*Update* The video is now working! Scroll down to see the Manyamula Band singing us a welcome song. (8/5/14) Just before leaving for Africa I drove up to my grandma’s cottage in the Santa Cruz mountains for lunch. It was a time to reconnect and also to pray for the upcoming trip. At the end of the visit I picked some Angel Cards , as I often do when visiting Grandma. Angel Cards are little cards with a word describing a quality or charateristic and a sketch of an angel embodying that quality. For me, the Angel Cards are a way to focus on inviting these qualities – like love, tenderness, and openness – into my life. So I picked an Angel (okay, I picked 4 because I wanted an abundance of guidance and heavenly guards) to go along on the trip with me. Minnows for sale in the Manyamula market. Ophanear Phiri, proprietor, and his family received a SBF grant in 2008. Now they do 3 markets a week and are investing in livestock and pigs. The Angel of Adventure: A perfect angel for encountering a new culture! Two weeks we were in rural villages – without running water or electricity – where I really felt the spirit of adventure. In Malawi we ate boiled and fried minnow fish for lunch. That was a first for me! Crossing the border from Kenya into Uganda also was a great adventure – complete with long lines, unexpected visa fees, hustlers, and bananas and pancakes for lunch. The Angel of Compassion: Each day brought new examples of the challenges that people face just to cover their basic needs. In the Nairobi slums there is no room for gardens or farms, so all food must be bought, all water must be hauled. I really saw that SIA Small Business Fund (SBF) grants are helping people meet their basic needs – food, medicine, shelter – through their own business success! The Manyamula COMSIP Cooperative maize mill provides a local, low-cost option for grinding the staple food – maize corn. Ruth (left) interprets as Rehema (right) tells us about the local savings group they have started in Kasozi Village, Uganda. They are learning from the successful savings group in Malawi – through the SIA network! The Angel of Communication: Where we were few people spoke fluent English. Those who did had learned it as their third language after their mother tongue and the national language (Swahili, Luganda, or Chichewa)! So we frequently relied on interpreters to convey our words of encouragement and to relay grantee stories of their businesses and the change in their lives. Thank you Ruth, Winkly, Matthews, and Gemma Rose for helping us communicate! The Angel of Inspiration: The Manyamula COMSIP Cooperative (formerly MAVISALO) is a musically inspired group! We were welcomed with songs that had words written just for us. The band, which had used a Cooperative loan to purchase their instruments last year, sang “Feel Welcome.” Matthews, group secretary, led us in verses celebrating all they have accomplished with SIA’s help. “We have a maize mill, we have a motorcycle.” “We have built houses.” “You have done good to help us.” “Feel Welcome” sings the band at the introductory celebration when we first arrived in Manyamula Village. SIA has been supporting families in Manyamula since 2004.