Monday, June 30, 2008

Africa, cont...

African Journal
Monday, June 30, 2008

Yesterday morning 1/2 the team stayed in the village and went to church and the other half walked into "town" to go to church. Gia and I went into town.

The church here in the village is a Baptist Church, but the one we went to is a Pentecostal Church. It was everything a Pentecostal Church is - speaking in tongues, loud prayer, animated preaching, etc....

Chris shared his testimony and the team did the "Never Let Go" drama. Giana shared her testimony - she cried, I cried - she did an awesome job. She said her faith is growing...I'm so proud of her!

The pastor said something that rings in my heart and head..."You cannot get your miracle without God testing you."

The pastor spoke on the passage Genesis 22, which is about Abraham and Isaac. Abraham trusted God completely, and he was willing to sacrifice his son. But, God rewarded his faithfulness and provided a ram for the sacrifice - sparing Isaac.

One point was made that I had not thought about before. When Abraham went up the hill with Isaac he left the servants behind, telling them that he and Isaac would return after they worshiped. The reason he probably left the servants behind is he did not want anyone to try to talk him out of doing God's will. Surely someone would have said, "don't kill you son", or "you've misunderstood God!" Abraham didn't want anyone to talk him out of doing God's will.

After church we headed into town for Jungle Pepper Pizza. It was SO good - spinach, feta, and olives, with tomato sauce and oregano and cheddar cheese....mmmmmmm. I also indulged in an incredible ice cream cone! I think it might have been made with rice milk - delicious.

After spending about an hour and a half in town we reloaded the bus and went to see Chris and Karen (don't know the last name). Chris was John's teacher when he did his Discipleship Training Service here in Malawi. They were a delightful couple - he's British and she's German. Those who were here two years ago were able to spend quite a bit of time with them then, and Catherine was especially eager to see them and talk with them about her life and challenges.

After returning to camp from town, we had the option of doing laundry, or killing a couple of chickens for our dinner. Most of the girls chose to do laundry, but not before we witnessed the be-heading of at least one chicken. Several girls had a tough time eating dinner!

I had a really tough time sleeping last night. We have talked a lot about Spiritual Warfare and mine comes in the form of worry and fear. I dreamed a lot about Dallas and Drew and my fear for their safety and well-being. I wish I knew how to get control of those emotions and I REALLY wish God would heal me of this and give me peace!

This morning after breakfast (rice), a few of the team members went to finish the clinic - which they say looks great. I was with the group that went to work at Mike's house. We put a lime mixture on the walls. This serves as a primer. Without this primer the mud walls just crumble. It was VERY hard work and 3 1/2 hours later, we were tired, dirty, grimy, and just plain exhausted.

Unfortunately when we returned to camp for lunch, Yohanni served us more chicken and nsima. Now, in the light of day, we can see the heads and feet of the chickens in the pot. We couldn't see them in the dark last night. AAAHHhhhhh!!!

I'm really struggling today. I miss home. I miss my boys. My kids are becoming such good people and Satan knows how to squash my spirit - he keeps reminding me of reasons to be afraid.

Please God.....

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Africa, cont...

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Yesterday was another manual labor day...but oh so rewarding. For breakfast yesterday we were served rice pohla - which is exactly like the baby food rice we give our babies at 3-6 months of age. But, with a bit of sugar and cinnamon it's not so bad.

After breakfast 1/2 the team went to finish painting the clinic and 1/2 the team went to the next village up the hill - Williamsville - to work at the catholic run school in that village. The school was in better shape than the Zoomba School, but the classrooms were exactly the same - cement floors, nothing but a chalkboard, and each room STUFFED with bodies.

Yes, I was a part of the group that went to the school. Our job was to move bricks from their drying place to one big neatly stacked pile. These bricks were 1/2 the size of the bricks we moved the other day, so while they were heavy, the job wasn't as difficult as the work we did the other day.

We were done moving bricks by about 10:45 or 11:00 in the morning. After that we did the Noah skit for the students, shared testimonies, and left to head back to camp. When we left many, many children followed us - holding our hands, talking a bit, and laughing. I wondered...were they given permission to leave? Are the school hours undefined and flexible? There are always children around us, but seldom adults. No one seems to be worried about the welfare of the children (at least not in the way we worry here in the states), but they seem to go home each night and make it back to school each day. It turns out that yes, the students were told they could leave school and spend as much time with us as they wanted. You see, the Headmaster believed that spending time with the Americans was in and of itself a great opportunity to learn. I love that holistic approach to learning.... not all books, and tests, and drills, and facts, but learning through relationships. Aahhhh...what a concept.

We had peanut butter sandwiches (well, one sandwich) for lunch (again), and then we had a bit of free time to rest. It was nice to just veg. By the way...the white bread we use for our sandwiches is called, "Super White" and it is soft and oh so good. The "Super Brown" bread is good too, but one of the locals sells the white bread and we buy our supply from him, so we eat more Super White. Around 2:30 a group of us headed back to the football field. The guys played football (soccer), as did a couple of the girls. The rest of us played with the kids. We taught several kids how to throw a Frisbee, as they had never seen a Frisbee before. Some of them were quite good! The children know the song, "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star", so that's a fun song to sing with them.

On the way back from the football field I chatted with a local who is a Seventh-Day-Adventist. We talked Sabbath, Campmeeting, and Vegetarianism. He has three sons and teaches at an Evangelical College. He spoke very good English.

For dinner we had rice, greens, and a stew made of soy meat. Everyone loved it. For tasted like a Seventh-Day-Adventist potluck - like being 12 years old again :)

Last night during worship John shared with the team about the Spiritual attack that had gone on in the guy's room. Apparently a few of the guys woke up and saw a presence hovering over David. It is clear Satan is on the prowl and I am praying for peace! We are lucky that the girls have not had to endure any of these "visits".

We read Psalm 34 over and over and everyone crawled into bed - unafraid and ready for a good night's sleep.

It's morning now and everyone seems fine. Unfortunately however, Gina is very sick - chills, nausea, and fever. Perhaps we should postpone the hike we have planned for another day.

**Later in the evening....**

We did do the hike today up Mount Mulangi. It was strenuous, but well worth it! I had a lot of difficulty breathing and was so grateful that Nic had an inhaler for me to use. I was reacting to all the eucalyptus trees, I'm sure. Without the inhaler I'm not sure I would have made it to the top. I was REALLY struggling to catch my breath. That was really the first time I've had what I would call a real asthma attack! Note to self…next you go to Africa – bring an inhaler of your own!

The waterfall was so beautiful and the pool of water into which it fell was very deep and SO cold. All the kids jumped off a rock about 1/2 way up the mountain wall into the pool. I pretty much stayed out of the water, as it was just TOO cold.

Five of the boys were baptized. My mommy heart broke because Josh Olford was baptized, but Catherine (his mom) wasn't there to see it. Catherine stayed back at camp with Gina because Gina was just so sick. Since Catherine had been up the mountain before, she decided to stay with Gina. Catherine asked Gia to take photos for her if Josh decided to get baptized (a decision she didn't now whether or not he'd made). Chris is supposed to be videotaping everything, but when he got the camera out he realized the batteries were dead (and there is no electricity with which to re-charge at the camp). Luckily, I had the "flip" with me and was able to tape the baptism. Catherine was able to watch it when we got back to camp.

On our way out of Mulanji Park, we met up with a group of kids form England and Ireland who are doing mission work here in Malawi. We had seen them on the trail earlier - they were coming down as we were going up. They still had such a long way to go to get back to their camp, so we offered them a much-appreciated ride.

The English/Irish group had been in Malawi for 11 weeks and they had another 6 weeks or so to go. The girls on our team were swooning over the boys' accents :)

The truth that continues to hit me on a daily basis is that God HATES gossip, slander, lies about others, etc... There is NO excuse for the things that have been said to and about my family - period! To the people who shunned us - you missed out on the privilege of praying for my family and YOU missed out on the privilege of being a first hand witness to a miracle. Seeing Gia out here and watching her do what she does is nothing short of a miracle and I am incredibly privileged to watch her and so lucky to be her MOM!!! :)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Africa, cont...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Today was hard and exhausting. Early this morning we took off to Zoomba School on the outskirts of Blantyre to meet students and help out with manual labor. We walked nearly five miles to the school.

At Zoomba School there are 18 teachers and 2,300 students! The elementary classrooms were made of cement floors and mud brick walls. The children were squished and squeezed like sardines - all sitting on the floor (no chairs of any kind). In each classroom there were no books, no computers, no posters, no toys...NOTHING AT ALL! One wall in each classroom had a chalkboard on which the teacher wrote the lessons. Each student had one very tiny pencil and a writing tablet on which to copy their lessons. Most of the classrooms had no windows, and those windows we did see were broken.

In grades 6, 7, and 8 the children sat at picnic table like set-ups. The tables were made of cement. In at least one classroom the students sat at desks - not the same desks we are familiar with, but desks nonetheless.

The Headmaster walked us around the school and introduced us to each teacher and classroom full of students. He said, "Good morning students", and the children immediately stood to their feet and in slow deliberate English they said, "Good morning Sir. How are you today Sir?" The Headmaster said, "I am fine", and he told them to sit. They were well mannered and respectful.

We ate a quick lunch (one peanut butter sandwich – the same thing everyday) after the classroom visits. Half the team went to paint blackboards, while the rest of us played with the students. We danced "The Macarena", and "The Hokey Pokey", but the students mostly just wanted to hold our hands and practice English.

The team gathered and ALL the students sat out in the dirt, practically piled upon one another, to listen to us. We performed the skits, "The Sin Chair" and "Noah's Ark". Josh and Olivia shared their testimonies. The students looked at us like we were rock stars!

The team presented the school with some gifts and they were so appreciative. We gave a couple of brooms made out of straw and some buckets. We also gave them ONE soccer ball (they call it football there) and all 2,300 students broke into applause when we showed them the ball!! ONE soccer ball stirred such unbelievable gratitude! Amazing.

As we were walking back to camp a young girl wanted to talk with me. I though she said, "I want to go to America", so I asked, "You want to go to America?" "No!", she exclaimed. "Here I have beautiful mountains and beautiful lake. Why would I leave Malawi?" She's right!

We in America assume everyone from other countries want to be us - have what we have, but that just isn't so!

We got back to camp and left almost immediately to walk another 2 miles to play soccer with the villagers. We walked past a coffee plantation and the beautiful!

Children are ALWAYS following us. Where do they all live? They must know when to go home. This is such a free and trusting culture. Oh sure, it is true that many of the people here see our skin color and assume we have money (and they want it), but the overwhelming sentiment is "Welcome! We are glad you are here!"

There is a "missionary" who lives at the top of the hill in what used to be the YWAM base. Word is this guy moved in, put a fence around his property, got dogs, electricity and a satellite dish, and doesn't speak to anyone. The villagers walk around him when he walks by, and he speaks to no one!

Today while we were walking to the soccer field, through the beautiful coffee plantation, the "missionary" drove by in his brand new SUV - cigarette hanging out of his mouth. Everyone on the team wants to...I don't know...maybe egg his house. He gives "missionary" a bad name, and it is shameful. The fact that he calls himself a missionary is just sad.

Gia is amazing. She has a huge heart and she cries whenever the amazing children surround her.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Africa, cont...

More from my journal:

Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Yesterday we painted the clinic. As I was painting I noted that in some places the wall was simply crumbling away. The chief was so appreciative for all we were doing. She is so excited to get a fresh coat of paint and not one bit concerned about the fact that her walls are crumbling away.

We got about half the clinic painted yesterday and we hope to finish today. After painting we returned to our base camp to clean up and prepare a program for the children of the village. Our team kids performed two skits - "Noah And The Flood", and "The Sin Chair". They did a great job.

Two of our kids shared their testimonies. Anabelle shared the pain she is dealing with right now over her father's affair and the apparent break up of her family. She is going through a tough time, but is still finding peace. Kyle shared too.

After the program the kids played a fun game - one that I remember playing years ago in a drama class, but had forgotten about. Everyone stands in a circle and one person is chosen to leave the room. Then a person is chosen from the circle to lead the group in a physical movement. The whole group begins to chant and clap and when the leader changes his/her movements, everyone follows and the one who has left the circle comes back in. The object of the game is to see how long it takes for the one who had left the room to figure out who the leader fun.

We had nsima and beans for dinner last night.

Now, about today....

This morning after breakfast 1/2 the team went back to paint the chief's clinic. I believe they would have finished, except they ran out of paint.

I was with the other 1/2 of the team. Our job was to relocate a very large pile of VERY heave home-made mud brinks from the drying area to the location of a soon-to-be building. The work was very hard, especially on the arms and back! Everyone, however, worked great together and got the job done.

After working hard all morning we went into Blantyre where we could shop and eat at Jungle Pepper Pizza. We were SO looking forward to pizza. Sadly, the pizza place had relocated, so we ate chicken and fries. My chicken was raw on the inside! So, no chicken for me. But, the fries were good :)

We shopped for souvenirs on the street in Blantyre and we heard, "Hey sister, sister! Don't forget about me!" It was an adventure! I stuck to Gia as she can hold her own with the aggressive peddlers.

After dinner (beef, rice, and greens) it was time for worship.

John encouraged us to pray over our newly purchased trinkets, as the craftsman may have created the trinket with evil spiritual intentions – in hopes of transferring an evil spirit to us. John also shared from Zechariah 8:16, 17: "These are the things you are to do: speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts; do not plot evil against your neighbor, and do not love to swear falsely I hate all this", declares the Lord.

This is what I know - God HATES what happened to my family and He hates the things that have been said to me, about me, and even by me. There is NO justifying what happened - at least not in God's eyes.

John told the story of a group of people finding someone struggling in the flooded waters. The struggling person is helped to safety...that's kindness. Some days later, another person is found struggling in the flooded waters, and is helped to safety. Again, this is kindness. Finally, after several people are rescued from the floods, someone suggests they go up stream and figure out what is causing the flood, and then fixing the problem - this is justice.

God wants problems FIXED. We can't just keep pulling people from the floods. We have to find a way to stop the flooding. Well, I'm not sure who will dam the floods, but I do know it is the heart of God that we should treat one another differently.

Observation: When a vehicle drives down the dirt road here in the village (which is extremely rare), the children all move to the side of the road and stand still. The vehicles DO NOT slow down AT ALL! The children have respect for the thing that is bigger than they are. In town the many, many cars, trucks, bicycles, motorcycles, and pedestrians all share the road equally and with respect. There are no stoplights and although I did see one stop sign, our driver went right through it - respectfully of course.

There is no sense of entitlement. No, "I've got the right of way and you can't make me move" kind of mentality. Amazing! Oh, and while we were in Blantyre, Gia, Catherine, Gina, and I went to a wonderful hotel and had coffee - really good coffee. They served pound cake with the coffee for no extra cost. The bathrooms were fabulous - granite sinks, running water, and a real toilet....awesome!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Africa, cont...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008 (our first morning in Chiwaya, Malawi, Africa)

I believe the only way I'll truly know what day it is is to write daily in this journal. It will be easy to lose track of the days here - that much is very clear!

I slept great last night! What a relief! I was concerned that noises would make it difficult to sleep, but the earplugs worked great! You might wonder what noises I was concerned about. Well, I knew I'd be sharing a room with seven other girls and Kathryn (the only woman on the trip who is older than me) had already warned me she was a snorer.

Last night during worship, John pointed out the fact that in just the past few days we had seen a dramatic picture of how diverse worship venues can be. On Friday night we were in Visalia, California worshiping in a large, modern American church - very typical of the churches we're used to seeing...and God was there. On Sunday we stood at the back of St. Paul's Cathedral in London. Everything was grand and glorious - high sculptured ceiling covered with Biblical paintings, stained glass, marble and brass, pipe organ, and so much more...and God was there too.

Here we are buildings made of mud bricks and cement floors, no electricity, the thinnest of glass windows, no running water, no toilets or showers, no "modern" conveniences of any kind. In the sky we see the brightest stars and the blackest sky anyone has ever seen...and God is here too. A building does not the worship center make.

It’s great to see all these kids laughing together and having such a good time. They are comfortable around one another and they seem to genuinely like one another. It's fun to listen to them laugh with each other - and at themselves.

We are in the village of Chiwaya. Our hosts are Mike, Rafael and his wife Esther, and Yohanni (our cook). All these people work with YWAM (Youth With A Mission) and they are incredibly kind.

Last night for dinner we had rice and cabbage. It was SO good! This morning we had sticky rice with cinnamon and sugar...mmmmm :)

Yesterday we were taken to meet the chief of the village. She's a woman who looks much older than she almost certainly is. Rafael thinks she may only be in her mid-40's. She has a glow about her, but rarely smiles with her mouth open as she is missing most of her teeth. It is her job to settle the conflicts and squabbles among the villagers. She also serves as the midwife to all the women in the village. She was kind and welcoming. Later today we will paint her clinic for her.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Africa, cont....

Sunday, June 22, 2008 (written on the flight between London and Kenya)

Despite the fact that most of us did not sleep on the plane, we made it through a great afternoon in London, England. We saw many of the touristy sights - the castle, Big Ben, Trafalger Square, Westminster Abby, and Saint Paul's Cathedral (where Prince Charles married the 19 year-old Diana Spencer). We hopped on and off a BMW shuttle bus, stopping for 15-20 minutes at a time in each must-see location. London is beautiful and the people are genuinely kind. That was my experience when I was in London 16 years ago, and it seems true still.

We're all pretty tired already and we haven't even arrived in Africa. In fact we are only 1/2 way there!

The kids are great! I'm looking forward to getting to know each of the better...think I'll nap now.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Africa...the trip begins

On The Road To Malawi, Africa:

Saturday, June 21, 2008
It's 12:30 California time and we're in the sky somewhere between L..A. and Chicago. The in-flight movie is "Definitely, Maybe". I've never seen this move before, but it seems clever enough.

There's a light cloud cover just below us. Well, I guess it isn't actually a "cover". There are many fluffy clouds and through the large breaks I can see the shadows of the clouds on the green hills and valleys ground below - beautiful. Gia is sitting at my right - the window seat.

Most everyone in the group seems a bit sleepy, although only a few are actually sleeping. I wonder where we are. I just looked out the window and I see one lone building - and the clouds and shadows of course.

I just realized I may have left my light weight sweatshirt back on the bus. If that's the case, I may miss it when we get to London as it is supposed to be cool when we land there.

I began this trip feeling excited, anxious, and a bit scared. Satan has been trying to quiet my family for a long time. I can't wait to see what God will do with us now that we've survived (if only by the skin of our teeth).