24 July 2007

Muli bwanji? Ndili bwino.

"How are you?" "I'm fine." Actually more than fine...

Upon arrival at the Lilongwe Airport, we were greeted with officials, Malawian national guards, and many on-lookers. I knew we were expected but I didn't think our visit had such earthly importance. Come to find out that President Bingu wa Mutharika was flying in just after us. We walked out into the small lobby of LLW Airport into a sea of unrecognizable, starring Malawians faces. It was wonderful to see my good friend, Yohane, walking through the crowd toward us with a huge smile on his face.

Mr. Kamanga drove us to the Ministry of Hope office (our housing/base camp) to met all the new staff and we were given a short, casual introduction and tour from Charles, the Executive Director. It felt great to be hugged by Philip the same "cook" from last year and greeted by Mr. Perri the same guard. The office crew eventually left us to a vacant house where we settled into a quiet evening of dinner and emails (MoH has "high speed" which is an unexpected convenience).

After joining a MoH staff meeting, I caught up with my friend Daniel Moyo, MoH Program Officer, to talk about the "schedule" of events which includes a youth retreat to Lake Malawi, a sports evangelism workshop in the African Bible College (ABC) gym, and another workshop at the MoH feeding center at Matipila, a village north of Lilongwe. Daniel is another friend from last year that is now on MoH staff full-time. Yohane & I then walked over to ABC to confirm the use of the gym and to tour the campus... beautiful! I was blessed to meet some wonderful classmates of Yohane and was reminded why they call Malawi "the warm heart of Africa".

Friday afternoon we drove with Rollins, one of the other MoH drivers, out to pick up Hannah, Samantha, & Jeff (from WNC) in Matapila... where the MPC youth group stayed last year. As we made our way through the traffic of Lilongwe, we passed many landmarks... the shady 7-11 & Internet cafe we frequented last year, the wood market with the high-pressure salesmen, the old town market, the mosque... it warmed my heart to recognize the city. As we made our way, Philip and Rollins were humored by Hope & my attempts at speaking Chichewa. They taught us some useful phrases like "achemwali anga", "my sister"... something we use a lot.

We made our way north in the the very familiar, purple, MoH minibus. Rollins is a very fast driver; we hung on for dear life. We turned on the dirt road that took us out to Matapila & Serengo. It seemed much shorter this time, probably due to Rollins driving. Our visit in Matapila was very brief but I was filled with warmth seeing the church, primary school, and the MoH house where Shadrack lived. I look forward to getting back out there to stay for a longer visit.

Saturday morning we ventured into town with Daniel, beginning the journey by cramming into Mpho's car. We picked up more groceries for dinner and faced the challenge of perusing the wood market. Even though the vendors exclaimed, "looking is free", they desperately worked at convincing us to buy from their "discount shop". For me this experience was humorous; for Hope it's something she could do without.

Saturday afternoon MoH hosted a "Founders Day" event. It was a 3-hour event filled with testimonies of MoH's effectiveness with orphans, vulnerable children, and facilitating adoptions. It's interesting to observe the formality of public speaking in Malawi. Each speaker makes a point to greet all delegates and representing parties... it becomes quite time consuming. They did include a bit of entertainment from the ladies at the crisis nursery while kids played all around us. The ceremony ended with a moving talk from Nancy Dimmock, a MPC missionary who started the crisis nursery program. During refreshment time I reconnected with William from Youth Care (an urban "youth center" program-I met him last year) and the Dimmock's (who are moving to Lesotho).

Saturday evening we enjoyed dinner and fellowship with our fellow North Carolinians. Brittany, a Azuza Pacific University senior, arrived from Nkhoma with stories of her experience attending a Malawian wedding... quite an unique cultural event and one I would love to go to!

Sunday morning we attended a powerful service at Capital City Baptist Church (CCBC) with a guest preacher from the Baptist Church of Blantyre. He spoke on 1 Corinthians 7 regarding marriage, singleness, and not being defined by others, only by God. Afterwards, Daniel and the Dimmocks helped me in networking with youth workers and sports evangelists known all over Malawi whom I look forward to learning from. Sunday evening we treated Daniel, Mr. Kamanga, his wife and daughter to Indian food. It was a blessed time of fellowship with lots of laughter and good food.

Monday morning began with staff devotions, singing, & giving thanks... a good way to start the week. The office then filled with action, people, and preparations for the youth retreat at Lake Malawi. Rollins gave me the keys to his car to use for the day. He was a bit reluctant maybe because he wasn't so sure that this silly, American girl could drive on the left side of the road. I have to say I was a little nervous but the only challenge involved hitting the windshield wipers instead of the turn signal... quite a few times.

Monday evening we were powerless. You see, here in Lilongwe the power goes off every day, sometimes up to an hour but yesterday evening the power was off for a good part of 5 hours. The night turned into wonderful fellowship, an experimental dinner, and dancing. We learned that our new friend, Jeffrey, is quite the dancer... waltzing and swinging. He's going to make a young bride very happy one day.

Today we celebrated Hannah, Samantha, and Brittany's service to MoH with a fellowship lunch and chocolate cake, ending with "Till We Meet at Jesus' Feet." It was been a wonderful beginning to our time here in Malawi.

18 July 2007

goodbye to Mozambique, on our way to Malawi

We are in West Kempton, Johannesburg, staying with our dear friend Karien’s sister, Cecile, and her wonderful family, Andries and 2-year-old Anelia (note picture). Our hosts have been such a blessing as they have already connected us with effective urban ministries and a number of youth workers… but before I get into those details I must first report on our time in Mozambique.

Saturday morning, we joined Mollie with her son, Philip, and Lisa for a trip to the craft market. Much like the wood market in Lilongwe that I visited last year, this market was crawling with very aggressive salesmen who claimed to be our “friends” and said that they’d give us a “very good price.” Due to the language barrier, Hope had to handle most of the haggling, but she didn’t much like it… in fact, it flusters her quite a bit. Maybe because of my background in marketing and sales, I actually get a kick out of their persistence matched against my insistence on my set price.

After the market, we caught a “chapa” (minibus) to a small school where Lisa’s church meets—A Igreja Reformada do Mozambique. We met with Pastor Paulo and Luis, the youth leader, before the start of youth group. After a few praise songs and prayer, I led them in “steal the bacon,” which Luis translated for me as “pega o bife” (“take the beef”). They got really into it! (see pictures) Then I led a experiential devotion: “Who are you listening to?” It went really well although it was a challenge to break my thoughts up into short sentences and phrases for translation.

From there, we went to Lisa’s old flat to meet up with her Jacana friends for dinner. After a yummy Thai dinner on the coastline, we caught a passing, empty chapa back to the city. Lisa was a little thrown off by how empty the chapa was although it was very convenient for a group of eight. She explained that she would never jump on a vacant chapa if she was alone or even just with a friend. Come to find out that the driver was taking his lady into the city for a date and figured he’d pick up this large group to make some extra money… funny.

Sunday, we woke up early in order go to two church services: one in Portuguese at A Igreja Reformada do Mozambique and the other in English at the International Church. Although I didn’t understand the first service, it was wonderful to listen to the prayers, praise songs, and Pastor Paulo’s sermon. I tried to sing along to the overheads and follow the scripture readings. It’s amazing to me that I could follow the context considering how awful I am at languages. It was truly a blessing to worship with these brothers and sisters whom I had spent time with throughout the week. All the youth workers from Masana attended the church while several of the young adults from “youth group” the day before led worship. Pastor Paulo even incorporated a bit of my talk into his prayer. Afterward, while at the International Church, I was surprised to connect with Les & Mark Harper (associated with CBN). What a blessing!

After both services, we rushed back to Henrik’s to see Lisa off. It was sad to see her go but at least we know we’ll reconnect with her in Montreat for years to come. We were quite spoiled by her amazing gift to host. Through her we met so many people in ministry and missions, participated in kingdom work, and were blessed with a beautiful place to stay. I’m so thankful for her!

Sunday night we met up with Pastor Paulo at the KFC (yes, there are actually 3 in Maputo… no McDonalds though) and caught a ride in Luis’ VW bug over to Café Shalom—an outreach created by American missionary Jim Bower to minister to the middle-class, Mozambique youth… Although, Youth for Christ uses it occasionally while Sunday is reserved for A Igreja Reformada do Mozambique. We played pool there—Luis & I against Paulo & Hope… needless to say, Luis & I won. They played Kirk Franklin as well as some other contemporary, Christian music. I hope to coordinate more urban, Christian music for them to play like Lisa McClendon, Out of Eden, Mary, Mary, and Mars Ill, among others.

While there, I interviewed Luis to learn about his experience with Youth for Christ’s “Africa Team,” which travelled throughout southern Africa performing dramas and dance dealing with life skills. He is still active with YfC’s Board. It’s amazing and wonderful to hear about how ministries in Mozambique & in South Africa are invited to schools to teach about life skills (HIV/AIDS, drugs, etc.) while also having the oppportunity to present the Gospel. That would never happen in the States!

As I closed with Luis, “Beto” (Alberto) from Youth for Christ showed up. He jumped right in, thoughtfully answering my questions. Then, Les Harper, also with YfC, joined us. It was a blessed discussion that involved some brainstorming. Afterwards, Les expressed her appreciation to be able to discuss issues with an objective youth worker… I’m thankful that can God use me.

Monday morning, Madalena (Henrik’s neighbor/housemate) invited us to come along with some other American missionaries (Katie, Connie & Marshall) and friends (Maggie, Charles, & Neil) to visit an effective ministry in a village outside of Maputo called Magoanine. Pastor Vasco Munhane is a visionary who empowered his community to minister to the orphans and provide a school through their church, "Arca da Salvação". It was an amazing story that seems rare in Africa. One of the biggest frustrations of many nationals I met was the lack of empowerment of the people. Instead, people seem to look for hand-outs or quick-fixes, like the idea of giving a man a fish…

On our way back into Maputo, Neil & Charles invited us to catch a ride back to Jo’burg with them that afternoon instead of taking a bus the next morning. When we got back to Madalena’s we called Cecile to see if we could come a day early, and she said Yes! We packed up our things quickly and took off to Jo’burg. It was a quick goodbye which tugged on my heart-strings as Mozambique had grown on me quickly. I would love to go back and spend an extended time there (which I’m sure will happen everywhere we go).

While back in Jo’burg, Cecile & Andries have connected us with several ministries which we will visit when we return from Malawi. We got a chance to visit with Andries’ friend, Siphiwe, who is involved with a job-training ministry—one of the 7 programs facilitated by MES. This ministry is in the heart of the city and in an infamous area of Jo’burg, called Hillbrow. We learned about the training program and participated in a Bible study with 23 of the 28 guys in the program. It is a very effective ministry that turns clients over in 6 months or less, helping them get jobs and learn life skills. MES is a ministry I’d love to work for, if I lived in Jo’burg.

Today, we were blessed to meet with Rodney Seals who is a renown youth worker, visionary, camp director and minister for over 27 years. He was so encouraging and we hope to visit with him and his wife in Pretoria when we return from Malawi.

I apologize for the long entry but God has blessed us with so many ministry opportunities, and I want to share them all with you. I’m learning so much, growing so much… and we’re only about 2 weeks into our trip!

12 July 2007

Maputo, Mozambique

We made it to Mozambique and are in the care of our wonderful sister/host, Lisa Frist. It was refreshing to hear and see Lisa as she called out from her friend Inacio's car at the boarder. She had arranged to come out to meet us because she had to renew her 30-day Mozambique visa (she has to make the hour & a half trip every month of her stay here). Although the greyhound was fairly nice, it was a bit loud, blarring music or movies over the speakers without the option to fade the volume. So our drive to Maputo was instead filled with catching up with Lisa, sharing experiences, and gain understanding about this next leg of the adventure.

So we've been in Maputo about 3 days and are still drinking in the culture, the sounds and smells. We saw the Indian Ocean for the first time on Tuesday. We've been blessed to meet so many people... nationals, Brazilians, Brits, Swedish, Swiss, Americans. Lisa introduced us to her Mozambican pastor named Paulo. He also serves with a ministry for street youth called Manasa ("light" in the indigenous language). We observed the ministry on Tuesday... worshipping with the group and meeting, eating lunch, and praying with the leaders. It is such a blessing that Hope can translate for me. Her portuguese seems to be flowing well (she may not agree). It is a beautiful language that is mesmerizing even though I comprehend so little. I usually get the context of the conversation but that is about all. Paulo knows a bit of english as does Amacleto and Luis.

Tuesday night we walked over (Maptuo is a walking city unlike Jo'burg... it's wonderful) to Mollie & Wesley's for Bible study. Mollie & Wesley are from Winston-Salem and are fellow Tarheels, having already trained their four-year-old to say, "Go Heels!" Sarah was another American here serving with World Vision (she's from Knoxville, TN). It was a blessed time of study (James 1) and sharing. Please keep Bill & Courtney, Sarah, Sophia, and Mollie in your prayers. (Also, I tripped on the sidewalk and hit my left knee-having a history of fluid in that knee, it has swelled up fairly big... keep that in your prayers as well.)

Yesterday we went back to Manasa to lead games and an experiential devotion on trust with the young men and boys (pictures). It was a very different experience for them and a learning experience for me! We also surveyed the leaders of this youth ministry & took portraits. It was truly a blessing to get their perspective on their country, the youth of Mozambique, the effectiveness of ministries (and in some cases ineffectiveness), and their own prayer requests. All the leaders asked for prayers of wisdom for God's will for them and their ministry. They hope to find a larger place to host them (they are at an Episcopal Church now) so they may reach more youth. I hope to have more information about Manasa soon but internet access has been a challenge. We ended our time with Manasa by sitting in the side alcove of the church, listening to a vocal quintet, drinking in the experience of angelic harmonies while looking out the side window of the church to clothes drying on the many balconies of the high-rise apartment building next door.

We have more ministry opportunities coming in our stay in Mozambique that I will share in the next post. Please keep us in your prayers as we arrange logistics of travel. We have decided against travel in/through Zimbabwe due to the crisis there. So we are now investigating other options to get to Lilongwe, Malawi and then back to Johannesburg.

08 July 2007

Soweto youth choir

Almost a week...

We have had a wonderful adjustment in our first stop in this worldwide voyage. We have adjusted to the jetlag and learned a lot about the history and culture of South Africa.

We have visited Museum Africa, which featured various exhibits from Alfred Martin Duggan-Cronin’s photography from 1919-1939 of Southern Africa to “Gandhi’s Johannesburg, Birthplace of Satyagrha (passive resistance or soul force) to Jurgen Schadeberg’s “Tales from Jozi”, a photography exhibit of urban life in South Africa. It was an experience that has contributed to some cultural intelligence for our mission.

Yesterday we had a unique “tour” of Soweto beginning with sharing “fat cakes” with Mutodi and his extended family. Then we went to see Nelson Mandela’s house (Desmond Tutu’s house was on the same street… the only two Nobel Peace Prize winners who lived on the same street). Next we visited Regina Mundi and were blessed to stumble upon a youth choir practice (hopefully I’ll attach a clip later). Mutodi drove us all over different parts of Soweto where I re-connected with many that I met last year. Although many were surprised to meet this smiley, white, American girl in the township last year, many more were surprised to see me come back and bring my sister.

Today we visited with Mutodi’s family some more and are about to go to an evening service at Little Falls Christian Centre a short walk from Mutodi & Leslee’s house.

Tomorrow we are catching a Greyhound (same name as the States bus company) to Maputo, Mozambique to visit with Lisa Frist. She has arranged some great, youth ministry opportunities so it should be very exciting. We’re still trying to coordinate our travel arrangements to Malawi. We are a bit anxious about possibility of taking a bus through Zimbabwe… it’s so unstable now. Keep us in your prayers.

Mutodi & Leslee Neshehe have offered to keep their place as a home-base while here in southern Africa. So if you want to send us a letter, package (Leslee misses peanut butter candy), or get a phone message to us, this is their information:
c/o Mutodi Neshehe
PO Box 651056
Benmore 2010
Republic of South Africa

05 July 2007

We made it…

We are so blessed to jump off this cliff of international travel to land into the soft, warm arms of our dear friends Mutodi and Leslee here in Johannesburg, South Africa. After a long 15+-hour flight, which was blessed with a lot of sleep (after several sleep deprived nights), we find ourselves adjusting to jetlag fairly well. Our first day was lazy one of grocery shopping and emailing followed by an amazing experience at Atlas studios. They host a film night the first Wednesday of each month of various themes along with corresponding food. Tonight they hosted “Counting Headz”, a documentary about South African female hip-hop artists from deejays to emcee’s, to graffiti artists, to beat-boxers to b-girls (break-dancers). As many of you know, the urban culture is a huge part of my call so it was a nice setting to begin our journey with a taste of urban South Africa. We also got a chance to converse with one of the co-directors/director of photography, Vusi.

Today we got a chance to experience a South African television studio (our friend, Mutodi, is a celebrity on a popular national sit-com). It was interesting but definitely not my vocational call. So, tomorrow we are going by the bus station to work out our transportation to Mozambique to see Lisa Frist on Monday. We're a little anxious about working out land travel in Africa, especially our trip through Zimbabwe to Malawi. It's not popular being American, especially in Zimbabwe.

We’re making connections with ministries here in Johannesburg but plan to visit when we get back from Malawi. Transportation around Johannesburg is a bit challenging because our friends work… so we’ll see what happens… it’s in God’s hands so I know it will all work out.

I don’t think I mentioned it before but we have a Skype number that has voice mail. (828) 333-4672 or hope.deifell. So be in touch. We were blessed to talk to my parents and Dave & Elizabeth yesterday for free… and mom & dad again just now. Wow! Technology is so facinating.

Keep us in your prayers as we work out the logistics of Africa land travel. We will try to post again soon.