Weekly Update...April 29

Wow...does time fly or what?!? I cannot believe that May is just right around the corner! Things have been in high speed around here lately. Between ending the school year, finishing up my Perspectives class (which was amazing!!), and preparing for Botswana, things seem to never slow down! God is good, though, and He gives me the needed strength to accomplish all that I need to.

As far as updates, there really isn't much new to report on right now. Here's a little bit:
  • I have my first speaking engagement this Wednesday at a women's Bible study group. One of the women invited me to come and share my story and bring pictures. I am a little nervous, but know that everything will come together fine if I leave it all in God's capable hands.
  • I am beginning to really think about this summer and fall and what things will look like for me. I still don't have totally clear direction, but know that everything will come together. I am hoping to teach summer school and babysit this summer. As for the fall, I would love to be able to be here and substitute teach and babysit...the only issue is where I will be staying. God hasn't made anything clear to me yet, so I will continue walking by faith!
  • I am feeling a deep hunger for more intimate Andrea and Jesus time. With so much going on, that precious time has kind of been pushed to the back burner, which is the last thing I want to happen. I hunger for more of Him and pray for the time and discipline to find that extra time to just sit at His feet and fellowship with Him.

Thank you so much for walking on this journey with me! More updates coming soon!

Weekly update...April 22

I know I am a little behind on my posts...things are great, though! I am excited to report that God has blessed me with "sending agencies" for my future in Botswana. Frontline Missions International, headed up by Mike and Cheryl Johnson, is graciously going to partner with me on this journey. One of the biggest roles FMI will play is receiving any financial support that comes for me and taking care of the details needed for me to have access to that financial support each month. Cheryl walked me through the process that will be used and I am so impressed! Everything is so organized! I am incredibly blessed to be supported and sent by such a wonderful agency run by such godly leaders.

The other agency involved in my sending is my home church, Austin Stone Community Church. We are working on the details of this, but a couple of crucial areas where they will be involved in regards to my sending is with prayer and accountability support. I am so excited to have their partnership, as well. I am truly, truly blessed.

This week the class I have been taking, "Perspectives on the World Christian Movement" will finish up on Thursday evening with a special commissioning service. This semester-long class has been absolutely amazing!! I am sad to see it end, but so grateful at all God has taught me through this course, most of which will be incredibly applicable as I serve Him in Botswana.

Looking forward to sharing more updates and miracles soon!

*Prayer updates remain the same as the last post for now.

Weekly Update....April 7

This week has been a mixture of encouragement and discouragement for me. So many emotions accompany a life-change like this one. I'm so excited at what's to come, yet the enormity of what I am leaving behind is also very real.

*The Perspectives class I am taking on missions is amazing! This week's readings were totally applicable to me and really confirmed many of the things God is doing in my life.
*God seems to send at least one person each day to give me a word of encouragement and support. It's so wonderful to share this experience with so many.
*I have been able to have pretty regular contact with many of my friends in Africa.
*I watched "Facing the Giants" and was greatly encouraged and reminded that nothing is impossible with God.

* This week I had a few "oh my gosh" moments as reality is setting in of what I am about to do and the many changes that are to come.

Prayer Updates:
* Summer/fall plans-I need God's guidance on where to live and where to work. Options are there...I just need discernment.

*Home for Hershey-I will sadly have to give up my cat, Hershey. I am very sad about this, but know God will provide a loving home for him.

*Fundraising-A few things need to be figured out before I can begin the fundraising process to raise the needed funds for my two years in Botswana. I just pray for God to work out all the details.

God amazes me...even in those "oh my gosh" moments, I still have an overwhelming peace about what He's called me to. There is such joy in serving Jesus and in just loving Him. May I not run ahead of Him, trying to figure things out for myself, but wait patiently and trust Him completely. I am hanging on to Proverbs 3:5-6 this week: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not on your own understanding, but in all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths." Amen!

God is in the details...4/4/07

God amazes me in so many ways. One of these ways is how He works in the details of things. I forgot to share earlier a story that demonstrates this perfectly.

When I went to Botswana, I desired to bring back a small Botswana coin for each of my current students (about 55). I wasn't sure how I would get the coins, but hoped to find a way to get to a bank. I originally was going to get each of them 1 Pula, which is a larger, heavier coin, but later decided that I would just get one of the smaller, lighter thebe coins for each of them.

Well, one day I was at the grocery store in Maun with my new friend, Lets. When we got the register, we saw that the woman in front of us paid for her items almost completely with thebe coins. I asked the cashier if I could possibly buy them before she put them in the cash register. Everyone looked at me like I was nuts, but she let me. There were 70 thebe coins.

I have since really pondered on this and stand amazed at how intimately God is involved in our lives. He cares enough about the ministry I have with my students to put me at that grocery store, at that cash register, at that moment, just so I would have the little thebe coins I desired to give to the kids....and not only providing the number I wanted, but extra, knowing that other kids were going to come across my path (former students, teachers' kids) who would also desire one of the coins. Incredible....

March Trip Final Recap...3/31/07

It feels kind of weird to be writing from my apartment in the States. :)

I did make it home ok after a very long, long 30 hours of traveling. This week has been interesting...quite an emotional rollercoaster. I feel pretty adjusted now, though, and finally caught up on my rest. It takes a little while to readjust to everything, for sure.

I am so excited at how the scouting trip went and even more excited at what is to come! This week I signed the declination of my teaching contract for next year, making me officially unemployed as of August. It's kind of scary, but I am walking by faith, knowing that God will direct my every step. I am not totally sure what my life will look like from August through December, but I think I will probably be substitute teaching and babysitting while working hard at my fundraising and other preparations for my move in January.

Let the adventure begin! :)

March Trip Update #6...3/23/07

I just can’t believe that I am leaving today. The past two weeks have been absolutely incredible. I am pretty worn out from my time here in Botswana, but so full of joy and hope in what God has for my future in this beautiful place.

I met with Linda, the administrator here, yesterday and we agreed that my best placement would be as a teacher in the school. We will start the main part of the paper work in August. We already started some, as the process is a long and tedious one. I trust God completely, though. He has brought me this far, so I must have faith that He will carry this on to completion.

Ministry-wise, I will definitely have a role in the children’s ministry. Other than that, I will try out some different things after I get here. I would love to help out in the Mercy Ministries area if there is a place for me. All the possibilities are endless!

Today I went on a walking “safari” at the Maun Wildlife Park, just a few minutes from where I am at. I had a wonderful time and got some great pictures. We saw impala, warthogs (up very close!), monkeys, and right before we left, we almost ran into a giraffe! It was so beautiful and tall! The beauty of all He has created is amazing, isn’t it?

Tonight I went to church in a bit of a melancholy mood. It is so difficult to have to leave here. Being in Botswana just totally “fits”. I really feel like I am home here. Don’t get me wrong, I love America, especially the precious people in my life, but I know that God has called me here. It can be difficult to wait patiently on Him and His timing in bringing His plans for me here to fruition. As of now, the plan is for me to return early in January and fulfill a two-year commitment, placing me in Maun, Botswana until December of 2009 at least. I am so excited! I have a busy nine months ahead of me, but I know the time will probably fly by and I will finally have the opportunity to purchase a one way ticket to my favorite place to be. :)

March Trip Update #5...3/21/07

It's so hard to believe I will be heading back home in two days! This trip has been incredible….so full of different adventures and experiences.

I have been spending most of my time lately in the Okavanga International School (OIS) here at the mission. I have been in a Standard 3 class almost the whole time and have really, really enjoyed it. The kids are all precious and most of them are so respectful and sweet. The school is truly a mixed bunch of kids. Many are from Botswana, but there are also students from South Africa, India, Norway, Nigeria, America, etc. (These are the countries I know about in our little class of 14!) My day starts out observing Standard 4 from 7:30 to 8:30. (Kids younger than that start at 8:30…it’s a transportation issue.) I then go into the Standard 3 class from 8:30 until the school-wide break for students and teachers from 10-10:30. This is snack time/social time for the kids and “tea time” for the teachers. The teachers meet at tables in a central location outside and have tea or coffee while chatting for 30 minutes. Then from 10:30-1:00 is more teaching time. The schedule changes each day, but the subjects taught each day are Math, Science, Social Studies, English, Reading, Agriculture, and French/Setswana. Then on certain days there is P.E., Music, Art, and Swimming. Lunch school-wide is from 1:00-1:30. After that, the kids go to an hour of an elective class. Teachers teach an elective class twice a week from 1:30-2:30. Two of the other days, 1:30-2:30 is used as planning/grading time. Everyone in the school goes home at 1:00 on Fridays. The schedule and pace at the school is pretty laid back and the kids genuinely seem happy to be there. Some subjects are taught outside under the trees, most are taught with hands-on educational tools, there is a lot of time for discussion as a class, and kids are pretty free to chat during work time. Amazingly, I have not seen things get out of hand at all yet. I have also not seen many discipline problems at all. The kids seem to straighten up after a warning. Each class is supposed to have a devotional time with Bible reading and reciting of the Lord’s Prayer each day. I think further discussion and application is welcomed and encouraged.I

have totally enjoyed my time in the school and am so glad these kids have the opportunity to be here. They are experiencing such a wide variety of cultures…just around their work table! I taught a lesson by myself today and it went so well. The only challenge for me is using words that they understand…not that the language is different, just the ways of saying things. For instance, we call the thing at the end of a sentence a period but here it is called a full-stop. So much to re-learn!

As far as my future possibilities at the school, there is a chance that the Standard 3 teacher will not be returning in January. If this were the case, I would love to have that position. However, if that does not work out, there is still the pressing need for someone to take over the preschool. I get the feeling that many people were hoping for that from me. This preschool is like our “Head Start” programs in the States. The kids could be orphans or just be part of the very economically disadvantaged families in the community. The preschool-age kids are so much fun to be around and play with, but as far as being a teacher to them, that is definitely not my comfort level or where my experience is. Also, a lot of work needs to be done in this area of ministry. My plan is to get back home and continue spending time in prayer, diligently pursuing God’s plan for me here. Only He knows what I am truly capable of and where I would best be used. Either way, I will have the opportunity to work with beautiful, precious kids here. That is so exciting to me!

The only new prayer request I have is that the mission has been having terrible problems dealing with immigration lately. They have really been giving the mission and its missionaries a hard time. It seems that they just can’t grasp the concept of people coming here to work for free. They are not convinced that we are not making money off the country. I need to begin praying now for the work visa application process, as it is supposed to be a lengthy and possibly challenging one. What encourages me is knowing that God is in control and His plans will come to pass, no matter the hurdles we need to jump over in the process.

May God continue to richly bless you and meet the needs and desires of your hearts as well. I am beginning to see that He has such wonderful adventures planned for each of us. They all look different, but each is equally fulfilling. What is so beautiful about how He works is that before He shows us His plans for us, He prepares us by putting the desires in our hearts to do exactly what He desires for us to do. He just absolutely amazes me!

March Trip Update #4...3/19/07

Dumela! I’m excited to report that I had a wonderful, blessed weekend and am excited for a great week!

Saturday night was so much fun! I had dinner with another single missionary-teacher here at the youth pastor and his wife’s house. Gary, the youth minister, is from Botswana and is so incredible with these kids. God’s used him in amazing ways here at this church. He just got married in January and his wife, Stacy, is so precious! We had a blast eating and fellowshipping, and I sense the beginning of a dear friendship with Gary and Stacy. Airynn, unfortunately, will already be gone by the time I arrive, but I have really enjoyed my time getting to know her as well.

Sunday morning was incredible!! I absolutely loved every minute working in the children’s ministry. We had a fun day with all of the children and youth ministry combined. We had different fun races and contests and the kids did a precious job leading in worship. I sat amongst the kids and immediately made some new friends. Two boys in particular, both 7 years old, became attached to me, going everywhere I went. I have several pictures with them in the pictures because they LOVED getting their picture taken. :) I can’t wait to share all the pictures from the wonderful morning!

Sunday evening I had a great dinner with the head administrator here and feel so excited and encouraged at the prospect of returning to work here. I can’t wait to watch God work out all of the details! Tonight I acquired a roommate that I will have for the rest of my trip. She just started with the mission working in the Mercy Ministries area. She is from Kenya and is absolutely precious. I am so excited to have someone to chat with in the evenings!

Today I had my first day in the school. I am working in a Standard 3 class (3rd grade), but also did some observing in Standard 4 and Preschool. There are many differences, of course, but also many similarities. I will wait until my next update to give you more information about the school. My favorite part so far is all the different accents. :)

As far as prayer requests go, I am amazed to see how God has been answering what I've been praying for. I am still petitioning God’s direction for the ministries I would be involved in here. I am also continuing prayers for my physical health and protection and internet communication. Other than that, I have really been praying for many areas of Botswana that I have learned about since being here. There is just so much to pray for in this country. I am diligently petitioning God’s hand to move among the people here. I am asking God to continue breaking my heart for the people of this land. I want to be very faithful to cover them in prayer. Also, the mission has had various little issues/complications arising lately that need God’s hand to resolve them. It can be easy for the missionaries and staff to become frustrated or discouraged when these things come up and I know that is exactly the enemy’s point. I just pray for God to overcome and work all the details out.

March Trip Update #3...3/17/07

Today I am having a very relaxing day…and it is VERY hot! I am sitting outside right now and the only sound I hear is the breeze and many different birds in the nearby trees. I just sit and marvel that God has made a way for me to be here in this beautiful place again. I have to admit that I think it is going to be difficult again for me to leave here. It was so, so hard last summer to leave, but my hopes are that I will leave here with an excitement and hope of returning again soon…for a much longer period of time!

Last night’s youth group time was amazing. You know the teenagers here are not all that different from teenagers in America. Just sitting and watching them, you’d forget you were in a different country. The biggest difference that I can see is that there is much more pressure for them to make good choices now. Their poor choices now seem to have a greater effect on their future. The HIV/Aids epidemic alone would cause that, but in addition to that, if their grades are not good enough in high school, they are not allowed to attend college, making their future employment prospects very bleak. Unemployment is a huge problem here. My heart goes out to these youngsters. I had the opportunity to pray with several of them last night and I was so moved by one young girl who’s prayer request was simply to grow in her relationship with God and be a more godly woman. That’s so beautiful to me! Another younger boy said he simply wanted me to pray for him because he was so grateful. I asked him what he meant and he said “I am just grateful.” God is moving here and it is amazing to see.

Have I mentioned the large number of critters I am coming into contact with here? I affectionately call the house I am staying in “The Spider House”. You can guess why….I also had a huge lizard drop through the ceiling (thatched roof) onto the floor the other day…yes, you read that right. And last night, to top it all off, in the middle of the youth service time, the youth pastor and another man had to kill a snake that made its way into the service. No doubts that I am in Africa!

March Trip Update #2...3/16/07

Dumela bagaetsho! (Greetings everyone!) Things are going really well here in Botswana, and I know so much of that is directly related to prayers. I'm so grateful!

Yesterday was quite an interesting day, I have to say. I started the day at 5:20 am, heading to my first Botswana funeral with three other representatives from Love Botswana Outreach. It was for a young, disabled 14 year old girl named Kenaleone that LBOM had helped with therapy and food baskets. The funeral was quite a cultural experience for me. It actually starts at sunset the previous day when the coffin is brought to the house and the family spends the night in prayers and song. The funeral then starts at 5:30 a.m. with the viewing of the body and then the service. We arrived at the house, went in to see the body, and then waited outside the house until it was time for the coffin to be closed. At that time, the coffin was brought out and placed in the middle of the group of people there. Speeches were made, songs were sung, and prayers were said. We, as guests, were given very special treatment. We had front row seats, special recognition, and a translator provided for us. It was quite astonishing, really. We then all piled into vehicles and went to the gravesite. Here, the family lowered the coffin into the ground and placed the first bit of dirt on top. The rest of the time was spent by men taking turns with two shovels, shoveling all the dirt back in while everyone else sang various songs. It was quite a moving time. After that we all went back to the house and the family and special guests were presented. Then a meal was served, and we tried to leave at this time. However, it was almost insisted that we stay and we were the first to be fed, as the special guests there. The hospitality and welcoming here are so amazing! We asked for only a little since we were going to have to leave, but we received a large plate full of food. I actually ate my first authentic Botswana meal there! I wasn’t able to finish, though, and they just passed my plate on to someone else. While eating we talked to our translator who told us that all the people there did not know Kenaleone, but in the Botswana culture, the community really comes together for each other in times of loss. Therefore, at funerals there will be many people who do not even know the family but are there as support. I think that is beautiful! We finally left the funeral at 9:45…over 4 hours after we’d arrived!

After the funeral my day was pretty free until church last night (which is always amazing!) Also, yesterday I spent some time with Siw (from Norway) discussing the preschool. I found it is not actually in operation right now because of some complications with the city government. They are hoping to open it again soon, though.Today I was able to go with Siw around the community to deliver food baskets. I loved this time with the people and the precious kids! She also took me to some shops and I was able to buy the “Learn Setswana” books I wanted the last time I was here. I didn’t buy them and have been kicking myself since then. I also bought a Setswana Bible and hope to be disciplined enough to learn some verses from it. That would be so neat!

The rest of today has been pretty low key and I will go to the youth service tonight. The weekend will offer much time to relax and then I start at the school on Monday. I am so curious to get into the classrooms. I have learned that the school is actually not a Christian or mission school (even though it is at the mission), but is an international school with 16 nations represented! The curriculum is not Christian based, although there is more freedom to talk about Jesus in the classroom and they do have chapel once a week. I can’t wait to see some classrooms and see how it is all done.

March Trip Update #1...3/15/07

So much to share! This blog is lengthy, and I apologize for that. I hope it gives you an indication of how my trip has been so far and how you could best pray for me at this point.

My flight over was fine. I was a little disappointed to realize that the Delta flights don’t currently use the nice airplanes with the personal movie screens. When I came in June we flew on South African Airways and I think I was quite spoiled. Unfortunately on our flight the audio and visual entertainment was broken for more than half the flight. However, fortunately for me, I did have a working iPod and reading material…not to mention the desire to sleep! I met some interesting people on the airplane, including a man from South Africa who was originally from Zambia. He knew a lot about Botswana, which he communicated to me…and I took notes!

My night’s stay in Johannesburg was so wonderful. A little elderly couple from Greece have opened a guest house there with 10 separate rooms. Mine was so nice and comfortable and a great way to settle in after the long flight. The quick flight to Botswana the next day was very pleasant and fast!

When I arrived in Maun, I again was overcome with such amazing love for this place. My heart warmed immediately upon seeing the people. I just can’t explain in words how beautiful they are and the and immense love God has put in my heart for them. I am also so excited to get to practice my Setswana again!

These first few days here at the mission have been somewhat challenging for me. I totally love the staff here, both the missionaries and the nationals on staff. I have been very welcomed and loved. The challenge is that my true love of Botswana is the people out in the community. I have not had much interaction with them this trip at all. Most of my time so far has been on the mission, going through orientation and getting to know the missionaries. One thing I have loved is that each night a different missionary or missionary family hosts me for dinner. When I return home, though, the nights are somewhat lonely for me. I am staying in a house by myself, and without the ability to communicate with home or have anyone to talk to here at night, I can get pretty lonely. It is good for me to get a taste of this now to know what to expect when I come. I hear the first six months are the most challenging. After that, things usually even out and you feel more settled.

I haven’t actually started in on any ministry with children yet. Today I was supposed to start in the preschool, which I am very excited about. However, one of the disabled little girls recently passed away and we are busy getting things ready for her funeral tomorrow. I helped one of the missionaries get things ready for that. Part of that was going to see her family to finalize details. It was so wonderful to get out in the community and interact with some of the Botswana people, although sad that it is under these circumstances. One of the girl’s older cousins came back to the mission with us to help us with finalities. During free time, he taught me a lot more Setswana. I am so excited to practice it while I am here!

Tomorrow morning we will attend the funeral (supposed to be a great cultural experience for me) and then should be able to do ministry in the preschool. Next week I will begin work in the school here.

I am really praying and asking God for direction and clarity in my future here. I feel pretty confident that this is definitely where I am supposed to be, but as far as my role here, I just don’t have a clear indication. I am so hoping to know more after my experience in the preschool and school. I have such a love for children, but also such a love for the people of this country. How can I work with both? That is what I am seeking God about. The precious Norwegian missionary I was helping today reminded me that God has already equipped me for how He will use me here at the mission. He only asks that I use what He has given me…He won’t ask more of me than He’s equipped me with. That is a great thing to remember and brings comfort to my doubting heart.