Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Malawi and Zambia

It's going to be hard to fit everything from the past 2 weeks (or however long it's been) into one blog, so I'll just include some highlights.

We stayed in Malawi for 10 days. We stayed in Ntaja, which is about 80 percent Muslim and some of us spent the weekend in a Muslim village. Working with Muslims is a passion of mine, so it was one of my favorite times so far. The first 4 days we did practical work. And when I say practical work, I mean that a Malawian guy hands me a machete and tells me to start digging holes in the ground and cutting bamboo. Yes, I had a machete. No (serious) injuries. We built a kitchen for a go-go (In Africa, go-go means old lady). Everyday, this woman cooked us food, despite the fact that she is very poor and cares for many children. She wanted to show her appreciation to us. She even went out of her way to buy sugar to put on the rice because she has heard that Americans put sugar on everything (wish I could deny it). A person with so little to give gave us so much.These people understand hospitality. My favorite part of the week was spending time with our translator Chepa. An incredible 60-year-old pastor from Malawi. We called our building project "Operation Chepa," because we are convinced he could have built the kitchen single-handedly. He displayed great humility.

The OM Malawi team we worked with was incredible. Each of them challenged us so much. They do not even have written Bibles--only audio Bibles--yet they know it better than me. They study it and memorize it and live it. We take for granted the precious gift we have in the word of God and the great power that it holds. The word of God is living and active. Let's not forget that.

In the afternoons, we did sports' and children's ministry. A lot of these children are victims of witchcraft. You can see it visibly by the charms hung around their necks. A lot of parents dedicate their children to witchdoctors for healing or other reasons. I held a baby who had a charm around her neck and was being carted around by a group of children. I have no idea where her mother was. It's moments like these that impact me. Nothing prepares you to see that.

Over the weekend, I stayed in the village of Chisopi. We tented on top of a mountain :)!!!!!! We spent the weekend doing house visits and sharing the gospel with Muslims (when possible). Some were very willing to listen, but others were not yet at that point. In Malawi, Islam is often mixed in with forms of witchcraft, and many who identify themselves as Muslim are not well-educated on their own religion. I really enjoyed this time, because it is a good picture of some of the challenges faced by missionaries. It can take years to build relationships with people before an opportunity arises to share the gospel. We should not expect to always see progress immediately. The missionary we stayed with said, "If you go into missions for 2 years, the 1st year should be spent building relationships and learning to understand the culture. THEN you can start sharing the gospel." It is not about us. When all we want is to see fruit, we end up trying to force something on people before they are ready. Some missionaries spend 20 years in a place before seeing anyone enter a relationship with Christ. Is there work less valuable? No. It is necessary. And commendable.

Relationship-building is particularly important when ministering to Muslims, and it was awesome to start the process and leave the rest in the hands of the church that remains in Malawi. We were able to encourage the church on Sunday. An outdoor church of about 10 people. Many former Muslims. I cannot imagine the struggles they experience in trying to live out their faith. Pray for them.

Now we are in Zambia. We have been doing house visits, sharing the gospel, doing church services and did some practical work. I got to slash grass (African grass...) and they gave me a machete again!!!! SO COOL. Let me tell you, Africans are just way stronger than us. Women carry babies on their backs and giant packages on their heads. I tried to balance a water bottle and couldn't even do it. They can balance like 5 liters of water!!! And the men can literally work all day in the sun chopping bamboo without breaking a sweat. And then they WALK HOME. Which takes like an hour and a half. No car. No problem. They must get a kick out of watching the Muzungus try to do manual labor. I am convinced God sent angels to help us.

Please pray for team unity and perseverance. Pray also for Muslims to come to faith during this time. July 9th-August 8th is their holy month (Ramadan), so it is very important to keep them in prayer during this time. Pray that we are able to finish strong.

Bye for now!!!!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Harare, Zimbabwe

Crazy. That's the word that comes to mind. Every place we go is different. God is doing different things in many different places, but he is everywhere. And he sees everything. He doesn't miss a single person. He cares for all of them the same. We go to small churches in the middle of nowhere, but I know that God has a plan for every person in every church we go to.

Over the weekend, we split up into teams and stayed in different homes in villages. My team (Masiye, Derek and Essie) stayed with a Zimbabwean pastor, and we were treated with incredible kindness and hospitality. We spoke at a Bible school that is training African pastors, visited people's homes to encourage them and ran the church service on Sunday.

The rest of the week we have stayed in people's homes in Zimbabwe. Also very hospitable. We have done a lot of sports ministry and children's ministry this week. Not my thing at all, but I have really loved the change of pace. Using games, sports and dramas to teach children about Jesus is a really amazing thing. You never want to leave the kids when you're done. They have so much love to offer, and you desire so deeply for them to grow up holding Jesus' hand and loving him. I notice how much pain is in the hearts of the older children (and sometimes even the youngest children), but I know that God has not forgotten them and will not give up on reaching into their hearts with his love. And we should never underestimate the impact that one smile or one word or one hour of sports can have on a child's life.

Yesterday was interesting, because we prepared a bunch of programs that were changed less than an hour before and had to adjust and change all that we prepared. That's missions. My favorite was when we arrived at a school assembly and discovered that it was an all-girls school. The boys received A LOT of attention. The girls asked one of them for his autograph.

Please pray for the health of the team. A lot of us (including me) have gotten sick in the past few weeks. One team member is still very sick now. Pray for safe travel to Malawi on Sunday and pray for the vehicles!!!! They break down a lot. TIA (This is Africa). And of course pray for our ministry and for strength and perseverance. It's a busy lifestyle, but God has blessed us with times to relax as well.

Learning a lot here. Especially learning to trust God to take care of the many people I meet. All of us are learning a lot about our giftings and how to use them for God's glory. Thinking a lot about my calling as well.

Funny moments in Harare:

The most embarrassing moment so far was when I managed to lock myself in a room in my host home in the middle of the night. The door knob fell out. Regina and I went outside and tried to bang on Aliette's window, but she didn't answer because she thought someone was trying to break in. My host family woke up and saved me.

Another great moment was when Barney and I were doing a drama for the kids and he decided to celebrate at the end of the drama (this was not planned). His attempt at a high-five ended in an injury for me. The kids didn't seem to notice, but our team was certainly entertained. Some things never change.

I will not have internet or signal in Malawi for 10 days. We'll be sleeping in tents and smelling awful.

Bye for now!!!!!!!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Gweru, Zimbabwe

Sitting in an internet cafe in the middle of the city of Gweru, Zimbabwe. Lots of locals around me, so this blog may not be as in depth...

We've been working with OM Zimbabwe, and it's been an honor to be a part of the work they are doing here. Most of them are from Zimbabwe, and they have a difficult task before them. It is very hard to evangelize here, because a lot of people are not open to the gospel. We walked the streets and prayed the first day we arrived, and the people barely looked us in the eyes. There is a lot of political corruption here. People mine golds and metals from the ground and sell them on the black market. The unemployment rate here is ridiculously high, yet many people are well-dressed and flashing big bills around. It is a very strange atmosphere.

The streets are full of beggars. The market is full of women and men selling handmade goods or goods bought in other regions of Africa. They wake early in the morning and stay at the market all day, often making very little. I met some women who are staying at the church we are working with. They sell bananas at the market every day from 6a.m.-6p.m. While doing street evangelism, I was able to talk to a woman at the market selling handmade pottery. She told me her story. Her husband left her, and his new wife is not kind to her three children. He does not provide for the family, so she has to provide for her and her children on her own. She sells pottery every day, but business is extremely slow. She told me that she goes to bed at night and sometimes cannot sleep because she is so anxious. Sometimes she cries herself to sleep. I spent some time with her, prayed with her, and shared some scriptures. There are people out there who live so differently than anything I have ever known.

We also helped out with a 2-day conference that OM Zimbabwe held to mobilize local churches. OM Zim's goal is to send out 500 missionaries from Zimbabwe by the year 2020. The reason this is so difficult is because the church in Zimbabwe struggles to reach out to the community. For a long time, they have been on the receiving end. Missionaries from all over the world come to them. But the people of Zimbabwe need the church of Zimbabwe to give to them. OM Zim members led the main sessions at the conference, which were intended to give local pastors the means and the motivation to mobilize their congregations into missions.  We performed dramas and gave testimonies. I have been dubbed the drama queen of the team, so I have been doing a lottttt of acting. It's been fun :) The work OM Zim is so significant. They know that they cannot reach Zimbabwe if the believers in Zimbabwe are not a part of it.

We also ran a bunch of church services (this happens every Sunday...). The first service I went to was so awesome. This church was full of people on fire for God. We were able to do a presentation for them and encourage them to get involved with missions. They had no idea we were coming (also common in Africa...), yet the pastor's message was in total harmony with ours. All God. This church made me feel like there is still hope for Zimbabwe. So many churches here are doing nothing to reach out to those around them. It should make us rethink how we live our lives as well.

For some reason, this city has been the most emotionally difficult for me so far. I want to see people come to life, and all I see around me is pain, darkness and corruption. I wake up in the middle of the night, with images of the people of Zimbabwe running through my head. It is difficult to entrust people to God, but I have to remember that he loves them more than I ever can and that his hands are the best place for them to be.

We leave tomorrow for Harare, Zimbabwe. We will be splitting up the team and staying at people's homes. Pray that God gives our leaders discernment in choosing the teams. Also pray for energy. Our program for the next week is going to be one of the busiest yet. And pray that I am able to trust God in the midst of some very broken places.

Also pray for OM Zimbabwe, that they remain strong and encouraged. Pray that the local churches are convicted to become involved with missions. And pray that God removes the spiritual blindness from the people of Zim.

To end on a funny note.... Every woman I have met in Zimbabwe has asked me two questions: How old are you? Aren't you married yet? One woman asked me if I know how to plow (as in farming) and cook. She thinks my lack of skills in these areas may have something to do with my difficulty in finding a husband. I did receive a few offers from local men who are looking for a way to get to America, but I declined.

Thanks for reading. And for praying :)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Swaziland, LinPoPo, and Zimbabwe

It’s been a long time since I’ve had internet. Or a shower. This is the Africa Trek :) We’ve been to three different locations since I last blogged, so I’ll write a section about each.

Swaziland- A beautiful country. Much work to be done. 1 million people. 600,000 HIV positive. Many of the males are absent in the lives of their families. They often work on sugar cane plantations and rarely come home. The women run the households. There is also somewhat of a missing generation, because a lot of those in their 20s-30s died of AIDS before medication was available. AIDS is not talked about in Swazi society. Neither is sex or anything related. We visited an orphanage where the oldest orphan had two babies of her own. It is very common for teenagers to be sexually active and to have children.

We did several children’s programs. We went to primary schools and also pre-schools. I assumed that children are the same everywhere. I was very wrong. The boys’ faces were angry. Tough. Untrusting. Like they didn’t want anything from you. The girls’ faces were scared and searching. Like they wanted desperately for you to love them. Their faces told tales that children their ages should not have had to experience. They are too young for expressions like that. There were not enough smiles on their dark and precious faces. Yet, as we played with them and spent time with them, we saw their expressions change. They had fun, and they started to become comfortable with us. Once you give one child a high five, about twenty are lined up for the same and the first kid has already snuck back into the line.  It is very difficult to imagine what these children have experienced at such a young age. Deaths of family members. Abuse. Many orphaned. I hate to think about it. But I loved to see their smiles, hear their laughs, and share the love of Jesus with them.

We also did house (hut) visits in Swaziland. We worked with a local missionary (he tried to recruit me to come back to Africa the first time we had a conversation) who distributes food and clothing to the homes. We shared encouraging words and scripture with the people we visited and prayed with them as well. One man, named Sunshine, decided to come to church with us the next day and was able to connect with some church members who will bring him to church every week.  Sunshine asked that we would pray for a better home for him. Another home visit was to four teenage girls who are living on their own because their mother died of AIDS. She stopped taking medication because she felt better. Most Swazi people are not educated about AIDS. We also visited the home of a man and a mentally disabled boy. The conditions in which they lived are unmentionable. The home visits were by far the hardest thing I have done so far on this trek. Meeting people and then walking away without being able to fix their situations is not an easy thing. I can’t get their faces out of my head. 

As you can probably guess, my heart broke for Swaziland. I fell in love with the people and the places there. A lot has changed in Swaziland over the past few years. I saw the hope while experiencing the pain. As more people are educated on AIDS and more missionaries share the gospel, things will change. The church we went to was incredible. These people showed us great kindness and hospitality, and they were filled with the love and power of God. They are working with the local community, and I know they will make a difference.
Pray that God sends more missionaries to Swaziland and that the church in Swaziland is encouraged and motivated to reach out to the community. Pray for the children and the many people with AIDS. Pray for the family structure, which has fallen apart. Pray that children find father figures. 

LinPoPo, South Africa- Very different experience than Swaziland. The region is nestled between the most beautiful mountains I have ever seen, but the place is one of the darkest I have ever witnessed. There are many cults and witch doctors in the area. We visited hospitals, conducted youth services, and visited people’s homes. 

The patients in the hospitals seemed as if they had no hope or emotion. It was very strange to see. We shared the word of God with them, sang for them, and prayed for them. We have to trust God with the rest.
I was given the opportunity to speak at the hospital and at two youth services. God gave both my team members and I the words to say. We have really seen God’s faithfulness in providing us with what we need to minister to people. 

The home visits were really incredible. Massiye, a translator, and I were sent off the first day. We visited the homes of Christians and encouraged them with the word of God. We were expected to have something to say to these people, and we really had to trust God to give us the right Scriptures and the right words. It was great to see how God gave us messages that related to one another. 

The next day, we did more home visits with a larger group of people. We went to the home of one woman, and I asked her if she had heard about Jesus. She said no. I asked her if I could share the word of God with her. She said yes. I shared the entire gospel message from creation to the resurrection with her. She said (through the translator), “I agree that this word is true.” I prayed with her, and she received Christ. The pastor of a local church will stay in contact with her to disciple her. It was really encouraging to see how God had already prepared this woman’s heart to receive the gospel. It had nothing to do with anything I or anyone else on my team could have said, but with the work that God was doing. 

Another personal highlight of mine was visiting the home of a Zionist. I was able to use a lot of my apologetics training to speak with this man about the doctrines of his religion. He was honestly seeking the truth, and he had a lot of questions about the Bible and the doctrines that he had been taught since he was a child. He also wanted to know how he could know which interpretations of Scripture were true. As my team and I shared scripture with him and answered some of his questions, you could see that he was starting to rethink some of the things he had been taught. He is going to stay in contact with the local pastor, and I pray that he will come into a deep relationship with Jesus Christ. 

Zimbabwe- The ride here was a bumpy one. There were a lot of problems with the vehicle, and it took us 8 hours to cross the border. We travelled from 3 a.m. to midnight. I was told around dinner time that I would be speaking the next morning. I learned a lesson about trusting God, because I did not finish the message until the middle of the night. I struggled a lot with finding the right thing to speak on, and I ended up changing my message at about midnight due to the prompting of the Spirit. 

The next morning, Daniel and Daniel and I (Team A.D.D.) ran a school service and a church service. We were all exhausted, and in our weakness, we really saw the power of God. Everything was led by the Holy Spirit, and God spoke through each of us to the school kids and to the church. I was blessed by the message God spoke through my brothers. Because we were so exhausted and felt so unprepared, we knew that everything was coming from God and not from us. So encouraging.

We were able to do some kids’ ministry and another church service here as well. I have been fed many African meals. The people of Zimbabwe are so hospitable. We were given giant portions of maize, and I think everyone found it amusing to watch the girls try to clear our plates. We are operating on African time, which means you get ready and wait. 

I have hardly had the chance to catch my breath, and it is hard to believe that I have been in Africa an entire month. But God is doing amazing things. I am learning a lot about myself and a lot about Africa. 

Please pray for the unity of my team. Pray that we continue to discern and listen to God's voice. Pray for OM Zimbabwe, as they seek to encourage churches and motivate people to become involved in ministry. I am seeing a lot of people who go to church but fail to share the gospel or reach out to the community. I have seen a lot of that in America too, and I know all of us are guilty of doing that at one point or another. Pray for strength and energy for me and my team. It is hard work, and we grow very tired. And please pray for Africa. Pray that the church is encouraged and motivated, and pray that the gospel is spread throughout Africa. Pray that people's hearts are softened and their ears opened to the message of the gospel.

I would write more, but most of you probably did not even get through all that I've written ;) And I don't have a lot of time. I'll save the details and the rest of the stories for when I get back. Thank you all for your prayers. 

Barney would like me to mention him in my blog, because he is from Australia and thinks that makes him important. 

Bye until next time!!!

Monday, June 10, 2013

From The Africa Trek Facebook Page:

"May Trek Team(Zimbabwe)
Please pray for the team. They went through the Zimbabwe border (with a bit of difficulty) but one of their vehicles have broken down. Still diagnosing what the issue is."

If God can create the Heavens and the Earth, He can surely fix a vehicle.  Let's join in prayer for this team, that God use this delay for HIS good purposes and that HE give comfort, peace, wisdom and OPPORTUNITY to this brave team of Christian Soldiers. 

1 Thessalonians 5:17
pray without ceasing

Thank you!

May the joy of the Lord be their strength.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

May Trek Team

May trek Team (Swaziland)
Our last day in Swaziland we had devotions in the bush.
We saw 70+ people come to Christ during our 5 days there. We had many house visits sharing Christ and also gave out clothes and food in the afternoon and showed the Jesus film in a village where a church is being planted.