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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Back in Malawi

Our new neighbors, Georgia and JJ
It's great to be back in Malawi. Though we had a great time at home in California this summer, it's good to be back at the work here that God has for us. A couple nights ago, Becca asked me "We've been back two weeks now, but doesn't it seem longer?" I had to agree. It seems like we've been back in Malawi for much longer than 17 days. I think part of the reason is that our first week and a half of work was incredibly intense. We jumped into work at school the morning after we arrived and didn't raelly stop for a break until Sunday for a brief respite. The few days before school and the first week are always quite busy, but this year seemed to be exceptional. We've now settled into a bit of normalcy, for which we are very grateful.

It's been a very good start to school with our upper school staff team. We've got a few new teachers, Jen Jackson for science, Jeff White for history, Mike Ammentorp for language arts and Joy Mwanza for French. We have returners too, Katie Dinwiddie for math, Titus Lloyd for computers, and Mwizaso Khonje for Bible. I'm teaching language arts for ninth grade again and it's a really fun group of kids. Right now we're reading Bruchko by a missionary named Bruce Olson who served and lived with the Motline Indians in South America. I tell my students that this guy was a little bit crazy for God. He endured things that make me cringe including disease, capture, and lots of lonely days/nights in the jungle. God blessed his faithfulness and perseverence, and brought many of the Motilone people to accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

We have a new headmaster, Brian Carlisle. He's teaching a world history class to the high school kids as well as Bible for my Northstar group doing their work online with teachers in the USA. I've really enjoyed him thus far and appreciate his experience and wisdom. He has his Master's degree in Educational Leadership from Covenant College in Georgia. He has a deep understanding of a Christian philosophy of education and it's been nice to talk about it as well as think about how we can integrate Christ into the middle of everything we do as a school. He'll be around a few years so we look forward to his continued leadership and mission-minded approach.

We've been hanging out a lot with Jeff and Carson White, a new couple from Texas. Jeff is teaching at the academy and college, while Carson is working at the clinic as a nurse. Jeff and I have been working out together the past couple of week and we've already had three rousing games of "Settlers of Catan" in the past week. We've got them hooked. Jeff's got a pretty cool Texan accent and even wears cowboy boots to school. He's a fellow college soccer player so I definitely like him. Becca really enjoys talking with Carson, their most recent time being at a staff-student volleyball game where Nacho decided to take a wee on the gym floor! Thankfully I was wearing two shirts, the one underneath doubling as a rag. Gotta' do what you gotta' do.

It is great to be back with Nacho too. He's as loving and friendly as ever and we're glad that he stayed well over the summer. Thanks to the Trumbles taking care of him!

Reflecting on Discipleship

Last week, during our ABC Christian Academy staff orientation, our new headmaster, Mr Brian Carlisle, asked everyone to introduce themselves and tell us about a teacher who has inspired us growing up. There were lots of good examples shared around the room and when it came to me, I actually chose a campus pastor with Intervarsity Christian Fellowship from my days at USD. His name is Scott Schimmel and during my freshman year he asked me to meet with him once a week to talk about faith, keep me accountable, and encourage me in my pursuit of Christ. He met with me the next few years usually in the coffee shop at the bottom of Maher Hall. I was a groomsman in his wedding, he was in mine, and skipping a few years ahead, we recently met to play tennis and talk in Danville. The reason that I decided on Scott, was that he chose to serve me by investing time and energy and prayer into me at a pivotal time in my life. I credit much of my spiritual growth in college to these one on one times that we spent together during college, and his continued concern for me several years later. This was one of the driving forces behind my decision to study education in college and from there to head to Malawi, where Becca and I are now. I wanted to teach, not so much because I could impart the knowledge and skills associated with social studies, but because I'd have the opportunity to invest, time, energy and my abilities into the spiritual, intellectual and social growth of my students. I knew that through the relationships formed at school, I'd have the chance to invest more deeply in young men; to encourage and challenege them to be more like Christ, just like Scott did for me.

As I've been working with youth in a Christian setting (at the academy in malawi and also with the youth of Bridges Christian Fellowship in Riverside) the past five years, that desire has only grown and deepened. It excites me to see young men and women making decisions that honor God and serve the people around them. Becca and I get a big grin , and my heart beats just a little faster, excited that these young people are choosing the hard, but best way. Let me give you a couple examples:

- Jon Spencer is going to be a sophomore at Covenant College in Georgia. He is a missionary kid and a guy who I've invested in a long time. Last year as a freshman, Jon and I met regularly via skype, mostly for me to ask him questions about how he was doing, encourage him in his faith and devotions, and give him advice on any number of things. When he visited at Christmas and in May/June, we got to hang out a lot (and he was a lot stronger with his weight-lifting). Throughout the year and during those visits, I was so excited that Jon had gone to college and stayed on track. He was, and still is dating a wonderful young lady named Lauren who we were privileged to meet a few months ago. They are making good decisions together and care for each other deeply. I'm excited to see Jon studying scripture and spending time alone with God.

-Cayla Ries is also a sophomore, at the University of California in Riverside. She is a young lady who was a junior in the youth group at Bridges for that year we were home in Riverside. She was one our student leaders and has continued to grow and mature these past couple years. Becca and I were close with Cayla and her family, and I'm glad to say, we still are. Well, during our time home this summer, we only got to see her a few times because she was in Pasadena with Intervarsity's summer Urban Project. When she got back, we got to hear from her about the summer, and how has been transformational for her. The passion she shared with was enough to give me that big grin and thank God for working in her life. God is growing in Cayla a heart for the urban poor, and perhaps giving her direction for the future as well. Becca and I were so encouraged that she is continuing a passionate pursuit of loving God and serving others.

Those are just a couple of examples but the list could be much longer, to includ kids like Ronnie Dawson, Daniel Allen, and Joel Dehnert. I'm excited to that they are investing their lives in what God has directed them to, whether that is serving at a Christian summer camp, leading an Intervarsity bible study, or joining the Marines.

Last week a new missionary named Michal van Rensburg came to meet me. He was in orientation too and was encoruaged by my sharing about Scott, and his investment in my life. He has been thinking about this lately also and recently heard a pastor say that "Wherever we are, God has placed us there to invest in the people around us for God's kingdom." The question is, who are the people God wants us to pour our lives into? I think if we seek God's direction, He'll make it clear sooner than later.