Church Family

We had a church picnic yesterday!

This was the second time during the school break that we got to spend a Sunday afternoon with our church family, picnicking on the lawn.

It takes a lot of hot dogs to feed this crew, so we've learned a few tricks. Did you know you can cook 60-70 hot dogs in a crockpot? The ones on the edges even get a nice sear!

I brought some bunting for a festive look, but needed a little help to tie it up. You never know when your husband's tree climbing skills will come in handy!

It's always good to spend time with church family, but this day was especially sweet. Just before the picnic, one of our elders, Gideon Manda, had preached on the unity of the body of Christ from Ephesians 4:4-6. For such a diverse church, this was an important reminder, and made our fellowship time a reminder of our unity!

As I looked around at the people on the lawn at lunch, I thought about how some of them are more comfortable eating their lunch with forks and spoons, some with chopsticks, and some with their bare hands. It's the times when we focus on those differences that we miss the beauty and eternality of the unity Scripture says we have as the body of Christ. One body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all.

This picnic was just a foretaste of heaven, when people of every tongue, tribe, and nation will join together to worship the Lord!

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!

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!

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…

A Biblical View of Money

Bible Study Begins

For the last 5 years, Matt has taught the youth group at our church.  But this year, Matt and Brian switched it up so Brian took the youth, and Matt took over the adult Tuesday evening Bible study.  We host it in our home and eat dinner together beforehand, so it’s a full family, full house ministry for us.  We have an average of about 12 adults attending, and about 3 kids who watch a What’s in the Bible? video in the next room.  Matt is teaching on a biblical view of money, so we’ve had some great times looking at the Bible together and discussing what God wants us to do with our money and possessions. This is an enormous topic that we face and must struggle with every day in (any part of) Africa.  Pray for this group when you think of us – we want to be certain that we are obeying what God calls us to in every area of our lives, including how we handle our money and possessions.

FBC Team and Easter Church Camp

For the third year in a row we have THOROUGHLY enjoyed having a team from Faith Bible Church in south Orange County come and run our Church Family Camp over Easter weekend.  This is a labor love, and this year we have 8 great people come and love our church: Rachel, Kalei, Jackie, Hannah, John, Stephen, Beth, and Curstin.  

IMG_5789This crew was just fantastic.  They came early so that they could go to church with us the week before camp, and then they spent the next 4 days doing anything and everything – prison ministry, doing skits for village ministry, painting a dining room for an orphan feeding program – they kept busy!  They even…

IMG_5791Helped paint Naomi’s room!

IMG_5794Naomi now sleeps in a jungle of trees, vines, monkeys, and a few other friends like a giraffe, a lion, and a zebra.  So cute, and such a sweet extra for us!


IMG_5812But the real reason they came was to help with camp.  Pastor John Koh preached a 4-part series on discipleship for us, while the others on the team helped with music and ran a full VBS program for all the kids!


IMG_0962The kids all loved their new teachers!  And all the regular teachers enjoyed just getting to listen to the message and fellowship with the rest of the church.  It was so wonderful and refreshing to be served by this team!

IMG_5826And just for the record, Abigail loves living in dirty, fun Africa!  She pretty much looked like this all through camp.  Sometimes she was even sporting a side ponytail as in 2 pictures above.  =)  You only get to be 3 once in your life!

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We got almost everyone in a group photo (there were some who came just for the day on Sunday who aren’t pictured), but the total count this year was 111!  What a blessing to have a church body who love spending time together and desire to grow both in the Word and in unity!  Praise the Lord!

IBF Christmas Parties – Year 5!

Yep, these were our 5th Annual IBF Christmas Parties!  With a new baby in the house, we weren’t sure if we could host the parties this year, but Rachel’s parents came to help out and we knew we could do it with their help.  And we’re so glad we did.  We love these parties, and more importantly we’ve seen over the years the importance of these times together as a church body in fellowship, worship, and fun.

IBF Christmas Parties 2014 5The photo booth is always popular for a little fun.  It’s a good memory too, as we try to print off a bunch of the photos people have taken and then hand them out at church.

IBF Christmas Parties 2014 1We always have a game for the adults as well – this year’s game was 4 on a Couch.  The group at Wednesday night’s party was very competitive, with the women finally pulling off a win in something like quadruple overtime. And then at Friday night’s party, the men pulled off a nice, clean win.

IBF Christmas Parties 2014 2Good times of singing some favorite Christmas hymns.  “Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace! Hail the Sun of Righteousness! Light and life to all He brings, ris’n with healing in His wings. Mild He lays His glory by, born that man no more may die, born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth.”  What amazing truths to sing and celebrate together as a church family!

IBF Christmas Parties 2014 3Matt shared this year from Philippians 2 on the humility of Christ in the incarnation.

IBF Christmas Parties 2014 4It was a great time of celebrating together, and now we are looking forward to celebrating Christ’s resurrection together at Family Camp over Easter!

Back to Sunday School

We’re back in the swing of things!  International Bible Fellowship Church kicked off our 9am Family Fellowship Hour (Sunday School) today, and it feels like the year has really begun.  Thank you to those of you who read our recent newsletter and have been praying for Sunday School teachers – we have a full set of teachers and assistants!  Praise the Lord!

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Since Abigail is 3 years old now (!), today was her first day of Sunday School.  I was next door in the nursery, so peeked in near the end of class to see if she was doing ok.  They were coloring, but she jumped out of her seat and ran to the door.  Uh-oh, I thought.  Then she said “Shh, Mama,” pushed on my leg, and added quietly “Go now!”  Apparently she’s doing just fine with being a big girl now!  =)

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With the long school break over (“summer vacation,” which is actually winter for us in the southern hemisphere), it was nice to have the church back to full capacity.  The picture above misses the whole left section of the church, as well as all the chairs lined up in the back.  There were about 200 people at church today.  It’s also nice to have Brian Biedebach back in the pulpit after their furlough, and to continue with our study of the book of Ephesians.

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During the 10am main service time, we simultaneously run a Children’s Church program for kids ages 0-11.  Beatrice, pictured above, has been helping with Children’s Church for some time, and we’re so thankful for her.  Today she had 18 kids in her class of 3-6 year olds!  I didn’t count, but I did see the 7-11 year olds filing into class as well, and I would guess there were 30-35 in that class.  Wow, that’s a lot of kids!  Pray for the teachers and leaders of nursery, Sunday School, and Children’s Church, as well as Matt as he gives oversight to all the programs – looks like it’s going to be a busy year!

New Members at Church

It’s always fun to see our friends become members at church.  We’ve had a couple groups of new members lately, and Ezra, Maya, Jim, and Bethany are the most recent.

New Church MembersThe church isn’t all about numbers, but we’re excited to see these friends and many more expressing their commitment to International Bible Fellowship Church.  Pray that we as a church can encourage and strengthen them in their walks with the Lord, and that they would find areas where they can serve the church and use the gifts and talents God has given them to also encourage and strengthen others.

 

Chinsapo

There’s always more ministry than there is time.  Especially here in Malawi.  We try to stay intentionally focused on church ministry, because we realized a long time ago that if you try to do everything, you won’t do a good job at anything.  One of the great things about church ministry is that the church is involved in different ministries, and members of our church head up different outreaches and projects throughout the Lilongwe area.  We’ve mentioned the prison ministry before, but another one that Matt got to visit recently is a children’s ministry in the village of Chinsapo.

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Two dear ladies from our church, Grace and Mirjam, hold a kids’ program in this nearby village every Thursday afternoon.  They have about 150 in the younger kids’ program (up to 10 years), and about 100 in the older kids’ program (11-18).

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The ladies include Bible stories, skits, songs, and coloring or activity time in their programs.  This all sounds fairly normal until you remember they they hold these programs under a few large trees in the middle of a village, with very few resources but an abundance of creativity and love.  Sometimes the ladies bring something special for the kids.  Right now our church is collecting warm clothes and blankets for the kids as we approach the winter months.

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Grace actually lives in this village, so has great opportunities to build relationships and shine the light of the gospel in her every day life. Both Grace and Mirjam are active in the church as well as the Ladies’ Bible Study, so we’ve gotten to know them well.  Neither of them would claim or aspire to hero status for what they do every Thursday afternoon; rather, they have put to use the gifts, talents, time, and opportunities God has given them for this ministry.  We’re thankful for them, and glad to come alongside them as a church to help and support them in this work.

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Please pray for these ladies when you think of them.  I know they would appreciate it!  And if you’d like to hear more of what they do, you can check out Mirjam’s blog.

Church Camp 2013

We love church camp!  Granted, this is only our 2nd annual church camp, but we looked forward to it all year long!

Family Camp 2013 1

We love the way everyone pitches in and makes camp “home” for a few days.

Family Camp 2013 2

We had great times of worship and teaching in the Word brought to us by a team of 7 from Faith Bible Church in Ladera Ranch, CA – who also put on a kids’ program at the same time.

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We had hours of fellowship around food, around campfires, around campsites, and all around the game reserve.  It was so nice to just stop and spend the better part of 4 days together with these people we love and always want to see more of.  We can’t think of a better way to spend Easter weekend than with our church family!  (You can click on the group photo above to see a large version.)