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.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Tuesday September 8 - In the Villiages

Today's post courtesy of Mark Ruff

Tuesday was a fantastic day! We were able to spend time in the villages of Chipampha and Malika wh
ich surround the church at Chiuza. The village that we thought we were going to was Chiuza but we found out that Chiuza is actually the name of the church and the villages are named after the chiefs.

I think all of us were struck by the friendliness and openness of the people. We saw things in person that most people will never have the benefit of seeing.

The villages are about 8 miles away from African Bible College near Lilongwe.

God’s timing on this trip, as always, has been impeccable. About a month before our trip, the Christians in one of these villages changed chiefs because of what they felt was persecution by the Gulywonkulu -- or witch doctors. Our arrival was a sign of answered prayers
on their part.

The chief, Amfumu Malika, said she’d been a Christian for many years but the Jesus had only become real to her in recent years.
It is late now. The ladies, Kim Franken and Jennifer Job, are out visiting a birthing clinic right now at 8 pm. The men came back to their dorm room to find a bat in their room. Your pastor, Paul Gunther, acted like a little girl but he’s all better now that the bat has been removed.

God is doing great things in Malawi and with the team you are supporting. We are tired and dirty but each night we are extremely excited for the next day.

Please continue to remember us in your prayers. We love you and be assured that The Grove has a presence in Malawi.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Monday - September 7th, 2009

Today's post courtesy of Jennifer Job

We all went to chapel today on campus with the students at African Bible College. Paul Guenther spoke at the service and handed out copies of his book “Cheap Black Bracelet” to all of the seniors and Live Love bracelets to all of the students.

We were able to go into India town (downtown) today and purchase 20 mosquito nets. It was a very busy downtown full of street vendors, little shops with baggers that were mostly disabled. It resembled a typical border town like Nogales.

We have been staying on campus at ABC in their new housing that was built for guest. They have been wonderful accommodations and they even have a cook that has been providing us with some great meals. We were able to help them with a couple projects they had around campus.

We spent most of the evening further brainstorming about our visit to the village tomorrow. Paul and Steve were able to meet with Charles, a former student at ABC, who will go with us tomorrow to make the formal introductions between us and the village. We have put together our good will gifts for the chiefs and elders of the village. We have learned today that we are not required to bring two white chickens, rather they could gift us the two white chickens. Again, good photo opportunity may arise.

Fields burning to drive the mice out where they could be caught.

Corey sitting with some African children

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Arrival... At Last!

Yesterday we all were very tired from the flights and went right to sleep after dinner. Here is what we have done so far...

We were greeted by Paul Chinchen and Michelle Clark (sister of Chris Clark from COTN). We got our first taste of the poverty in Africa for instance we noticed fires in the fields and Paul told us that it is the children that set them to smoke out the mice then they use a stick to kill them as they ran from the flames. Then we know his story was truthful when we saw people selling mice on a stick on the corners. By the way, you can buy about 10 mice on a stick for around $1.00 USD. (157 Kwatchas - Malawian money)

After unloading our stuff at ABC we were able to drive to the village of Mgwayi. We saw the people of village using the well that the Grove put in last year. It was so exciting to actually see it and know that it was being used. It is a good to know that because of the Grove's support this village has clean safe water. We were able to interact with some of the children. They loved having their pictures taken with the digital cameras and then showing them their picture. They asked us our name and were proud to tell us their name. They were full of big smiles and loved the dum-dum suckers that we passed out. We we saw women carrying firewood for the night on their head and babyies in slings on their back. It was a great first experience for this group and has really got us excited about going to Chiuza. After dinner at ABC we all headed for bed. It had been 31 hours of airplanes and airports and most of us were on about 3 hours sleep.

Sunday Sept 6th -
We all went to church at the chapel on campus, then we headed out for some exploring and shopping in the town of Dedza about 1 1/2 hour away.

Some of us are really feeling the effects of the widespread poverty of Malawi. We brainstormed about how our week was going to play out and what our ultimate mission for this trip and many more trips will entail. Before we all go into the village, we need to get permission from the chief. Which we heard was now a woman. Hopefully we can accomplish this in the morning and all go out there soon. One of the missionaries suggested to establish good will we come with two white chickens. If I get a picture of Paul bringing them to the chief I will definily upload it for everyone's viewing pleasure. But Paul seems hesitate to take this advise. (We are all pushing for it).

Hopefully I can get to a computer tomorrow and be able to send some pictures too.

Jennifer Job

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Day 1: Travel to Africa

Throughout the Malawi 09 trip we will get updates from the team on the ground. Come back frequently to see what is going on and what you can pray for!

Friday, September 4
We are currently in Kenya right now and will be leaving here in about an hour. Flights so far have been smooth.

First there was a 10 hour flight from Phx to London. We had a 7 hour lay over in London but because we had 11 boxes along with our luggage and had to transport them all between 2 terminals we were unable to leave and see the city. We have a long lay over on our way back home so we will try to go into the city on our way home due to not having to bring the boxes back with us. The boxes were full of books, team uniforms, and requests made by the African Bible College. Some of us have brought along items to distribute to the children in the villages such as dum-dum suckers, rubber braclets, shoes, and hats.

Then we had about an 8 hour flight from London to Keyna. With a 4 hour lay over here.
Everyone is excited to get to Malawi and looking forward to get down to the tasks ahead of us. This group has great dynamics with a good mix of working together to get things done along with a great sense of humor. We are looking forward to seeing what God has planned for us in this project.

I will send you another e-mail when we get to Malawi.


Meet the Team

Why would someone go halfway around the world to spend time with people in Africa? Why would they take time off work, spend so much time on an airplane, enter into the lives of poverty and suffering?

I asked some of the people on the 2009 Malawi team to tell me about their journey to decide to go to Malawi. Here is what they told me. In their own words (mostly).

Mark Ruff
My wife, Carmen, and I have been attending The Grove for over a year now. On one of the first Sundays we attended, Palmer had people come up and put their name on a board if they committed to going to a foreign country in the years ahead. I sat on my hands because I knew it was the right thing but was afraid of leaving the comfort of my home.

A year later, I am leaving to be 9000 miles from home.

As I prepare to go, what God has been teaching me this year is that my life is supposed to be uncomfortable and uncommon.

Jennifer Job
I went to the Africa meeting several months ago thinking it was for Malawi ’10, when I heard in that meeting what they were doing in ’09 it intrigued me to be able to go over with a small group and lay the foundation for years to come with trips to Malawi.

I have always had the desire to go on a mission trip since I was in junior high. I wanted to go to Haiti to help build a church and my Mom would not let me go because she said I would be to afraid of spiders and conditions over there. Apparently, I give off the impression that I am high maintenance. My Mom had the same reaction when I told her that I was going to Africa, but now I am old enough to make my own decisions.

Honestly, the feeling God has put in my heart to do what I can to help has always been there and the possibility to actually act on those long held and deep feelings is unexplainable.

Kim Franken
I really prayed about going to africa again this year. Last year I went with my husband Daryl and son Derek. We left our 4 years old, Spencer, home with friends. The thought of going this year and leaving my family behind was difficult. I prayed that god would let me know if He wanted me to go. I was so undecided. I think I drove my husband crazy because one minute I wanted to go and the next I didn't. I woke one morning and my head was filled with all of the things that I wanted to help accomplish in Chiuza. I knew that God wanted me to go.

God is teaching me to let go and trust in him. I am using this time to help our oldest son become more independent. He is a senior in high school and needs to learn to do laundry and cook, you know, bachelor survivor skills. My husband Daryl does not cook but he can order some mean take-out and I have faith that my friends will not let him or the kids starve.

John Vice
I think I am moved by the stories that everyone has talked about. I feel God has called me to help where ever help is needed. I also think that this will really mature my walk. I am looking forward to the stories and the bonding with not only the group I am going with, but with the people that we are going to meet.

I think God has taught me to rely on Him for everything. Before this trip I valued a lot of material values and was very worried about my everyday life. When we give it to God and pray, we don't have to worry about what makes us look or sound good, as well as worry about the craziness we clam our lives to be.

I think personally that the power of prayer can move mountains. I also feel like the fact that my wife is content with me being gone will be a big help. I think other support would be to just make sure that everyone is aware of the impact we make as Christians is world changing.

Corey Stamen
I feel God is teaching me how important it is to pray. Prayer has never been a big enough part of my walk and now that I am in a position to really NEED God to provide, I am praying more than ever. My funding is not what I would like it to be, especially with less than 2 weeks till we depart. I must be diligent and persistent with my petitions. My family cannot afford to fund most of this trip. I need to have faith and know that God will see this through, somehow, someway.

I really want to yield to God's guidance. I want to eagerly and without fear or reservation do His will. God has done so very much in my life and want's to do great things in other people's as well. I want to be able to share that and show them how great and powerful God really is.

Who's on the 2009 Malawi Team

On September 3, a team of people from The Grove will be getting on an airplane to travel to Malawi for almost 2 weeks - Until September 14. In an effort to make them more accessible here's a list of who is going:
  • Corey Stamen
  • Jennifer Job
  • John Vice
  • Kim Frankin
  • Michael Shuck
  • Paul Gunther
  • Rex Perkins
  • Steve Hoesel
If you can remember, take time to pray for each of these people (by name) while they travel. It will go a long way to making their trip a success!