This past week was full of amazing times at program with the kids, a visit with sponsored high school girls, brainstorming fundraising
ideas, and building deeper bonds with the children and staff at ChristCares Ministries (CCM). We completed the development art
project with the kids, in which we will turn their artwork into thank-you pieces for donors who give to CCM and UPI, and create note
cards which UPI will sell to benefit the ministry. The kids do not have the opportunity to express themselves through art, as it is not a subject in school, and is not seen as a matter of importance for them to learn. They had a wonderful time coming up with an idea of what they wanted to draw for their supporters, and were very proud of their final product. I will be bringing these pieces back to the States with me in May and am so excited to share their work with the UPI supporters.
We had a special day in program on Thursday, as it was a public holiday and therefore it was not mandatory for the kids to attend.
However, all the kids, and more from the community came out to have a fun day filled with games, special music and dancing, and motivational talks about life goals. Two guys from a local church came with speakers and a microphone, one of them (a musician) led the kids in some music and dancing to songs that he had written. The kids had a blast and certainly found it funny when I joined them in dancing. I was privileged to talk to them about what it is that I do, and why I am here in Malawi. You see, when it comes to dreaming of what they want to do with their lives, their views are very limited as to what they see people around them doing. When asked what do you want to do with your life, they simply say one of about four things: a nurse, teacher, policeman, or farmer. CCM wants to provide them with a broadened perspective, that they can be whatever they want to be.
I was asked to speak to them about what it is that I do, and why I have come to Malawi. I told the kids of my home in the United States, college education, and the call of the Lord on my life to serve and bless others with what God has given me. I told them that I am here in Malawi to do just that; to work with organizations like CCM, to help them grow and reach more children and youth, and to spread the word about the good things that are happening here in Malawi. I encouraged them especially that in whatever they do with their lives, the most important thing is that they use their lives to bring glory and honor to God. For it is because of Him that we are alive and even have dreams, and our vocation, our ultimate calling in life, is to glorify Him and share His love with the world around us.
Saturday, I took a trip with Robert and two of the youth leaders to an all girls boarding high school located about an hour and a half
outside of Lilongwe called APU (Atsikana Pa Ulendo, Girls on the Move). We took a car down one of the only major roads in Malawi until we reached a small dirt road that 45 minutes later would lead us to APU. The road was all washed out and covered in pot holes and ponds of water because of rainy season. We passed women and children washing clothes in the streams, and men carrying loads of wood on the backs of their bicycles. There are not many high schools in Malawi, and there is much need for one in this district. A native woman from Malawi and her husband who graduated from African Bible College in Lilongwe had the vision to help girls achieve their high school education and started APU in 2009. Their website is http://www.malawigirlsonthemove.com/governance. The school is amazing, wonderful facilities, dorms for the girls to stay in, a new dining hall that is in the process of being built, and one of the most beautiful views of the rural Malawi countryside.
There are six CCM girls at this high school, four of which are
sponsored through UPI supporters. The girls work very hard, and are
currently studying to take their exams which will determine whether or
not they may continue on to some sort of university education. I was
able to sit down with the girls, help them fill out their sponsorship
profiles, and pray with them about their studies and future. With the
sponsorship program that I am working on, we hope to find more
sponsors so that we can send more girls to continue with their
education at APU. CCM hopes to build a similar high school for boys
and girls in the region they currently serve within the next few
years. CCM has recently acquired land in the region in hopes to
someday build a high school, and are in the process of writing a
proposal and fundraising to make this dream a reality. Every child
deserves the right of education, and far too many children and youth
here in Malawi are denied that right due to the educational system,
and life circumstances that they were merely born into. CCM is
working very hard to change these odds for their children. I am so
blessed to have been a part of their amazing ministry, and excited to see what the Lord is going to do for them in the future.
This week I will be leaving CCM, and starting my time with Project TEACH located in southern Malawi near Blantyre. Project TEACH runs an after school program, and also a boys soccer camp and team.
As I make another transition to a new site, Please Pray:
- That the Lord brings me comfort as I leave behind the friends and
kids that I have come to love at CCM and move to a new site. That I
will come to love and cherish the relationships that are waiting for
me at Project TEACH.
- For CCM as they look forward to possibly starting a high school this
coming fall. They hope to use Robert’s church building as a facility
for classes until enough money is raised to build and start a school
facility on their own property.
- Praise the Lord that thus far I have been staying healthy, and that
the Lord has protected me in all my travels and transitions.
- That the Lord would make clear to me His path and plan for my life
once I return to the States.
I have now been at ChristCares Ministries (CCM) for a little over a week. Living with Robert and his family has been such a blessing. Their house is very nice and is located right outside of the city of Lilongwe. They have running hot and cold water, a tv, three small bedrooms, a bathroom and shower J. ChristCares runs afterschool program three days a week, and does home visits and office work the other two days during the week. I was able to meet the three full time staff members, Robert, Peter, and Jon, and their four youth leaders and two volunteers early last week. They welcomed me with open arms, and helped me jump right into the program.
At AfterSchool Program over 80 children (grades 5-8) gather at the rented school buildings that we hold program at. We start program with lunch, serving the kids rice, greens, and either a small piece of meat, or beans. The children disperse into the open area roofed pavilion, sit on the floor and eat their lunch. Every day a group of the children are responsible for cleanup of the dishes, and to bring them back to the head teacher’s house where we borrowed them from. After lunch all the children gather in one big group, divide into rows, sing camp songs accompanied by some sort of dance moves. This is one of my favorite parts of program, they have such beautiful voices, and the songs they sing are so wonderful! My favorite song, which I also learned in Chichewa this week, is “my home is beyond the sky’. The children sing this song which about how their home is in heaven beyond the sky, that they are truly strangers here on earth, and that their true home is in heaven with the Lord. I am planning on recording this song on my camera this week and hope to figure out how to post a video of it for you all to see for next week’s blog. It is breath taking to hear the children lift up their voices together, they are so talented!
The rest of the afternoon consists of tutoring time. The children disperse by class into different rooms in the school houses, sit on the floor, and participate in a lesson that one of the leaders or youth leaders teaches. I was able to teach a class this week to some of the children who are struggling with reading English. I help them with word pronunciation, and sounding out certain letters, they really struggle with the difference between the letters R and L. After tutoring, program consists of counseling, bible lesson, or recreation, depending on the day. The children have welcomed me into their lives with open arms, asking an array of questions about the U.S., and my time thus far in Malawi. They come to program with bare feet, ripped and dirty school uniforms, books in their hands, and smiles on their faces. Program is by far the best part of my week here.
On Friday, instead of having program we as a staff took about three hours in the morning to visit the homes and families of some of the children. The purpose of home visits is to build meaningful relationships with the parents and family members of the children, talk to them about their child’s home life, behavior, academic progress, and to hear feedback about program. We walked all morning long down red dirt paths, through corn fields, and into three small villages where we stopped by about 17 of the children’s houses. Most houses are made of mud bricks, with thatched or metal sheet roofs, and consist of two or three rooms. There are chickens, goats, ducks, and donkeys running around everywhere. Most of the time both parents are not at home during the morning hours, they are either at work, drawing water, or at the corn mill, but we were able to meet with about 13 of the parents or guardians of the homes that we stopped at.
It was a very eye opening experience to be able to visit the homes of our kids. To see where they are coming from, and meet some of their parents and families. These children come from circumstances that from the very start of life are very hard. The basic right of education is something that not every child has access to, and the chances of their academic success and future are few. This however, only goes to show me the great need for programs like ChristCares, programs that will encourage and support children both academically and spiritually, to promote their successful future.
However, the success of our programs only go so far. Once the child ends 8th grade they take their high school entrance exams, in which their score determine whether or not they get into high school, and which high school they may attend. Many families cannot afford to send their children, and so their fate is to be a high school drop out, and usually is to work on the family farm. ChristCares is working hard to change these odds for the children in our programs, in which I was able to witness the success of this past weekend. Robert and his team at ChristCares worked hard to find about 18 sponsors for girls who went through the CCM program, and could not afford to continue their education onto high school. These sponsors pay for the girls tuition, in which they attend a boarding high school here in Lilongwe. I am working with CCM to gather profiles and other information about these girls for their sponsors back in the US. The sponsorship program in which I am working with the various UPI sites on, will be implemented beginning with these girls, who already have sponsors.
The girls were so excited to have me visit. Since they live at school they don’t get to see their families very often, and rarely have visitors. I only wish I could visit them every day, share in their smiling faces, and encourage them in their studies. They bombarded me with questions as I helped them fill out their profiles, and took their photos. They all want to come to the US someday to visit me, and asked if I would please move to Malawi to work at their school. They are the most deserving young ladies, who have so much potential. I praise the Lord for the sponsors who enable them to continue with their high school education, and I know that their future is much brighter because of this program.
The Lord is so good to me, and has allowed for me to humbly be a part of the lives of the staff and children here at ChristCares. What a joy it is to work towards a brighter future for the children and young people of Malawi. This week I look forward to attending program, finishing up some child sponsorship odds and ends with various children, and working with the staff on some fundraising projects.
As I enter this new week, please pray:
- That the Lord prepares the way for the success of the Child Sponsorship Program in the US. That He goes ahead of the work here and moves in people’s hearts to become sponsors for the children and ministries here in Malawi. Pray that He provides time, and a way to successfully promote the program this summer.
- For guidance and direction for me as I begin to think and pray about where the Lord will lead me when I return to the States. That He opens doors, and guides my steps.
- Praise the Lord that the rainy season has been consistent, and that they corn crop which sustains most families is doing very well and should produce a good crop come harvest in May.
This week was full of different emotions. It was an amazing week because I really started to feel comfortable in Madisi and at Rise. I was able to lead devotions for the youth leaders and also teach a bible lesson in AfterSchool Program one day on humility (Philipians 2) to the kids. It was also a very difficult week as it was my last week at Rise, which was hard for me to say goodbye too, and also a very sad event happened in the life of Tinashe’s family. Her sister in law (Grace) who is married to her older brother, and is mother of Tinashe’s 9 year old niece, passed away this week from some sort of cancer after about two or three weeks of treatment. In Malawian culture it is very important for the family to come stay with the person or family left behind of the loved one. So Tinashe needed and wanted to be close to her brother and family as they prepared for the burial of Grace. Tinashe left on Tuesday afternoon for Lilongwe, where she stayed with her brother and family as they waited for the body to be transported from a hospital in Zambia back to Malawi, and prepared for the burial.
It truly troubled my heart to see how sad Tinashe was, and also because I had just meet Grace’s 9 year old daughter Gift, the weekend prior. My heart truly goes out to their family during this time of need and I spent much of my week praying and thinking of them asthey were together. I missed Tinashe very much as I held down the house with her sister Ruth and her nephew Chikondi. She has been a great friend and mentor to me as I start off my journey here in Malawi. Teaching me important cultural things to be aware of and helping me figure out my way in society here. She is such a wonderful woman of God and I have been blessed to be able to stay with her. She truly challenges me as her faith and love for the Lord is so strong and evident in her life. She is always praying to the Lord for even the littlest things, thanking Him for a safe journey to and from program, and simply just praising His name for His glory and mercy towards us. It was difficult to spend most of the week without her.
It was hard to leave the kids, they were extremely sad that it was my last week with them. I was so encouraged by the time that I was able to spend with some of them during tutoring in program. I was able to take some of them aside one on one and practice reading English with them. They are doing well in their English studies, but it is hard for them to focus on the areas that they struggle in a group setting, so I was able to take time with them on the areas they struggle. The progress that they made even within two weeks was amazing. They work so hard to be successful academically, and it is encouraging to see Rise assist and encourage them in their education in a society where it is so hard to achieve academic success.
I leave Rise with a hopeful heart that the development projects that we worked on will help them find funds to continue with and grow their wonderful ministry, and with great expectation and hope for the child and high school sponsorship program. I hope to be back to Rise to visit for at least a day or two before coming back to the States, and will stay in communication with Za and Tinashe as they continue on with ministry in Madisi.
Saturday morning Robert (the director of ChristCares) the ministry I will be spending the next two and a half weeks at came to pick me up. I am living in his home with him and his wife Sheila, who just had their first baby girl, Mercy, last week. Along with Robert, Sheila, and Mercy, lives Sheila’s sister Pemphero who is 16, and two other high school/college age friends and helpers around the house, the boy, Innocent, and the girl Felista. There house sits right on the outskirts of Lilongwe, the very small capital of Malawi.
Robert serves as the Director for ChristCares, and also serves as the lead pastor of a local church which I attended this weekend. The church was built by and is served by Korean Christians in a complex along with a hospital and school. I am already starting to feel like home with Roberts’s family, and am so blessed to be able to serve along side of such amazing people.
One thing that truly challenges me and makes my heart so happy is the idea of family, and community here. So far, both at Rise with Tinashe, and here at ChristCares with Robert, my whole idea of family has changed. These people I lived with over the past three weeks open their hearts and their homes to so many people, and treat them as family, living in true community. They live with their brothers and sister, nieces and nephews, youth and friends. Both Robert and Tinashe have taken relatives or simply people in need from their communities into their homes to help them have a more successful future. They help pay school fees, feed, pray with, tutor, encourage, laugh with, and treat them as family.
What a beautiful picture of the body of Christ, the church. Not in the sense of the word that the church is a building that we gather in on Sunday mornings, but the idea that the church, is truly the body of Christ. That we are His hands and feet here on earth, living out love the way that He called us to; Sharing love and community with those around us through actions, meeting each other’s needs, helping each other with problems, praying with and for one another, etc... That what we have is not our own, our blessings and everything that God has given us should be used to bless others and share with them the love of Jesus. What an amazing example of Christ’s love. I am so blessed to be a part of this body of Christ here in Malawi.
-For Tinashe and her family as they continue to cope with the loss of their sister-in-law, daughter, wife, and mother: Grace
-For my transition into ChristCares Ministries here in Lilongwe. That I would be able to build meaningful relationships with the kids and leaders, and that we could work out some meaningful development programs
- For details of my Visa to go through as I need to reapply for the visa this week
I am now at the mark of two weeks here in Malawi. This week will be my final week with Rise Malawi Ministries here in Madisi, and Saturday the 19th I will be moving to the next site, Christ Cares. Christ Cares is located outside of the capital Lilongwe. I will be working at their afterschool programs, with HIV/Aids prevention, and with 10 young women who Christ Cares employs to help them pay for their school fees.
This past week at Rise seemed to go by quickly, as we were busy with program and fund raising efforts. I am beginning to feel more comfortable here; I am able to say the local greetings in Chichewa (the local language). It is a sign of respect and the locals really appreciate it when you are able to greet them in their own language. The kids at program have seemed to get over their shy and fascination stage and are not joking with me, teaching me games, letting me tutor them in English, giving me hugs and showing me love. I am able to help serve food to the kids during lunch time, which I love to do! They are so grateful and pass me by with
big smiles on their faces as they return to their seats with their plates full. Another one of my favorite times during after school program is scripture memory. The kids are split into 6 or 7 groups and each given different versus from the bible to memorize. They take about 15 minutes or so to practice with each other and the youth leaders the memory versus. However, I can barely stay in the small two room school house because the kids are yelling at the top of their lungs the word of God. They make up songs, and beats, and repeat as loud as they can their specific memory verses. After time is up each team must recite their verses, and get awarded points depending on how well they do. It is beautiful to see and hear these amazing kids get so excited about the word of God!
I was able to make some good progress with Za (Rise’s executive director) this past week on fund raising efforts for the ministry. I worked with him to write a proposal and fill out a grant application, which he cannot send in quite yet because they need to be fully registered as a 501 c3 nonprofit organization, which they are in the process of being approved for. Once they are approved for nonprofit status he will send in the application and proposal, which we will complete this coming week, and Lord willingly receive some grant money to help continue with and grow the ministry.
We also worked on ideas for the child sponsorship program and talked about the importance of what a program like this could be for their ministry. Tinashe, Za, and I had a few meetings this week to discuss the importance of development and the potential for different programs and fund raising ideas. I hope and pray that as time goes on that these ideas and programs are able to become reality and allow Rise to not only sustain its programs but grow and expand its ministry to more children and youth of Madisi and the Dowa region.
This week I was able to spend some more time with the youth leaders, helping them with their studies and talking with them. One of the youth leaders named Chikondi has been a youth leader with rise for the past two years, but is not able to help out with program as much recently because he was accepted and received a scholarship to go to African Bible College in Lilongwe. Chikondi and I sat together in the office of Rise flipping through the local news papers to do research for a paper that he was writing, and discussing our opinions of Rise. He asks me of what I think of the ministry and I ask him how he got involved and what the ministry means to him. Chikondi tells me of what his life was like before Rise; he just barely graduated from high school due to financial struggles, it took him longer to graduate then hoped for because he had to take some time off from school to get enough money to return.
After high school Chikondi had no hope of going on to college because of finances, so he decided to follow his passion into ministry, and began to work part time for various ministries in Malawi. After about a year or so of working here and there, Chikondi found Rise ministries. Rise encouraged him to become a youth leader at their afterschool program, and told him that they would help tutor and mentor him so that he could take the college entrance exam and possibly receive financial aid to attend college. He couldn’t turn this opportunity down and began to work at Rise. After a year of working at Rise, studying and tutoring under the guidance of Za and Tinashe, Chikondi took the college entrance exam and was able to score so well that the African Bible College in Lilongwe gave him a scholarship to go to school there. He is now in the middle of his first year at African Bible College studying Christian Ministry.
Chikondi expressed to me his extreme love and gratefulness towards Rise, and believes that he could not be where he is in life today without it. Chikondi is only one of the many stories of the changed and blessed lives of many children and youth that are a part of Rise. I am so blessed to be able to be a part of this ministry, and to be able to assist them in their pursuit to maintain and expand their programs here in Madisi Malawi.
- For my last week here at Rise, that I am able to accomplish the fund raising and development projects that I started to work on with Za. That these projects would start being implemented soon, and will be successful so that Rise can find more funds for their ministry.
- Please pray that Rise Malawi Ministries is approved by the government to be a registered 501 c3 nonprofit organization soon. Their application and information is in and they are simply waiting on approval from the government.
- For the hunger of the families here in Madisi. As it is rainy season, their crops are growing but not ready to harvest until May. They must live off of the remainder of last year’s crop (which at this time of year is not much) to sustain their families until the new harvest.
- For my transition to Christ Cares Ministry this coming Saturday. That the transition would go smoothly and that the Lord would prepare my heart for a new living situation, friends, and ministry.
- Praise the Lord for the wonderful hearts of the people here, for their love and faith in Him.
The Journey begins here in Malawi Africa. I arrived safely at the Lilongwe airport Tuesday afternoon after two long days of travel. Everything went smoothly, except for when it came time to claim my luggage, it did not come. It turns out that my bag was still in South Africa where I had a connecting flight. They said that it could possibly come in on Thursday, it is now Saturday as I write this and my luggage still has not arrived. I am able to make due because I have three outfits from my carry on, but my malaria medication which I am supposed to be taking is in that bag. As you can imagine, this has caused me a bit of stress over the past few days, but I know that the Lord is my strength and my protection, even He is bigger than malaria and I know that He will protect me.
I am living in the home of Tinashe, one of the leaders of the Rise Malawi Ministries where I will be serving for the first three weeks. She shares her home with her younger sister and nephew. It is a three bedroom home, with an indoor toilet, cold shower, sitting room, and Kitchen. The walls and floor are cement, each room has a bed, and if you are lucky maybe a shelf or small table to hold your things on. My room has a single bed and a window. There is no fridge or stove in the kitchen, Tinashe has an electric two burner stove that plugs into the wall and a sink. There is a small dirt yard in the back where her nephew has planted some corn and Irish potatoes. This house is considered luxury in this village, and I feel very blessed to be able to stay here. We have internet on one computer in the office which runs out of the other leader Za’s home, and it is very slow.
Rise Ministry serves as an After School Program and Summer Camp for 72 children in the village of Madisi. Rise serves children who fit the criteria of falling behind academically, and who live in homes that are under the average level of poverty. There are many children in Madisi who fit these criteria, but Rise only has enough staff and resources for 72. Every week Rise holds After School Program from 2pm – 5pm. I was able to attend program two days this week, and have been so encouraged and blessed by what I have seen.
Each afternoon, program begins with lunch for the children. It is in the middle of rainy season, and is the time in between planting and harvesting the main crop maze (corn) for the season. Most families are subsistence farmers, meaning that they grow enough for their family to live on, and if they are lucky have enough left to sell a little. Many of the families are running low on maze stored from last years harvest and are cutting down on the number of meals a day. For many children, lunch at program is the first time they have eaten for the day. We typically serve rice, and some sort of protein such as eggs or soy, and cooked green cabbage. The children are very well behaved, they come into program, sit in organized rows by grade in the one room school building which consists of cement walls and floor, no shelves, seats, or decorations on the walls, and a single chalk board in the front of the room. We rent this school building to have program in. They file out the door rinse off their hands, and down the line where they are served their lunch. They sit in their rows, eat quietly, clean up and wash all the dishes.
After lunch program consists of a time of tutoring, as the children are divided by grade and disperse to other school buildings for lessons with the youth leaders. They are tutored in all different subjects, and are taught both in English and Chichewa (the local language). The children do very well with English, they are able to ask and answer questions. However, they are not fluent by any means and use Chichewa to speak most of the time.
Education is looked at as a treasure, something that is so valuable. It is the key to a hopeful future. The children are eager to learn, asking questions, and listening intently. They want to go to school, they desire education, but unfortunately education is not something that is easy to get in Malawi. Many times children have to stay home and work on the family farm or help with household chores instead of going to school. Education especially after elementary school is something that only some can afford. The government decides what high school the children may attend depending on what they score on their end of year exams, and many times families cannot afford to send their children to these schools.
Depending on the day of the week, program consists of recreation outside, scripture memory, bible lesson, spelling bee, counseling (where they discuss issues such as domestic violence, academic excellence, HIV prevention, personal higyne, self esteem, etc…), and testimonials. This week I was able to witness testimonial time, in which children volunteer to come up front and tell how they have seen God work in their lives. Some of the stories this week consisted of; Kingsley a little boy who praised the Lord because his mother was very sick and was throwing up, he and his older brother prayed for her and soon after she was completely better, a little girl named Mawi was bitten by a wild dog on her leg, and she praised the Lord because her wound did not get infected and healed quickly, another little boy met some hyenas when he was walking back from his families garden on Tuesday, he quickly took another road and he was praising the Lord that the hyenas did not bother him. These children have such faith, trust and love the Lord with all their hearts, the Lord is very real in this place.
The Lord has revealed to me almost immediately the reason He has me at Rise these first few weeks. Rise received news this week from UPI that their funds are quickly running out. As of the end of this month, they will not have enough money to continue to run their ministry. The agreement with UPI was that UPI would fund them for three years to start this ministry, and after three years, they needed to find a way to sustain themselves, and UPI would help. The three years has now come to a close and Rise does not have many funds in place to continue on with their work. This is exactly the reason that I am here, to work with the leaders of Rise and the other ministries, to help create programs that will help them be more self sustaining. I have already begun to work with both the leaders here to reach out to their 70 donors to ask for help with funding. We are also going to work on applying for some foundational grants, creating and child sponsorship program, and possibly setting up a micro business within Rise to help generate funding. This was my mission, I knew the Lord had called me here to do in the first place, but it was made clearer to me the urgent need for this kind of service for these ministries.
- That my luggage would be sent from South Africa and would arrive very soon
- That the Lord would continue to protect me from sickness as I do not have any of my medications with me
- That the Lord would provide funding for Rise and that the projects that I work on with the leaders will be successful
- For the children of Rise, that the Lord would continue to bless them through program and provide for their every need.