Warm heart of Africa

Madelyn Fish talks about her time in Makwasa, Malawi


Madelyn Fish is a junior exercise science and pre-occupational therapy major who is currently serving in Makwasa, Malawi, a rural area about an hour and a half south of the nearest city, Blantyre. She teaches at Malamulo Adventist International School (MAIS), a small, two-room primary school with nine students spanning multiple languages, nationalities, cultures, and grade levels. The first half of mornings are spent leading song service at worship and teaching core classes (English, reading, math, and spelling) to grades K–2. The second half of the morning, and during afternoon sessions, she and Kelby, her fellow student missionary, teach Bible, science, history, music, physical education, and art to all of the students.

Madelyn and Kelby share a few highlights from the school year so far: birthday celebrations, costume day, cookie decorating, a Christmas nativity program, fun crafts, LOTS of capture the flag, and Football Club every Wednesday afternoon. They both love getting to know the kids and spending time with them. Madelyn recently shared an update on her service time so far.


Time has been flying here in Malawi—the end of January marks five months since I boarded a plane to Africa and embarked on the adventure of a lifetime. It’s hard to believe mytime here is more than halfway over. Here’s a brief update on some of my adventures, experiences, and challenges over the past five months.

The first few months of our time in Malawi were incredibly hot, but in December we transitioned into the rainy season. The rainy season is very humid, featuring cloudbursts and impressive thunderstorms. Attempting to teach during a power outage with rain pounding on the tin roof, thunder booming, and nine children bouncing off the walls has proved to be just one of the many unique challenges teaching at MAIS provides.  

While teaching has its challenges, there have also been an overwhelming number of rewarding moments. It has been so exciting to see progress as my Malawian first grade students learn how to read. They are also very excited about their newest English project, writing and illustrating their very own story. We recently welcomed a new kindergarten student from Zimbabwe to our classroom, and it has been so fun to see her excitement and enthusiasm for learning. My students make me laugh every single day. I love their big smiles and mischievous antics. They help me practice patience and compassion, and they fill my days with joy. 

I have experienced countless blessings here in Malawi. One of the biggest blessings is the community Kelby and I have discovered here. The long-term mission families stationed at Malamulo welcomed us with open arms, and ever since our arrival they’ve continued to open both their homes and hearts to us. We’ve shared many memorable potlucks, Sabbath afternoon walks in the nearby tea fields, and game nights together. I feel so thankful for each family. Kelby and I have also enjoyed getting involved with Children’s Ministries at the local church, rotating as teachers in both the junior and primary classes. 

Malawi is known as the “Warm Heart of Africa,” and it’s easy to see why. The people of Malawi are incredibly kind, friendly, and welcoming. It has been a joy to build new connections, and our Malawian friends are always eager to help us learn new phrases in Chichewa. A recent highlight was traveling to a nearby village a few weeks ago to cheer on our friends as they played in football and netball matches.

A big blessing has been the ability to travel and explore. I am convinced Malawi is one of the most beautiful places on earth. I’ve loved seeing God’s beautiful creatures up close: lions, elephants, hippos, giraffes, zebras, colorful birds, and all sorts of other creatures. We enjoyed exploring Lake Malawi during our term break in October and spent time scuba diving, kayaking, and snorkeling with tropical cichlids. Just recently we spent a long weekend hiking and adventuring in Zomba, Malawi’s former capitol. Zomba Plateau is an incredible jungle-like hiking paradise with stunning views, rich history, waterfalls, and lots of birds. This spring we hope to climb Mt. Mulanje, a towering 9,849 foot massif near Malawi’s border with Mozambique.

Another blessing is the beauty of being outside of my comfort zone and experiencing growth as an individual. I have learned so many things since arriving last August. There have been little areas of growth such as learning to barter for veggies at the market, navigating life with unreliable electricity and water, and becoming comfortable with the constant presence of incredibly large bugs and spiders. (I’ve learned mosquito nets help to keep out much more than just mosquitos!) I’ve grown accustomed to sweating by 7 a.m., the balancing act required to teach multiple grade levels, and consuming more beans, rice, and oatmeal than I thought humanly possible. I’ve learned having a sense of humor is both healthy and necessary for survival. Navigating bizarre occurrences with laughter and grace has proved to be the best way to deal with indoor bat encounters and worm infestations.

There are also bigger things I’m continually learning and wrestling with, like how to live and interact in a new cultural context; how to come to terms with the poverty I witness each day; how to teach in a multigrade, multicultural school; how to be present even when I’m exhausted; and, most importantly, how to put my life in God’s hands and trust His plan and purpose. One of my favorite quotes by missionary Jim Elliot says, “Wherever you are, be all there.” Or, as one of my missionary friends here in Malawi says, “Be where your shoes are.”

This concept of immersing oneself in the present has served as a key facet of personal growth during my time in Malawi. It can be so easy to fall into the trap of missing home, ruminating on anxieties, and becoming detached from the experience at hand. It’s a constant battle to remain present, whether in rural Africa or suburban America. My experiences in Malawi have taught me there is so much value to be found when we are present in each moment. I’ve also realized this is entirely impossible on my own. It is only when we prioritize daily communion with our creator and allow the Holy Spirit to guide our thoughts and actions that we can be present, love well, and live freely. When we cast our cares, fears, and anxieties on Him, we find the strength to live a life of abundance—unabashed and empowered to serve those around us.

I am beyond thankful for your support and prayers throughout my time here. I would so appreciate your continued prayers for Kelby and me, our students, the Malamulo mission, and the people of Malawi.

Sending love from the warm heart of Africa,

Posted Feb. 15, 2024.

Madelyn Fish with her students in Makwasa, Malawi
"The end of January marks five months since I boarded a plane to Africa and embarked on the adventure of a lifetime," said Fish.
Madelyn reads to her students outside
Madelyn has found teaching kindergarten, first, and second graders both challenging and rewarding.
Madelyn and her students hold a hand-drawn sign.
Madelyn and a group of children play in a waterfall