In my mid-week Bible study, we are doing a study based on Eric Metaxas’ book on Dietrich Bonhoeffer. One of the things that Bonhoeffer struggled with was religion or “mere religion”—people who are not really obedient disciples, but merely going through the motions. It made me think of where I am in my walk with God. Am I going through motions or am I living and listening to God as I go through each day? James 1:22 reminds us to be doers of the Word and not hearers only. As we get back into a more normal routine after the summer, it is something we need to quiz ourselves on. Summer is our obvious ministry time with the kids we take on mission trips, but the rest of the year can be more challenging. May we keep our hearts and minds open and aware of what path God has for us as we go about our daily lives.
This last summer we got to see another of our Teen Missions bases when we led the preteen team to Malawi. We finally got to see the base we’d heard so much about and to meet national staff who, up to this point, were names and pictures that we’ve prayed for over the years. It was a joy to meet other parts of God’s family and to feel that sense of family. Bob and I, along with two other leaders (Ben and Kristen) took 17 preteens on the long journey to Malawi. God blessed us in so many ways, beginning with our experiences at the airport. Imagine 40 fifty-pound duffle bags and 17 young preteens to move them once we off-loaded them from the bus. Our goal was to get the bags as close to the check-in counter as possible. While a few of our kids could carry a duffle by themselves, mostly they had to help each other. We praise God for the Italy Teen Team who helped us move our duffle bags at the Orlando airport. Our next blessing was the family of one of our team members who lived near Dulles airport, the next stop on our journey. Ethan’s dad came with a box trailer to store our duffles in so we wouldn’t have to “guard” the luggage overnight at the airport—very nice since everyone got to enjoy the night in a hotel, sleeping in a bed instead of a tent and taking a shower before beginning our long flight to Malawi.
We made it safely to Malawi and to the base near Chipoka and began to settle in. We were in a small compound about a 10-12 minute walk from the main base. The Malawi staff named this part of the property “Cambodia” since that was the place furthest away from them that they could imagine! We had the use of two rooms, the larger one for the kitchen and the smaller one for our bedroom (with a real bed instead of sleeping bags!). We even had running water and a refrigerator in the kitchen. That may not seem like anything out of the ordinary to you, but it’s not always something that we have when we go on our missions trips. Our project was two-fold. First, we were to plant mango trees to help define the Teen Missions property line and second, we were to go visit the nearby Orphan Rescue Unit.
Because it was wintertime in Malawi (southern hemisphere), it was dry season, which made the ground quite hard. In order to dig a hole to plant a tree, the ground had to be softened. That meant that the kids had to haul water. Every morning they would walk to the base where their tools were stored and also make several trips to get water. Once the holes were dug, they collected manure from the farm portion of the base to fertilize the trees. They hauled the manure in a red wagon that was pulled by two donkeys. The kids enjoyed the antics of the donkeys that liked to run off. We got the mango trees from a neighbor of the base. Once the trees were planted, we had to protect them from the goats that would wander through, so the kids cut branches from the nearby thorn trees to protect them. Think thorns that were at least two inches long and you will understand how they protected the trees. More than one thorn ended up in our kids’ boots and unfortunately in some of their fingers—all were safely removed. The team managed to plant 145 mango trees in the three weeks we were in country, both along the property line and at the Melissa Foster Rescue Unit.
The second part of the project was to go to the nearby Melisa Foster Memorial Rescue Unit every day to play with the kids. Our team generally went just before dinner and stayed for an hour or so. They sang songs, did puppets and balloons and played with the kids. It was no hardship for our kids to go play with the orphan kids—they eagerly looked forward to that time every day.
The two Sundays that we went to church, I was able to share about the Old Testament Tabernacle and how it applies to us today. It was a bit challenging to have it translated. Thankfully I’ve done Tabernacle tours for so long, that it was not too difficult to keep my train of thought. The pastors of the churches asked if we had something written, so that is one of my next projects. Our team also got to share some songs at each service. The favorite of our kids was an action song, “I Will Call Upon the Lord” that everyone could participate in.
For sightseeing, we went on a safari at Liwonde National Park where we saw elephants, warthogs, water buffalo, monkeys, baboons, various kinds of antelope and crocodiles. We stayed overnight at Bushman Baobabs, where we had a nice place to sleep (think beds) and showers. The best part for me was the included meals that I did not have to cook!
On the trip back to the U.S., while we were waiting in Blantyre to continue on to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, we met Monica. She’d recognized the Teen Missions logo on our shirts and let us know that she had been with Teen Missions as a member of the African Choir Team in 1994-1995. It was good to catch up and see what God has been doing in her life.
God blessed us with a good team—they were young, but their evening devotion times touched on many areas of their lives that they needed to work on. We saw spiritual growth in them and I think some of them grew taller over the summer, too. We miss them and hope to see many of our team members on future teams.
After our summer, we took a short break and went up to Washington, DC to visit my brother. We did lots of sightseeing: several Smithsonians, the Capitol, the Library of Congress, the National Zoo (the day after baby panda BaoBao’s first birthday) and the National Cathedral. We had to go home to get some rest! Many thanks to my brother Jim for hosting us. Then it was on to home improvement projects. The corner bedroom was emptied and new flooring put in. Emptying the room was more work than doing the floor! We also have a major plumbing project. It seems our sewer line has collapsed—a not-so-nice surprise just before we had to go back to work. We are going to have to reroute the line as the original pipe is underneath some palm trees now. Fortunately some of our summer experiences in other countries have given us ways to cope with the lack of sewer facilities, but a long shower sounds really good now! Now that we are back at Teen Missions, we have staff friends who know how to deal with that kind of thing. God does provide, although we wish we did not need this provision. On the work-front we are finishing cleaning up after the summer and for me, getting ready for our fiscal year-end.
God kept us safe over many miles of travel, both overseas and in the U.S., and blessed us with many new friends. He has also blessed us with you—without your support we could not be here serving the Lord. Thank you.
Servants in Christ,
Bob and Paula Yost
955 Butia St., Merritt Island, FL 32953