April 20th 2011
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.
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.
- 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.