Thursday, September 24, 2009

August 3rd, 2008

August 3rd

I looked up into the night sky tonight and realized that the stars the I looked up at every night have slowly changed as a result of the rotating earth. The stars here are different, instead of the big dipper, we see the southern cross. We see the pale dust of the milky way. And the stars and planets seem magnificently closer. They are all changing, they are now in different places in the sky. I see these are representations of my time here. How in the beginning I only saw the things I was introduced to, and saw things for the first time, like the new stars above me. Now I am familiar with this night sky, and have grown to take comfort in the differences that it offers me from the skies above my head in California or the Rockies. I have been here every night, able to look up at the stars and slowly seem them move, slowly watch the world as it changes before me, but all with the comfort of seeing the same stars in the sky, even if they appear to me as differently placed. As I look into the face of my last week of ministry here in Malawi, my heart fills with a sadness that I didn't expect. This entire time most of us have been counting down the weeks until we were safe in the comforts of America, and at this point, I'm not sure the comforts of our lives in America outweigh the joys that Malawi brings me. My heart is not yet prepared to face the trials of home, which all of you have faced day in and day out this summer, as you have heard of my adventures, and kept me in your prayers, I know that you have all had struggles of your own. That you have all faced days of sadness and days of joy, days you wished you were somewhere across the world, and days where you felt completely content where you are. I have come to appreciate days that challenge my comfort and teach me to be open to explore the endless possibilities that my faith leads me to do, and I hope that you have too.

I regret to inform you all, that despite our prayers, we are not able to return to Muzu. Not even to say good-bye, or tell the children that loved us and we loved back equally or more, that we will be thinking of them, that we love them,and despite our unfulfilled promises of returning again. I know and completely trust that God knows what he is doing, and trust that the difference that we could have possibly made, has already been made. Please, keep the people of this village in your prayers, for they are in need. Of education, food, shelter, and protection of what they fear. Keep them safely in your prayers, which lay close to your heart.

My afternoons that were usually filled with Muzu, have been filled with various other activities. Last tuesday, I traveled around another village, with my leader, to take pictures of the family that she sponsors. I was an outsider with a camera, and found an easy way to make these ladies laugh. There are 5 Mothers, who had about 3 huge barrels of peanuts. They were taking the nuts out of the shells, then making it into flour. It was an incredible experience, the process is extremely time consuming and tiring. From taking the nuts out of the shells, to mashing them up in this big bowl, sifting through to get the bigger chunks out, etc, etc. We asked them how long this flour lasted them, they said, 3 days to make and it lasts 3 days. Wow. These communities share what they have, and take the needs of survival and turn it into days of laughter, joy and community. On Thursday, I took some time to go around to see what other ministries my fellow intern team has done. Two interns have taken a group of about 12 teenage girls, and have led a bible study. They shared their stories of physical abuse, and how it is important to stand up to someone, even if it is a family member. A young girl came with a story the next day that her brother in law was beating her, and she ran away to safety. She said that the two intern girls had given her the strength to make the decision to run away. Incredible. Then I walked into the room where the widows ministry was held. I was instantly greeted with a joyous song of welcoming and dancing. I went around and introduced myself to all the widows (40) of all different ages. Some in their 80's some in their early 20's with anywhere from 9 to 5 children. All trying to survive without husbands. I heard some of their stories, they were so interested in my story, and so thankful that I was able to pursue my education. Made me think, how lucky I am to be able to get an education, and it is time to take it as seriously as someone who has been given a gift. It wouldn't be right to throw away, but to cherish. So many eye opening experiences that I will carry with me all the days of my life. I thank you again for all of you who have provided me a way to get here, whether it is through financial support, emotional, or prayerful, it has all changed my life.

I will spend my time in the stars tonight,because I know my time here is limited. I am thankful that every time we want to remember God, we can just look up into the sky, think of how infinitely big it is, knowing that he can hold it in the palm of His hand. Remembering how small we are, yet he knows the number of hairs on our heads, and calls us by name. It is good, so good.

Thank you for your time, in listening to my rambling thoughts, you mean so much to me,

In Him,


Malawi July 29th, 2008

July 29th,

Have you ever wanted to be famous?

If so, then come to Africa.

Hello my dear friends and family, I hope this email greets you with good spirits and a fresh day. I have been imaging that being a white person here in Malawi is like being a famous person in America. Coming in the towns in the back of the truck you are constantly yelled at and waved at, all in a friendly matter, but each and every day we always come in, and we always receive the same response. These kids are genuinely happy to see us. When you step out of the truck, you wish you had more than two hands because you are overwhelmed by the children that are pushing to the front of the crowds just to hold your hand. Giving the kid a smile, well, that makes their day. Picking them up and holding them, well that gives them bragging rights to the rest of the kids. Talking with them, playing hand games, taking pictures of them, well it all brings to them what we've all been missing this whole time, joy. It has been amazing to watch these children truly take joy in us being there, and please don't misunderstand me, these children are only happy to see us, not because of us, but because the work that our God has done in their lives through us. Never allow me to take credit for anything that is good that I have ever claimed to do, because it is not with my own strength that I do it. Anyways, my point being, if you ever want to feel loved, important, or cherished, come to Malawi and let these children love on you. It is easy here to love these children because they love us so much, it is hard to feel lonely in the villages because you are never left alone. It really feels like you are famous but I constantly question myself to why on earth these children should love me as they do.

I regret to inform you that there is bad news in my village of Muzu, the village that I talked about earlier where I do sports ministry. There is need for prayer. Apparently last Saturday there was a COTN ref at one of the soccer games, and the men from Muzu were kicked out of the tournament according to a judgement call made by the COTN ref. They told him that if us "azungus" came back on Tuesday that there would be serious consequences. We were not able to go today, and it was hard for us to sit back and watch Tuesday pass without going to Muzu. We are hopeful to go back on Thursday, the worst that can happen is them telling us to leave, right? Well.. let's hope. Please keep Muzu in your prayers, for their chief is one of the Gulu religions which I talked about earlier- they are known to turn into animals at certain times and nothing that happens at that time of them being an animal (fighting, killing, etc) is held accountable to them. So there is a great deal of violence and fear in the children that we work with at Muzu. I hope Thursday we can go back.

This weekened was relaxing for us, we got to go to town again, we walked six miles there and back and it was nice to get outside these walls. There is a nice coffee shop where we can relax and enjoy some coffee or tea. It is hard to explain everything because here, every day is an adventure. It starts with the morning colors of the sunrise and ends with the beautiful silence of the night sky. I have grown to love waking up with the sun every morning and hope to continue that tradition when I get home. I can't even begin to describe how much I have learned since I have been here, greatly appreciating the opportunities I get to experience and grow in what I love to do. Thank you all for your support, I hope that if my words are not adequate, that some of my pictures will be.

Keep our team in your prayers, we only have 1 1/2 weeks left of ministry. Then we go on our safari in zambia, and to lake malawi for debriefing. There is so much to look forward to, but tensions rise as the time ends. We still have lots of work to do here and do not want to grow weary in what we are doing.

For now,

In Him,


Malawi July 17th, 2008

July 17th,

Oh my goodness, I can't even tell you all how thankful I am for all your responses! It brings me so much joy to hear back from all of you! Thank you a thousand times over for taking the time to write me!

It is not Thursday night, locked inside the compound, finally able to email twice a week! Tonight was a special night, full of birthday celebrations Malawian style, we ate a special meal, cake, and danced! What a night! This is the best i've felt since falling sick last week at the orphanage. Shortly after my email to you all in town we hopped on a bus for a two hour car ride to a place called Chiwengo, where there are over 60 houses of orphans. It was such a beautiful property. For me, it didn't start out right when I was holding a boy orphan and we were climbing a tree, I fell and still have a piece of bark in my leg. That night we ate beans and rice, and enjoyed the welcome with dancing and skits from the kids, they also shared their stories about how they got off the streets and into the orphanage, COTN is doing amazing things in the lives of these children. The next morning my sickness began, it may be too much information but threw up over 20 times and got sick on the other end too! It wasn't until yesterday that I felt better, and today I was back at work. A full day of ministry. I am thankful for feeling better, the sickness made me miss home some, especially the comforts of a mothers touch, ginger ale, and saltine crackers.

I was cut off early last email when talking about what we're doing here. I'm not sure what I said last, but today we went into the village that we have our families that we visit twice a week. I have fallen in love with my family, they are the most kind hearted, generous people I've met. Last night one of the girls and I took some time to paint the ABC's on sheets of paper. We brought tape and hung them in the house of our family. In broken english, our mom said " this makes me so happy". It is so clear to me, the simple acts of taking time to paint, or take the time to visit brings tears to the eyes of the kindhearted and appreciative. I realize how much I expect, how much I demand, and I am shamed to think of all the things I've taken advantage of. Needless to say, earlier today I was carrying a very heavy bucket of water on my head, and a baby on my back. Maybe one of the hardest things I've done, these women are strong!

July 17th

Oops! Sorry I sent that too early!

Anyways.. The part that I didn't tell you about was my favorite part. Every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon our sports team (consisting of 3 other girls) were assigned to a village names Muzu. It is not currently a part of COTN. Maybe I told you about this town, I can't remember, I'm sorry! Anyways, these children were terrified of us at first, they had never seen us "azungus" (white people) before. They were scared to play with us, talk to us, hold our hands or anything! This was very different from the other villages where you walk up and you instantly become a jungle jim with kids crawling all over you. This was a challenge that we were all up to, we slowly sat closer to the kids and spread our hands out for them to accept first. By the end of last week, the kids were running after us after we left and were waiting for us when we arrived. They laugh, dance and play unlike any kids I've ever seen. There is a huge need for a feeding program near these children, you can see the pot bellies not because of fullness, but because of malnutrition. These children are deathly close to starvation, but still, they dance. I have grown close to a child named Charles. He can't be more than 3 year old, but his pouty face turns to joy every time I throw him up in the air. He has a special place in my heart, and being able to put a child's face to my hopes for this village encourages me to fight as hard as I can to provide what I am able for these children. It is not something that I can do single handedly, but something that will take many prayers, much patience, and God's generous and helping hand.

I have learned so much here. So many of my dreams have come true, and there is so much to be thankful for. I am thankful that I have such a huge support system back at home, I can trust that each one of you that has told me you will pray for me, is praying, and knows that God is doing work.

This weekend marks the half way point. This week was hard for all of us, homesickness spreads like a wildfire around here. We have three weeks left in ministry after tomorrow. Then one week of Safari and touring Lake Malawi. It will all come so fast, there are still so many more adventures, stories, and pictures to be experienced, told and taken. Thank you for your time, in reading my emails and for encouraging me through writing me back. They have brought many smiles to my face. You are all in my thoughts and prayers.

In Him,

Laura Beale

Malawi July 11th, 2008

Looking back, the best way to describe my experiences in Malawi are through my e-mails home.

July 11th,

To all my friends, family, and supporters,

I am sitting in a small internet cafe in downtown Lilongwe. It has been 2 1/2 weeks since my arrival to this incredible place. I guess I will start from the beginning.

Over 40 hours, 3 stops, and 9 movies later, we finally reached Malawi. I met with the group of other interns in London, and instantly fell in love with the possibility of getting to know these people. We were all in the same boat coming off the plane, wearing the same clothes for the last almost 3 days, and tired beyond belief, but there was a certain excitment that amped our spirits. We finally made it to camp, had 5 minutes to change, grab water and a PBJ (my new best friend) and hit the road to visit the first orphanage. It was so hard being so tired, but the children danced.. and sang, they recited bible verses that they had memorized. They took our hands and danced with us. What a great beginning. Every morning I have worken up with the sun, the vivid colors of the early morning African sunrise dance upon the grasslands like nothing i've ever seen before.

Our living situation has gotten frustrating at times. We are in a compound, surrounded by a huge brick wall, two guard dogs, and electric fence, and guards with machetes 24/7. There are two dorm style buildings, one for girls the other for the boys. Bunk beds, two showers, and bathrooms. It is a lot better than what I had imagined, or planned for. We are lucky to receive hot water. The frustrating part of the living situation, is not being able to leave, feeling like even if we wanted to take a walk, it is too unsafe at times to go alone, we walk around the compound. I have made a friend, the German Sheppard that walks with me every morning. He sleeps by the door sometimes, waiting for our routine. The food isn't bad, well, that's kind of a lie. At first beans and rice were great, maybe the first week of lunch and dinner. I am tired of it now, but it is better than that national food of nsima, completely non-nutritious blend of flower and boiling water. There is always the option of PB&J, but sometimes you just have to suck it up and enjoy the food that the nationals have made.

We are working with 18 global interns (us) 2 of the guys are staying here for the next couple of years. We are also working with a team of national interns, our translators/life savers. We live, eat and work with them. It has been great to get to know them, one girl's story stood out where she used to be one of the kids that we played with. she was sponsored by COTN (Children of the Nations), and was able to eat and go to school. She is now in college, still sponsored, and working hard to achieve her dreams. She is giving back to her community by working for children that were once in the place that she was. Incredible.

The first week we were here, it was a combination of training and working. We are learning the language (or at least trying to) of Chichewa, all i've gotten to know is

"Muli Bwangi" - How are you?

and the proper response.

GZina Lako Ndani- What is your name..

and various other phrases that help me to attempt to communcate with the children I get to see everyday.

In the adventures of our first week, the second day we were here, we were given a list of items that we have to buy at the market to cook a Malawian meal. We were split up into teams, and sent off to the market with 2500 K ($1 = 149K) .. we had to translate the list on the way there and rush through the market, the first one home with all the items and money left over wins. The game was fun until we translate "nkhuku ya moya" - LIVE CHICKEN! I couldn't believe that I had a conversation with my friend hte night before, that I'll eat meat as long as I don't have to see it alive before I eat it. That all came crashing down. Needless to say, we got second in the scavenger hunt, and had to watch all 5 chickens die that night. I still can't eat meat.

There is a town near us called Mgwayi, where interns last year decided that they wanted to get COTN involved with that town. it is now a place where children immediately run up to you, hold your hand and start to play. It is one of my favorite places. We have the chance every Tuesday and Thursday to go to do house visits. We were assigned a family in the beginning and will be returning to that house for the entire trip. Our family is a family that recently lost a 3 year old daughter. It was a suprised death, and has grately affected the family. They were depressed, missed the harvest, and now have no food to eat. The two daughters that are remaining, and one of the greatest things i've seen is those girls smile for the first time since January.

... There is much much more I have to write, so many stories, so much has happened.. I have been writing everything in my journal so I will remember..

We are rushed to leave the cafe, going for a weekend away at a orphanage. Pray for me, think of me and be confident in knowing that you are in my thoughts. I miss you all very very much. I have received moments of homesickness in realizing how far away I am at times. Please respond to my email, it will be comforting hearing from you.

For now,

In Him,

Laura Beale