GOODMORNING! :) I can't believe that today is our last full day in Malawi. I honestly didn't think that i'd fall in love with this place and these people as much as I have. When I leave tomorrow I'll definitely be leaving a part of my heart here! This lifestyle is completely different from anything i've ever experienced. God has taught me SO much through this. One of the BIG things is that material possessions mean nothing! I have had such a great joy in my heart this week. I only brought necessities (although my necessities were nicer than their best)...I didn't think about work or bills or stress...it was a big awakening for me and a very humbling experience. We woke up at 5 am to head to the Hippo View Lodge. I have been so excited about this. Our original plan (another park) didn't work out because of all the rain/flooding but this one was comparable and a lot less expensive. We rode over on our bus...me and Chan were bus buddies/as we've been all week. I LOVE that guy! His heart for the Lord is incredible. He's only 13 but is way more spiritually mature than I am. It is SO encouraging to see teenagers with their priorities in line. I have been so proud of Chandler and Meredith this week! They both (along with me) shared the gospel for the first time this week. Anyway...back to the hippo park...this was one of the neatest things I've ever gotten to do. I was worried that I was going to go all the way to Africa and not get to see a wild animal (the cows, chickens, pigs don't count).We took a 2 hour boat ride around the Lake. It was ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS. Here's a pic of our boat. We got there early so we'd have the best chance of seeing the elephants. I was AMAZED at how big some of them were. I also took tons of pics...of course.
After the boat ride we still had a few hours until lunch so we decided to do the land safari as well. I wanted to see a HOG :) and a sebra...and GIRAFFE SO BAD! I forgot to mention that Bruce and Joseph got to come with us. They seemed to really enjoy it. Joseph said he had never done anything like it. During the drive through land part we saw more elephants, wart hogs (we called the HOGS...i'll post a video...they didn't come)...baboons, gazelles, and push backs. It was SO NEAT. We were burning up on the bus though. NO AC! It was HOT! WE didn't end up seeing giraffes or zebras! :( I was kinda sad...but later we found out from the chief that if we wanted to see those we'd have to go in the evening.
We ate lunch at the hippo park. They had a buffet. I was a little nervous about the food...it is SO different from our food back home. All I ate was the mashed potatoes (which were amazing...i've loved the potatoes all week) and some stir fry noodle looking things. I haven't had much protein all week...it's hard to get your appetite up for the goat or chicken you saw running around 2 hours before. Kind of different. We've been lucky to have great meals at dinner cooked by Beth and Joley. But i'm ready for American food! I've been CRAVING Chick-fil-A and a Sonic DDP since we left the U.S. After lunch we were all exhausted. That sun zaps me everyday. A few people wanted to go to the market so I decided to tag along. I wasn't expecting what we saw. My thought was that it would be like a "straw market" but this was a basic necessities market. We walked through a whole aisle of DRIED FISH...it smelled HORRIBLE!!! Thinking about it still makes me nauseous. Something I forgot to write about was on the way to hippo park this morning a chicken ran in the middle of the road and Banda-the bus driver-didn't see it. Gina yelled at the TOP OF HER LUNGS..."CHICKEN CHICKEN CHICKEN." It was so early and everyone was halfway asleep...it startled everyone. Sadly I think we still hit it. Which reminds me...while we're on the subject...the first day we were in Madsanje village we were driving to Esther's House and apparently hit a pig. I had no clue of this and later that day when we were out evangelizing a group of kids brought us a pig in a bucket. We had no idea what was going on so our translators told us that they wanted us to buy them a new pig since we hit theirs. At the time we didn't know we had hit one so we just blew it off. It wasn't until today that Banda told us that he really did hit the pig. POOR PIG! I sure am going to miss the beauty of this place. I can't tell you enough how beautiful it is. Green grass, beautiful flowers...gorgeous mountains. WE had to go see the chief 1 more time before we left. We had a parting gift for him. He remembered me from my embarrassing introduction the first day. He laughed when I shook his hand. We sat and talked with him for a while. He's definitely my favorite chief. He is a very Godly man and rallies behind Esther's House. He was so appreciative of the gift and the work we had done. I was once again reminded of our different cultures because Malawi tribal/political leaders OPENLY talk about their Christian faith and what God has done in their lives. The schools willingly let us in to spread the gospel...it's just SO DIFFERENT! Our last stop was at Esther's House to shower one last time and say bye to everyone...again! haha! The shower was COLD...but wonderful. I was so thankful that we had Esther's House to shower everyday. Saying bye to everyone again was tough. Precious and Isaac sang and talked for us on video. They are SO CUTE! I don't know if I told you about Asan but he is a little boy our team fell in love with early in the week. We met him that first day at the chiefs house and he kept coming back everyday. He was SO full of job. We think he had parents because he wore a school uniform everyday but we're not 100% sure. Anyway...he was waiting at the gate at Esther's House for us to come talk to him. He doesn't speak English so we got Bruce to translate for us. WE told him that we were going back to America on a BIG airplane and that we'd miss him SO much. He broke my heart because he put his head down and started crying. I HATE that part. You really do make special connections with people in such a short amount of time. Saying bye is NEVER FUN! Especially when you know you may never see them again. Bruce gave him "sweeties" and he smiled again. This made it a little easier to leave. We got to play soccer with Isaac and Precious one more time too.
As we drove off away from the village, all I could think about was how much work God had done there this week. I honestly didn't expect the incredible response we got...although I knew God was capable. We all joked that we felt like celebrities driving down the roads because kids/adults would stare, point, wave and cheer. They definitely aren't used to seeing white people. haha! Dinner tonight was leftovers. Chandler was sweet and made me a PB&J w/ crunchy peanut butter that I brought. YUM! It was great. Peanut butter and peanut butter crackers saved me this week. Instead of bringing back an open PB jar I gave the rest to Banda (our bus driver) because he loves crunchy PB and you can't find it anywhere over there. Tonight was our last night to get drinks from Petroda I think i've had more real coke this week than i've had in my whole life.
Before everyone went to sleep, we all packed up all of our stuff. I consolidated everything into 1 suitcase. I donated my extra food/clothes/shoes to Joshua and his family. Before we went to sleep we all sat in a circle and shared our trip highlights. There were a few for me (i'm sure i'll still forget some)...
- Just being a part of this incredible experience...I hope I was used by God as much as I was taught by God this week. My life will NEVER be the same...EVER!
- The hygiene day sticks out as one of my favorite days because I was able to use my education to help educate the people of Malawi on proper hygiene and hopefully prevent future problems. Also...God used that session to draw people would would normally not come if it were just a "church function." Tyler shared his testimony and the gospel and 94 accepted Jesus for the first time! AMAZING. 2b. Also on the hygiene day we had pre-counted all the bags/toothbrushes/toothpaste/fluoride to make sure we had enough. When we got there we realized that we were 2 short for orphans toothbrushes and fluoride because we didn't know about Isaac and Precious beforehand. We know for a FACT that we only had 50 orphan bags. But God miraculously provided 52. This happened a lot this week...we always had JUST ENOUGH. EXACTLY ENOUGH! God was watching out for us for sure.
- God used ME! I have been afraid my whole life of sharing the gospel...God really worked in me this week and taught me that it's not me...it's HIM AND HE HAS CHOSEN TO USE ME! I am so thankful for that.
- I love our team...all 12 of us worked incredibly well together. Clint was an amazing leader. This trip made me miss our old youth group days! Beth and Rodney "ROTNEI" did SO good with Logistics...we couldn't have gotten though it without them. I made some GREAT new friends who I hope i'll stay close with forever. I'm SO excited about my new friendship with Abbie! I don't think i've ever formed such a strong bond with someone so fast. I feel like we've known each other forever. We had lots of "moments" on this trip and I know that God put us together on this trip for a reason. She is such a Godly woman with a sweet/kind spirit. She is so encouraging and uplifting. I'm excited about our new friendship!!! :)
- THERE WERE 832 TOTAL SALVATIONS THIS WEEK...HOW INCREDIBLE! Not that I didn't expect God to do BIG things...but WOW...this is REALLY BIG! :) We have NAMES of all 832 of these people. There probably were lots more but these are the definite ones we have names for.
Well...tonight is it...last night in Malawi and last night in our mosquito nets. I might actually miss those...doubt it though. Although...they DID keep the mosquitos and LIZARDS out of my bed! :) Goodnight! GOD IS SO GOOD! :)
View from Hippo Park
On the boat
WOO PIG SOOIE...we just HAD to! The statement "call them and they will come" didn't work out too well...
Isaac and Precious singing God Is So Good
Sweet boys singing a song in Chichewa