Church Camp 2018

It’s hard to believe, but this year was our 7th annual church camp! These are treasured times of fun and fellowship within our church body, and this year was no exception.

We were able to hear the testimonies of the church elders and from each of them a devotional from a passage that has had an impact on their walk with the Lord.

During our free times, we piled into vehicles to go look for zebra, nyala, sable, and giraffe.

While some of us took a quieter walk through the woods looking for birds.

And just in case we missed the wildlife on our drives or hikes, it often came right into camp.

The kids had a whole week’s worth of VBS – Bible stories, games, memory verses, crafts! – in the three days of camp. The girls LOVED it! And, of course, in good camp tradition, they were completely dirty by the time camp was finished!

It was a fantastic 3 days of sharing life together with our precious church family. These opportunities for sharing meals together, having long talks, and playing together are priceless!

CAPA Graduation

On April 19th, CAPA graduated its first class of Masters of Divinity students. These students had studied hard for 3 years, and it was a joy to cheer for them as they crossed the stage to receive their hoods and officially finish this arduous course.

Matt has walked with these men, not just on the finances and IT side of things, but also as a prof, teaching their counseling courses and many discipleship labs and round tables over the years.

Many of these men are our friends, some we count as very dear friends, so for us this graduation carries with it not only the distinction of being the “first MDiv class,” but also of being a major milestone in the lives of our friends.

Years of friendship, discipleship, and growth are represented by these few pictures of men in black robes.

Years of partnership, preparation, and desire to see men trained to study, apply, and preach God’s word.

Please pray for these men as they pastor churches in and around Lilongwe, that they would remain faithful to the accurate handling of God’s Word. Pray also for the next classes as they rise through the ranks. Thank the Lord with us for his good work!

A Joyful Noise

Yesterday I had the tremendous opportunity to make some beautiful music with my friends Bryanne and Brianne. We played during offertory, so they sang By Faith (by Getty and Townend) and played guitar, and I accompanied on the piano. Bryanne Jones has been learning guitar, and I’m newly back to piano, so we started pursuing this opportunity because we want to use any skills we have developed as a means of drawing others to worship the Lord. Brianne Kopp is very familiar with singing and playing in a church setting (though she has been lying low and this was her first time at IBF!) so she got roped in to help us figure out how to do this! And because I don’t sing. At least not well!

These ladies have amazing voices. Let’s be honest, I just got to come along for the ride! But anytime they sing, I want to be there! And they make me want to become a better accompanist, a better pianist. I love playing classical music. Playing improv, music directed by chords, as part of a band – that’s really hard for me. But I loved it! And I want to get better at it. I’m looking forward to our next opportunity to draw attention and worship to our Lord and Savior with a joyful and beautiful noise!

Sundays

We love Sundays around this house! They are non-stop from 8:30am to 7:30pm, but they are filled with our favorite things!

Here’s what a Sunday can hold for us…

We usually leave the house between 8:30 and 8:45, getting to church in time to clean a classroom. Rachel is currently teaching the 4-5 year old Sunday school class, and enjoys a full house of 8-10 imaginative and fun kids!

Matt is on rotation helping teach the adult class on Evangelism, and this week and next he is teaching on the difference between the prosperity gospel and the true gospel of Scripture.

Main service is next, a time to enjoy worshipping the Lord and hearing the teaching of God’s Word with our friends.

We have a few minutes after church to chat with people, then we rush home for Care Group, which begins at our house at 12 noon!

We eat lunch with our Care Group (I feel them peanut butter sandwiches and they keep coming back!), and we really love this group! We have somehow become the “young singles group,” and more often than not we have to draw up a few extra chairs to our 10-seater table!

During lunch we catch each other up on what God is doing in our lives. Afterwards we explore the practical applications of the morning’s sermon and take time to pray for one another. This group cares for one another well and loves to laugh! We are so thankful to the Lord for them, and have been so encouraged seeing them grow in Christlikeness!

After Care Group, either Matt or I or both of us have have meetings for discipleship or counseling. It’s fun to end the afternoon with both of us saying: “God is at work here!”

By this point it’s getting to the late afternoon and we have a Skype appointment each Sunday with Matt’s parents. It’s a fun catch-up time, usually involving some sort of show-and-tell by the girls.

Either before or after dinner, it’s family fun night! It’s our one night of the week to do something special as a family, whether that’s play dominoes, ride bikes, watch a movie, go out to eat, or throw a blanket on the lawn and star-gaze!

By the end of Sundays, we are all tired-happy. These days seem to embody what we love: worship of the Lord and instruction in the Word, ministry and relationships within the church, and sweet family time. We love Sundays!

UCLA Team

For the last week and a half we have had 6 of the 15 member team from Grace Community Church staying at our house. They’re all part of the Grace on Campus Bible study at UCLA, and this is the 4th time that group has sent a team to Malawi. They come every year now for the first module of CAPA (Central African Preaching Academy) to help with student registration and to interview the students.

Tuesday night was our turn to have the whole group over for dinner, so we hauled everything outside and had a great time enjoying the cool evening with this team!

Rachael brought over some sugar cane, so Matt taught everyone how to “eat” it.

Eat isn’t really the word, because you chew up the pulp to suck out the juices, then spit the pulp out. Just imagine liquid sugar… which is exactly what it is!

The texture is about like chewing on toothpicks, but that doesn’t stop anyone!

Though it does take a while to get the knack of things!

Dinner was a hit, and I won the game. Anyone else play “the game”? It’s when you estimate food for a group, and you hit it perfectly. We had 20 people for dinner, at 2 tables, and we had 4 1/2 pieces of chicken left over – 2 at one table, 2.5 at the other. You don’t win the game if there’s no food left: you didn’t make enough. And you don’t win if you have lots leftover. You don’t even win it you have 1 piece leftover: that’s the “Christian piece” that no one wants to take because it’s the last piece. 😊 So 2 or 2 1/2 pieces of chicken per table is perfect. Everyone had enough and we didn’t run out! Yes, I’m a kitchen nerd.

It was fun to sit around and chat with this group, to hear what they’ve been learning and experiencing. Having interviewed some of the same students for multiple years, they are seeing growth in the lives of the CAPA students! They were also able to go to some of the students’ churches this weekend, and have been thinking through their experiences and pondering the ways in which they have seen God working – here in Malawi and in their own lives. You can check out the group’s blog here: http://malawi2017stm.wordpress.com.

As the sun set and dinner ended, the twinkle lights began to show in the trees. It’s hard to believe that there were no trees in the yard when we moved here! It’s such a nice space now!

No outdoor meal is complete without a bonfire, so we brought out the marshmallows and had some s’mores. We even had mice shaped marshmallows for the more Malawian s’mores experience!

We are thankful for the work this team is doing. They have conducted and transcribed 100+ interviews with the CAPA students this year. As the team finishes up the interviews and posts them online, you can get to know the students and hear their testimonies at: http://capa.prayformalawi.com/students

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!

Full and Rich Days

Saturdays almost always start with a Skype call to my parents, aka Nana and Papa. I get to talk to them by myself for a while first, and then when the girls are up at 7 they join me and share their happy early morning cheer. Abigail is fascinated by the 10 hour time difference, and Naomi loves showing off all her baby dolls.

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Just as we were finishing up breakfast, Priscilla showed up. Priscilla, affectionately known to Naomi as “My Rilla,” works at our house on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, watching the girls in the morning and helping with odd jobs in the afternoon. While Matt’s away, I asked her to come on Saturdays too, because sometimes it’s just nice to have another adult around. And today it turned out to be especially helpful. The girls couldn’t care less if it’s helpful – they just love playing with her!

My first job of the day was to wash Naomi’s rain boots. It is the rainy season, but she wears these everywhere, rain or shine. I don’t know what was growing in them, but the stink coming from them was unbearable, as were Naomi’s feet. The feet soaked in an antiseptic bath, and the boots went three rounds with 1) antibacterial soap, 2) bleach, and 3) baking soda and vinegar.

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Since the girls were occupied and the beloved boots de-toxified, I dragged myself to my computer and worked on finances and taxes. Blah. That’s all I’m going to say. No, I will add: if you like keeping track of finances and working on your taxes, you should move to another country and enjoy it in 2 currencies. Blah.

In the course of the morning, word spread quickly through the neighborhood that our friends and landlords, living just a block from us, had been visited by thieves during the night. The thieves had broken a hole in their wall and poisoned and killed their dogs. Nothing was stolen, but this seems to be a popular tactic – break the wall and get rid of the dogs one night, come back sometime in the next couple nights to steal things. We once had someone try this at our house, but our dogs were too big for the little poison they were given, and we had the fence repaired right away that day. And installed lights on the street to discourage it happening again.

As I head to bed shortly, I’m thankful for God’s care for us. I know we are in His hands no matter what happens. But I also know that we must be wise, and so I am very thankful for an excellent night watchman and 2 big dogs who sound pretty scary. Our guard told me not to worry tonight, Simba put on his best guard dog face, and Samson stretched in preparation for a night of walking the perimeter. We would all appreciate your prayers for our neighborhood the next few nights.

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I spent the end of the morning visiting a friend, Susan, who is recovering from bacterial meningitis. She is back at home as of Thursday, and just today feeling well enough to want some reading material. If bacterial meningitis can be compared to an extreme migraine lasting for days and days, you can see how feeling well enough to read is real progress! So I took a few books to her, and some wonderful grapes!

Lunch went surprisingly well. Those of you who have/had little kids will know that lunch can either go surprisingly well, or it can be… let’s say, a series of great teaching moments.

After lunch, the girls had their rest time, Priscilla helped with a couple cleaning projects, and I tackled a problem with a candle sconce. As I was finishing up the blog post last night, I heard a dripping noise coming from the direction of the hall bathroom. I figured the girls had not turned the water off completely and it was slowly dripping. So I ignored it for a few minutes while I finished up on the computer. When I went to investigate, I found that it wasn’t water, but that one of our hall candle sconces had a hole in the base or catchment area. Every drop of wax that hit the tile floor splattered in a fine mist about 15 inches across the floor and up the wall. Oh dear. I stopped the dripping last night, but this afternoon I scraped all the wax with my pastry scraper (yay kitchen tools!), and decided to fix the offending candle sconce. So I got out the soldering iron and waited for it to heat up. And waited, and waited, and waited… Then I checked the wiring, changed the plug fuse, TOOK THE ENTIRE SOLDERING IRON APART! No good. It’s dead. So, when all else fails… I fixed the little hole in the candle sconce with a small piece of duct tape. Not one of my fancier fixes, but it will do for now!

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Also during rest time, I had a counseling session for about an hour, our final session, wrapping up a short series with this counselee. It was a good series, and has challenged me personally to think more deeply  and biblically about the true nature of faith and God’s good purposes in our lives.

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But rest time doesn’t last forever! “Mom! Let’s play tickle machine! Touch this knee to turn it on and I’ll tickle you, and this knee to turn it off!” My favorite part was when she thought I was taking too long between tickles and pushed her knee herself to turn on the tickle machine! Lots of giggles and fun times!

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As I write out all the details of my day, I’m struck by how ordinary today was. The only missing part was Matt. But this is kind of how my days go: fix things, pray for God’s protection of us, visit or take care of someone who’s sick, drink lemonade and talk about true saving faith with a friend, play with my kids… I love this life. It’s full and it’s rich. I’m so thankful that this is where the Lord chose to put our family!

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…

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!