How incredible to think that the five months of Discipleship Training School is already over! It seems like yesterday that we arrived on base. I can remember the sickness in our stomachs as we make a shaky landing on the tarmac and the surprise to be picked up at the airport by a mini bus with another student named Kaelaboga. He was a South African who was a part of the same DTS. I, for the life of me, could not understand a word he spoke, because of his heavy South African accent. Our time in DTS will always be cherished and remembered as a time for growth and relationship-building with Christ.
Our outreach launched on November 14, 2016, with a 27 hour bus ride from Blantyre, Malawi to Mbeya, Tanzania. Crossing the border was a breeze, but expensive for Americans– $100 just for me to stay a little over a month in the country. The first week in Mbeya we worked with a very exuberant pastor and held seminars and shared sermons with the people every day. The food was amazing and was made for us daily. The chai tea was heavenly! The Sunday after we arrived in Mbeya, I gave my first sermon with no script, which was terrifying. Immediately after the service, we received an amazing testimony from a visitor to the area, who thought I was talking just to her and her situation. That is the Holy Spirit.
Morogoro, Tanzania was our next destination the following week. We worked with YWAM Morogoro, a giant base, which is under-utilized. Our team participated in at least two or three ministries per day for two and a half weeks consisting of seminars, preaching, children’s ministry, and Bible studies. My favorite ministry of all outreach was; “funga funga” which is a small community of disabled men, women, and children. In African culture these men, women, and children are shunned and mistreated, because they are thought to be cursed. The people of the “funga funga” community were some of the most accepting and appreciative people we met. Over the course of being in Morogoro for two weeks, we visited them three times. On the third visit we had to say goodbye; there were many tears flowing.
Our next bus ride was from Morogoro, Tanzania, to a remote village in the mountains. This was our eighth bus ride since the start of outreach. Although the destination was only twenty miles away, as the crow flies, the journey took at least five hours, because of the dirt roads twisting and winding through the mountains. Bursting with dense foliage, the road to our location was lined with mango, banana, jackfruit, papaya, and avocado trees. Seeing limbs so full of fruit makes me wonder why anyone goes hungry here. The bus was so packed with people that buckets were placed in the aisle for additional seating. It was a 44 seater with about 65 passengers!
During these long travel times, I thank the Lord for podcasts and audiobooks! I have now listened to two books in the The Chronicles of Narnia series, half of the first book in The Hunger Games series, and at least 15 Todd White podcasts during these long travels. One book that I wish I had brought with me is Wild at Heart. Sadly, during this journey, I forgot the book. I am currently reading Dangerous, by Caleb Bislow. It talks about how missionaries shouldn’t limit their ministries by fear of dangerous places. One cool thing about the book and the correlation between it and what my team is doing, is that Caleb’s first “dangerous” mission trip was to the secluded and remote Maasai tribes, which we will go to later next week!
The bus wasn’t all that bad, even though they tried double the bus’s capacity. At least it wasn’t like the mini bus, in Morogoro, where they managed to squeeze 30 of us into a hollow metal death trap made for 16 people. It also wasn’t as bad as the five seater SUV that we hired to take us into Dar es Salaam, where all ten of us were packed like sardines. In most places in Africa, jamming as many people into a vehicle as possible is allowed. We were surprised to be stopped by law enforcement and demanded to pay an absurd amount of money, because we were “illegally” seated. We asked to receive a receipt, once we paid the fine, but the law enforcement said, “Oh, don’t worry about it.” As it turns out, they only stopped us to make money for themselves and pocket the cash. That’s the life of a white person in Africa. The stigma around here is that white men and women equal dollar signs.
After the time in Morogoro came to a close, we headed back to Mbeya to work with another pastor and his church. Again, the food was phenomenal and is missed. To be completely honest, I did not completely enjoy this week in Mbeya, besides the food, of course. There were few ministries prepared for us and I felt like the church used us. One of the “ministries” we did three days in a row was going to a different pastor’s house each day to clean it for them. The team scrubbed floors, cleaned bathrooms, and weeded their yards. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to have done this as mercy ministry, if these were people in need and didn’t own giant houses with marble floors. Despite the frustration, the Lord’s work was done and lives were touched.
The day before we left Tanzania to continue outreach ministry in Malawi, I began to feel achy and sick. It made for a miserable seventeen-hour ride to our next outreach location, a YWAM outreach base in Ntaja, Malawi. The next two days I lay in bed, seriously considering to call it quits and go home, not to mention my dreadful homesickness, with it being only a week from Christmas. During those two days, I was taken to a Malawi government clinic to get tested for malaria. It was positive. The next day, I was sent back to YWAM Blantyre, for rehabilitation. This was the base that we originated from. On the “best” malaria medication available, I spent a week at the base in Blantyre. Christmas was nice, being at the Blantyre base, and I was able to eat food a little more custom to the holiday season, which lifted my spirits significantly.
Returning to the team in Ntaja on the day after Christmas, I was still weak from the malaria and the medication, but felt well enough to reintegrate with the team. The first week back was a slow start. I exhausted easily and it was amazingly hot! One Bible study that we led was an hour away by bicycle. It was very tiring being in direct sun the entire time, but villager’s hearts were touched with the truth.
Just a day after New Year’s, we traveled to YWAM outreach base, Palombe, Malawi. Finally, I felt like I was back in the swing of things. Two ministries per day, a great leadership team for the outreach base, and great weather made for an awesome week. Letting the Holy Spirit preach or teach through me on a Sunday morning is now growing into one of my favorite ministries. I find it thrilling to stand in front of a congregation, not knowing at all what I am about to say, but instead, allowing God to speak awesome revelations and wisdom to His people.
The last week of outreach was a cherry on top of an awesome heavenly cake. The day after I preached in Phalombe, the team and I left for a village in the “Africa bush bush,” Mankhamba, Malawi. It was probably the most beautiful location we have been to in the entirety of outreach. The base is nestled in the mountain farmlands of Malawi, only accessible by an hour ride on a rugged dirt road. The mountain sides were covered in agricultural patchwork and some days the mountain was above the clouds, which made for beautiful views. My favorite ministry during the last week was door-to-door evangelism, where we talked about the love of God to locals. The families in this village were extremely welcoming and loving and many lives were touched. Being farmland, the houses were long hikes away from each other, which if you know me, you know that the mention of a hike is music to my ears.
Upon completion of our time in Mankhamba, we headed back to YWAM Blantyre for our debrief week. The beautiful way the Lord orchestrated the teams and allowed us to be used by Him during this outreach has been an awesome and humbling experience. The debrief week was great, hearing all the testimonies of the other two teams and learning to find the positives in all of the negative situations we faced. We ended the productive week with an amazing graduation. I captured the entire day on camera and created a vlog for you all to enjoy on my new YouTube channel.
Thank you for all the continued support and prayers,