Thursday, September 17, 2009

Home, Sweet, Home

We all arrived home safe and sound on Monday night about 5:30 pm. We spent the last 40 plus hours traveling from Lilongwe, Malawi to Nairobi, Kenya to London, England and on to home. It was a very long couple of days. We were able to sneak in a few hours in London and made it to Westminster Abbey, House of Parliament, and Buckingham Palace. We knocked on the Queen's door but apparently she had just stepped out to pick up some things at Target or something.

It was sad to leave Malawi but we are all glad to be back home in Arizona with our loved ones and with our church family.

Thank you for your financial and prayerful support. Be assured that you were represented well in Africa and that The Grove is continuing to make Jesus famous throughout the world.

We would ask in the days and weeks ahead that you prayerfully consider where God would have you serve. Begin planning for 2010. Get your passport. Arrange your support and finances. If you haven't been, a trip to Africa will change your life.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Last Night in Malawi

Sunday September 13th

I’ll back up a day and tell you about Saturday. We left ABC campus at 6:30am and started our 4 hour bus ride to Hippo Lodge. We met our guide, Jimmy and he took us on a 45 minute boat ride down the Shire River to Mvuu camp. Along the way we saw elephants on the shore with their babies, herds of hippos in the water and came uncomfortably close to a large nile crocodile.

When we arrived at Mvuu (mmmm-voooo) camp we had lunch and were taken to our rooms. Jennifer and I stayed in a chalet that was 15 feet from the waters edge. It was fantastic. All this time we could hear the hippos calling to each other. The best way I can describe it is that they sound just like Jabba the Hut in Star Wars.

After lunch we went on a jeep tour and got up close and personal with many animals. We saw wart hogs, water buck, mongoose, ring-tailed janet, impala, velvet monkeys, golden baboons (nasty mean critters) , kudo, and tons of birds. Our favorite part was when Jimmy was able to get a lone teenage elephant worked up enough that it postured and threatened to charge the jeep. Just to let you know this vehicle is open and it has four rows of tiered seats. Like a movie theater. He was no more that 6-8 feet away from us and was about 15 feet tall. Jimmy had a small cap gun in his hand to protect us….are you kidding me!! Anyways we are obviously fine but what an incredible experience. We were in the bush till well after dark and used a spotlight to find more animals. We went back to camp and had dinner.

After dinner an attendant insisted on walking us all back to our chalets. This was for our safety.
I laid in bed and listened to the night sounds and it made me appreciate how wonderful and gracious God is for giving us all these amazing animals and beautiful sights.

Today we started our day with a discussion about how this mission has affected our lives and our personal walk with God. This was very emotional for our team members as we all had different stories to share.

After breakfast we went on a boat tour and saw several herds of elephants. We got up close and personal with hippos and crocodiles. After the boat tour we were able to go on a jeep tour of the rhino sanctuary and actually did see a young male black rhino, which is very rare even for Africa.
We then headed home on our long 5 hour bus ride back to the ABC campus.

The Chinchen family had us all over for waffle night. This a family tradition and it was nice to see everyone. It was comforting coming back to campus as they have made this wonderful place feel like a home away from home. We said our goodbyes and went back to our rooms to pack.

Please keep us in your prayers for travel mercies as we start our long journey home. Please pray for the people of Malawi and all of those at ABC who work so hard to empower the people of this country.

God bless

Kim Franken

Safari Silence

Tomorrow our plan is to leave ABC at about 6:30 am and we are heading to Mvuu Camp, which is a safari about 41/2 hours south of here. We don't expect to have any wireless internet so we will not have a blog for you. We are only spending one night there and we will return on Sunday afternoon.

So I will send a blog on Sunday night explaining everything we saw and did over the next two days. I believe we are taking a boat ride and maybe a jeep ride to see the African animals. It should be an adventure.

After the last couple of days we all are looking forward to some fun. Going to the village is a different kind of fun and it is sooooo exhusting, that I think this kind of fun is well needed. Going to the villages is draining; with the mix of being in the sun all day, and the mixed emotions of sadness and joy that is so intense, it just just takes everything out of you. But I don't think any of us would change a thing.

I will "talk" to you in a couple of days and hopefully send some safari pictures.



Friday, September 11, 2009

Let me introduce you to Esther

Esther is praying for you.

You probably don’t know Esther so let me introduce you. She is a young lady like many in our church with a one year old child. She goes to work everyday at a job that is not very glamorous.

Esther works at the Children of the Nations feeding station in Mtsiliza. We walked in this afternoon and the room was filled with kids. It was hot. I don’t want to say it smelled bad because that would be too kind. There was an awful stench. Esther was busy teaching Bible verses to the children -- ages about 2 to 14 -- who were sitting with empty bowls all over a room about a third of the size of our sanctuary.

We were introduced to the children who applauded and repeated our names. We each spoke briefly and passed out some treats.

We then were introduced to about 8 elderly widows in another part of the complex. They sang and danced upon our arrival and did the same as they escorted us out. This is no small task. Some of these were very old women. One appeared to have been living with an unset broken foot for many years.

Back to Esther.

We were in Esther’s office. Don’t think of it as your office might look like. It was a desk and old plastic chair and the walls were stacked with bags of maize.

We prayed with Esther. When we were done, Esther told us that she prays for us often. Imagine that! Someone with everything they could need in this world being prayed for by someone in a village full of people with AIDS, hunger, and plenty of room for improvement. It was really an emotional moment to think of Esther, 10,000 miles away, praying for me.

We hope you’re all having a good day and enjoy a good weekend with your families. We want you to know that Esther is praying for you.

Post courtesy of Mark Ruff

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Thursday Sept. 10 - THERE IS A BAT IN MY BAG

This blog courtesy of Steve Hoesel

I love starting the day with chapel. Every day at ABC, you begin the day in the word of God from 0730 to 0805. Today, Paul Gunther blessed us with a message about the choices we make in life. He reminded us that our perspective is not God’s. How are we choosing to live? Is it for ourselves or for God? God is real, and we should strive to be imitators of God.

After breakfast, we headed over to Chipampha village’s Primary school. As we approached, the children started chanting “ah..zungoo…. ah..zungoo…” LOUDLY!!! Azungoo means white people or person. There was approximately 600 children clapping and yelling for us and when we started to get out of the bus, the crowd went crazy. It was a real “rock star” moment! We made our way to the school Superintendent and teachers, we gave them 3 soccer balls and I brought neck ties for the men. Paul asked if we could give them a soccer ball to play with and a huge soccer game ensued. The kids naturally chose sides and on either side there was dancing, singing and laughing. I knowingly asked the Super, “this is good…yes?” He said “Oh yes! The kids are enjoying this so much!” It’s amazing what a simple act of love can do.

After the soccer game, we said our farewells so the kids could get back into their classes. We went to Milika’s village which is up the road and we were receive
d warmly. Our relationship with the chief in this village is growing. We’ve established trust and faithfulness. She asked us if we would have a meal in her house as her guests. Okay, first of all, that doesn’t happen…in the chief’s house…during the first week we met. So, we prepared some of the meal together, played with the kids with Jenn and Kim blowing bubbles for them. During this time, one of the little girls had a flesh wound. I had a first aid kit with some dressings for her. Kim played nurse and did a good job of patching her up. Then I looked in another pocket, and saw two beedy eyes staring at me. THERE IS A BAT IN MY BAG! One of the older boys looked in, saw the bat, reached in and grabbed it like a hamster and tossed it up in the air! The bat flew away and didn’t stay for lunch. Too bad for him because we had a very real, very good, hut cooked meal. The chief showed us ultimate respect. She prepared a fresh chicken, which is only served for honored guests. She fetched water from a well in another village, (her well isn’t working), and treated the water with tablets. We had fresh greens, nsima and okra. Truthfully, the okra was like the green slime that lines a watering trough. Nonetheless, we were extremely grateful for her hospitality, and ate all she had to offer.

Leaving the village, we brought the chief with us to a widows home who we were unable to visit the previous day. It was a couple of miles away, and while driving there, we spotted the Guliwonkulu. And they spotted us and gestured to us to “stop, come here“. 8 men in witch doctor masks and garb, with machete’s and spears came running at us. Our ABC students that were with us said all they would do is ask for money. Didn’t matter, we weren’t stopping and kept going to the widows home. At the widows home, we met Ms. Katsono. Her husband died in 2002, and all her children are dead. Recently, she had given up on life and stopped eating. The Guliwonkulu believe their ancestors’ spirits will give them everything they’ll need. Well, they didn’t provide food when Ms. Katsono wasn’t eating. Chief Malika heard about it, walked the couple of miles and brought her food. Ms. Katsono was so grateful, she vowed to go wherever Chief Malika went. Now Ms. Katsono attends church in Malika village. Darkness cannot prevail where there is light.

From there, Paul dropped Kim, Jennifer, and myself off at COTN (Children of the Nations) so we could see our sponsor children. It was a fantastic reunion with new dresses, shoes, coloring books and pencils, along with Dumb-Dumb lollypops. We walked to the homes and met the families and took pictures of them. Jennifer brought a picture printer so we print up the picture back at our lodge, and give them their very own family photo. It’s something we’ve been doing at Malika village and received very well. It was wonderful to see our friends at COTN and we also laid some ground work for our future visit in June 2010.

At 6pm, we all went to Palmer’s, brother Paul’s house for the famous Paul Gunther Thai dinner. Outstanding as usual. Paul’s wife Laura only had to go to every store in Lilongwe to find all the ingredients!

Prayerfully our stomachs will be okay and we wont be forced to figure out which “soured” our systems. The local African fare, or Paul’s Thai. Good night, and make it a great day! Steve.

Why go to Africa on a Mission?

Jennifer Job holding what is assumed to be a special needs child.
Jennifer held this little one for a long time with nobody around.

It was incredibly moving and special.

This picture is worth at least 1,000 reasons.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Mosquito Nets, School and Village Visits

Today's post courtesy of Corey Stamen

The day started in Chapel followed by a great breakfast prepared by our chef Paul (not Gunther). Visiting the village was our first priority but we couldn't just load up and head out without a drive downtown to pick up more mosquito nets and some gifts (food items) for the village widows.

We purchased 20 nets a few days after we arrived but the village chief said they still needed an additional 68. We went back to the Peo
ple's Kwikmart, a small grocery/convenience store, to get more nets. We bought every one they had unfortunately it was not enough. We still needed 20 more which meant another stop but as it turned out Kim spotted some on the shelf at the grocery store where they purchased the widow's food items. We were lucky enough to get the rest there.

One final stop a short distance away at a not so friendly looking market to pick up a large bag
of Maize and we were finally on our way.

We really wanted to see the school where the children attended so we headed there first. We were greeted by over 800 curious but smiling children ranging in ages from 5 to 16 years old. A tour of the campus revealed 8 classrooms (only one had desks) and 7 teachers for all those kids! We took lots of pictures, asked lots of questions, and donated paper and pencils.

From there one car headed to the village to drop of the remaining mosquito nets and the other headed back to campus to drop off Charles our translator.

We had a traditional nsima (pronounced nn-see-mah) lunch with the ABC students - we ate it without any silverware! You know the old cliché "when in Rome..."

After washing our hands we piled into two vehicles along with our 4 ABC translators to head back to the village.

Once there Paul went with the village chief to tour the village boundaries and do a video interview. The rest of the team split up to meet and visit all of the widows. It took nearly 30 minutes to walk to her hut. She was so happy to recieve her gifts.

Finally before leaving we sang songs with the children and handed out suckers which they loved. Wow! What a day. The things we saw and experienced today will no doubt last a lifetime. These people are incredible and have so much to share. Their smiles are unforgettable, we can't wait to share our pictures with you.

Good night and God bless.