Construction

While Shelbi was teaching at the conference, the 6 men of the GCC team went to work. On Monday Shelbi, Abigail, Naomi, and I went to check out the progress on the church property.

The guys had been hard at work with surveying equipment, so there were lines all over the ground representing future buildings.

To get a look at the rest of it, Shelbi’s husband, Sean, took us on a tour.

They’ve been charting out and digging septic lines.

Digging the septic pit and leach field, as well as a cistern to collect and store run-off from our heavy Malawi rains.

They’re also making an awning for our current storeroom, which I believe will eventually be the maintenance area. Sean, Edgar, and Christopher are busy, but not too busy to strike a pose for a picture or two!

And they’re just about ready to lay pipes for the septic system. Abi and Omi were giving it a go to see if they were any good at construction. They are significantly better at wearing pink tutus and posing for cute shots than they are at construction, but they had a great time pretending!

It was fun to see progress on the land! I’m sure we have many, many months of construction ahead, but I’m looking forward to the day when both the church and CAPA can move onto this property!

CAPA Wives Conference

One of the blessings of having the GCC team here was the opportunity to have Shelbi Cullen teach the wives of our current and graduated CAPA students. These wives have seen their husbands stretched and grown over the course of their studies, and they wanted to learn too! So we put on a Marriage and Family conference for them.

We had 20 CAPA wives in attendance, and a few missionary wives joined in each session. Shelbi covered an amazing breadth of information as she took the wives through the gospel and the authority of Scripture, and then brought the Word to bear on their daily lives as wives and mothers.

Naomi, whose husband finished the MDiv program in April, did a fantastic job translating for Shelbi. The men at CAPA study in English with all English-speaking professors and classes, but not all of their wives speak English – or at least are not as comfortable in English. If you’ve never heard how teaching works with translation, listen to the clip below as Shelbi shared part of the gospel and Naomi translated for her.

We are thankful for the opportunity to invest in the wives and families of our CAPA students. And as a bonus, we – the missionary wives – were also encouraged and loved on by Shelbi!

I am thankful for this good friend. Her wisdom, faithful teaching, and likemindedness encouraged my heart! As a true friend and true sister, Shelbi draws my mind to the greatness and grace of God. I pray that the Lord would let me do the same for the women in my life!

GCC Team

We have had a construction/conference team with us for the past week! They’re from Grace Community Church in California, our sending church, and include some dear friends. We have been able to host 2 of the team in our home this week, and now have more dear friends! I’ll post more on the conference and construction work soon.

This team has truly been a blessing! I do love the young, eager teams who come to help on the field, but this humble team of 7 has blessed us with a combined total of HUNDREDS of years of ministry and construction experience. Many people think “missionaries are great,” but as a missionary who is very aware of how normal and not-so-great she is, I want you to know that these people right here are some of my heroes. Their faithfulness and humility, wisdom and grace have blessed us time and again. We are so thankful for them, and we get 3 more days with them!

Visitors

Today we were tremendously blessed to have two dear friends come to lunch. George Crawford is an elder at our sending church in California, and Rodney Anderson is the new pastor over missionary care at the same church. We have known these men and their families for 10+ years, so it was so, so good to see them both!

These men blessed us with their encouragement and counsel. I can’t even begin to tell you the importance of having a great, supporting sending church, and today these men embodied that care and support to us. We feel loved and very well cared for!

And so do our girls! What girl (of any age!) doesn’t feel loved and cared for when they are given mounds of chocolate and peanut butter?!?

I even got a little extra love too: a hand-stamped tea towel and sweet note from Glenna and Amy Anderson. (Thank you ladies!!)

We are so thankful for the show of love and support our sending church poured out on us today! These guys will catch up with the rest of the team here, and then head down to our organization’s regional conferences in South Africa on Wednesday. Matt goes with them to those conferences, so keep us girls in your prayers this week!

Loving Team Time

Over the last several weeks we have had the privilege of hosting a team from The Master’s University. We had a fantastic time with them!

They came to do the kids’ program for our church camp, and stayed around to help with lots of admin projects for both the church and the training center. Then they got to experience life in rural Malawi by spending 3 weeks working with Action International in Ntcheu. Sunday night they came back to our place for a little debrief, and Monday afternoon we dropped them off at the airport.

We so enjoyed this team! Dinners were long and full of conversation.

Our evenings were fun as they loved on our girls.

We got to share life with them and enjoyed showing them some of our favorite things about Malawi.

We were very blessed to get to know these college students! We will miss their deep theological conversation, their hilarious antics, and the genuine love they poured out on us. Thank you TMU team, for the blessing you were to our family and to so many others here in Malawi!

Oleander Hawk Moth

Not all our bugs are scary. Some are just beautiful! This morning as Matt and Aaron left to teach at CAPA, Aaron found this beautiful oleander hawk moth (Daphnis nerii).

Off Adventuring Again!

We have 2 visiting CAPA professors staying with us for 2 weeks, so we decided to pack up the family and the guests and go on a little adventure!

Despite our misadventure on a trip a couple weeks ago, we decided to go back to Kuti, but this time spend the night. Kuti’s prime time is “golden hour,” the hour just before the sunset or the hour just after the sunrise. And if you spend the night, you can be there for both. Kuti did not disappoint. We found a herd of nyala before we even got to the chalets!

Aaron and Myral stayed in one of these nice new chalets, and our family stayed in one of the 4-bed a-frame chalets. Simple, but sufficient.

Hotdogs and s’mores for dinner: great camping food, no matter what continent you’re on!

Then off for a good night’s sleep. The next morning, the girls were up early, so Matt took them out so I could sleep a little longer. Not happening though! It was 5am, but the sun was up, the zebra were braying, and I got up! I grabbed my towel and toiletry bag and headed for the bathrooms. I was a little sleepy-eyed, but glanced down the path as I stumbled to the bathrooms:

Hello nyala! So I, and my towel and toiletry bag, took off through the bush to check out a group of 6 young male nyala. They were beautiful. Myral later told me that he had seen a couple of them sparing shortly before I came out. Speaking of Myral, I found him, and Aaron, and my family all nearby the nyala, checking out a herd of zebra.

The variety of zebra commonly found in Malawi is the Burchell’s zebra, the southern variety of the plains zebra. They’re easy to recognize because of the grey stripes that jump into the pattern.

Having found some animals and my family, I decided I’d had enough of a side trip with my towel and toiletry bag, and headed back to camp to get ready for the day and make some breakfast on the concrete braai (barbecue).

There was a light sprinkling of rain in the morning – just enough to feel wonderful on the skin, but too much for the breakfast plate – so we ate in the thatched kitchen/dining area.

Then we packed up and headed out, in time to see a zebra parade.

Next stop: crocodile farm! We brought our own big mouth crocodiles. Sure are cute for crocodiles, aren’t they?!

The crocs are raised for their skin, which is apparently the best quality at 4 years old. So we saw lots of crocs 1-3 years old. This particular enclosure had 2,500 crocodiles, all 8 months old.

These crocs are 3 years old.

And yes, the workers get right in there with them!!! Not me! Not in a million years!

Naomi and I were only moderately ok with the concrete and chain-length fences between us and the crocs. But it was reassuring to know that in the 15+ years of their existence, this croc farm has never had anyone killed by a croc. Yes, the walls are very secure. It’s just really weird being that close to a crocodile, even with a secure wall!

Then the fun part! Crocodile teeth! We all bought some! 😜

The croc farm is along the lake shore, so we headed down the coast a little and went for a swim!

The only crocs in this part of the lake were the cute kind!

After a swim, we ordered lunch at the Livingstonia Hotel and enjoyed both the company and the beautiful setting. We’ve known Aaron for 12+ years, so it’s been so good to catch up with him!

If you can see the water from your table, you should order the fish! The local favorite is chambo, a variety of tilapia, and it’s really good!

One more stop in the way home: the wood market. It’s very touristy and rural Africa, but a great place for visitors to pick up a few souvenirs. Or to find a chief’s chair and sit back to watch people walk by.

My find of the day: new earrings. Can you guess what they are? (Hint: look up 6 pictures)

That’s all – we were all adventured out! Time to head for home and a nice warm shower!

Who’s going to come adventuring with us next? 😊

Thankful

We don’t always celebrate Thanksgiving with a big meal, but we did this year! We have a couple visiting CAPA professors, Aaron Johnson and Myral Watson, staying with us, and Chris and Ashley Mullins joined us too.

We have already established that I’m a kitchen nerd, so I’m ok showing you my detailed schedule.

I found myself a couple of helpers, and they did a fantastic job!

Sweet potatoes! Secret: I could only find white sweet potatoes, so I used food coloring!

After a while, I had so many dishes that I started stacking them on the floor. And then Martha called to say she had stayed in Salima (1.5 hour drive away) and would be late for work. Oh boy, if I ever needed someone to wash dishes for me it’s on Thanksgiving day! Hurry back, Martha!

And then she came and rescued the day! Whew! I was using toddler forks to whip eggs! No time to wash dishes on Thanksgiving day!

In the late afternoon Matt, Aaron, and Myral set up the outdoor lights and moved our table and chairs onto the lawn. We love eating outdoors, and it felt fitting to do so on a holiday! Matt read a devotional for us on God-centered rather than self-centered thankfulness. It was a good reminder for us all!

Then to dinner! Ashley brought yummy salad, rolls, and pumpkin pie, and the girls helped me make the rest. It was quite a feast!

With pie, ice cream, and stories, we enjoyed a special time of thanksgiving long into the night. We are very blessed to share this holiday with friends and family, near and far. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Africa Wins

There are a couple English expressions used in Africa to describe those days when things are crazy or unexpected or confusing. TIA (standing for This Is Africa) is the general expression of “well, that’s just how it is here.” The second expression, Africa Wins, is more along the lines of “we tried everything we could and it still didn’t work.” Yesterday, Africa won.

Let’s back up a little bit. We have had a friend, Rachael Ingoldsby, staying with us the last few days. She has been here for a few months helping the Ayres family with homeschooling. The Ayres left for their furlough a couple days ago, and Rachael flies back today, so she stayed with us in the interim. At breakfast yesterday, she told us she still hadn’t seen a monkey in Africa, and she was looking for a little adventure on her last day in Africa. So we made a plan: Rachael, Abigail, Naomi, and I would go to Kuti Wildlife Reserve near Salima for the day, then come back to have dinner with Matt and Chris and Ashley Mullins. Adventure, high likelihood of seeing monkeys – perfect!

It takes about an hour and a half to drive to Kuti from our house. It’s a beautiful drive, full of rolling hills, thatched mud brick houses, goats, bicycles, and eventually fields of termite mounds and baobab trees.

We checked in at Kuti’s reception building, then headed to Landarani Camp for our picnic. This is where we have had our annual IBF church camp for the last 6 years, so it’s very familiar and fun for our family!

Then we were off driving through the wildlife reserve to find monkeys! Found them, and some baboons!

And a pair of beautiful sable!

It was about this time that our air conditioning stopped working in the car. Bummer. It had kind of felt like it was going out for a while, but it was definitely gone now. We didn’t think much about it, but this was the beginning of our problems. We carried on and found a fantastic herd of nyala: one scruffy, dark, curly-horned male with his females and young.

We didn’t see any zebra (and they’re usually the most common!), but we did see their tracks.

It’s the end of the dry season right now, so we walked across the mud flats to check out a waterhole.

We did a little hiking…

And a little trail running!

And then we cleaned up a bit and discovered that Kuti has skin whitening soap. 😳 Hmmm.

We made one last stop in Kuti to see the marsh at Sunset Deck. Not many frogs, but lots of waterfowl!

So far, so good! Air con is out, but we can roll down the windows. We are sweating and getting super dirty from the dust, but it feels more African that way. Feeling completely satisfied with all we saw at Kuti, we head for home with the wind in our hair – we are adventurers!

Not so fast. We made it about 10km (6 miles) before the engine light came on and the engine temp went right up to the red. Uh-oh! We pulled to the side of the road and turned the car off quickly! Over the next half hour, we checked the oil and confirmed the radiator fan worked and we had sufficient engine coolant. There was one little incident when we thought the engine coolant was no longer hot and tried to open the cap… we don’t recommend that. No burns, but boiling engine coolant went everywhere. Other than that, Rachael and I were cool as cucumbers.

Thankfully we were on a stretch of road that had cell service, so we had called Matt for his advice. Eventually he made a plan to come out to help us himself because our mechanic was busy. However, Matt was at Immigration when all this started, trying to sort out Rachael’s visa, so he didn’t get out of Lilongwe until about 5pm. We were glad to get updates from him, and saw his big red circle moving closer to our little pink circle on the map! Help was on the way!

The girls held up wonderfully. This wasn’t their first roadside wait – they are professional roadside waiters! But every time something like this happens I am so thankful for patient, creative girls!

We pulled over with an overheating engine at 3:15pm. As the sun started to set, I was thankful for the little village that surrounded us. I wouldn’t want to be stuck on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere as just 4 girls. The village offered us visibility – not something we always want, but this time I was thankful for it!

Matt-the-rescuer arrive at 6pm! He brought more bottled water, crackers, and beef jerky, which we devoured. Rachael had bought tomatoes from a roadside stand, and we had already eaten the leftover ham and cookies from our picnic lunch!

With Matt’s arrival, we then had 2 cars on the side of the road with hazard lights on while we made a plan. The plan: slowly get our car to Katengeza village, 7km away, where our housekeeper Martha’s brother is the chief, and leave the car til the mechanic can go get it in the morning. Plan worked out great. Chief Brian is a new favorite of ours!

We all made it home in Matt’s rescue car about 8:15pm, 5 hours after we had broken down. Not bad! Happy to be home!

We were filthy dirty from our dusty hike, lack of air con, and just hanging out in a village for hours. But dirt washes off.

About this time we got the update on Matt’s trip to the Immigration office for Rachael’s visa. Apparently “visa” doesn’t actually mean visa here in Malawi. It means “permission to enter,” not “permission to stay.” So her “12 month visa” is actually just permission to enter the country at any point in those 12 months. Permission to stay longer than the 30 day stamp in her passport is a different matter, so we were looking at paperwork, passport photos, letters, payments, etc, etc in the morning for her just to be able to leave the country… on a 1:05pm flight.

And then, the power starts doing weird things. Really? Power is on, but only things on the inverter are working. Really?!? We only get a few hours of power at a time, then have to wait 24 hours before we get more. The power can’t be “off” when it’s really on!!!

This is the point at which I was done. Africa can win today. Our car in a village 60 miles away, visa paperwork, and electrical issues will all have to wait for tomorrow. I surrender! I’m going to bed!

But you know what? The Lord’s mercies are new every morning, and his faithfulness is great! The mechanic got our car back to Lilongwe and replaced the water pump this afternoon. Rachael’s visa/permit issues were sorted at the immigration office this morning and she made her flight just fine. And the electrician showed up at 6:30am this morning to discover a melted neutral link in our control panel. Today, of course, brought more and different adventures, but each day has enough trouble of its own. We will leave all those troubles with the Lord. Even if Africa Wins every once in a while, I know God’s plans for me never fail, and he is in no way surprised by those days. I can go to sleep confident in his faithfulness and looking forward to his mercies tomorrow morning. I’m going to need them, and they are there waiting for me!

Good night!

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