Prep Work

Cooking 2

Our kitchen is a busy place these days. We have a team of 10 coming next Saturday, so I’m prepping what I can of the meals now to better enjoy spending time with the people… rather than being locked away in the kitchen while they’re here. I was pulling out ingredients to make 5 different things yesterday, and as I looked at the counter, I thought – the secret life of a missionary wife. Come up with your go-to recipes, know how to mass produce them, and knock it out in 2 hours while the kids are napping.

Yes, I’m busy with counseling, Bible studies, taking my turn in the nursery at church. But there’s always food. There’s tea and banana bread with the counseling session. There’s brownies or flavored popcorn or even fried rice for Bible study. And there’s vats of soup, pans of lasagne, birthday cakes, and dozens of rolls in the freezer waiting for our next team.

The mass amounts of food that come out of a missionary’s kitchen are something I’ve rarely heard even missionaries talk about. But as far as I know, we nearly ALL do it. Fortunately, it’s something I’ve always loved to do. Cooking and baking is my thinking time, a great meditating time, and is both creative and relaxing for me. I don’t think there’s a spiritual gift of “cooking,” but I think it’s rolled into the general category of hospitality, and that I think I have. I’m not trying to boast here, but I love it, and God lets me do it on a rather large scale. It’s beautiful and wonderful, and I thank the Lord for it!

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I’m also thankful for some wonderful helpers in the kitchen. =) I hope some day my girls will find the same joy in sharing the Lord’s kindness with everyone who comes to their homes.

Friendship

We love raising our girls in Africa, for many reasons, one of which is the great diversity of people who are around the girls – and become their friends – as they grow up. Here are a few of Abigail’s friends. =)

Abi Friends 1Rejoice and her family live on the same property with us, and as the girls were born only a few weeks apart, they’ve grown up together. They learned how to roll over together as babies, planted their own gardens – on my front porch cushions!!! – together as toddlers, and now they run through the sprinkler together on hot days.

2015 Zomba Vacation 18Speaking of growing up together, these sisters are starting to become good friends too. One of the good things about sisters, especially growing up on the mission field, is that they go everywhere with you, so you always have a friend close by.

Abi's Friends 2I’m pretty sure that Yami and Abi think they are brother and sister. They are fiercely loyal to one another! They play together on Tuesday mornings while I (Rachel) teach Bible study, and are pretty much inseparable at church. Yami’s parents are good friends of Matt’s and mine, and his little brother is the same age as Naomi, so our families enjoy spending time together when we can – from dinners to family vacations.

Abi's Friends 1Maggie and Abi are always pretty goofy when they’re together, so this is about the best picture I could get of them! Maggie’s parents are also missionaries, and the girls are now taking ballet class together, so we see them fairly regularly.

Abi Friends 3

Abi also has dozens of church friends. (I think here Vanessa and Allison are teaching Abi to eat the ketchup right out of the packet?!?) She gets to see them each week on Sunday, at church events like the Relationship Conference, and then 5-6 of them also come on Tuesday nights to watch Bible movies with us while their parents have Bible Study in our living room.

I love the diversity of friendships in our girls’ lives – and ours. It’s a great perk of missionary life!

IBF Church Relationship Conference

We had the privilege of having a Relationship Conference at our church this past weekend. A team from Calvary Bible Church in Burbank, CA came and spoke at the main sessions and breakout sessions for men and women, as well as ran a kids’ program during the conference time.

Relationship Conf 1We started with dinner for everyone on Friday evening. Ladies from the church hosted and decorated tables for the event.

Relationship Conf 2And we had quite a crowd! There were about 80 adults, and about 35 kids.

Relationship Conf 3One of the kids’ tables at breakfast on Saturday morning. The international flavor of our church shows up here – Sri Lankans, South Africans, Malawians, Americans, Koreans…

Relationship Conf 4Serving one another in the church – a keystone of relationships and fellowship!

Relationship Conf 5And of course excellent teaching from God’s Word about the definition of true fellowship, how to cultivate relationships within the church body, how to understand and deal with conflict in the body of Christ, and how to care for and love our spouses and children. We left encouraged and full of love for our church body as we see the body grow together through these times of teaching and intentional fellowship.

Christmas in Africa

We’ve given up on a white Christmas, snow flakes, and hot chocolate… Christmas in southeast Africa means BBQs, swimming pool parties, lemonade, and hopefully a few good rain storms!
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Christmas Eve BBQ with the Biedebachs, the Ayres, and the missions team from Grace Community Church had an especially African feel to it.

African Christmas 1

At our church’s kids’ Christmas program, Abi the Sheep wanted to make sure everyone knew that the Go-Tell-It-On-The-MOUNTAIN was a very big mountain!

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Christmas morning service at IBF – our first time to do a weekday Christmas service. It was great to worship together on this special day!

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Christmas stockings for the girls – the squeaky ducks and oranges were the biggest hits!

African Christmas 2We’re thankful to the Lord for a great Christmas season this year… including the 6th annual IBF Church Christmas parties. For more on the Christmas parties, check out our last newsletter!

My Favorite Pharmacy

I seem to visit the pharmacy frequently. Maybe it’s that I have little kids and it’s just part of having kids, or maybe it’s because I live in Africa. Whatever the reason, I’ve had ample opportunity to pick my favorite pharmacy in Lilongwe: Pharmacare Pharmacy.

Pharmacy 4

There are several differences between pharmacies in the USA and pharmacies in Malawi. Yes, they both have medicine, but the line between prescription medicines and over-the-counter medicines is… merely a suggestion here. And the types of medicines available are a bit different. I feel like there are a lot of pain-reliever type medicines in America. We don’t have a lot of variety in pain relievers, but we do have a plethora of anti-fungal creams available here, as seen above.

Pharmacy 2

We have medicines for colds and allergies too; I’ve just had to become an expert on ingredients and dosages! Our medicines come from Belgium, England, India, South Africa, Kenya… reading the fine print becomes very important! Medicines from countries with fewer regulations tend to be more intense or concentrated (read that as “Wow, that cleared my stuffy nose! I hope I still have sinuses left in there!!!). On the other hand, medicines from “first world countries” tend to be more expensive. Caution and advanced decision making skills are required!

Pharmacy 5

We also have some local herbal powders and seeds for those taking the more natural approach.

Pharmacy 3

And, well, this is Africa after all. We do need to maintain those “long drops.”

Pharmacy 1

One more to leave you with. Yes, you can buy umbilical cord clamps. I didn’t have to buy one for Naomi’s birth, but most clinics will expect the parents to bring EVERYTHING needed for a birth, from the baby bath to a cord clamp.

Christmas is Coming!

Abi is in charge of the countdown and she knows CHRISTMAS IS COMING SOON! This is a fun time of year for our family and our church, and we eagerly look forward to the Christmas season.

Tree Decorating 6

We had some friends over for dinner last night and they helped us decorate the tree, so our house is looking much more festive now!

Christmas Party Prep 1

And the invitations are out for the 6th annual Church Christmas Parties at our home! We’re excited to welcome the whole church into our home to celebrate the birth of our Savior. The time of worship and fellowship and laughter together is a highlight of our year!

Now for some baking and Christmas present wrapping…

Overcoming Arachnophobia

Chop Chop long shotMe and spiders are like Indiana Jones and snakes. They’ve always creeped me out a bit.

Rachel and I first met a “Chop-Chop” in 2008, while we were gathering info about moving to Malawi. We were in someone else’s home when a big, hairy, crab-like spider darted between the furniture with startling speed. Rachel thought I was very brave to hunt it down and smash it with my flip-flop. Truth is, I just didn’t want it to find me later that night. We’ve never seen one in our house before…until now.

He was very still. I cautiously dropped a container over him. Sure enough, he was dead. Apparently the insecticide we use for mosquitos works on Chop-Chops too. But I still wasn’t really excited about our unwelcome guest.

So I decided the best way to overcome my fear was to photograph him. I love studying and observing God’s creation, perhaps they wouldn’t be so creepy if I learned a bit about them. So here are some facts I learned, with some photos to accompany them.

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  • They’re called camel spiders, wind scorpions, or sun spiders because they love dry, hot places. But they’re actually neither spiders or scorpions. They’re Solifugae.
  • Their legs are jointed differently than spiders, which is why they look double-jointed when they run. Why do they have ten legs? The front ones are actually feelers used for finding prey.
  • Speaking of prey, they eat beetles and termites… plus rodents, lizards, and even snakes! (Which is worse: snakes, or snake-eating spiders?)

Chop Chop profile

  • Their long hairs help them feel vibrations so they can move quickly. (Mine also has tiny wings on the back legs, which I’ll assume serve the same purpose. If you learn they actually use these for flying – I really, really don’t want to know.)
  • They can run 10 MPH (that’s ½ as fast as me!) They like the dark, and they often seem to be chasing a person when they actually just want to get in their shadow. (Or up their pant leg…)
  • They have very sophisticated eyes and can recognise forms, giving them an advantage in both hunting and avoiding enemies. (Like a guy with a flip-flop…)

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  • Their long movable jaws have scissor-like teeth that resemble crab claws. They use them to chew through hair, feathers, and small bird bones! They are called haarskeerders (hair-cutters) in Afrikaans.
  • Their bite can be painful, but is not dangerous to humans. They have no venom. (Which means the British family who fled their house because they thought a camel spider killed their dog was probably in no real danger.)
  • Soldiers on desert assignments have historically staged fights: camel spider vs. camel spider, or camel spider vs. scorpion. (No record of camel spider vs. snake, which would definitely have been worth seeing.)

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Did all that research make them less creepy? I’m not so sure. But after letting him sit on my desk a few days until I was sure he wasn’t moving, I felt ready to take this shot:

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And now if you need me, I’ll be spraying some insecticide in the attic.

A Visit to the Tailor

Welcome to the tailor’s shop…

Tailor 6

I like to sew, but I’ve discovered that here in Malawi hiring a tailor is relatively (very) inexpensive. I didn’t bring back lots of clothes after furlough this time because I like the idea of having more of our clothes tailor made. We can 1) make whatever style/color we want, 2) it can be made to fit us (Abi is a size 2/3 around and a size 4/5 tall), and 3) it’s actually a lot cheaper.

Tailor 3

This unassuming little shop is always busy. In 29 years, this man has taught himself everything from pattern drafting to finishing touches.

Tailor 2

Most days the tailor has an assistant helping him, but on my last trip he was working solo on this large stack of projects. Isn’t that a bright and beautiful pile of fabric! My dress is on the chair in the lower right corner.

Tailor 1

I’d gone to pick up dresses for myself and the girls, so I stood in the corner behind a shower curtain to try mine on. All three dresses needed slight alterations, but considering that I’d walked in the week before with pile of fabric and a picture of what I wanted the dresses to look like (no pattern), the alterations were very minor! This guy is pretty good.

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And though it may look a bit rustic, he has all the equipment he needs to get the job done well. He even stitched back together our tow rope made of thick, wide webbing. When I asked if he could do that he said “Yes, I have done that before.” Wow. Oh yah, this is Africa. If if can be sewn, he’s probably done it before.

Tailor 4

Finished products ready for pick up. I like looking through what he’s made to get some ideas of what to ask him to make next for us. =)

The Hanging Bridge

Evidently, this is the most interesting photo I’ve ever taken:

Kandewe Hanging Bridge

To date, I have posted 241 Malawi photos to Flickr. The photo above just received the highest “interestingness” ranking of all of them. Since other people seem to enjoy it so much, I’ve decided to share this photo here too, along with more about this very interesting bridge in a remote part of Northern Malawi.

Zuwulufu Suspension Bridge

Before the Kandewe Hanging Bridge was built, people risked their lives to cross this river by canoe. An enterprising man from the village devised this bridge. Since then, everyone from businessmen to schoolchildren will cross on this bridge. Crossing it made my heart race, but it’s definitely better than braving the rapids in a dugout canoe!

The bridge was first built in 1904, so obviously none of the original materials remain. One story says that a hippo tried to cross this bridge once, and broke through!

The bridge crosses the South Rukuru River, one of many rivers running down from the Nyika Plateau in the background.

The bridge crosses the South Rukuru River, one of many rivers running down from the magnificent Nyika Plateau in the background.

High water on the South Rukuru River. Man running across bridge

LEFT: High water on the South Rukuru River. As you can see on Google Maps, there are some rocks visible in this part of the river during the dry season.

RIGHT: This guy was amused by my fascination with the bridge. “Did you know I can run across?” And so he could! He only put his hand down once.

The bridge uses clumps of trees as support pylons on both ends. During this rainy season, the river extends to the very end of the bridge.

The bridge uses clumps of trees as support pylons on both ends. As you see, during this rainy season, the river extends to the very end of the bridge.

The bridge is constructed from bamboo running the length, to provide strength, and roots running the width, to provide flexibility.

The bridge is constructed from bamboo running the length, to provide strength, and roots running the width, to provide flexibility.

Be careful where you step. My foot, and the holes, for scale.

Be careful where you step. There were a lot of holes as big as my foot!

Some well-meaning donor provided two steel cables and some cement pillars to reinforce the bridge. You can see one slack cable on the bottom right. It seemed to me that they weren't doing much anymore.

Some well-meaning donor provided two steel cables and some cement pillars to reinforce the bridge. It seemed to me that they weren’t doing much anymore.

These men are repairing the bridge with cord made from bark.

Sometimes, the old ways are best. These men are maintaining the bridge with cord made from bark.

It's not just for adventurers. People of all ages cross this bridge every day.

It’s not just for Indiana Jones. People of all ages cross this bridge every day.

The South Rukuru River was in flood stage as we went. It had recently washed away a concrete bridge about 50 km downstream, but the old bamboo bridge flexed and remained.

The South Rukuru River was in flood stage as we went. It had recently washed away a concrete bridge about 50 km downstream, but the old bamboo bridge flexed and remained (there’s a sermon illustration in there somewhere…)

I watched this guy with a bike approaching, and asked if I could take his photo. To him, having someone take his picture was much more unusual than crossing a bamboo bridge with a bike over his shoulder.

I watched this guy with a bike approaching, and asked if I could take his photo. To him, having someone take his picture was unusual, but crossing a bamboo bridge with a bike over his shoulder was totally normal.

The hardest part for this guy seemed to be the steep descent at the beginning.

I learned a few tricks from watching him. The hardest part seemed to be the steep descent at the beginning.

There are no handrails on the bridge. Most people employ the "lean over and grab the side" technique. This is what I used. :)

There are no handrails on the bridge. Most people employ the “lean over and grab the side” technique. This is what I used. :)

Children running and playing on the bridge. I didn't try this technique for crossing. :)

These kids enjoyed running and playing on the bridge. I didn’t try this technique for crossing. :)

The water was so high, I used a pole to get my camera out past the trees. These kids were fascinated to see my antics!

The water was so high, I used a pole to get my camera out past the trees. The kids were fascinated to see my antics!

Want to see more? Every week, I try to pick five Malawi photos from my archives and post them to Flickr. You can view 240 slightly less interesting photos here. :)

 

Respite

Today I do not mind being wrong at all! As we went to bed last night we heard thunder rumble in the distance and the desire for cool rain was more a wish than a hope. But we woke in the middle of the night to the beautiful sound of soft rain on our tin roof! It rained for several hours through the night, and all day today it was cool and at times drizzly. It is SO WONDERFUL!

So I was completely wrong in my post 2 days ago when I said it would be a month before the rains. But I’m very happily wrong!

And as promised, here’s our neighbor’s roof… green!

First rain