Student devotes time to make a difference

By Kirstin Riggs 2007

“Moni, muli bangi?” junior Megan Rutzmoser asked, smiling nervously, She didn’t understand the Malawinan’s reply to the one greeting she knew in Chichewa.

Rutzmoser spent over a month this summer in Malawi, Africa, on a mission trip. Her mission group helped orphans by building an AIDS Orphans Rescue Unit that now provides medical supplies and food for orphans in a five-mile radius from the building.

“There are 13 million AIDS orphans in Africa,” Rutzmoser said. “Kids die from malaria when it only costs $3 to buy the medicine to cure it.”

Her trip was made up of a group of 27 teens, ages ranging from 13 to 19, traveling to Africa through the organization Teen Missions International (TMI). The teens stayed at the TMI team base in Malawi. Hearing hippos every night from the lake, the teens shivered from the cold weather of the African mountains. They stuffed four teens in two-man tents to keep warm. During the day, Rutzmoser and the other teens transported the panels that they had built in Chipoka, a town 10 kilometers away, and used them to build the Rescue Unit.

“The hard part is that shovels didn’t work on the hard soil because it was the dry season, so we had to dig holes with crowbars and machetes,” Rutzmoser said.

A typical day began at six in the morning when they worked for an hour before breakfast. After break, they had a half hour devotion followed by work for another four hours until lunch. the rest of their day was split between work, free time, group devotions, singing and dinner. Most of the day, however, was spent working.

Rutzmoser walked over a kilometer every day to get cooking water. What they cooked and ate, however, was unlike what the Malawians ate.

“In Malawi they eat rats, horses, dogs and cats. They eat chicken, crunching through the bones,” Rutzmoser said. “We ate 90 pounds of peanut butter, and everyone still lost weight.”

The TMI group also performed skits for the Malawina children with a translator explaining the meaning of the skit in Chichewa for the audience. The skit explained the meaning of Christianity with choreography and puppets to sing and dance to songs.

“Some of the kids would leave during the skit, but others you could tell were thinking about it,” Rutzmoser said. “Overall, 250 said they had become Christians.”

When she and the mission team reached the end of their trip, they traveled to Switzerland for debriefing. They relaxed and played games, going to classes about how to return to civilization after living in Malawi without running water, let alone a bathroom. After seeing how grateful the Malawian people were for small and large acts of service, they now faced the reality of going home to America, full of people ignorant about their experiences.

“This trip made me thankful for all the unnecessary amenities we have in America that make life easier but we don’t really need,” Rutzmoser said. “If everyone went on a trip like this, they would see how trivial our differences and complaints are. While people over there are literally starving to death, we sit at home complaining that we are too full or we don’t like what’s for dinner.”

The experience she had this summer, however, can be found a close to home. “I’ve begun to see school as a mission ground too. You don’t have to go overseas,” Rutzmoser said.

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