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!

+

+

=

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!

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.