We have been so encouraged by the time we have spent with family, friends & supporters, and sharing about Malawi at churches, schools, and Bible studies. Though we weren't able to capture many of these moments on camera, here are a few pictures to give you just a glimpse of what we have been up to.
Many people ask us what we do on furlough. Do we have jobs? Is it a vacation? Have we been able to rest? Our time here has been a rest in a way, but a very full, busy, and active rest. The rest we have found in our time here has been a deep rest, the kind that happens when God graciously draws you to Himself. Despite endless transitions, forgotten routine and exhausted children, God is orchestrating His good plan for us through it all. He brings peace, joy, passion, focus, and compassion to our tired hearts and lifts our eyes to His. How good He is! How undeserving we are!
We have been so encouraged by the time we have spent with family, friends & supporters, and sharing about Malawi at churches, schools, and Bible studies. Though we weren't able to capture many of these moments on camera, here are a few pictures to give you just a glimpse of what we have been up to.
It has been my privilege to coach the ABC Lions soccer team since 2005. We have never been involved in a formal league, but play games throughout the year against local teams, other colleges, and professional squads. We have several things that set us apart:
1) Every Monday, we start training with a time of devotion and prayer led by one of the players. Right after that we head into our Monday Fitness complete with Monsters, Partner Carries, Burpees, and "Fun" Runs. I am grateful that the guys work so hard. The hope is that this discipline and exercise in "delayed gratification" translates into our personal, academic and spiritual lives as well.
2) Our senior captains, Sam and Henry, served in the same capacity last year as juniors. Sam plays center back and Henry plays striker. They are great leaders: working hard, checking in on players, setting a great example. I am so grateful for these guys.
3) Richard Maguire is an alumni and former player, who has worked at ABC Malawi since graduating. Before ABC, he served in the Malawi Defense Force for a few years (the Malawian army) and continues to be one of the fittest guys I know. He is coaching the team this year while we are home on furlough. Not only is he a faithful Christian leader at ABC, he also helps run a ministry called LiveLove which serves village communities just minutes away. I couldn't ask for a better role model for the team.
4) We are pretty good. We have only lost a few games in the last couple of years. We are always working to keep first things first: our priority isn't winning, it's using soccer as an opportunity to reach out to others for Christ while building our character and love for one another.
5) At the end of the year, we send the seniors off in style, with a jersey for their favorite team in Europe. Steve and Tushah graduated in June 2016, and are obvious and outspoken Arsenal and Liverpool fans.
6) I really do enjoy being around the guys. We laught a lot and have a really good time at training. Last year was tough, with many heavy things to walk through. But I was always refreshed when spending time with the guys on the team.
These guys are a real encouragement to me, and a constant reminder of why we're in Malawi at ABC: helping to disciple young men and women to lead their nation, and the continent of Africa, as educated and well-equipped Christians.
One Saturday a month we take students from African Bible College out to Bright Vision. The short summary is that they have a kids program with singing and Bible-teaching, then split into smaller groups with the secondary school students, soccer team, and younger kids to talk about life and faith. A few months ago, we handed out 100 Bibles so these students could read God's Word. It is most likely the only book that they own. We can tell that they are reading them because some of the questions they ask in these group times are tough inquiries about what they have read!
So two weeks ago was our monthly Saturday time in Chamadenga. We first went out to visit our agriculture program. Walking through maize fields is slow but hopeful. Maize means food, which means life in rural Malawi. Row after row of maize slides by and we're grateful for the impending harvest. On the way to our irrigation farming, we see a man cruising the dam on his homemade boat. He's fishing and has brought in several small fish for dinner.
Our irrigation farming has been up and running the past few years thanks to the generosity of High Desert Church in CA. They bought us a simple gas-powered pump that gets dam water onto five acres of land above the dam. Maize, cassava, and sugar cane are already planted, with tomatoes and more maize coming in the next week. A new addition is the row of papaya trees that grow fast and produce vitamin rich (though not all that tasty) fruit. While we talk the ladies are collecting telele to cook later for lunch. It's a green vegetable that grows wild and is easily collected from the midst of cultivated crops.
When we get back to Bright Vision, the ABC students go to work. Gathering all of the children into the hall, they start singing and playing games. They break up into their groups with the kids and find some shade under a tree.
From there, Stanley and I jump on bikes to visit some families in our sponsorship program. We visit Mwaiwao and her grandmother to check in with how they are doing. They have run out of food, so we need to get them some maize. Thankfully just next to their house they have some tall maize growing that will be harvested soon. We also visit Naman, who works at Bright Vision. He was hit by a motorcycle a couple of weeks ago. After spending a week in the hospital he is back at home but with multiple fractures in his face (cheek and jaw). He's had his jaw wired shut and can only eat through a straw. In the village he's not getting smoothies so he's pretty limited. Praise God that Naman was spared (you can pray for him). When you spend time in the village you learn a lot. We met a boy who is a goat-herder who had made himself a hat from a large leaf. Nearby there was an older man weaving a mat. I watched him for a while and realized that this is an incredibly resourceful use of the things available in the village.
When Stanley and I get back to Bright Vision everyone is gearing up for the feeding program. There are a lot of kids coming to eat these days as food is very scarce. The ladies are preparing the telele to eat with the beans and nsima. The kids line up to have their hands washed before rushing into the hall to receive food. It's always chaotic, and that's okay. We give the kids a pretty healthy portion of food, and many of them save some to take home to share with people there. I admire this in the kids, because I know that they are hungry.
Becca and I continue to be blessed in many ways through Bright Vision: 1) We learn about Malawi and life in the village whenever we are there, 2) We get to see the students from ABC serve and minister in a way that we could never do ourselves, 3) Yami and Jaden see and experience a way of life and service that I hope produces in them gratitude, compassion, and a desire to serve God with their lives as well.
This blog entry is more of a picture blog. We have lots of beautiful birds around campus and Yami likes checking them out in the bird-book too. We have family walks with Nacho to spot birds (bird nerd!) and look at flowers. Sometimes I even get some sprint drills in with the boys (never too early to start). The boys like to "dance" and flex their muscles. Yami is an adventurous and gifted swimmer (with good friends like Zimatha) while Jaden more likes to wear his goggles, pose for pictures and play BY the pool. Becca's 2nd grade class is showing off their art and Yami's class enjoys performing songs in chapel.
It was March 2008. Becca and I were blessed with a trip to Mission Training International for their Debriefing and Renewal Program for missionaries. It was a great week, partly because we were given the freedom to use our afternoons as we pleased. Becca and I chose to spend one afternoon hiking into the mountains above MTI (Palmer Lake, Colorado). After a long walk together we decided to split up for an hour or two and spend time along with God. I was thinking that I'd go for an hour, find a rock, and try not to freeze while I prayed without ceasing in the beautiful, snow-covered landscape. It didn't end up being quite that. I headed up a hill in two feet of fresh powder, was soaked with snow-melt by the time I was forced to stop due to burning lungs. I sat for a while catching my breath, spent about 3.5 minutes praying and then started focusing on the cold wet in my shoes rather than communing with God. I decided to head back, and do it on a run since it was seriously cold. So I headed back down the hill, running. Running quickly turned into jumping/sliding/laughing/falling/tumbling/recovering/bounding/whooping all the way to the bottom of the hill. I got down and thought, "Huh, I'm unscathed, let's do that again."(not sure if I actually went third person in my mind but it makes sense later). I didn't do it again mostly because I had already exhausted myself on the initial climb and doing that part again didn't sound as appealing. The next day, one of our debrief times asked us what had been the most significant realization of our day yesterday. I was nervous at first cause some in the group were talking about incredible healing they were experiencing from wounds they received on the mission field (all interpersonal which is pretty common) or incredible prayer times like the one I wanted to have on that rock. When the sharing came to me, I realized that the best thing I'd experienced that week was a sorta' controlled tumble down a hill after a somewhat failed-because-forced prayer time. I shared with the group, expressing my need to be adventurous and uncontrolled and risky and free like a kid more often. I think it resonated with a couple of people in the room. Regardless, it was a new realization to me. I need to do stuff like this more often.
So what does this have to do with a picture of me and my friend Matt on a ridiculous lookout rock at the top of Domwe Island a few weeks ago? After the hour hike up to the top of the island, we came out to this incredible view of Cape Maclear and the islands that sit off the shore. We enjoyed the view for a while, Matt got some sweet pics (he's a professional) and ate some beef-jerky (thanks Victor Chen). On the way down we started jogging a bit and ended up in a full-on jumping/sliding/laughing/thankfullynofallingortumbling/
recovering/bounding/cannonballing down the hill in 1/4 of the time it took us to go up. That same feeling of reckless abandon, physical exertion, a bit out of control, excitement. I'm not going to say that it was the best part of the trip, because that is reserved for the really good time spent with Becca, the boys and the Floreens. But that was the funnest 15 minutes of my days on the island; hurling myself down the hill.
It would be silly to think that this type of experience is exclusive to Christians, or that it is the best/purest way for me to connect with God. People seek these types of fun and exhilarating things all the time because it makes them feel alive. I'm grateful that God made us/me to be able to experience and appreciate and reflect upon these times (though I don't know how many more times I can do this type of stuff since I'm getting on in years). I just want to be able to balance it. God has given us His Word and prayer to reveal Himself to us through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. There are spiritual disciplines that believers have practiced through millennia that allow God time and space to form our hearts. Maybe I just need to include this enjoyment of the Creation, and how He made me to romp in it, to my regular list of spiritual disciplines.
We sang the song Hosanna in church yesterday and this line of prayer asks that God would form our hearts to be so much like His that the things that bring Him grief would also bring grief to us. The next line: "Everything I am for Your kingdom's cause". Immediately, we commit ourselves to doing something about it, to His glory.
Living in Malawi provides plenty of opportunities to have your heart broken by incredibly apparent physical needs. As of 2015, Malawi is the poorest country in the world according to the World Bank's GDP rankings. So if you want a tangible picture of what poverty looks like
and what it really means, come visit a village in rural Malawi.
On Saturday I was out at Bright Vision to visit eight of the ten child-headed-households that we help support in the Chamadenga area. For the past two years, we have been giving each of these families fertilizer and seed for their fields, school fees for their kids, plastic paper to use as waterproof roofing, and maize to supplement their insufficient food supply. So I was visiting homes doing a needs assessment with Stanley, Patricia, (one of our secondary school sponsorship graduates), and Mphatso (and ABC graduate). Each home we visited was a bit different, but the general profile is: grandmother with 3-6 grandkids, no parents, teenagers serving as primary care providers, serious poverty indicators.
The main question we had for them: "What do you need from Bright Vision this year?" Without exception the first answer was FOOD. Explanation: Malawi's rainy season (November to March) was not good this year: started late, rained very hard (resulting in disastrous flooding in parts of the country: check previous blog post), and ended early. What that means is that even if people had fertilizer to help their maize crop, their harvest was far below what was hoped for or needed. Forecasts for food security this year are bleak with maize reserves and budget allocation for food relief falling far below estimated national needs.
Back to the day: Visiting these homes, my heart was breaking. This is poverty that can result in fear, suffering, and the loss of hope. It's terrible and I think it breaks God's heart. He doesn't want any of his image bearers afraid of what happens when their food runs out. He doesn't want them suffering from hunger pangs or shivering with fever because of malaria. He doesn't want his children living without hope that it could someday be better.
The second house we visited was difficult. Grandmother and grand-daughter sat outside their house that is really just a room roofed with thatch/plastic that has a grass mat for a bed that is about 7 feet by 9 feet that is home to 6 people, a chicken and all of their earthly belongings. Their maize from this past season (that should last them until March) is gone and the older children spend their days trying to find cassava to eat. And this is with our help: otherwise they would have run out of food long ago, had a leaky roof, and the kids wouldn't be going to school.
We visited Esau's house and it was both the most hard to see and the most encouraging stop of the day. He's 15 and responsible for taking care of his siblings and grandmother. I had my head in my hands asking God, is bright, clever, and hopeful. I asked him what he wanted to be when he grows up and he said he wanted to be an agricultural expert to help people in the village farm more effectively. So I'm thinking, "What are we going to do to make this dream a possibility?"
That's what we're trying to do at Bright Vision. The need in the area is tremendous. We know that these aren't the only ten homes that are in terrible need, but we're committed to helping. As a result of the day, we're tripling the budget line item for this child-headed-household program. We need to do more and we're going to. Along with this financial commitment, we are going to increase monitoring and visitation with these families. We will provide short-term relief while also trying to take steps to help them in the long-term: education, agricultural training, adequate housing.
If our heart breaks when we see these things, that's probably good. But if we don't do anything about it, then it is pretty much worthless. That's why I like these adjoining lines in this worship song we sang on Sunday. A commitment to doing something to mend broken hearts. I'd appreciate your prayer for wisdom and purpose in our efforts for these child-headed-households and the provision of the financial resources that we need to abate fear, alleviate suffering and provide hope for kids like Esau.
I hope you caught my can inclusion earlier. I didn't say anything up there, because I have seen the people of Malawi confront poverty with bravery in the face of fear, patience in the face of suffering, and indomitable hope for the future. Poverty can paralyze, but in many cases it does not. God is good and working in the hearts and minds of the poorest people in the world. I know, I've seen it firsthand.
About a month ago the southern region of Malawi was hit with severe and disastrous flooding that has effected almost a quarter of a million people in Malawi. The rains that are expected annually in December did not come, leaving the land dry and rock solid. When they eventually came, a month late, they came heavy and in abundance. Everything was devastated as the waters swept over the tree barren land. People, homes, crops, and livestock were washed away. President Mutharika declared the southern half of the country in a state of disaster. The effects will be long lasting, as people have lost literally everything, including their food supply in crops for the next year and disease threatens with standing water covering the lands. Flood relief efforts are being organized by many on the ground in Malawi and abroad. Please pray for Malawi, her people, and her government as months and probably years of healing and rebuilding begins.
Kellen had the opportunity to lead a team of staff and students from the academy to help with the flood relief efforts. They transported donations given by academy students and their families and supporters from the States. Thank you to those of you who were able to give and most of all for all your prayers. God is good. Below is a reflection Kellen wrote on their trip:
In reflecting on the trip this past weekend, I am humbled to see how God was working throughout the entire process.
I was tasked with leading this trip, but it would be more accurate to say that I co-led with one of our ABC graduates, Richard Maguire (also a former player of mine on the soccer team and a good friend). He is an all-around great guy: passionate about serving both God and those around him, and gifted in his ability to communicate and coordinate. With these gifts he was able to establish firm contacts with the District Commissioner’s (DC) office in Phalombe and coordinate transport for the relief items.
It was exciting to see our students and families bringing in relief items. We were able to collect quite a few things, but the bulk of what we took down to Phalombe was purchased through financial contributions in Malawi and from donors in the USA. We were able to collect and purchase enough to help 400 families. Only 48 hours before we departed, we received word that another church had donated a large chunk of money. Instead of collecting and buying 410 bags maize (110 lbs. each), we were able to buy 510! We were also able to purchase chlorine (in both powder and liquid form) that is used to sanitize water (a big challenge as a result of the flooding).
Our team was composed of four high school students, five ABC grads who now work at ABC or ABC Christian Academy, two ABC missionary staff who are parents at the academy, and four ABC Christian Academy missionaries. But we weren’t just a group of fifteen. It was a real encouragement to us knowing that our school community and supporters of ABC were praying for us around the world. God was definitely at work as we prepared: getting vehicles ready to go (at the eleventh hour no less!), connecting us to the right people at the right time, and bringing the team together.
After a day of travel and preparation on Saturday, we set out early Sunday morning for Phalombe and a day of ministry. The drive took longer than expected, as the roads were rutted and pot-holed for the entire 40 km drive. When we got to Phalombe, the head of disaster management for the district introduced us to the district officer who would be helping us. His name is Joseph and he proved to be a man of great patience and ability throughout the day. Because of heavy rains in the days leading up to our trip, we couldn’t actually go to the relief camps that had been set up near affected areas. Instead we would be heading to a nearby school and people from the camps would come to us.
We set out on the dirt road leading from Phalombe to Zomba and found that it had been washed out by the flooding, so we had to take a detour. This detour had its own water issues, and it was some adventurous driving. There were a few hundred people waiting for us at the school. We offloaded the items in an empty classroom and started to prepare for the distribution. Here’s what it looked like: 400 buckets, each filled with soap, a cup, two plates, a Bible, a blanket, a mosquito net, and a cooking pot. While most of us were sorting the buckets, our students were interviewing flood victims and documenting their story on camera. They each told similar stories: experiencing heavy rain for hours on end, having to leave their homes to escape flood waters, losing their homes and fields, fearing for the lives of their families.
After getting the buckets in order, we were able to gather about 120 people (it was raining so we couldn’t meet everyone outside) into a classroom to explain who we were and why we were there. I spoke a few words about our school and the efforts that many people had taken in order to provide for and encourage them in their time of need. One of our ABC grads who teaches at the academy, Graycian Chitekwe, preached the gospel message and two more ABC grads led the group in Chichewa choruses. I was very encouraged to see the people still able to sing with joy in the midst of very difficult times.
The distribution was set up by Joseph and a local committee of village chiefs. Each chief chose which people from his village that needed help and Joseph read the names from their lists. They would come forward one by one to receive the bucket of items handed out by our team. The scene was surprisingly calm and orderly, as we had heard that many distribution sites had become chaotic and even violent with people rushing forward to receive aid. Joseph and the chiefs played a big part in this, so thank God for them.
It didn’t take long to get through all 400 of our buckets and after cleaning up we headed back to the truck carrying the maize. It was still stuck but soon after we arrived, the truck was offloaded. We were worried that this could devolve into a mad rush for food aid, but once again, it was calm and orderly. The people who had received buckets walked the two kilometers and calmly waited to receive their bag of maize. By 4pm, most of the maize had been distributed and we headed back to Phalombe and back to our accommodations in Mulanje.
Throughout our drives on Sunday, we were able to see many places that had been affected by the flood waters. In some places, streams had become rushing rivers and rivers had become nightmarish torrents that swept away anything in its path. And we were not even witness to the worst areas because they were inaccessible by vehicle. Not 15 kilometers from the school we visited, houses and fields were still underwater or completely destroyed by the flooding three weeks prior. The international community is responding (we saw UNICEF and Red Cross vehicles and personnel on the drive), but there will be a myriad of needs confronting the country for months to come.
Proverbs 16:9 tells us that we make plans but God directs our steps. Our trip offered proof of this text. In reflecting on the process of preparation and travel and ministry, I am catching glimpses of how God worked out countless details and graciously adjusted our plans with “mishaps” that proved to be blessings. 1) We had planned the trip a week earlier, but pushing it back allowed us to collect more goods, receive more donated money, and plan logistics better. 2) A truck that wouldn’t start in Blantyre actually saved us hours of unnecessary driving that we had planned for Saturday to visit the DC’s office. 3) Our maize truck getting stuck in the mud meant we couldn’t hand out maize at the school, but it actually simplified our distribution process. I know that God was working throughout the weekend; sorting out the things we couldn’t foresee and altering our plans in His wisdom for the good of the trip.
I could tell by their hard work and good attitudes that everyone on the team was excited and grateful to be a part of the work we did on this trip. I was so impressed by the enthusiasm and humility displayed by our students and staff. As a Christian educator, I was especially grateful that our academy students had the opportunity to speak with people who had lost everything and then be there to bless them with tangible help. My prayer is that this experience settles deep in their hearts, and that the result will be increased compassion and a desire to serve those in need with their lives for the glory of God.
I send a sincere message of thanks for your prayers and financial support of our trip. I continue to pray that God is glorified through this most recent relief effort from ABC in Malawi.
So it's been a while since we've posted an update, and needless to say, a lot has been going on! We are still blessed to be living and serving in Malawi, but we want to give you a glimpse of the highlights of 2014.
The BIGGEST news of the year is that our family of three grew to a family of four! We welcomed home 8 month old Jaden Thokozani on April 5th. We met Jaden at Amao orphanage in July 2013 when he was three weeks old. He is a happy, excitable, playful little guy who has brought many smiles to our family. We are still in the foster-to-adopt stage of the process and hope to have a court case set for his adoption soon. Please pray with us that this will go smoothly and quickly!
One of the above mentioned seniors is Mphatso Sandram. He is a bright, thoughtful and caring young man. We have been blessed to get to know him better and consider him a part of the family. His extended family is from the area surrounding Bright Vision and he has been excited about helping out at BVOC regularly.
This young woman's parents have passed away and she is now responsible for raising her 2 sisters on her own. Last year, a men's Bible study group from Danville, California was able to support a project through BVOC to build her family a new house. She was also able to receive mosquito nets from Evergreen. We are grateful to see how God uses people from across the world to love and care for those who are in need in Malawi.
Kellen has the opportunity to speak to the upper school students in chapel every few weeks. He is gifted in grabbing their attention through action and humor, while still clearly speaking the truth from God's Word. The students love this photo, for good reason, and my yearbook class has already made plans to get it into the yearbook at least twice. :)
Yami and I have been doing "school" together at home this year. He is 4 years old and, to my delight, loving every minute! I am thankful for the time together, as I am not quite ready to send him off to school yet. He is also very excited about joining the reception kids at the academy next year and walking to school with dad.
Relationships with those around us continue to brighten our days and bring deeper meaning to our lives. We are thankful to get to love and be loved by so many friends who we consider our Malawian family!
Thanks for taking the time to visit our blog even despite our erratic posting. We hope our next one will come sooner!
Our meeting in the kitchen
Within the first week of being back in Malawi, I was out at Bright Vision twice to help out a short-term team who was in town. It was really good to be back out there having been gone a year. Not a whole lot had changed, which is a great thing. While we were gone, things continued on, mostly as normal. Our friend Jeff White was this side helping us to get money to Stanley and Bright Vision throughout the year.
Our most recent visit to Bright Vision was a very memorable one. Stanley wanted us to come out so that we could have a "meeting." Whenever I hear this, I cringe a bit. Meetings in Malawi in general (and Bright Vision is no exception) are usually very long and quite formal. So we headed out, not sure what the morning and early afternoon had in store for us. We got there and pretty much all of the staff and committees were there . We rounded up chairs and took a seat in the kitchen. There was even an MC for the meeting! I'm thinking "Oh man, this is going to be a record-breaker!"
After having everyone introduce themselves, Stanley had each of the different groups at Bright Vision give a short report on the year past. Many of the "heads" of these groups had written out their speech and all of them spoke in Chichewa. Stanley would translate and add a few notes on the end of each report. The groups spoke about their activities the last year, as well as challenges they have faced. As we went on, my attitude began to change towards this meeting. First, I began to feel convicted. We westerners, and myself included, like to do things efficiently, quickly, and with tangible purpose. If we are a part of a meeting that isn't characterized by these things, we tend to start disengaging or silently complaining. I had been prepared for this in myself. But as we went on in the meeting I realized that my western programming can be such a hindrance to ministry here. I was preparing to endure this meeting instead of seeing it as a very important event for all of these people here. I was viewing it as a time-intensive inconvenience while they saw it as a very good and necessary time to meet together. I began to see it as they did as we went along. Malawians are great teachers.
My second feeling was one of overwhelming unworthiness. Each person who got up to speak was adamant in their recognition of Becca and me as the reason why they could do what they did at Bright Vision. Stanley would add to this each time saying that Bright Vision exists because of our support. They wished us long life many times (partly as a result of our generosity and partly so we can continue our generosity) and thanked us for such generosity. The darkest side of my heart really enjoyed a part of this adulation, while the better part of me shuttered in fear of taking it to heart.
This went on for about 45 minutes when I finally got the chance to speak while closing the meeting. My intent was threefold: 1) to say thanks to them because they are the ones who do the bulk of the work, 2) to make sure they know it is the generosity of so many others in the USA who support us and BVOC, 3) to direct the praise to the rightful recipient; namely the triune God. I tried to remind the group that we have been the unworthy recipients of God's abundant provision for our material needs and our eternal well-being. We have been so blessed, and God has allowed us to bless Bright Vision.
It is a privilege to serve in God's Kingdom work. I was reminded of this truth by our meeting. I may not have come into it excited, but I came out resolute to continue the work of serving the numerous and apparent needs of children in Chamadenga.
Back in March, I was invited by the youth pastor at Bridges Christian Fellowship (our home church in Riverside) to speak to the youth on a Tuesday night. He asked if I could talk about what motivates us in ministry in Malawi, what I was learning about God, and what is has been like being home on furlough. These were some things I'd been thinking about but his questions were very timely, because they forced me to get some thoughts down on paper. It was very fruitful for the time home in general as well as the Tuesday night study. Two groups of students took a look at two passages, Romans 5:1-11 and Ephesians 2:1-10. Both sections of Scripture focus on the disparity between the punishment we deserve as sinners and the gracious offer of life that stands at the core of the Gospel. The beauty of this Truth is unmatched, and the hope for the night was to help the students to dwell on this just a bit. So the answer to the question of what motivates us to head back to Malawi: the Gospel. Becca and I have been recipients of this wonderful gift of God, and it has changed our live. It's worth living out and sharing at any personal cost. We feel like God has led us to do that in Malawi.
So a few weeks later I was preaching at First Baptist Church in Kansas. I've preached before, but never in three consecutive services! I have much more respect for the pastors who preach multiple services each Sunday morning. It's a big task.
They asked me to speak on the topic of Living out your Faith. My fear was making it something focused on our role and less on how great it is to serve a God who loves us. So I tried to highlight some great Gospel realities and explain how this motivates our efforts to live out the Christian faith.
We are sinners who deserve punishment- This is the starting point, and the Scriptures are clear in its identification of humans as naturally sinful. Beyond this natural bent, we actually choose to rebel against the God who created us and gives us life every day. God is so holy and good that this rebellion separates us from Him; now and for eternity.
God intervenes- Even when we were enemies of God, He chose to step in on our behalf. Christ died a horrible death, as payment for a punishment that we deserve. What motivated this act? His love, expressed through Jesus. Mercy is not free, it was bought at a price. It was made possible by the death of Christ.
Our adoption as sons and daughers- The incredible thing is that we are not just extended mercy that saves us from punishment. Scripture tells us that we are graciously offered a place in the family. JI Packer writes that adoption is our highest blessing as Christians, even moreso than justification. He argues that justification is best understood in courtroom lingo, while adoption is a family image. The intimacy and privilege of a family relationship is more than we could imagine.
Joining the Family Business- As we enter into the family privileges, we also take on the family responsibilities. The rules are simple, Love God and Love Others. This love is modeled for us by Christ, and is centered around the truth of sacrificial service. Our new job as Christians, is to consistently lay ourselves down to honor and obey God while loving and serving others.
What this looks like is unique for each person. But the motivation should never be lacking. When we looking at the incredible gift we have been given in the gospel of Jesus Christ, we can't help but respond with a life lived in gratitude, overflowing with grace and intentionally seeking ways to serve.
Have you been feeling weary, or just less energetic in your service of God and others? We definitely did when we got home from Malawi last summer. We were toast. But thankfully, God has been renewing our energy this year and this gospel message that we need to hear every day has been at the core. Let it energize you as well. Let it fill you with gratitude. And then, live it out.
Kellen & Becca
We are missionaries serving at African Bible College in Malawi, Africa. Our sons, Yamikani, and Jaden, are both adopted from Malawi and bring much joy to our lives! We have an older blog that covers time up until December 2012 click here.