Welcome! Muli Bwanji!?!?! (Hello and how are you!?!)

Hello everyone! As many of you know, my heart spent some of the most challenging and growing two months in Malawi, Africa this summer. I am now back to my community in San Diego, serving with Flood Church and finishing my senior year at UCSD. I am excited to share with you my experiences, thoughts, and feelings as I continue to process myself what God taught me this summer. I would also love for you to share comments, as well as how I might be praying for you and your family. I will be updating posts and pictures as well as sharing with you ways in which you can continue to support and pray for the children and people that I fell in love with this summer!

Thank you so much for your encouragement, love, support, and most of all, prayers...He is Good!

Love In Him,

Encouraging Words of Christ

"I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit. Then Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think."

Ephesians 3:16-20

25 October 2008

A picture says a thousand words...

Just looking through pictures today and wanted to share some with you all...thank you again for the wonderful support and blessing you are in my life! Enjoy these depictions of His grace and work half way across the world! (not in chronological order at all by the way...) :)

Me at sunrise on Lake Malawi

Amazing "chemwalli mwa ambuyes"....sisters in Christ, on safari

California girls in London on our way!!!

My fabulous bunk buddy for the summer, Charley; this is just after a few days being in Malawi

This is baby Falida that I mentioned in a blog post during the summer; the one I sang to everyday. Also affectionately known as "Tootsie Roll." : )

Ester and Me; not just babies like to be carried in a chitenje on your back...

The WHOLE team: this was taken at sunset on one of our safari rides. What a blessing this group of true servants has been in my life!

Charley, Laura, and Ginnie at sunset on safari; these girls have such amazing hearts for Him.

My boy Yame; this picture is so special because smiles were so rare with him. This is one of my little kids I hope to sponsor soon.

Me and Lia inside our widow's shop where we sold their crafts and goods to other teams. We are pretty proud of having just organized it to open shop!

My precious little girl, Ega; she LOVED hanging on for hugs and tickles all the time, she also is another child that I plan on being able to sponsor very soon.

Little Regina in a chitenje; this is how all the women carry their little quickly became my favorite too.

The team of us girls from my home church; Flood Church San Diego. This is us on one Sunday visiting our sister plant church, Flood Malawi. So exciting to see God at work half way around the world!

Widows Program; one of our last days...complete with a hat that one of the women made me. : )

The back of the 3 ton; our favorite mode of transportation...singing and waving was always a must!

On the last day, I couldn't put either one down, so I "double chitenjed" both Ega and Yame of my favorite moments EVER.

Walking through Mgwayi with Yame and Ester as we bring other kids to the field for an afternoon of love and His grace. He is SO GOOD!

Thanks for looking through these....still such a small snapshot of this summer, but I hope you enjoyed it. Have a beautiful day in Him!

In His grace, Rachel

26 August 2008

Arriving back "home"....

Well hello everyone!
I am and have been since Wednesday evening, back "home" in the states...the past 6 days have been a whirlwind of activity and I am excited yet struggling a lot with what it means to be back "home"... I am just now moving into my new apartment in San Diego, slowly chipping away at putting things away, picking up my car, finding amazingly free couches in the dumpster... : )
I definitely plan on putting many more pictures and continued updates on here, but I do not have my computer back yet so it will be in a few days. I hope to connect with many of you while I am home in the next couple weeks and would love to share with you as I am processing this summer myself. I apologize for not being on the phone with you all and such, but just being back and adjusting into life here has been a challenge so far and so I am trying to take it slow and listen to what He has for me here now. Thank you SO much for all your support and prayers! God truly worked in amazing ways this summer in so many lives and it is such an encouragement to me that you were able to join in what He was and is doing in Malawi, Africa! Have a wonderful week...

In His Hand, Rachel

16 August 2008

More Than Words Can Say... : )

Hello All!

First, I apologize for not updating as frequently these last few weeks...but know that in all the activity and good byes that there has been, you  have all been in my thoughts and prayers!

So this morning I write from the office before breakfast....there is SO much to share from the last few weeks, but since breakfast is soon and we are off again traveling this morning to Lake Malawi and then home next Tuesday morning, I will try and highlight a few things...

As far as the widows' ministry, we officially had our last day last Thursday and it was one of the hardest yet joyful days of my life. Our whole team had mixed feelings going into this day, and as we prayed for the last time driving in, my heart was overcome with the growth and fellowship that we had with these women that two months ago, I hadn't even met! On our previous visit that week, we had done a foot washing day and I had shared with the women the example of Jesus washing His disciples' feet from John 13. It was an AMAZING day, one that I will never forget, and still don't quite know how to describe. We had four buckets  and alternated washing all of the 40 or so women's feet all morning; their faces and dancing and the reality of the humbleness and servant hood of our Lord was SO very real....truly a holy moment...(Also, huge thanks to all who donated soaps, lotions, etc. The women were truly pampered with God's love through your generosity!!!) So...when we arrived on Thursday, we all felt the weight of leaving these women come to reality, and we  spent the day like many of our days in the morning; singing, dancing, sharing words and creating with them. In the afternoon, we all were encouraged to share something with the women about our summer and time with them, most of us with tears in our eyes as we did...Many of them shared how God had used us and they would be praying for us as we traveled home and told people of our experiences. As we climbed into the back of our 3 ton truck for the last time, they all formed a pathway of singing and good byes and kept pointing up to the crystal clear blue Malawian sky, as they told us to leave not with tears in our eyes but joy in the reality that we will see them again someday with our Father!!! What a moment...much of which I cannot even describe now, but I hope that you get even a picture of what these women have meant in my life as well as our team of girls...the ways He has worked in my heart this summer have been through such unexpected ways and I can't wait to continue to share with you all when I arrive home! : )

Let's see....well, of course another thing I have to share with you is the amazing intricacy that is God's creation here in Africa! We just arrived back home from Zambia last night after a bus ride of about 8 hours that was to say the least, a "little bumpy." : ) I spent the last three days experiencing 5AM sunrises over rivers filled with hippos and sunsets with elephants and giraffes silhouetted on the horizons!!! While going into our safari, many of us has mixed emotions about being in Africa still  but not with our kids in Mgwayi, but we were reminded when we arrived at  the importance of taking some time in community as a team to soak in His glory and work in our lives this summer through His creation! The highlight was definitely yesterday morning...a small group of us took the last opportunity to go on a morning ride at 6AM...we hadn't seen any lions since Wednesday evening after the sun had set, but we were still hoping to have another  sighting on our ride. Right aroud 7:45AM, our driver was following the tracks and we rounded a hill, and there before was the most beautiful and majestic animal I had ever seen, Mufasa! : ) He was simply sitting, a few yards from our land rover, looking our over the meadow and mountains before him...all of us were silent and simply soaked in the beauty of this moment that He had planned for us! I wish I would upload a photo right now to try and capture this moment for you all, but that will have to wait until next week! Until then, let it be a reminder to you of the power and grace that He is in our lives, and the beauty that He has created this world to be...

Wow, this seems so small for what we have been experiencing, but know that I can't wait to share so much more with you all as I am home, beginning next week!  : ) Just to let you all know again, I will be flying out at 7AM on next Tuesday for home and will be in LA the next day, at which point I hope to stay with my sis (hint hint) for the night : ) and then head down to San Diego to move into my new apartment and then I will be coming home to Grass Valley for a while after that around the 28th....until then I will probably not be online since today we leave for the Lake until Monday, so know that you are in my prayers and I hope that this week and next you truly feel His love for you and that you are encouraged and strengthened in whatever He is challenging you with... See and talk with you next week!!! :  )

Love, Rachel

27 July 2008

Ways are Greater than Mine

So, this one time when I woke up to the warmth of the African sun beaming in my window…..oh wait, that was this morning!!! Happy Sunday everyone! It is almost noon here in Malawi and I hope this update finds you well and enjoying God’s grace today!

The last week or so has been a whirlwind of emotions and experiences. As I mentioned in my last post, my body was feeling pretty worn down and sick for a couple weeks, but towards the beginning of this week, I am happy to say that I am finally feeling much better and He has given me much more strength than I could ever have had on my own to endure and thrive during the activities and experiences here. ☺ I greatly appreciate your prayers and thoughts while I am here, so thank you!

Let’s see….this week began a little differently than usual. A group of us interns began going to one of COTN’s children’s homes called Chitipi Home; about 10 minutes from where we stay. This is the same home that we were taken to right off the plane and welcomed by a performance of song and dance by the 30 or so sponsored children that live at the home. It was such an encouragement to be able to return to the home and spend more time with the kids! Our group went specifically to tutor some of the kids who are struggling the most in school; they are on their “break” and so the goal has been to help them catch up and review before they finish their last trimester. When I initially found out I would be going, I was really excited; I had heard that we would be tutoring but we hadn't yet…but then I found out I would be tutoring math, which is quite funny since that is definitely not one of my spiritual gifts…hahahaa. ☺ Anyways, I went into the first morning on Monday completely unsure of how or what God had for us there, only that we were hands to share and love on these kids. It has definitely been a new experience this week to say the least; I am helping with three girls in Standard 4 (similar to grade 4) named Zione, Matalitso, and Edria. They are precious girls and have been SO patient with myself and the other interns that have helped. While it has definitely been a struggle and a learning experience, God has been so good in helping us reach these girls and get to know them even on a deeper level than just math and reading. ☺ I am really looking forward to the next couple weeks with them and seeing the progress they have made already in their school work as well as continuing to build relationships that truly reflect the love Christ has for them through our time.

My time with the widows and their families continues to be a joy and struggle at the same time. I have become much closer with several of the women and their kids and seeing and experiencing first hand what their daily life is like has become more and more hard for me. The times we spend in the mornings, singing on our way to their homes to help and learn Malawian chores and activities bring joy to my heart and yet cause it to ache as well. Me and several of the other girls on my team are already making plans of things we want to do to continue to support these women when we are home in the states, which I am excited about. Many afternoons are structured simply for us to spend time in fellowship with the women and their small children, some of us learning to knit or crochet, some simply listening and sharing their life stories, and others teaching and learning English and Chichewa. One of the precious children that I hold almost every day in the widows’ program has become my prayer during this afternoon time. As I held little Falida this week and last, I have become overcome with compassion and prayer for this child of God, whose life growing up in Malawi I will have very little control of. My heart breaks for the fact that she might become a widow at a young age like her mother, and I became so overwhelmed with how small my singing “Mighty to Save” (the only song she falls asleep to ☺ ) to her every week is. But I have been realizing more and more through experiences here that His ways truly are greater than mine and He is active and alive as much in Africa as He is in the states and that Falida can realize her worth and value growing up in a little village of Msiliza, Malawi and change her world through His love! If I don’t think that His ways are SO much bigger than mine, I am limiting the very God who created her precious smile and heart…and so I continue to lift her up to Him as well as every person I have had the opportunity to know so far this summer.

This post is already way too long, even though I feel that I barely touched the surface! ☺ So I will wrap it up and update you again in a few days instead…I am praying and thinking of you all very often and hope you are having a blessed week!

20 July 2008

A Small Glimpse

Hello Everyone!!! The internet is pretty slow and sketchy so I can only post a few pictures from my time here so far, but they will give you a little glimpse of my life for the past four weeks! : ) 

Picture 1: This is me and Ega, a girl from the village of Mgwayi, that we visit atleast three times a week. I met her the very first day in the village and she has come back ever since! She is full of pure joy and loves rides on my shoulders...just one of the many many precious children of God that I have grown close to though... : )

Picture 2: This is a picture of the front of the "compound" we stay in and the offices of COTN. It's kinda crazy because it looks like, well, a compound with barbed wire and everything, but really we are quite safe. : ) Oh, and I should mention, this is a rare occasion that I am actually in floor length skirt in this picture. : )

Picture 3: This picture is at the COTN Widow's ministry that I visit every Tuesday and Thursday, all day. We spend time at the widows' homes learning Malawian chores like re-mudding the floors : ) as well as time in their program learning Chichewa, helping with the items they sell for income, and pouring Christ's love into them as much as we can! The woman on the left is Mary and the woman on the right is Wezzie. I have gotten to know Wezzie very well and she has an amazing heart as well as a love for singing and dancing. She leads most of the dancing that we end up doing a lot of the days! : )

Well, that is all I can do for now, but I hope you enjoy getting to see a little bit of what is going on here in Malawi. God is SO good and time here continues to challenge and encourage me in new and unplanned ways. My only prayer requests would be for myself and the team to continue to see how and where God wants us for the next half of this trip. Also, for health, because I seem to be falling apart at the seams. : ) Just kidding, not anything bad, but my finger is infected, and I can't seem to shake a cold and cough I have had for about 2 weeks. I still feel great, but prayer for healing so I can feel more strengthened to be used would be great! Thanks for reading and all your prayers, I appreciate it SO much! Have a wonderful week encountering God in new ways!

In His Love, Rachel

12 July 2008

Arrived and God is good!

Happy July, my wonderful family and friends!!! Today, we are in town at an internet cafe and so I can officially update and say hello to you all! Yay!!!

I hardly know where to begin; the past 18 days here in Malawi have gone so fast and yet it seems like I have been here forever! : ) I apologize for an update being so delayed, but we officially were only allowed to get online after about two weeks, so here I am!

As most of you I hope heard, I arrived safe and well on June 24th, along with an amazing team of interns! We all met up in London and were able to travel together from then on. The relationships that God has grown within our team so far have been AMAZING and so encouraging! Anyways, we arrived in the afternoon, looking and feeling like, who had ate, slept, and sat on a plane for 3 days! Hahaa...but in really good attitudes and excitement as we climbed down the stairs out of the plane onto the ground that would be our home for the next two months; the adventure had only just begun! Our arrival day was filled with excitment, bus rides, songs, and a welcome dance and presentation from COTN supported orphans in Chitipi Home that brought most of us to tears! : )

The rest of our first week was full of cultural preparation, team bonding, visiting the village of Mgwayi that is only a minutes walk from our compound, Njewa, and a market challenge day to give us the chance to try and be "true Malawians" for a day and buy enough food on a Malawian's budget and then prepare the meal (complete with live chickens I might
add.) : ) A big highlight of the first week was my birthday being celebrated Malawian style; I hadn't expected anything really, but my team of only a few days showered me with Christ's love; pedicure and foot massage, quality hang out time, and complete with two Malawian style cakes and songs at night! In tradition, I was "named" a Malawian name as well, the group voted Chimwemwe, which means "joy"....all in all, one of my best birthdays so far! : )

The next week and up until now has been full of our ministry teams going full force! : ) I have had a the priviledge of going into the village of Mtsiliza and spending time with the widows and their children multiple times a week for the whole day! The joy and songs of Christ's love that overflows out of these amazing women is truly a testament of His grace!

Ahh, I am running out of time and have SOOOO much I would love to share with you all, but I will leave with this; God is so good and even though there have been struggles and don't get me wrong, there has is amazing to see Him working in not neccessarily the ways we would even expect. One of the Malawian staff shared with us last night from the story of Elijah and how God does not always come in the earthquake and clouds, but in the gentle whisper on our hearts! I pray that you are all doing well and listening to His voice on your heart today!

P.S. The COTN staff will be updating a blog for general activities and pictures more often than I will be able to so if you would like to check it, feel free! It is....

Love in Him, Rachel

07 June 2008

Yarn, Cameras, and Faith

2 days, 18 hours and 10 minutes; how long until I complete my junior year here at UCSD! But who’s counting? Amidst the craziness of finals another time, I am realizing once again it is only through God’s strength that I will make it through to next Tuesday!

Sooo…I am taking a study break to share with you some of what my team is trying to gather (supplies) before we leave. : ) There are several teams we are gathering supplies for; the team that I will be spending afternoons with will be serving and growing with the young women in a widow’s home. We will be helping with anything they need; from their production of fabric and craft goods to sell for income, to helping run the process of selling their goods, building relationships with them, and everything in between that only God knows right now! One of my team members, Karin, will also be serving on this team, so between the two of us we have 100 pounds of space available to bring over supplies, and we are hopeful and trusting that God is going to provide more than enough to fill that space! Bringing over supplies for the various teams as well as COTN’s ministry is an amazing opportunity we have since we are traveling there and it will be easier to bring supplies with each team member than it would be to ship things. I am including below the list of supplies that we are hoping to gather before our departure date; we would love and appreciate either new or used items that you feel led to share!

Along with our individual ministry teams that we each are a part of; the four of us girls from Flood Church have felt a tug on our hearts to reach out in love and serve the young teenage girls of Malawi. It is our desire to spend time in weekly bible study and hangout nights with the Malawian teenage girls during the summer, after they are finished with school. We felt God place this passion on our hearts as a team for this age group of girls; an age group that needs love in Malawi just as much as they do here in the states. Unfortunately, many times this age group is looked over due to the fact that younger children and babies receive much more attention from visiting groups and are generally “easier” to connect with. We realize that although these girls may be seemingly closed off, uncomfortable, and shy initially, they still deserve and desire to be loved fully through Christ! Our desire is that they would feel empowered, appreciated, valued, and cherished for the treasures and individuals that they are in Christ! We are planning and creating ideas for these weekly “girl’s nights” and are gathering supplies and materials for these nights as well. I am SO excited to see how God is going to use this time to build relationships over the summer that will change and transform the hearts of these precious teenage girls, as well as our own! I am including a list of supplies for this special project as well below.

Each and every single item we bring over is yet another way that God is going to use us to love on the people of Malawi, and change the future for a country. COTN is very focused on providing supplies and support that do not simply keep Malawians “alive today” but encourage long term benefits of self sufficiency and growth for the country in the future. This vision for Malawi of not just today and tomorrow, but for 10, 20, and 30 years from now is part of what encouraged and inspired me about this summer. I love that COTN is allowing God to use them to not only affect and help Malawi today, but to truly transform a nation and future generations for HIM! Thank you again for joining me on this journey; I pray that today you remember the ways that He has transformed your life and be encouraged in the lives that He is transforming around the world!!!

Supply Lists:

*Widow’s Home:

  • Yarn (in sets of 4 balls of same color, or singles of multicolor)
  • Knitting Needles
  • Crocheting Needles
  • Knitting/Crocheting Pattern Books
  • Sewing Machine Needles and Thread (size details TBA)
  • Stationary/Paper for Making Price Tags
  • Black or Cream Colored Cotton Lining
  • Zippers (small and medium sizes)
  • Elastic Materials for Skirts
  • Patterns (easy to follow)
  • Anything else you feel led to share with these women! : )
  • More TBA…

*Girl’s Nights:

  • Polaroid Cameras and Film
  • Frames (simple craft frames that can be decorated)
  • Manicure and Pedicure Sets: nail polish, remover, files, stickers, decorations, lotions, etc.
  • Snack Items: any simple (add water) type desserts and snacks to make
  • Blank Journals (to decorate, colorful patterns, etc.)
  • Scrapbooking/Stamping Materials (anything colorful to decorate frames, journals, make collages, stickers, ribbons, stamps and stamp pads, scissors, glue, paper, markers, pencils, pens, etc.)
  • Anything else you feel led to share with these young girls! : )
  • More TBA…