November 28, 2018

Thankfulness


       We have had an awesome month, full of excitement and ministry.  For many of us this month is a time to reflect on the many things for which we are thankful to God.  

Zamcon. Every October we bring our leaders to Zambia for a leadership conference joining the other churches in Southern Africa. This year was special because the Zambians had their graduation added to the conference.  It was such a joy to be part of the graduation; it was also a testimony to the faithfulness of God in the ministry.  To see the men and women that we played a role in training, continuing in the call of God and running the Bible School encouraged us thoroughly.


       Another ministry was added to our weekly schedule, a chapel service for the Public School that we rent our hall from.  It is so wonderful when God gives you favor with people that are around you.  The principal of the elementary school that we rent from is a magnificent Christian.  He has always spoken for us and argued even with his board not to raise our rent.  He has gone so far as to join our Bible College with his wife and loves every class.  He asked us if we could help the existing Bible clubs in the school, so once a week we have one grade and do a message for them.  Our hearts melted the first day we had the 5th grade students.  If you could imagine the same room that we struggle to fit 200+ adults in for Bible College, we fit about 300+ children without chairs; a room that was full of children was a gross understatement. It was astounding how the 2 women in charge of the Bible club could control those kids, what a lesson of classroom management; and to see the attentiveness and respect of these children.  To get the attention of the children the teachers would say, “Grade 5 Bible Club!” and the children would respond, “Fire, Fire, Fire!”  I assumed it meant the fire of the Holy Spirit, but it could have meant her wrath also the way the children were so well behaved.  The same women led all the children in some praise songs and the room thundered.  “Allow the little children to come to me, and forbid them not: for such is the kingdom of heaven. – Matt 19:14.



       We are so thankful for our team that is here: my wife and 3 children, my parents, the Slivas, and the Ntalashas.  With all of our powers combined and the joy of the Lord, it produces an environment of mass edification, especially during holidays, gastronomically (food-wise).  The ladies on the team know how to cook well. Although there are many foods that can’t be found here, turkey is not one of them. In fact, the turkeys travelled internationally. The turkeys were shipped to our supermarket from North Carolina, and one of them laid his life down for us. We welcomed Craig Awad from the Philippines who is with us for the next 2 weeks.  He has treated us with great messages and his friendship for the past 20 years. 




       Thank you for your prayers and support.  We know nothing would be possible without them.  God hears them and acts. We have been asking you to pray with us about finding land for the church. We have found a potential place. It is about a ½ acre of land with a wall already around it, and it is literally 5 minutes from where we already are. The price is reasonable at about $15,000. It lies on the main road and there is a bus stop right in front of the door. The location is everything.  There are also 4 small houses built into the wall that our orphanage could move right into to guard the place. It feels like the right place, but we don’t want to go by our feelings.  We are in the process of vetting the place.  Frequently in Malawi, people sell land that is not even theirs to sell and run away with the money, so we are going very slowly. We have prayed the prayer of Isaiah 22:22 – if its God’s will that the door would be open and no one could shut it and if it is not His will that the door would be shut and no one could open it. Our church has slowly saving money for land since its inception and we saved about 1/3 of the money being asked by the owner.  We are currently negotiating with her to see if she will allow us to pay in installments. Please pray for us to have God’s wisdom and protection.


October 14, 2018

Sunday morning with the children- "Train up a child in the way he should go and he will not depart from it." Prov22:6

“We have some used children's curriculum that we would like to donate to Africa. Can you use them for your Sunday school program there?”

It’s a question we are often asked as we travel to different churches or visit with friends in the US.  To be honest, it is a hard question we find to answer. Of course we are so thankful and excited that you want to donate and help. The lack of curriculum and resources is one of the most common challenges that churches struggle with here.

One reason it would not work would be because it is all in English and even though a lot of Malawians speak English, it is not the main and first language of Malawi and most children will not learn it until later in School. So a local teacher would have to translate it.
When we first arrived in Malawi, we rented a room from a government orphanage, so our first church members were about 15 children and 4 adults. We then moved our location across the street where all the children followed so we had to quickly start a Sunday school program. 
I had a donated curriculum from the US and was ready to start using it. I opened to the first lesson: 

  Creation. 
Opening activity: attach a large sheet of paper to the wall. As children enter the classroom, give them crayons and have them draw a mural of all things God created. 

Well, we had NO classroom and no walls and no paper and certainly no crayons. A lot of the children were not even going to school at all. We ended up outside, under a tree and we sang some english and chichewa songs and had a story of the creation with a translator.
Most churches have no Sunday school budget, even we didn't at the time and still don’t.



I realized quickly that we couldn't find the right resources and that most of the US curriculum was irrelevant because most of the ideas wouldn't work as written.
And none of it was culturally appropriate either. American curriculums are full of cultural pictures and references. Superheroes, spies, science, circus, adventure sports, all these themes that most children here would not relate too. The curriculum’s application to children's lives in America and the issues the children here are dealing with are very different. 


What I have seen as well, is a local teacher using a US curriculum and thinking they will use it and assumes either the Americans will have to provide all the resources like room, paper, crayons, books, chairs, light, in order for them to do the job or they will think without them, they cannot do Sunday school at all.
 I know what most people could think: isn't any curriculum better than nothing at all? Very few teachers here are experienced teachers and they wouldn't know what to do with it or how to adapt it. We had one teacher go to teach the 7-9 year old class using his Bible College notes and I was trying to figure out how any of the children could even follow anything. 

So what’s the solutions. We bring paper, some craft supplies and even a small table and use an open classroom with no windows or doors and even have a translator.
  



Now we have started all again; lack of teachers, children not coming consistently, and other factors led us to regroup. My mother in law started teaching a smaller class focusing on the most disruptive, problem children - the 3-4 year olds. It is a total miracle. These misfits would constantly run up and down the aisle making the ushers chase them. Amazingly, they all enjoy the Sunday school and are looking forward to it. Noah woke up saying, “Sunday School, Sunday School with Grandma!”




October 06, 2018

Beautiful things happen when we trust God...

Its been over a month of us being back in our home or second home (depending how we look at it-really our home is heaven and we are just passing through). We are so thankful for everyone’s love this summer: a special thanks to our home church in Baltimore for more than ever making us feel loved and blessing us in so many ways. From the Convention in June to the end of Camp Life in August, we were blessed in a manifold way. Thank you to all the branch ministries we visited and each church member receiving us as royalty.

We left with our possessions for the coming year, but more so with excitement to see what God will do this year. We come back to two Malawian pastors ( Pr Yamika and Malrone) who actually pastored our church in my absence this summer. We also return to Pr. Albert & Mclean Ntalasha, Zambian and Ugandan missionaries to Malawi who have another Greater Grace church in the Eastern part of Lilongwe. Mclean is close to being due with their 2nd child. Their marriage is a reflection of God’s work on the Continent. We are also joined by Matt and Lisa Sliva who are returning to Malawi having previous lived here for 2 years in 2015-2016. As always my Parents will also be returning to Malawi in one week which makes their 4th year living here. They are amazing, choosing to retire (if you want to call it that) in Malawi. In actuality they have such vigor and life. They spearhead our prayer program.






Already our life has gone through some drastic changes, for which we would covet your prayers . The biggest change is that we put our two daughters in a Christian school after homeschooling them for their whole lives. The school is a great one, run by American & South African Missionaries. The girls already love their classes and are transitioning well. Although it is a huge financial investment, we have seen God working in their lives and we see God connecting us to the Christian community more and more.





The other change is in the church. We have a church that has many mature members who have graduated Bible College and are looking for direction. We have learned that if you have many gifted people that they may stagnate if they do not exercise their gift. We are praying for wisdom and for God to speak to where these graduates may go. We have 4 major cities on our radar for future churches so we want to build wisely.
Amazingly the interest in the Bible College has not waned. It has continued to grow and we are at close to 240 students. We do no advertising, but by word of mouth; students are coming in and learning the Word of God from over 20 different churches. We have 8 Malawian graduates teaching in the Bible College.

Prayer Requests
-    Greatest Semester of Bible College with every class being anointed
-    God’s hand on our children in school
-    Wisdom for the next church plants (inside and Outside the city)
-    Trip to Zambia happening now for the annual conference and graduation about 9 of us are going.






July 22, 2018

The path of life..

“You will show me the path of life. In your presence is fulness of joy, at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11

Hello family and friends, 

Julie here.. I know it has been a while...

I almost forgot about our blog, lol.

And then a lot happens and we forget to write about it, and then more life happens.. 


    
It has been quite a summer so far… but before that, I wanted to share a few thoughts on here about what I shared during convention...  - you say WHAT now?! ..yes, I was asked (sometimes I get asked.. and say no) to share a little about our life in Malawi  -mothers/ladies session- and I said yes!  -I even surprise myself sometimes-...lol 

ok then… 

Motherhood as a missionfield ..
There is a saying that distance adds intrigue. This is so true. You look at families far away or people in general, and you wonder and it intrigues you. 
Some people ask questions: why do you do it? How do you do it? When did you know? What about money?...
You get asked for news and if we have any prayer requests...

The closer you get to Home, the less intriguing the work of sacrifice seems. When you are a mother at home with your children, the church and everyone around, is not asking you for prayer requests. Your work is normal. You have the Lord and you want to share the Gospel. It is So easy to feel discouraged thinking that the work you are doing is not important. But there is no greater sacrifice than motherhood, whether overseas or back at home. Our children have eternal souls and they are our mission field.





Motherhood on the foreign field ..
Now the difference between you and the life my family and I have, will be in the change of location, moving and adapting to a different culture, packing and unpacking lots of bags, adjusting to different situations that we don't know, learning and trying to understand a foreign language….


I thought I would share on here a few challenges that I have gone through personally in the first few years in Africa.
The first one would be loneliness. Yes I have a husband and children. I am talking more about having to go out there and making new friends with people from a different background and culture. It is a long and difficult process. My husband is usually busy with his own ministry schedule and I am just at home with my children. 

I had prayed for many years for female team members in which God answered and this has helped a lot. We also found a homeschool Co-op and met with many other american missionary families.

The second challenge will be the Culture. Our point of view, the way we live, what we eat and where we live is so different. We are free and have joy but we need to learn to be sensitive and respectful.  We also have 3 different culture going on in and around our family. I was born and grew up in France, my husband is greek american and we live in a third culture with the malawian/african culture. 
My children are loud and cant stay still. Wherever we go we will be a spectacle no matter what we wear or do or what we say will be taken differently or with a different meaning... Malawian children will run to them and touch them or be afraid of them.. they will want to feed them and us too.. 
No matter how many times we can say No to someone who is trying to sell us something, they will not get it, until we tell them, no money or next time or not now ...



 



The third challenge will be in family and time management. I struggle with it (almost) everyday …
This challenge will be similar to yours at first: homeschooling, prepping meals, planning activities, having a budget, church, homeschool coop… 

It all depends where you live but what a lot of moms have observed is that it takes more time and energy to complete  daily tasks in another culture, especially when we have irregular electrical power and sporadic water supply.
And then comes a time when I have my grocery list ready and arrive at the store and half the ingredients that I'm used to finding are not available (the downside of a landlocked third world african country)… and then I'm finally home getting the food ready and POOOOF, the power is OUT! and we can be without it for a few hours (but we never know)...
and then there are those days when I’m overpowered by the dirty laundry and all i can put in the load is ready and then the water is shut off.. thats when my lady friend/cleaner comes in..I am thankful for her; she comes twice a week now to my house to help me with washing and cleaning! 
No water will mean: being ready -in advance -when we think of it- with water buckets and bucket showers… 
I have to confess that the hardest days are when we have no water and no power at the same time -which will happen from time to time! but out of the two I can live without power but I CAN DEFINITELY NOT live without water. 

The fruits of these challenges: 
I have learned to bring everything to God. And we see God’s powerful and loving hand on a regular basis. We have learned to be flexible early on and to adapt. For the Isolation, I have learn to come out of my comfort zone. I was teaching an English class for the ladies after sunday service. Being involved with the worship team has been so fun too!
For our family, God has given us many friends from all over the world, missionaries or expats that have become dear to us. 
As a family, we try to go on church visitations at least twice a month.  





Now we have been back in America for about a month and half and it is a whirlwind. The time goes by so fast. Convention was amazing: the messages were stirring and carried weight for our souls, the fellowship was short but amazing, and the time for our kids was above and beyond what we could of asked. What touches us is the way that the church family gives to us continuously, we feel so honored. It may be little things, like families taking our kids out for play dates, or little cards of encouragement. We often feel humbled to be part of such a great family. Jesus didn’t choose a restaurant to cater the 5000+ people to feed. He used a small boy with 5 loaves and 2 fish. God uses so many different members from the Body of Christ many times with limited finances to bless people around the world. 






The rest of the summer will be split between visiting family and supporters around the east coast. It will be a lot of driving with small children coupled with a lot of fellowship. We are thankful for your prayers and support. We return to Malawi in a few short weeks. 

Please pray as we continue raising up our newly ordained pastors and plans for a future church plant in the northern city of Mzuzu.










April 30, 2018

Conference Communion - Called out of darkness into His Light - 1 Peter 2 : 9

Thank you for all your prayers for our annual conference it was incredible. For those who don't know, yearly we, as a church, put on an annual conference to graduate our Bible College Students and welcome Pr Scibelli and guests who travel with him. 
This year we had the honor of hosting our brothers and sisters from all Southern African Churches. Usually this regional conference takes place in Zambia,  but was changed to Malawi similarly like the European conference. What was amazing was the amount of visitors who came on such short notice. For many who travelled, they came at great sacrifice since few of them have formal employment. For many, just the ticket is a month or two of income. We had visitors from Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Congo, South Africa, China, France and USA. 

It was amazing seeing the Zams and Zims coming in on their big coach buses to hear great messages and have great fellowship. 







There were so many memorable moments, but two that stood out were the leadership meeting before the conference. It was an intimate time of questions and answers with Pr Scibelli. The second was our ordination service. It was so encouraging to see two Malawian leaders become pastors: Pastor Yamikani and Pastor Malrone. These two men have been so faithful and such a help, we were so happy to see them ordained. 

(Pr. Malrone and Pr. Yamikani are the two with matching shirts at right 1Cor 14:40)






Times of fellowship before and around the Malawian conference