My First Two Weeks Part One

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The first two weeks in country, I was leading a group of ten including myself, on a short term Y-Malawi trip.  It was a jam packed two weeks with an amazing team!  I’m going to try to give you the Reader’s Digest version of all that we did.

We started out by working with World Relief.  This is the newest partner for Y-Malawi. Their main goal is to empower the local church’s, who then come together to help the most vulnerable in their community.  It was great to see multiple congregations from different denominations working together to serve and do what God designed the Church to do.  It was also a privilege to get to work along side them and help with their project.

The project we were able to be a part of was for an elderly woman whose house had fallen down.  The church group had already helped her rebuild the walls, and on this day the men would be thatching the roof and the women would be smearing the floors (think spreading mud with your hands to even out the floor).  We definitely gave the local people a good laugh in our attempts to help, but I know both groups were honored to be working along side each other, and it was clear to see the elderly woman appreciated what was being done for her.

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The next group we had the privilege of serving with was Fishers Trainers and Senders, or FTS.  This part of Y-Malawi focuses on evangelism, discipleship and other charity work.  At the time we were with them, they were hosting a two week discipleship program in a new area called Nkhotakota, which is located near Lake Malawi.  People came from all over Malawi to camp for two weeks and be discipled.  They would take classes in the morning and then go out and practice what they had learned in the local villages.  The dedication of the people was amazing to see.  We were also able to participate in local kids clubs and adult literacy programs that FTS runs and supports.

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The next group we partnered with was the Nkhoma Youth Department.  Youth is defined very differently in Malawi, and pretty much consists of anyone from birth to 30 years old.  This department is helping to inspire some amazing things.  Some of the things we got to see were  a Dare to Discover class which is helping to give the youth a sense of who they are in Christ, literacy programs, a savings and loan club, a fish pond that was created by young men whose proceeds are helping to support their local kids going to school, a program where students were trained to use sewing machines and then turned around and trained other youth, and gardens planted and tended by youth to use as a source of income and nutrition.  The Youth department is definitely making a huge impact in the community.

I couldn’t keep this as brief as I wanted, because there is so much to share.  For this reason, I will end here for now.

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You Can’t Get to Malawi Without a Passport…

Let me start this blog with a confession.  I am an all star, first class, well practiced procrastinator.  Throughout school, I always used the excuse that I do my best work at the last minute, but the truth is I don’t really know when I do my best work, because I’ve never really done it any other time than the last minute.  With all of that being said, procrastination is not your friend when you are planning to be away for a year and there are certain requirements you have to complete to allow that to be an option.

Not Exactly around the corner…

Getting a Visa is one of those things you can’t completely wait until the last minute to do.  Actually, I technically could have done it upon arrival in the airport, but that wasn’t a risk I was willing to take since I wanted a one year visa instead of a regular tourist visa.  I guess that is a point in my favor right?  Anyway, I did some research ahead of time and talked to the Malawian Embassy in Washington D.C. to find out what I would need to do to get the one year visa.  I was advised to send it no later than July 1st.  I technically sent it on July 2nd, but July 1st was a Sunday so don’t judge me too harshly.

One of the scariest parts about getting a Visa, especially when you wait until the last minute, is that you have to physically mail your passport to the Embassy.  As I mentioned, the Malawian Embassy is in Washington D.C., not exactly around the corner in case of any complications.  And you guessed it, there were of course complications.  I felt like I’d taken some pretty good measures to help insure timely delivery, such as sending my passport and all of the necessary paperwork by two day mail and including a pre-paid self addressed return envelope for two day return that I could track.

What would it mean if I couldn’t go after all?

We were scheduled to leave on a Friday night, when there was still no activity on the return sticker by Monday, I started to get a little concerned.  Just a little though, I knew that as long as it was in the mail by Wednesday I would be fine.  Then Wednesday came, and still nothing.  This was not good!  I did my best to get in contact with the Embassy, but they weren’t really the best about answering their phones.  Even with all of this happening though, I still had a sense of calm about the whole thing.

In my heart I couldn’t believe that God had brought me this far just to not be able to get on the plane.  I considered it though.  What would it mean to me to not be able to go or at least to be delayed about going?  The previous Sunday, I’d had the opportunity to share my story in church and I’d made the comment that if I learned nothing more than what I’ve already learned in preparing for this trip, that would be enough.  I was faced with the reality that that might be the case.  Was what I’d said really true?  Was it enough?  I think I definitely would have been disappointed if that had been the case, but in my heart I knew what I said was true.  I’d learned to trust God, and this was just another opportunity to put that into practice.

So many people stepped up!

There’s an old joke about a man during a flood on his roof.  You’ve probably heard it.  A boat comes by and he won’t get in, because he trusts that God will save him.  I don’t remember all the things that were sent to him, but the man drowns and when he gets to heaven he asks God why he didn’t save him.  God’s response of course is that I sent you so many chances to be rescued and you didn’t take any of them!  I did not want to be that guy, so I decided not to sit idly by and just wait to see what happened.  I decided to do my part, and many other people did their part on my behalf as well.

Wednesday came and went with no progress, but no one was giving up.  One of the most humbling things that was done for me was that on Thursday, three of my friends fasted and prayed on my behalf.  I’d had oral surgery the day before, so I wasn’t in a state to be able to do it along with them, but I was so very deeply touched by their willingness to do it for me.  Additionally, calls were literally placed to the Deputy Ambassador of Malawi for the United Nations on my behalf by a contact in Malawi.  It was crazy to see all of the moving parts.

I was also calling the Embassy, and by the grace of God I got through.  The person I talked to told me my Visa was processed and approved on the 10th of July, and she seemed very surprised that I hadn’t received it yet.  This was kind of good news, in that at least I knew it was approved, but also very frightening in that I was left with the question of where in the heck was my passport then?!?!  She said she would look for it, and in the calmest voice I could muster I asked if she would please call me when she found it.

I got the phone call from the Embassy that afternoon that they had found my passport, received my email with the new faster shipping label, and that it had been dropped off to FedEx.  The passport then arrived the next morning at about 7:30 and was in my possession with a cool 12 hours to spare before we had to leave to the airport.  Nothing like procrastination for the win right?!?!

In all seriousness though, God was in complete control of this situation and honestly my trust did not waiver.  I am so grateful to all of the people who worked on my behalf through prayer, fasting, phone calls and every other way people have supported me throughout this journey so far.  I am humbled to be the recipient of it all, and I will do my best to continue trusting God and learning through this adventure.

So Far Behind!

I must start with an apology.  The final few weeks of preparation and the first two weeks in country held many things, and unfortunately this blog was not able to be one of my priorities.  With that said, I have a lot to catch up on.

Let’s start with a story of God’s provision.  I have had Cutaneous Lupus for the past three years.  This is an autoimmune disease that affects the skin.  Other than when I was first diagnosed with it, I have had no major issues with it and it is well controlled by medication.  That in and of itself is pretty great news, because that is not the reality for many people with Lupus.  I talked in my previous post about making doctors appointments before I left.  One of those was with my Rheumatologist.  He gave me great news that I would be able to cut my dose of medication in half, this was provision number one. He was also willing to fill a prescription for the full dose for the year in case I needed to go back on the full dose while I was gone.  Doctor’s prescriptions are not the same as insurance protocols however.

When I went to fill the prescription two things happened.  First, the max they will normally fill and prescription is three months, and the second, is there happened to be a shortage of the medication I take so they were only wanting to fill one month at a time.  When I talked to the pharmacy and tried to explain my situation, their reasoning was that by only filling one month at a time they were trying to prevent anyone from having to go without.  I explained that by only giving me one month at a time, they were basically guaranteeing that I would go without.  Mail delivery from the U.S. to Malawi is neither speedy nor reliable.  I was able to convince them to give me a three-month supply, which if all went well would actually be a six-month supply.  This was provision number two.  There was also malaria medication to consider, a three-month supply wasn’t going to cut it for that.  I was informed that I would be able to file an appeal with the insurance company.

When I called to file the appeal, they were very friendly, but it did not seem like it was going to be a quick process.  Fortunately, the woman who helped me was able to put a note that this was a severe health risk issue and she said that that may help speed up the process, provision number three.

It then came time to get my shots for the trip and to pick up my malaria medication.  I decided to go online to see if I could fill a prescription for my Asthma inhaler, and when I was there I saw that there was an old prescription from August 2017 for my Lupus medication that had a refill on it.  I decided to try and fill it, because why not, the worst they could do was say no.  When I went to pick it up, they gave me another one-month supply, I didn’t push it, because I figured I was already working the system a bit and I didn’t want to send up any red flags.  As I walked away, I realized I hadn’t picked up the Malaria pills.  I decided this time when I went back to the counter I would push it a little, since I already had the one-month supply in my hands.  I explained to the guy at the counter that I understood why he only gave me one month, but that I was going out of the country for a year and that if he could give me the normal three-month supply that would be very helpful.  He double checked with his supervisor, and he didn’t just give me two additional months, but a full three additional months.  This was provision number four, above and beyond my needs.  The story doesn’t stop there however.

Fast forward to the Tuesday before we left for Malawi, and I got a text message saying my prescriptions were ready.   I was confused as I hadn’t ordered anything, but didn’t give it too much thought and figured I would just stop by the pharmacy on my way home.  About an hour later, I got a call from the pharmacy saying that they were going to fill both my Lupus medication and the Malaria medication for a full year!  I was beyond excited.  I ended up with over a full year of my lupus medicine, even if I have to go back on the double dose, and 400 days worth of malaria medicine.  Again, above and beyond my needs.  Provision number five.

God was and is so good.  He has called me to serve in Malawi for the year, and he has taken care of every detail.  He is faithful and worthy of all of our trust.  When we look to God as our provider, he will take care above and beyond every need.

We Made It!

We are exhausted, but we made it!  Too tired to write much more than that.   I’m not sure what our internet availability will be like for the next several days, but we will do our best to keep you updated.  We head to Nkhotakota in the morning!  Please pray that we will have safe travels and that our time there will be fruitful and bring glory to God.

The Beginning of the End of the Beginning

blog 2.jpgDoes that title confuse you?  I hope not!  The past two weeks were the beginning of the end of this season of preparation.  This season of preparation was a long and important phase.  A phase full of learning to trust, growing personally, and letting go of my own expectations and plans for my life.

My subconscious is trying to help me improve in my areas of lack.  I say that because I had my first panic dream this week.  I hardly ever remember dreams.  For this particular dream, for some reason I ended up in Malawi much earlier than I had planned.  I realized I didn’t have any malaria medication and where I was staying didn’t have mosquito nets.  I woke up in a panic.

At first, I didn’t understand why this was happening.  I’m really and truly not worried about going to Malawi.  I am beyond excited about this adventure and what God has planned for me through it, so the panic didn’t make sense.  The more I thought about it and processed it though, I realized the panic stemmed from my lack of practical preparation.

In the past, I probably wouldn’t have even recognized the cause of my anxiety.  I would have just continued to sit with it. Thinking, of course it is natural to feel stressed out about leaving for a year.  I also would have continued to function under my status quo of disorganization and procrastination.

This is where the personal growth and trust in God comes in.  Instead of sitting with my stress and anxiety I took steps.  The next night after my dream before I went to sleep I prayed.  I prayed for God to remove any anxiety I was feeling and to help me to understand where it was coming from.  I had a great night of sleep and I felt empowered the next morning.

Instead of continuing to put things off, I made some purchases that will hopefully make my time in Malawi a little more comfortable.  I made doctor’s appointments to get medication I will need for the year.  I began the task of packing and organizing what I will bring with me.

Something I’ve learned in this season of preparation, is that just because our natural tendencies lack in certain areas doesn’t mean we have to just accept that.  We don’t have to lean on our own strengths, but instead turn to God and seek his help.  I have grown both spiritually and practically already through this adventure, and it’s still only the beginning of the end of the beginning!

 

Update

I am now down to less than 50 days until I leave.  There is still a lot up in the air, but there has also been a lot of great things happening.

First of all, I have been absolutely blown away by the support I’ve received.  People have prayed for me, sent me encouraging notes and emails, organized fundraisers, and generously donated financially.  This has all helped me to feel even more confirmation that this is God’s plan for me to go to Malawi.

I had the opportunity to share my story at a church who is partnering with me this last weekend.  In the past I have not been a fan of public speaking, but in April I had the opportunity to participate in S.C.O.R.R.E.  This is a workshop for public speaking, and it made a huge impact on me.  It helped me to be more organized in my approach and gave me so much more confidence in my ability to share.  For the first time, I actually enjoyed speaking in front of a large group and walked away feeling really good about how I did.

On May 25, I found out that my application for a leave of absence was denied.  I actually was ok with this decision because I trust that God has a plan for me and that he will provide for me.  However, my principal and coworkers felt strongly that I should appeal the decision.  I struggled with this a little, because I truly was ok with the decision.  I understood their perspective though and was willing to go along with the appeal.  I should know the final decision on Monday June 4.

I have one week of teaching left at my current school.  I’ve been there for six years, and have really enjoyed my time there.  I’m so excited to see what this next year in my life will bring, but it will definitely be bitter sweet to leave next week not knowing for sure if I will ever teach there again.  I finally got to share with my students about my plans to move to Malawi.  Word spread pretty quickly, so a lot of them knew before I actually got to share with them.  Some were sad to know I wouldn’t be there next year, some were really surprised,  but the main sentiment was that they were excited for me.

There is still a lot left to do, and a lot of unknowns.  I’m doing my best to be ok with those things and just take it one step at a time.  Please pray for me as this season of preparation winds down and the next stage begins.  It has already been an adventure so far and I know it will continue to be.

 

Insecurities

I definitely struggle with feeling insecure about a lot of different things. I talked in my last blog about not always feeling worthy of what God is calling me to. This is one of my major insecurities. I don’t want to screw this up and I don’t want to fail. I was really struggling with these kinds of thoughts the past couple of days. For me, when those kinds of thoughts come in to my mind I’m able to recognize that they are unhealthy and not of the Lord, but I struggle with how to stop them and set my mind straight.

Something else I’ve been working on is being vulnerable. It’s not always easy for me to ask for help or to share my feelings and personal struggles. I tend to not want to burden others with my issues or to come off as dramatic. Thankfully, there are people in my life that I’ve learned I can reach out to for prayer and encouragement. People who genuinely care about me, don’t judge me and who are able to offer sound advice.

When I woke up this morning I recognized that I was feeling worse about myself and that my negative thoughts were getting stronger. I decided to share my feelings and ask for prayer from two different people. They both quickly agreed to pray for me which was a relief. In addition to that, one friend offered encouragement and shared some scripture.

This is what she wrote:

“Amy, you have been such an example to me of my need to get back to The Word. So I opened to the Psalms to try to find a word of encouragement and saw a note about 1 Peter 5:10 in the margin. Checked it out and hope that verses 6-11 will encourage you.”
The verses read “So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are. In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation. All power to him forever! Amen.”

This was exactly what I needed to hear, and was such a great reminder of how to deal with difficult situations that I’m facing. First it’s important to stay humble and recognize God chose me for this faith adventure and it’s not about me and my own strength, but his mighty power. Next, when I am feeling worried or insecure, I need to turn it over to him and remember that he cares about me. Third, these insecurities are not of the Lord, and I need to remember they are from the enemy who is trying to derail me. Finally, I am not alone in the difficult times. Fellow believers are going through similar situations. These situations are temporary. God will restore me to a firm foundation when I depend on him.

Whatever your insecurities are, remember you are not alone. You can lean on friends for prayer and encouragement. More importantly lean on God both through The Word and through prayer.