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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Amao Orphanage

We've been sending updates about our adoption process, and several of them have included an orphanage called Amao located near Kasungu (the town of Mtunthama) about 1.5 hours north of Lilongwe. So here's a profile of Amao:

Reverend Frank and his wife Eunice were posted to Mtunthama trading center 15 years ago, for Frank to tak the pastorate there in the Anglican parish. In the past 15 years the church grounds has grown to hold a fully functionioning hospital, school (in partnership with the government of Malawi), and the orphanage. How we're connected with it is through Eunice (who graduated from ABC several years ago) and their adopted daughter Rosemary (who is an ABC grad and now works at the ABC Community Clinic). Becca first visited Amao with Rosemary in 2006, and we've been four times now in the past few months.

In our visit last week we got to hear more from Pastor Frank about how the hospital, school and orphanage began. What an encouragement it was! Frank and Eunice lost a child to malaria several years back, mostly because they could not find the medical care that they needed. There were no hospitals in the area that could adequately treat their daughter's advanced illness, and because of that, she passed away. They had known that there was a great need for medical care in the area, but it had now become incredibly personal. They decided to start building the hospital, without knowing where they would get the money to complete it. A church from the UK jumped into help them complete the building and it has been functioning now for about a decade. They are the only maternity care in a 60km radius, and have just completed surgical theaters. The orphanage began out of Frank and Eunice's home, with church members also taking kids in as needed. When the number of kids grew too great, they decided to build Amao, which now houses about 50 kids, ages 3 months to 17 years. The older kids help with the chores and cooking, as well as taking care of the younger kids. There are also several of the orphans who are taken in by church members in the area. The majority of the financial needs of the orphanage are taken up by the church, with just a small portion coming from outside donors. The school started because there were kids at the orphanage who needed a good school to go to. They started with Form 1 (9th grade) and went from there. Now they are producing some of the best students in the area, with Amao kids claiming the top spot in several of the grades.

I was blown away by the faith of the curch community under Pastor Frank's leadership. The challenging circumstances of life presented them opportunities to step out in faith to fill huge needs; medical, educational, social, and spiritual. It is very evident that God has blessed their faithfulness. I believe that what is going on at the Anglican parish in Mtunthama is a model of how the church should be taking an active part in ministering to the community. Pastor Frank has been adamant that the local church be actively and sacrifically invested in the financing, building, and sustenance of the various ministries. We do so appreciate what's going on tehre and look forward to a lasting relationship with their family and Amao.

The heights, and the depths, at Bright Vision: sorry it's a long one

(You'll understand the picture choice if you make it to the end)

So on Saturday, July 2nd, we headed out to Chamadenga with a large group. The Faith Baptist team from Texas had arrived the day before to spend time with Jeff and Carson White (fellow ABC missionaries) and see about local ministries that their church could be involved with in the future. Along with the team were several students from ABC who are acting as liaisons for short term teams this summer. As our coaster pulled up to the center, we were met with lots of handshakes, singing, and some dancing from the ladies. After a short tour we had an assembly of sorts, with all of us visitors up front and the kids doing performances: mostly of the musical sort. We started the feeding program just after that, and the 14 on the Faith team were super helpful with washing hands, preparing food, and serving. It was a nice to see them jump right into the controlled chaos that is a Saturday feeding program. There were a lot of kids, around 400 or so. It was a special meal since we got to serve goat and greens with the normal nsima and beans. After that, a couple of soccer balls came out, and an adventurous group headed up the hill to gain a better view of the surrounding area.

The heights: During the morning assembly, the kids were sharing songs with us. I had requested that the children's choir from Ngala CCAP church would come and minister to us. They did, in a big way. There was a young girl, about ten years old, who sang a song that was, for me, the most meaningful part of the day. It was a solo, in Chichewa, which at first just repeated the same phrase over and over again. As she was singing, she moved into the group and brought one of our college students, Clifford, to the front, singing all the time. Once he was there, she shooed him away, and Clifford went back to his chair. She went and got another student, Patricia, brought her to the front, and then shooed her away. Then she did the same with Becca, and finally with me. She kept singing this same prhase that she had been repeating throughout, for the few minutes that it took to get us four up and back to our seats. Then, the phrase suddenly changed, and she grabbed a Bible, and held it above her head and was singing a new phrase. I finally understood the message of the song and was brought to tears.

A student got up to translate for as "mzungus" and said this: the first phrase she was repeating was saying that she was looking for someone to help her, thus she brought the four of us up to see if we would be able. She found that we were not enough. Finally, she had found Jesus in the Bible and He was enough. What made it even more significant for me was who she chose: The college students will be educated Malawians who will be able to help their own people with their lives. Becca and I as foreign missionaries and the primary financial supporters of BVOC. None of us are enough, no matter how much we give of our time, energy, resources, or love. Jesus is the only one who can fill our deepest needs.

It was a wonderful, yet brutal, reminder of the fact that I cannot save people. Becca and I will continue to minister to the needs of people in Chamadenga through Bright Vision, but we must know that Jesus is the only all-sufficient Savior. This is the heights of BVOC, as we strive to offer hope in Christ.

The depths: I share this story with you because it's funny, and it's very humbling. If you get squeamish with bathroom humor, then avert your eyes.

Before our hike up the hill, various folks were visiting the toilet (which is not a toilet but a hole in the ground over a pit of nastiness). So I took my turn, and walked into the guys side. I should have taken time to let my eyes adjust to the much darker interior of the bathroom, but instead I decided to step directly into the hole with my left leg. So Iwent down, but thankfully the hole is just about 8 inces square, so I stopped about mid thigh. It all happened pretty quick, and I pulled my leg out really fast, but there was no hiding what I'd just done. The guys outside said "Are you okay in there?...Did you just fall into the hole!?" I thought about telling a serious fib, but decided truth would be best, and admitted to the blunder. As I took care of my #1 business, I noticed that there was a smallish pile of feces on the front of the hole: apparently a mis-aimed drop. As I gathered myself to face the questions outside, I noticed a few marks on my pants. I came out to assess the damage. The guys were laughing pretty hard as I looked down to find greener-than-normal poop on my pants. A couple of minutes later I had drenched the area with water and tried to scrub it out a bit with some grass. The story quickly got around and there were some good laughs shared with my new friends from Texas. The hike proceeded as normal (just me being a bit self-conscious about the big wet spot on my pants and the still visible "tread marks").

Upon reflection, there is much to be grateful for: 1) I was wearing pants, 2) I escaped the fall without serious injury (just a jammed pointer finger and scrapes on my leg), 3) I learned a valuable lesson on moving from bright to dark lighting situations, 4) There wasn't more nastiness on the edges of the hole, 5) The pit was not full, 6) I was knocked down at least a rung or two on the pride ladder which is always good (here I thought I was semi-athletic and coordinated enough not to do something totally embarrassing like stepping into a poop-hole).

All good things to be grateful for, but still a visit to the literal lowest point at Bright Vision.

ABC Lions: End of the Year

On a Friday back in June, the night before college graduation, we had the soccer team over to our house for a movie and time to honor the seniors. So I had gotten a soccer jersey for our seniors and had written a charge to them as they were graduating. I read the charge which was really a prayer of commission and blessing for the guys, and I hope that it's something that they can reference in the future. Then we did a surprise unveiling of the jerseys, and the guys really went crazy. I'm not sure if it was the fact that it was for their favorite EPL club team, or if it was just the emotion of the night, but it was really funny. Everyone ran up front for a picture. I was laughing so hard and enjoying their excitement. Then we said some encouraging words to our outgoing athletic director, Derek Breuninger, who had done a great job over the last couple years getting the athletic program really moving in the right direction. We gave him a Malawi flag, and once again, it was picture time with the whole team! I am very grateful that it was a good way to send the guys off to the holiday.

Other good news with the ABC Lions: 1) Our new athletic director, Jeff White, worked with some folks from his church and college soccer team back home to raise money for new jerseys and a team set of soccer balls. We joke that we could quite possibly be the best outfitted team in Malawi (besides maybe the national team). Now we just have to make sure our game measures up. 2) Jeff has also been doing a lot of thinking on philosophy of our sports department and I'm excited to see how it gets implemented this next year. His hope is that we really push the teams into more outreachto the community, and make sure we keep our priorities straight while playing sports: Honoring God with our athletic endeavors.