes, and they live and breathe it until that train runs out of steam.

Recently, fortunately, there has been so much force behind social justice movements. We saw this with Kony 2012, which gave students a voice, but left us wondering what to do next. Because of movements like this, students see that they have a voice but now we must teach them how to use it. That’s what happened when I went to Malawi with 30 Hour Famine.

We’ve done the Famine for a number of years, and have done well. We’ve raised plenty of funds to donate and have impacted numerous people locally and globally. However, the largest impact has been on our students. They slowly have been realizing that this is not simply an event, but rather a way of life for hundreds of thousands of people around the world. And now… I have pictures. I have videos. Most importantly, I have stories and names. Does it really make a difference? I’d say so. There was a brand new 7th grade girl at our student group the night I returned; she texted me the next day saying, “Now I want to go to Africa too… I love all the kids smiling.” And then I overheard a small group of girls discuss what they saw and what I saw, saying things like, “I can’t believe they go that long without eating sometimes” and “I loved hearing the songs” and “It was so neat that they were thankful for all that they have and they have so little… and we have so much.” Did I mention these are 6th graders?

The issue of world hunger is not a bandwagon fad. If we can show students from an early age that we are the true hands and feet and eye and nose of the church, that we are to be out there working in the fields and loving the unloved and ignored, than we truly can change the world.

I knew I would be changed on the trip; I just didn’t know how. But after a month back, I now know. I have changed so my students will change. My desire is no longer a selfish “let’s see how much money we raise for 30 Hour Famine this year”, but instead I’d rather see how many hearts we can raise up to the call of Christ to impact the world and take care of the children. We aren’t scrapping fundraising, but rather being more intentional about it, telling students that they fully understand $360 feeds a child for a year. “How often do you take for granted your $5 or $10 meal for lunch at school?” should be a question we all ask our students, and also ourselves.

In the ministry, it’s easy to get anesthetized to causes, donations, one-for-one campaigns, programs, etc… But how about a one-for-one campaign that involves one student raising money for one kid to eat for a year? How about a program that has students live out one day what children around the world have to live out everyday? Maybe we could get students to a place, not necessarily where we want them, but rather where God wants them.

 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat…'” Matthew 25:34-35a