“They were very attentive. They knew more than you think they would,” said the member of Trinity Lutheran Church in Monroeville. “They really wanted to learn. They really wanted to hear what we had to say.”
Underwood said he “can only hope” the education provided during the classes provides knowledge to help the African community of Kanyenyeva. The Lutheran-based program also strives to break the cycle of sexual abuse, child marriages, HIV, AIDS and create healthy, Christian-based relationships.
Three years ago, Underwood went on a similar mission trip.
This year, from June 13 through 27, Underwood, the Rev. Amy Little, her 15-year-old daughter Anna and Monroeville resident Lorie Pierce went to Kanyenyeva, Africa, a village outside of Salima, and Malawi as part of an orphan care ministry. Also on trip were the pastor and a church member from First English Lutheran Church in Mansfield, where Amy Little was ordained as a minister.
While in Africa, the mission team partnered with Shadreck and Yami Chikoti, a husband and wife team who are working on fighting hunger in the area. Their parents are Presbyterian pastors. The Chikotis also served as translators for the local residents.
Four Lutheran churches in the United States and one in Canada have partnered with the orphan care ministry for the last 12 years. Little said Shamrock Chikoti, an author, became involved while presenting a radio program on domestic violence and has become connected with First English Lutheran Church.
“He actually spoke at Norwalk High School last year,” the pastor added.
Over the years, the ministry has helped African girls attend high school, built a well for clean water and supplied residents with blankets.
“In Malawi, you don’t have to go to school if you’re a child because it’s not a law,” said Little, who firmly believes education can be a step toward breaking the cycles of hunger and abuse.
“We just had our first two high school graduates in 12 years,” the pastor added. “The only way to break the cycle of abject poverty is through education and your responsibility to your community. If (the people) can be educated, they can understand when the government is taking advantage of them.”
A Mansfield church member created rocket stoves to feed children white corn flour six times a week. People form a line to hand bowls of food from the kitchen to a nearby fellowship hall.
“They will feed from youngest to oldest. That’s probably the only real meal they have,” Little said.
The area mission team used Little’s book called “My Zoe Journal,” as the basis for many of their classes on sex education and anatomy. The book was published in 2016 by Sola Publishing, a Lutheran publishing house.
“All of the classes were in English, but they speak a language called Chichewa,” said Little’s daughter.
While there was a language barrier, the NHS student said the mission team drew in the sand and used donated anatomy charts to explain what they were teaching.
“They were asking very good questions,” Anna Little said. “They were in tune the whole time.”
This was her first mission trip. Beforehand, Little told herself she would learn the native language, but in the end, she mastered about 20 phrases. She said she was excited to go, but was somewhat nervous about her role within the team.
“I found my part was very important,” said the teenager, who often got conversations rolling. “The point is it’s not about you. … They barely have anything, but their faith is strong.”
Little plans to go on another mission trip to Africa, but maybe not until she’s in college.
“I’m definitely going back,” she said.