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Saturday, January 3, 2015

Simply Christmas

No snow. No parties. No shopping lists. No long lines at the super market. Simply Christmas. I didn't miss the hustle and bustle. This was the simplest Christmas I have ever experienced. I (we) really missed our family, and I (we) was a little sad to think about all the Christmas we were missing. But God revealed himself to me in such a personal way this Christmas.

I have always known that Christmas is about Christ's birth. But the weight of that was lost on me. I was too worried about gifts, baking, think about what Jesus's birth meant to him, to the Father and to me.

At a small gathering Christmas eve night a poem was read. (I wish I had a copy of it for you.) The poem was a conversation between God the Father and Jesus on the eve of his birth. How Jesus would miss the intimacy he had with his father. How Jesus wondered if the world he created would know him? How Jesus understood and appreciated the Father's love for his people. I have never stopped to think about what that last heavenly conversation might have been like.

During a sermon in the weeks approaching Christmas Pastor Sandress (Capital City Baptist Church - Lilongwe) was teaching on the names given to the Messiah, Jesus and Immanuel. Jesus meaning the Lord saves, and Immanuel meaning God with us. The messiah had to be Immanuel to be Jesus.  Jesus came to this earth. He walked on our dirty roads. He drank our unfiltered water. Jesus slept on the ground. I was particularly struck by these very simple facts. As a "missionary" working with the poor and oppressed, I am happy to go to their village, to walk their roads (as long as I have shoes), to share a meal with them. BUT, I bring my own filtered water, I wash my hands with hand sanitizer, I do my best not to use their bathrooms, and I go home every night to sleep in my bed which in not sitting in the dirty.

Jesus love is unconditional. Jesus love is complete. Jesus love isn't put off by dirt. Jesus love in sacrificial.

I have so much to learn.

I am so thankful that Jesus came to be Immanuel. I am so thankful that Immanuel came to be Jesus.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Praying for Rain

So, I wish I had some grand stories to share, but alas I do not. Some of you have asked what our days look like. We still don't have a normal schedule, and I am guessing it will be at least another 2 months before we fall into a regular routine. The kids have just finished up school for the year, and now we are on Christmas break until January 12th.

5 am April wakes and Steve usually isn't too far behind
6 am the kids are up and getting ready for school
7 am depart for school (school begins at 7:15 am)
8 am Work day begins at There is Hope
Noon - 1:30 it's time for lunch and picking up the kids from school
             Jessie is dismissed at Noon
             Charlie is dismissed at 12:30
             Casey is dismissed at 1:00
             Jack is dismissed at we are still working out how to pick them all up. Lately we've picked up Jessie and Charlie and taken them home, then one of us goes back for Casey and Jack. Any suggestions????
4:30 Work day ends
8 pm bedtime

Our evenings are usually pretty "quiet" meaning we don't have much going on. Our kids seem to come to life around 5:30 pm when the temperatures begin to drop. Most nights they are outside playing very loud games of tag with our neighbor Diya. Monday and Wednesday night Jenn and I head to aerobics. We're the only mzungus (white people) there and this white girl has white girl I do a fair about of laughing at myself. I haven't been able to get too many runs in, so aerobics is a great alternative.

The sun rises every morning around 4:30/5:00 and sets every evening around 6:00. Our average temperature is near 90. This is suppose to be the rainy season; however the rains have not begun yet. The rains are about a month late and many Malawians are beginning to worry about a drought. The President has called for all churches and Christians to pray and fast this weekend, asking God to send the rains. I wonder if President Obama would ever call the nation to prayer and fasting???

This week there was some sort of explosion at a power plant. The result: more frequent power cuts and water cuts. We went without water for a couple of days. I didn't know about the water cuts on Tuesday and accidently drained our reserve tank doing laundry. Luckily we had plenty of drinking water in the fridge. Wednesday night the water came back on and we filled every bucket and pitcher we had. Our reserve tank if full again as well. Not sure if the water we are getting is from our tank or from the city, so we continue to use it sparingly.

Water is life. I've never really thought about how much water I use/waste until now. It's even more glaring when I think about the lack of rain. Many if not most Malawians depend on farming for food and income. No rain means so much suffering. No rain means no power because most of Malawi's power is generated from a damn on the Shire River. Please join us, and the nation of Malawi as we pray for rain.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

First day at a new school

The kids started school at African Bible College Christian Academy (ABCCA) on Monday. After two weeks of running all over town with mom and dad trying to set up a new house in a new country the kids were definitely ready to get into a routine and have something of meaning to call their own. All four kids have great teachers. Jack's teacher is the mother of Charlie's teacher. Jessie's teacher worked in Dzaleka last year setting up the special needs program in the camp. Casey's teacher is in her second year at ABCCA.

All four kids start their school day at 7:15. So the kids are up and out of bed by 6 am. We leave for school around 7 am. Jessie gets out of school at 12:00. Charlie gets out at 12:30. Casey gets out at 1:00. Jack gets out at 1:30. So we need to figure out a system for pick up. A lot of the ABC families have after school activities and their children just stay and play and run around. Monday Steve and I arrived early to get Jessie. Today we decided that waiting around at the school for 1 1/2 hours was not the best use of our time. So we gathered Jessie and Charlie and went home. Steve helped them with lunch and homework while I went back for Casey and Jack. Casey and I worked on our homework. (I am trying to learn Chichewa). This seems to be an alright system, other than it wastes some gas. We'll have to decide what is more valuable...our time or fuel.
Charlie's classroom

Jessie's playground

Lower elementary corridor

We have a language helper that comes to the house at 2:00 every week day to help us learn Chichewa. Her name is Jacinta. She is Malawian, of Portuguese decent. She can speak English perfectly, as well as Chichewa and Portuguese. She also attends Capital City Baptist Church in Lilongwe, the same church we have been worshiping at. We are thankful for the time Jacinta takes with us, especially while the kids are milling about after school.

We have slowly started integrating ourselves into work. Steve is busy building shelves and planning for an "office remodel" as There is Hope is adding 3 new staff people and potentially more. I have been helping with Kibebe projects. This Saturday I plan to bring the Kibebe books, shopping bags, picnic blankets, Christmas stockings, Christmas cards, and Christmas oraments to a Farmers Market in town. This will be our first go at this type of venue. I may even have a chance to teach Sunday School next Sunday at a refugee church here in town.
Shopping for school supplies with our friend and neighbor Diya

Hanging out with Uncle Inno at the church picnic

Church picnic

The other exciting bit of information is Thanksgiving. Many of you are planning a big spread, and so are we. We will celebrate Thanksgiving with the Torngas and Magambis on Saturday. Our menu is as close to traditional as we can be: Chicken and ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, rolls, green beans, veggie tray, pumpkin pie, apple crisp, and ice cream. It will be a feast for sure. We'll miss our family and friends in Michigan! But not the snow, cold, and black Friday mayhem.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Dzaleka Camp Tumaini Festival

We had the opportunity to go to the first annual Dzaleka Camp Tumaini Festival today. What a fantastic event full of many talented artists. Our favorite was the Burundian Drummers. Enjoy the pictures.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Wonderful Send-off and Safe Travels

After selling the house, giving away and selling most all of our worldly goods, we move into my parents house for our final week in Hudsonville. They were very gracious and let the shoes pile up the door, the toys scatter from one end of the house to the other, and our luggage stacked up to the ceiling.

On November 5 we finished our packing: 14 suitcase/totes, 6 carry-on bags, and 6 backpacks. (Yes, 26 bags in all, it took 3 vehicles to get us to the airport.)

It was great to have so many of our family and friends come to the airport to see us off. It was great to eat one last meal together and share some laughter and some tears. 

We arrived in Malawi on Friday November 7. All of our bags made it with us Praise God! The travel was flawless...except 2 of the 4 kids loss their lunch due to turbulence.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Rocking the Boat

We are just 3 weeks away from moving to Malawi.  Hard to believe. 

Just this week I met with a friend who shared a bit of a sermon he had just heard and it resonated with me.

Thinking about how Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water.  When he got out of the boat the boat was rocked.  What did the other disciples do? think? how were they changed?

When Jesus called Peter and Andrew, James and John they were in a boat.  They left their family fishing boats for follow Jesus.  They left one boat for a new one. But have you ever thought about the boat they left. They rocked a their father's boat. How did leaving the family business effect their fathers, mothers, bothers?

I've been struggling with knowing how to leave our life in Hudsonville (our boat) for our new life in Malawi without causing too much pain. We are leaving very dear family and close friends here as we step out of the boat and walk by faith to our new boat.

A little rocking of the boat is good.  It wakes people up, makes us take inventory of what is important. I just don't want to capsize anyone.

Steve and I were chatting during a run and he asked how I was doing watching other people fill the positions I've left. I am so happy to see Mindy Jeltema doing a fabulous job with the Children and Worship Program at church. I am blessed to have my dear friend Brandi VanHouten lead the Mom's in Prayer group for Park Elementary. My getting out of these boats has made room for two terrific women to step in and breath new life into these areas.

It is my prayer that we will rock your boat just a little bit when we leave. Look around, evaluate what God is doing around you.  Is he asking you to change positions in the boat?  Or does he want you to take the step and leave the boat you're in?

Please join us Sunday Novemember 2nd at Fellowship Reformed Church in Hudsonville.  Worship begins at 6:00 pm, and we will have a time of fellowship together following the service at 7:00pm. This will be a chance to say "see you later" because we don't want to say good bye.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Benefit Concert - Beyond All Expectations

Months of planning and preparations went in to the Benefit Concert held on August 8.  It all started when Holly Placzek offered to host a barn sale for us at their Allendale home.  About a week later Holly approached us to say she was still willing to host the sale, but she had an even better idea.  A concert.

Holly and her husband Drew are both very talented musicians.  Drew is the worship leader at our home church, Fellowship Reformed, and he was recruited to help Holly with the planning and organizing. 

Together Drew and Holly put together an amazing event. None of us had any idea what to expect from a benefit concert on a Friday night in the middle of the summer.  Holly was hoping for a standing room only crowd, I was hoping she wouldn't be disappointed.  I have no idea how many people actually showed up for the concert, it was a great turnout, but not standing room only. It didn't matter.  The variety of music was perfect.  The performers were talented and generous with their time. 

To date more that $13,000 was raised by the concert for the work we will be doing in Malawi with There is Hope.  We don't know how to begin to thank everyone involved!

Thank you to Holly and Drew who faithfully followed the Holy Spirit's leading and took up the challenge to organize the Benefit Concert. 

Thank you to all the musicians who gave of their time and talents!

Thank you to Fellowship Reformed Church for hosting the concert.

Thank you to everyone who came out and gave so generously.

Our greatest needs continue to be for prayer support, and monthly supporters.  We cannot do this without you.  You are as much a part of this ministry as we are.

Please pray for the kids as they will begin school here in just a couple of weeks.  Their lives continue to be uncertain, not knowing when we will be leaving for Malawi.
Please pray that God will continue to raise up financial partners who are able to give on a monthly or annual basis.  We are at 85% of our monthly funding goal.  We must have 100% pledge before we can purchase our plane tickets.
Please pray that housing would become available for us in Lilongwe near our There is Hope teammates. 
Please pray for the right family or individual to rent our house here in Hudsonville.
Please pray for Steve and I as we take an online language learning class September 15 - October 3.
Pray for the family and friends we will be leaving behind as this is a transition time for all of us.



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