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Though The Mountains May Fall All

“Amidst the rubble and ruins, however, faith endures” Read in our latest blog about how the Malawian community coped with the harsh reality caused by cyclone Freddy, and how compassion and peace was not absent among those affected by the torrential rains.

“On the fifth night of rain, we were sitting in the parish hall when an unholy sound came from the mountain. It sounded like the wrath of God was coming to meet us: I’ve never heard anything so loud in my life. A few moments later, parishioners came running in to tell us half of the village had just been swept away near the bridge” recalled Fr. Vincent Matewere, visibly shaken as he recounted that night in March 2023.

He stood in front of a vast, rocky landscape that once was a village market and hydro-power plant. Boulders over 15 feet in diameter lay strewn across the field, while the river that once roared under the bridge, just a few yards away, was reduced to a small stream as the waters were redirected a few miles away. The bridge, the only road connecting the villages to the rest of civilization within the 3 miles from where we stood to the Mozambique border, was obliterated. We stood at the edge of civilization: no vehicle had been able to travel past that point in an entire year, leaving countless people cut off from the rest of the world.

In the span of six days, Cyclone Freddy dropped six months’ worth of rain upon the southern region of Malawi in torrential downpours that wreaked havoc on the lives of hundreds of thousands of people-wiping out their homes, a year’s worth of crops ready for harvesting, and entire communities that lived at the base of Mount Mulanje, Malawi’s tallest mountain. The scars of enormous mudslides that thundered down the mountain miles away are still visible from the handful of homes that survived the wave of rocks and mud.

With no power, or means of transportation, and the remains of their small brick homes completely buried under feet of rocks and dirt, the Muloza Parish, Fr. Vincent’s parish at the time, was the city on a hill for the people of the Phalombe district at the foot of the mountains. Having miraculously been spared in the mudslides, over 150 families came to stay on the unscathed parish grounds in the aftermath – seeking shelter, food, and medical attention at the parish hospital. It took weeks for roads to be cleared enough for trucks to bring medical supplies out to the parish, over a two-and-a-half-hour drive outside of the city of Blantyre. The Pontifical Mission Societies (TPMS) were among the first to bring aid and support to the parish after the storm.

When our delegation of members from TPMS-USA and TPMS-Malawi visited Muloza on Dec. 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the destruction of the storm nine months prior was silencing. But the people of the parish reminded us of Isaiah 54:10:

“For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion on you.”

Despite the widespread devastation, a beacon of hope emerged amidst the chaos. In the face of overwhelming adversity, the community rallied together, united in their sufering and solidarity. The small team of nuns and nurses at the parish hospital worked tirelessly, despite the scarcity of resources and the absence of electricity, to tend to the injured and the vulnerable. The parish grounds, complete with a church, school, convent, hospital, and parish center, have become a unifying ground for the community: a safe haven. Yet, the scars of the disaster run deep, both physically and emotionally. The fear of another mudslide looms large, casting a shadow of uncertainty over the parishioners’ lives. The mountain, once a symbol of strength and stability, now serves as a constant reminder of the fragility of human existence.

Amidst the rubble and ruins, however, faith endures. Gathered in the parish church on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, the community raised their voices in hymns of praise, their unwavering trust in God undiminished by the tragedy that had befallen them. For them, the cyclone may have tested their faith, but it has not broken their spirit. As we walked alongside Fr. Vincent, surveying the devastation that stretched out before us, it became clear that the road to recovery would be long and arduous. Lives may have been forever altered, but the resilience of the human spirit prevails. Despite the hardships they face, the people of Muloza Parish stand firm, their faith unshaken, their hope undimmed. In adversity, they find strength. In the face of despair, they find courage. And in the aftermath of Cyclone Freddy, they find a renewed sense of purpose to rebuild, to restore, and to rise from the ashes, stronger than ever before.