A New Beginning
(By Kristin Copher, a founding board member)
Chief Kwatanie looked at me. He had one of those looks in his eyes that he always gets when he’s about to say something profound. One thing you should know about the chief is that he likes to speak in African proverbs, saying things that might not always make sense, but that sound quite deep and wise, and invariably make you go hmmm and hahhh.
“Kristin,” he said to me. “I think we should pause.” And so, in the middle of the conversation we paused. Another thing you should know about the chief is that he takes his time. But what he had to say next turned out to be well worth it. “I want you to think about what Esther’s [House] was,” he said. “And then I want you to rejoice about where Esther’s [House] is.”
Hmm… Hahhh. That may have been the most profound thing the chief has told me yet.
Sometimes, when you’re in the thick of it and you’re rushing just to get through the next thing and somehow stay afloat, you forget to look around you. You forget to pause and take in where you are. And if anyone understands how far we’ve come, it’s the chief.
The chief has been with us on this journey since before we broke ground on our campus. He has been with us through the frustration and anger and the corruption and the greed. He has watched us grow from a tiny organization caring for two orphan boys daily to what we are today. And what we are today is a God-sized miracle. Thank you, Chief, for inviting me to pause and take that in.
This visit to Malawi was my 10th? 15th? I stopped counting a while ago. I too have been a part of this mission since its founding. What struck me as incredible on this trip, what I just couldn’t quite believe, was how well everything was running. I watched the children arrive every day from school, eat their meal and then run off to soak up their free time. I saw 8-year old Chifundo sit down with a book from our library, Enelesi and Tamanda play their new favorite game “fly,” Chikunzero put together a tractor puzzle and then push it around the room… And then our tutors arrived and the children got to work. All around our campus, children were immersed in lessons of geography, reading, math, computers… I could hardly believe it. It was happening. Esther’s House was running and running well.
That’s not to say we’re done growing or improving—far from it. But I remember the days when nothing went right, when I felt like we were spinning our wheels and getting nowhere. And here we are, feeding 77 children every day, giving them a space to play and read and learn and they actually are playing and reading and learning. All I can say is… Praise God.
The chief was right to ask me to pause. This is a moment worth pausing for. Esther’s House is leaving one stage and going on to the next. It’s no longer an infant organization that we need to feed and nurture every day just to keep it alive. It’s growing and standing on its own. And now, we can finally look forward. We can craft a vision for our long-term impact. Personally, I envision moving our Malawian staff into greater and greater leadership roles and equipping them to carry out their own vision for their communities. And I envision a greater focus on sustainable community development, rather than on short-term relief work. I envision thriving partnerships and deep relationships with the people we are serving. And I envision watching our children graduate and go on to become leaders in their country.
This vision begins Friday when a group of 3 boys and 1 girl becomes our first “class” to graduate Esther’s House. So please join with me in celebrating our new beginning.