Today I want to tell you about my mother-in-law, Columbia Ann Thiesen. This amazing woman moved to Malawi, Africa, in 1968 with four small children, her youngest one being 6 months old. She did not live in a big town with everything a woman would need to raise her family. She and her family moved to Lubagha Mission near Muhuju village in the north of Malawi. For those of you who do not know where it is, it’s where the middle of nowhere dead ends!
She had to cook from scratch, often lacking the very basic ingredients like oil, sugar, and salt. And she had to cook on top of a wood stove! She had no electricity, no friends to turn to, nothing to make her life comfortable. Because there were no schools around she had to home school all of her children! She dreaded these lessons more than her kids and had to force herself every day to stay on track.
One day she decided to write a book about her life and that of her family in Malawi so her grandkids would know the story. In 1998 her book, The Warm Heart of Africa, was finally published by JC Choate Publications. I want to tell you about my favorite story in the book.
One day my two brothers-in-law, Henry and Mike, decided to make huge feet out of boards, tie them to their feet, and make footprints in the muddy bank of the Rukuru river. The next day the local people were terrified. They had never seen such a thing in their life. Moffat, the man who oversaw the mission, claimed that he knew the creature that left the footprints and that it lived on top of Nyika Plateau. Men were afraid for the safety of their families and women were afraid to go out to gather firewood as the rumor spread about this creature. Mike and Henry were overjoyed in their accomplishment and were planning on going out that night and making some more footprints. But that evening Mike overheard Mom and Dad discuss what was happening. Dad said that he was going to the police in the morning because someone was up to no good. Later on that night both boys came to their parents’ room and confessed to what they had done. As you can imagine, Mom and Dad were furious! At that time Malawi was under a dictatorship and they could have been deported in 48 hours for causing public unrest. But the person who was the most furious was Moffat, the man who claimed that he knew the creature that left those prints, for it made him look like a fool.
This is just one story from the book that contains a rich array of experiences from a remote African country in the 1970 and 1980.