Greetings from… South Africa!?! Surprise! We aren’t in Uganda or Malawi! Wow! The Lord’s plans are sometimes a lot different than our own, aren’t they? But let me start at the beginning…
We arrived safely in Malawi, Africa on July 12th with our team of 12 teenagers. We had an exciting start, as none of our checked baggage arrived with us, but everyone had a good attitude about it and most had a spare change of clothes in their carry-on. Four days later we were all reunited with our bags, though a few had gotten theirs earlier. It was a good lesson for all of us on being content in all circumstances and seeing God’s provision for our needs, as well as discovering how we can manage just fine without all that extra “stuff.”
We really enjoyed our work project up in the Rhumphi district, near Bolero, in Northern Malawi. Our project was to build an AIDS Orphan Rescue Unit and also to do evangelism in nearby villages and towns. We laid brick pillars as the foundation and had a fun time making it level – bricks in Africa are not of uniform size and shape as they are in the States. The building itself was wooden and had been prefabricated by staff and BMW students from the Teen Missions International (TMI) in Malawi base, so after the foundation was built we just had to piece it together, nail it, roof it and paint it.
I (Shannon) was in charge of feeding the team as the head lady leader and I loved it! The kitchen was a reed and grass hut and we cooked over propane and later over fire as well. I had the opportunity to work with two of the team members per day, on a more individual level as my kitchen helpers (kp), as well as my assistant leader, Sarah, and we got to make yummy, delicious food for all of our hard-working (and still growing!) teenage boys and girls. They would usually do a superb job of cleaning up any leftovers and as we had no refrigeration, that was a blessing! There is a saying that hunger is the best seasoning, and it’s so true. Many times the boys would offer compliments which boosted my ego a bit, but when the cook is happy, the team is happy, right!? 🙂
One of our favorite things was spending time with the children of the area. We often had groups of kids accompanying us on our walks to the well, which was about a mile away, and helping us carry water. For many of them we were probably the first white people they had ever seen! Even the adults curiously watched us wash our clothes in our buckets, wash our hair, and try to carry buckets on our heads in the native African fashion.
For sightseeing we had the opportunity to go on two safaris! We saw elephants, hippos, monkeys, a warthog, a jackal, zebras, and loads of antelope!
Over the course of the summer we were blessed to see 89 people come to trust in the Lord through our evangelistic programs, including four chiefs! When it came time to see the team off at the airport we couldn’t believe how quickly the summer seemed to have gone. We had a great time and a great group of team members and leaders; it was bittersweet, knowing that the summer had brought much accomplishment, but also knowing that we were sure going to miss each other.
After the team left we spent some time in Lilongwe picking up groceries and other necessities like a mosquito net and a fan. 🙂 We started getting all settled into our new home, the Garden House, and began some of our new ministries around the base. One thing we were sure blessed to be a part of was the Malawi National Teams’ Debrief. The way Africans sing praises to the Lord is amazing! Even though we couldn’t understand the words, our hearts were full of worship to our amazing God as we joined together with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We also started preparing for the BMW classes we would be teaching this term; Justin was scheduled for two classes, but one class would be taught in both the English and Chichewa BMWs, while Shannon was scheduled for one class. We quickly started making friends and building relationships with several of the staff and students; the Malawian (and Indonesian) people are so friendly and welcoming and we love them already!
On August 24th we tried to apply for our work visa and this is when OUR plans seriously changed! We found out that one week earlier they had made a law (or started to enforce one) that prevented us from applying for a work visa while in country, which meant that we had to leave Malawi in only a couple of weeks! After spending some time in prayer, it was agreed that we would go to the TMI base in South Africa and apply for our Malawi work visa from there. The visa may take anywhere from three months to a year. Although it was confusing to us at first, “God, what are You trying to tell us? First we thought You were saying Uganda, then we thought you wanted us here in Malawi…” We were, however comforted in the fact that this came as no surprise to God and His plans never changed. We know that He has some purpose for OUR change of plans. Maybe He has something to teach us through this, and we are remaining firm in our trust and faith in Him. So after a 36 hour bus ride – wow – we are here in South Africa and ready to begin a new chapter in our ministry. We are looking forward to what God has for us in our time here, however long that may be.
Sometimes life isn’t so much about the destination as it is about the journey. We pray that we can grow in our faith through this situation, and we thank Him for the opportunity to experience another overseas base with different ministries. We know that His will and His timing are perfect and that He will provide for our needs and the needs of our fellow laborers. To Him be the glory!!! Amen.
In His Service, Justin & Shannon O’Hara Titus 2:11-14