What A Year In Malawi Has Taught Me.
I could write so much about what Malawi has taught me. I’ve learned so much about another culture, other religions and living in community with people of other worldviews. I’ve learned how to make living with no power or no water work. I’ve practiced my cooking skills. I’m learning how to adapt illustrations and teaching strategies to fit a third-world culture. I’m constantly reminded of how the Gospel is the only thing that satisfies a broken, sinful heart. The lessons that I’m focusing on in this journal entry are the ones that are specific to me as the Lord has convicted me during our time here.
God Created Us for Relationships and Relationships Take Work
When we left our family and friends 2,000 miles away, I knew it was going to be difficult. I was right. It has been hard. There are periods were I feel isolated and alone. Though I knew the importance of relationships before moving here, I hadn’t experienced the absence of “easy” relationships. All our family was less than thirty minutes away and we were surrounded by our church community at least twice a week. When we moved here that was taken away and isolation took its place. I’m so thankful for the wonderful couples God put around us those first couple of months, Ken and Avisha Mpemba specifically. However, being away from our home community made me realize that God created us for community. When God made Adam He said it was not good for him to be alone. When walking through the most difficult calling, Mary did not retreat into isolation. She reached out to her cousin Elizabeth. Even Jesus surrounded Himself with twelve men that walked through life with Him and sat under His teaching. God recognized isolation was not good for humanity, Mary knew the importance of seeking relationship, and Jesus intentionally built relationships. So why do I try and do everything myself as if I’m exempt from humanity’s innate need? I’m not designed to do this alone.
I’ve come to realize that I expect relationships to fall into my lap with no effort of my own. My selfish and unbiblical view of how relationships develop has promoted a victim mentality. Instead of following my Savior’s example by intentionally seeking people out and laying myself down for them expecting nothing in return, I expect others to come to me. My selfishness has led me into further isolation. Relationships take work. Caring about people takes time, energy and intentionality. As I let God change me, I’m choosing to work at relationships both in Malawi and back home.
My Time Table isn’t Always God’s Time Table
I like it when things go according to my plan. I usually have an agenda in my head, whether it be for that day or for the next ten years, and I tend to get agitated when things deviate from my agenda. God doesn’t operate according to my agenda.
Malawi runs on Malawi time. No one is in a hurry. Stores close down in the middle of the day. It takes a whole afternoon to go grocery shopping. It’s a completely different pace and lifestyle than what we’re used to. Which is a fact that often annoys me, yet I’m learning to appreciate the grace and speed at which life happens here. When we moved here we did not expect the simple logistics of paperwork, licenses, and immigration to take as long as it did. We didn’t expect God to provide a fixer-upper house that required time and energy. We originally didn’t expect for me to drive in Malawi at all, and then were assured that I should learn to drive.
My point is plans change and things rarely happen according to my time frame. The good thing is that God’s time frame is always better than mine. Which leads me to my next lesson.
God is Always Faithful
Always. Always. Always. No matter your location. No matter how many times you sin. No matter your daunting circumstances. We serve a faithful God. It is part of His divine character. He cannot be unfaithful. The Israelites were exiled for seventy years. Seventy years of living in a country not their own, yet during that exile we see God’s faithfulness. During that exile He delivered three men from a fiery furnace, He saved one man from the mouth of the lions, and He continued to send prophets to speak to His people. Even in their most difficult circumstances, God was faithful to the Israelites. He is faithful to you and me as well.
As I’ve walked through this year countless things continue to remind me of His faithfulness. We met an American pediatrician about a month after we got here. When my sweet middle baby was very sick shortly after that, we knew we could take her to see our new friend. In fact, we were even staying with the Mpembas who live much closer to that particular hospital. That was God’s faithfulness.
Christmas was hard, but we got to spend Christmas Eve introducing the girls to the children at Malawi Children’s Mission for the first time. That was God’s faithfulness.
About six months ago, we found a church where all five of us can worship and serve. We’ve been able to open up our home for weekly bible studies, which Josh often leads. I get to teach children’s Sunday school. The girls love getting together as body of Christ. That is God’s faithfulness.
God brought a precious little seven pound fifteen ounce baby boy into the world here in Malawi. Allowing us to have a perfectly healthy baby and complication free delivery in a third-world country is something we will never forget. That was God’s faithfulness.
Daily, He allows us to speak the truth of scripture into the lives of children and administration at Malawi Children’s Mission. We get to speak those same truths to our own children. I get to have our neighbor with a Muslim background over for a bible study that she asked me to do with her. I get to teach our children to love learning as they play, experiment and grow. That is all God’s faithfulness.
As I said, there are countless more lessons I’ve learned since moving here. These three lessons are simply the ones that I know the Lord is working on me specifically. This year will be one I pray I never lose. I want to hold on to these lessons wherever God takes us. God has used Malawi as a carving tool to shape me into His image. For that I am forever thankful!