• Nora

My sister, Lyca

Updated: Apr 15, 2020

I have mentioned Lyca a number of times in my blogs, but today I want to talk more about her so you can understand why she has been so important to me. Lyca is one of the three volunteers with Friends of Prisons.

One of my great privileges in Malawi was to be called "sister" by a kind and gentle woman of a different race. We actually only met in person a few times and exchanged a number of messages on WhatsApp, but I really feel we are sisters because of the way Lyca took me under her wing and made me feel that I mattered to her, that I belonged there, that it was my home and she was my family. It's very humbling to be welcomed as an equal by someone you really respect and look up to, as I do Lyca. I know she is human and therefore not perfect, but she is a remarkable woman, faithful and faith-filled, a good example to follow in many ways.

Why is she so remarkable? You have to understand that there is no culture of volunteerism in Malawi. For one thing, most people are very busy just trying to make a bare living and thus have no extra time to volunteer. They also haven't the financial resources to volunteer. Maybe there are more reasons. All I know is that our friend Rammy, who is a remarkable man in his own right, told me that it's simply not in their culture to volunteer because they can't afford to. But Lyca volunteers much, if not all, of her time during the week to visit the inmates in various prisons all over the area. She feels a strong calling to do this. In fact, as she told me once, her sense of calling is so strong that, if she tries to work at her business (sewing for people) instead of going to do her prison ministry, she has no peace, actually has physical pain, until she puts away her sewing and goes to make her visit.

She also has a very strong faith. She told me about the day she left her home to visit the prison, and there was no food in the house. That day, someone offered her a bag of maize (Malawi's staple food). When she said that she had no way to get it to her house, they said they would deliver it there themselves. Lyca believes that was God's way of providing for her and her family. As I said, she takes her faith very seriously.

Lyca is also generous. One of my first experiences of her is the day she visited me at my house (which it turns out is quite a distance from hers) to deliver a present for me. I felt somewhat abashed, as I hardly knew her at the time. But she was determined. She had made me a slip to wear under my very thin skirts. Not only was it a generous gift from a woman who could ill afford it, but it was a tactful way of making sure that I was appropriately and modestly dressed.

She and Rammy also took my husband Steve and me with them one day to visit Chichiri and Mulanje prisons. I have told that story already, along with the aftermath of my making the prayer shawls for those women. I consider it another indication of Lyca's generosity that she was willing to share her relationship with these women with me. Meeting them enabled me to feel a part of the Friends of Prisons team by making those shawls. I pray that eventually Lyca will be able to deliver them. If not, I will trust her to distribute them where they will do some good. After all, she is my sister!

I should mention that we finally finished our time in quarantine and actually left the apartment to do our own laundry and to go grocery shopping. It was exciting! Lest you worry about us going out too much, I will say that we continue to take seriously the pleas to stay home as much as possible. Sigh.

Lyca at her sewing machine.

Lyca at Mulanje prison.

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