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.

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!

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!

We’re Going to Church Camp!

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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.

 

GCC HS Cups

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!