By Stan Smith, CEO of PB+J Foods, Inc.
Many of my granddaughters’ favorite bedtime stories start with “Once upon a time in a land far way”… well, I can tell you about a “land far away” that has become my reality—Malawi, Africa. Malawi is half way around the world. A person cannot go any further from Laguna Niguel, California to serve the Lord, yet that is where I found myself in 2007. I quickly realized this was not a one and done trip.
It was during one of these trips that the Lord grabbed my heart for the children who, solely based on circumstance of birth location, would die of Severe Acute Malnutrition SAM. In 2010, after working for years with other non-profits and humanitarian organizations in Malawi, it happened. My heart was pierced. My mission buddy, Mark Meintel, and I were driving through the remote villages of Nkhoma, Malawi; I saw a little boy kicking a home made soccer ball (plastic bags tied into a ball) I wanted to give him a real soccer ball in exchange for his “real” African ball. So we stopped, and I took off after him around the huts. When I reached his mud hut, mom was cooking over an open fire, dad was cutting weeds in the field and the little guy was just trying to have fun kicking his ball. Then—I saw her. She was lying on the house’s mud porch, covered in a blanket up to her chin, she was sweating, lifeless…silent. I got the story through our translator. The girl was 5 years old had Malaria, and was about to die. I prayed for her with her folks, and then went on my way. The next day, as we passed those same huts, I discovered that she had died early that morning. I could not get her out of my mind, and frankly still can’t.
Later that day I was at the Nkhoma Hospital NRU (Nutrition Rehabilitation Unit), and I saw a little boy in the arms of his mother, he was wasting away from Severe Acute Malnutrition. His mother was hopeful and faithful that something could be done; she had carried her little boy for 11 miles to try to get help. I held him and again prayed for the boy and his mother. He died two hours later. WHY, WHY, WHY were these children put along my path in life?
To this very day, I feel sorrow inside for not taking the little girl with us back to the hospital. I know logically that her fate was already sealed, but, in my mind, I did not do everything I could to help her. The loss of the little boy the next day compounded that sorrow tenfold. What can I do—I am just one man? Well, I knew one thing for sure—if I chose to do nothing, then shame on me.
Organizations I was working with at the time started an “End Malaria Deaths Campaign”, and Malaria nets were provided to all the families. We sprayed 17,000 huts twice a year and the Malaria rates were dropping significantly. During our review of the programs in March of 2012 we were reviewing deaths from Malaria when it was stated, as if a rule, that “children under 5 will all die of Malaria”. Why? Because they are so malnourished their little bodies cannot fight off Malaria. I thought to myself, we need to improve their nutrition so that they can survive a bout of Malaria. It is a fact that everyone will get Malaria in Malawi sometime during his or her life. So how do we improve nutrition? Chiponde – RUTF peanut paste was the answer, but how could they afford it? They could not! So why not make our own? That statement from Dr. Terharr flipped my switch to ON. That was the answer. That was my response to the reality of death that had struck me to the core not once, but twice. Thus, PB+J Foods, Inc. was born. Today, and every day for the rest of your life, YOU have the opportunity to make this “land far away” your home as well. Join me in Malawi! Please visit www.pbjfoods.org/animation