Buying land, like most legal activities, is quite different here. Here’s how it happened!
The day that we bought the land was pretty interesting. Our deacon, Brennan, and I met with the seller, his uncle, son, and brother (might have been his nephew- I forget) before going out to the land. We wrote up a document saying they were selling the land to our church, and then the seller and his two witnesses signed, and then Brennan and our deacon, Cephas, signed.
After the paper was signed, we bought a crate of soda and headed out to the property. On the way we stopped for the seller’s dad/uncle. The plot was a family plot, so I think the male heads had to be there to agree to sell it. When we arrived, we met with the chief of the village that the land is in, and his two witnesses. Together we walked around the perimeter of the land then sat under a tree to discuss the sale.
The chief made some formal remarks and then asked the seller’s family if they were sure they wanted to sell the plot. Once they said yes, he asked us if we were satisfied with the land. We said yes and then he went on to tell the family that the land is no longer theirs and they have no say about what we do with the land. Then he told us that because we have bought the land from the community, we need to make sure that whatever we do there benefits the community (he is still the chief over our land, but we own it).
Once everything was clarified—yes they want to sell and yes we want to buy, the chief blessed them and said that God would definitely bless them because they sold their family land to a church. After all of that, the chief copied down the paper we wrote previously, stamped both papers with his official chiefdom stamp, and then we finished our sodas and left.
It’s interesting how things work here. The land belonged to the family, but because they were in that village, it was under the authority of the chief. When they sold the land to us, they technically handed it back to the chief, then he handed it over to us, but it is still within his domain. I didn’t really realize how much legal authority the chiefs here hold. I feel like the best comparison I can make is that there are mayors who report to the governor (the chief that we met with would be considered the governor) who are under the federal authority of the president of Malawi. Also, fun fact, I learned how chiefs are chosen in the Chewa tribe. The current chief’s sister’s son is the next in line to become the chief. It passes through the nephew. However, if the next-in-line doesn’t want to become chief, the position is moved to one of his siblings (I’m not sure which sibling is chosen though), and that’s how there are occasionally female chiefs.
Thank you all for your prayers concerning this process! Please keep praying that it works out and we’re able to keep the Feast here if that is indeed God’s will.