Day 16: The End Slice

Sometime in the beginning of the trip, a few members of the team had a debate over what to call that edge piece on a loaf of bread. (You know what I’m talking about—that awkward end slice that everyone avoids because it’s 80% crust.) Some insisted on calling it the heel, while others were quite sure it was called the butt. But as for me, I like to call it The End Slice.

So here it is – The End Slice of the Malawi 2017 STM Blog Series.

When Jeffery last updated this blog, the majority of the team was in Washington D.C., awaiting the final flight to LAX. Although we hadn’t made it to our destination quite yet, a few members of the team celebrated our return to the States by indulging in some pumpkin spice lattes, courtesy of Starbucks. Fall’s back, everyone.

With a few hours of free time, some of us played card games.

Finally, it was time to board the plane. Caleb said something alone the lines of, “The final ride!” and it felt like we were marching off to battle or something. And with six more hours or so of being cramped in a flying tube of metal, we basically were. It was a battle against jetlag, sore butts, and greasy hair.

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Shout out to the two photo bombers in the back. 

 

After six hours of watching Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, playing Set, and reluctantly dozing, we found our way to the Los Angeles International Airport. We were then greeted by our wonderful drivers and reunited with two of our team members.

We hung onto a few more moments together as a team, chatting in the apartments and sharing a meal at Seoul House of Tofu, before officially saying goodbye.

And thus ended the Malawi 2017 STM.

But, I remind myself that, though our time in Malawi has ended, God’s global plan has not. Though we have left Malawi, God has not. Please pray that I, along with the rest of the team, remember that truth.

During the trip, one of my team members asked Jim Ayres why he requested 15 college students to aid CAPA instead of, say, money. He gave many reasons; but what stood out to me was the final one: He said that the trip was for us. The prayer was that we would leave Malawi not just with completed interviews, but also with moved hearts, realigned thoughts, a renewed understanding of God’s work on a global scale.

Although he acknowledged that it may be easy for the 15 of us to return to the original constructs of our American lives, Jim said he hoped we would find a way to continue supporting God’s global mission. He also pointed out that this could look different for everybody—some might donate money, some might dedicate time to prayer, others might become missionaries themselves, or—who knows—others might do something else entirely. But the point is this: We shouldn’t just let these experiences sit idle in our hearts; let us use them practically, in a way that honors the truth reflected in the Word of God.

Thus, please pray that, as we settle back down, we reflect our experiences in Malawi with not just changing hearts, but also moving hands. We have accumulated a wealth of knowledge; now, let us use it.

I also ask that you continue to pray for the missionaries that you’ve seen on this blog. As I said before, although the short-term ministry has concluded, the long-term ministry remains; God continues to work in Malawi through these families and the sacrifices they make. Pray that they continue to draw inspiration from our great Lord and His Word, remembering the great work that He has promised to finish.

And finally, pray for the students of CAPA. Pray that the Lord will continue to provide them with the funds they need and the strength that schoolwork requires. (More prayer requests coming soon at capa.prayformalawi.com/students. Stay tuned.)

May Christ be proclaimed.

Grace Ye

 

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Day 15: During Which There Were 30 Hours

Hey everyone—Jeffery here!

As Jeremy shared in our previous blog post, yesterday was our final full day in Malawi. Hence, today—made longer by our transit across six time zones—we commenced on our 34+ hour journey back to America, but not until after spending a few more hours in this country we called home for two weeks.

We began our day by sharing one final quick meal with the Ayres, where Bethany continued to demonstrate her great hospitality by preparing two large batches of fruit smoothie enough for the entirety of our remaining team. Afterwards, we helped return the Ayres’ house to its pre-host-9-to-15-persons-for-2-weeks state by stowing away the two tents that they pitched for us for the duration of our stay and miscellaneous other things. We then spent a little more time with the Ayres kids between playing Life and Sushi Go! as we awaited our transport to the airport.

After exchanging our final goodbyes with the Ayres family, Gideon Manda and Matt Kopp came around 10:30am to send us to the airport. From then, checking-in our luggage and passing through security went by quickly, and we soon boarded our first flight—but not until after a team selfie in Lilongwe (LLW):

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Team selfie (LLW)

Sunny skies stood over Lilongwe as we departed:

And during our six hours of travel, we viewed our last African sunset:

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Our last African sunset somewhere in the airspace of Malawi

However, we accidentally left Grace behind after we de-planed when our shuttle bound for the main terminal departed before she could board.

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To left-behind Grace: our apologies

She did make it back though for our next team selfie, this time in Addis Ababa (ADD):

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Team selfie (ADD)

Eight more hours of travel later, we made a pit stop in Dublin (DUB), during which we observed daybreak and took another (partial) team selfie.

 

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Team selfie (DUB)

As we continued to travel internationally, we were fed very well. Nathan’s stockpile of our team’s leftover bread, and Caleb’s enjoyment of our leftover meals attest to that.


Now, we have arrived in Washington, D.C., have gone through customs, and are awaiting the final leg of our flight! Another team selfie now that we are at IAD:

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Team selfie (IAD)

During the course of our travel today, there was ample time to look back over these last two weeks and ponder the glory of the God we serve. As we fly hour after hour across time zones and continents, the vastness of our world even with modern aviation technology is evident. Although we served on this STM thousands of miles away from our homes in California, we worship the same God as those whose homes are in Malawi—the same God who makes His sun shine upon the earth from the east to the west, the same God who extends His salvation to the ends of the earth.

In our interviews of the students of CAPA, one question we continually ask is how they have seen God’s providence in their lives; our God indeed is a God of providence.

Our ministry in Malawi was a call to be faithful with the opportunities that He availed to us in the sending of our team.

The missionaries we served in Malawi heeded a call to be faithful with the opportunities that He availed to them to equip pastors and churches to study the Word of God.

The students of CAPA we met in Malawi heeded a call to be faithful with their God-given desires to better know the God of our common salvation to better serve their congregations.

As we continue our journey home, with fresh testimonies of how Christ is faithful to build His church, we recognize that not much may appear to be different in the world we see around us. Yet, God, by His grace, has further shaped my understanding of His ongoing salvific work, and I trust He has shaped that of the rest of our team as well. I pray that we as a team would not return home only to fall back into our daily and weekly busy routines, but would continue to take moments to recognize the global nature of God’s ongoing work today.

Please continue to join us in prayer that:

  • God will continue to use the students and faculty of CAPA to grow and equip His church in Malawi and Africa, through their faithfulness to His Written Word.
  • the missionary families will continue in faithful and humble service, completely reliant on the strength that only God can supply, especially when difficulties arise or the fruit of their ministry is not immediately apparent.
  • our STM team will strive to faithfully serve in our local contexts in like manner to these two weeks of ministry abroad.
  • we all will continue to grow in our appreciation for the universal church, and in our participation as God’s instruments of global salvation, to His greater glory.

Thank you for reading our updates and partnering with us in prayer these past two weeks, and return again soon as we share our final few updates!

Best,
Jeffery Yan

Day 14: See You Soon!

Today was our last full day here in Malawi. Yet, despite it being our 14th day, Nathan still managed to get lost on our way to CAPA. Through many wrong turns, a few bumpy dirt roads, and sudden traffic, we somehow made it to campus without losing too much time. With our stomachs full of Bethany’s delicious homemade cinnamon rolls, we were ready to take on the day.

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Tasty cinnamon rolls
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On our way to CAPA (traffic pictured in the background)

Today, our task at CAPA was reorganizing books and reinforcing bookshelves in the library. Although dust was everywhere and I was sneezing almost every minute, I enjoyed seeing all the books and resources that CAPA provides for its students to read and learn from.

Shortly after reorganizing a few books off of the bookshelves, the Ayres took us to Lark, a cafe owned by expatriates, for lunch. The cafe seemed to be tucked away into a back alley alongside an unpaved side street. But despite standing in the middle of a seemingly underdeveloped area of land, the cafe was quite modern in design, with a modern looking interior and a generously sized playground built next door — to which the team couldn’t resist checking out.

Lark is a cafe that serves a variety of drinks and dishes that are common back in America, such as sandwiches, salads, and coffee. Getting to eat a hamburger with a cup of coffee reminded me a lot of home — although I don’t think I have ever had a meal of that combination.

After eating lunch, the team quickly backtracked to CAPA to finish reorganizing the final bookshelf. Upon leaving CAPA, a majority of the team sung along to a multitude of Disney songs on the ride back to the Ayres house (much to Ivanna’s second-hand embarrassment). I also managed to snap a quick photo of the sunset on the way back.

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A characteristically African sunset

We arrived to the Ayres residence around 5:30, and after quickly changing clothes, the Ayres took the team out for dinner. We ended up going to an Italian restaurant in Lilongwe called Mamma Mia.

It was very cool to see authentic Italian food being served in Malawi. That despite being so different culture-wise, diversely ethnic foods are still enjoyed by Malawians. The team got a plethora of pasta dishes, and overall, I was very satisfied with our last dinner in Malawi.

Once we finished dinner, we made our way back to the Ayres house. Before breaking to pack up in preparation for our departing flight tomorrow, Jim and Bethany told us a bunch of stories — including how they met, and most importantly, how God has brought them to Malawi. I found it extremely encouraging to hear how the Lord has refined each of their faiths through trials, and how their trusting obedience in God has brought them to where they are now.

Spending two weeks in Malawi and serving at the Central African Preaching Academy has grown me in multiple ways. Getting to spend time interviewing students has opened up my eyes to the state of the many lost souls in Malawi, and the major role that CAPA plays in how the Lord is using pastors in Malawi to preach the truth.

Although I am drastically different than the students in ethnic origin, upbringing, and mannerisms, I have found that our faith in Jesus Christ has brought us closer than I could have ever imagined. The students at CAPA have encouraged me in their steadfast love and devotion to the Lord, and their sacrifices to attend this school only attest to their trust in God’s provision for both their tuition and families. I looked forward to sharing life and laughs with these brothers in Christ over these past two weeks, and I will miss them dearly.

The bond that I share with my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ only became more apparent as I attended Reformation Bible Church on Sunday (Almost 7 days ago). Singing traditional hymns in English and Chichewa caused me to realize that although everyone in the sanctuary hails from drastically different places and backgrounds, we share the same God — and that bond goes beyond that of blood. Being welcomed into Pastor Newtons home and sharing lunch with both him and a few RBF church members only drove that point closer to home for me, and lunch was a sweet time of fellowship and laughter.

In addition to this, listening to Jim and Bethany’s stories and watching them go about life have also been a huge encouragement to me personally. During the first week of the trip, Jim preached on Joshua 5 at CAPA’s chapel service. Through exegeting the passage, he stressed that there is no better place to be than in trusting obedience to the Lord. Through trusting in God through perplexing circumstances, in our own daily needs, and even in the little things, God can use us mightily for His glorification. Both at home and at CAPA, Jim and Bethany’s steadfast trust in the Lord serves as a great encouragement not only to me, but to everyone that they meet. The Ayres family’s ministry in Malawi is a testament to their willingness to do the Lord’s work and their undeniable trust in His provision.

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Our team and the Ayres family

It seems strange to think about going home to America after being in Malawi for the past two weeks. My time spent here has been fruitful to both my faith and my knowledge in who God is and how He works around the globe.

Although it pains me to say goodbye, I know that thanks to God’s grace, we are able to see one another again in heaven. Upon eating dinner with a missionary family the previous night, their child uttered the words “See you soon, Uncle Jeremy” as I departed. And although I am fairly certain that the child was unaware of my upcoming departure, there was truth in his parting words. We may not see each other again in this life, but Jesus has paid the price for salvation, and thanks to God’s grace, we can draw close to His throne and be reunited with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ again in eternity.

This trip has not only opened my eyes up to how the Lord uses trials to work mightily in His people in the mission field, but also has given me the resolve to run the Christian race harder.

Because of this, I’m not going to say goodbye. Eternity is coming, I know in my heart that I will see you again.

Thank you so much for your love and support,

Jeremy Wong

 

 

Day 13: The One Where We Climb the Water Tower

Hello, everyone!!

Thank you so much for tuning into yet another day of our adventures. Because our team has already finished our main task of interviewing the students at CAPA and transcribing their interviews (praise God!), today’s plans were a little up in the air. We still left home at the same time this morning and got to CAPA around 7am. However, there was a power outage so we weren’t able to work on some main tasks that required electricity. During the time that we were not transporting boxes of books or organizing the CAPA library, we were on-call for any other jobs that they had for us. We made our time worthwhile with lots of random activities. Let me share some of them with you!

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And…the best for last:
Photoshopping Elliot’s face on everyone else’s in a group photo…..HAHAHAHA (thanks, Jeremy!). I love that it looks so normal at first glance.

Around 9am, Elliot, Bridget, and Samantha said their good-byes to us because they needed to head back to the States a little earlier than the rest of the team. We were sad to part ways with our dear team members, but we are looking forward to being reunited with them again on Sunday when the rest of us return home. Please be praying for their health and safety in traveling as they embark on a 32-hour journey!

In the meantime, we decided to take some other group photos! (I don’t know why it was only of the girls..we’ll take some for the boys tomorrow, hopefully.)

After a half-day at CAPA, we headed back to the Ayres home to eat lunch. Bethany prepared chicken pot pie, cornbread, grilled zucchinis, and sourdough bread for us! I’m sincerely going to miss her made-from-scratch recipes. She’s so kind, talented, and truly mom goals, heh. Upon finishing lunch, we had some fun doodling and reading with the Ayres kids!

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Left to right: Titus, Moriah, Jeremy, Caleb, Georgie, Josephine

Then we climbed the water tower! Though some of our palms were sweaty, knees weak, and arms were heavy (lol sorry), we had a lot of fun and really appreciated the glorious view from so high up.

For dinner, our team split up into two groups. My group went to the McCracken home, and we had the privilege of fellowshipping with their family and playing with their hilarious kids that made our group crack up (or should I say McCracken up) (OK, sorry it’s 12am as I’m trying to get this post up because the Wi-Fi is slow, and my sense of humor is clearly taking a toll) the entire night. You’ll see what I’m talking about in the photos below. It was such a joy to learn about how Tony and Santie met, how abundantly the Lord provided for them in the adoption process of their three children, and how they came to CAPA. Throughout listening to their stories, I kept noticing trends of their obedience and faithfulness to Christ and the church. I am humbled at the reminder of how much I need to grow in these areas, and I’m so grateful that I have had the opportunity time and time again on this STM to learn and grow from the tangible, godly examples of the missionary families and CAPA students.

I can’t believe that tomorrow is already our last full day here in Malawi. The days are truly so fleeting, but I pray that each member in our team would remember not only the distance that the Lord has brought us in terms of mileage, but more importantly, His faithfulness in moving mountains in our hearts. Despite the fact that the Lord does not need my hands to do His work, I praise Him that he entrusted this STM to me and my team. At times, it has truly been a fight for me to remain joyful through jet lag, some tummy issues and simply (or as complicated as) my own heart. Through waves of feeling inadequate because of my shortcomings, it is only by the Lord’s grace that He has equipped me with His love so that I can be confident in His strength rather than my own weakness.

Please be praying that each member of our team would be a man or woman after the Lord’s own heart, that we would continue to consider one another’s interests above our own, that we would be eager to maintain unity in the Spirit, that we would fight to be grateful and joyful in each and every circumstance, and that the Lord would continue stretching our hearts for His global mission. Please pray that we would not forget the experiences and encounters that the Lord has blessed us with. Please pray that CAPA would continue to flourish and that the students would be thoroughly equipped to teach God’s Word rightly and faithfully. Once again, thank you thank you thank you!! ❤

Love always and in Him,

Josephine

Day 12: When Elliot’s Away, It’s Time to Play…

Not quite. Elliot had a few administrative meetings today with the faculty, so the rest of the team worked on different projects. Nathan took on the role of CAPA van driver, and we had a near death experience this morning. An attempt to overtake a large semi-truck turned into a terrifying maneuver into the right side of the road (the wrong side in this country). Nonetheless, we arrived safely at CAPA, ready for a new day of serving.

Not pictured: 50 other boxes of books. In the middle is the most important box in the room.
Kandace and Ivanna present: Steak & Onion Flavored Snack!

Praise God! We finished interviewing all of the students, and much of the transcribing.  All that is left is to edit them and put them on the CAPA website. Although our main task of interviewing was complete, there was still plenty of work to be done.

Snacks ft. Richard

Our next great task was to catalog and label over a thousand donated books that would eventually make their way onto the shelves of the CAPA library. There was a cornucopia of books, ranging from short, practical books, to multi-volume commentaries. We spent much of the day digging through boxes of book, and taking breaks to eat interestingly tasting South African snacks, and they were delicious. Samantha provided us with the Beauty and the Beast: Original Broadway recording to sing along to while we shuffled boxes full of theological knowledge. Overall, it was a productive and relaxed day.

The students refueling for more hours of hard work.
Elliot isn’t ready to leave yet…
Back at it again! Behind us is the chapel at CAPA

 

The team was kept in a jolly mood on the drive home as several team members ushered in the Christmas season… several months early.

“There are only two seasons: waiting for Christmas season, and Christmas season” -Bridget Lee

Elliot gave his last devotional for the trip, and its message was a necessary reminder to the team as we drew near the end. He read from Numbers 11:1-6, and throughout the rest of the chapter, while addressing the sin of complaining. The focus was not necessarily on complaining verbally, which can be

Elliot gives his last devotional

avoided pretty easily, but complaining from the heart. Israel was punished for complaining against God when hardships arose in the wilderness, even to go so far as to say that they desired to return to Egypt. As punishment, the Lord sent the desired meat to the Israelites, but to such a degree that they would grow sick of it. Then came a plague that struck down those who craved the quail. God never guaranteed easy passage from Egypt to the Promised Land, but still commanded faithfulness from the Israelites. Their complaints were an act of rebellion and forgetfulness of the Lord’s plan, and was deserving of punishment. The same applies to our sanctification. Christ guaranteed that we will suffer for His name, to be hated by the world. Yet, Paul encourages us, reminding us that “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. I was also reminded of what Jim mentioned a couple of days ago at dinner. He said that Americans tend to complain about what they don’t have, in light of not really facing much hardship. The students that at CAPA, however, seem to never complain about their circumstances, despite suffering from extreme poverty. This, I found, to be so convicting, as I saw in myself still how much I envied after what others had. Seeing the seminary students’ devotion to their personal holiness, as well as passion for expositing the word, in light of their daily challenges, gives me even greater joy in serving and reminds me to give thanks to the Lord for His perfect faithfulness and provision.

 

Please pray for the hearts of the team, that while we continue to serve, we point each other to Christ. Pray also that we remain joyful, serve with love, and fight ingratitude where it may arise. Finally, pray for the students and faculty of CAPA, that they finish off their final day tomorrow with excellency and the reminder that they serve the living God, whose glory will be proclaimed throughout the ends of the Earth through His son Jesus Christ.

Sola Deo gloria

Caleb Ting

 

Day 11: In Which We Eat Mice Again

Tuesday morning found us in the van again to CAPA with Nathan now comfortably at the wheel. However, Jim stopped us a little distance from our destination so we could complete the journey by taxi bikes. We all hopped on bikes and enjoyed a refreshing ride to CAPA’s campus.

 

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The taxi bikes!
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Richard and Caleb on taxi bikes. Caleb’s bicyclist got a workout.

We spent the day at CAPA finishing up transcribing and editing interviews and then worked on cataloging many boxes of books that will soon be going in the library.

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Books, books, and more books! The team hard at work.
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Carissa and Richard cataloging. Georgie and Nathan writing a program to help catalog.

The Floreens graciously opened their home to us for dinner and we enjoyed a delicious meal and warm fellowship, followed by a campfire where many of us roasted mice marshmallows.

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A sweeter rodent treat than day one’s
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Left to right: Grace, Josephine, Carissa, Jeremy, Amy, and Richard enjoying roasted mice-mallows.
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The “M” is a little faint, but they managed to spell “Malawi” with sticks lit up from the fire pit. (Photo credits to Richard) Also, it took them more than an hour to get this. 

After dinner, Elliot shared another devotional with us, this time on 1 Corinthians 13:3-7, the well known passage on the characteristics of love. He focused on how if we serve without love, then we gain nothing. If we serve the students at CAPA without love, and if we serve the missionaries here in Malawi without love, then it is of no good. It’s a very timely reminder, especially as we are in our second week; we are getting tired and sometimes don’t know what we are supposed to do since we are pretty much finished with interviews.  It’s important for us to keep in mind that we are here serving because we love Christ and want to bring Him glory. And by serving CAPA, which equips pastors to preach His Word and by serving the missionaries who are doing His work, more people hear about and know Jesus. Thus He is glorified. I pray that we continue to serve with the right purpose and heart attitude, with love that is patient, kind, humble, and selfless–the kind of love Christ has for us as He took our place on the cross.

Another thing that I have been thinking about lately is how much faith do I have in Christ. Getting to listen to a lot of missionaries talk about their lives and decisions to come to Malawi, they all put all of their lives completely into the Lord’s hands. One family’s children need to see several health specialists back in the States since Malawi’s healthcare system isn’t so good. There’s also no 911 here in case there’s a medical emergency. But health fears don’t stop them from doing what God has called them to do. She said that God numbers her children’s days, but also watches over them. This really stuck out to me because you would think that parents with a child with medical needs would do everything they could to be near doctors to get the best care for their child. But truly, the best care is from the Lord! They heed the Lord’s call over their own worries. It makes me wonder how can I have that much trust in God, to the point where I can say, “Send me wherever, make me do whatever, and I will do so without fear for I know that you are a faithful God and you keep your promises.”

And with the CAPA students, too, they put all their trust in Christ. One of our interview questions is, “How have you seen God’s providence in your life?” An answer that comes up again and again is that many students can’t really afford the tuition to attend CAPA. Many have families that they have to provide for and children’s tuition that they also have to pay. But they are not discouraged from attending CAPA. They know that they need to be equipped for ministry and God will provide for them. They all say that the fact that they are at CAPA is because of God’s providence. One student that I interviewed has albinism, and albinos are often killed for superstitious reasons in villages in Malawi. But that doesn’t stop him from going to villages to preach God’s Word. His courage and trust in the Lord is amazing to me. It encourages me (and I hope that it will encourage you too) and is undeniable proof that our God is a faithful God.

As the hymn goes:

“Great is Thy faithfulness,” O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

“Great is Thy faithfulness!” “Great is Thy faithfulness!”
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
“Great is Thy faithfulness,” Lord, unto me!

Please continue to pray for our health and safety. Please pray that we would really treasure these last few days that we have here in Malawi–that we would serve with a Christ-like love and that we would place our trust fully in Him.

With love,

Ivanna Tang

Day 10: Blessed Be the Tie that Binds

 

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Our gorgeous view every morning

God is good, it is our second week, we’re onto double digits, and we are back in the swing of things! Malawi is so, so beautiful, and we are so blessed to be here. This country has grown to be very near and dear to our hearts, and, of course, the view never gets old.

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Nathan picking us up

Today, someone new came to pick us up to go to CAPA. Nathan! It was Nathan’s first time driving in Africa, Elliot had been driving us previously, but now it was Nathan’s turn. He used the window wipers as turn signals once or twice, but didn’t hit anyone so that was a success!

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Preaching Lab

Once we were at CAPA, we started transcribing and tried to interview the last few students we had left. On our down time, we went to Preaching Lab for the M.Div. 3 students. Preaching Lab is where the students practice their preaching to a group of students and a professor, and then they get critiqued on their sermon. I loved how Pastor Dave emphasized that even though they were practicing, they were still preaching the Word of God, and Preaching Lab is still serious even though they are not preaching in front of a congregation.

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Us waiting for the car to bring us back home

Some thing that stood out to me was the critique session the pastors had after one student had talked about Colossians 3. No church or nation is perfect, and that goes for the church in Colossi, which had their minds on earthly things, as well as the church in Malawi. Some of the problems in Malawi that were discussed were the mentalities of “If I go to 5 churches in one Sunday, I can be anointed” or “If I go to the top of the mountain, God will hear me, because I’m closer to Him.” Malawi is a nation that needs the truth about God, and that’s why CAPA exists. After Preaching Lab, we had lunch, interviewed, transcribed, and waited for our car to bring us back to the Ayres house.

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Our super yummy dinner
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What happens during power outages

Bethany made an amazing meal with the help of Bridget and Ivanna. I’m so thankful for our missionary families, who serve us far beyond what we could have ever asked for. We fellowshipped during dinner and in addition, we experienced a few power outages. After dinner, we had a team meeting, and Elliot did a devotional on Isaiah 49 and we prayed for the week that is to come.

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Elliot giving his devo

While Elliot did his devotional, I was struck by God’s great glory, and how His salvation will reach the ends of the earth, not one nation or one tribe, but the ENDS of the earth, because that will give Him the MOST glory. Here in Malawi, I am reminded constantly why our team is here. This weekend, I got to talk to one of the missionaries, and she said to me, “For the people here in Malawi, their biggest need is Christ. But for the Christians, their next biggest need is CAPA.” The teaching here in some of the churches is shallow and some aren’t gospel centered, and CAPA is needed to train up leaders who can teach others the real message of the gospel. And wow, it is such a privilege to see how God is working in these students. Even during the Preaching Lab, I can see how these pastors have studied hard and improved much. God is so faithful!

I interviewed a new student today who said, “I’ve been in ministry for 2 decades, I thought I had it all down. But coming here, I realized there’s so much more to learn.”

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Please pray with us for the pastors!

And again, it was a reminder to me of why CAPA is so important, not only to these pastors, but for the whole country of Malawi. These pastors are learning how to study the Bible, how to preach gospel centered messages, and how to shepherd. God is being glorified because of this seminary. Please, please keep praying with us for these pastors!

This weekend, Ivanna, Jeremy, Jeffery and I had the opportunity to go to a church in one of the villages, and it was a tangible way of seeing how CAPA is affecting the pastors and churches. One of the songs we sang was “Blessed Be the Tie that Binds.” Standing there, singing with brothers and sisters from Malawi, and hearing our voices all together singing to our great God, I was in so in awe of God’s love for us, that He placed together people who were normally 10,000 miles away to sing together in one room, and that the tie that binds us is the blood of Jesus Christ, shed for us on the cross. Attending this worship service was probably once in a lifetime, and God once again gave me a bigger love for the global church than ever before.

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The church service on Sunday

When we were leaving the lunch yesterday, one of the brothers at the church, Hastings, said to us, “We may never see each other again, but I will look for you in heaven.” Praise be to God, whose faithfulness is reaching across continents, whose glory is spreading through the ends of the earth, and whose name we will praise together the day we see each other again! To Him be the glory!

Blessed be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.

Thank you so much for praying,
Kandace

Day 9: The Lord’s Day

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The tuk-tuk Nathan and I rode to church

Saturday had us well-rested for today as our team split up to worship at the churches of a few of CAPA’s M.Div Year 3 students. Nathan and I attended Ernest’s church, Presbyterian Church of Malawi. We left at 7:30 and were taken to church on a tuk-tuk. When we arrived, we were greeted by Ernest, his wife, and two kids. Ernest briefed us a bit on what the service would look like, but we were still so thoroughly surprised to see how these brothers and sisters in Christ went about their Sunday morning worship.

In its structure, it very closely resembled the services we were accustomed to back home: Singing, Announcements, Offertory, Prayer, and the Message. Because we attended the church’s English service, the songs were all in English, many of them were shorter choruses. I was pleasantly surprised to see both the congregation and the worship team all dancing in jubilee as they worshipped. It was as if dancing was as integral to their worship as we see singing to be. Following the worship, Ernest’s two-week old baby was dedicated by the pastor in front of the congregation, and after a time of offering and prayer, the pastor preached on obedience to God and His Word. It was encouraging to see how much Biblical support he gave to stress the necessity of obedience in a believer’s life. After the service, Ernest, a youth pastor in the church and a welder by trade, showed us the rooms (many still under construction) where he taught the children. He pointed out many of the trusses and ironwork that he had helped weld together during the church’s construction.

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Ernest’s baby being dedicated

We headed back to the Ayres’s household after church where we awaited the rest of our team to return from their respective churches. As they slowly trickled in (some had longer services or stayed for lunch with other churchgoers), we were able to discuss what each of us had learned from the sermons we heard as well as the nuances in how each church we attended worshipped. We spent some time decompressing and processing our church experiences and then got ready for dinner at the Kopp’s.

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Jeffery, Jeremy, Kandace, and Ivanna at Pastor Newton’s house after lunch

At the Kopp’s house, I had the privilege of spending a lot of time with the Kopp children, they have five kids, and after dinner, we went outside and played with their two very large and playful dogs, Sam and Frodo, ran around in a game of “Shark in the Dark”, and played some basketball. We ended dinner, and the day in the best way possible, with amazing brownies, followed by prayer with Pastor Kopp.

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Praying at the Kopp’s house

For our team, today was such an incredible and unique opportunity to exhort and be exhorted by members of local churches in Malawi. I really did struggle with my own spiritual pride as I fought to refrain from judging how my Malawian brothers and sisters in Christ worshipped. By God’s grace, I was able to identify places in my worship that I must constantly check. I repeatedly came back to the question, what does it mean to worship in spirit and truth. I know I often cling so dearly to the hymns that I am used to singing, and I know of their deep truths, but do I offer true doxology, if I don’t worship in spirit, singing with true meditation and conviction of the praise I offer? In most of the services we attended, this passion was evident in dancing, and it was a great reminder of the spirit in which we are called to praise our God.

It is such a rare privilege to be able to see so closely the fruits of an international mission like CAPA. Nathan and I rode back from church with one of Ernest’s friends and as we talked to him, he started sharing his desire to be trained at CAPA. When we asked why CAPA, he said that he had seen how Ernest had become a better shepherd and attributed it to his time at CAPA. Hearing stories like this, listening to sermons where the Word was systematically exposited at churches across Lilongwe, we were so encouraged and blessed to see how CAPA is equipping the church in Malawi with sound teaching. It was such a fitting way to start our final week of ministry at CAPA.

georgie mathews

Day 8: Praise Him From Whom All Blessings Flow

(Get ready for plenty of photos!)

As our team looked back on the past week at CAPA, cleaning up the campus, interviewing students, transcribing audio recordings, and accomplishing many other tasks, we were inspired by the students’ interviews and excited to continue serving the students and missionaries. But our team was also excited when Tony McCracken, one of the missionaries and CAPA faculty, and his wife Santi invited us to join their family on a day trip to visit Lake Malawi. Caleb Ayres was also going to join us!

After a refreshing sleep from those face masks worn the night prior, we woke up feeling ready to leave for the world’s 4th largest lake. Lake Malawi makes up about one fifth of the country’s entire area. The lake is also a hub for biodiversity, as it hosts the most number of species of fish than any other freshwater body of water.

Lake Malawi

The moment we left the parking lot and walked toward Lake Malawi, we were stunned by the shimmering blue water infinitely extend left, right, and into the horizon. It truly looked like an ocean. We were awestruck by the gorgeous lake as we continued toward the shore, but were also a little confused because it reminded many team members of some beaches found in the warm Pacific. Were we in Malawi, or Maui?

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Near the entrance of the lake beach

Once we set down our bags, we ran down the soft, sandy beach and into the water. As we splashed in the waves and swam in the clear water, many team members were taken aback by something else: unlike the waters of Californian beaches, the waters of Lake Malawi wasn’t salty at all, even though it looked like we were by the sea! We all really enjoyed our time at the country’s treasured natural wonder.

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Grace, Ivanna, and Caleb building their sandcastle
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Bridget, Kandace, and the McCracken children, David and Ami, playing in the sand
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Georgie and Nathan building a bigger sandcastle
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Other team members (and James McCracken) joining in on the fun!
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Our entire group eating lunch on the lakeside terrace

Craft Market

After having lunch and playing at the beach for a little longer, we set out to visit the Malawian craft market, which was along the way home. Each vendor’s stall was filled with wood carvings, paintings, bracelets, and other pretty wares and trinkets. Our team members had fun interacting with the local people and looking at their excellent works of craftsmanship. Many of us got gifts for family and friends. Once we wrapped up at the market, we continued our ride back home through the countryside.

Our team and missionaries visit craft market stalls that lined the road
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Examples of the beautiful woodwork that some team members got
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Carissa took a picture of a big rhino* that she saw outside our van

Noble China

Later in the evening, the Ayres family took us to an unexpected destination: Noble China, a Chinese restaurant in the middle of Lilongwe! Jim told us that it’s the best Chinese restaurant in the city, perhaps even the country. The decor, menu, and even the room’s scent reminded me of the restaurants I’ve visited in China. Perhaps that gives plus points to authenticity? 🙂 Aside from the furnishings and atmosphere, the food was also delicious. Highlights from dinner include dumplings, lettuce wraps, and cashew chicken. How interesting…I never would have thought I would be using chopsticks and eating Chinese food in Malawi! With tummies full and legs tired from a long day, we returned home. We prepared for church that’s tomorrow morning and were definitely ready for bed.

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The entrance to Noble China
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Caleb Ayres got to sit with his new friends from UCLA
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Table with the rest of the Ayres family
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Delicious Chinese food in Malawi

Reflection

Although we may be physically tired from traveling today, I think we felt rejuvenated and rested. We had such a joyful time spending time with one another and encouraging one another in conversation. It was nice to see another side of the beautiful country that our CAPA students call home on this earth. What amazes me more, though, is thinking about how our rest in heaven will be so much more awesome. When we are finally, truly home in heaven, God says “He will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). There, we will finally be together with Christ.

It was a blessing to marvel at God’s beautiful creation today. It was a blessing to rest and hang out with fellow Believers. It is a blessing to be saved by His grace. Today, we saw a variety of international tourists at Lake Malawi and an interesting cultural exchange at Noble China. Seeing such a mix of cultures reminded me of how small the world can be. Though we may seem worlds apart, I’m reminded that we are all humans, broken people, sinners who are in need of a savior. Praise God that we would love us so much, that we would send his son Jesus Christ to die for our sins, that we may have eternal life with Him. Praise Him from whom all blessings flow.

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The Malawian sunset, on the way back from Lake Malawi

“Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
before the LORD, for he comes,
for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness,
and the peoples in his faithfulness.”
(Psalm 96:10-13)

Thank you for reading and for your support thus far! 🙂

– Richard


*Disclaimer: Carissa didn’t actually see a real rhino: it was just a wooden figurine she held up to the sunset!

Day 7: A Time for Rejoicing

Today we continued interviewing the students during their breaks.  While they were in class, we transcribed the interviews in our break room, silent, save for the soft tapping on keyboards, the rustling of snack bags, and Elliot’s incessant (but skillful) whistling.  Each student’s story supplies more reasons to give thanks to our God, so I can’t wait for you all to read them online! 🙂

We returned to the Ayres’ house and enjoyed yet another wonderful meal together.  After dessert, we brought out a second course of dessert as a surprise:  a platter of cookies to celebrate Jim and Bethany’s anniversary!  As they puzzled over the confusingly arranged frosting letters on the cookies (which were supposed to spell out “Happy Anniversary”), we sang them the “Happy Birthday” song, replacing “birthday” with “anniversary,” followed by the traditional UCLA eight-clap.

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Celebrating Jim & Bethany’s anniversary!
By then, everyone was pretty exhausted, so Bethany and most of the team relaxed by wearing face masks together.  It was a fun time of bonding and of revitalizing our tired skin 😛

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Georgie helping Jeremy put on his face mask
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The result!  We’ve never looked better.

As we conclude this first full week in Malawi, I am excited by what we have seen and heard already.  With each interview, I marvel that God called each of the students to CAPA and, really, to salvation.  He designed each of their situations to bring them to Himself and lead them to the conviction that they need to know, obey, and teach God’s Word.  They were once living in darkness and folly, but God delivered them into the light and transformed them into men who desire above all to know and love Him.

I hope this reality causes us to rejoice at our own salvation.  It is a marvelous thing that God would choose to save us.  On our own, we have no inclination toward God; in fact, we willfully disobey God and suppress the truth.  If it were not for God’s great love, we would still be hopelessly dead in our sins and justly condemned to eternal torment.  But all praise be to God that He has had mercy on us!  Praise be to God that He has removed our sins from us, that He has not dealt with us according to our iniquity!  He has provided forgiveness and restoration through Jesus.  I am amazed and overjoyed when I reflect on the grace of God to save many sinners from every people and tongue.

Samantha