Blog: April 2011

April 27, 2011

It has been an amazing second-to-last week here in Malawi.  I have already been able to accomplish much in my short time with Youth Care, working hard alongside of their wonderful staff and getting to know the boys from Safe Haven Orphanage a little bit better.  I spent all of last week working in the office, checking various things off of my growing to-do list, and spent the long holiday weekend with various friends, beginning the difficult process of saying goodbyes.

Last week I spent the majority of my time with Chikondi, Mwai, and Gibozi, three of the full-time staff members of Youth Care, brainstorming various development ideas, working with the Safe Haven boys on their profiles, and discussing details of the new sponsorship program.  They seem very excited for the potential of the sponsorship program, and jumped right on board as we discussed its potential and importance to the sustainability of the ministry.  Youth Care also runs two after school programs in the local community; however they were still on holiday as of last week so we were able to focus the majority of our time on office items.

Praying to close After School Program

Another project I spent time on last week was the editing of the college application of Ernest,  one of the Safe Haven boys.  Ernest is 19 years old and has lived at Safe Haven since 2005.  His mother passed away when he was only a child, and his father passed away when he was 11, leaving Ernest to fend for himself on the streets of Lilongwe.  He would be on the streets during the day begging for money to eat, and would frequently have to go for days without food.  His home was the underside of a bus, and he soon became part of a group of street boys who bonded together as orphans in this already very poor country.

By the grace of God, Ernest was taken into the Safe Haven Orphanage in 2005.  The director at that time found him on the streets and asked him if he wanted to start a new and better way of life.  He and the other boys he was with were taken into a new family and community at Safe Haven.  Ernest was given a bed, fed, clothed, taken to church, and soon was attending school.  Ernest has now finished his secondary education thanks to a lot of hard work, help, and encouragement from Safe Haven and Youth Care, and is currently in the process of applying to university.

The possibility of getting a university degree in Malawi is something that is very rare.  Since there is only one government school with four sub schools for the entire country, the competition is very intense for the 2200 openings.  Besides these government schools there are about 4 private universities in Malawi, which are also difficult to get into and expensive.  These are only some of the factors that make it difficult to get a university education.  Many children and teens are unable to complete secondary school due to lack of funds and responsibilities at home.  If they are blessed enough to complete their secondary education they have to sit for exams and pass with high enough marks to get them into a national university, and if they score well enough to attend, they have to somehow come up with necessary finances..  The odds are very much against them, and education in this country is truly the key to a brighter future.

Ernest, by the grace of God, hard work, and the help of Safe Haven has completed his secondary education, scored well on his exams, and is hoping to attend university this coming fall.  His top choice for university is a Christian university in California, Azusa Pacific University (APU).  His dream is to become a doctor.  He hopes to help his country with its need for medical doctor specialists.  Malawi has many serious health issues, such as HIV/Aids, malnutrition, high rates of infant and child mortality, and malaria.  There are not many doctors in Malawi—only one physician for every 65,000 people-- and often the ones who are fortunate enough to get their medical degrees end up leaving the country to find better paying jobs in other countries.  Ernest’s story, strength, and

Martha, from Youth Care, posing for her Child Sponsorship shot.

motivation are so inspiring to me.  I am blessed and privileged to have spent so much time with him last week, working through his application and editing his essays.  His desire to serve his country, with a potential degree that could take him to so many levels of what the world would see as “success”, and give to his community touches my heart.  God has given a gift in bringing him to Safe Haven, and he desires to pass along that blessing to others, serving them and bringing glory and honor to God.  I pray that the Lord continues to guide and direct Ernest’s future, and that He will grant his desire to attend Azusa Pacific University.

I spent the long holiday weekend visiting my friends from Rise Malawi in Madisi, Tinashe and Za.  I spent the weekend at Tinashe’s house and attended the Good Friday and Easter Sunday services at her church.  It was wonderful to spend this Easter holiday with friends, experiencing and celebrating the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ with the local church.  The celebration was incredible, full of songs in Chichewa, praising, and dancing for joy.  Our Easter lunch consisted of pasta with some tomatoes, and some relish.  We sat together on the sitting room floor (since Tinashe does not have a table or chairs), thanked the Lord for his gift of love and salvation, and shared our last meal together.  I said my goodbyes to my family in Madisi, and boarded the bus for the 1 ½ hour ride back to Lilongwe.

Sunday afternoon and Monday were full of more visits with Robert, the director of CCM, and his family at their home.  I was able to catch up with them and stay at their house overnight from Sunday into Monday.  It was so good to see them again; their baby girl, Mercy, is getting so big and growing so quickly.  It was also nice to spend some time with Innocent and Felista, the house helpers who stay at their home and attend high school.  I will miss their family very much.

This week I am working in the office in the mornings and attending the after school program in the afternoon.  I haven’t gotten much done in the office this week due to a nationwide power and water outage for the past 4 days.  We have power again today so I am in a rush to get a lot done before it goes out.  The things we take for granted…!

As I begin my final week here in Malawi, please pray:

-          For Ernest, as he sends in his college application to APU this week.  For the outcome of that application and for his future.

-          For the goodbyes that I will have to say this next week to my family in Malawi.  This is going to be a very difficult week for me.

-          For peace and clarity from the Lord, as I return to the States on May 7th.  That I would be able to process everything that will                 be going through my mind, and that the Lord would guide and direct my every decision and future.

-          For the Sponsorship Program and other development projects that I will be working on with UPI this summer.  That the Lord                  would go ahead of each of these projects and bring them success; that the ministries of Malawi would benefit.

April 20, 2011

Steph and I on our amazing journey.

What an amazing, refreshing, and tiring last two weeks it has been.  I have spent a total of about 35 hours on various buses and mini buses, experienced Lake Malawi (the 8th largest lake in the world), visited with one of my best friends (Steph), crossed the Malawian – Zambian border, extended my visa to allow me to legally stay in the country until my time of service is complete, and have safely arrived at Youth Care Ministries in Lilongwe for my final two and a half weeks in this amazing country.  The Lord has been so faithful and has kept Steph and me safe as we traveled.  It is not always the easiest thing to travel around in Malawi and Zambia; some bus schedules are not reliable and typically don’t leave until they fill up, while others sometimes even leave early from their scheduledtime.  If you want to travel cheaply one must settle for the local buses and mini buses which are crammed with more people than they should be, along with bags, crates, and boxes.  We even spent about 6 hours in the back of a flatbed truck with two buckets of smelly fish and about 15 other people on our way to Lilongwe because we missed our bus.

It was absolutely lovely to spend time with Steph.  We went to Messiah College together and have been friends since freshman year.  She is working for one year with Mennonite Central Committee in Choma, Zambia, working with HIV/Aids prevention and education efforts there.  I was able to visit her home where she lives with two local teachers, to see her office and to meet some of her Zambian and Caucasian friends.  We stayed in the home of a missionary couple who are in their mid 60’s and have been serving in Zambia for about 9 years.  They live in the missions complex near to the home Steph stays in.  Their home was lovely, with a  hot shower, a nice bed, and my favorite part, granola with milk and fruit for breakfast, which was such a treat!  It was so refreshing to catch up with Steph and to hear about her time thus far in Zambia, and to share with her many of my experiences, joys, and challenges.  The Lord truly blessed both of us through our time together, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to see a familiar and loved face halfway around the world.

I arrived safely at the home of the director of Youth Cares Ministries (Gibozi) in Lilongwe on Sunday evening.  I will be spending my last few weeks with him and his family in their home located on the outskirts of Lilongwe.  Gibozi is married to Ester and they have a 7-month old giggly, adorable baby boy, Isreal.  Gibozi has also opened his home to his two younger brothers who stay together in one of the three bedrooms in the house.  I have my own room and bed, and I’m able to either bucket bathe with warm water if I choose to take the time to heat it on the stove, or take a cold shower.  I wake up at 6:15 am ready to leave at 7 for the office.  It takes about 50 minutes by minibus and taxi to get to the office, which is run out of the Safe Haven Orphanage where Youth Cares runs its boys’ orphanage.  There are currently 12 boys living in the orphanage with the host dad, Gerald.  The boys will be a part of the sponsorship program that I am working on, and three of them already have sponsors.

The staff at Youth Cares has allowed me to jump on board and are very excited about the projects and programs that we are going to work on together.  They are very friendly, welcoming me with open arms onto their team.  They are impressed with the amount of Chichewa I can speak!  Youth Cares is the most established and longest-running ministry of UPI in Malawi and already has a semi-established sponsorship program for the orphanage.  The program has a lot of potential and could greatly benefit from an extended sponsorship program and some more concrete structure and details in place.  The sponsorship program for the two after-school sites will be a new addition to their ministry and programs.

Chimwemwe - meaning Joy, one of the boys from Rise Malawi Ministries.

These next two and a half weeks are going to go by so quickly and will be full of many emotions.  I will be returning to UPI on May 11th and am planning to use some of the remaining funds raised to work for UPI in Camden this summer, launching and promoting the international child sponsorship program.  I will be using this time to find sponsors for every site, as well as to fine-tune some other fund development projects for the various ministries.  I hope to have completed this journey by August, leaving the ministries of UPI with a sustainable sponsorship program that will allow them to continue the wonderful things that they do--reaching more children and youth for Christ and bringing hope to the children and youth of Malawi.

I am trying my hardest to stay focused on what the Lord has for me here as I wrap up my time, and praying through what the Lord has for me next.  He truly has given me a genuine love in my heart for this people, culture, and country, and it is going to be very difficult for me to leave.

Please Pray:

-          Thank the Lord for keeping Steph and me safe and giving us a wonderful time together.  Also for the success of renewing my visa as I crossed the border from Zambia to Malawi.

-          For the boys in the Safe Haven orphanage as they spend this Easter season together in the orphanage, since they do not have family to spend the holiday with.  That the Lord would be near to them, bring them joy and fellowship with one another during this holiday season.

-          For the grace of God to allow me to stay focused and fully invest myself these last few weeks.  That the Lord would bring me comfort and peace as I begin to prepare to return to the States.

-          For guidance and direction from the Lord as I finish up my time with UPI this summer and seek what He has for my future.

April 5, 2011

This week marks the end of my time in southern Malawi with Rays of Hope Ministries.  Things have been wrapping up as far as projects are concerned, and the kids have now started their two-week break from school, since it is the end of their third quarter from school.  They will start back up again in mid April, and programs will resume.  Since the kids are on vacation, Rays of Hope has not had their after school program this week, so the majority of my time has been spent focusing on development projects for the

Some of the kids from at Rays of Hope and I.

ministry.  This coming Thursday I will be meeting up with a good from college who is currently serving in Zambia; she and I will be spending a few days together.

I ended my time with the kids in some wonderful last days together as we wrapped up the program and completed the development art project and the child sponsorship profiles and information.  We sang songs; the kids taught me some in Chichewa and I taught them songs in English, dancing with joy as we praised the name of the Lord.  We played games of basketball and football (they make balls out of plastic bags that they find), practiced English and grammar together as I helped them work through some of their studies, and helped them prepare for their end of quarter exams which they took at the end of last week.  The kids received the results from their exams early this week, and they proudly march over to Willie’s house to show him their results.  It is part of the Rays of Hope program for the kids to report their grades to Willie, the director, as he notes who has done well and should be rewarded and recognized, and who needs to receive more attention and tutoring from the youth leaders.  The results from their exams seem to reflect the wonderful job that the Rays of Hope after school program is doing to encourage and tutor the kids in their studies.  It is difficult for them to focus on their studies when the reality of life for some consists of working alongside of their parents on the family farm, or helping raise their younger siblings, and facing many more responsibilities than simply focusing on academics.  The ministry of Rays of Hope is much needed and greatly beneficial for its participants.

It was very difficult for me to say goodbye to the kids.  I see the Lord shining through every one of their smiles; their hugs and embraces make my day.  I wish I could stay at each and every site, with every child and youth leader, to continue to be involved in their lives and give them my all.  As of today, I have exactly one month left until I board a plane that will take me back to the States.  I pray that the Lord uses this final month to bring Himself glory and honor through my actions, thoughts, and words.  He has been so faithful so far, and I know that He will not fail me in this final month.

Willie and I were able to complete some resources and prepare for an important meeting that he is going to have with a local rotary club in a few weeks.  Willie has done a great job networking within the community of Blantyre to find some local support for Rays of Hope, and hopefully build some meaningful relationships with other non-profits and influential people that will be helpful to the ministry as it looks to grow in the future.  I was able to create a ministry brochure, come up with some giving idea’s, and help Willie gather other important information and advise him on some strategies and tactics which he should use in approaching the rotary club for support and funding.  It has definitely benefited Rays of Hope Ministries to be located in such close proximity to the city of Blantyre; the connections that have been made and will be made in the future will be crucial to the success of this ministry.

Since the ministries will be on break for the next two weeks due to the schools’ vacation time at the end of the quarter, I will be taking

Three beautiful girls from Rays of Hope After School Program.

the next week and a few days to do a little bit of traveling with my friend who is currently working with the Mennonite Central Committee in Zambia.  The timing works out perfectly, because I need to leave the country in order to renew my visa.  The law here in Malawi is that as a visitor, you are only allowed to stay for 90 days, after which you would be illegally staying here.  Since my time here in Malawi exceeds that 90-day period, I have to find a way to leave the country for a few days to acquire an extended visa for another 30 days, in order to be allowed to stay here until my time has been completed in early May.

So my friend and I are planning to use this week to visit lake Malawi for a few days, which is the 8th largest lake in the world, and then travel on to Choma Zambia where she is staying and doing ministry with the Mennonite Central Committee.  We may possibly make a trip to Victoria Falls which is about 2 hours from where she stays.  Since I will be traveling next week I will not be posting a blog, but will resume posting the week of April 18th.

Lord willing, I will return to Lilongwe on the 16th of April, and I will start my time with YouthCare Malawi, a boys’ orphanage and after school program.  I will be spending the remainder of my time with this ministry, and will be wrapping things up with UrbanPromise International here in Malawi.

As I look forward to this next week and final month here in Malawi please pray:

-  For safety and a restful, reflective, and rejuvenating time on my trip with my friend.  That we will be successful in our days of traveling and time spent at the lake and in Zambia.

-  For the details of my visa to go through as I cross the border into Zambia and return to Malawi.

-  For a successful meeting of Rays of Hope with the Limbe Rotary Club.  That the Lord would move in the hearts of the members and encourage them to get involved and give to the ministry.

-  Praise the Lord that the boil on Willie’s leg is getting better and he is almost 100% healed and able to move around comfortably.

-  For the Lord to bring peace and clarity to my heart, as I begin to think about leaving this amazing place in May, and determine what His next steps are for my life.

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