Category Archives: adventures
We had some transition time back to the western world in England.
I do believe that I have spent more time in the Amsterdam airport than any other airport. So on this trip home, we once again spent several hours in that airport. But in England, we actually got a chance to see London for a few days. It was absolutely lovely. It was also a good way to experience the western world before being home.
When walking through the Amsterdam airport I was confronted with the media and advertising that invades our daily life. Stimulation overload. There were bright lights, colors, and photographs in every direction. Music filled the background in some places. I was going from a place with limited resources to a place with unlimited.
Consumerism and media go together because one feeds the other. In America, we have so many things that we don’t know what to do with them all. There are even devices for washing your mushrooms. In Africa, there is a limited amount of things and they always want more. While in the villages, a common phrase we heard was the only English phrase that many people in Malawi know, give me money. You may be thinking why. Well, since whenever people started to come from the western world to Malawi, they gave money. In the name of Jesus, they did philanthropy. Therefore, what people know when they see someone from the western world, is that there is money to be had. And they know they don’t have to work for it, they just open a palm. Although the plea for money is prevalent in America, it just has a different face. It is in the constant mailing requests from numerous organizations, it is the homeless people on street corners holding signs, it is the lady in the mall parking lot trying to sell candles because times have been tough for her family. One difference is that in America the poor often seem to be alone, whereas in Malawi the poor are with their families and villages. After living in a place where water and electricity came as gifts, I would now be stepping back into a world where such things are expected as a basic needs. How would I cope?…well as I rode on the moving sidewalk in the Amsterdam airport and walked the streets of London, I was both overwhelmed and refreshed.
I don’t know where to start.
So much has happened since my last blog. My parents came to Malawi to visit. The mission trip team came from LJPC. There was our send-off service at Lingadzi. We said goodbye to the team. I came down with a cold. We tried to pack up our life. Then people came to say a few last goodbyes.
Now I am sitting in a pub in Notting Hill drinking a Guinness and trying to figure out what it all means. It’s raining outside. All is wet and cold. I can only hear out of one ear because of my congestion. Where are we going from here? How will our life be different forever because of this experience? Where do I begin in processing the events of the last ten months?
The fact that I am drinking a Guinness shows that I am ready to make a transition back to my own culture.
When visitors came I learned that no matter what I said, wrote, or did, I could not instill a sensitivity to Malawian culture that I had attempted for so many months myself. No matter what, no one could learn in two weeks what took me ten months. What was I thinking?
If people are not willing to learn, teaching doesn’t do much. In Malawi I saw a ton of willingness to learn and desire for further education. I also saw indifference and little desire to learn or change. I do suspect that I would find this anywhere in the world. No matter where I am, I assume that there will be people who want more and those who are content with what they have.
A mission trip is a lot of work. It is unlike any other type of visit. Plus, Americans are high maintenance. We like to be comfortable. We like to have a plan. We like to have a back-up plan. Being in Malawi, life happens. I would be pleasantly surprised when life worked out. But I learned quickly that I should not plan much, because it would fall through. The first month we were there, I searched for a fan; this took several days and multiple stores. An excursion that I thought would take an afternoon took a while longer. So I stopped having expectations. This way, how could I be disappointed? But I like people to be happy, especially if I am hosting. So I tried and failed to make things go exactly as planned. Another reminder that no, I am not in control, God is. One day when we were on the bus, there was worry that we would run out of fuel. Our friend Jason said to me, “Do you believe Jesus is Lord?” and of course I said I did and to this his response was that all would be okay. Of course it was. Which shows how deep faith is in Malawi. This is something that will remain in my heart.
The send-off service was wonderful. David preached. There were speeches from the church session clerk, the synod representative, the presbytery representative. I even gave a short speech. Then many handshakes, hugs, farewell gifts and smiles. My favorite part of saying goodbye came during the following Sunday when I was in with the Sunday School children and they were sharing loving thoughts and words of gratitude. Bester says to me, “I am wishing you a friendly good luck, safe journey, it is a tough world people can die, as believers we live forever”. He is right. This is a tough place to live because death happens. People do choose to live in opposition to God. They do choose to hurt, to smash, to lie, to steal. The wonderful thing is that we don’t have to live that way. We can choose to love. We can choose to love God and love people. It is my hope and prayer that with the power that only comes from the Holy Spirit, that God would help me to live a life of love and not that other stuff.
When I went away to college from San Diego, California to Spokane, Washington, I was looking for a new experience and expecting adventure. It is true that my experience at Whitworth shaped me more and my faith deepened. I also found amazing friends there; some who I have lost touch with and others that have remained close despite the distance.
When I came to Malawi, I came looking for a new experience, hoping that it would deepen my faith and I was also expecting adventure. All these things I have certainly found. I have also formed friendships that may fade with distance and time, but I am sure a few will remain close, despite the distance.
In both cases, going away has taught me that home will always be home. There will be no other place where I can enjoy the ocean that I grew up near my whole life. The ocean that I visited daily as a child. The ocean where my husband proposed to me. The ocean where I spent the fourth of July almost every year, playing over-the-line with friends. There will be no other place where I spent countless ours playing soccer starting from when I could kick a soccer ball. No other place where I took my first step, said my first word, squished mud between my toes for the first time, broke my first bone, had my first win, my first loss, took my first photograph, had a broken heart for the first time, considered the value of life for the first time, encountered Jesus for the first time…
When I left San Diego to step into this new adventure, I knew I would miss all the people and places that hold so many memories. I also know that new memories would shape up in Malawi. They have, good and difficult ones.
God has taught me a few things, or reminded me of lessons I continue to learn again and again. God has taught me that God will give the strength to live my faith actively each day. God has also taught me that when I fail, there will be grace and mercy for me. I have also learned that any good fruit that grows in my midst has not much to do with anything that I have done, but has only to do with how much God has done. I just happen to have been nearby to see it happen.
Yes, I will miss our friends in Malawi, and yes, I am looking forward to going, home.
I am sure that we have all experienced times when life is, not as we had hoped. We have had to find strength, comfort, or encouragement, to face those things that didn’t quite go as we had hoped. Life is full of unmet expectations and disappointment.
I have written about how, what I considered to be the basics (water, electricity) my whole life, are not always available here. During the rainy season, the water was abundant, clearly. Then come May, the water stopped falling from the sky. So therefore, this week at about nine o’clock in the morning, the water pressure decreased and by ten, the tap was dry. Of course, even though this has happened so many times that I should have been expecting it, but I was, once again, let down. It doesn’t seem to matter where in the world I find myself, life is and always will be filled with disappointment. But this is not really a bad thing; this world is not our home. There is life with God after we leave this place. And while we are here, God can provide what we need to step through each day.
God reminded me this morning in 1 Peter, chapter 5, “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of grace, who has called you to his eternal glory of Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.”
So I am being humbled, just a little. However, it is good to know that God is and will continue to sustain me. No matter how small or large the discontentment may be.
I got to see monkeys on my birthday!
So the evening before, our friend, Sydney decided to come for a visit. He had some business to take care of in town and came here to sleep for the night, and of course chat a bit. When he found out it was my birthday the following day he said I would be a baby again. Then I mentioned that I was planning to wake up in the morning and make breakfast, his response was that I couldn’t do that because I was a baby again and babies don’t know how to make breakfast. Fine with me, David could cook then.
Of course, my birthday breakfast of egg surprise, breakfast potatoes, and tea was lovely. Then we were off to Malingunde to visit the CCAP youth camp, meet with the pastor and take pictures of the school for the blind to send to the mission team who is doing some work there in June. Naturally, we had a quality meeting and then when we were leaving Malingunde CCAP I noticed some monkeys walking around. Pretty fun.
We made it back to the house for a few minutes and then we went off to meet with a friend about our upcoming camping trip. Exciting.
For dinner, Vasco and Mada got a few people from their church together to have a birthday dinner for me. Again, the baby thing, I couldn’t possibly make my own dinner! Besides Vasco and Mada, I had only met the other people one time and they opened their home to us. It was some good fellowship and quite a blessing that our friends here would take their time to prepare a delicious meal. We were able to relax and laugh together which is so fun. There was a gift, a card, and they even had a birthday cake!
Here are a few photos from the day:
Day 1: started with a meeting at 7:30 in the morning, tea, bread and then off to church for the first service which went from nine in the morning until twelve noon, more or less. I skipped out after about twenty minutes to see what I could do to help the ladies who were preparing lunch at manse number one. The electricity happened to be off so the cooking was done over three different fires. Have you ever made rice over a fire? Well, I witnessed it this day. It’s like camping. Then people started returning to the manse and I was sent to the sitting room to chat with one of the visiting pastor’s wives. It was a pleasant chat, and then lunch was served at about 1:00. After that we scurried to manse two to sit for about ten minutes before it was time to go back to church for the afternoon service. David spoke about revival meaning new life and that this was a time to consider what newness might be offered to us today. Perhaps some had just known about God but had not yet actually known God. Others might want to meet God in a new way. Still others might want to offer themselves up in prayer. Some was in English and then was translated into Chichewa and some was in Chichewa only. I think it was past five when the service ended with the Lingadzi women’s choir singing a song as people exited the church. Then, by God’s grace, the power was back on just in time to prepare dinner. I was happy to open the fridge and find that the contents were still cold.
Day 2: I decided to make some scones to share at the 7:30 meeting, so I was up at an early 6:30 in the morning. Again, the meeting transpired, food, then this time we were off to Mkochi prayer house for the morning service. We arrived to find a few mats spread out under some trees within Mkochi village. On one side, chairs and a small table with a sound system were arranged for those leading the service. Somewhere behind the chairs, a generator hummed in the background. Sitting on both mats were children. We were welcomed by a few elders and then shown to the seats. After a few minutes, we briefly commented to one another that if children were the majority, we’d need to adjust the service to better accommodate them. So, I did a children’s sermon.
Mkochi Prayer House is the smallest and newest of the prayer houses of Lingadzi. They meet at Mkochi primary school which has standards 1-4 and which Lingadzi also supports. However, for Easter Revival, they chose to meet within the village of Mkochi. It is the small but lively community that I enjoy so much. There seems to be some good energy and there are women that have taken ownership and become elders and leaders. Within a culture where the power lies mostly in men’s hands, it is refreshing and exciting seeing these women stand up and take leadership positions.
Music was put on through the sound system for the children to enjoy. They quickly started to dance. A few more heard the music and came out of their houses to join. It seemed that we would be waiting for some time before starting the service, so we decided to play a game with the children. Duck-duck-goose seemed like the easiest to play for the range of ages and the space available in the shade. After a short while of playing, we found our way back to our seats and awhile after that, the service commenced. It was all in Chichewa and the English was translated into Chichewa. In the children’s sermon, I shared that God loves us, and so much so that Jesus came and died for us. I talked about how the more we know that, we can find value in the fact that God loves us so much, the more we see that it doesn’t matter what other people think. What matters is that God loves us. Again, there was a sermon, singing, and then at the end people were invited to accept Jesus or come up for prayer. People prayed and we sang songs in worship. It was a blessing to experience. We then went to one of the elder’s homes for a lunch of n’sima, rice, ndiwo, and fantas and cokes. At about 2 o’clock it was time to go to Kauma Prayer House for another service.
This second service of revival was similar in that the message was similar but the context was different. The people were gathered inside a building and there were still plenty of children but it was mostly adults filling the seats. There was a message that Jesus’ death meant salvation, plenty of songs of worship, hymns, choirs, and another invitation for prayer towards the end of the service. Many adults began to move toward the front. A few children came forward for prayer and so one of the elders and I took them aside to pray for and with them. Just as we started walking to the back, several more children stood up to approach the front (about thirty in all). After praying for a few of them we quickly saw that we wouldn’t have the time to pray for each one and so we did a lesson on prayer teaching them a few basics on how to pray. It was encouraging to see so many people (both children and adults) feel free to come. It was a beautiful picture of how we can share each other’s burdens. Another choir raised their voices in melody, as the service finished we walked out into a sunset-filled sky and the cooler air felt nice on my face. It was a good day of opening hearts to God in a new way.
Day 3: Easter Sunday. All the prayer houses came to Lingadzi (the mission station) to gather together and celebrate Christ’s resurrection. Once again, we began the day with a 7:30 meeting before traveling toward the church. My only experience of Africa is Malawi, and Malawi has some beautiful choirs. This is one aspect that I truly enjoy and I will greatly miss. The way that the voices come together is simply beautiful. On Easter there were many, many choirs.
The way the revival weekend was organized is that there were four locations, so there were four teams. Each team had four people. Some teams had all the people preach at each location, some teams had a different person preach at each location and the other three assist in worship. For Easter Sunday, each of the four teams was supposed to chose one person from their team to preach. Therefore, Easter Sunday had, four people preaching. Intermingled between the sermons were the various choirs, hymns, and prayer. After roughly forty minutes of the third preacher, I was tired. Bravely, I excused myself and returned to the house to change clothes, as I had been wearing the stifling and uncomfortable women’s guild uniform, and I went to manse one to assist in preparing lunch.
This Easter, there were no egg hunts, pastel decorations, or deviled eggs, but the message of Christ was preached and hope and grace were offered to people. It was a fun, exciting, and at the end of it all, we were ready for rest.
Stuff can make life easier in some ways. However, in other ways, living with less is refreshing. Sometimes it means the water is absent, and we are sweaty and dirty. I remember the first few times we were without water in the house, and one of those times Abambo came in with alarm across his face and asked if we had drinking water. I told him that we did; he brightened and he said that was good. What was important was that we had clean drinking water. It can be refreshing when important things in life are put in their proper place.
Clutter can get in the way of life happening, especially if you let it pile up all over the place. It can cover up the things that are most important.
Unfortunately, our world is filled up with too much extra stuff. All of the stuff can get in the way. It can obstruct us from what we really value. For this reason, I have spent time reading about how to simplify my life so that I can really have focus. Richard Foster’s Freedom of Simplicity is one of the texts that I think about as I continue to wrestle with this issue. I think about Jesus, and how the Bible speaks to the fact that He had to go away to be alone with God. To be removed from the stuff of this earth and get focus. Sometimes even the work we feel called to can become cumbersome. Sometimes when we fill our lives up with the stuff, we are pulled away from God, or our lives pull others away. The people we care about can get distracted too.
Even though it can be frustrating not to have some of the stuff that makes us feel happier, or comfortable, or entertained—being here has been refreshing in that life is less cluttered. It has been really great to focus on the people around me. Rather than spend my time being entertained, or pampered or comfortable, I have had time to spend with people. When the electricity is out, we often go and sit outside and chat and laugh with the Masinas. Although the mosquitoes might be biting my ankles, or my nose might get a little sunburned, what is important is the fellowship that is happening among us.
It seems that when life gets messed up or difficult here, we don’t go rushing to our magazines, television shows, piles of unopened mail, video games, chocolate sundaes, or filet mignon, rather we go to our people. Some of us also go to our God, Creator of all that is and ever will be, Savior, Redeemer, Merciful, Compassionate, Comforter. In disaster and brokenness, I go to my people: my family, and friends who love me. I know that when I am in the midst of a storm, I turn to God in prayer. Because all those other things are not going to redeem, whatever situation I find myself in.
A question I have heard countless times, if you’re house was burning down, what would you grab on your way out the door? I know for me, I would get the people out first, and then maybe grab a few things like my Bible, photos, and journal. Those are the things that connect me to what I value.
Shouldn’t our days be filled with what we really value? What do you fill your days with? Is it the clutter or those things that bring us closer to the people we love?
After six months of staying in Malawi, we had our first break.
There are beautiful aspects of Malawi, but all is unfamiliar. The cars drive on the opposite side of the road (and most of the time recklessly)…the avocados taste different (but are still wonderful)…the water feels funny (when it is working)…the electricity has power surges and sometimes just turns off for five minutes (or five hours)…the bugs are bigger…the education system is broken (not that it isn’t at home too, but it’s much worse here)…in Malawi people keep chickens in the city, at home chickens are mostly kept in the country and slaughtered before purchase…women are treated as second class people in Malawi, at home women have equal rights…in Malawi there are live-in servant staff, at home there are maids and gardeners…in Malawi butter goes out of stock from all the stores for weeks…no one says “please” or “may I”…in Malawi there is no sense of urgency…and the concept of promptness is foreign…
So, after living amid all that is unfamiliar, it was refreshing to be in such a beautiful place. For the first time in six months, I felt clean after taking a shower. For the first time in six months, I had privacy. For the first time in six months, when I walked around outside, sweat did not drip down the back of my legs. There were trash cans on the street corners and inside every building. Everything seemed so clean. I could wear contact lenses again without worrying that bacteria would somehow get into my eyes. I even felt comfortable enough to enter a public restroom. Even more, inside the bathrooms there was ample soap and water to wash my hands. The ocean air was fresh and the breezes cool. The food was delicious. I got to eat sushi and quiches and drink lattes. But most of all it was refreshing to be with people who understand me. I didn’t have to worry about offending someone because I wanted to wear pants or drink a glass of wine. I could hold my husband’s hand and not worry that it was culturally unacceptable. For the most part, the people we met spoke English that I could understand.
This little excursion to Cape Town was also a good way to prepare me to return to the developed world…where media, money and materialism rule. While at Cape Town’s Waterfront, we walked into the mall and at first I noticed the smells of new clothes, perfumes and sweet foods. But after a few minutes, the bustle of people, images, and music gave me a little light-headedness and I had to go back outside. No place in this world is perfect. There will be challenges and struggles wherever we live.
This vacation was not only some much needed rest and relaxation, but it was also a taste of returning home.
Seven months down, three to go.
Looking out at the garden I tried to determine if the carrots were tall enough and if there might just be one that was ready to eat. I chatted with Abambo about it and he said that when he planted them before, it was halfway through March when they were ready. He pushed away the dirt from the top of one to show that there was still some room to grow. Amayi noticed that I was looking for something to harvest, so she picked a bean pod to show me that I would be able to harvest the beans in the next few days.
I thought that pictures would more clearly illustrate the beauty of harvest time.