So, I've been wanting to let you know what we do here--both how we serve and what life is like.
I remember the first time as we were referred to as "missionaries." It seemed really strange. It still is, as what we do isn't what I think of missionaries doing. We have not yet had an opportunity to visit a village or go evangelizing like my sisters talk about from their time in Uganda. (Though we're going to a refugee camp later this month). That's not even what we're primarily here to do. I guess you might say that we serve in a support role. I'll explain.
Malawi was evangelized by Presbyterians long ago (the Dr. Livingstone you've heard of). So many Malawians will call themselves Christians. There are many, many "prayer houses" all over the country. But there are very, very few pastors. Most pastors here cover a number of these small churches and may have thousands of parishioners. Of course they cannot preach in 20 places each Sunday, so when a pastor is not present anyone may "say a word." As you can imagine, with the level of education, particularly theological education, here, what is said may not be AT ALL Biblical. So you end up with lots of dangerous mixtures of old superstitions and religious beliefs. (Baptisms being thought of as magical, lots of health and wealth type gospel. There was even one church--or anti-church that was telling people and Jesus was just for white people and a new type of religion was needed for Africans). This was why African Bible College was begun, to train pastors and lay people in theology and communication, so that as they go out into their country they are leading others in the right direction, whether as pastors, teachers, leaders in their churches or in businesses, or government (and ABC graduates are everywhere here and being a positive leaven wherever they have influence--I know, I teach with one). So, then those who were teaching and running the college needed to have somewhere to send their children to school. Local schools were not a terrific option. Home schooling was going on, but there were getting to be a lot of children and so a school was begun. At first it was only children of ABC missionaries, but soon there was a desire that it be serving Malawi as well. So, now each class is kept at 50% Malawian and 50% Non-Malawian. Now, this is where we come in. This is where in begins to make sense for us--Brian and Scharlie--to be here. Brian's been working in schools for over 10 years and has had a lot of different experiences that help him with this one. I like teaching and being a part of a school community. Education, and yes, Christian education is something that's been important to us for a long time. We're really encouraged about how self-consciously Christian this school is. It knows it is Christian and evangelical. There are (of course) nominal Christians mixed with true ones, and there are also a few atheists, Muslims, and Hindus sprinkled in. We respect that their beliefs are different, but students are not excused from Bible classes, or chapel, or Scripture memory. So, in that sense, we are evangelizing, just not in the same way. I love being so free in the way I'm able to pray and speak about the Bible. Brian's Bible class had a pretty good discussion recently on the problem of suffering. I'm thankful He's their teacher. He made those older kids think. This brings me full circle, I guess--We don't always understand why we have difficult things to go through. We don't always know why God calls us to certain places at certain times or away from others at times, but we can know that He is good and that if we are in Him, he has our best in mind at all times. We are glad to be here. There are hard things (though, not really in the areas you might imagine or we expected). But, just pray for us. We will learn what we are supposed to from those things, I trust (sometimes).
So, on to what our days are like. They begin early. Brian is usually up before 5:00am. I am usually up at 5:00 (sometimes before if necessary). Gwen is up by 6:00. Brian leaves around 6:40 Tues-Thurs. as he's in charge of staff devotions. Priscilla, who keeps Samuel (and does laundry--bless her) comes between 6:45 and 7:00, at which time Gwen and I kiss and hug Samuel and head for school. After staff devotions, Brian stands out in front and greets parents and students. I head to my class and get ready for the day. Gwen goes to the playground or plays with things in the classroom with her classmates (Tayamika is her favorite school friend, so far). At 7:25 Kindergarten 2 (my class) begins with Calendar time and prayer. Then we have Phonics, Reading and Handwriting (most days). Then, about 9:30 there is snack and recess time. Brian teaches History from 9:15-10:05 every day and Bible from 10:30-11:20 three days a week. After recess, kindergarten comes in for Math, Social Studies (or Science) and Bible (all taught by Mrs. Jean Mpata). The plan was for me to leave about 11:00, but often I have things that need to be done--communication with parents, getting homework packs together with reading books, getting copies made, etc. So usually, I go home with Gwen when she's out at 12:00. Brian heads home at 12:30 (by the way, it might help to know that our house here is about a five minute walk from school) and most days, we have lunch together. Brian heads back to school for all sorts of things from 1:30 to 4:00 or so. I put the kids down for a nap from 1:30-2:30 or 3:00. Two days a week, Priscilla keeps them in the afternoon and I go to school and work or have meetings with the other kindergarten teachers. The other days, I do work at home during nap-time (unless I take one too). When Gwen gets up we take about 20 minutes to do homework and then she and Samuel usually go out to play with neighbor friends until about 5:00 or sometimes we go to the pool here. (Oh, yes, the seasons are reversed here because we're below the equator. So, while you're getting out your coats, I'm wishing I'd brought more tank tops:). Sometimes, I go out too and can visit with other neighbor women. I enjoy that a lot. Between 4:00 and 5:00 (usually) Brian gets home. We have dinner and hang out with the kids. Some nights (if time and water permit) the kids get a bath before bed. They ALWAYS NEED one. You would not believe how dirty they get here. Anyway, they go to bed around 7:00pm. After that, usually Brian and I do the clean-up in the kitchen, so the ants don't take over. Then we do school work. We aim to be in bed by 10:00. You can pray for that. It frequently doesn't happen. So, that's our typical day. Weekends are nicely different. In another post I'll outline what a shopping trip entails--that makes for a different day, for sure. Hope this helps you to know how to pray for us. Also, we're 7 (EST) or 8 (CST) hours ahead of you. So, when you get up in the morning, we're finishing lunch. When you're having lunch, we're putting the kids to bed. When you're coming home from work, pray that we've been in bed for a while. If you go to bed at 10:00pm, we're getting up. Take care all. We'll post some more pictures soon.