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!

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!

It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like… Ramadan

Ramadan is from July 8 through August 7 this year.  If you live in America, you’re probably oblivious to this, but if you live anywhere else in the world, particularly Africa, the Middle East, and western Asia, you’ve probably very aware of this.  If you have no idea what I’m talking about, this succinct article is very helpful in understanding the basics of Islam, and pointing to resources for ministering to Muslims.

LLW Mosque

We are more aware of Ramadan this year, because there is a new mosque just a couple blocks up the street from us. Now we can hear the call to prayer several times every day.  The mosque pictured above is one of the biggest, located in the heart of “India Town.”  In the 4+ years that we’ve been in Malawi, we’ve noticed many other signs of a growing Muslim presence. There are more Muslims immigrating to Malawi, but there are also more Malawians converting to Islam.

For a nation that is considered to be 85% Christian, this may be surprising.  However, what we’ve learned is that while there have been many generations of Christian missionaries in this part of the world, the focus of outreach here has been heavy on evangelism, and light on discipleship. The vast majority of professing Christians only understand the very basics of the gospel, and they are rarely taught how to practice what truth they do know. As you might expect, a shallow understanding of the Bible leads to a grave lack of discernment. Poor teaching has left many Malawian “Christians” vulnerable to deception and falsehood from all quarters.

Our goal is not just to produce statistical Christians, but people who are “mature in Christ” (Col. 1:28) and who “observe all that He commanded” (Matt. 28:20). We concentrate heavily on discipleship at our church, calling professing Christians to become practicing Christians, and endeavoring to help people grow in their understanding and practice of God’s truth. By God’s grace, we are able to participate in His work of transforming His people and strengthening His church. That’s why we’re here.

And Ramadan is just one more reminder – with every call to prayer – of what an important goal this is.

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.