Thursday, April 7, 2011

Next Step

Why was I called to walk the road He laid out before me? How does all this work together, and why was I called to surrender just to learn that the very thing to which I surrendered is not necessarily what God ultimately has in store? Do you ever feel like you can’t explain what God is doing, but you know God is working? As I search for the ever eluding “next step”, these questions and many, many more flood my mind.

The road I have walked in life has not always been easy, or what I remotely planned. It has oft times been a complete walk of faith, and my time here in Africa has not been any exception. The mere fact that I actually got on a plane and left my dear Clinton, Mississippi, was a complete and total act of God. But the tests of faith did not stop there. To this day, God is still molding and healing a shattered heart into the very vessel He intended before the beginning of time. As my time here in Malawi draws to an end, I am now seeking what it is the Lord has in store next. The funny thing is that the more I search for what is, the more I learn what is not. This can be quite frustrating and exhausting at times. There you are at a crossroads and every direction you turn seems decent, seems like a possibility. The only problem: How do you figure out which one is right? From which one is God calling?

It is quite a scary place to be, but also one of the most malleable moments you will ever experience. Because in that vulnerability of fear, all you can rely on is the very promise that amidst all the voices and noises calling out to you, the One is there.
I know this is kind of nerdy, but it is kind of like a math equation. When you add a susceptible heart and a promise of God, you get a receptive, seeking heart. I guess you can say, “The rest is history.” It is here, when our hearts are pliable and chasing, that God begins to mold and perfect His creation the most. He teaches us how to discern His voice, opens our eyes to His glory, and gives us a heart that mirrors His.

So back to the original question, “How do you know which one is right?” Well, who’s to say that it isn’t more than one path? Who’s to say that God won’t let the paths cross at some point down the road? Who’s to say that every step along whatever path we take will not be full of crossroads? We are merely humans with a tiny 2lb brain in our head with the capability, although magnificent in itself, to fathom a minute fraction of what God is doing. In lieu of a “real” answer to the question, maybe this point of impressionability is the very place God would have us be. Maybe that is the “next step.” Just a thought.

I haven’t really given any prayer updates lately, so here are a few. Well I guess you can tell that I am kind of searching for direction so prayers for wisdom and discernment would be greatly appreciated. More specifically, I will need a job when I return home and will begin studying for the GRE to start grad school probably next year. My family also is in the midst of transition as both my sisters are graduating, Andrea from college and Shannon from high school. Most of all I ask that you pray for my mother as all her children are growing up and moving on. I can’t imagine what this is like for her. Thank you again for all your prayers. You will never know the impact of them. For God has said, “ The prayer of righteous one is both powerful and effective.”

Melissa

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

BUGS!!

They are EVERYWHERE!! Big ones, ugly ones, cute ones, glowing ones, just really African ones: BUGS!!! However, it was a normal bug that was the inspiration for some very interesting “dance moves” performed by yours truly.

I have, well I guess I choose, to walk through a “field” to get to work. This particular day the grass was not mowed and it reached my knees. So the trek from work to home that afternoon was quite itchy, but I of course was focused on taking the shortest route like usual. Unbeknownst to me, I picked up a “friend” who would not choose to make himself known until about an hour later. When I got home, Danie was still coaching swimming, so I checked my stash of fruits and vegetables to be sure I did not need anything at the market and waited. When she returned we left for the market. As we pulled out of the ABC gate onto Mchinji road, my leg began to itch. I, of course did not think too much of it, but it continued until I finally decided to check things out a little closer. As I reached into my skirt, I felt something hard on my left mid thigh. I am thinking it is a leaf or some other crazy African vegetation, but just as I go to grab it, it jumps! Talk about freaky. A leaf was moving, well at least that is what I thought. As I squirmed in the car and finally regained a little composure, I realized that a GRASSHOPPER had been the culprit of the itching. It was quite traumatizing. To make matters worse our house is now infested with grasshoppers. As I sit here typing this there are at least 5 grasshoppers I can see in the room. All I can say is, God definitely has a sense of humor and grasshoppers are better than spiders and snakes.

Melissa

Sunday, February 27, 2011

South African Adventure: God’s Grace Revealed

Of things would happen this way. I haven’t been to the doctor except for shots in years. I haven’t really been sick since junior year of high school when I had mono. Not much changed when I cam to Malawi in August. Yes I had the occasional stomach issues or Malawi stomach as we call it, but nothing I could not handle until…

…I was awakened by sharp pains in my stomach. At first, it did not worry me too much, but when I was still awake 2 hours later, I began to worry. I finally got back to sleep after about 3 hours. The next morning I was still hurting and decided that I should get the doctor at the clinic to check it out especially since I had not been able to eat for 5 days and it was only getting worse. Dr. Young finally worked me in to see her and immediately confirmed my fears that I may have appendicitis. In an attempt to rule out anything else and avoid surgery in Africa, she ordered a full battery of tests. After all the lab tests came back and I had an ultrasound that did not confirm or disprove her diagnosis, she sent me home for the day and told me to rest. Tuesday morning came and she saw me again and then sent me to a surgeon at another hospital in Lilongwe for a second opinion. Dr. Lungu was so gracious to see me without charge in between surgeries and confirmed her diagnosis. So then I called the travel agent and booked a ticket to Jo’berg, South Africa for the next morning at 9. It was so crazy how fast everything happened. I went from, what I thought was Malawi stomach, to needing surgery in a matter of 24 hours.

The next morning Carson, my friend who is a nurse, and I got on the plane to SA without a surgeon to see, transportation, or even really any idea what we were going to do when we got there. But God did. The flight went fine except for the fact that they decided it was a good idea to serve fish on the plane. That just made me so nauseated, but I survived. Before we could really get all our luggage and things together, we heard from Malawi that Dr. Young had been able to contact a surgeon and I was to go to her office when I got there. So we tried to get a rental car, but every one of the 6-8 rental places was booked and we could not get in a taxi. Carson then called Melissa, the wife of the couple who offered to house us while we were there and explained the situation. Melissa called someone else from her church and within 5 min we had a ride. Leisle came within 20 min and drove us directly to the hospital. Almost immediately, I was seen by the doctor at the best hospital in South Africa. The craziest part was that within 5 hours of landing I was in the OR. God’s hand was definitely all over it. I went from having no doctor to the OR in 8hours. It was insane. I spent the night in the hospital one night with 5 other people. (No, it was not like the US, but I was just glad I wasn’t in Malawi. The lady next to me snored, the girl across talked in her sleep, and one of the girls next to her cried all night. Let’s just say it was an experience like none other.) The next day I woke up hungry and ate for the first time in a week and was released a little after lunch. I, of course, being the stubborn person I am, when offered the wheelchair refused and walked out of the hospital on my own two feet.

The next couple of days were great. The couple we stayed with was incredible. They were so hospitable by feeding us really good food and taking us around to shops and other places. We ate out a couple of times and had real food at good restaurants. I loved it. We hung out with them until Tuesday when I had an appointment with the doctor again. That appointment went well and I was released to fly home to Malawi. On the plane I began to realize how incredible God’s grace was in this situation. He provided the money to pay for the surgery through the absolutely incredible friends I have here. He provided a friend to help me out and just be there for me. He provided the surgeon, the housing, the transportation, and the slow progression of the problem. Everything just fell in place. Nothing happened before it should have, nor did anything happen too late. Everything happened at just the right time.

After this situation I wonder, why do I so often forget that the grace of God is sufficient and then need something big to get my attention? Seriously, in everyday life I can barely focus on the task at hand without being distracted. You would think after a few thousand repeats of this pattern, I would “get it”, but maybe the problem is I am so easily distracted. So then when will the grace and sovereignty of God be so overwhelming that nothing else can get my attention? What will it take? What am I missing? What have I yet to realize? Then again isn’t that the whole idea of grace: the gift of second, third and 500,000 chances? Grace, as defined by the dictionary is the “free and unmerited favor of God.” It is something so undeserved given freely with no strings attached. It comes in varying forms, but the motivation is always the joy God can partake in when His children have exactly what they need whether it be as huge as salvation or as simple as allowing physical healing. I guess I am just in awe of the grace I take for granted everyday. As the song says, “Were it not for grace, I can tell you where I ‘d be, wandering down some pointless road to nowhere with salvation up to me.”

All in all it was a very eye opening experience. I now have a really cool story to tell and a scar to prove it. God’s grace is sufficient. That’s it. Thanks again for all your prayers. They have been and will continue to be cherished throughout the rest of this journey.

Melissa

P.S. Thanks again Carson, Mike, and Danie for being there. I am so grateful to have friends like you. And thank you Jeff for letting me take your wife for a week.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Quick (Well not so quick) Update!

Well since I have not been real good at keeping you updated for the last month (Sorry!), a real quick update is needed. Things are great in the pharmacy. I am really starting to see some of the effects of all the time and effort. Not only me, but we, as a pharmacy team, are beginning to hear positive feedback from our fellow coworkers. Of course, there is still plenty to do, but it seems so much more manageable now. It is quite amazing to see simple change make such an impact on treatment of patients. I am just so humbled that God has shown favor on me and allowed me to be a part of the work He is doing in Malawi.

As far as the academy is concerned, I love my responsibilities there more and more everyday. It is so nice to get to spend time with the children learning who they are through the avenue of swimming lessons and band. (Yes, I was a little perturbed at first with all the responsibilities at the academy, but I love it now. It is a nice break during the day). I am basically teaching piano to about 3 different children once a week. They are lovely little stars as Cara my roommate would say. Daphne and Lisa especially always make me laugh and brighten my day even if it has been a rather hard morning. I guess God really did know what he was doing when He gave me that opportunity although I really did not want to take it.
I never cease to be amazed at the inconceivable amount of need around me. So much of it I often of overlook out of business or to be honest an apathetic heart. I have never seen to this magnitude the need of the world we live in physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I am not just talking about Africa oceans away from Clinton, MS. What about the woman who will spend Christmas alone without any family or the homeless man who is shivering on street from the bitter cold winter winds? To strike a chord even closer to home, what about the grief a mother is feeling because it is the first Christmas without her child? One night I was so overwhelmed with all the need and my inability to meet the needs of those around me that I just disappeared and sat poolside crying and praying for almost an hour. I was so angry with God for allowing so much hurt and pain and just strife in lives of His children. I wanted God to fix it all instantaneously. The children at the nursery did not deserve to be malnourished and neglected. The hundreds of patients at the clinic did not deserve to be fighting a battle with HIV. My fellow missionaries did not deserve the seemingly impossible task of dealing with unexpected difficulties at home. As I sat there looking at all the needs we as humans have, I became overwhelmed with the blessings God has bestowed upon me. For some reason God has shown favor on me of all people. And then I was reminded of the responsibility that comes with it. As it is written, “To whom much is given, much is required.” I have been given so much just so that I can give it all away to simply put it. I am not just talking about money, but about time, energy, investing emotionally and spiritually in others. I can’t just hoard it all for myself and the funny thing is the more I give away the more I get. It seems ironic, but it is true. I dare you to try it.

I am just truly amazed at the grace of my God. This experience has thus far been the most fulfilling thing I have ever done in my entire life. I have never felt so right about what I am doing. I was telling one of my friends the other day, that I feel like I just jumped off the cliff and have finally learned to fly. Nothing will ever be able to stop me. It is an unbelievable feeling.
I think that is enough for now, but I will have a whole lot more to say so I will post another one soon. Love all of you!

Melissa

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

T.I.A

I have really been able to experience Africa and use the phrase, "T.I.A aka this is Africa". There is some situation with the Malawian government and the water system, so the water keeps going out. There have been some major power outages and sometimes the generators don't even work. Also the bugs are gross! We continue to have roaches, millions of ants daily, and spiders in our house all the time. (I had a roach in my bathtub and a spider at the end of the bed the other day). Also last week 2 of the campus cars were wrecked leaving only 2 cars for 12 people. (Thank goodness no one was seriously hurt and our car is still fine). To top that off there has been a shortage of petrol a.k.a gas throughout all of Lilongwe. I absolutely love it. I actually feel like I have left America!

This past Saturday we (Danie, Cara, and I) decided we wanted to go get lunch somewhere about 12:30, so we walked to Crossroads (a small shopping center type place). It only took us about 45 min to walk there and there was a good breeze so it was not too hot either. It was quite pleasant. We saw a few missionaries from ABC drive by and wave and were stopped and offered a ride by another fellow.(Don't worry we did not get in the car with him). When we arrived we met a guy from Cara's small group from church. He invited us to go kayaking at Lilongwe Dam about an hour from the city. Of course we said yes! So after lunch we went to the market to buy him some flip flops. It was so neat. I had never been to the clothes part of the market. All I had seen was the food market. We had to pay about 2 cents to cross this bridge made out of bumpy pieces of wood and that was pretty cool and sort of scary at the same time. It did not look so sturdy, but lots of people crossed with no problem. When we completed the mission for flip flops we proceeded to pick up another one of his friends. The ride was interesting though. We passed through villages and went down dirt roads that seemed to lead to nowhere. Then we somehow arrived at the Lilongwe sailing club. It had seen its better days, but it was still a very nice facility. We kayaked a bit and then decided to watch the sun set over the water and it was absolutely breath taking! (i hate how cameras NEVER really capture the beauty of sunsets). While we enjoyed our dinner of junk food including: 3 kinds of cookies, about 4 kinds of chips and coke, we just talked and enjoyed ourselves. A little after dark, about 6:30pm we decided to leave. I enjoyed the ride back even more because we drove through the villages at night. They seemed like different places. I had never seen the village at night and it was definitely not what I expected. When we finally got service on our phones again we realized that we were in a bit of trouble. No one knew where we had gone, and we each had about 5 or so missed calls and text messages from the group back at ABC. They were quite concerned and were about to get in a car and go looking for us. (It does make me feel pretty good to know that they are watching out for us).

Then Sunday we walked to church which is about a 30min walk from campus. I think it was hotter Sunday than it was Saturday because by the time we got there we were doused in sweat. However, it really did not matter because we were just going to sweat even more in the church since there is no ac and it is usually pretty full. It is Africa! That afternoon we decided to go to the tailor and have some things made out of the fabric we bought at the market. With and empty tank and no idea if we could find petrol, we decided to walk to the village where he lives. This walk was about 45 min one way, but because we each had so much to have done, it took us and hour and a half to get done telling him what we wanted. The walk through the village was the best part. Not only did I have children screaming "Azungu!" at me, I also had my name being shouted. (One of the guys from the clinic lives there)! Honestly, I kind of felt important.

The week was fine. I mean nothing too crazy happened. The pharmacy is still trying to be resurrected, but nothing too exciting happened. I did have to fight with one of our suppliers about an order which lasted ALL day Friday. It was sooooo annoying, but by the end of the day the amount they owed us in drugs was down from 147,000 kwacha to 19,000 kwacha which will be in the warehouse Monday. That situation was quite a challenge, but I got it done.

Saturday, Cara and I just basically explored Lilongwe for a while and found a really neat place in a garden at a shopping center. I felt so far away from the city and ABC. It was quite nice. We just laid there for about an hour and talked. We probably would have stayed longer, but since we weren't sure if we were allowed to be there we left when we heard a man coming. When we got back to campus, I went and watched a volleyball game and ended up talking to Humphreys, one of the college guys and worship leaders at Flood church. Long story short, he convinced me to sing with them this morning in worship and I had an incredible time. The spirit of the Lord was so evident in that place. We sang incredible songs and truly worshiped.

So my prayer requests. Well, this week I am doing a complete inventory of our pharmacy which will take a lot of time and effort, but it is a necessary evil. I just ask for you to pray that it will go well. I am also having trouble sleeping at night so I am pretty worn out and tired. Also this past week, it was quite difficult emotionally. I was just really missing home. I just ask that you pray that I can find that comfort in God's arms. I also ask that you pray transparency for me. I love you all and thank you so much for your prayers!

Melissa

P.S. I will try to keep this updated better! I know it has been a while!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Rahab

You know those "Aha" moments when you see a story in a new light and it suddenly makes so much sense? Well I had one of those this afternoon while reading a book by McArthur: Twelve Extraordinary Women. I know the story of Rahab and the battle of Jericho, but I never really put the two together. I have always separated the two stories, but when the wall fell everything was in pieces all but Rahab's house that is. I just have this picture of a single house with a scarlet cord dangling out of the window appearing in the dust surrounded by millions of bricks. Can you imagine being Rahab? I mean she was promised that she and everyone in her house would be spared, but in one moment the very wall to which her house was attached fell to the ground. What an incredible test of faith?! She was only a believer for a matter days before her faith was tested in a BIG way. Her life was at stake. I guess that is why her name is listed in Hebrews 11. It isn't because she was fearless or blameless, but it is because she had enough faith to trust that God would and could protect her.

That brings up another point: Rahab is far from blameless, but she is included in the genealogy of Jesus. Why would a prostitute get such a great honor of being an ancestor to the blameless Lamb? That does not even make sense at all? Wouldn't that taint the blood line? That is the beauty of it. Rahab's past is full of sin and she is not one of God's chosen people, but by the grace of God she is chosen to take part in God's plan of salvation. It is an incredible act of God's mercy and grace not just to His chosen people, but to the "foreigners." It illustrates how God's grace is not just reserved for those who belong to Him, but also to the lost. McArthur best puts it this way, "There's no need to reinvent her past to try to make her seem less of a sinner. The disturbing fact about what she once was simply magnifies the glory of divine grace, which is what made her the extraordinary woman she became."

I just thought I would share this with you. I was reminded of a few things that I so often forget and was able to see a common story in a new light.

Melissa

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Mzungu!!

Time has been flying by and I honestly did not realize I had not posted in two weeks! Sorry about that! Anyway the past two weeks have been for the most part uneventful other than the stomach illness that seems to come and go as it pleases. (I know this is gross, but I think it may be worms! It is Africa!) Last week was a holiday for the academy so almost everyone on campus was on break, except for the clinic. I did however get 2 days off to go to the lake for the weekend. It was amazing and so relaxing to just sit on the beach for an entire day. Paul happened to work his magic and get a couple of rooms at Club Makokola so that made it even better. While there we kayaked and relaxed on the beach and by the pool. After lunch we decided to go to the curio market down the street not realizing it was 2km away and walked in the heat of the day without water. When we got there we paid a guy to go to the store and buy us bottles of water. The walk back was really neat. The children in the surrounding village met us on the road and followed us back to the hotel. Some were old enough to go to school and know a little english so we talked to them. Agnes and I talked about her school and how she wanted to be a doctor. Before long though, I realized that her only interest in me was the plastic bottle I was carrying. She and every other child following us wanted what we considered trash. It was valuable to them. It kind of broke my heart that I take for granted the simple things because they are so common. Afterward I really wanted to follow them home, but I do not think it would go over very well if a group of about 5 mzungus(chichewa for ghost), followed them home.

Saturday, I went into another village with some girls to get some cushions made for Tyler who just arrived today. It is a village literally across the street from ABC. It is incredible what a difference it makes depending on the side of the street you are on. It is like two different worlds. The children in this village followed the car and beat on it asking for money and gum, but the funniest part was when they went and found a doll with blonde hair and blue eyes and showed it to us yelling mzungu. I thought it was hilarious! Then later that day, I went to the Crisis Nursery. I just love those babies. They are so sweet, but it breaks my heart that there just are not enough people to hold them. They have to be in their beds most of the time because there just is not enough people to watch. It is quite an experience, but I always leave with a renewed sense of gratitude for everything that i have been given.

So needless to say, it has been quite busy around here. Like always, I have a few things to ask you to pray about. My medical school applications are done just waiting on the final paperwork to go through. I am also learning a lot about me, and finding things that really do need a bit of tweaking. This process is not easy, but I will be better because of it. I just ask that you pray for God's grace as I strive to become more and more like Him. It just seems the more I learn about God the smaller I seem. It isn't a bad thing, but a hard thing to grasp. Anyway this was just a piece of my heart and I hope you are having a wonderful day. Thanks again for all your support!!

Melissa