America 2018 :: Week 1

We made it to America! It doesn’t matter how you cut it, it’s a very long trip from Lilongwe to LA. But everyone was in good spirits, and we enjoyed one another’s company for the entire 35 hours of travel time! That might be a first!

If you’ve talked with us about travel any time in the last couple years, you’ve probably heard about our short trip to the States in 2016 when we discovered Naomi’s propensity to get air sick. This time we kept a rigid schedule of Dramamine (which is hard to do when crossing time zones!) and supplemented with Zofran a couple times. We made it all the way to LA without incident – whew!

Once in LA, welcome jet lag! It was, um, very exciting. For some of us.

She could hold out for a while, adamantly refuse to sleep for rest time, and then be asleep within 2 minutes of opening a book!

Naomi wasn’t the only one who slept quite a bit the first week: Matt spent a lot of hours in bed this week too. The poor guy came down with a ferocious cold and cough on our second day in the States. He lost his voice on Tuesday evening, and didn’t really get it back until Sunday! If the cold wasn’t enough reason, the lack of a voice forced us to cancel almost everything on the schedule for the first week. Even in the moment we realized that we, Matt especially, were really tired and we needed the extra days of forced rest. So we took it slow and enjoyed the quieter days.

Meanwhile, the girls found the drinking fountains! Grace Community Church has a number of drinking fountains, and since we are in the missionary house right next door, we stop by for a sip almost every day! The girls are not very good at actually getting more in the mouth than down the shirt, but practice makes perfect!

AND, just around the corner from the favorite drinking fountains is the church’s brand new playground! This place is super-busy on Sundays, but deserted for most of the rest of the week, so the girls have it to themselves every day. There is nothing like this in all of Malawi. We try to teach our girls that there are special things we only enjoy in Malawi, and there are special things we only enjoy in America. This playground is high on the list of special things in America!

Also special to America is the dishwasher. The girls have taken it upon themselves to load and empty the dishwasher every day! No complaints from this mama!

Week #1 – a quiet week of rest and discovery.

3 Months Stateside

Today we fly out of Lilongwe with tickets to return in early December. We will be furloughing in the States for these 3 months, and are looking forward to seeing many friends and all our family. We will be sharing about the work in Malawi in lots of churches, from Missouri to California to Washington state. If you’d like to how it’s going in Malawi, our schedule for speaking at churches is in our latest newsletter.

But first, we have to get there! America here we come!

Local Favorites #3

I’ve never considered myself to be a collector, but I noticed recently that I collect unique earrings! And so, I present: my earring collection!

For Christmas the girls (with the help of a handy elf named “Dad”) made an earring frame for me. It’s a simple frame made of Mulanje cedar that holds a piece of window screen. It is perfect!

My earring collection, both as unique pairs and especially as a whole, leave no doubt where I live. Elephants, baobab trees, crocodiles, and the shape of the African continent are shapes related to Malawi, but the materials are all local and unique as well: teak wood, ebony seeds, crocodile teeth, porcupine quills, bone, and coconut shell are some of my favorites.

The only problem now is picking which pair to wear!

Construction

While Shelbi was teaching at the conference, the 6 men of the GCC team went to work. On Monday Shelbi, Abigail, Naomi, and I went to check out the progress on the church property.

The guys had been hard at work with surveying equipment, so there were lines all over the ground representing future buildings.

To get a look at the rest of it, Shelbi’s husband, Sean, took us on a tour.

They’ve been charting out and digging septic lines.

Digging the septic pit and leach field, as well as a cistern to collect and store run-off from our heavy Malawi rains.

They’re also making an awning for our current storeroom, which I believe will eventually be the maintenance area. Sean, Edgar, and Christopher are busy, but not too busy to strike a pose for a picture or two!

And they’re just about ready to lay pipes for the septic system. Abi and Omi were giving it a go to see if they were any good at construction. They are significantly better at wearing pink tutus and posing for cute shots than they are at construction, but they had a great time pretending!

It was fun to see progress on the land! I’m sure we have many, many months of construction ahead, but I’m looking forward to the day when both the church and CAPA can move onto this property!

CAPA Wives Conference

One of the blessings of having the GCC team here was the opportunity to have Shelbi Cullen teach the wives of our current and graduated CAPA students. These wives have seen their husbands stretched and grown over the course of their studies, and they wanted to learn too! So we put on a Marriage and Family conference for them.

We had 20 CAPA wives in attendance, and a few missionary wives joined in each session. Shelbi covered an amazing breadth of information as she took the wives through the gospel and the authority of Scripture, and then brought the Word to bear on their daily lives as wives and mothers.

Naomi, whose husband finished the MDiv program in April, did a fantastic job translating for Shelbi. The men at CAPA study in English with all English-speaking professors and classes, but not all of their wives speak English – or at least are not as comfortable in English. If you’ve never heard how teaching works with translation, listen to the clip below as Shelbi shared part of the gospel and Naomi translated for her.

We are thankful for the opportunity to invest in the wives and families of our CAPA students. And as a bonus, we – the missionary wives – were also encouraged and loved on by Shelbi!

I am thankful for this good friend. Her wisdom, faithful teaching, and likemindedness encouraged my heart! As a true friend and true sister, Shelbi draws my mind to the greatness and grace of God. I pray that the Lord would let me do the same for the women in my life!

GCC Team

We have had a construction/conference team with us for the past week! They’re from Grace Community Church in California, our sending church, and include some dear friends. We have been able to host 2 of the team in our home this week, and now have more dear friends! I’ll post more on the conference and construction work soon.

This team has truly been a blessing! I do love the young, eager teams who come to help on the field, but this humble team of 7 has blessed us with a combined total of HUNDREDS of years of ministry and construction experience. Many people think “missionaries are great,” but as a missionary who is very aware of how normal and not-so-great she is, I want you to know that these people right here are some of my heroes. Their faithfulness and humility, wisdom and grace have blessed us time and again. We are so thankful for them, and we get 3 more days with them!

Pink Day!

Today was our last day before Matt comes home, so we girls were very girlie today.

We fell in love with 8 little puppies at our friend Alicia’s house. 💕

It was difficult to pull ourselves away from such cuteness! I appreciated that Alicia enjoyed the puppies – her puppies – as much as Abigail and Naomi did!

Alicia joined us for lunch out, and since it is winter here in Malawi, the girls had hot chocolate – with white and pink marshmallows!

Since the girlie thing was working out so well for us, we had pink pancakes for dinner. A little bit of beetroot goes a long way… healthy and girlie!

The Pancake Princess highly recommends vanilla yogurt and sliced bananas.

Matt comes home tomorrow! We have enjoyed these days of fun girl time, but we will be so glad to have him home!

A Productive Day

If we accomplish nothing else while Matt is away, I will be completely satisfied with what was accomplished today.

We cleaned out the fridge and freezer.

We finished the hall bathroom tiling project – plumber is coming tomorrow to check and turn everything back on, then it just needs a good scrub!

And no one was electrocuted! 😳

Bonus: we got to cuddle the Hirotos new little kitten!

All in all it was a great day around here. And we are now more than half way through Matt’s trip, so that makes today even better! Two more sleeps til he is home!

The Farm

If I tell my girls we are going to the farm, they start squealing and giggling and dancing like crazy kids. They know that “the farm” means Auntie Shannon, Morgan and Meren, baby chicks, the calves Sunday and Easter, piglets, and untold surprises. And this afternoon we got to go to the farm!

It’s about a 45 minute drive to the farm, heading across the countryside toward Zambia. No drive through the countryside of Malawi is complete without a few goats on the road.

As we head off the paved road and onto the dirt track, the peace and beauty of the farm start their work. Abigail and Naomi are not the only ones who love going to the farm.

Lest you forget we are in Africa, there are monkeys on this farm.

Shannon and I have tea, and more friends – Rene and Bianca – join us while Shannon’s daughters take Abigail and Naomi around to see all the animals. Then they head to the kitchen to make candy floss. My girls have never had it, so I don’t even bother telling them the American name for it: cotton candy. They really don’t care what it’s called so long as they get to eat it!

The day ends all too quickly. Special friends and a special place have made for a wonderful afternoon! The girls are already talking about “next time we go to the farm…” 💕

While the Cat’s Away…

Very early this morning we sent our favorite guy off to conferences in South Africa.

He left for the airport before the girls woke up. But when they did, this conversation happened:

R: “It’s just us girls! What do girls eat for breakfast?”

A: “Pancakes! With chocolate hair! And raspberry eyes, and scrambled eggs mouth and a cherry nose!”

Oh boy! I hope we survive 5 days without Matt’s steadying influence! We modified the stated “girls menu” and came up with something that satisfied everyone:

After breakfast Matt let us know they were about to take off for the first leg of their trip, a short, 27-minute flight from Lilongwe to Blantyre. Our airport has little enough traffic that everyone knows exactly what flights we are flying overhead. Ethiopian Airlines flight 20 was the only flight leaving the Lilongwe airport at any time even remotely close to 8:20am, so we went outside to wave goodbye to dad!

See the contrail in the sky?!? There he goes! And so begin the Floreen girl adventures!