Thoughts coming home from Africa

After being on a plane for almost 24 hours (just on the way back), we finally arrived back home. This trip was an incredible experience and given me so much to process – something that I think I will be doing for quite some time.

Sorry I’m not really taking the time to detail out all the things we did in Malawi. I feel like talking about what we did in Malawi isn’t nearly as important or impacting as telling you what we witnessed GOD DOING in Malawi.

I’m not sure if any updates from the trip ended up being posted on the church’s website. They were posted on Mission High School’s facebook page – you can view all the notes detailing what our two weeks looked like by “liking” them here: https://www.facebook.com/MissionHS#!/MissionHS) You can also check out pictures there or on my facebook site by going here: https://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=511911932

In Malawi, we were able to see joy that can only be found in Christ in the midst of suffering:

Malawi is definitely called “the warm heart of Africa” for a reason. This trip was an emotional roller coaster and for alot of it, I wasn’t quite sure what to think. Malawi is in the top 10 of the poorest countries of the nation. Part of me was devastated seeing the conditions that these people were living in. We got to experience how hard they had to work just to get food and shelter to survive, to see how some of them wouldn’t even be able to eat everyday, and visiting widows and children who had HIV, or malaria, or both. But amidst all this turmoil, and poverty, there was so much joy and love. They were so thankful, so grateful, so joyful, so loving, so giving despite all these circumstances. Their joy was based solely on God and HIS promises, not on their circumstances or what possessions they had. I believe the joy and love these people showed us depsite their circumstances had a much bigger impact on our whole team than anything we were able to do for them.

In Malawi, we were able to witness God’s transforming power:

We had the opportunity to spend some time in several different villages. A majority of our time was spent in Chikudzulire – this is a village that Somebody Cares (the organization in Malawi that Mission Community Church partners with) has been present in some time now. It was crazy to get to see the vast differences between a place where God is known and Jesus is Lord (Chikudzulire), and a village who just started receiving care and the Gospel of Jesus (a slum area called “Promise”). In Chikudzulire, we were welcomed with open arms. Every time we arrived it was a 30 minutes dance party [our dancing showed everyone how big of azungu’s (means white people) we really were]. We instantly felt like family there. Everyone looked out for one another. And despite having virtually nothing, our last day there they gave US a ridiculous amount of food (peanuts, bananas, maze, chickens, and a goat) to thank us for the work we had done. They gave with no regret either – how do I know this? Because they were dancing and singing as they gave it to us. Incredible – made me think of Mark 12:41-44.

Then we saw such a stark contrast in Promise. We spent some time in that village doing Home Based Care visits (delivering blankets and doing chores for widows or children who had HIV or Malaria or both and reading scripture with them and praying for them). As we were walking to the different locations, some people would be upset and follow us and yell at us. Some of our group spent time making pouridge and feeding kids in this village and it turned out to be quite different from some of the other feeding sessions. Instead of the kids waiting patiently to be handed food – these kids would grab the food before it could be handed out. They were in survival mode and were not afraid to fight one another to make sure they got food that day.

Although this was  tough to see – at the same time it was encouraging. We were able to see the amazing work God was doing through Somebody Cares and the amazing transformation of a village like Chikudzulire has had because of Christ’s love and his provision. God is just getting started in Promise and I am so excited to hear and see the amazing work that God will do in the village of Promise and many other villages.

In Malawi, we witnessed the blessing of God:

Africa is often viewed as poor – which it definitely is. But it definitely is NOT poor spiritually. I was able to witness some of the greatest displays of joy and love and hope amongst the greatest poverty I have ever seen. This has really caused me to wrestle. Often times you hear the cliche “well now you will be more grateful for what you have”. This is true, but I feel like if we stop there – we completely miss the point. We often say we are “blessed” because we have lots of money or material things. But the fact is, we aren’t really blessed unless we use these things to BE a blessing. If we use what we have to be a blessing to others, this is when we will truly begin to experience the joy and blessing of being involved in God’s plan of bringing people to him. By having an abundance of stuff and holding onto it for our own comfort is actually robbing us of our dependency of God and of having true joy. Jesus spoke several times about how being “rich” can make it very difficult to be in the kingdom of heaven. It can create a temptation for us to cling to things of this world for stability and not God.

I’m not saying it’s wrong to have stuff or money (if it wasn’t for people having money, there’s no way I would have been able to go on this trip!) This trip just opened my eyes even more to how the more we have, the easier it is to NOT rely or depend on God. This is really causing me to wrestle with how I deal with my own possessions and finances and plans in the future. So it may sound crazy, but sometimes the less stuff we have, the more blessed we may really be because it could strengthen our faith and causes us to rely more on God and less on US. (And just to clarify when I say “stuff” – I am talking about stuff above and beyond our basic needs of clothes, shelter, food, etc. Everyone should have those – and God has called us, His church, to be the hands and feet to provide it to those who don’t have it.)

This experience has been incredible and is really causing me to process alot and I apologize if this blog is a huge jumbled mess that’s hard to understand – that would actually be spot on because that’s what my mind has felt like ever since coming back. It’s actually been harder emotionally since being home then it was when we were in Africa. I’m not sure if it’s because of “culture shock” or if it’s because it was hard to be depressed over there when you were with the people because of the joy they had and now it’s just hitting home how much we have compared to them.

I know I will continue to process, think, pray, and read plenty more going forward. I will probably post some more blogs in the future (that hopefully won’t be this long). Let me just say once again, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for supporting Nicole and I to go on this trip. Thank you for using what God has blessed you with to BE a blessing – I pray that God will continue to bless you to be a blessing to others and make an impact for his kingdom. I’m so incredibly overwhelmed by the generosity and support Nicole and I have received throughout this process. God is using this experience to change our lives, and the lives of others. YOU played a huge part in it and we can’t thank you enough!

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