Author Archives: jamieulrich

God is Real

On August 6th our family, along with Christina (our translator), and a team of three college students from Indiana were traveling home from doing ministry and seeing Lake Malawi.

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The day had been a day of relaxation and rest. Our kids got to play in the sand and water at the beach, I was able to read my book (slightly), and we got to see zebras and a giraffe so close it felt like we could have touched them if we wanted.

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We were very grateful that months before we had planned that day. There was a planned protest in Lilongwe, the city where we live, and over 1 million people had planned to protest in the capital. We had been in contact with several friends and they said that many areas in Lilongwe were not well during the day and that we should come back later in the day. We had received an email that the protesters were staying in the city. We felt it was fine to travel back home later that day, but we knew to avoid certain areas.

Since our vehicle only holds seven and there were nine of us, we had rented a large van for our trip.

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We were about 20 minutes from Lilongwe and we were almost home. As we had traveled there were some fires on the side of the road and we could see that there had been fires burning on the road during the day as part of the demonstrations. It had only been dark for about 10 minutes and then as we were driving, someone hit our vehicle with a small rock. We saw a few larger rocks in the middle of the road up ahead, but assumed that they had done it earlier in the day and it would be safe to drive on.

IMG_10981(These were some of stones that were placed in the middle of the road. Picture taken at the actual location one week later)

There were cars still in front of us and no one had turned around, so we just continued. Then my side window had a brick thrown at it and it shattered. There was glass everywhere but I was fine. The kids started crying. Luke said, “There is police stop right here so it should be fine.” That is when we saw that the Police Station was on fire and we were in danger. The bricks and stones kept flying and breaking other windows and the rocks, fires, and other obstacles in the road became larger and more often in order to slow us down.

IMG_11001IMG_11121(The burn spots on the road one week later)

Just beyond the police stop there was an armored vehicle that was throwing tear gas at individuals to try to stop them. Luke stopped to see if they could protect us and then he saw a tear gas canister roll directly under our car, so we continued a little further. We were hit by more stones and then there was a slight break but we saw more up ahead and could not determine if it would end soon. At this time over 5 of our windows are broken and they are continuing to throw rocks at us. Luke and I knew there was a decision to be made. Do we continue to keep going? Is it safer to turn around and go back the ¾ of a mile we had already come? How long is this going to continue? What if our tires go flat from driving over the large stones in the road? The Holy Spirit told me to yell, “Luke drive as fast as you can and everyone pray”.

In the vehicle we borrowed the only seat belt was in the front. Aaron was beside me in his car seat. But it was the best place for him because he was protected by the thick tempered glass of the front windshield, I laid on top of him. Christina started praying loudly in Chichewa and everyone else also starting praying loudly and Miriam even stopped crying. The next ¾ mile my brave husband drove us through fires and large bricks on the road everywhere, there were bricks hitting all over our vehicle. But the peace of the Lord hovered all over us. And then just as quickly as it began it was over.

I looked up and said, “Is everyone okay”. And I got eight yes’s, followed by one of the college students stating that his hand was slightly cut. He happened to see a rock coming toward his window due to a fire being right there, so he blocked the rock with his hand so that it did not hit his head and he also said, “I am covered in something wet, but we are fine.” (More on the liquid later.) No one else was injured. In all, 8 of the windows were smashed. The back windows were broken but nothing fell out. As far as we could tell, there was not a rock that came through a window that had already been smashed or there could have been serious injuries. Luke’s window was not broken so he could still drive. Even though we had drove through fires and over bricks, the tires were fine and the engine wasn’t damaged. God was there.

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Mark sat up and said “God was with us.” For a little boy who still struggles daily with being angry with God for having to live in Malawi, he knew God was within that vehicle.

About four years ago Miriam was learning about Jesus and she learned about when Jesus is going to come and take his believers to heaven. Now for someone that has attachment disorders and anxiety problems, this was scary. In her mind Jesus was someone that would snatch her in the middle of the night and take her somewhere without her parents. After this situation Miriam said “Jesus is sitting next to me.” For her to say that Jesus was with her was a miracle. In that moment she no longer was scared of Him but realized He was there protecting her and keeping her safe. Luke and I through this had stayed calm, I didn’t even shed a tear (and for me that was a miracle). God was with us.

As we were traveling home. Miriam said “Mom the windows are gone and it is night, we are going to get bitten.” For us, it doesn’t matter if we go outside for one minute, we put bug spray on after dark, for us this something that could save our lives. We do not want to get malaria and this is the best way of prevention. Miriam knows that she needs to put bug spray on, but there is no way I can find it right then so we just said a prayer and traveled on.

The rest of the way home we didn’t approach any danger. Somewhere in the mist of all of this, two shields on the bottom of the vehicle had come part way off and were dragging on the ground. All the way back to our house people were shouting “You are dragging something.” What a sight we must have been. Our vehicle had more windows broken than were in tack, it had dents in it everywhere and we were making so much noise because the pieces are just dragging on the ground. As soon Luke stopped and turned the car around in front of our house, one of the pieces just fell off.

When we got Aaron out of his car seat. There was a layer of glass under him. But not a scratch anywhere on his body. The rest of us were the same. God was protecting us.

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The next day as we got home and I was shaking and picking glass out of our belongings. I noticed that a plastic bag had a hole it in and one bottle of bug spray was empty. God had a stone shatter that one bag so that bug spray would go all over the pants of the college student and permeate our vehicle to protect us from Malaria. God was in every detail of that situation.

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We sent out an email newsletter with a few of these details the week after the event. From that newsletter we received donations that paid for the repair of the vehicle. The donations matched the amount that was needed. It came out to the exact amount in Malawi Kwacha! God is real!

In my next blog post. I will explain more about the safety of our situation here in Malawi and how we are processing all of this. But for now, we are safe there are no protests at this time. But if you take away anything from this story know that God is real. You might think that God doesn’t love you and that God is not real. Well I can 100% tell you that God is living and real. There is no way we could have come out of our situation without the hand of God being a part of it. I am personally struggling with the why in this situation, I daily struggle with fear and guilt, but I know God was there and He is real.

Since that day there has been one other demonstration day. We stayed home and we had heard that similar situations happened to others as what you have just read. The very next day after those demonstrations we were moving about the city freely as if nothing had happened and we are safe. Continue to pray for us and we will update you as the situation develops.

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I will wait and God will Rise -by Jamie

Seven years ago Luke and I were on the phone with our adoption agency. We had been in the adoption process for two years. Our dossier was filed and we were just waiting. For two years we had just been waiting and waiting and waiting. There were so many parts of our life that were just put on hold. We couldn’t try to have another baby or the adoption process would stop. We didn’t want to go on vacations. We didn’t want to commit to ministries. We were just in the waiting process. To say it lightly we were very frustrated at the time of the phone call and all we wanted was hope.

That did not come. The agency said that it looked like it could be another two years before we would be matched with a child. We were disappointed, it felt like all hope was gone. Truthfully, I just didn’t know if I could do this anymore. I took it to the Lord, was it okay to stop. We did what he asked we started the process, maybe that was enough. Maybe after we had our next baby then we could try to adopt again. But both of us deep in our hearts heard the voice say “Stay the course, continue to follow me”. We continued to cling to the verse in 1 Thessalonians 5:24 “The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it”

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Less than two months later we had seen our Miriam’s face and held her. The little girl we already loved was going to be ours in about seven months. This year in May we celebrated seven years with our Miriam. Yes, there have been so many challenging days, and there still are challenging days. But I couldn’t imagine my life without her. I would miss the constant questions, the times she worries because I have a cold, and all the wonderful snuggles that I get on a daily basis. Oh, I am so glad I waited on the Lord and I am so grateful for every day I have had with her.

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Two years ago while we were visiting the Chankhungu preschool, that we went to weekly, the Lord opened my eyes to all the women that came to bring their children. The Lord spoke to my heart that they needed a way to continue to learn more about Jesus. A Bible study was started in February of 2018, the first few weeks we had about 15 to 20 women coming. But then by April there were only about eight women coming. The Bible study continued even while we were in the states till mid-July but there still were only about eight women coming.

When we came back to Malawi in August. It felt like everything started to move very fast. The curriculum was being approved and we had so much work to do to get it ready to be passed out. A ministry that we were working with was starting a preschool and I was volunteering during the week. I was still homeschooling Miriam and was afraid of how not being at home very often would affect her.  It took an entire morning with traveling plus prep time to do the Bible study. I just didn’t think there was anyway that I could do it. Yes, I knew 8 women were important but I just didn’t think I had the time.

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A dear friend said, “Jamie, these women need you, no one else ministers to them, you need to go.” Again, I prayed and he gave me verse 2 Corinthians 12:9 “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” I sat down with Florence who had been leading while I was gone and Christina our house help. We prayed about what to do and we were led to study the women of the Bible. It has been an amazing time learning more about all the women of the Bible. I just go once a month and Florence does the rest. As time has went on, we have on average 35 women coming and sometimes we have had over 60 women come. Around 40 women have received Bibles because they have come five times or more. Many of the women have started following Christ and they continue to strive to learn and grow in him daily.

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Again, I look at how close I was to quitting. How close I came to not getting to know these women. These women that have spoken about how they feel so hopeless most days because of their circumstances. But once a week they can be encouraged about the Word of the Lord. They can feel a little less alone and they can be secure in knowing how much that God loves them. And they can see that someone cares. Someone cares enough to come every week to invest in their lives. And for me when I go, it is my favorite time of the week. This study has grown my relationship in the Lord and it helps me to know the Lord will always sustain me.

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This November we were going through a little bit of a discouraging and tough time. Our businesses were both struggling a little bit. Some days it can feel that the amount of money needed to do everything that God has put in our hearts can feel unreachable. The amount of poverty here sometimes makes me feel that there is no way that things can ever be different.

This made me think of the Israelites when they were in Egypt. The Lord had brought them to Egypt. But then after all this time they became slaves. They felt oppressed and forgotten by God. Then Moses came to rescue them but even then, things got even harder for the Egyptians, even after they were rescued, life some days were hard and they didn’t have enough food or water.

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In January, as I was praying, the Lord gave me the word ‘rise’. Truthfully, I wasn’t really sure what it meant. But I did know that I was bogged down with so much of my daily life. So many of the things I can not change and so many things that I wish were different. Isaiah 60:1-2 “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you.”

Right now in Malawi, we just had an election. The election is over but tension, fear, and discouragement fill the air. I don’t know exactly what is in store for our beautiful country of Malawi. But what I do know is that the Lord is there with us. I know that the Lord loves his people. Sometimes it may not feel like that. Sometimes it may feel like he has abandoned us. I saw the verse this week from Hebrews 13:14 “For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come”. The Lord continues to speak to me that he wants me to wait in him. He wants me to trust in him. Even when things don’t make sense. He will be the one that will make sense of all of it.

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I have learned we need to Wait on the Lord and then he will rise.

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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.

 

 

Raising Tarzan – by Jamie

From the story of Tarzan, you know that he is a little boy. He was born being a little boy. But then he was raised in a completely different culture that was foreign and different to him.
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When I was younger I learned how to fold towels. I folded them the way that my mom folded towels. But then when I got married Luke folded towels differently. I had never doubted or wondered why I folded my towels that way. I just always did it that way. I really hadn’t thought about, “Oh, there are different ways to fold towels.” or that you could fold towels I different way. I just did.

Over the last few years I have had to really think about so many things in a much different way. I have had to think about why I wear pants and not skirts. Why do I eat the food that I eat? Why do I take communion the way I take it? And I also have had to think about why I believe what I believe?

Many times we believe what we believe because that is the way we were raised, it is who we are. Over the last 2+ years in living in Africa. I have had to examine all of those things. When I first got here I really tried to be like a Malawian in every way. But now I am just trying to be who I am, which is an American that loves the people of Malawi. So that means sometimes I do things the way I always have and sometimes I do it the way they do it here and most times I do something in the middle.

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Sometimes I admit, I feel like I am raising Tarzan. So how do I parent when everyone around me is parenting so differently. Is the way I parented Mark the right way? Is the way they do it here the right way? I have learned that just because someone does something differently, doesn’t always mean they are wrong it just means they are different. Many things I do the same as I did for Mark and some things have changed because he is a 3rd child and some have changed because we live here in Malawi. But I am here to learn this culture and relate and love the people of Malawi. So, if it is safe and doesn’t go against our beliefs, we often do it the Malawian way.

I am going to share with you some cultural differences in raising children so that you can see a little more of the picture of Malawian life.

Carrying them

Everywhere you go they carry their babies using a Chitenje, a two-meter piece of fabric. They use this as an apron, they use it as blanket, they use it on there heads, and they use it to carry a baby. Their babies, from the time they are born until they are about three years old, are carried like this most of the day. They work with their babies on their backs and they put them to sleep like this.

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Breastfeeding

This is something that has completely changed from when I had Mark. Breastfeeding is done everywhere and is completely acceptable in all environments and without any cover. I still tried, if I could, to do it privately. But I admit. I have breastfed in the middle of meetings, restaurants, and many places I would never have done before. I have learned though, sometimes you have to get over yourself and your own pride in order to bridge gaps. I admit I still don’t like it, but when I breastfed in front of a group of women it helped me be just like them. It helps bridge that gap that is so often there because of the color of my skin.

Food

This is probably one of the greatest differences between the American culture and the Malawian culture. Malawians eat about the same thing every day so their children and babies do the same. When babies start eating food the most common thing they eat is porridge. They normally eat this porridge twice a day even when they are older. Aaron does love to eat the porridge but he pretty much just eats everything.

 

One of my favorite memories here was when Aaron was about 10 months old we took a trip to one of the villages to do ministry. While Luke was doing ministry, I went to the car to feed Aaron some homemade sweet potatoes I had made. All of a sudden there were about 20 women surrounding me. They only spoke Chichewa but I was able to communicate what I was feeding him and how babies can eat sweet potatoes and how it is good for the child. Aaron has always been a big boy so they were very interested into what he was eating differently. I love the memory because there was no judgement, just learning about each other and how we do things differently.
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Language

For us hearing a different language is normal for us. It surrounds us constantly. One of the major differences for Aaron is that he is very used to that. When we visited the states, he only heard English for 3 months except the Chichewa we spoke to him. His talking seemed to just completely stop for about a month, his little brain was trying to figure out what was happening. Today when he speaks he normally speaks English but he also speaks Chichewa sometimes. He can completely understand most things in both languages. I love that he loves the Chichewa and when he gets upset, we just need to play or sing some Malawian music and he calms right down.

Crying and Pacifiers

Their culture here is that their babies do not cry and babies do not use pacifiers. This is something I needed to get used too. One time we were in the doctor’s office and Aaron was crying for about 1 minute. Someone came over and said he needed to stop crying. But Aaron is a little boy that will definitely cry more than a minute no matter what we do. That is who he is. Another person told me that if you use a pacifier the babies will not talk. We still use the pacifier to shorten his crying and we are happy to report he is talking just fine, in two languages.

 

Dust and Dirt

 

Toddlers get dirty no matter where you are. But my little boy, he looks like Tarzan most of the time. He has dirt caked on him, no matter how many times I wash him. He almost always refuses to wear shoes. And for some reason his hair refuses to lay down, it just sticks up. I have just resided to the idea that he is going to look like that no matter what I do or how many times that I change his clothes (which is still at least 2-3 times a day).

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Baby Gates

You cannot buy baby gates here. We use cardboard boxes, bottle crates, and anything we can find to prevent him from getting into everything.

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Like Tarzan, he is curious, he moves, he falls, he climbs, he bumps into things, and he loves to find the way to touch the things he isn’t supposed to touch. I know that one day I am going to have to write a note to Mark’s teacher that says “Sorry the baby ate Mark’s Homework”. I have been tempted to buy a bicycle helmet and put it on his head and make him wear it all the time.
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Car seats

My mom tells the story often that when she was 3 or 4 years old, her place in the car was standing up in the car next to her dad as they traveled. This is not the culture that I grew up in. But here, they cannot afford car seats. Babies do not use them at all. We had a wonderful bucket baby seat that my friend gave us, we just carted him everywhere in it. That is very common in the states. Here it is not, people would say, “Oh, he is sleeping, is that comfortable for him?”
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I actually have loved raising Aaron here. Yes, it is different. Yes, it is challenging. Yes, the kid is covered in sunscreen, dirt, and bug spray continually. But my eyes have been opened up to the bigger picture. I mess up a lot, I pray a lot, and I am so very grateful for this wonderful Tarzan that I get to raise.

Blessing in 2017 (part 2)

We are continually encouraged by all the individuals that come alongside of us and are passionate with us for our ministries. In 2017 we had a transition of some ministries that we are still able to be a part of and some that the Lord is transitioning us out of. We still try to visit Grace of God Orphanage as often as we can, but with starting GOGO sauces, now we have the children come to our house to help us with the business.

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But the children are still very dear to our hearts. With the books that were sent to us last year we were able to start a small early reader library at GOGO. This library will help them continue to strengthen their education. When we asked the director of the orphanage something that would bless the children this year for Christmas. He stated that the children needed something to put their clothes and belongings in. Through the help of a donor family, we were able to purchase a large storage bin for each child, so now each child has a place that they can put all of their belongings in that will be safe. We were also able to provide each child with a new pair of shoes and some small supplies.

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The children at the orphanage continue to inspire me. Our Chichewa and their English are improving so we are starting to be able to communicate better with each other but it is still difficult at times. But as we have learned this year, there are so many things that can be communicated without speaking. The children come once or twice a month and help us cut vegetables for the sauces. They are also wonderful at helping take care of Aaron so we can focus on making the sauces.

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One day when the children were leaving, I saw that they had written a Bible verse in English about joy and hope. They are planting God’s word deep in their hearts. Every time they are here, they are very thankful to have something different to do and to spend time with us in our house. Truthfully it is not fun work. Sometimes they cut hundreds of tomatoes and apples. But it is a joy to spend time with them and to continue to learn more and more about them. When we are growing in our relationship with Christ in order for us to get to know him, we need to spend time with him. I feel like this is exactly what God is calling us to do, to just spend time with them. Let them know that there is a big God up there and that he loves them. But he has also sent people like us that really love them and care about them and want to spend time with them also.

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There were 5 students from GOGO orphanage that were able to complete their form 4 exams last May. That meant that they were able to pass High School. At this time they graduated out of the orphanage and were able to live with others in the village. These students have become near and dear to our hearts, and have almost become additional family members to us. We are able to see them about one to two times a week. They come to an orphan care center with us and help us teach, they help us make the sauces, and they come help clean the house and help with laundry on weekends. The Lord has provided some money so that we can hire them for this work which helps support them while they are living on their own. And we are able to spend time with them often and encourage them in this transition season of their lives.

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At Christmas time we were able to take them out to eat. Most of these kids are not able to ever go out to eat, so it was a huge blessing to be able to provide for them to have this experience. We were able to take them to a store that is kind of like a good will. They were able pick out some new clothes and we were able to provide them with a small bucket of food to take back to their homes. We are very grateful for these relationships with these kids and hope the relationship continues to grow.

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There is a ministry a few hours away from our house that a partnering Global Teams member is a part of. This is a ministry where many individuals that have disabilities are able to come and have a Bible study with each other and give support to each other. We were able to visit and attend their Bible study and spend some time fellowshipping with them. This is a ministry that is near to our heart. We were also able to supply them with some additional Bibles so that many more individuals can continue to know the Word of God and grow closer and closer to the Lord and continue to trust in him to meet all their needs. As we were leaving for the trip an additional box of books arrived in the mail. We were able to provide a small library for the kids to have and a small gift for each child.

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From our time in Malawi there is a dependence on the Lord that was never there before. We feel his hand of protection and blessing over us daily. One night during our mealtime prayers I felt lead to pray for protection. About 20 minutes later Aaron was climbing and fell off the chair backwards and hit his head on the cement. But the Lord protected us in that situation and he didn’t even get a bump.

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We had our dog, Obed, ever since the kids were young. These last 2 years we have all been missing having a dog. But with having no fence and coming back to America every few years. We didn’t think we should since there would be no one to watch him. About 6 months ago, we were having a hard time with wild dogs in our area. They were everywhere and it was hard for the kids to play outside not wanting them to get attacked by wild dogs. We noticed that there was one dog that was different. Dogs here are treated very differently, even the ones that are pets. They normally are very hesitant around people, since many people here are mean to dogs. We noticed right away that it definitely was not a stray and he was probably owned by a non-Malawian. We adopted him and are so grateful for our wonderful dog. Our neighbors have gotten used to him and everyone loves him so they will take care of him when we go back to the States.

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Every day the Lord continues to grow and stretch me. I am continually reminded to not plan too far ahead but to keep focused on the Lord and where he is leading me

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Aaron’s Birth Story

Sometimes life moves very very slow and sometimes it moves incredibly fast. This year being back in Malawi it has moved so very fast, I can’t believe that my miracle baby is 1 year old. When Luke and I were married 13 years ago, if you had told me I would be raising a baby in Malawi, I would have said you were crazy. I thought it would be a fun blog post to share his birth story with you around his first birthday.

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Prenatal care in Malawi is so much different than in America. I was well taken care of and Aaron was safe and had proper medical care but it is different. I went to an American doctor as my primary prenatal care doctor who has been in Malawi a long time and she was so wonderful. At our 26 week appointment she looked at me and said things look good, I don’t need to see you again until you are in labor. My face went white and I almost fell off my chair. We discussed things and then all agreed it would be best if she saw me one more time before returning to the States at 33 weeks

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Then I arrived in America and had my first appointment shortly after arrival at my doctor. The first thing you need to do is check into reception downstairs. Well we didn’t know that, so we went all the way upstairs to be told you have to check into reception downstairs. Here everyone talks pretty slow English because it is not their native tongue. We have learned to listen and talk at a slower pace. Well at reception the person spoke so fast I couldn’t even process what he was saying. So he paused and looked at Luke and I for our answer. We just stood there having no idea what he just said. We asked him to please slow down. When we saw the doctor, I was told I was of mature maternal age and we needed an ultra sound on a weekly basis starting in 2 weeks. So I went from not needing to be seen until I deliver, to being high risk and needing ultrasounds on a weekly basis. Let’s just say the culture shock was a little overwhelming.

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But all the appointments went well and the doctor’s permitted me to travel back and forth to Lafayette even though they said I really shouldn’t be. We had a scheduled C-Section for February 15th, we prayed and decided that if I went into labor before that we would do a vaginal birth, if not then we would do a C-section.

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On February 8th we made our way to our last check up before the scheduled C-section. It was a snowy day but we made it there. We had our ultrasound and to our dismay Aaron did not “pass” the Ultrasound. They said he wouldn’t do a practice breath within 30 minutes which means he was starting to be in distress. I had another test which he passed and the doctor assured me that she felt Aaron was fine but she wanted to do a C-section that day. Well that was not what I had planned at all. I didn’t even have my overnight bag packed, it was mostly packed luckily but not all the way. And I didn’t even have it with me. Weirdly enough I had my contacts case and glasses with me, which is rare for me. It was snowy so Luke didn’t have time to run back to get anything so we just went to the hospital.

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I have to admit I was a little panicked. We got to the waiting room, took a picture of me just before delivery for Facebook, and Luke asks me what the baby’s middle name will be. Luke picked out the first name so I got to pick the middle name. Luke and I had talked about two options which we both liked. I have to admit that I hadn’t thought about it for a while and had no idea what I was going to settle on. All of a sudden I said I think it should be Glen. Well this was not even in the choice of names. Luke about fell over and started laughing really loud. Glen was my grandfather’s name, from my mom’s side of the family. He was a kind gentle man that died when I was really little, but I know he loved me greatly and my mom. So I choose him as the namesake. At least it is a funny story that we have on the crazy day of his birth.

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Due to a cancelled appointment the doctor came earlier then we thought so they took me to do my spinal tap. With Mark, I had a C-section but with an epidural. So this was new, They said Luke couldn’t come back until just before delivery. Well Luke is my center, he is my calm when I am a wreck. We didn’t know if Aaron was okay and then they separate me from Luke. They do the spinal tap and then they tell me I have to lay back quickly. Well, quick things freak me. Then I see them pull my legs up. So I literally start shouting, “Stop, My legs hurt don’t do that.” My legs are numb at this point but I am panicking and am still yelling loudly. So I try to move my legs myself and they are numb so I can’t and I am still screaming. The anesthesiologist was a little Indian guy. He asks another person to go get her husband now. So they run to get Luke as I am freaking out and yelling at the top of my lungs. Then the sweet doctor he holds my hand and tells me it is okay. I don’t know why that helped but it did. Now cultures are very different so I know in his culture this is probably culturally inappropriate to hold my hand, but I am so grateful he did. I calmed right down and by the time Luke came in I was fine. I told him the story later when I was apologizing to the nurses for my bad behavior and he still thinks it is so funny. That is my crazy operating room story.

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So Aaron comes out at 4:58p.m. on February 8th. He wasn’t just a little upset he was very mad. He screamed and screamed and screamed. They probably thought that our family is full of yellers. He was screaming so loud the doctor immediately told me that there was nothing wrong with his lungs. He was in the same room as me as they are stitching me up. I had seen him but not really held him (which I knew from Mark’s birth, so it was okay). Luke was with him and kept coming back and saying he was fine. He was 9 lbs. 1 oz. and really healthy and the baldest baby the doctor had ever seen.

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So Luke held him and he calmed slightly but after 20 minutes he was still screaming. I said wow he is really mad. So the nurse brings me this screaming baby. I am still being stitched up and lying flat on my back and she says, “Do you want to hold him?” They probably got concerned but I said not really. I am on my back, how can I calm him like that. But they said let’s just try it. Well Aaron stopped crying instantly. I hadn’t even talked yet he just stopped. It brings tears to my eyes to this day. What an amazing immediate connection that you have with your own child.

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I thought Aaron’s birth story was a good example that sometimes things don’t go as you thought or planned. But life just continues whether you want it or not.

And My God never left me at all. He protected Aaron and me during the pregnancy. He led me to the perfect doctors and anesthesiologist. He calmed Aaron and me on the operating table. And he brought me this beautiful frisky baby that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

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So if things haven’t gone as planned. Hold on, keep walking. And know God will never forsake you. Luke and I waited 8 long years to hold our 2nd biological baby. Some days it felt it would never happen. He blessed us with Miriam and the blessing of having a little girl. Yes we had many trials, but the wait was worth it. And your wait will be worth it too. No matter what God has instore for you, he is always with you.

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The next blog post will be about passing out the rest of the books that were donated and then continue with talking about what it is like to raise a baby in another culture.