A letter from Catherine Day in Malawi
Pang’ono pang’ono is a Chichewa phrase that means “little by little.” It is a very common response to all sorts of questions, a response that has come to mean a great deal to me recently — maybe because I find myself using it so much. But in using it I have gained a different perspective on situations and on God’s timing for things.
I first find myself using it when asked how things at Chigodi Women’s Center are progressing. This question comes repeatedly from pastors and church members who have heard of the hard times Chigodi is having and want to know if things are changing. So they ask and I respond, “Pang’ono pang’ono.” They smile and seem to understand that recovery from financial problems takes time. They nod and say, “That’s good.” Recently the questioning had been personal, about my recovery from hip surgery. Again I reply, “Pang’ono pang’ono." Again, those inquiring nod and respond, “That’s good.” When asked how I am progressing with learning Chichewa, I respond, “Pang’ono pang’ono” because that is the reality. I am learning little by little, slowly. You get the idea.
Pang’ono pang’ono is a response to a great many of the questions about how life is progressing because the reality of life is that things usually change or move slowly. That is not the reality that most of us from the Northern Hemisphere like or like to hear. We have been conditioned to expect things to come quickly, instantly, immediately. When they don’t, we are frustrated or irritated. We think something is wrong and we are being cheated or being treated unfairly. That is not a Malawian understanding of life. Here things just take longer to happen. It takes longer at the bank or at the grocery store or just getting through traffic than we would expect in the States. Malawians have no other expectations. They move pang’ono pang’ono in a line and never complain.
But as I reflect on the situations of my life, there really is progress happening and a pang’ono pang’ono outlook allows me to appreciate that progress rather than being frustrated that it is not faster. Chigodi is progressing. We have had three significant programs this month that are addressing life issues for the women who attended the programs. They were small programs, but they made a difference for the women in attendance. We have two new income-generating projects that benefit the women who are doing the sewing and help the Center begin to pay its own way. Then, I am healing well. I’m now walking without a crutch and pang’ono pang’ono the limp is disappearing. I have no pain when I walk. That is cause to praise God. My Chichewa is coming along. I have a few more phrases that I am comfortable using, and I am understanding much more of the conversations around me.
As I reflect on all of this, I think that pang’ono pang’ono is God’s plan for our sanctification. It is little by little that I learn kindness and patience and gentleness and faithfulness and all the other fruits of the Spirit that God wants to grow in my life. All of these things happen, pang’ono pang’ono, in the situations of my life. My prayer for this month is that we might all grow into the likeness of Christ, pang’ono pang’ono, and that we learn to appreciate that approach to life. I think I’m learning, pang’ono pang’ono.
The 2010 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 59