Psalm for the week: A humble victim of a violent take-over

Greetings to all. I have been away from the blog for a short while. It turns out that I needed a break from blogging just to find time to recharge. I’m back fresh, eager, and hopefully humble.

Today, we dig straight into Psalms. The last article in this series was about King David prophesying about Jesus being the King of all the kings of the world. It was a bold prophesy that most likely upset the giant kingdoms of the day.

Now comes Chapter Three, and David is in deep problems. He has had a take-over from within. One of his children has decided to take over the throne instead of waiting for a succession plan. Absalom has moved the people of Israel to rally behind him, forcing David to run away from Jerusalem to seek refuge in the wilderness. The story is covered in the book of Chronicles. It is a moving narration.

Do not be afraid.
Do not be afraid.

But this is what Psalms records:

“Lord, how are they increased that trouble me! many are they that rise up against me.

Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God. Selah.

But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.

I cried unto the Lord with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. Selah.

I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the Lord sustained me.

I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about.

Arise, O Lord; save me, O my God: for thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek bone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly.

Salvation belongeth unto the Lord: thy blessing is upon thy people. Selah.”

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Psalms‬ ‭3:1-8‬ ‭KJV‬‬ http://bible.com/1/psa.3.1-8.kjv

Absalom, the vindictive

Of all the characters of the Old Testament, I find Absalom a very disturbing figure. He does not have a forgiving heart, he’s very ambitious and he’s a skimmer par-excellence. His character first shows up when his half-brother forced himself on Absalom’s sister. This shameful act caused Absalom to react. He plotted an elaborate plan to avenge his sister’s shame. He effected a 2 year plan, and finally managed to kill the perpetrator.

For taking matters into his own hands, the king banished him out of the kingdom. After some years, he was brought back but never enjoyed audience with the king. The state of affairs made him a bitter man. So he planned how he would gain audience again. And it involved setting on fire the harvest of the Army General, just to get his attention, and used him to ask David to meet him.

It worked. But this did not satisfy him. He went on to plan a super grand coup de tat of all times. He hatched a 40 year plan to take over his father’s throne. Talk about focus and determination. 40 years is equal to a generation. And that’s how long he took to implement his evil plan.

In the end, it worked just as he had planned. He took over the throne, kicked the king out of his city, slept with the king’s concubines to debase the public image of David, and had the backing of the majority of the population.

Unfortunately, he missed a point or two in his plan.

David, the humble but wise

Now, enters King David in the picture. When David fled the throne, the High Priest joined him, and came along with the Ark of Covenant. This was the ultimate symbol of God’s presence, and by extension, the spiritual proof that the king was indeed God’s chosen.

But then David does the unthinkable. He asks the priest to take back the Ark to Jerusalem, right in the domain of the enemy. He wanted to see the Ark in its rightful place, rather than clinging to it to legitimize his kingship. He does not utilize the Ark, to serve his personal needs.

And David refuses to fight the young man. Yet, he plans to set his counsel to nought. So he sends into the victorious plotter’s camp, a strategist whose sole purpose was to bring down the new rulership.

By the way, along the way, those that had a gripe or two with king David took advantage of the situation to bad mouth the king. The king’s followers were not pleased with this, and one of them demanded to chop off the offender’s head. David, not surprisingly declined, and took the insults in his stride. What a man!

In the end, Absalom got defeated, killed, and David got restored. The king used the power of humility and wisdom, to get rid of his enemies, and left a big lesson for us all.

Jesus, the more humble and much wiser

Again, this is a prophesy for Jesus. His enemies planned against His downfall for much longer than 40 years. For we are told that He was crucified before the foundation of the world. Genesis introduces the anti-Christ in the Garden of Eden that would bruise His heel. And when He came to the world some 2,000 years ago, the enemies were right beside Him, doing all they could to frustrate His ministry, and in the end terminated His life.

But just like David, Jesus resolved not to fight back. In fact, He forgave those that were baying for His Holy Blood. That’s an amazing character. He died, but that was not the end of it. He rose up Immortal, and is beyond the powers of this world. He is the most powerful person as we speak.

King David, the Brave

So here comes my favourite part:

Verse 6: I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about.

Whoa! There’s more than meets the eye here. Ten thousands of people, is a huge crowd if they constituted the camp of the enemy. So King David was not a coward after all. He just wanted God to intervene. Those are the words of a brave warrior, who never allowed fear to dominate his life even in the darkest moment. He never lost sight of his God, and believed that he would return to Jerusalem in his former glory.

In our day to day life, often we get disturbed by what people say about us. It may be a mouth or two. It may not even be 20 individuals. But then, we allow this to ruin our day, our lives and even our relationships. David here says, even if they were more than 10,000 souls, it would mean nothing as long as God was in control. Think about it.

King Jesus, the Ultimate Warrior

The humble King who was struggling to carry His cross on the way to Golgotha had much more to offer than what the people of His day saw. He was not afraid to face death. He was not ashamed to be crucified as a sinner on our behalf. For He knew He would emerge a victor, having conquered hell and death.

Just like Absalom, the devil got hoodwinked. The external humility of these kings, masked the powerful wisdom that figured out the enemy’s plot, exploited the enemy’s pride, and both emerged victors. And behind that vulnerability, beat a heart that knew no fear.

Of all the prophesies about Christ, I find this one outstanding. And yes, there’s so much to learn from it on how we should deal with life, when caught in our weakest moments. We must turn to God, and not fight back the way the world expects.

When push comes to shove, try to use humility, wisdom and bravery, and see what God will do for you.

Be More Race 2018 Awesome! Moving Forward!

Standard Bank’s Be More Race half marathon 2018 edition took place on Saturday, 9 June in Lilongwe, the capital city of Malawi. It was a great race that more than lived up to its name. To say that Standard Bank and its partners went out of their way to make this event probably one of the best, if not the best city race in Malawi, would be making an understatement. It was simply awesome! It was a great success. On Saturday, Standard Bank moved forward.

People from all walks of life converged at Standard Bank Head Office early in the morning. Everyone was there – professional athletes, club runners, wellness enthusiasts, dignitaries and the curious. It was a congregation of achievers, fighters and hopefuls. It was interesting to see the super fit mix with couch potatoes. One great thing was that all faces were wearing looks of confidence. No one was going to drop out of the race.

I was in the company of my lovely wife, Cathy. This time she was not coming to cheerlead me but to participate in the race. We both registered for the longest hit. The appeal for 21 km was too alluring to resist. We decided to challenge ourselves to the limit. It was both our first time to participate in such a big race. But one thing was for sure, we were ready for it. It had to be done. This was one item off the bucket list.

The race offered three great choices – 21 km, 10 km and 5 km categories. Each category had a different route. The starting off point was the same, but the start off times were different. Those in the 21 km hit were allowed to start first, followed by the 10 km category and lastly the 5 km hit. This was a race for everyone. Families, clubs, groups and friends were encouraged to run together. Little ones were there too.

Leading by example. William and Debbie le Roux in action.
Leading by example. William and Debbie le Roux in action.

The Main Circuit of the Race

The Start Line was placed strategically between Independence Drive and Convention Drive. I did not lose the double meaning, being that we were all preparing to move forward. The Guest of Honour, the State Vice President Right Honourable Dr. Saulos Klaus Chilima joined the race just in time before start-off. He took part in the warm up aerobics. This was followed by the National Anthem. Then he had the honour of signalling the start time for the main event. Exactly at 6:00 am, he shot into the air twice and we all took off. Other than this singular honour, he decided to participate in the event by running too. He had done the same last year at the inaugural Be More Race.

As a blogger (ahem!) I spied on his physique and I could tell he enjoyed doing this. He is in great shape. Surely, I must be able to do something about my physical fitness too. A busy desk job or tight deadlines are not an excuse for not getting fit, and maintaining it by participating in various exercises. The list is endless to choose from, and the frequency is set at daily, with preset rests to allow the body to cope and adjust. Our Vice President joins presidents in the SADC region that are promoting an active health lifestyle, starting from our neighbor in the west, Zambia to further down in South Africa.

Guest of Honour in action. State Vice President, Right Honourable Dr. Saulos Klaus Chilima (middle).
Guest of Honour in action. State Vice President, Right Honourable Dr. Saulos Klaus Chilima (middle).

The fresh first trimester

Before I was at the head of the road from the Start Line, top athletes were already battling for the front line on the Convention Drive. They were thundering down the road as if they were a head of buffaloes. The spirit of competition was palpable. And excitement was in the air too. Today, I was not going to be the last one. Whatever happened, I would make sure that I could use the energy all around me to propel me forward. I had to be more.

By the time I turned into the Convention Drive, I could see that the group had split into two. The first group was out of sight, and I would not see it again till the end of the race. The second group was ahead of me, increasing the gap furiously. I was being overtaken, left, right, centre. Okay, perhaps not centre, unless one would have to jump over me, a thing I hoped would not happen. This was not a gender and age sensitive acceleration. Women, old, and a few young ones were bent on emerging winners in the main race. I could only silently admire them all.

We went up the first slope then dropped down in a descent. It was a gentle slope, as if it was an appetiser of what was to come. Just to be sure, I looked back and I could see that there was still a large crowd behind me. The colorful Standard Bank branded Be More t-shirts were shimmering in the morning light. The competition numbers, most pinned in front, and some pinned at the back, reminded everyone that we were in a serious competition. This was a day to prove one’s mettle.

Presidential Way

Just ahead of the road, Umodzi Park greeted runners as the five-star hotel stood majestically within the park. Just below it, and in front of Bingu International Conference Centre (BICC) stood the finish line. Here was a truth in the saying that so close yet so far away. To get back to this spot, we would have to go round the city before returning from the opposite direction, drenched in sweat.

At the traffic lights, the route joined Presidential Way heading towards the roundabout near the Malawi Parliament building. On our right was the Masoleum, where the body of the founder of Malawi, Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda lies in state.

Past the roundabout the road continues towards Area 18 roundabout. This section is currently under construction. The two single lanes are in the process of being expanded to a dual carriage way. But for now, cars are being forced to utilize one and half lanes, the rest having being taken up by construction barricades.

We added to the traffic pressure by running on the road. Others preferred using the pedestrian track that has seen the best of days. On this section the road goes up twice and down once. The first ascent goes past the Lilongwe Baptist Church on the left and the descent skirts around the Seventh Day Adventist campus.

As we were negotiating the first slope, my friend Patrick Machika appeared from behind. He’s the Deputy IT Director at Accountant General’s Department, under Ministry of Finance. I know he was recently nursing a swollen, and painful knee. And that he was contemplating on not attending this year’s Be More Race.

But here he was galloping in the wind like a stallion. He overtook me, gave me a word of encouragement and disappeared ahead. I greatly admired his tenacity. His wife, Lisnet was somewhere close by with Cathy, my wife. Cathy now had an important duty to stay ahead of Lisnet for my sake.

Gomani Road

After the Area 18 roundabout, we joined Gomani Road. Fortunately, it starts with a downhill slope, giving you a chance to demonstrate your ability to control your pace. But to those that don’t know that this is a race to run with patience, sprint down the road with consequences further down the route.

There’s also construction on this road with two places having physical constrictions. At both sites, we found cars that had left the road and got catapulted into adjacent ditches. I only hope there was no loss to life.

On this road there are about three undulating slopes. I had clocked my best running time in the first trimester. Unofficially, I took the whole route and divided it into three segments of seven kilometers each. And each segment, I called it a trimester for evaluation purposes.

My best time was six minutes and 25 seconds per kilometer. I sustained it up to the first six kilometers. But my best was not good enough. At this pace, I was still being overtaken by other runners.

I suspect that in order to have a decent run, one should run around five minutes per kilometer. Getting yourself to run below that limit will most likely graduate you into the winners circle.

I was not dejected by my performance. On the contrary, I was happy to get to experience first hand how a marathon works. It was also impressive to note that the spirit of outdoors is very much alive in the country.

Every human race was here, and performance is definitely colour blind. To the one who is committed, focused and prepared, the podium of success awaits.

Though I was doing this for fun, it wouldn’t hurt to be among the top three. I will test my ambition in the future Be More races. It will be all about similar routes, same legs and heart but a different approach. It will be about moving forward with a winner’s approach.

The second traditional trimester

The second trimester started on the same Gomani road. As we were going up the last slope, the first station came into view. A certain Caucasian lady who had just overtaken me raised up her hands and screamed, “water!”.

I affirmed. She said she was getting worried but now was clearly happy. She gladly took a bottle of water from one of the crew members and took off with renewed energy.

Immediately after the water point, the route turned into the road towards Ntandire, probably the most popular slum in this area.

The magnificent Bingu Sports Stadium dominated all structures here. And the road went downhill.

We had practiced running on this section with Cathy. By that time, she had to break into a walk just before the last slope on Gomani Road. This time around she completed the first trimester without effort, and shot down the road towards Ntandire. That is called self improvement.

At the bottom of the slope, Lingadzi River crosses the road. Beyond that, Ntandire is on the right and the low density, Area 47, on the left. This river has recently caused havoc to both areas with seasonal flooding.

A recent case that caught the nation’s eye involved a military rescue operation that airlifted two boys from Ntandire that were marooned on a makeshift river island caused by surging waters. The State Vice President was in charge of the successful rescue operation.

Traditional Touch

Just up ahead spectators lined up on both sides of the road. There was a water point too. On the left, women in colorful traditional wear were dancing to Gule wa Nkulu drums. Gule wa Nkulu is a traditional dance practiced by the Chewas, the dominant ethnic group of the central region of Malawi with historical roots from Uganda.

The Be More Race crew on the right was offering water and an energy snack. The snack was peeled sugarcane sticks wrapped in a plastic bag. I was flattered. My recent outdoors have involved experiments with local foods including bananas, roasted local maize and tangerines. Be More Race moved forward with the traditional touch.

The Ntandire Slope

Then came the first true test on the runners. The road went up a significantly steep incline. Other than this spot, there was perhaps only one more section with a similar challenge.

Mariam Matola or Mimitola in short, owner of The Sweat Factory, the famous female-only gym in Lilongwe, had overtaken me while going down the slope before crossing the Lingadzi river. Now, she had slowed down a little bit and I happily overtook her. I did the same to a few more runners but when I got to the top of the slope I tanked.

Then appeared from behind, a lanky runner and encouraged me not to stop. Micheal Baza is a lawyer by profession and he’s no stranger to half-marathons. While in Blantyre he had participated in half-marathons that were organized by an IT company called Burco between 2010 and 2013.

After a little chit-chat, and after the sting of the slope was gone, he took off gracefully. His athletic body made it look easy. He put a decent 200 meters gap between us.

African Bible College, Gateway Mall and beyond

The road flattened and traffic was on the increase. This road is part of the western bypass for road users traveling on the national road connecting the cities. Heavy goods trucks use this road to avoid getting slowed down by the inner city roads.

These heavy truckers had no respect to the tiny runners in blue Standard Bank colours. This forced us to run on the rough dirty tracks while avoiding oncoming cyclists.

There is a big campus on the left for African Bible College, which offers education, a Christian radio and both a community and top of the range hospital services. Next to it is the newly constructed Gateway Mall, famous for modern supermarkets, electronics shops, upmarket saloons and decent banking halls.

Further down the road, we reached Mchinji roundabout and turned left into Queen’s Road. Here the road is gentle, with a a slow uphill like an upturned trampoline.

Mimitola took this terrain to her advantage and overtook me again. Though, I returned the favour down the road, she maintained her lead and finished ahead of me. She has gotten herself into marathon trouble. Next year, all she will see will be my victorious back disappearing in front of her.

Mzimba Road

Down the road, Queen’s emptied into City Mall roundabout. During practice, the route was supposed to turn into M1 on the left. Instead it continued straight ahead into Mzimba Road, which separates the low density Area 6 on the left, and the semi-industrial Area 5 on the right.

This is probably the most beautiful road segment of the entire route. It is a modern road, with light traffic and plenty of tarmac running track. And as a bonus the road was gently slipping downhill. Standard Bank scored twice for this touch.

Just after the roundabout, the countdown began. There was a poster showing 9 km, meaning that was the distance remaining to the finish line. Later on, there was another sign for 6 km then 3 km.

At the bottom of the road, the route reached Amina House roundabout and turned into Chilambula Drive on the left. There was a water point there.

The grinding third trimester

Chilambula Drive offered the last comfort before going uphill. Here the effects of long distance started kicking in. I caught up with a few runners that had charged forward before.

This included Michael Baza. He had stopped to adjust his shoe laces, and I was sure he would be overtaking me soon afterwards. It never happened, and I cannot hide my glee about it. I will be rubbing it in for the next 12 months. Hehehe!

At this point I started contemplating on consistency. Consistency is a currency for all aspects of life. If you are able to do something consistently, regardless of speed of execution, your performance will be somewhat great. But if you could consistently do something with great speed, then you will performing like a superstar.

At the head of the road, the route turned into M1 and slopped towards Lingadzi bridge. Then it turned uphill. Just when the route crossed Area 18 roundabout for the second time, I stopped. My fuel tank was empty and I was running on fumes.

I broke into a brisk, power walk keeping in mind that Michael was catching up.

M1, Chayamba Drive and Chilembwe Road

This was the next tough uphill slope. Botanic gardens were on the right and high density but very popular Area 18 on the left.

In my mind, I was going to cruise past this segment. The reality was that my body was tired, my soles were burning and my right calf muscle was injured. I had endured pain from that muscle for over 10 kilometers and now, it was difficult to tolerate it anymore.

There was a watering hole ahead, and for my sake I decided to arrive there running. I forced a trot and a smile on my face. The crew was very encouraging as had been on all the previous rest points.

I grabbed my bottle of water, declined the sugarcane sticks, and proceeded on my run. As soon as I was past the point I dropped back into a walk. The rest of the way was a combination of walking and running.

Further up the road, the route turned right into Chayamba Drive and turned right again into Chilembwe Road. Low density Area 10 was on the left, and there was plenty of shade from the shadows cast by the mighty mbawa (mahogany) trees that line up both sides of the road.

I overtook a few runners and forced myself up the last slope on Chilembwe Road. Capital Hill, the main campus for government ministries was on the right.

The decision to walk, though seemingly convenient, had cost my key metrics. My average speed had dropped from the six minutes bracket to seven minutes. Hard as I tried to regain it, my tired body simply failed to cope with the strain.

I reached the bottom of the road with Capital Hotel on the left and BICC on the right. The route turned into the Independence Drive and gave the last short uphill stretch. I gave out my best, and dragged myself towards the end.

A race is about finishing it. It doesn’t matter how you started it. It’s all about crossing the finish line. That’s all. Everything else is just tantalizing details to an epic adventure. All eyes are fixed on that crossing line. So I did the same.

The Finish Line

I saw the Finish Line ahead. I looked behind to assess competition. I had been overtaken just when I was getting into Umodzi Park. I did not want a repeat.

I eased across the Finish Line with the best smile I could master, under the circumstances. An overwhelming sense of achievement washed over me. I had just completed successfully my first half marathon. 21 km of sheer pleasure, fun and effort were now under the belt.

I could only lift my eyes to Heaven and say, “Thank you, Lord!”.

I received a medal, my first one, and wore it proudly around the neck.

Cathy, completed her 21 km race and received her medal too.

My Hero

The race attracted people from all walks of life, each one with a story that could inspire us all. But the one that caught my attention was the story of Robert Kapanda, a very close family friend. He was involved in a car accident in 2008, which left him with broken bones on his legs and arm. His beautiful wife, Linda, was left with a broken left arm, and their three months old daughter, at the time, had a broken femur on the left leg.

He underwent several surgeries, and now has pins, a metal plate and screws which are permanent. He can never bend one of his knees, and has to use a pair of clutches to support his mobility.

Against all odds, Robert and Linda decided to participate in the Be More Race. He managed to complete the 5 km hit in one hour 5 minutes. Kudos to Robert and Linda.

I asked him a few questions as follows:

Why did you decide to participate in Be More Race 2018?

I decided to participate in the Be More Race in order to push myself to the unexpected limits. We only limit ourselves in the mind. And I also did it for fun, just to be part of the team.

With my injuries I can comfortably do static exercises. So I wanted to do an outdoor challenge to conquer my fears. I also knew that I would be running my own race, at my own pace – not competing with anyone.

What’s the message to those that might be physically challenged?

Most people who are physically challenged like me limit themselves in the things that they do. It’s like we are afraid of what people will say if we fail to achieve what we want to do physically. We need to accept our disability positively and to participate in the unthinkable sports activities to keep fit as well as socialising. Let us get out of our cocoon as they say. Disability is not inability.

Any last words?

I’m happy that I managed to do 5 km. Many thanks to my dearest wife, Linda, who is always there to lift up my spirits when I’m down with challenges and the frequent arthritis I experience on my left knee. To you Kondaine Kaliwo aka KK, my brother for giving me the confidence that I could do it. To my asisi (sister) Mtendere Gidala, my cheerleader and all friends and family who support me during my daily hustles.

I thank God for the gift of life, and for giving me a second chance in life. Glory and honour be unto Him.

[end of short interview]

Robert Kapanda at the finish line (left). Dr. Matthews Mtumbuka (right).
Robert Kapanda at the finish line (left). Dr. Matthews Mtumbuka (right).

Post Race Events

After this, it was all pomp and celebrations. There were moving speeches by William le Roux, the Standard Bank Chief Executive; Frank Chitembeya, Secretary General of Athletic Association of Malawi; Joseph Mwandidya, Principal Secretary, Ministry of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development; and the Guest of Honour, State Vice President, Right Honourable Dr. Saulos Klaus Chilima.

I chanced a small opportunity to ask Dr. Chilima, if he had a message to the nation. He said:

“Keep healthy! Keep exercising.”

I must say, he looked every bit of his words.

The Standard Bank Chairman, Dr. Rex Harawa and Lilongwe City Council Chief Executive Moza Zeleza graced the occasion too. They joined in the award presentation ceremony. It was colourful.

Dr Rex Harawa (right), Cathy (middle) & myself (left) after the race.
Dr Rex Harawa (right), Cathy (middle) & myself (left) after the race.

The Winners’ List

Women

  1. Too Mercy Telimo, KENYA, 1:22.33
  2. Cecilia Mhango, MALAWI, 1:24:55
  3. Telezisa Master, MALAWI, 1:26:36

Men

  1. Kafasi Kasten, MALAWI, 1:08:51
  2. Kipkogey Shadrack, KENYA, 1:09:02
  3. Chancy Master, MALAWI, 1:09:44

 

 

The Interview with Bill

I managed to get an opportunity to talk to William le Roux, Standard Bank Chief Executive. He was clearly very happy with the event.

Here is an excerpt of our interview:

I already heard from the speech that this was a success. Did you participate?

Yes, I did the 10 km race. And I see that you did the 21 km, so you put me to shame.

(We both chuckled.)

I’m going to have to do 21 km next year.

In your view, do you think you are spreading the word across? Do you think the message is getting home?

I think so. You look around, and you can see we got a bigger field today than last year. And I expect that next year the race will even be bigger.

I don’t want to preempt anything, but I think we need to look at how we can expand this. We had a number of international athletes come in. We had Kenyans, but the Malawian athletes put up a good show, and really competed well.

We will make the race broader. I have a vision for Lilongwe City Marathon. But we’ll have to look at the logistics, and see if it is something we can put together.

That was going to be my next question. 21 km is not a small thing, but Standard Bank is about “Be More”. So could we say ultra-marathon?

Hahaha! I think let’s walk before we run.

What’s your message to Standard Bank customers, the business community and the diplomatic corps?

I would say specifically to Standard Bank customers, in respect of “Be More”, there’s a lot we are doing at the moment. Our customers are going to see a lot of changes in the service delivery channels in the course of a couple of weeks and months. And they will find our main banking hall de-congested and the service much quicker.

I invite them to use our apps on USSD platforms, etcetera. Everyday we are making improvements to our service delivery. And I believe that will make a massive difference.

To our customers, I would also like to invite them to participate. I have seen a lot of our customers at the event today. And as we build up to next year’s event, we’ll be encouraging everyone to come out and share with us.

And I would like to invite everybody to enjoy the day with us. And come and have a look at the services we are offering and the improvements to our customer service that we are making everyday.

So last words?

I think that sums it up. Just again, thank you to Thoko Unyolo and her very capable team. I wish I could name everybody that made this thing a success. All the volunteers, all the staff, the media, the media companies. Guys like yourself that helped to get the word out. We really, really appreciate it.

We can’t do that on our own. And Standard Bank wasn’t on its own. We have got numerous sponsors, some of which I mentioned up on the podium. And all of them contributed to make this a fantastic success.

Thank you very much. I really appreciate it.

Thanks a lot.

[end of interview]

Special Message from Standard Bank’s Chief Executive, William le Roux.
Special Message from Standard Bank’s Chief Executive, William le Roux.

The Take Home Lesson

When all is said and done, here’s the main lesson for me. Challenge yourself to achieve the impossible, and in the process of that, so many other opportunities will show up. I’ve never been a physically active person, but at this stage, it looks like my life after 40 is going to be much more active than when I was a teenager.

Be More Race 2018 Edition opened the door to a world of possibilities. I would like to challenge myself to move forward and attempt a marathon in the foreseeable future.

What about you? What’s the greatest challenge facing you right now? Don’t look away and move back. Move forward. Be More!

Message from the State Vice President on tomorrow’s Be More Race

I have a friend who says the best can get better. It’s a beautiful conceptual model of continuous improvement. Whatever we think is great today, we can make it greater tomorrow.

Be More Race just got that kind of better. When I thought all had been said about the race, today we got an important message. The State Vice President, Right Honorable Dr. Saulos Klaus Chilima of the Republic of Malawi has added his timely support to Be More Race.

He is championing togetherness that different teams have shown during the preparation process. And he believes that the same spirit will help build up the nation.

Wonderful words of wisdom. Pay heed and enjoy the video below:

Be More!

Psalm for the Week: Kings Be Wise and Judges Be Instructed

Psalms 2: Be Wise and Be Instructed

This is our second week in the weekly series on the Book of Psalms where David introduces the Lord Jesus Christ as the all powerful, wise King of kings. Last week we saw David, the king of Israel open the Praise and Worship songs with a powerful statement. As a true leader, he set down the principles for his people to be blessed and remain prosperous.

This week, he turns his attention to the entire world and admonishes them to be wise, listen and learn. Let’s dig in:

“Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.

Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.

Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭2:1-12‬ ‭KJV‬‬

http://bible.com/1/psa.2.1-12.kjv

The Great Wise King is Coming
The Great Wise King is Coming

David the Wise King

It must be great to serve under a spiritual king, especially one who is well rounded like King David. David was a humble man, but he was also very shrewd. He could quickly read situations, seek solutions and bring about tremendous results. Let’s just say David was very wise since sometimes the word shrewd is seen in the negative light.

David the great composer and inspired musician

His exploits inspired others to express conquest with flourish like the time he defeated Goliath, the Philistine Commando. His act inspired women to compose a song that exposed the hate that Saul had for David. But on top of this David himself was a prolific composer. His works are still a masterpiece across the world many generations later.

David the educator

David brought life and meaning to the Law of Moses. Whatever he knew he shared. The more he shared, the more he was inspired with insights on the Word of God. He was responsible for teaching his court, his army, the temple and the citizenry. He was an amazing man.

David the deeper worshipper

He believed in the Supreme Authority of his maker, Jehovah, the God of Israel. And for that reason the spirit of prophecy would fall on him and make him prophesy about the future. Like the case with this Psalm.

Jesus, the all wise anointed King

When David declared this Psalm, most people thought he was talking about himself. After all, prophet Samuel had anointed him as the king of Israel.

It must have been a very difficult position for a humble king to declare this prophecy. It is a big statement to say that the entire world is heathen and that it will be an inheritance to Israel. I can see the envoys from neighboring kingdoms raising their eyebrows very, very high. And diplomats from big and prosperous kingdoms like Egypt must have laughed it off as a wishful statement from a new, young king.

But the spiritual knew different. In the New Testament, the apostles took the same Scripture from Psalms. They said Jesus was the fulfillment of the prophesy. You find this in a moving story in the Book of Acts chapter four. I believe it too.

So what does that mean?

Reading the chapter again, King David introduces Jesus in the most powerful way as an effective leader. He is the One that will take over all the kingdoms of the world. He is not coming back to be a partner to the Republic of Malawi, or any other country as we know them today.

He’s not coming back to understand our way of life, and strike a compromise with modernity. This is one chapter that speaks of complete takeover, and forcing every knee to bow down. Not even King David could achieve that status. No one else can.

Way Out

But before we become engrossed with a picture of power and unbending rule, look at the chapter again. There’s a way out. David instructs all the wise kings and judges to follow and serve the Lord. This has nothing to do with religion, race, or politics. He invites them to submit to God. What’s more? He promises those that do so blessings from heaven.

But are the kings of the world wise? Can he instruct the judges? Are the composers, musicians, educators and worshippers listening? At least, David the humble, wise king did.

Read It Again: Humble Thyself Before God

There is nothing better than the sense of achievement. When you accomplish a difficult task, it feels like you have conquered the world. Nothing, and I mean, nothing can stand in your way.

I’m all too familiar with the deeply intoxicating feeling nowadays especially when I have successfully completed a difficult hike. I can sense my levels of confidence rising up, and more often than not I find myself staring in the face of what used to make me tremble.

Having a Sense Of Accomplishment
Having a Sense Of Accomplishment

This must be a good thing, right? Well, it depends. There’s nothing wrong in gaining confidence and having a sense of accomplishment. However, it is also easy to let the spirit of pride take ahold of you.

In the book of Proverbs it says man’s pride shall bring him low, but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit.

So this is to me. I need to understand 1 Peter 5:6, which says “humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time”. The act of humility has to be done by me, no one else can do for me.

Therefore, I need to read it again. I must have a humble spirit as I conquer one summit after the other. You should do the same. For it is very pleasing to the Lord.

God bless you.

An Interview with Last Year’s Winner of Be More Race – Nalicy Chirwa

The last two days were special. I had the privilege to interview last year’s Be More Race main event winner in the women category. Her name is Nalicy Chirwa, very humble and very easy to interact with. I asked her about last year’s race, and her preparations for this year’s race. Here is what we talked about:

Winners of last year's Be More Race, women category. Nalicy, Top Winner (middle)
Winners of last year’s Be More Race Main Event, women category. Nalicy Chirwa, Top Winner (middle), Doris Fisher (left) & Ellen Nyoka (right)

The Beginning

Tell me about yourself.

My name is Nalicy Chirwa. I’m a professional runner. I stay in Mzuzu.

How did you end up picking up this career?

Our school, Katoto Primary School, got an invitation from Athletics Association of Malawi. AAM wanted 10 school pupils to compete in running. 5 boys and 5 girls were selected. I was one of them. I was in Standard 7 at that time.

When was that?

2009

So what happened next?

I came up second. Then I was invited to compete with seasoned runners, and I came up third. After that we trained and travelled to Lilongwe to compete. I came up fifth. The Secretary General at that time, Mr Frank Chitembeya, encouraged us to continue training. That’s how I got started.

Turning Pro

Another letter from AAM came to our school and invited us to a Cross Country competition in Blantyre. I competed and came first. I was sent to Nigeria for that achievement. In Nigeria, I only qualified in terms of time.

I have been to China, Botswana, Tanzania and several other countries.

Be More Race 2017

So tell me about last year’s Be More Race.

Last year, I did not have enough time to prepare. I took two weeks to prepare. I trained hard and came first.

What was your time?

It wasn’t good. I clocked 1:26:00.

Oh? I did 21 km last Saturday and it took close to 3 hours to complete the circuit.

(Chuckles – politely, I must add).

The Prize Money

So how much did you win last year at the Be More Race main event?

I won K1,500,000.00!

And what did you do with it?

It has helped me a lot. I’m still a student at Njerenjere Private Secondary School. I’m in Form Four. I have used the money to pay for my tuition fees. I also pay for my two sisters – one is in Form One, and the other is in Form Two.

From the same prize money, I also bought a piece of land. And used some of it for buying food at home. Lastly, I took some of the money and started a small business. The business is still a going concern.

Wow!

It made a big difference.

Be More Race 2018

So what’s your message to this year’s Be More Race runners?

Train hard. Listen to your coaches.

What about those that don’t have access to coaches?

We have plenty of regional coaches. Train with them. They are really good. And they will help you a lot to get ready.

What kind of food should one be eating?

Eat balanced diet. Take plenty of water. And eat a lot of fruits.

So how many times should one train per week?

Hahaha! Training is like food, you have to eat constantly. So you should also train all the time. You have to train from Monday to Saturday, or jump a day when you go to church. So that would be either Saturday or Sunday. Or whatever is the holy day in your religion.

How does then one deal with bad weather?

You have to train in all weather. This coming race will take place in June. It may rain on the day. So be prepared to run either in dry weather or when it is raining. You have to train your body to handle any weather pattern.

Are you ready for this year’s Be More Race main event?

Yes. This year I have trained hard for it.

So what’s your message to fellow women?

You have to train hard. You have to be dedicated. Don’t be lazy. I have trained hard for this coming Be More Race. If you don’t work hard, I will come and collect the first prize again. Hahaha!

Hahaha!

And that’s how we finished the interview. Nalicy is a woman of few words. However, she’s hard working, dedicated to the sport, and enjoys running. I can’t wait to see her perform at this year’s Be More Race on 9 June 2018 in the Capital City of Malawi, Lilongwe.

Be More!

Read It Again: Lead Me to the Rock

Lead Me to a Rock That is Higher Than I

One of the toughest activities in the wild is rock climbing. At first sight, a rock may seem bare with no place for a foothold. Upon careful study a path appears and a pattern will reveal itself to take you to the top.

This is one craft I want to master. It will take years to perfect my skill but in the end it will be worth it. Which brings us to the topic of the day. In Psalms 61: 1 – 2, King David is in deep trouble. His heart is overwhelmed and he’s crying to God and he’s praying to God.

Then he asks for an impossible request. Instead of asking God to remove his problems, or to be taken to a soft bed of roses, he asks for a bigger challenge. He tells God “lead me to a Rock that is higher than I”. Neither does he ask God, fly me to the Rock, nor pull me to the Rock. Lead me he says. It means he’s ready to FOLLOW.

When he gets to the Rock, there will be the part of climbing it to get to the top. That is not a small matter. If this is a solution to solving problems when our hearts have been overwhelmed then help me Dear Lord.

So read it again. God wants to toughen us through the challenges we face. When we face problems God does not help us escape by running in the opposite direction. No, he leads us to a Rock that is higher than us. I want to learn from such a God. Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly Birds of Childhood

Birds are probably the most fascinating group of animals outside fish. The colours, the sounds, the feeding habits, the locomotion all hold sway in our endless fascination with them.

When we were young we did not treat all birds equally. Some were good, some bad and others ugly. It had to take books, magazines, wildlife movies and talks to persuade us to regard them differently.

Here’s the list with an example from each category, not exhaustive for the sake of brevity:

THE GOOD

The good included the mighty fish eagle, the versatile kingfisher, the dashing falcon, the dainty sisisi, the feminine phingo, the ruthless mpheta, succulent pumbwa, the powerful tchete, the mysterious mwiyo.

If I’m not wrong, the biggest eagle in Malawi is nkhwazi the fish eagle. It adorns the official emblem for Malawi Police Service. It is majestic, has a sharp eye and its white plumage puts it in a class of its own. I first saw it at Blantyre Zoo then in the wild in Mangochi.

Urban legend raised its status even further. “It never misses a catch!” So we would often be told in our childhood circles. And when we learnt about refraction at school and realised that the eagle has to adjust the position of the prey on the account of bent light rays, it established itself as the ultimate predator of the skies.

THE BAD

Way before I could mention a dozen names, one bird had already stood out for being bad. Owls have very bad reputation among the locals in Malawi. They are connected to witchcraft and superstitions.

Its position of the eyes – in front instead of being on the sides – did not help its cause. And we were told it can twist the neck round and round, following your every movement. One time there was a big owl on the street light two houses away from ours. I shooed it, and it dove straight at me. I had to duck before it pulled back and flew away.

That fixed it as a bad bird. Only to be boarded by literature from the west that calls it wise. Old wise owl? I’m not so sure about that. Give me an eagle any time. Admittedly, owls have fascinating facts top of which is their ability to remain quiet while in flight. The feathers on their wings act as silencers.

THE UGLY

I hesitated coming up with this category least I may be misunderstood. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, so the saying goes. It is indeed true. However, looks or habits might contribute to the beholder thinking otherwise. For example, bats may be interesting birds however the looks department is highly compromised. Their flight pattern makes it worse, and perching on a tree trunk upside down seals it.

Then there was this bird that loves to feed on tadpoles. It likes to stand in muddy or swampy waters. It has a dull brown for a coat. Its neck assumes a terrible posture. Then it decides to have the ugliest nest ever built by a bird. That is not helping the cause Mr Natchengwa. It’s called hamerkop in English.

Here is the thing, in life we cannot all be eagles soaring in the skies above storms and worries of life. Some may very well be the other birds. Don’t feel bad, just praise God for what you are. Don’t try to stick in feathers that don’t belong to you. If you are a hamerkop, build the best ugliest nest you can manage regardless of what one child who grew up in Blantyre thinks of you.

But more importantly, if you are an eagle don’t try to blend in. Reach out for the skies. Let out your scream and hunt for fresh food. Don’t try to please brother hamerkop by scooping out a few tadpoles – they will give you serious indigestion. Don’t dye your wonderful plumage dull brown to fit in.

Let’s remember to stay humble, for the mighty eagle might fly very high but he cannot twist his neck like an owl, or fly quietly.

Life, seen in the beauty of birds, is fascinating.

An Easy Weekend

My Recorded Performance

This Saturday was about taking it easy after a hectic week at the office. So what better way to unwind that waking up at 4 in the morning and heading out for a run. Cathy, my lovely wife, was by my side as a companion and cheerleader number one. She knows how to nurse back my bruised ego to perfect health.

Sampling The Goods

I’ve been following the preparations to the Standard Bank Be More Race slated for 9 June in Lilongwe. The routes for the three categories are out. So I thought of sampling the main route and experience it for ourselves.

Since the main dish has not been served yet, I’ll reserve the detailed narration for later. Suffice to say whosoever settled for the route has a taste for finer things in life.

Walking parts of it, and running the rest of it, the experience was awesome.

The Recording Glitch

I had wanted to record every inch of the way. I set up the running app and got going. After playing the first power song, everything went quiet. Nearly two kilometers later, the system went back online.

Fortunately, Cathy’s app worked smoothly. So we have a perfect record of the distance covered, thanks to her alertness.

Cathy’s Perfect Record

The Verdict

I intend to sample out the remaining routes in the days to come. But for the main route all I can say is it is JUICY, ENGAGING and totally SUCCULENT!

You cannot afford to miss the day. So keep the date: 9 June 2018.

See you there.

Put Your Literary Cap On

Standard Bank has dangled a carrot to poets out there to write a Love Letter to Malawi. The closing date is 22 May 2018.

So basically use the weekend to take out a paper and pencil and start scribbling something. Reach deep into your heart and bring out the inspiration. Share your thoughts with the world.

Send your works of wonder to:

Maria Bauleni

Maria.Bauleni@standardbank.co.mw

0997 054 569

Wait no further. Please, give it a go.

By the way, the winner will get a cool K100,000.00. Not bad for a Love Letter!