Martha

A lot happens at our house during the week. We’re often teaching Bible studies, having families over for meals, homeschooling, hosting guests, counseling, meeting people who just dropped by, and fixing something or the other. Sometimes people wonder how I find time to stay on top of those things AND keep our house clean.

Here’s the secret: I don’t keep the house clean!

Martha does.

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Meet Martha. She’s our housekeeper, and she’s wonderful! Every morning Monday through Saturday, she comes in and washes all our dishes, mops our floors, cleans our bathrooms, and helps with laundry. Her family lives in an apartment in our backyard, and has since before we moved here.

Martha has helped us learn how to live in and interact with our local community. She helps us decide if we should go to the Neighborhood Watch meeting, how much to contribute to the neighborhood ladies’ funeral fund, what to do about the local crazy woman who thinks she lives at our house, and tipping us off that our neighbor’s daughter is getting married this weekend (so we can be ready for a night of loud music!). You could say she is the “point guard” at our house. We don’t even know everything that comes through her, because she manages so much without even bothering us.

Best of all, Martha is our friend. We laugh together as she washes dishes and I make lunch. We share recipes and thoughts about parenting. We can ask one another cultural questions and talk about difficult issues without fear of it damaging our relationship. She is indispensable, not only for a clean house, but also for helping us be part of Malawi. Martha is one of the reasons we love to call this place home.

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Wilfred and Martha Chunga, Chancy (12), Rejoice (4), and Timothy (2 months). Christmas 2014

Quiet, Cold, and Dark… Not that We Mind

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It’s the long school holiday here in Malawi, which means lots of people are traveling – for vacation or relocation – and church activities are a bit slower and fewer for us. It’s our break time to take a deep breath and make some plans for the next busy season.

The school holiday happens to coincide with the coldest days of winter. We FINALLY get to put on sweaters and enjoy a cup of hot tea or cocoa in the evenings! Being in the southern hemisphere, we just had our winter solstice a couple weeks ago, so the days are short and the nights long.

Meanwhile, our generator went on vacation. That’s right. Our generator joined an outreach group running audiology clinics on the lakeshore, so we spent three weeks without our back-up electricity. And I do have to say, we kind of enjoyed it. Candlelight throughout the house is really very beautiful. We have been in Africa for 6 years now, but we still enjoy the rustic, romantic, adventurous beauty of life here!

Prep Work

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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

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

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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.

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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!

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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…

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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. =)