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!

Sunday School is Back 1

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!  =)

Sunday School is Back 3

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.

Sunday School is Back 2

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.

 

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.

Chinsapo 6

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).

Chinsapo 4

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.

Chinsapo 2

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.

Chinsapo 1

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.

Family Camp 2013 3

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.)

Christmas Parties 2012

The Christmas parties were GREAT!  We had about 35 people the first night, and about 50 people the second night.

Christmas Party 2012

 

We had food, fellowship, a kids’ Christmas movie, Christmas pictionary, carols, and a devotional to go with the reading of Luke chapter two. We also had the photo booth again this year.  Here are a few of the great faces we captured there.

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We are so blessed to spend the Christmas season with these people, our friends and our family in Christ.  To all of you, friends and family, far and near, much love and a very Merry Christmas!

057€€€€€ ➪ Christmas 2012

Kwacha

If there is one man God has used to encourage our hearts in ministry in Malawi, it is Kwacha Simwaka. Matt and Kwacha met over 10 years ago in Mozambique where they were both doing missions, and have stayed in touch over the years – even being roommates in South Africa for all of 2005.

Kwacha Matt and Abi

Kwacha is finishing up his Theological Masters degree at The Master’s Seminary and planning to graduate this coming May, after which he will return to Malawi and join us in ministry in his home country.  We are so looking forward to this day!  God has blessed Kwacha with wisdom, diligence, and a heart burdened for his country.  Those are just a few of the things we love about him, and a few of the ways that he encourages us.  In fact, he’s so loved around here, that as Abi is learning her alphabet, she has declared that “K” is for Uncle Kwacha. =)

Kwacha and Rachel

Kwacha is back in Malawi right now for a few weeks to extend his visa to America so that he can continue with his studies through May.  We’ve loved the chance to spend time with him! Please pray for him as he prepares to return to Malawi in the not too distant future, and that he can finish his thesis and the master’s program with excellence!

Furlough 2012 Schedule

Two days til Fly Day!  Boxes and piles are accumulating around our house – we’re getting ready to fly out on SUNDAY!  Yahoo!  Yikes!

Yes, we’re excited, but it does feel like there’s a lot to do in the next 2 days.  We have 5 people staying in our house while we’re gone, so we have to get it ready for them to move in next week.  And then pack everything we will need for the next 4 months in 3 big boxes and one suitcase.

Then we fly to Greece!  Our mission organization, Grace Ministries International, has a conference for all its missionaries every 2 years, and this year’s conference is in Greece.  Conveniently, it’s right at the beginning of our furlough time, so we’re taking a little side trip to the conference on our way to the States.  We’ll be there for about 10 days for meetings, a bit of touring, catching up with lots of missionary friends, and soaking up some sun so that we can be ready for sunny southern California.  It was 56 degrees this morning here in our part of the southern hemisphere – we’re due for some warming up!

So here’s our schedule for the next few months.  Once we get to California and can catch our breath a bit, we’ll have more details on when and where we’re speaking.

Floreen Furlough 2012

June 22   Organize the house and tie up loose ends

June 23   Packing day

June 24   Fly day!  Lilongwe-Johannesburg-London-Athens

June 25 – July 3   In Greece for our mission organization’s bi-annual conference

July 4   Fly to Los Angeles

July 4-August 6   In Santa Clarita, CA, for Matt’s MA in Biblical Counseling classes

August 6-20   At the Floreens’

August 20-Sept 3   At the Smiths’

September 3-October 23   Based in Sun Valley, CA, with trips to eastern Kansas and north-western Washington

October 23-25   Fly back to Malawi

Youth Camp 2012

The Floreen family got to participate in our 4th Youth Camp this month.  We love these camps!  We had 14 youth this time, and tackled a complicated and confusing subject for teens: dating.  The youth leadership had all been getting questions from different students about this topic, so we decided to give an overview of what the Bible says about relationships.

Kellen Teaching

For the first time, we were at camp and Matt wasn’t the main speaker.  We had the opportunity to hear our friend Kellen Hiroto teach, and we really enjoyed – not just the break from teaching – but an excellent time of seeing what God’s Word says about relationships.

Charlotte with guitar

We also enjoyed the times of music and worship, as well as games, bonfires, and swimming with the youth.  We didn’t know if we’d get to swim in the lake this camp, because this guy showed up on our beach:

Youth camp crocodile

Yep, that’s a crocodile.  About 3-4 years old, and about 4 feet long.  He’d been hanging around the Wheelhouse beach for a few days, so they had put out two large traps for him and hung dead chickens as bait.  The students arrived for camp Saturday afternoon, and the croc was caught Sunday morning – so we all got to go swimming!

Youth at table

It was a great camp.  We’re so thankful for these youth and for the desire of so many of them to follow the Lord in all ways.

Looking forward to the next youth camp!