Grocery Day

Grocery shopping day, and Naomi is ready! One can always use an extra pair of shoes with a day as busy as we had!

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I woke up having forgotten that I had 13 meters of fabric spread around our living room. Priscilla had washed and hung it to dry yesterday, but even with using the full clothesline it was still a little damp by the end of the day from being folded on itself at several points. So it spent the night getting out the last dampness in our living room. It was a strange site to wake up to though! I folded it up and set it by the door – it was going with us today…

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Breakfast was a family favorite – oatmeal. With a new not-favorite – chewable dewormer. Think bitter pepto bismol. Thankfully we only had to take these at breakfast and dinner today and we’re done. The girls didn’t balk at all, after a brief discussion of what worms are and why we don’t want them.

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School first before grocery shopping! Abi loves school and is especially good at memorizing, so we recently added catechism with corresponding verses. It’s been great, and especially fun because we have songs to go with every catechism and verse! Dana Dirksen put together the songs into 6 albums, and is in the process of producing the same albums in several different languages – including Chichewa!!! The first album in Chichewa is already finished, so once we’ve mastered English, we’ll work on the same catechism and verses in Chichewa!

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Once school was finished, it was time to get ready to go out. This is how I usually dress when we go out. Malawians dress up to go to town, so I put on makeup, and try to dress nicely. It’s hard work to do the shopping here, and I have 2 little kids in tow, and it’s hot; so my go-to item of clothing is a maxi skirt. It’s modest, stretchy, and not suffocating. Add a top that dresses it up a little and we’re good to go.

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Most Malawians don’t use car seats, but we always have. I pray we never get in a bad car accident here, but if we do, I want every chance possible that these sweet girls will be safe!

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First stop was at the new mall close to our home. Business in Malawi is almost entirely transacted in cash; however, our cell phone company is starting to change that for us! We can put money in our “mpamba” account and then through our phones pay our electric bill, water bill, cell phone bill, and even wire money to someone else’s phone/account. After years of carrying wads and wads of cash, and adding more stops to our grocery shopping day so that we could pay all our utilities in person, this new services is SO NICE. They have nice chairs in the waiting area too. =)

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On to see the Swan Man. For those of you who have followed our blog for a while, no, I still don’t know his name. But he’s still a good tailor, and I took a picture just to show you why he’s called the swan man.

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We’ve been to see the tailor frequently of late, so much so that he keeps pretty and sparkly scraps to give to my girls now! =) Last week we dropped off a suit of Matt’s to be altered, then a few days later half of the cushions that go on our wicker furniture so they could be recovered. We couldn’t drop them all off, because we still had a couple people who would need to sit on those chairs, like the ladies who come for counseling. But we dropped all the rest of the cushions off today (and there’s the 13 meters of fabric sitting on top of the cushions), and should be able to pick up the first batch on Saturday. We’re cushionless for 3 days, but it’s ok.

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From the tailors we made two quick stops: an electronics store to buy a new watch battery for Matt, and a sewing supply store to get some more elastic. We didn’t quite have enough to finish the second set of bedsheets the other day, but we do now. And some pretty shiny red trim for some skirts, and …

And then we drove to the far north end of town to a shop called Carniwors that specializes in meat. By this time we were getting a little tired and very hot, so the Abi and Naomi got granadilla and pineapple “spicy juice” (carbonated). And I let them ride in the cart while I planned out the menus for the team of 8 that is coming to stay with us in just over a week.

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Oh yes, my FBC friends who are coming next week. Yes I did. Think pork – you’ll love it. When else will you get to eat it? And for $1.25/pound, it’s a great deal!

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Finally, with a large ice chest full of meat, we made our way home. We had gotten all the miscellaneous errands accomplished, with only the actual grocery store yet to do. But that would have to wait. Peanut butter sandwiches and a nap were necessary first!

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The girls lay down and both slept for 1 1/2 – 2 hours. I headed into my room and turned on the window box fan and the mister outside the bedroom window to enjoy a little evaporative cooling. I have the greatest husband and he makes some pretty fantastic things! Ahhhh! 

And I found a little friend on the window sill. Little, as in, only about 1 inch long. We’ve seen several of these little praying mantises in the yard lately, and thanks to my inquisitive 5 year old, we’ve looked them up and know that they are actually babies. Various kinds of adult praying mantises can be 1-4 inches long, but you know it’s a baby if it doesn’t have wings yet – like this one.

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After nap time, we were back to grocery shopping, at an actual grocery store this time! Abi is my list checker, and does a great job of keeping me on track. Today she commented “Mom, why are you buying things that are not on the list? You should just buy what is on the list.” Hmm, good point. Thanks. But I’m pretty sure you want toilet paper, even if I forgot to put it on the list. =)

The reason she knows it’s not on the list is because I keep my shopping lists in order of how we walk up and down the aisles in this store and she tracks with the list to know where we’re at in our shopping. I know, it’s nerdy, but it saves so much time running back and forth, especially when shopping with little ones. Even nerdier: I have a series of 4 shopping lists that I cycle through each month. Today was the Week 1 list, when I buy all our meat, milk, cheese, and frozen vegetables for the month. Next week will include a month’s worth of dog food, the following week all the tea supplies for our staff for the month… It just works out better to divide that stuff up and plan to buy in bulk when I can. And because I have a large chest freezer at home, I can.

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Check out is always a little harried. I had 2 “trollies” of groceries today, so I had to put all the groceries on the checkout counter – but not any faster than the cashier could scan them because it’s not a very big counter! I also kind of keep an eye on whoever is packing my groceries into bags or boxes on the end, as it’s not uncommon for the tomatoes to end up on the bottom, and the dish soap to be bagged with the yogurt and they both leak. Paying for it all takes a bit of time too, as I have to count out the money, then the cashier has to count it all out too. Because it’s all cash. And the largest kwacha bill we have is currently worth only $1.38. So, just imagine paying for all your groceries (and those of a visiting team of 8) with $1 bills. It takes a little time and attention. Not to mention I have 2 little girls who need a little attention too. Thankfully, there’s a TV hanging at that end of the store that always plays the National Geographic channel. It’s always interesting, and evidently a bonding experience too!

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We got home just before 5pm. Whew. Mission accomplished. The girls colored while I put all the groceries away and made smoothies for dinner. Like that cup Naomi has? I think most people just throw those cups and lids away after they use them, but I held on to it after a trip to Jamba Juice when we were in California in 2014. Still going strong!

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The girls did great today. They were both super helpful, very cooperative, and didn’t complain! I’m not used to taking both of them with me, as Matt has set aside a couple hours on Thursday afternoons to spend some undivided time with one or the other of the girls each week. We trade off every second week, and it’s know as Abi and Dad Day, or Naomi and Dad Day. But this week, Abi declared that it was Abi and Naomi and Mom Day. I love it. It was still special as compared to all the other days we have been together this week, and still worthy of a special title!

The Hamlines

We had the great opportunity to host Paul and Gail Hamline for a couple weeks this past month.  Paul had come to teach a biblical counseling course at Central African Preaching Academy (CAPA), and Gail came to serve in any way she could.

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This couple blessed us like few people can. They were missionaries in Tanzania for 16 years, and their love for the Lord and understanding of east African culture were a great example to us. Spending time with them made us better love Christ, His church, and Africa.

Our girls loved Paul and Gail too, as they played surrogate grandparents during their stay. Gail and Abigail had more in common than rhyming names: they blew bubbles and read and made up great stories together. Naomi would light up and start waving as soon as she saw Paul. We’re thankful that the Lord has given us a home we can share, and for those who come to strengthen the Lord’s work here in Malawi!

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!

Nana and Papa

Rachel’s parents came to visit for a month, and we had such a great time with them!  They came to see the grandkids, but I (Rachel) sure did enjoy a little help adjusting to life with a three year old and a newborn.  That being said, I fully enjoyed the time with my parents, and entirely ignored the blog that whole time.  So now it’s catch up time =), starting with a month of grandparents!

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Nana and Papa arrived the second week of December, just in time to help us decorate for Christmas.  If you know anything about our Decembers, they revolve around hosting the all-church IBF Christmas parties, so decorating and preparing the house are a major event.  We knew that with a newborn the Christmas parties would be a little more difficult this year, but my parents said they would help, so we were able to pull it off!

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And you know that with grandparents here, the girls got a few extra fun things for Christmas!

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Rachel got a few hands-free moments.  Naomi clearly resembles her grandfather here, don’t you think?

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We took advantage of the excuse of having visitors to take a little vacation in the southern part of Malawi.  We spent 2 nights on the Zomba Plateau, and then 3 nights at the base of Mt. Mulanji.  Our first stop  was a boat safari on the Shire River through Liwonde National Park, where we saw LOTS of hippos, only 1 crocodile, and 3 beautiful though distant elephants.

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An overlooked element of safaris is all the waiting time in between spotting animals.  It’s a great time to hang out, especially with grandparents.

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One morning on vacation we went for a hike up the slopes of Mt Mulanji, through the banana groves and tea estates to a series of waterfall pools.  My dad’s foot slipped and he tumbled and slid down about 20+ feet of steep rock into a deep pool.  The above picture is after his swim across the pool, but before the long, hard hike back down the mountain side.  He wasn’t smiling so big once he got down the mountain.  He has some severe bruising all along his left side, seriously over-exerted muscles (from swimming with heavy hiking boots and a boost of adrenaline!), and lost his glasses in the fall.  It’s one of those experiences that I can’t emphasize enough how dramatic the fall was, and yet God’s hand of protection was clearly evidenced in so many ways.  It’s not how we would have chosen to share Africa with my parents, but we do think Dad needs one of those t-shirts that says “Africa is not for sissies.”  He earned it!

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Despite the fall, we were all able to still enjoy our time on the slopes of Mt. Mulanji, staying at Lujeri Tea Estate.  It’s a wonderful, large house, so Kellen, Becca, and Yami Hiroto had joined us for the three nights there.  The Hirotos are great friends of ours (though this is not a good picture of them…), and Yami is Abi’s best friend, so there was all kinds of fun going on!  The Hirotos were on the hike with us when Dad fell – Kellen jumping in right away to help Dad swim across, and Becca bandaging him up for the hike back down – so they now hold a very dear place in my parents’ hearts as well.

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A few more snuggles with the new baby.  We realized a couple weeks in to this visit that this is the first time my parents have been with one of the grandkids from the 1 1/2 month to 2 1/2 month range.  It’s such a fun time, with eye contact becoming more steady, giggling and cooing just starting… it’s adorable, and I’m so glad they were able to be here for it!  They were soaking up the granddaughters, and the granddaughters loved every minute of it!

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Three generations.  This time with my parents was priceless.  Abi was old enough to really enjoy it (and miss them now that they’re gone), and I was in need of a hug from my mom, a few stories from my dad, and a couple extra pairs of hands to help me get my feet back under me with this new family of four.  I’m feeling so blessed and thankful to the Lord for parents who are willing to fly half way around the world to come help. Love you, Mom and Dad!

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!

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

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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.)

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.

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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!

Maula Prison

One of the weekly ministries of International Bible Fellowship Church is coordinating a church service at Maula Prison. Charles Msukwa, an IBF church member who was saved in prison years ago, heads up this ministry.  Charles knows first hand what these men need – they need Christ.  God has blessed Charles with a servant’s heart and the gift of evangelism and compassion.

Charles ands AletaCharles with his wife, Ellita, at the IBF Christmas Party

Preaching is central to this ministry, but there are also other ways IBF ministers to the men and women of Maula Prison.  We have collected school materials for them, have made sure they have clothes and transport money when they are released, and for those who have been regularly attending, we write a letter for the inmates to take as they make an effort to rejoin their home church.

Matt, Brian Biedebach, and many other men from our church have gone to the prison with Charles to preach.  It is such a great opportunity that we couldn’t let the FBC team go home without going to prison first!  So we sent them off to spend their last morning with Charles at Maula Prison.

Jon Buck had the opportunity to preach while Charles translated for him:

 

We’d appreciate your prayers for this ministry of the church – for Charles as he coordinates, for more men in the church to come alongside Charles in this ministry, and for the prisoners, that they would come to know Christ and to grow in their faith.

Church Camp 2012

The pre-Church Camp post may have sounded a little bit excited about Church Camp… but 4 days of fun, fellowship, and good Bible teaching did not disappoint!

Brodie, Jon, and Matt – the FBC team – with the help of 5 African Bible College students, ran a 3-ring circus for us: teaching for the adults, a kids’ program, and even a nursery.

The adults studied Romans chapters 4,5,6, & 8 over the 4 teaching sessions.  We looked at how we, as believers, are to live out the gospel in our every day lives, and how Christ’s resurrection confirms that gospel work in our lives.

The tie-in between the resurrection and our sanctification was fantastic, as our camp was over Easter weekend.  A few early risers gathered for a sunrise service and we enjoyed the chance to sing praises to our risen Savior!

The kids learned about Bibliology – all about the Bible.  They came back from their sessions quoting Bible verses, singing silly songs, showing everyone their crafts, and acting just like… well, just like they’d been to camp!  I’m pretty sure most of them would have voted to stay at camp for weeks!

The adults enjoyed a few games too.

Our location was great for walks and game drives, so groups would go out during free time to see sable, zebra, giraffe… some of which came to camp to visit us!  Other people would collect at one camp site or another for coffee, long chats, or a pick-up volleyball game.  It was a great time of getting to know one another better!

One of our great hopes for International Bible Fellowship Church is that we would become a church family, and that our fellowship would be genuine, Christ-centered, and welcoming to others.  This camp was one of those times, and we’re eagerly looking forward to next time!

Bright Vision Orphanage

This past December, our church collected a special Christmas offering to support the work of Bright Vision Orphanage.  There was a need for a water pump and a tank to bring water from the borehole to the new kitchen area, so as a church we decided to help with this project.

And with the FBC team visiting, we plugged them into this ministry opportunity.  They painted the door for the water tower, helped figure out logistics, and ran a one-day kids’ VBS program for the 250 kids who came to see what was going on!

Can you find Matt and Brodie?  =)

We’re excited about this ministry, and look forward to other opportunities for our church to partner with them in the years ahead!

FBC Team 2012

A team from Faith Bible Church in Ladera Ranch, CA, came to visit us for one fun-filled, non-stop ministry week.  These three guys ran hard and got a good sampling of what our lives and work here look like.  Over the next three posts, we’ll show you a bit of what they did – how they served us, the church, and the people of Malawi.

We had a great time with these guys, and are already praying that there will be an opportunity for an FBC Team 2013!