OM workers in Malawi talk with an extended family whose houses were damaged by Cyclone Idai. Photo by Rebecca Rempel.

Rain for days

"[The village] didn’t know about the cyclone." OM worker Macdonald tells how his village experienced Cyclone Idai.

In March 2019 Cyclone Idai hit Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe; affecting an estimated 1.5 million as thousands of homes and crops were destroyed. The OM teams in Malawi and Mozambique were both directly impacted by the cyclone. For the last six years, OM worker Macdonald, from Malawi, has lived in a rural village 20 km from the OM base, where he and his family are sharing Christ’s love and spreading the good news. Below, he recounts how the village experienced the cyclone. 

As usual, we were receiving rain because it was rainy season.

[The village] didn’t know about the cyclone. Everyone was surprised at how the rain was cause it was unstoppable. We didn’t have real information that something was happening like what happened. 

I think it was four days [that it rained]. All the time; day and night for four days. 

We didn’t think that it would reach a point where it would collapse the houses and also wipe away all the fields.

The third day, that’s when it got worse. During the night we were hearing something like a gun or someone shooting but it was the walls falling—the houses collapsing.

So the fourth day that’s when it was a disaster now. Many houses were collapsed. People [whose houses had collapsed] came to the OM school asking to stay in the classrooms and dining hall.

There were eight families and 16 singles, so close to 40 people. They didn’t run to their neighbours because everyone was affected. Even if the house didn’t collapse, the house was still affected [usually by cracks in the walls or water coming in through the roof]. So people rushed to the schools. I think they put their trust in the schools because the buildings are cement and plaster rather than like the houses that are mud. 

We encouraged [the people who stayed at the school] saying: ‘don’t lose hope’ and we were visiting them—morning hours, afternoon—to see how they were doing. It was a privilege for us as well to get in touch with them. Some of them were people who were closed people and don’t even usually talk to us because we are Christians and they are Muslims. So it was an opportunity just to encourage them during the two weeks [they stayed at the school]. 

After the rain

The fourth day, that’s when in the evening time the rain stopped. It was like community now. Families coming together and somebody cooking there, somebody cooking there. People were helping each other. 

Some of the (local disciples) were coming to say: ‘I’ve got this, I just want to give, to help.’ So I said: ‘Yes, that’s a very good idea. …You can show love especially at a time when somebody is in need.’

People always experience God in times of trouble. I don’t think that anybody was arguing to say: ‘No, why are you sharing about Jesus?’ everyone was just responding. 

Even the chief came and said: ‘Thank you for keeping our people. We have seen the goodness of having a school in the community; it’s not only just to learn but also in times like this, that’s where we can be helped to have a place to stay.’ So it was like a social time with the community, especially the chief and people who were not understanding the reason why we [are in the village]. 

Because Christ loves me, it isn’t difficult to share with boldness because of what I passed through [in my life]. …To say the truth, I share the love of Christ because [I’ve experienced it] and I can feel it. Even now as I’m talking.

Moving forward

From the radios, we heard OK, in Mozambique there were people affected as well, in Zimbabwe too. That’s when we came to realise, it’s not only for us—it’s other countries that were affected.

The total number who were affected by the cyclone [in this area] according to the numbers we gathered is almost 220. The houses collapsed completely, and some of them, their fields were wiped away. We’re going to do the follow-ups, see how the people are doing. …That’s where we are very much focused—to see that these people are stable, they are cared for and they are encouraged by the Word of God. 

If you help someone with something that they are struggling with, I think that’s when they can experience the love of Jesus.

The OM teams in Malawi and Mozambique are currently planning how to respond to the affected populations. 

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