Greetings from Malawi!
We have spent the last three days in travel, and the Lord has shown Himself strong to us in many ways, as we’ve trekked from plane to shuttle, from bus to truck, and everywhere in between.
But let’s start with Commissioning: Thank you to all of the parents who came! It meant a good deal to your kids and we wish we could have given you more time with them; if only Commissioning Day weren’t so hectic! Also, thank you to all of the parents who sent comissioning packages for our team, we definitely had more then enough snacks to last until our project site and beyond.
When checking in the baggage at Orlando, Julia Crawford said, “Now I understand why we did Israel’s luggage on the Obstacle Course.” This is because putting the books of the Bible in order on the O.C. required attention and speed, just as moving 24 duffles from one spot to another, from baggage claim to vehicle, from hotel to airport, requires the same so that we don’t miss a bag. As we hurried to board a tram to our terminal, needing to count off quick enough to run back out before the door closed and grab someone if they weren’t with us, Haydn Leatherland said, “Now I understand Elijah’s Chariot [an old bus on the O.C. where the team boards quickly, sits down, counts off, and leaves].” All that practice with counting off is finally paying off. “Well, that’s definitely a skip-Mt.-Sini!” Another team member said, meaning they counted off well enough to skip the mountain of tires obstacle on the O.C. For many of our team members, those “useless” things we did at Boot Camp are starting to make sense.
While we were checking our bags in Orlando, two interesting things happened.The first was that Hannah Morris’s ticket had a misspelling that would need to mainly be fixed through Ethiopian Air when we arrived in D.C. The ticket clerk fixed what she could on her end and gave some helpful advice for addressing the rest of it in D.C. The second thing was that both clerks who helped check us in held a short whispered conversation and decided to give us a discount on our checked bags. These bags ended up costing less then half of what we expected to pay. When we asked why, the woman smiled, “What you are doing is a blessing.” and the man grinned, “Us Christians have to stick together.” Those two clerks were a kind, tangible example of the Lord blessing and keeping us, even from the start.
Once we arrived in D.C., we were to go to a hotel that Ethiopian Air provided for us until our flight departed the next day. We wanted to make the very next shuttle to the hotel, so we each grabbed our two duffles and our carry ons, and we began a mass attempt to get to the shuttle pickup before it left. We must have looked a bit like ants moving through baggage claim! A lady stopped the latter half of us and asked if she could rent us some luggage carts. “My niece does a lot of missions work,” she said, in answer to our thanks. The result was that we arrived at the shuttle pickup within nine minutes of starting out, with all 24 bags in order and accounted for. Our team may be small, but we are efficient.
Everyone enjoyed the hotel with its A/C, soft beds, and full breakfast. The amount of time to sleep was short, but it seemed to be unanimous that this was the best sleep all of us have had since leaving home in June, and we were thankful for it.
As the Lord would have it, Hannah’s misspelled ticket turned out to be a blessing. Part of us caught an early shuttle to the airport from the hotel the next morning so that we could get her ticket sorted out. When the counter clerk heard that the misspelled ticket was part of a group of twelve, he chose to scan all of the passports and print all of the boarding passes while he was fixing the one-despite the fact that half of our team weren’t even in the airport yet! He asked for all of our bags and a worker nearby volunteered his large luggage cart. As we hurried to our team and duffles, the other half of the team who had caught a later shuttle was just coming through the door with their duffles. The man with his cart seemed to be having the time of his life as our team set to work loading his cart up, “Make a firm foundation!” he called as he took the biggest duffles first, “Get motivate!” he shouted happily, his accent decidedly African. And we were checked in, heading to our gate within 15 minutes of the whole team arriving. Yet another blessing.
While waiting for various layovers, and on our flights, our team was engaging in conversations with those around them. Tonie Jo Schankweiler, in particular, seemed to lead the charge with this, and others followed suit. It was pretty neat to watch!
The flight across the ocean was uneventful. All our luggage made it and there was very little turbulence or stormy weather. We had a connecting flight in Ethiopia and we had our morning devotions at our flight gate, which was just around the corner from an Islamic Prayer Room. Katheryn Jespersen said that just knowing this as we did devos was very stretching for her faith!
A three-hour flight took us to Lilongwe, Malawi, where the rest of our leadership team met us. All of our bags arrived intact, and we loaded the back of a truck and drove two hours to the base in Chipoka. At this base we took a day to rest. During this day we also helped out a little around the property by watering the plants and helping some in the office. In the afternoon we visited the Melissa Foster Rescue Unit, located about a half mile from the compound. We enjoyed playing games and laughing with these children, many of whom did not speak our language. They especially seemed to enjoy with Faith Widman taught them how to play Duck Duck Goose!
After a day of rest, we drove eight hours to our project site in Rumphi. We have been getting settled, and all of us are very happy with the change of climate. We have exchanged the tropical heat of Florida for cool nights and dry days here in Malawi. We have been practicing puppets and our presentation, and we are looking forward to getting started!
Greetings from Malawi!
We are beginning to settle into our project site, and to get accustomed to the tasks of daily life.
A rather brazen rooster gets up before dawn (4:50, to be exact) and gives his morning wake-up call every morning here at Rumphi. Since our tents are located a few yards from the chicken coop, his cock-a-doodle-do is particularly abrasive. He ususally persists until we get up at 5:45. Perhaps we will get use to it with time, and who knows? We may miss it when we return to America.
First things first – in the morning: fetching water. Everyone on the team, except KP, takes a bucket and walks the half mile to the well, pumps their bucket full, and walks back. Some of us are learning to carry the buckets the Malawian way, on the head, with a hand to steady it. Kathryn Jespersen is getting particularly good at this! But Haydn Leatherland and Hannah Morris were looking for a way to save time and effort with carrying the water, and they procured a long wooden pole with which they anticipated carrying back all of the buckets while the team rested the pole on their shoulders. It worked well…until they filled the buckets with water. The discovery was that it was much more a nuisance and a pain then a help. The pole has not been used since this first attempt.
On Saturday, we went with the BMW students to an open-air meeting they were holding at a nearby village. Some teammates went door to door with the students to invite people. Marina Tinney gave a lesson to a group of children, Tonie Jo Schankweiler shared her testimony, and the team sang two songs. At least fifteen people made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ, and the team came back greatly encouraged.
On Sunday we climbed into the back of the truck and drove the bumpy drive to Rumphi to attend Living Water Church. Service was held in a one-room school house, which they rent out on Sundays. The congregation had about 20 people, including the children. We took up one side of the small building, the congregation took up the other side, and the children sat on a large woven mat against the wall. The pastor and his wife gave a formal, warm greeting, ending with a phrase that is beginning to be familiar to us with the Malawian people, “You are most welcome. Feel free here, you are most welcome!” We sang some songs for them, while Haydn Leatherland played the jimbay, Kathryn Jesperson played the ukalelie, and Hannah Morris played the guitar. Tonie Jo Schankwieler and Faith Widman gave testimonies. The congregation seemed receptive and encouraged. After the service was over, everyone went outside to greet each other. In Malawi, it is polite to greet each person individually with, “Hello, how are you?”. You can imagine how long this can take with twenty people! Some of the team voiced a concern that they accidentally shook some hands more then once. The team enjoyed their first African Church service. And Seirra Avila was given the high compliment, “You look like a Malawian.” And with the wrap dresses our girls have started to wear, it’s true. And it made her smile.
We are still waiting for our project plan to be approved, so at the moment we are helping out as needed around the base and practicing presentation pieces- puppets, songs, skits, and testimonies.
As I write, a spontaneous sing time has broken out with those of us who play instruments. They had intended to work on some songs, but it drew a crowd of children, and now it is just a time of fun and praise. The children do not know much English, but they seem to be enjoying it even more then our team.
Those who are not joining the singing are talking to some BMW students, learning Timbuka phrases. We are laughed at for our pronounciation, but the people say, “It is good-keep asking how to speak our language!” They are pleased to work with us on this, and we are eager to learn!
That is all from Rumphi. May the Lord bless you and keep you! Continue to pray for us this summer!