Savanna’s Summary of the PYV OS17 Malawi trip

On Friday, June 23rd 2017, our months and months of preparation physically, spiritually and emotionally became a reality as we boarded our plane to Malawi. Our team was made up of ten people from Presbyterian churches across Victoria and together we spent 24 days in Blantyre, Malawi.

Our days were jam packed with physically hard work, lots of gospel conversations, love and a whole lot of laughter. Over these days we spent time together quickly becoming like family, interacting with the locals, participating in various ministries and largely working at a local Presbyterian influenced primary school. Our goal was to do all to glorify God. It was so encouraging to see the grace of God working in the hearts of those we spent time with, particularly as we shared with the children at Orbus.

Weekdays were spent at Orbus C.C.A.P (Church of Central Africa Presbyterian) Primary School. We’d help out teaching in classrooms (or attempting to) and assisted with painting some buildings or working in the garden. 380 health checks were completed – along with multiple clinic and hospital visits. We enjoyed spending time with the children in the yard- teaching them the necessities like AFL and rugby. But our favourite time together with the students came after school. Each day we were able to share a gospel talk and songs with the students. Many of them were based on the ‘I am’ statements of Jesus. Through this time, we were able to spend time in God’s Word with the students. They wrote on their hands the words we were saying so they could go home and share with their siblings the good news of Jesus. It was a real joy and blessing to be able to share the gospel with them. Please pray that the Holy Spirit might use the gospel seeds planted to work in the students’ hearts so they might all come to have saving faith in Christ.

After long days at Orbus, we spent time with the Manners family, part time missionaries from Australia, who loved, encouraged and welcomed us so openly and excitedly to the Warm Heart of Africa. We give thanks to God for this precious family and the continual passion and dedication they devote to Orbus. We were also able to visit with Colin Mbawa and his family who are old friends of many in Victoria.

Weekends were a combination of hard work and rest. Saturdays we travelled to many absolutely amazing places surrounding Blantyre. A highlight for me was certainly Mt Mulanje, Southern Africa’s highest peak. This amazing scenery was certainly an amazing insight to God’s creative hand, so different to Australian nature! We also visited Majete Animal Park, local wood and clothes markets, Zomba Plateau and a sugar cane farm which owned a small animal reserve just to name a few.

We had four jam packed Sundays during our stay. We visited many C.C.A.P churches, all so very different. Our goal was to encourage the churches around Orbus in their gospel work, as well as hear some of the needs that the local churches face. It was exciting to experience what worshipping the Lord looks like in such a different culture. One Sunday we spent a total of 6 and a bit hours at two church services. We also spent time with some of the youth groups and youth group leaders of these churches. We were so blessed by the faith of these youth leaders, who are so eager to grow in the understanding of God’s word and desire to train up the young people of Malawi to be gospel focus people of real integrity. What a joy it was so spend time with them.

Every several days, Emily, one of our team leaders, would get us together to debrief on the events of the past few days. This was so beneficial for us to communicate how we were feeling, as often we were confronted by corruption and poverty that is rampant in Malawi. This also gave us a chance to sit together, sometimes cry, thank God, pray for what we had experienced and for the people of Malawi.

One of our team leaders, Rev. Dave Assender (Interim Moderator- Auburn Presbyterian Church, Scotch College Chaplain) also lead us in a three part Bible study of 1 Corinthians 12 and breakfast devotions. Not only did Dave and his amazing wife Tanya so wonderfully spiritually nurture us, but Dave preached multiple times every week, as well as teach catechism classes. We give thanks to God for Dave, Tanya and the Assender family and their commitment in the preparations for OS17.

We were also blessed to have Duan on our team who enthusiastically learned so much more Chichewa than the rest of us. He even was able to preach in Chichewa in some of the village churches we visited.

 

Through our blog we were continually amazed by the people from all across the world who were supporting us. We received messages from so many people reading our posts and who were praying alongside us. Not only was the blog a good barrel of laughs, we are so thankful for the way were able to share with you what we were experiencing.

We also are so thankful for our talented photographer, Abi Assender, who with Dave filmed many videos and took over 8000 photos.

Thank you to Presbyterian Youth Victoria, the Presbyterian Church of Victoria and the Australian Presbyterian World Mission for your dedicated partnership in prayer, financially and support. Such a trip isn’t possible without a passion for young people and mission, and both of these you all displayed with a love and dedication to our service. We thank God for you and your work within our state and country.

We’d also like to thank all the individuals who supported us in prayer while we were gone, but also financially leading up to our time away. We praise God for the hundreds of people across this state who invested in us.

A big thank you to the PWMU for their generosity towards the team. As well as Dean and Sandy, Doug and Diane, and Joy who helped us prepare in the months prior to our trip.

We hope this won’t be the last trip PYV makes to Malawi! Please continue to pray God will bless our relationship with the Presbyterian church in Malawi so that the spread of the gospel may continue, like Jesus said, to the very ends of the earth.

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Day 25 – Where is Home? 

Culture shock is a strange thing. When we arrived in Malawi, everything was new and exciting. Sometimes, the poverty or the way that things were done would frustrate us and make us sad but I feel that the culture shock we experienced in Malawi is a tiny tug-boat next to the titanic culture shock when returning home. 

It is hard to know how to talk about Malawi with people because it hurts. We are grieving for the loss of all the people who have a part of our hearts and the land that welcomed us with open arms. But we do want to share it with you. We want to tell you about how God makes a difference, how He loves everyone so much He would die, how powerful He is that He might be sovereign and how good God is that He cares for you and can number the hairs on your head. We want to tell you about the thirst for the Gospel in Malawi and the great things that God is doing and will do there through Orbus and the churches. 

There are so many small big things that are different in Australia to Malawi. Some of the things that shock us are the small habits we formed, the smell of the Malawian air and the sights we were used to seeing. Washing our teeth with tap water, having glass enclose the shower, the smell of deodorant, the wearing of jeans. The frowns on people’s faces as you cross the road with traffic lights that tell you when to cross. The extravagance of buildings for aesthetics alone and the constant craze for new things. The sheer number of escalators in Melbourne Central Station (there is one pair in all of Blantyre) and the lack of smoke and spice in the air. 

We know that no matter where we go, Malawi will always be our home. ‘The Warm Heart of Africa’ will always call us by name. But more than this, we know that Heaven is our ETERNAL home and no matter where we are in this world, we take comfort in knowing that our longing to be somewhere else pails in comparison to the longing we have to be with Christ. And we take comfort in knowing that our union with Christ will also mean union with all the saints, even those on the other side of the world. Even the saints in Malawi. 

Please be praying for us as we struggle to adjust to Australia. 

– Pray that our lives may be better used for God in ALL we do.

– Pray that we might have soft hearts as we engage with those around us who don’t understand what we might be feeling.

– Pray that God will help us to process all of our emotions and frustrations in a way that glorifies Him and enables growth of His kingdom. 

We are in Australia! 

Hello all! 

We have safely arrived at Perth and will make our connecting (and now late) flight to Melbourne! We are very tired, but looking forward to sharing our personal stories with you in the weeks to come and arriving in Melbourne!! 

Thank you for your prayers. 

Day 22 – Market Madness

Today was the day that we would finally head to the Blantyre markets and discover the place where locals buy their produce and many make their livings. What we expected was a wide expanse, with lots of light and a buzzing atmosphere. What we were met with was a small, tunnel-like opening that led to a catacomb network of bargaining, electronics, very fake shoes and fried grasshoppers. The team bought presents and some Malawian chitenje with some incredibly intricate and beautiful patterns. 
After the markets, we had lunch with the Manners at a café owned by some Italians – real coffee! The team then split, as some wanted to go back to the markets and wander around the city (and buy ice cream!). 

In the evening, we had a thank you dinner with the Manners family at our favourite restaurant: VegDelight! It was such a blessing to be able to spend so much time with them while we have been here and it was such a wonderful time to officially say thank you to them. In return, Craig unleashed an ‘unprepared’ speech from his back pocket recapping our time together and all the things we have done through God at Orbus. They gifted us more sweet chilli Doritos and a tiny little elephant each, which were all part of one family. We cannot thank God enough for this beautiful family and the way that God is working through them. May God continue to strengthen them and protect them while they are here, using them powerfully to spread His Gospel. We also had opportunity to thank Highly, giving him a box of Favourites. We cannot imagine what Malawi would have been like without this cheeky, caring, bus driver. 

The staff at VegDelight have come to know us well, we think delivering an extra 10 garlic naans. At the conclusion of the night, after Abi got a selfie with one of the staff, we climbed back into the bus back to our accommodation. 

Day 21 – Majestic Madness at Mulanje

What a day! We loaded into the party bus at 8:30 bound for the Manners’ house, picked up Josh and Jayni and our new friend Mrs Van Heerden. Since we still haven’t claimed the much loved Josh to spend a night at the party house *pretty please Mr Craig*, we treasure and value every second with our bestie Joshua. 

Today felt like a Saturday, as that’s our usual day off but we took an extra day to adventure across Malawi’s beautiful countryside. 
Piled with snacks and many 5ltr bottles of water, and of course, Sobo, we began the journey to Mount Mulanje. Now, in Malawi, the locals refer to most of the mountainous scenery seen from Blantyre as ‘hills’ not mountains (which we quickly learnt on the flight here as a Malawian abruptly corrected us). Mulanje is NOT a hill, not even to the locals. We thought this mountain was pretty spectacular, and it also became pretty special when we learnt it’s the highest peak in Southern Africa. 

We made a wise decision to hire a local guide to tour us up the mountain, Narni. He looked unprepared for a hike. Thongs. But sure enough we were off, thongs and all. The front group were privileged to walk with consistent commentary from our own personal guides, Daniel, Ben and JJ. Now what was even more requiring of patience was our resident Donkey. If you’ve seen Shrek 2, there’s a scene with Shrek and Donkey where Donkey is so persistent on knowing “how much longer” and “are we there yet” and “how long have we been walking for”. Our Donkey was indeed Caleb Manners. While we enjoyed that enlightening experience (both up and down the mountain), the back bunch enjoyed quality conversation with each other (I think). 

Reaching the breathtaking waterfall in record time, under forty minutes, the 18 of us were quite impressed with our efforts. But boy was the waterfall worth it! No words can describe how magnificent it was! We were greeted by six Irish medical students leaping from a rocky ledge about 6 metres high (which we got to know quite soon) into the magnificent pool at the bottom. Mitch, Abi and Daniel were the first to jump off a small rock into the icy water. Luckily here in Malawi, winter time is anywhere from 20-30 degrees, and we had a beautiful clear day with warm sun. 

Thanks to my pal Josh and the beauty of positive peer pressure, Sam, Josh and I climbed to the 6 metre ledge. Don’t worry mum, the pool meeting us at the bottom was 60 metres deep. No regrets. We had such a fun cheer squad too! Craig and Dave prepared for some totally aesthetic shots of us leaping for dear life and the others clapped us on. Sam led the way and dived in before I apprehensively followed behind. I heard from Jayni first that I screamed really loudly as I leaped from the ledge though I can’t really remember. It can’t have been too bad, as I went back for a second jump. I have no words to describe how cold it was. If you know me, I’m usually always cold and am known for the use of my duck down jacket in all seasons. But this was something else! Like tingly pins and needles all over… but a mad adrenaline rush! Highly recommend, my friends. 

We enjoyed the serenity of flowing water while we enjoyed our usual lunch favourites of fresh bread rolls, croissants, sweet chilli doritos (of course), donuts and coconut cookies (we don’t usually have that much sugar #treatday). Not long after our peaceful gathering for lunch, we were greeted by a school group. Literally like 7287336187236 Malawian school children yelling and laughing jumped down the cascade of rocks leading to the waterfall. This made us all a tiny bit sad, as it was only yesterday we said goodbye to our precious school kiddos! While I sat on a rock, some of the kids climbed out of the water and sat with me. It was so nice to talk to them. For seven and eight year olds, they spoke tremendous English and were keen to learn about Australia. I taught them “g’day mate” which they all loved! 

We finished the hike with some refrigerated Sobo (of course) and then ventured into a local wooden market and picked up some gorgeous locally made animals and other fun trinkets. These men are so talented and even though they always try and make you pay double the price, although thankfully we have learnt to negotiate well, browsing the stalls is so nice. 
The dream team quickly claimed the backseat for our much required corners competition. Sam certainly won the award for the most dedicated. Again. Our drive home was filled with amazing views of lusciously green tea plantations, which was a nice change from the dryness of Blantyre. 

Thankful for today. Probably my favourite day out of our trip. God has been so very good and we feel so blessed. Thanks for keeping us all in your prayers, it’s been so encouraging to know that there’s been people praying for us all over the world! While our trip is soon to be over I know the impact placed on us, and I pray those around us, will last for a long time. Please continue to pray for us as we say more and more goodbyes. 

Tiwonana! (see you later!)

Savanna

Prayer Points: 

– Please pray for comfort and strength as we say goodbye to the friends we have made in Malawi. 

– Please pray that the team would be able to represent Christ well and that the love and Gospel of God would be left in the hearts of those we say goodbye to 

Day 20 – Tears of Joy

Today was the day most of us were dreading. No, not our last day in Malawi but our last day at Orbus. Today was going to be a long day but we were prepared for it thanks to the wise advice from David and Tanya.

When we arrived at Orbus, half of the team got stuck into painting as they were determined to finish the job they had started before leaving Orbus. The other half of the team were determined to finish the exams they had started marking. And others continued supervising exams. Once we had finished those responsibilities we were able to visit each classroom and gift each student a small present from Australia. We also were able to take a class photo together. A huge thanks to those who played a big part in getting these amazing show bags together.

After visiting each class we had a special assembly so that the school could say goodbye to us. The Teachers and students at Orbus blessed us with amazing gifts, songs and even a play about sweet tomatoes. The head teacher, Wills, gave a great thank you speech and Dave was able to share some special words. Then we were asked to sing a goodbye song. In Christ Alone was a fitting song to finish with as the words hit the spot. It was during this song that many members of the team were filled with so many emotions and the tears flowed. Not just from us but from the students too.

These students have all shaped our lives in so many ways and definitely will not be forgotten by us. They have living conditions that are no where near ours yet you will never see faces with such warm smiles. They listened so intensely to our talks about Jesus, writing down the I am statements on their hands. Through the school yard we heard the sweet sound of their voices singing I am the Way, the Truth and the Life as well as many of the other songs we sang together. Our hands were never empty as we walked because these beautiful students loved being with us and walking together holding hands. The students of Orbus have loved us and we have loved them.

We have all been impacted by different students over the last three weeks. As we were saying goodbye, we were filled with emotion and sad to be leaving because we know that we have so much more of our lives that we can give to these beautiful children. We will continue to pray for them, that God might work in their hearts and so they might see Him face to face! While today was a day full of tears, they were tears of joy. Thank you staff and students of Orbus. It has been a real joy being with you and loving you.

-Duan

 

Day 19 – Exams, Bus Rides and a Beautiful Sunset

Wednesday was a very busy day at Orbus. The last few areas of our painting were finished. A few clinic visits happened with some of the last children we checked and the team was busy supervising exams and marking the English exams from the day before. Let me tell you, it’s very hard to supervise an exam when the children don’t have the best English!

Dave interviewed the teachers as well as visiting with an old boy from Scotch who works in the Education Department of Queen Elizabeth Hospital. It’s interesting to note that many of the issues we’ve come across in the church also occur in the health sector.

In the afternoon half of the team were able to visit another home of some orphans from Orbus that all live together. There were three orphans who live with a single mother who already had 6 of her own children. In a small way we hoped to bless that family with some groceries and pray with them. Seeing how desperate these children are for basic groceries and health items has opened our eyes to some great opportunities for our Australian friends! It would be great if we could organise a sponsorship program so these children’s basic needs could be met.

The other half of the team stayed at Orbus. We met with the Nansingwe Youth Leaders for a wonderful afternoon of encouragement. Overtones preached a very powerful sermon on courage. He has had very minimal training, but we were so amazed at how well he preached.
The youth group is led by Blessings – he is their chairperson. We spent well over an hour answering their questions and giving them some ideas on discipleship for their young people. It went a lot longer than we expected and so we offered everyone a lift back in our bus because the sun was setting. We piled everyone in the bus and Highly had a little giggle at how many people we had in there. The joy that was pouring out of everyone was so evident – defs the most fun in the bus we’ve had. We really loved hanging with these guys!

We drove home and were able to see another beautiful African sunset through the smokey haze. A ‘quick’ Shoprite visit (sorry Highly!!) before heading home for a dinner and a pow-wow were we could debrief and prepare ourselves for Thursday, our last day at Orbus.

-Emily

Day 18 – Lunch with CCAP Directors

After a morning of work at Orbus, and visiting the wooden markets in Blantyre, we met with CCAP Synod hospital, student and youth directors. We shared a quick lunch at Grace Bandawe conference centre and then listened to detailed reports of their portfolios. Like many we have met during our time in Malawi, they were really appreciative of the opportunity to share their vision with us and we did our best to listen their perspectives. We shared some ideas, contact details and manageable plans to help one another.

Blantyre Synod alone have around 400,000 registered youth, with an estimated 200,000 casually connected to its official membership. However, there are only two full-time workers to manage and support them. The workers can’t afford their own car, so they hitch rides and rely on public transport to keep in contact with hundreds of schools and parish youth groups. They are working hard to implement bible study and training materials, but the work is understandably slow. There is an incredible need for bible teaching and training amongst the youth. When we explain our Youth Metro and Engage courses they are amazed. Of all the needs of the Blantyre Synod, surely this must be the greatest. Somebody should do something.

-Dave

Day 17 – What Came First, the Chicken or the Monday?

We have reached the beginning of our 3rd week in Malawi. It’s so amazing to be here, time is racing on and our entire team are already talking about how hard it will be to soon say goodbye.

 

We started our Monday 7:30am at the Blantyre Synod. The HHI school assembly was held in the incredible St. Michael’s Church. The architecture of this building is simply stunning and the sound of many Malawian senior school students singing is difficult to describe adequately in words. David preached this morning from Hebrews 11 focusing upon Abraham and his great faith in God despite various trials and tests throughout his life. It was a great encouragement for the students and a challenge for us all.

 

We headed on to Orbus to assist teachers and students as exams start tomorrow for many of the older year levels. Some of us helped in the classroom and others persevered with painting. It was very warm today and by 10am we were already feeling the (winter) heat. I was able to take 7 students to the local clinic for medical assessments. One of the teachers accompanied us and was able to interpret and reinforce medical instructions for the children in Chichewa. 3 children were struggling with eye problems – conjunctivitis and light sensitivity and 2 children required treatment for infected toe injuries. One child had a significant ear infection and the other required blood tests for suspected malaria. These children and their families have no ability to afford transport to the clinic, let alone medical assessments and basic medicines. We have visited the local clinic several times over the last 2 weeks and assisted many children. Today it cost a total of $55.00 AUD for these 7 children to be assessed and receive antibiotics and other essential medicine. It’s difficult to comprehend this amount is equivalent to almost 1 month of full time wages. Many are unemployed. Those that have basic work usually have no education and are struggling to cope on $2 AUD daily wage. Food is paramount. Medical and dental care is just not a priority. Please continue to support and pray for the children of Orbus as they face so many daily struggles of poverty.

 

We had lunch with the PYV team at Orbus and the older Manners’ boys. Despite Caleb trying to eat everything, it was a successful venture. Very very brown peanut butter was spread, mixed fruits jams (not sure what fruit was in there tbh) was also splattered onto the rolls and delicious chombe tea from the thermos was poured. You can’t forget to mention coconut cookies, an essential part of the Malawian culture and diet.

 

Three of the team piled into the car with some supplies, two students, Wills and Craig. Together we travelled to a student’s home. The aim of our visit was to show Christ’s love and care for some of the most vulnerable members of the school community and their families. It was truly an incredible time. The girl’s mother was so excited to see her walking down the path, calling out to her and smiling only to realise that there were visitors too. The family members laid out a bamboo-like mat on the ground for us to sit on underneath the tree and gathered their close family members. The father of this girl had died, and the mother looked as though she has been infected by the HIV-AIDS virus. Her two younger sisters were also there with their children. They lived in a collection of mud brick homes which would have been maybe 1.5m by 3m, and were surrounded by some trees and wandering chickens. Please be praying for families such as these, where either one parent or both parents have been infected by this horrific virus.

 

The highlights of this visit were innumerable and honestly the whole time that we spent there was just so overwhelming and filled with God. One of the most precious moments was when the mother told us that her daughter had been telling her about the songs that we had been singing at our programs and we sang ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’ together. It was so beautiful to see how God has been using songs to teach these children the wonderful truths of God, and for them to then teach their families. Another moment was the elation of the mother when we gave her a Chichewa Bible. She was so overwhelmed with emotions and so thankful because they didn’t have one. Not only will this Bible be used by this family, but the mother’s sisters and their families as well. This family’s thankfulness and gratitude for all the gifts was so amazing, and so great that they gave us a gift.

 

The mother asked for us to wait for a couple of minutes so that they could give us a gift of thankfulness in response. We saw some of the children running around through the trees chasing the chickens. At first we thought this was hilarious until it dawned on us that they were going to give us a chicken. In my mind, my greatest fear at this point was that they would cut the head off the chicken, leave it to run around, and then we would take it with us.

 

This wasn’t any chicken, this was one of their best chickens; a breeding hen named Stephen. We felt very uncomfortable to receive their gift because this is literally so much to them – a source of food, of income and also their favourite chicken. The young girl knelt down in front of Tanya, and gave the chicken to her in an almost ceremonial way. They had such joy in thanking us in this way and it would have been rude for us not to have accepted the gift.

 

When returning to Orbus, with Stephen, Craig thought it would be a good idea to give Stephen to Lennard, one of the workers, to put in the chicken pen. Craig was very sure Lennard would know what to do with the chicken, Lennard was less sure as he smiled and nodded, trying to conceal his uncertainty and apprehension of holding on to a hen named Stephen in a ShopRite bag.

 

Duan and Highly came over to see why we had formed a huddle, and once spotting the chicken, Highly thought it was very funny. When asking whether the chicken was a male or female, Highly said ‘It is definitely a girl’ before stroking the chicken’s face.

 

Tanya, Bec and Lou

 

Prayer Points:

  • Today (being Thursday) we said goodbye to the children at Orbus. Please pray for the children and for the team as we grieve and pray that our time together would have drawn them closer to Jesus
  • Pray that the children would remember Jesus always and seek a relationship with Him, first and foremost in their lives
  • Please pray that as the team prepares to leave Malawi, that God would be working in our hearts to give comfort, peace and wisdom as what to do next
  • Please pray that the CCAP in Malawi would grow in a deeper relationship with Christ, striving towards holiness and a thorough understanding and teaching of God’s word