Friday, March 29, 2013

Our New Website

Please visit our new website! From now on we will be posting blog updates and pictures through our blog at Hope to see you there!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Rambling through the Psalms, Nkhoma and Bible Study

This year we've had some solid visiting speakers at our staff Bible study Wednesday nights.  One is a church planter from Ohio, and close friend with some missionaries here.  He spoke to us on the practice/discipline of breath prayers.  They are short phrases that we can repeat in prayer throughout the day, to draw us back to the reality of our dependence on God.  First Thessalonians tells us to "pray continually" throughout our day, in order to be in constant communion with God.  A 17th century monk named Brother Lawrence practiced this prayer discipline, seeking the presence of God at all times.  During our Gospel Emphasis week at the academy, I presented to the students on the disciplines of prayer and solitude/silence.  Our culture not only makes it difficult to practice these, but sometimes, it seems like it actively seeks to destroy them in the lives of Christians.  There are people around, there is music to listen to, there is stuff to do.  Productive, with people, multi-tasking, busy.  These things are all great, in moderation.  But they quickly take the place of #1 when we don't spend time alone with God.  We run to activity and noise to fill the time.  So my breath prayer since that Wednesday night

The reason that I spoke on this topic was because I have really struggled with it the last few months.  Since Christmas break, things seem to be moving at warp speed.  It's like I can't get my feet under me, and my heart and mind are behind too.  With the busy schedule and the fatigue comes a weariness that we've probably all experienced.  My problem was that I hadn't treasured solitary time with God.  Time in the early morning hours each day, time in between classes when I find myself alone for just a few moments, time walking home from soccer; the scheduled time and the unscheduled times.  So I ask you, O patient reader, when is the last time that you spent quiet and alone with God?

Hopefully it's quite recent.  The weekend before presenting during Gospel Emphasis week, I was with a few teachers and 11 students on an overnight hike of Nkhoma Mountain.  It's a special place, and the kids have a great time.  This year we went to the peak for sunset, instead of our usual sunrise hike.  It was gorgeous.  The next morning, I was up for the sunrise just a few hundred yards from our hut.  In the 30 minutes I spent standing and listening and watching the sun rise on a quiet, green, majestic mountain, God met with me.  He reminded me of the sweetness of His presence and the quiet medium that he often chooses to speak to us in. 

Our talk that weekend was focused on Psalm 62 and 63, the topic of another guest speaker's Wednesday night study.  He was a missionary to Pakistan with his family for over 20 years and now serves as a missions pastor at a large church in San Diego.  He said that God brutally humbled him and restored him through Psalm 62 in the midst of severe illness.   He then made him grateful through Psalm 63.  Thank God for His living and active Word in the Bible.  He also shared a piece of advice from a veteran missionary in Pakistan who said: "You will either grow more grateful as you serve here, or you will grow more bitter." 

I feel that sometimes in Malawi, and had a battle with it yesterday.  Frustrations with fuel, our car, Road Traffic office, District commissioners offices in Lilongwe and Kasungu, Malawi time...  Will I grow more grateful or more bitter.  Ask Becca, I spent a good hour stewing over what a victim I'd been of these great inustices!  It's the worst part of my heart that wins out sometimes.  God used Yami, Becca, Nell Spencer, and a short night's sleep to help provide some perspective, and turn my heart back to the narrow, difficult, and good path of gratitude.

I come back to prayer: "Oh God, deepen my faith."  That's my breath prayer right now.  Since we started the adoption process, there have been quite a few ups and downs.  We got Yami November 30th, and we're supposed to leave Malawi on June 25th.  That's a quick seven months to get through a process that usually requires more than seven months in a country with very negotiable ideas of time.  I have found myself worrying quite often, and sometimes at a deep level.  "Oh God, grow my faith." Translated: Oh, I'm desperate, God, you are my God, grow, you alone can do the growing, my faith, in your promises and faithfulness.

I'm not sure what the point of this blog is really: spend time with God, say your breath prayers, choose gratitude over bitterness.  You choose, I just hope you're encouraged in your faith.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Thank you Evergreen, from Stanley

Here is Stanley's thank you message to Evergreen for a great Christmas celebration.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Bright Vision Christmas Celebration

On Christmas Eve, we headed out to Bright Vision Orphan Care for our annual Christmas Celebration.  We started doing this a few years ago, because Stanley thought it would be a great idea to have the people of the village, and kids from all around, come to share a special meal, enjoy entertainment, and hear the Word of God preached.  This year was special, as Evergreen Baptist Church provided the funding for the whole day.  We were able to buy 220 lbs of rice, 10 liters of oil, 8 liters of drink concentrate, 10kgs of salt, and lots of veggies.  Their Sunday school kids donated over $500 so we could have 10 goats.  This is a big deal, as most people in the village do not have rice or goat throughout the year.  It's too expensive!  So needless to say, it was quite a feast.

When we (Christy ABCCA Teacher, Tio and Clifford ABC students, my mom and dad, Becca, Yami and me) got there, we were met with singing from the ladies, welcoming us.  This has become somewhat of a tradition over the last year, to welcome visitors.  Stanley led us on a quick tour, and we me the volunteers who make everything at Bright Vision run smoothly.  Then we had the program.  This year we wanted just singing (in the past there have been dramas and dances also) from the two choirs at Ngala CCAP, the church we visit when we're in Chamadenga on Sundays.  The kids choir performed first, and then the women's choir.  They both did a great job.  It was kinda' wierd to have the women's choir sing a song dedicated to Becca and men, likening us to Jonah or Moses who God sent to "save" the village.  It was extremely humbling when Stanley leaned over to tell me what they were singing about.  I got a little teary, realizing that God was doing a good work in Chamadenga through Bright Vision and Stanley's leadership.  Praise Him for His great love for us.  After the singing, Clifford got up to speak from Luke, about Christmas.  He did a wonderful job, and spoke passionately for about 15 minutes on the necessity of Christ's coming to eventually save us from our sin.  He shared the full Gospel clearly, in Chichewa.  That's what we'd been hoping for.  Well, God decided that Clifford's speaking was enough, because after that, just as I got up to speak, it started raining.  In about 15 seconds, almost every one of the several hundred people there was running for cover.  It's okay, I probably would have just detracted from what was already said! 

After the rain stopped, the meal was served.  That took quite a while, because there isn't really an efficient way to cook for over a thousand people.  Nor is there a really great way to order the kids and serve the food, especially when you don't have over a thousand plates/bowls either.  But the volunteers and adults made due very well.  After a couple of hours, everyone had fed, and enjoyed it immensely.  The guests were invited inside to "take" their food in the office.  It was my parents' second encounter with nsima but their first encounter with goat.  They were good sports and took some nibbles.  Nothing too extreme.  The food was tasty and we all had our fill. 

After that, we walked up the hill behind Bright Vision, or atleast a small part of it.  The view from up there is really spectacular, and gives a 180 degree panorama of the surrounding area from about 300 feet up.  My mom and dad both made it up the hill, nice work mom and dad! 

We came back down and hung out for a while.  There was a lot of good time to spend with the kids, with the adults there, and the volunteers who work so hard.  Yami had a really good time playing with the kids, and he also loved crawling around in the dirt (that's my boy!). 

We ended up departing around 4pm.  The day was really special for everyone there.  We only hold two of these special celebrations a year, at Christmas and at Easter.  Because the greatest gifts ever given, within the greatest story ever told, have their highlights at those two places.  The human advent of God's redemption plan at Christmas, one that was waited for since Adam and Eve in the garden.  Then Christ's crucifixion and resurrection at Easter that was the completion of God's redemptive plan for mankind (well, the story isn't exactly over :).  We hope that people in attendance understood fully why all this effort went into the giving, the planning, the purchasing, the cooking, the singing, the waiting, the visiting, the preaching.  It's all about Christ, and His story that we celebrate.

Monday, December 19, 2011

A day out at Bright Vision

Our old kitchen, a thatched covered 4x8 foot structure

This past Saturday, the 17th, Stanley and I took a trip out to Bright Vision for a meeting with Morias, the foreman who we've hired to build the kitchen that is being sponsored by Evergreen Baptist Church San Gabriel Valley. On the way, we made several stops to purchase food for the Christmas celebration that Evergreen is also sponsoring on Christmas Eve. We bought a couple hundred pounds of rice, a bunch of SOBO drink concentrate, a lot of salt and cooking oil, and a new pot to help cook for so many people. It was good time to spend with Stanley in the car picking things up and driving out to Chamadenga. We got there, unloaded the stuff, and went into our meeting with Morias. The meeting was very good. We put together a plan that has us starting in mid-March and ending in mid April. He seems like a really good guy, competent and honest.
The reason for this blog entry is actually some thoughts from after our meeting. I was sitting outside waiting for Stanley to finish meeting with some of the village heads (Stanley's very diplomatic with these guys even when they are frustrating to deal with). The Saturday feeding program was going on and I was watching hundreds of kids waiting in line for their turn to get food. They let them go to get their hands washed in groups of 20, and from there they head to the line to pick up their bowl of nsima and beans. Well, head to the line is an understatement...they are sprinting to the line! These kids are desperately excited to get food.
They're so excited, that one girl had her food knocked out of her hands onto the ground, twice. I escorted her to the front of the line after the second mishap for a third bowl of food. I resumed my post watching the kids line up to get food. Two small kids of about 5 years old went to the site of spilled-food-#1, and started picking the beans up from the ground and eating them, dirt and all. They were that hungry.
Other kids were eating part of their food, then putting some of it into a container that they could take home. At first I was thinking: "Who's going to eat this food when they leave? They shouldn't be taking it home with them." About two seconds later, I'm thinking "Who cares!? There is no way that we are going to restrict these kids from taking their extra food home with them when they are so hungry." We are getting to that time of year in which families in the village are eating one meal a day, and are fortunate to have something to eat with their nsima (the corn-based mashed-potato-looking stuff that has almost no taste).
My next thought as I surveyed the hundreds of kids there: "Are we doing anything to help this place? These kids are getting meals that will tide them over for several hours, maybe even a day. But this hunger is just going to continue." Stanley said on the way out "We grow maize every year, but the hunger is still with us." I was thinking then, these four hundred or so kids are going to have kids of their own in 15 or twenty years, and there will be more mouths to feed growing up in the same poverty that is existing now.
So needless to say, I was standing there watching these kids, feeling quite helpless. These hundreds of meals are being provided twice a week in the feeding programs, and hundreds more in the nursery school each weekday. I will not allow myself to sink into pessimism or negativity, because with God there is always hope and joy. But it was sobering to watch and think, and then pray about what to do.
I don't have any answers yet, but would appreciate your prayers for wisdom as we go forward. What do we do to meet this massive need? Thanks

Sunday, December 18, 2011

He has a great laugh

Becca has a couple of girls over on Mondays for discipleship/hanging out. Kristen, on the right is a missionary kid whose parents are with the Assemblies of God in Malawi. They're from Nor Cal. Nell is of the Spencer clan, ABC missionaries the past 22 years. This video is from two weeks ago, and Yamikani is a real ham when it comes to the camera. Enjoy

Monday, December 12, 2011

10 Days in with Yamikani

What we can tell so farHe might be a bit of a mama's boy
He's going to be an animal-lover
He's gonna' be a baller
He'll help with chores
He will be a scholar
Top three issues we have with Yamikani:
1) He has bad morning breath
2) He has blown poop out of his diaper 4 times now, resulting in: laundry, gagging, spraying with hose, and "ewwww."
3) Waking up at very random times in the night. No pattern. He's on his own clock.
But these are dwarfed by the joy and excitement we have. Some highlights:
1) Rocking him to sleep on my chest.
2) Playing ball with him: soccer ball, basketball, tennis ball, whiffle ball so far.
3) His happy moods after eating when he laughs and plays and entertains.
It's been exhausting, but the good kind; when you know that you're tired for a good reason. It's definitely a new step in God's sanctification of my heart away from selfishness, impatience, and pride. Thanks for your prayers for Becca and me.

Monday, November 21, 2011

An abridged case for Christian Rap

If you don't know who this is, then you probably aren't into the Christian Rap scene. This is Lecrae, one of the most popular and influential Christian Rap artists in the world. He and four other members of Clique 116*(see note at bottom) from Reach Records (Atlanta) were in Lilongwe yesterday on one of their stops in the "Unashamed" Africa Tour. In short, it was a great night!
So some of you are reading this thinking: "Christan rap? Is that some kind of paradox? I thought all rappers were uneducated gangsters whose songs not only sound the same, but all talk about the same thing: sex, drugs, money, power. I don't like how they dress, how they act, and that whole culture of hip hop." For those of us ignorant enough to think that this line of reasoning holds any water, this post will not be for you. You've probably already started to get defensive or you've already navigated away from this URL. Maybe on!
I got turned on to Christian Rap by one of my best friends in college, Robert Neighbours. In those days it was Cross Movement, a group of guys in Philadelphia. I was attracted to their witty, poetic, Biblically solid, and passionate lyrics talking about Christ's gospel.
It was extremely refreshing to see (and hear) these guys reclaiming a genre of music that is so often used to express what was listed above (sin), for the glory of God. Some people argue that the urban culture which includes rap music is just all wrong, usually because of what we see on TV or the news. But the urban culture does exist, and it is not going anywhere. Thus, rap music is a God-given means by which artists can reach the culture for Christ, and transform it to be conformed to Christ's image. It's not a whole lot different than artists using the "rock" genre to reach people who like rock. Remember that rock used to be seen as "of the devil" about 50 years ago (this still persists among some super-conservative corners of Christendom, ie ABEKA publishers). But now countless bands use this music to not only express the gospel in their lyrics, but share the gospel at their concerts (Third Day, Kutless, Switchfoot). Or like using sports (which can be the course of idolatry, celebrity worship, greed, and unrestrained competition) to provide a platform to share Christ with people who would otherwise be closed to even hearing about Jesus (Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Athletes in Action, short term mission trips from Flood in 2004!).
A year ago, I got a Lecrae record, "Rebel", which is one of my favorite albums across any genre of music. I was so impressed with their unflinching faithfulness to Scripture. Album highlights for me:
Don't Waste Your Life- I'm thinking a play on John Piper's great book with the same title. Don't waste your life on all the stuff our world tells us to, but give it for God's glory
Go Hard- Living hard for Christ's sake and not backing down in timidity from the challenge of the world.
Identity- Speaking against our identity being found in external things, and instead, finding it in Jesus.
The Bride- Talking about the church, in its imperfections, still being God's chosen vessel.
So when Lecrae was coming to Lilongwe, I figured I should go. I'm not a big concert-goer, so I was most interested in finding out how these guys would articulate their Christian faith through the concert. Would the emotion and energy and "culture" get in the way? I went with Becca, some colleagues, several students from the academy and a bunch of college students. I kinda' hung out in the back, reserving my limited dancing skills (all based on goofy white-guy interpretation of good dancing) for the few people behind us. The show was high energy, and the guys were very entertaining. They did several songs that people knew which sent the crowd into hysterics.
So how'd the group do with keeping Christ at the forefront?
-They prayed at least five times in the two hours they were on stage.
-They had interludes between pretty much every song, preaching about Christ in their lives. Some of these interludes centered on: "You may think we're superstars, but we're not. Jesus is the one you are looking for." "We challenge you to be unashamed of the gospel even if it's going to cost you a lot." "Many of you need to stop doing some things that you're doing now, like sleeping with your girlfriend and getting drunk." "Going to church, reading your Bible, coming to this concert does not make you a Christian. You have to believe, and follow Jesus as your Lord."
- Lecrae stayed on stage at the end and shared the gospel, faithfully and with personal transparency, for 15 minutes straight. He walked straight through the first chapters of Romans and recited Scriptures that condemn all of us as unrighteous. Then he offered the Hope that is found in Christ, His death and resurrection. He repeatedly asked for silence, and for people to realize that this was the most important thing that would happen during the concert. I was so stoked! At the end, he asked people to head to the back if they wanted to pray with someone (organized by Flood church in Malawi). I'd say at least 80-100 people went to the back to pray with someone.
So I was a Lecrae fan before, but am now a Lecrae supporter as well. He and the guys in Clique 116* are being faithful with their considerable gifts, to the preaching of the gospel around our world, and most recently in Africa. Isn't that the call placed on all of us? Praise God for saving us, and then sending us to lost people. We would do well to be challenged and encouraged by these guys, however different they may be from us, who are living out the gospel.
*Clique 116- The name comes from Romans 1:16 which says: "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile." 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Alison's baptism at Youth Camp

So this blog isn't about me getting caught sleeping midday at our last youth camp in April. I am only slightly embarrassed about the fact that Pastor Matt took about 8 of these pictures with several of my students from school posing next to a napping me. This post is actually about the most recent youth camp, and the baptism that involved the young lady in the blue shirt.
Alison is a missionary kid whose parents work at Partners in Hope, a large HIV/AIDS clinic in town. They lived for seven years in Ecuador before coming to Malawi, at Shell (think End of the Spear, Elizabeth Elliott, Nate Saint). They're in their third year here in Malawi and Alison and her two siblings are in the high school at ABCCA. The reason why I am talking about her is that she got got baptized while we were at camp. She had been wanting to for a while, and met with our Pastor to see if she was ready to make this commitment. She was, and it was arranged that the youth worker who leads the Friday night youth group, would have the honor of baptizing Alison.
Her parents came out for the time on Saturday afternoon. We all gathered on the shore and Pastor Matt shared some words about baptism; mostly its Biblical basis and what it symbolizes. The youth worker then explained the three questions he would be asking Alison (he even had notes on his arm so as not to forget!). The two of them went out into the water, and after answering the questions in the affirmative, Alison was dipped below the water and brought back up to thunderous applause from all of us on shore.
I'll be honest, I don't cry very much. Last high school soccer game, last college soccer game, at the end of Rudy, when the dad's standing for his son during Facing the Giants(I know it's kinda' corny), oh and during my wedding when I was crying through most of it. Well, add the baptism of Alison to the short list too.
I think the significance was that we don't take vows all that often, nor do we see people do it. For the most part, it is during weddings. There is a certain amount of solemnity when we promise something to another in front of a group of people. There is a certain value to ceremony and formality, though it is not absolutely necessary to make something sacred. The importance is in the sincerity of the act, the Truth of the words, the joy that follows.
Alison's baptism was a public promise of her faith in Christ: a serious and ceremonial promise to follow Jesus as her Lord and Master forever. The reality of this profession was already solidified in her heart a long time ago, but this baptism did exactly what it was supposed to do: publicly proclaim that faith and encourage her brothers and sisters in Christ. It was special to see one of my students take this step, and also to know that the fruit in her life bears witness to her identity as a daughter of the Most High God.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Summer 2011, St Louis

If you scroll down the page a good ways, you'll see a picture of me (Kellen) with two handsome young guys in a blog post talking about discipleship. On the left is Jon Jon, and on the right is Joel. These guys graduated high school in 2009 and 2010, and are now college students in the states. This past summer I got to see them both.
I was a groomsman in Jon Jon and Lauren's wedding, and so was Joel. The Spencer family was kind enough to fly me out from Malawi to St Louis for 9 days to be in the wedding and with the family. The crazy thing is that David got married the day before. A weekend of weddings!
So the other guys in the wedding were Joel, Anthony (Jon's college roommate), TJ (a missionary kid from Canada/Malawi), Justin (Lauren's brother), Aaron (a friend from HS in St Louis), and David. TJ's brother Mitch was also there for the weekend. A family down the street from the Spencers offered their home for wedding guests to stay in, so it ended up all of us guys staying in a fully hooked up house.
What a rich time it was with these guys. It was my first time meeting Anthony and Aaron, but it's easy to see why they are some of Jon's closest friends. They are solid, fun guys. The other guys I knew well already, and it was a sort of reunion with many of them. TJ and Mitch's family, the MacLeans had returned to Canada from Malawi in 2009 so it had been a couple of years. Dustin Berger, a friend from Malawi who worked with Children of the Nations, was also there (which was nice, to have someone else in the house who is a few years removed from college).
Some highlights:
1) We had a day to float down the Meramec River in canoes, which was highlighted by a riverside lunch, swinging on a sketchy rope into the river, and a really good talk with Mitch, my canoe-mate. I was very encouraged by his growth as a young man, his plan for heading into the University of Toronto, and his desire to return to Malawi.
2) We watched the Cardinals lose to the Astros, my first trip to Busch stadium (it's okay though cause they're World Champs now). It was quite a group of us there, and I got to sit next to Jon the whole game. Frozen strawberry lemonade was worth the 7 dollars, considering it was about 90 degrees and humid at 8pm.
3) I had an early-morning breakfast with Jon at Einstein's bagels to talk about marriage, and figure out some ideas for a wedding-day present to Lauren. It was funny, I felt like this was the last time I would meet with Jon Jon in this capacity as a mentor. He was getting married a couple days later, joining the ranks of married men. What was so encouraging with Jon is that he is ready for this solemn and blessed responsibility of being a husband. His desire is to serve God and serve Lauren. Praise God!
4) Spending time with friends and family of Jon Jon in the hospital two nights before the wedding. He had an allergic reaction to some food, then had a panic attack. So he was ambulanced to the hospital and we hung out there until the early hours of the morning. Gotta' admit, it was scary. We all did get to spend some good quality time together in the ER!
5) Staying up til about 3am the night before the wedding helping Nell Spencer finish off the wedding cake. It ended up slightly tilted, but it was beautifully decorated in handmade, edible flowers.
6) Spikeball in the midday heat. It's an awesome game that I'm really mediocre at.
7) Time with TJ and Mitch at the St Louis airport over Starbucks. They treated, and we were able to chat for about an hour before departing.
The weddings both went well, and without any hiccups. It was special for me to hear Jon and Lauren promise each other their love for the rest of their lives. There is something very serious about these public declarations and being there to hear it and see it myself was very special for me.
The week was one of the most special for me in a long time. There were so many meaningful conversations in such a short period of time. I don't know when the next time will be that I get to hand out with those guys from the wedding. We're pretty well spread out, in Georgia, Florida, Canada, Wyoming, and Malawi. I treasure their friendships and hope there will be another time soon.

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.