Josie and Norman Chinkono – Part 3: Reunion and New Blessings

Part 3:  Reunion and New Blessings

If you haven’t read Part 1 of Josie and Norman Chinkono’s story, click here to read it.  If you haven’t read Part 2 of Josie and Norman Chinkono’s story, click here to read it.

At the end of Part 2, we left Josie and Norman as they both decided to return to school for their Master’s degrees and were working full time and raising their children Vanessa and Victor.

In 2015 Josie and Norman traveled to Malawi to start the adoption process for Josie’s niece Chimwe Mwe (her name means “joy”).  Chimwe Mwe was orphaned when her mom died unexpectedly after a short illness in 2005 and her dad in 2012. Josie had promised her sister that she would take care of her children if something happened to her.

Chimwe Mwe’s older sister Dalitso (her name means “blessings”) was sad that Chimwe Mwe was leaving but she was too old to be adopted.  Josie wanted to keep her promise to her sister so she made preparations for Dalitso to attend Minot State University in North Dakota.   She began attending college there while Chimwe Mwe was still in Malawi waiting for the process to be complete.

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Dalitso at Minot State University

If you remember, Norman hadn’t returned to Malawi since he left in 1998 and hadn’t seen any of his family.  Josie and her mom (Petrolina) decided to surprise Norman’s family and didn’t tell them of his impending visit. Since Norman’s family is very poor, Petrolina took everything they would need to host a celebration (food, cooking pans, dinnerware).  They were told the village was going to have “visitors” and were asked to cook food for the celebration.  On the day of Norman’s arrival, they came out to greet the “visitors” but they didn’t recognize Norman or the children.  They had the food ready for the celebration but went back inside their home (the food was set up outside).  Petrolina went into the house and said, “No, no come outside and look again.”  Then the tears started flowing and the reunion began!

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The Chinkonos with some of Josephine’s family members who welcomed them at the Kamuzu International Airport in The Chinkonos with some of Josephine’s family members who welcomed them at the Kamuzu International Airport in Malawi (2015). This was at a hotel where they spent the first three days in Malawi.
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Norman and his extended family at one of his two sister’s houses which was still under construction which Norman helped finance
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Some of Norman’s extended family members (2015). Norman’s two sisters in the far back.

Since Norman couldn’t return to Malawi for either of his parent’s funerals, Josie and Petrolina planned a surprise memorial service.  It was bittersweet since the family wasn’t certain exactly where they were buried.  As you see in the pictures, the burial areas are covered in tall grass.  Norman has been working hard and saving money to build tombstones and headstones for four burial areas – two for his parents and two for his brothers who also passed away when Norman was in the US. He said, “these headstones will serve not only as remembrance of my parents’ and my brothers’ lives but also as identification marks for their burial places.”

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Norman, Josie, Vanessa and Victor after they laid a wreath at Norman’s mother’s burial place
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Norman and Josie laying a wreath on his father’s burial place identified by the wooden stick in the right of the picture
Josie, Chimwe Mwe and Norman outside the High Court of Malawi
Josie, Chimwe Mwe and Norman outside the High Court of Malawi just after the adoption decree was granted

Chimwe Mwe’s adoption took almost 18 months and it was a time of uncertainty for all.  The high court of Malawi had to approve the adoption and the paperwork took such a long time.  Finally, in September she arrived and is currently attending Noblesville High School as a junior.  In Malawi, Chimwe Mwe was already attending university at 16 years old.  She is very bright and is trying to test out of her junior year of high school so she can graduate next year.  Currently, she has already taken and tested out of 3 classes and is working on testing out of more.   Her goal is to attend Notre Dame.

Josie is thankful for the response of our congregation during the adoption process and appreciates all the prayers they received.  She said people were constantly asking for updates and so supportive.  “It was very nice.”  Chimwe Mwe didn’t know there was going to be a celebration for her and when she saw the cake she was tearful and so happy.  “We just feel like home.  Everyone is so warm and nice – very nice.  We feel welcome and comfortable.”  When we first came to FPC, we noticed that we were one of the only black families but now we don’t even notice.

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Celebration at FPC
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Dalitso and Vanessa at FPC

When I was talking to Josie about their faith, she says they were born and raised Presbyterian.  The Presbyterian church has been a huge presence in Malawi for over 140 years.  What really struck me was the many ways Josie and Norman walk their faith.

First, they had the faith to travel 8,400 miles to start a totally new life and only knew one person.  They believe in the opportunities for education and keep pursuing their dreams. Josie and Norman support their family in Malawi in many ways.  They get daily calls for help because when they call and say they don’t have anything; they really don’t have anything.   There is no food in the house when they say they don’t have food.  They send money on a regular basis to help with basic needs.  When they left Malawi last year, they left four suitcases of clothes and shoes to help. Not only does Norman’s family not have money to buy things but things aren’t available except on the black market which is very expensive.

Josie said, “Sometimes we feel badly about eating out when we have food at home and our family in Malawi doesn’t have food.  My mom helps orphans and so many people through her church so we want to help her.   We pack our old clothes into containers and save them in hopes that we can send them on a ship headed to Malawi.   It costs $250 per container to ship them.  The contents aren’t even worth $250 but the things we send them are helpful – especially the shoes since it is so very hot.”  Speaking about this brought Josie to tears saying it was so sad to see how they are living.  “If I help them today then even tomorrow they won’t have anything to eat.”   Her sister earns an equivalent of $48 per month.

Josie said there is basically no medicine; the lines of people are down the street for a Tylenol.  They don’t have any kind of advanced medicine – no gloves are used in the hospital; no tests are run.

Josie and Norman are paying college tuition for themselves, their niece Dalitso, and two of Josie’s nieces in Malawi. Norman helped finance the construction of a house for one of his sisters.   If you listen to Norman and Josie, they speak about these things in a matter of fact way.  Like we all do these kinds of things.  I see Christ’s love in their actions, in their smiling faces, in the joy in their voices.

Josie has never wanted to move back.  Life here is totally different.  Financially they are much better off and if they had remained they don’t know what kind of life they could live.  Norman feels he is better off here than he would have ever been in Malawi. He helps support his siblings in Malawi and this is the only way he could help them.

“God is wonderful (in) how he turns things around and I cannot thank Him enough for everything He has done for us.  It’s like a dream to me – I’m a registered nurse here.”  Josie Chinkono

Thank you Josie and Norman for sharing your story.  We at FPC are blessed to have you in our congregation!

On a personal note, listening to Josie’s story of their life and the family they have in Malawi made international missions come alive in a totally new way for me.  I feel led to help their family in Malawi in some way.  If you have the same feeling, let’s get together with Josie and Norman and have a conversation.  See me at church or email me at anne.kenley@fpc-noblesville.org