October 22, 2019

Bundle of Incredible Sweetness


    I’m in the passenger seat of our car, my head is turned, gazing out the window watching people. Our AC is broken so the window is down. Its dry, dusty and hot but at least.…          
People are walking on the main road. Between pedestrians, bikes, minibuses, and cars, its never really routine to drive here. Its a pretty quiet morning though. Its Sunday, church morning, and you have many choices for a church service here as there are churches everywhere. Its more a tradition and great fear of God of why people go. Like most people around the world, we’ve met many people on the street that will tell you they go every Sunday, and would say “of course we are born again, cant you see it?” But do they think about God any other day? Probably few of them but many don't know how personal God can be. 


And just like that, I'm reminded of why we are really here. To just love people the way they are and where they are at and the way God loves us.

If you love God, you will love people because it is his nature to love people. 1 John 4;19-20

     It occurred to me the other day that this month 10 years ago we packed our bags and moved our family of 4 to Africa (Zambia). Before having our girls, we had spent a few years there as newlyweds and were really hoping we would one day go back. Fast forward 3 years and, we were packing our lives into 12 bags (literally) and moving overseas, not really knowing how long we would be gone. Yes friends we had no clue. You see, we didn’t sign a contract and we didn’t know if it would be for a few years or longer. When we decided to move from Zambia to Malawi I knew we were going to be around for longer than I had ever imagined (!!!) 
As we travel back to the states almost every year people ask us, “so how long will you be there?” and I would just say and still do “one year at the time” “ and “as long as God has walked before us, we will follow in that direction!” 

Our first prayer card-2009
But looking back, I can't thing of any better place to be with my family.  The overwhelming reason is a simple one - the plan of God.  When one is in the plan of God, it is the best place to be on earth. It may not be the easiest, or most enjoyable, but it is the best. When you sense the presence of God with you, you are able to weather so many things. 

Just looking at some old pictures, we can see one reoccuring theme - friends.  I think that is the treasure that God has given us in our time in Africa:  Life-long Family Friends.  We see the people that God has placed in our lives and are truly blessed.  This happens regardless of geography in the Body of Christ, God's church.  For us it just seems that friends in Africa are made a bit faster, there is less of the layers to peel through to find the depth in people.  It is not just in relationships, but in many things.  There is not a lot of sugar coating on things in Africa, things can be very raw, so with people, they say this is who we are do you still love us.  People are very open in many ways.  You may meet someone on the street and they will ask for prayer for a besetting sin in their lives.  

                                                                               Zambia 2009-12

We are amazed how open they are, maybe like the woman with the issue of blood in Mark 5.  She was so desperate that she would do whatever it took to be healed.  Many people are in these types of circumstances.  We can feel so inadequate at times, thinking that there are so many needs and we feel overwhelmed, but soon come to the realization that we can't meet anyones needs anyway, much less our own.  That makes pointing people to God, that much easier.
                                        

Our family life has been a treasure too in our time here.  Now that our children are in school, it seems more like a normal day to day life.  But when our children were homeschooled, there was a lot of time spent together: going on outreach together, visiting church members together, missions trips.  Team missions, like was preached by Pr Stevens, has also helped us thrive on the missionfield.  Having my parents with us and friends like Pr Matt and Lisa and Pr Albert and Mclean have made the time so enjoyable.  We are blessed beyond measure, thanks be to God.

                                                                  Malawi 2013-19


Now 10 years later (and really who’s counting!?) and we are just amazed at what God has done in our lives and the people’s lives here in Malawi. 

A life filled with adventures, precious friendships that transcend distance and time, a grand worldview from world travels and living in multiple cultures bring a great appreciation for those that are different. The sweetness of belonging to a worldwide family. These friendships have made our moves and our stay easier.


Answered prayers: 

-Our churches in Salima (East) and Mzuzu (north) have started this past summer.

Greater Grace Church Mzuzu, church members
Greater Grace Church Salima

-Our western church plant in Chipata (east Zambia) is planned for early 2020


Thank you for your prayers always.

Greater Grace Bible College Lilongwe registration line -September 2019


September 14, 2019

Behind the scene of transition


     As we adjust between 2 very different countries and cultures, our 2 worlds tend to conflict a bit. The transition and adaptation can be different and shorter as the years go by and I’m learning to trust God in the process. He has called us to this life after all. 

What you can expect to be done in an instant in a first world country can take days even weeks here. What we can take for granted there we see it as a great blessing here. Just listen to my kids or look at them when the power goes out in the evening and it’s like our new normal now, no one reacts or cries, “just light the candle”, or “just wait a minute dad will hopefully turn the generator on!” And then when the power comes back and everyone in the house is so excited. And then when the water comes back on after a few days off or when we find something at the store that we have never seen here before and it’s there!
our water tank and our back yard


What you are so used to have and then it’s not there anymore. When you are used to walking down the street and nobody really cares that you are there and then you remember where you are and every eyes are on you.

Yes the transition is hard. I always have this inner battle in me that refuses to adjust in the first few weeks back or that wants to complain about every little thing that doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to.

Through this inner war, I’m understanding more concretely His promise of peace:

You [God] will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” Isaiah 6:23 

Change is hard. It can be confusing and depleting at times. But through it, I’m learning to depend more and trust more in a God who always stays the same.

Recently, God has been speaking to me through Psalm 139. Here is a portion of it:

 “Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast…
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made…"





These last few years have not always been easy, but God has been faithful. He’s guided, protected, and healed.
I’ve personally experienced that God is my never-changing constant.


Please pray for us as a lot is changing here. New teams are being prepared to go. New people are coming and it’s so exciting to see what God will do. Pray for our girls in school and their teachers. I thank God everyday that we have an International Christian School in this city. 









April 23, 2019

Conference Collaboration - Malawicon 2019





We wanted to thank all of you for your thoughts and prayers for our regional conference this past week. We asked for the event to be bathed in prayer and it was felt behind every detail.  As with anything, the more one does something; the more one improves.  This was our 2nd year holding the our regional Conference in Malawi and we definitely improved in a number of areas.  In the lead up to the conference we could see that it was going to be amazing.  We felt opposition, but it seemed a lot like a mosquito nipping at our heals.  For example, the night before the conference began, we were bringing our pulpit and other supplies in to prepare the hall.  Upon arriving we saw a large truck removing almost all the chairs.  After questioning the driver, we found out that the government requested the chairs for a political event.  That meant that we would have to rent chairs as an added expense to what we had already paid for the hall.  The problem was that the rental of the hall included the rental of the chairs. Thankfully we had the presence of mind to only make half payment to rent the hall (I’m sure by the Holy Spirit), we used the other half payment to guarantee that the renter of the hall would rent us chairs.  Once he brought us the rented chairs, we released the 2nd half of the payment.  So many of those instances in which God covered us, were so apparent.  In the end, we had over 100 visitors from all over the region and beyond (Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Congo, South Africa, England, Hungary, and the United States).  Our Conference was the biggest it has ever been.  Graduation Day had over 700 people in attendance with an amazing 172 graduates of Certificate, Diploma, and Degree courses.  In order to keep the graduates marching and not spend all night, we announced the names as if we were in a boxing match or wrestling match.  By the end, our voices were gone, but it was truly amazing.  As we looked around, we wondered at how all of this has happened and 1 Corinthians 3:6 came to our minds: One sows, one waters, but God brings the increase.  We as missionaries sow seeds of the Gospel; all of you are watering with prayer, love, and support; and this motivates God to bring in the increase.  To see so many of our Malawian graduates, that normally would never have the money to graduate from a Seminary, crossing the stage cheered on by their family, was overwhelming. We also housed and fed our 100+ foreign guests, which naturally could be seen as a burden; but the Fellowship of God’s Church made us not see any heat of details.  Every guest was so gracious without one complaint, we said to ourselves that we are hosting God’s royalty- Kings and Priests Revelation 1:6. 



Mateo one of our Children of Grace Orphan graduated!!!

Preparing to Go. Also in the Conference we had an amazing Ordination time. 5 men were ordained.  3 of them were ordained as a preparation for missions. The other 2 were ordained to take the place of the men leaving.  So we see God’s expansion as we promote the Grace message in the country of Malawi.




Again we ask for your prayers, we have another month left in our Bible College Semester before traveling to Baltimore for another conference.  Please pray as we feel we have found the right piece of land for our church.  We have asked the owners to wait for us to raise the money.  So far we have raised 70% of the land, but we want to be sure it is from God. Our church lawyer has OK’d the land as being legitimate, so we are waiting on God to finish the process. Please also pray as we have begun Bible studies in the Eastern City of Salima under Pr. Matt and Lisa Sliva. Coming up in September they plan to be there every weekend to begin a church.  Pr. Albert has ordained a pastor to take over his church and he plans to move with his family and his other assistant just over the border to pioneer a church and Bible College in Chipata, Zambia.  And we continue to make trips into the northern city of Mzuzu as we have a pastor who will make monthly trips there and put a church in motion. 




March 02, 2019

Every Joint Supplies


For those who have sacrificed some minutes to read this short Newsletter, we are truly grateful.  Life is so hectic, so busy; and each one of our lives has such intricacies that are so important, so these days, even to give up a few minutes is not a light thing.  We have been living in Southern Africa for over 10 years now, before that we were in Eastern Europe for 4 years; and one thing I can truly say is that it is such a privilege to serve God.  Pr Schaller has said that Missions is the world’s best kept secret.  Many people think that it is a sacrifice to go to a foreign land, leave your family, embrace a new culture, and suffer for Christ’s sake. While many of those things happen and suffering happens; at the end of the day there is a deep satisfaction that you have impacted the kingdom of heaven in some shape or form.  And while that is possible in any place and at any time, we still have to make the choice to do it. We make a conscious decision to say,”Not my will, but your will be done.”

Two stories and a prayer request.
For almost the whole month of February we had a visitor join our team; her name is Ellen.  She is a working woman who owns a business in the US that also said, “Not my will, but your will be done.” She visited us, joined our schedule, and ministered in her own capacity.  She welcomed people into her sphere of influence and befriended people in our ministry circles.  As she left, she gave a testimony of how she felt that rather than her touching people, that she was touched by people.  This is what God intends with missions: mutual benefit.  Christ said it is more blessed to give than receive; Paul says that he will rather spend and be spent for people and that every joint supplies in God’s family. What Ellen did was an “evangi-cation”(Evangelism vacation).  What a great way to spend airline miles, vacation days, and free time, and have it be written in heaven.




The second story also illustrates the idea of “every joint supplying”.  A year after getting married, Julie and I joined the new missionary team to plant a church in Zambia.  We were there for 2 years and returned to the US because Julie was pregnant with our first child. Three years and a second child later, we found ourselves settling down.  I was working 2 jobs, we were making a home for our family, we were faithful in our local church; but there was a longing (nagging even) in the depth of my heart of saying, “isn’t there more?” I think God always loves this questioning because He always answers Yes with Himself.  As I was working at the airport, I met a man from Malawi who I proceeded to check in for his flight.  Since we had lived for two years in Zambia and knowing that Zambian and Malawian languages are similar, I greeted him with “Muli Bwanji”(How are you)? He was taken back at my knowledge of his language and I told him how I lived in Zambia.  It turned out he was a pastor living in the US for a season.  I confided to him my inner longing to be back in Africa, and he simply encouraged me in the Lord.  He said something like this:”If it was God’s will for me to be back on the mission field, that God would do it.”  What he said really wasn’t the issue so much, just the fact that God had allowed me to speak with an African believer who just encouraged me as a brother in Christ.  That encounter has always stuck with me; and as our history went, we ended up moving back to Zambia, then Malawi with our whole family fulfilling his encouragement.  Even when starting Bible College here in Malawi, I always have encouraged the students with how God used a Malawian man to encourage me.  This in itself is an amazing story, but with God it always gets better.  I received a message on one of the social media sites of a name I recognized: it was Rabson’s, the man I met 12 years ago at the airport. He had recognized me, even better he had reached out, even better he had moved back to Malawi and is living in the same city, even more he has been back for 3 years and we have possibly crossed paths without knowing it, and even better one of our Bible College Graduates attends the same church as he does right down the street from our church – Incredible! 

Now the Prayer Request.
I plan to visit him this next week.  I know God does everything for a purpose and I know it will be a continuing of a great story.  Please pray for that meeting. Every joint supplies!
Rabson and P.Chris-March 2019
                                                   

Other Prayer Requests.
MalawiCon is coming up after the European Conference. 


Church Land.  The piece of land we found is currently being vetted by our lawyer to make sure it is legitimate. We have raised half the money for it and hope to raise the rest once it is fully vetted.

Missions: Pr Matt and Lisa Sliva are doing missions trips biweekly to Salima in the East with Felix and Betty. A church will be there soon. Pr Albert and Mclean Ntalasha are praying about a new church plant to the West. And Jervis is continuing to go to the North to the city of Mzuzu bimonthly for a future church.

January 30, 2019

We are what we are by the Grace of God... - 1 Cor. 10:15

As we closed evangelism on the first Monday of the Year, we walked over to our “office” (Our “office” is one of the cul-de-sacs of post office boxes.  There is an ankle high stoop where people are sitting throughout the day.  This is our board room for our staff meeting. Often we are asked where our office is located, I usually tell them its the biggest office in town. It is comical, that we have sometimes 10 church members all seated around with one or two extra people that automatically become guests. Occasionally a hand will go up and it is one of the visitors making a comment, which usually is pretty good).  Little did we know when we started brainstorming, it would result in our busiest January ever.  January usually is busy since it is a month off of Bible College, it is when we squeeze a lot of what we cant do on the weekends of classes.  First was our annual Baptism/Church Picnic/Volleyball tournament. What a great opening of the year, new disciples and older believers making a public declaration of their faith in Christ.  

Next we thought, although it is short notice, wouldn’t it  be great to do a Marriage Seminar?  We had been talking about Marriage on our nationwide radio program and had been getting more feedback than any other topic, so we decided to translate that into investment into our churches.  What we have become more aware of is the rampant divorce rate in Malawi. Despite being a Christian Country, Malawi struggles with an extremely high divorce rate probably resulting from people not having the money to register their marriages. Since marriages are easy to get into (agreement from both families = marriage), they are easy to get out of as well.  Most couples have never exchanged vows in a church in front of a Congregation. As the Seminar came closer, we thought that because of the short notice we would have low numbers.  Nope! Record turn out: More than 20 couples came.  It was so refreshing: each table was a group with a spokesperson addressing questions that we all dropped anonymously in a box when entering the room and picked at random.  We heard questions, some simple, some very gritty telling of people’s sincere problems.  It was such a memorable time, we decided to have a Marriage related event once a month.  

Another exciting breakthrough that took place was with the Sliva Family.  They have been here in Malawi for almost 3 years.  Matt is preparing for Ordination, and Lisa helps immensely with the ladies.  They approached us with the desire to help plant a church in a neighboring city.  Amazingly we had a vision to plant a church in the lake-front town of Salima, a place where we had done an evangelistic-crusade last year.  Pr Scibelli as well as others visited that crusade, and he promised that at this time next year we would have a church.  “Speaking those things that are not as though they were.” - Romans 4:17.  Well it is happening: we had an amazing trip there, so many things came together.  Contacts from every corner came together for the first Bible study.  The Sliva’s plan to travel to Salima bi-monthly. Its about 1 1/2 hours away by car.

Lastly was Bible College registration. Always a fun and exciting weekend. We had 34 new students and 82 students total on our first registration with another on the way. We are expecting to have over 200 students with many returning students coming for the first day of class and registration.  Pray for us as we add a new English class to fish hook students that want to come to Bible college but don't have a high enough level of English.  We are using some of our graduates to teach a 6 month Biblically themed English course required before attending normal classes.