National State of Emergency
Salima Malawi, the home of our beautiful El-Shaddaih Orphanage, has been declared a National State of Emergency
By: Josie Ehlers
One day, as Papa John (my dad) and orphanage directors, Joel and Blessings Nyasulu, toured around the orphanage compound talking and discussing strategies, children and The Lord; I found myself the participant of a “ring around the rosie” sort of sing along circle. I joined hands with the children and they began to chant a song in Chichewa and as they ramped up their voices we began to gallop in a circle until the grand finale where we all lost our balance and collapsed into the dust laughing our heads off. I believe I was at a disadvantage being the only one over three feet tall and having to squat/gallop to keep a hold of their tiny hands. Their tiny precious hands. After seven or eight rounds of this ordinary, extraordinary experience, I slipped away not completely unnoticed and asked Blessings to translate the words of the song. “The waters are coming,” she said. “They sing about the floods that creep up the rivers when the rains don’t stop.” Not exactly a pocket full of posies.
Salima is under water and for weeks now, the rains have continued despite swollen rivers and saturated ground. Salima is some of the lowest lying area, as Blessings explained to me today. The river passes nearby, so all the waters come there and collect. There is just nowhere for it to go. Following a long period where we were sure the drought would claim the countries staple food crops, the prayer for rain was answered. Tropical Storm Ana sent water and winds inland across Mozambique and Lake Malawi and steady heavy rains have brought swollen rivers to deliver way too much water to our little Orphanage’s doorstep. Bridges on all sides of Salima have been swept away, homes and animals flow down the river; the situation is nothing short of dire and tragic.
On January 26th, President Lazarus Chakwera declared a state of national disaster over districts effected by floods and heavy rainfall. Salima District is listed as hardest hit. The UN’s website says they have sent out assessment groups and are deploying food and aid across the effected areas. We’ve not seen any. The government has refuge areas set up for displaced citizens…if they can get there.
How is the Orphanage? It is still standing. The boys dorm is under water. It is not livable currently. The girls dorm, due to careful planning when it was built a couple years ago, is still dry as it sits up elevated a bit. The main house where our directors live with the littlest of the children is still dry, praise God. The new septic system has collapsed. The well water is contaminated and undrinkable. Most of the dry staple food stores like rice, beans and corn were lost to moisture. The piggery is under water and many of the livestock have been lost.
Where are we putting over 100 displaced little and big boys? They are sleeping safe and dry on the second story of the sturdy, beautiful blessing of a building that many of you sacrificed and prayed for. The new school/church building at El-Shaddaih is in good condition. All of the bricks, plaster and steel beams are holding steady. I remember watching God answer prayers and make a way for every inch of this strong tower and tears of gratitude run as I type this to you.
How are our children? They are being loved and cared for with every provision available to us. Maybe you’ve connected the dots already? With all the local flooding and the nature of the way Malawians buy and store their food, the whole area is empty handed. Most people travel on foot or by bike to buy and sell and are not prepared to leave the area. The number of Malawians whose mud homes have been washed away must be heart breaking. Blessings and Joel have to leave the property every day and hire transport to the river where the bridges are out, hire a boat to take them across safely, rent more transport to make their way to an area that has food for sale, hire people to help them carry large quantities to their transport, ship it back across the water, and then rent more transport back to the Orphanage. Then they can begin the task of trying to build a cook fire with no dry firewood. The state of the water well is concerning as again, the water must be boiled daily for almost 200 littles which is a huge task without dry wood. This is contributing to illness and disease among the kids, along with bacterial skin infections. Medical attention will be an urgent need.
How are Blessings and Joel? They smiled at me today on FaceTime. We made video contact for the first time in a couple weeks and we spent the morning praying and sharing tears together. She says “I just don’t know what would become of us without the new building. I saw in my dreams this building with two stories and God asking me to build it. I can not understand why. Now I know.” Our tireless devoted leaders are fighting to provide every day and they are exhausted.
We wanted to get this update to you as soon as possible. Unfortunately, there is much more rain forecasted in the coming days. Please pray that God will stop the rain. Pray that He will keep our El-Shaddaih family healthy. Pray that God will open doors for food and water provisions. Pray that relief comes. Pray that Blessings and Joel will be free from illness and filled with wisdom and the strength of God. Pray for more donors that will commit to monthly support for the orphans. This disaster will add many ongoing needs going forward. Additionally, I would ask for you to pray over the BESI foundation, that God would give us opportunities to share what God is doing in Salima and how each day, He carries us through high water. We love you all dearly. We pray for you and your families and that God would multiply your gifts and prayers. I’ll end with a quote from Blessings’ last post of the day today. “You are the living God, none like you Lord. The unchangeable God, the one who can move mountains, the only one who can made away on the water, the only one who have the records of doing good. Blessed be your holy name Lord.”
Below is a video of the flooding in Salima-