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!

We’re Going to Church Camp!




We’re going to Church Camp!

We have about 70 people signed up for the first ever International Bible Fellowship Family Camp!  We’ll be camping out at Kuti Community Game Park for 3 nights over the long Easter weekend, getting a chance to sit and chat with those in our church, to share testimonies, to gather together a group of families who like to sing, to go for walking safaris together, and to be encouraged and taught in the Word.  Three men from Faith Bible Church in Ladera Ranch, CA, are coming to do the teaching for the adults and kids, so our pastors and regular teachers get a break.  We are so excited!

We’re going to Church Camp!




Nana and Papa

Nana and Papa

We’re all really enjoying having Rachel’s parents – “Nana and Papa” – here to visit for 6 weeks over the holidays.  The smallest member of our family has taken to holding their hands whenever possible: praying for meals, walking between Sunday school and main service at church, and even when being pushed in the stroller.  It’s adorable, and I don’t think Nana and Papa mind at all!

GCC High School Team

We thought we had a big house until the Grace Community Church High School Team showed up!  It may have been a little ambitious to add 26 people to our house, but it seems to be working.  There are a few cold showers, LOTS of shoes in the hallways, and laughter throughout the house.  Most of them are gone all day working on construction projects with Brian Biedebach, but two of them hang out with us every day for KP duty.



Feeding 28 of us three meals a day has been quite the endeavor.  We’re feeling pretty organized now though, with all the cups labeled, and everyone broken into the routine.


GCC HS Team Photo

We’re enjoying seeing these guys in action.  From playing with village kids to singing special music at church, they’re ready to jump into anything!  You can visit their blog to see what they’re up to!

Kitchen Prep

Our biggest team of the summer arrives tomorrow, the 1st of July.  All 26 of them are staying at our house and we’re in charge of food.  Needless to say, our house and kitchen have undergone some major transformations.  Here’s what the kitchen looks like today.

Banana MountainMountains of fruit and vegetables. Something like 80 bananas, 60 apples, 50 pears, 30 clementines, 10 avocados, 10 heads of lettuce, 50 tomatoes… and that will last us until Wednesday, hopefully. We wash it all in filtered water with a little bleach so that it’s safe to eat.

Kitchen CounterThe counter looks almost normal.  Just spaghetti sauce thawing for tomorrow night and 5 large baguettes for garlic bread.  But the cupboards are so full the door won’t close all the way, and the overflow on top of the cupboards is making us a little concerned about whether the cupboards will stay on the wall!  Good thing this team is bringing a carpenter!

Kitchen ChiliNot only are our cupboards and counters full of food, so is our large deep freeze. We leave for the States next Thursday (!) and this team will be here a week without us, so Rachel cooked ahead and froze meals for them after we leave.  The freezer’s so full that we took 6 batches of food over to the Biedebachs’!  But it’s all ready.  The Floreen Bed and Breakfast is back in business!

Guest Blog Post: Ryan Lovel

In addition to capturing little Abigail’s heart during his time here in Malawi, Ryan had the most unusual visit of any of the TMC students. This is one experience we don’t recommend and, in fact, work hard to avoid, though we know there are no guarantees.  Ryan handled it great though, and we’re all thanking the Lord for His protection of Ryan and all of us over these weeks.  As the sign at the clinic says: “We treat, God heals.”

(Ryan Lovel)  As we walked out of the clinic Rachel asked me, “So what’s the verdict?”  I told her, “The doctor prescribed me some malarial medication and told me that if the symptoms that I had been experiencing should persist, I should come back immediately.”  I was significantly “out of it,” and ready to crawl right back into bed for the rest of the day, but I vaguely remember seeing what looked like surprise in her expression as she processed what I had just said.  In hindsight, I am really thankful for the perfect combination of Rachel’s stellar composure (that comforted my worries and concerns) and my own exhaustion that led to my being able to relax and go right back to bed.  Before I get to my recovery period though, let me first describe to you the early stages of my experience with malaria, and hopefully through all of this you will be able to understand the change that has occurred in my perspective with regards to this epidemic.

The first thing that I remember about being sick is that the sun had never looked so bright.  I was driving with JP and I think that my eyes were closed just about the entire time, and I was thinking that there was no way that I could make it through the rest of the day.  The sun seemed to be concentrating all of its energy directly upon my eyes.  My body was in such a weakened state that it could not physically bear the power and radiance that the sun emanated.  This was definitely a new feeling for me.

Ryan at Zomba

There could be a narrative here that describes the symptoms of malaria in great detail, drama, and length, but I feel that the only logical conclusion that any American could draw from this list would be that I had the flu or just “some bug.”  As I recall, the symptoms went something like the following: fever, cold chills, body aches, sensitivity to light, and general discomfort.  As I considered all of these things and tried to figure out what was going on, I was almost positive that I had the flu or a stomach bacteria.  I was hoping so badly that I wouldn’t have malaria, yet I knew nothing about what having malaria actually meant.

Matt had come into my room the morning of the day that I went to the clinic.  I remember him talking, but in all honesty I don’t remember what he actually said.  Here’s what I do remember though, it sounded like he had a plan… I liked that.  After he was done talking and I was done trying to listen I felt comforted… I also liked that.  I don’t know if I said something funny or embarrassing but he had a smile on his face… I liked this as well.  After what I assume now to have been a both productive and somewhat mutually enjoyable conversation, Matt left and I moved all the way from laying on my side to laying on my other side.  I definitely felt sick, but I knew that there was nothing I could do about it except to relax and trust in the Lord and the people that He had placed around me.

Ryan on road in Mozambique

It was around eleven or so when JP gave me a ride to the clinic.  The irony still makes me laugh.  It was probably less than a week before this point in time when I was walking around the “Partners in Hope” clinic, witnessing Dr. Koleski input information into the same kind of blue “Health Passport” notebook that the receptionist was making for me.  As I sat in the ABC medical clinic I don’t remember thinking much, except that I was trying really hard to listen for my name so that when one of the Malawian nurses called me I would be ready.  Sure enough though, instead of hearing Ryan I heard, “Ree-own.”  Luckily, they didn’t just pass me up but they called my name again in five minutes and I picked up on it this time.  From the waiting room I was taken to have my temperature measured (102oF), and then allowed to lie down on a hospital bed.  The nurse took my blood and I remember being thankful that regardless of the outcome, there would be some sort of a definitive answer.  Up until this point in the trip I had been faithful in taking my malarial medication as well as wearing bug spray if I was out past five in the evening.  To a certain extent, this led me to have the mindset that there was no possible way that I could have malaria.

Now we reach the climax of my medical experience in Malawi.  At this point, I don’t think that anyone who hasn’t had any experience with malaria would have observed me and concluded that I had contracted the feared epidemic.  I simply lay there in my hospital bed with my eyes closed, falling in and out of sleep.  As I drifted in and out of sleep the doctor was in the process of analyzing the results that the lab technicians had found.  I opened my eyes at one point to find the Doctor standing above me, waiting to give me the news.  The lab had not found any visible signs of the parasite in my blood smear, but my platelet count was low, a common sign indicating malaria.  The final confirmation that I had contracted malaria didn’t come until I had finished taking the prescribed medication and I was feeling close to one hundred percent.  (Side note from Rachel: many of the malaria cases this year have turned up a negative result on the malaria blood smear tests, but the doctors had been through enough of those cases this season to diagnose Ryan’s symptoms very early on.)

TMC Team photo last Sunday

It’s actually somewhat funny to me now as I look back upon the situation.  Based on the time frame of malaria and the time at which I became ill, I would have been infected close to exactly when we arrived in Malawi.  As I came to grips with the fact that I had contracted malaria I realized that I had two choices.  I could react dramatically and question why-oh-why I had been infected and I could focus on all of the things that I thought would change in my life.  The second option that I saw was to react in light of the fact that regardless of everything that I had done to avoid being infected by malaria, I had in fact contracted it.  In light of this, my response to the disease would be to be thankful that I was healed and to be thankful for my newly gained perspective.

Before coming to Africa my thoughts concerning malaria were composed of nothing but fear.  This is not to say that everyone should get malaria in order that they won’t fear it.  That is definitely not something that I would recommend.  However, as I’ve been able to have conversations with both doctors and Malawians I have come to realize that for many people, malaria can be a part of everyday life.  As long as the proper measures are taken to diagnose and treat the sickness, people will remain healthy.  I am so thankful for the recovery that God gave me and for the wonderful people that encouraged me back to health.  There was an endless amount of love demonstrated to me at this point in time and I am so thankful to my teammates for bearing with me through this and having patience with me, and especially for the Floreens, who converted their ‘bed and breakfast’ into a rehabilitation clinic for patients suffering from malaria.

Guest Blog Post: Bobbie Roberts

Bobbie was the people watcher of the TMC team, so she wrote up some of her observations about the culture…

(Bobbie Roberts)  Lilongwe is a city filled with so many differences that opened our teams’ eyes to a whole different culture. Coming from America it was easy to pick out what seemed so unusual to our normal life. At first it is easy to see the poverty in the everyday life whether it be kids walking without shoes, carrying a ball they made with plastic bags while wearing dirty torn clothes or adults using their bikes to carry heavy loads in anyway a bike will let the items be stacked.  Just the city in general looks dusty, but then again not in a way that looks trashy to me. There are people on the sides of the roads sweeping with branches trying to keep the city decent and you can tell that the people really try their best to live in a community that is as best as it can be.

Village Ladies Working

Poverty is the first thing I noticed and after a week I started watching people and noticed that I never saw any pregnant women. I asked Rachel Floreen why this was and she explained that women don’t go out in public when they are pregnant because they believe that someone may curse their child out of jealousy, so they stay at home.  Many Malawians believe in witch doctors and so it reflects on their lives. I also noticed that all I saw was male beggars that were disabled and Rachel said these men rather beg than get help from an NGO, which is available to them. Women are less likely to beg because they are hard workers and can earn money by working in the kitchen or finding something they can do to live off of. These are just two examples that describe a little about the culture shock I experienced.  Not to worry though I have learned so much from how Malawians interact with everyone.

Goodbyes with village women

Malawians are very friendly people and have a genuine care for others. When they say “How are you?” they really want to know how you are doing and the one thing that really made my day was when you wave to someone, they wave right back with a huge smile. It doesn’t matter if it’s an adult or a kid – they always love a wave or a hello because in their culture they love being personable, which will never get old.  Being respectful is very important in their culture and in that they have a servant’s heart. They go out of their way to do something for others not because they have to or because they will get something out of it, but because they love to help.

Guest Blog Post: Mozambique Part 2

The second half of Rachel and Raqel’s series on Mozambique. Don’t miss the first part!

(Rachel Lawson)
Weeks before this trip we were told that we were probably going to be doing seminars in the village, and so we prepared different topics to speak on. However, Pastor Brian told us that the people needed to hear different topics than what we prepared. The turnout also was smaller than expected; it was mostly the elders and their wives who came to listen. For the first seminar Matt’s parents (Eric and Lorraine) spoke on the Biblical view of marriage. Dr. Larry Brown then held a Q and A where they were free to ask any questions. I enjoyed listening to all the questions they had, and Dr. Brown answered them very well. He made it clear that he was willing to stay as long as necessary to answer all their questions, because they might not have this opportunity again for a long time. They asked questions that were relevant not just to them, but to Christians in America as well. It was just awesome to see that even though we come from totally different cultures, we still struggle and wrestle with many of the same issues.

Q and A with Larry

After the seminars Bobbie and I went with an elder of the church to his hut, which was about a two-mile walk. Clifford came with us as a translator, since none of the elders speak fluent English. The man wanted us to bring back gifts for our team. When we arrived at his hut his wife and three small children greeted us. His children’s eyes were wide at seeing two azungu (white people) so close by. We sat on bamboo mats and helped crack peanuts, which we brought back with us. We also brought back cassava, which is a root similar to a sweet potato. After the nuts were roasted and salted we were able to eat some, and they tasted just like peanut butter! Hands down peanuts are ten times better in Mozambique than anywhere in the U.S. We also were served the sweetest tea I’ve ever tasted; it was so delicious. I was struck by how generous he and his family were, even though by our standards they have hardly anything. Clifford said that because they showed such hospitality towards us it showed how much they respected and welcomed us. Time flew by there and we ended up staying for a few hours.

Mozambique Food

The walk back to camp was breathtaking as the sun was going down. I wish I could go back and replay those moments. One thing I’m going to miss greatly are African sunsets, they’re just not the same in North America…. still beautiful, but just different. Isn’t it amazing that the Lord delights in painting the sky for us to enjoy? The one that night was perfect, a perfect masterpiece painted by our Creator!

Sun through trees Mozambique

(Raqel Cherry)
The good news for Tuesday was that the Kombi was successfully patched up, with the muffler and exhaust pipe attached well enough so that we would hopefully make it home, or at least the 20km of dirt road till the tar road started. It was a bittersweet morning knowing that we would be leaving that day and I think most of us were surprised at how hard it would be to leave the village and the people we had just started to get to know. We packed up the tents once they had dried a little from the morning dew and we were ready to start saying our goodbyes, but that was not what the villagers had in mind.

Preparing lunch in Moz

About an hour after our breakfast routine of toast and Rooibos, we found out the elders had made sure another meal was made for us complete with everything from goat to cassava. We didn’t have time to stay for lunch so we ended up having a very big second breakfast. Kondi and Brian Mtika then translated the exchange of farewells which made a few of us tear up. It’s amazing how quickly we attach our affection to things in this world and it was beautiful to be reminded in the goodbye from the elders, that they would love to see us again, but if not we will meet in heaven. This beautiful concept is completely unique to us as believers, that the most important things in this life are those that concern eternity and in Christ we all share heaven as our common end. This was huge in putting a lot of things into perspective for me. It’s something I think that we can all learn from when we look at our own lives and how we all spend our time. I am so grateful that we had this opportunity and for how God used it to teach us all so much, especially about His global body of believers. We eventually left, to a farewell of singing and dancing from the villagers; we momentarily joined in, still sticking out – not just because of our skin but also our inherent lack of natural rhythm.

Mozambique Farewell

Kondi mastered the dirt road getting us successfully back to the tar road, but this time Matt wasn’t quite as lucky and his vehicle ended up getting a flat before we were even half way done. Luckily there was a spare and enough manpower to sort that out and we were soon on our way to the border. We had a relatively quick transition back into Malawi and a reflective drive back home. Oh –I can’t forget the freshly baked chewy chocolate chip cookies Rachel blessed us with when we walked through the door, simply delicious!

Everyone in Mozambique

Guest Blog Post: Mozambique Part 1

Rachel Lawson and Raqel Cherry tag-teamed a 2-part series on the trip to Mozambique. Here are the first 2 days…

(Rachel Lawson)
My team and I spent an unforgettable weekend in a rural village in the beautiful country of Mozambique. Matt, his parents, and three other people from IBF came with us as well: Kondwani Nyanda who is the pastoral assistant at IBF, Clifford, who is a student at ABC, and Dr. Larry Brown who is a professor there. We spent time with Brian Mtika’s church; he is a Malawian missionary who has been in Mozambique for five years.

Kombi on the way to Moz

We packed up the Kombi (VW van) and headed out Saturday morning. Once we crossed the border between Malawi and Mozambique we drove on a highway for a while until we reached a turnoff and drove down a dirt road, which took us 20 kilometers into the wilds of Mozambique (in other words, the bush). Kondwani was our driver and did a marvelous job at maneuvering around really rocky and rough places along the way. Even though the exhaust pipe managed to break off at one point he still holds our confidence!

Surf on the way to Moz

When we arrived at the church in the late afternoon we were warmly greeted by a crowd of curious and excited kids surrounding us. The language barrier was clear to us right away. We immediately felt the need to talk with them, to learn all about who they were…but we did manage to smile and make funny faces. That evening I was able to watch some women of the church make our dinner, and even help out a bit by cutting some lettuce for the relish. The menu consisted of nsima, relish, and chicken, which were all cooked over the open fire. Nsima is a thick cream of wheat type food and takes muscle to stir it in the pot. I was amazed at how strong these women are, and how they have the technique of stirring the nsima down to almost a dance.

Village Ladies Making Dinner

After dinner we showed the Jesus Film, which about 50 people came to see. The projector system wasn’t working, but we were able to use a laptop. The screen was small, but the important aspect is that the Gospel was heard.  The most memorable moment of the day for me was eating under the cover of moonlight. Words can’t describe how bright the moon was and how it cast dreamy shadows onto the ground. It was so bright we didn’t need flashlights at all. I was struck by the beauty and grandeur of our Lord’s creation, and how small I am. Like the psalmist states in Psalm 8, “when I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained; What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him?”

With Village Kids

(Raqel Cherry)
Sunday we woke up to a crisp morning, to say the least. We were far from being the first ones up as the women in the village has already been up long enough to walk from their homes, some of which were 3 or 4km’s away, to the church grounds to start the breakfast fires and boil water for us to have a warm water to freshen up with. Rooibos tea and toast by the fire made for a great breakfast –the first few attempts of toast were just warm bread as no one could hold it close enough or long enough over the flame, until Matt and I had the ingenious idea of using sticks instead of our hands. Right then Matt found the perfect stick and everyone was able to enjoy some thoroughly fire-scorched toast.

Sunday School Songs Moz

Our first official (well as official as it gets in an African village) part of the day was the little kids Sunday school that Kim taught while Clifford translated. We quickly learnt how to sing “Peace like a River” in Chichewa and then taught it to the kids. Kim then taught through all the days of creation complete with actions for every day. They then motioned to us that it was time for us to all go into church and so we followed them in, all the girls (well almost) sitting on the left side and all the boys (including our female team leader –Kim who was oblivious to this separation until a little later into the service) sat on the right.  I felt blessed to stand and worship alongside the congregation despite the fact that I couldn’t understand anything they were singing. We were all content to observe fellow brothers and sisters in a completely different culture to ours, sincerely praise God and know that He was getting the glory regardless of whether or not we could understand the words. After we got to enjoy more worship songs performed by the Church elders and the women’s guild, Kondwani preached on Psalm 23. It is so encouraging to see this ministry in a village that seems to be out in the middle of nowhere, knowing that there is a church back in Lilongwe supporting and praying for them.

Rachel eating nsima in Moz

After church we got to experience goat intestine added to the regular lunch menu, from a goat that we had seen tied to a tree near the kitchen area earlier that morning – talk about organic, this village gets it. Later that day we set out for a nearby village where we were going to show the Jesus Film that night. The walk was about 4km which took us a good two hours, good because the squabble of kids walking with us held our hands and sang for the whole walk, making it feel as if 4km was our usual afternoon stroll. The venue was a thatched hut with a lovely flattened area in front where we were going to screen the movie, open air, once the sun had set.

Duck Duck Goose set up

We had time to kill until dark so we taught the kids more songs (particularly “Making Melodies” which was an instant favorite) and then played the most epic game of “duck-duck-goose” or “baka-baka-nkanga” with almost 50 kids and a few adults who couldn’t resist the fun. Finally after another breath-taking sunset the darkened sky let the moonlight creep into its nightly routine of leaving us awestruck and JP introduced the Jesus Film to a brand new audience. When it was done we trekked back, with the path lit only by the moon, to the village we endearingly called home for a few days. We were greeting with the familiar smell that quickly ended Kondi and Matt’s hungry grumbles as we grabbed plates to dish up more goat, chicken and nsima. After enjoying fellowship around the fire we all went to bed happy and thoroughly exhausted.

Ryan Duck Duck Goose