Mosquito Season

With the summer rains come the mosquitos, and, around here, with mosquitos comes malaria. Before we moved to Malawi, we didn’t know a lot about malaria, and kind of expected that every mosquito here would be carrying it. Not true. Only the female of a certain species of mosquito carries malaria. Still, we’ve adopted a policy of trying to avoid ALL mosquitos. Because it’s not like they show their “I carry Malaria” ID card before they bite you…

Here are a few things we do to fend off the mozzies:

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Frequently used items, sitting next to our front door: mosquito repellent spray, mosquito repellant cream, and sunblock. Don’t leave home without it.

mosquitos b
We have 2 types of windows in our house, and this type doesn’t have a screen of any sort. The mosquitos come out from dusk to dawn, so we simply keep these windows closed from about 5pm until we get up in the morning.

mosquitos c
We can’t keep all the windows closed, though! It’s summer here in the southern hemisphere, and it’s HOT! But check out these awkward windows – you can’t put a screen on the outside because they open outward, and you can’t put a screen on the inside, because then you can’t work the handles to open them…

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Solution: mosquito netting curtains. Three lengths of mosquito netting firmly attached to the wall, but with enough overlap that you can pull them aside to open the windows.

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But no system is foolproof, and the mozzies can still get in sometimes. They come in the doors with us when we get home at night, or in the windows we didn’t close on time. So we also use these “mosquito coils”. Think Citronella candle in incense form.

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And we found these great handmade coil holders at the pottery place in Dedza!

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The last defense against mosquitos is the net over our bed. Most bed nets hang from a frame about 3 feet below the ceiling. We decided to make our own and attach it to the ceiling so that we could put a fan inside our net; because otherwise it feels like sleeping in a cheesecloth bag!

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And this is Matt’s design and Rachel’s sewing ability on display – we made it with 2 cords to raise and lower the net. If we lived in a tree, we’d be just like Swiss Family Robinson.

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Safe and mosquito-free!

Lastly, we take a weekly medication as a malaria prophylaxis. We don’t have a picture of us taking a pill, but you should see some of the weird dreams that medicine gives us!

While we try our best to protect the health that God has given us, ultimately, He’s the one who determines if we get malaria or not. Our greatest comfort is the knowledge that if we do get any kind of weird disease, God will give us the grace we need to endure it. That knowledge keeps us from living in fear, and helps us enjoy life here in Malawi!

New Friends

Making new friends is always fun, and here in Malawi it’s really easy. So we’re making a lot of friends, but some of them stand out above the rest. Meet the Banda family.

Bandas 1
We first met Bright, on the far right, at our church where he helps lead worship every week. He’s a senior at African Bible College, and it’s been so great to get to know him over the last few months. About 2 weeks ago, he took us out to his village, Moya, and we were able to meet some of his family. One of his younger brothers is standing next to him, and his mother is next to me. Have you ever met someone that you immediately liked and wanted to spend more time with? Bright’s mom is one of those people for me, and I’m looking forward to getting to know her better.

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The purpose of our visit, in addition to meeting Bright’s family, was to meet with the chief of his village about making door mats and area mats for our house. He makes the mats out of sisal, so Bright and his mom introduced us to the sisal plants around the village.

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We bought a couple mats while we were there and put in an order for some more, larger mats. Then we took a look around the small village and met quite a few of the people who live there. This is the chief’s house and backyard fence.

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Before we left that day, we took a tour of the Banda’s farm. It was fascinating! Bananas and rice in the boggy area near the river, tomatoes, lettuce, guava, maize, sweet potatoes, and so much more over the rest of the area. It’s all farmed by hand, machete, and hoe by 2 or 3 people. It was beautiful! They sent us home with lots of lettuce, tomatoes, and bananas, and they were so good! I was going to take a picture of them, but the electricity went out, which is not uncommon around here. So I made dinner in the dark and we ate by candlelight that night.

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This last week, we were back in the neighborhood with Bright. After we confirmed a few things about the mat making process, Bright showed us another, larger variety of sisal. Some of you may recognize it as “mexican agave.”

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He also showed us the sand mine that is a source of income for many people in the surrounding villages.

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We’ll be back to this village many times over the coming weeks and months, so it’s fun to get to know some of the people and places. Please pray for us and for the Bandas, that we can encourage one another in the faith. And pray for us as we get to know the people of the village Moya, that we can be a testimony of God’s truth and salvation to them.

Big Dog, Little Dog

As promised, a post on the dogs. Matt and I are both “dog people,” so we didn’t hesitate when the Hulleys asked us to dog-sit. The Hulleys are the former tenants of our house, and were involved at International Bible Fellowship. They needed some time to figure things out in Zimbabwe before they bring the dogs over, so we have been able to borrow Hedges and Jack.

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This is Jack. He’s a friendly Jack Russell terrier. His role in home security is to be first alert and wake up Hedges.

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This is Hedges. He’s a mastiff, but everyone in the neighborhood calls him “the lion,” except for the plumber who called him “the elephant” by mistake. =) His role in home security is to bark. He doesn’t really need to do anything else…

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I guess when you’re that big, you can sleep any way you like.

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As with most big dog/small dog combinations, Jack thinks that he and Hedges are great friends. He runs, jumps, and plays, and Hedges just gives him a look that says “Are you serious?” Poor friendly Jack!

Dogs 1
The Hulleys should be back in the next few days to pick up the dogs. In the meantime, we’re on the hunt for our own dog. Something big, but not too big, friendly, but also a good guard. We’re thinking of a lab, but we’ll see what we can find here.

Moving In!

Welcome to our neighborhood! We moved into our house this past weekend, and are in process of settling in – which is better than opening Christmas presents! We haven’t see our furniture since we packed up our apartment in January. Everything was wrapped in brown paper and packed in boxes, so it’s like someone gave us the biggest present – all the stuff that we enjoy and picked out ourselves!

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Here’s the neighborhood – all residential and fairly quiet, and there’s always people walking around and sitting in the shade to talk. It feels very neighborly.

Moving In 1
Matt put up towel rods in the master bathroom. We did quite a bit of work on the house.

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And then came the cleaning. Scrubbing bathrooms, wiping out kitchen cupboards, sweeping cobwebs off the ceiling…

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Here comes our furniture! Our friends Richard and Felix helped loading and unloading.

And in case you’re wondering about Jack, the cute little dog in the picture above, no he’s not ours. We’re dog-sitting for the former tenants for a couple weeks. Wait until you see the other dog, the “lion!”

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Kellen came to help unload too – thanks Kellen!

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Boxes everywhere! Moving is over, now for the unpacking!

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The Biedebach family came over to help and brought us lunch. It was so fun to have them helping us unpack and rediscover things! And thanks for putting our table together, Brian, so that we could eat lunch! =)

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Lots of odd jobs go along with unpacking. Matt is sweeping concrete sand out of the way so that he and Brian can hook up the washer and dryer. Bradley is walking around and supervising.

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Benjamin helped by collecting paper scraps and sitting on the pile of paper so it didn’t blow away.

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Ami did a fabulous job of unpacking and unwrapping – everything from our kitchen cups to our living room kids’ toys! Thanks so much Ami!

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And baby Allison just coo’ed, slept, and looked adorable.

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Many of our extra boxes went home with the Biedebachs, and we hear that Biede-Box City is currently under construction on the back veranda!

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Ami takes a much deserved break to jump in the boxes and packing paper!

Thanks Biedebachs for helping us unpack, and thanks to all the guys who helped us move all the boxes and furniture! We pray that this house will be a place where people can be encouraged, refreshed, and directed to the Lord.

Under Construction

If you get our newsletter, you know that the Lord has provided a fantastic house for us. Yay! The former tenants moved out last weekend, and we spent all this week working on remodeling and repairs. Here’s what the week has held for us…

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Several of the walls needed to have the plaster patched, and how do you like that green wall color? The whole house was this color, inside and out.

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Lots of paint, lots of walls to paint!

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The glass inset in one of the kitchen cupboards was broken, so we took a hammer and chisel to the rest of the glass insets and broke them all out. We’ll replace the glass, but it was kind of fun breaking it all out!

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How to buy home improvement supplies in Malawi – go on a scavenger hunt. We laughed remembering how in the States you can just go to Lowe’s and get everything all in one place. Yah, not really here. Washers in one store, large key rings that double as curtain rings in another store, 1 meter of galvanized screen in the next store…

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The fluorescent lights in the kitchen always got messed up by the power fluctuations, so Matt replaced them with these great hanging lights!

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He also took the fluorescent lights out of the hallway and put in small, inset halogen lights – so nice!

House Construction 1
And the painting starts: good-bye green (and no, the new paint isn’t as pink as it looks here!)

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The kitchen is done, but the green is still peeking out of the hallway…

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The entrance hallway is done…

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Did I mention that our house is a series of hallways with a couple rooms attached? =) It’s looking more and more like home to us, and we’re so excited to finish up the rest of the projects this coming week, and hopefully move in next weekend!

Trip to Blantyre

Blantyre is just over a 4 hour drive south of where we live in Lilongwe. We drove down and back on Wednesday, with the primary goal of visiting the Immigration Office to pay for our Temporary Employment Permit (TEP). Hopefully we will receive the final letter in the next few days, which will function as our visa for the next 2 years.

In the 5 hours down to Blantyre (details on the side trip below), and the 4 hours back from there, we saw a good portion of the country of Malawi. Here are some highlights from the trip:

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We have no idea what this sign means, but if you say it in a cutesy voice… well, just try it.

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The Shire River (pronounced “sheerie”, sorry Tolkien fans), part of Liwonde game park.

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Matt got pulled over for going 56 kilometers an hour in a 50 kph zone. That would be like getting pulled over for going 25 in a 22 mph zone. But they actually made it very convenient and let us pay right there – and gave us a receipt, so we knew it was legit. They also told us that the only other speed camera in the country was another few miles down the road. Ah, good to know!

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Somewhere along to way we missed a turn, and took an hour detour through Zomba, a mountainous, forested area. It was beautiful, and one of our favorite parts of the drive!

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Hand-holding is common amongst friends, and means nothing more than friendship.

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Once we finished up at the Immigration Office, we had one other stop to make in Blantyre: Game, a South African store somewhat similar to a Target in the USA, but about half the size. There’s nothing like this in Lilongwe, so we stocked up on things like drill bits, ceiling fans, and a 220 volt iron. And for those of you wanting evidence of the man-purse, here it is!

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Some things, though, were still a little more than we were willing to pay. This little roll of Duck Tape costs about $7. No thanks.

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On the other hand, a few things are a great deal! These are the exact same cups that I got for $1 each at Crate & Barrel. Here, they’re 37 cents.

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On the trip back home, we passed this sign. It’s hard to read in this pic, but it says “Aids is Real. It’s Not Witchcraft.” What a reminder that the people here need the truth of God’s Word and His grace to be free of the lies of superstition and witchcraft.

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One of our favorite trees in Africa, the baobob! This one’s for you, Judah Gundersen!

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Our other favorite tree, the acacia. It just looks “African.”

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And finally, one of the most common sights in Malawi, a little village perched on a hillside.

Nebraska Team!

We disappeared out of the blog world for a while, because we’ve been busy! We’ve had a team from Omaha, Nebraska, here for the past couple weeks, and we’ve been really enjoying this time! There are 7 members of the team, including an electrician, a handy-man, a couple of expert painters, a couple of doctors, and a physical therapist. With all these talents, they’ve been helping with construction on the church office, running VBS, working in the medical clinic, and running mobile medical clinics in the villages.

Here are some highlights from a medical clinic last week in the neighboring village of Mtzlesa.

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Calvin checks a child’s blood pressure and vitals before sending him to see one of the doctors.

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Tracy and Kristin took up the role of pharmacists.

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One of the IBF interns, Bright, on the far right, helping translate for Dr. Wood.

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Jim, with the translation help of another intern, Erica, sharing the gospel with a patient as they wait for a doctor.


At times, electricity can be shockingly complicated. Oh yes, pun intended! My sense of humor might be suffering from the jolt of electricity I experienced a couple weeks ago. At this point we believe we’ve managed to keep the electrical wires away from the overflowing water heater, and we’ve definitely experienced fewer shocking episodes in recent days. There was the issue of the living room light, but really, my arm had that tingly feeling for only 10 minutes, so it doesn’t count. =)

In other electrical news, Matt has retrofitted his computer cord to work here in Malawi.

Plug 1
He bought a generic cord at the outdoor market, then cut off the plug and stripped the wires. You can see little black leftover pieces. He also bought a simple Malawian plug (same as what they use in the UK). That’s what he’s holding in this picture.

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Then he attached the new cord to the new plug…

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Put everything back together, and…

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Plugged it in! You can see the new plug in the socket on the right. The new black cord connects to the Mac power adaptor, and runs electricity to his laptop.

If fixing the water heater were only this easy…

A Few Things We Bought

Since we arrived about 6 weeks ago, we’ve purchased a few things that are a bit out of the ordinary for us…

Bought 5
What: Car Battery
From: QuickFit
Why: Because the battery in the Biedebach’s van was dead – very dead. So dead that we had to borrow another battery to drive the van to town to buy the new one.

Bought 2
What: Mosquito Zapper Racket
From: Santa Plaza
Why: Because it’s more fun to electrocute mosquitos than to smash them, and a racket is faster than my hand.

Bought 3
What: Oil Lantern
From: Chipiku
Why: Because the electricity goes out often here, especially in the evenings; and the lantern cost $2.20.

Bought 4
What: Emergency Light
From: Santa Plaza! (Yes, Santa as in Santa Claus)
Why: Because it’s brighter than the oil lantern, and it comes on automatically when the power goes out.

Bought 1
What: Toyota Hilux Surf
From: Pam Forester, who moved back to Ireland
Why: Because we need to haul lots of stuff around and survive all the pot holes. Yay! We have a vehicle!

First Visitor

Our first official visitor was our good friend Wendy Simpson. Wendy and I have run into each other all over the world, so it wasn’t at all surprising when she said she’d be traveling through Africa and could she stop by? Of course! Matt and I haven’t explored very much of Malawi yet, so we took the opportunity to find a few new places with Wendy.

Kumbali Lodge, just outside of Lilongwe, has a great little village and cultural center. We stopped by to check it out and climb their trees.

We didn’t know how to play the popular local game of bano, so we made up our own game. Learning how to play the real way is now on my Cultural To Do List.

Lake Malawi is a required outing for any first-time visitor. It’s also great for second and third time visitors. =)

Thanks so much for coming to see us, Wendy, and for letting us take you to new places! We really enjoyed your company, friendship, and encouragement. You’re always welcome in our home!