Monthly Archives: December 2018

Christmas Overseas

When you hear the word Christmas, what are the first things that come to mind? For me it is playing with snow, watching Christmas movies with my mom, making Christmas cookies, spending the whole day with family, and singing “Go tell it on the Mountain” on Christmas Eve when the clock strikes 12. For everyone Christmas can mean something a little different. But when we moved to Malawi, everything was different. There was definitely no snow and as much as I hate snow, I do miss it around Christmas. Your family will not be there and maybe there will be power to make cookies and maybe not.

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Being overseas during the holidays, Thanksgiving through Christmas, is the hardest season for our entire family and all of us get a little ‘homesick’. All those normal Christmas traditions have suddenly and instantly vanished. All those people that you always see are no longer there. And it is raining, raining, and raining. You see everyone else carrying on with there festivities for the season, and all of your traditions have just stopped. In Malawi pretty much nothing changes for Christmas. There are very few Christmas lights and Christmas trees.

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The Rains

In Malawi, from April to December it is almost completely dry here. By the time October hits, it is dry and dusty and everything is covered in brown. For us even though October is the hottest seasons, Luke and I were saying it is like our winter in the states because it can feel dreary and dark.

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But then in December the rains come. And yes, when it rains here, it rains and rains and rains. But when it rains all the green pops up. Malawi is the prettiest when the rains have just started falling. The rains are a sign of hope. Everyone is in the fields planting. Everyone is hopeful that the harvest will bring a good crop and they will have enough to eat. But it is also a time from December to April that many individuals don’t have much to eat. They have spent all their money on fertilizer and planting materials. So, there isn’t much money left over for food or Christmas. This is a time in Malawi when there is an expectancy of hope, it’s like us waiting for Jesus to come back for us. We know it is coming. It is going to be glorious and wonderful but it just hasn’t happened yet.

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Traditions

This is our fourth Christmas in Malawi. I wouldn’t necessarily say that it gets easier but it becomes normalized. We have made new and wonderful traditions in our family. Our first Christmas here, we were able to purchase a very small Christmas tree. I brought with us about 15 ornaments so we decorate our little tree with these wonderful ornaments and a few new ones too. We each take turns all putting up the special ornaments that we like and Luke and I talk about where they all came from.

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In my family our children, all the cousins, do a gift exchange. My siblings make sure that my kids are still a part of this. Then on Christmas day we call and through video chat open the presents. Some of the grandparents still buy presents for the kids. We take the kids around to the few stores that have toys, then they pick out what they like. We take pictures, put American prices on them and send them to my mom, she picks out what she likes and sends a check. The process is similar for the other grandparents too. Then Luke and I go and purchase them. Then the kids wait until 2 or 3 pm and as soon as the grandparents get up, they call us. And the kids open all the presents on video chat. Our sending church also sends a package with Christmas cards and Christmas gifts for all of us. Yes, it is different but for all of us it is the normal and it makes a huge difference. I am thankful for our families that make sacrifices so we can still celebrate Christmas together, even if we are miles and miles away.

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This year Mark started a new tradition. He made a Christmas tree out of paper. Then we each made ornaments and every day we tape an ornament on the tree as a countdown to Christmas. The children had a Christmas Disney book so every night we read a story and then on Christmas Day we will read the Christmas Story. It is exciting that Christmas continues to change and expand and new traditions get made every year.

Spreading the Story

In the Bible it tells the story of Jesus’s birth, the true Christmas story. God sent his one and only Son to this earth. He came here humbly as a baby, fulfilling all the prophesies written in Isaiah. We choose to share what the Lord has given us with others this time of year and share the Christmas story with many adults and children. We have some wonderful supporters that have donated evangelism tools, books, mosquito nets, yarn for sweaters, dresses, bibles, and additional money so that way we can spread the love of Jesus to so many others. Another donor also was able to provide an eye exam and glasses for our friend’s son that needed glasses.  We are so thankful that we are able to continue to spread Jesus love to so many, through the gifts of so many.

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As the rain bring hopes it also brings lots of Mosquito’s with it. We attended a training and a local clinic, who was also in attendance, told the story of when they went to a poor community during this time of year and tested around 350 children. 190 of them had Malaria. Malaria can make you very, very sick even if you are completely healthy. And with many of the children and even the adults that do not have proper nutrition, it can be life threatening. One of our supporting churches children’s ministry has raised enough money for us to buy 80 mosquito nets for these families. This gift is very special to these families because it can keep these children safe during this rainy season.

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I want to leave with one story from us passing out our gifts this year. I have been doing a women’s Bible Study in a village. Many of the women come faithfully, we normally have about 20 women that come. Last week there were no women that showed up due to planting their fields, since many of the women in the village do the planting. This week when we went, we were not sure how many would come since the kids are out of school. We bought gifts for about 20 women and about 30 kids. When we arrived, there were people everywhere. There were over 60 women and 100 children. Luke and I looked at each other and I thought of Jesus feeding the 5000. We did a quick prayer that God would make us have enough for everyone and we went to tell them about Jesus. I did the women and Luke taught the children, we both shared the Christmas story and about Jesus with all these people.

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When it came time to pass out gifts the Lord was amazing. I passed out gifts to the women who had faithfully come to the Bible study. For the women that had not come, I just put all the left overs in a box and they could choose 1, there was just enough for every single woman, and none left. When the children lined up for the chips the same thing happened when I gave the last child his chips my bag ran out. God continues to show us over and over again how very faithful he is. He provided the perfect amount not an over abundance or not too little but the perfect amount.

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Christmas is different for our entire family. We are so very blessed by all the people that shape our Christmas and the individuals in our ministry that we get to serve alongside. May your Christmas’s be blessed even if your traditions are changed. I pray that if you are like us and maybe your family is not near, that you will still be blessed by the holidays this season and God will bring you Joy and Peace.

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Jesus, I remember -by Jamie

On Tuesday Night November 3, 1998. God spoke to me for the first time. He said, “Are you going to trust me with your life?” I remember saying to him, “Only if you help me.” And he did. On that day I committed myself to him. I depended on him to start this journey of following him.

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Sometimes we just go on with our day. Sometimes we are in desperation and we think. Does God really still answer our prayers. Is he still there?

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May we remember: God is our constant. God is always with us. He is there.

God, I remember when you were with me when I was 20 years old and a new Christian. When I thought I was pregnant and felt all alone and thought you couldn’t still love me. But you healed my broken heart. You helped me to depend on you. You helped me to find a great man that waited with me till I was married.

God, I remember when you were with me in those nights that I sat in our guest bedroom weeping because my little girl was in another country all by herself. You were with me and you were with her.

God, I remember when you were with me on the days after I lost the first baby and then the second, where I couldn’t stop crying. I was so angry with you, I didn’t even want to talk to you. But you were with me. You helped me get out of bed and you helped me find joy in the depths of my despair.

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May we remember the times that God is with us.

We just had our 3-year anniversary of moving to Malawi.

If I am being honest with you. There are many things that have been challenging on the mission field.

  • Cooking in the dark.
  • Handwashing and line drying your clothes.
  • Not knowing how to respond when 3 people that told you today that you were getting fat.
  • Being embarrassed that you shouted “I just pooped” when you were trying to say “shut the window”.
  • Being terrified while driving that you are going to hit the bicycles that are riding on the sides of the road.
  • Holding your children as there crying themselves to sleep because they really want to see their grandma.
  • Wanting so badly to just see your sister and tell her in person the crazy thing that happened to you today.
  • Being surrounded by extreme poverty and not really knowing how to help.

When we first got here. Everything around me was different. Everything felt foreign and different.

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May I remember…

But I can say that in these last 3 years my relationship with God has become different. May I remember that he is always my friend. May I remember that he is the one that comforts me when I just want to give up. May I remember that he is the one that calms me when my schedule is so full and I think there is no way I can do this. May I remember that he is the one that protects me when I am in the village doing ministry alone. May I remember that he is always my God.

May I remember when sometimes I wonder if I am following the right paths the times that he has opened doors in only the way he can, to let me know I am on the right path.

May I remember how God has directed our visa and helped us stay in Malawi. When we first got here, we had a really tough time getting our first temporary employment permit. It was 10 months of Luke going back and forth to immigration. He would drive 5 hours one way and sit for hours just being disappointed and told we didn’t have everything and told he needed to go home. One of the hardest times was that we still didn’t have our Visa when it was my brother’s wedding and I had to miss it. I was so frustrated at the system of all of it.

In Malawi they issue Temporary Employment Permits (TEP) every 2 years. Our first TEP was expiring in August of this year. We had so many friends that were struggling with their permits being approved. Many of them their TEP’s had been expired for over a year and others two years. It is hard to explain the frustration of this process. We filed our renewal in May and then faithfully left to go to America to wait to see if we would be approved again.

We came back to Malawi two days before our TEP expired. We knew at this point we would need to go to immigration and start hunting for our files and try to get the TEP renewed as fast as we could. Luke called the office when we got back to check on it and miraculously they said that the TEP had been approved. At this point our passports could be stamped but he needed to drive to Blantyre five hours away to receive the official paperwork so that way we can file again the next time. We know countless friends that never receive this paperwork and they sometimes just sit buried in a box. When Luke arrived, he had found out the person that had said our paperwork was approved was the head of immigration. He was sent to her office and within two hours he was on his way back home with the approved document.

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May I remember how God has been with Mark through this journey of change and transition. When we moved to Malawi Mark was very angry. Mark didn’t want to leave his home, Camp Tecumseh, and he did not want to be in Malawi. Mark didn’t like that he couldn’t speak the language and he felt that when anyone was talking in Chichewa that they were making fun of him. When we first moved here, I wasn’t doing very well with the change and I was struggling and with Mark struggling too this was hard on both of us. We found a school we thought Mark would love but it was way out of our budget. But the Lord miraculously paid for him to go there and he continues to provide for Mark to go to this school. Within the last few months the Lord has started to heal Mark. I will admit Mark is still angry and he still is unhappy sometimes. But Mark has become content with his circumstances. Mark loves his school, his teacher, and he has a best friend that we are grateful for. Continue to pray for him that he finds his purpose in Malawi and that the Lord continues to grow him into the man that God wants him to be.

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This week has been a truly frustrating week for our ministry. We have been a little discouraged. But God continues to move. God continues to provide. God continues to be there and show us he is for us in the good times and the bad. )

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May you remember the times that God has been with you. I pray you look back over your life and see all the times he was by your side. May you remember the joyful moments when he was there with you. May you remember the sad moments when he held you. May you remember the times that you still need to trust in him and know that he is always with you.

I am leaving with you the song “Remember” by Lauren Daigle- It has been an encouragement to me. May it be an encouragement to you.