So many praises! God is moving here and revealing Himself to these kids, and it is such a joy and honor to watch it happen. To update you from my last post, I have begun meeting with the sweet young lady weekly to talk about what's going on in her heart, read scripture, and pray together. I love how hungry she is and how open to the Lord her heart is. Please keep praying for her. I found out from her friend that her parents will not allow her to come to church. I pray that their hearts would be totally changed as they see the change in her. And please pray for me to have the needed wisdom in discipling her in the Lord.
Another huge praise is what God is doing with the boarder girls. At our weekly Bible study, we've been talking a lot about truly living our lives for Christ and totally being made into new creations. It's amazing to watch these girls develop authentic, personal relationships with the Lord and desire to live their lives for Him. There are still a few who are resisting giving their lives to Him completely, but I believe He is constantly working on them and drawing them to His heart. May these girls be lights in this school and to their families, and may they have the strength to live for Him daily as "living sacrifices" (Romans 12:1).
Another total miracle is regarding my background check. Just a few hours ago, things looked hopeless and the chance of me being deported was a real possibility. Now, through the incredible intervention of some wonderful people and through the miraculous hand of God, it looks like the report will be finished and e-mailed to us tomorrow! I am still in total shock with this...this is huge! Please pray that it will be enough for the immigration office and that everything will go through smoothly. My deadline is March 5th!
I have a few things I'd like to petition your prayers for. I still have a missing package that held some very valuable things in it. It looks totally impossible that it will ever arrive, but as God has been showing me lately, NOTHING is impossible with Him! Therefore, I am praying for the miraculous arrival of the missing package, all contents included.
Lately I have been feeling the need for a close friend and spiritual sister in the Lord to have an accountability and mutual encouragement with. I don't have a lot of time that is free and there aren't many women available, but I am asking God to show me someone and help provide the time to invest in a friendship with her. As I've been teaching the girls about the importance of being accountable and encouraging each other, I am realizing just how much I am missing and needing that, too.
Finally, I ask for prayers for our children's ministry. It needs sooo much help. I have been helping to fill in wherever needed as we transition with leadership, but there are way more needs than I could really help with. We are asking God to provide dependable, committed volunteers, new materials, and lessons that will speak to the hearts of these kids. We are also all praying for organization and the smooth running of everything until God brings new leadership to the ministry.
I want to end this post with a quote written on a greeting card given to me by a friend before I left. I have this card hanging in my room because I feel like it was written for me, for where my life is at this moment. I'd love to share it with you:
"Imagine yourself doing what you love and loving what you do, being happy from the inside out, experiencing your dreams wide awake, being creative, being unique, being you~ changing things to the way you know they can be~ living the life you've always imagined..."
I praise God that this is exactly how I feel. What a blessing to be living this life, and what a blessing to get to share it with you. I pray that you, too, get to "experience your dreams wide awake!"
A few weeks ago at my first "Fire by Nite" youth service, I was one of the prayer partners and a sweet young lady came to me to tell me she had been making some bad choices but really wanted to get her life right with God. We talked and prayed together and I really haven't heard any more from her until yesterday. She stopped me at school yesterday and asked if she and a friend could talk to me some time today. So, today I met with her and her friend. The young lady I had prayed with told me that since she had felt comfortable sharing with me at Fire by Nite, she wanted to bring her friend to talk to me, too. Then the friend proceeded to tell me she'd been making some wrong choices and confessed some things to me. She told me that she didn't feel good about these things and she wanted to tell me about them and she also wanted to become a Christian. Wow!! Because we were out of time, I told them to meet up with me again at lunch time and we would finish talking.
God's timing is so perfect because today is a day where I have a long break before lunch. Therefore, I had time to go home, pray, write down scriptures, and get some things together to give to her. When we met at lunchtime, God was right there in the midst of us. What a beautiful experience it was for me to hear her read scriptures out loud and then explain to me what she thought they meant. I was then able to explain more to her and we had a time of prayer where she confessed her sins to the Lord and told Him she wanted to make a commitment to live for Him and be a new creation beginning today. It was amazing!!! We ended our time together with me asking her to also find Pastor Gary and tell him about her decision. She smiled sweetly as she agreed. When I saw him later, I told him someone should be coming to talk to him and to let me know if she did, but I didn't tell him who it was. It was wonderful at dinner tonight when he told me that this young lady had come up to him and joyfully told him she'd given her life to Christ today. So AMAZING!!
This week she is going to read certain verses every day and journal about them and what God is doing in her heart. Then the two of them and I will meet next Monday to talk again. I would absolutely love it if you would join me in praying for these two precious young ladies and their commitments to Christ. I pray that God speaks to them in very real ways this week and gives them the strength to turn from their old ways. I pray for wisdom on what to talk to them about next Monday and and how to best disciple them in the Lord. I really hope to meet with them regularly, at least for a while. I'll keep you updated, but for now, just praise God with me for His incredible work! What a tremendous blessing to get to witness this! My friends, THIS is what it's all about!!
I'm so happy to have a bit of time to sit down and update you on what is new here. It's been an unbelievably full week. To start off, I want to take a minute to really thank you if you have become one of my prayer partners, covering me and the ministry here in prayer. You have absolutely no idea how much I need and appreciate your prayers. Even if you wouldn't consider yourself a prayer partner, but you just say a small prayer as you read this blog, I want to express my thankfulness to you as well and just let you know that more than anything else, I desperately need mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual prayer covering from my friends and family in the States.
Having said that, I have to report that this week held more frustration for me. I want to briefly list out why in the hopes that you will join me in praying for God to resolve these things.
- My police clearance/background check is still an issue and time is quickly becoming a serious concern. I have a couple of avenues being worked on, but this report is still not on its way to Botswana. It really must be here by the beginning of March when my temporary permit expires. Joel in HR here thinks the chances are very slim of them giving me another extension on the temporary permit. I would probably have to leave the country and come back in just to get day allowances to be in the country. Needless to say, this is all a HEADACHE. I just want it to be resolved and taken care of quickly. I am praying for favor and cooperation with both the immigration office here and the government office in Texas.
- There is a new mail issue that has come up. My mom sent three packages to me a few weeks ago and I only received two of them. One of them had tape added on from the postal service here that said my box was opened or damaged. I am assuming this happened to the other box and if so, I am pretty sure it is long gone. You see, in that box was the iPod that Gary ordered to use with the youth ministry. If that box had been opened and the iPod was seen, the box most definitely was taken. Gary, my mom, and I are all very disappointed and discouraged by this. I pray that either God miraculously gets the box to me or that He will provide a financial refund for the iPod and to help us get another one here safely. (Sidenote: if you ever send a package here, never put the value on there. Always write "Personal items, no commercial value". And you might want to let me know it's coming so I know if it doesn't arrive.)
- Finally, I've been feeling especially tired this week. I don't know why, but I just haven't felt rested lately. This is not good because I become irritable when I don't feel rested and it affects my interactions with the kids, which is the last thing I want to happen. Part of it I think is that I didn't really have a restful Sunday last week. Our children's ministry needs so much help (which is a whole other prayer request) One of our teachers didn't show last week, so I needed to fill in on the spur of the moment and it was total craziness. Thankfully this week was so much better after Gary, Stacy, and I met this week and did some problem solving and planning. I pray that God gives us the needed ideas and creativity so that children's ministry runs smoothly Sunday mornings and we can all get the needed rest on the weekends to prepare us for our full weeks.
Aside from the above needs, I am still very happy here and totally know I am walking in God's will for my life at this time. I adore all of my kids and am so thankful for deepening relationships with them. Tendai has moved into the boys' side of the hostel and it looks like he is going to fit great there. And Valentine's Day was totally precious! It's the first holiday I've experienced here in Botswana and it was great! The kids don't buy the pre-made valentines, but hand-make their cards if they want to give them out. Candy isn't given as much as more practical things like pencils or other school items. Also, I received a wonderful package from the States that had 144 pencils and 48 packages of Fun Dip. Because of that, I was able to give a Valentine's pencil to all the kids in the junior dome (1st-6th grade) and a pencil and Fun Dip package to my boarders. Everyone was very excited about their little gifts. (Thanks Julianne!)
Friday night during "Fire by Nite" time, we had a formal dinner for the teenagers. They were to come dressed up in black, white, red, or pink. I was blown away by the kids' response! The guys were all snazzed up in suits and the girls looked totally beautiful! I will put pictures in my online album so you'll have to check them out. At the dinner, a missionary couple here talked to them about purity and when finished, God led Gary to encourage any boys who had disrespected females in any way during their life to take the opportunity to apologize. What a moving scene to see many young men go to the front, take the microphone, and sincerely apologize for anything they'd said or done that was disrespectful to the girls in their lives. The kids were then encouraged to make a personal commitment for purity in their lives. (This is SO important here. I just read that 50% of university students here test positive for HIV....50%!!!) I praise God for how He spoke to the kids that night. To remind us that we are in a spiritual battle, as soon as the kids made those commitments, a HUGE storm blew in. The tent poles began coming out of the ground, the tent almost completely fell down, the kids ran to the bus only to find it was locked and had to stand outside as it was lightning and then began to rain. Once the rain died down, we were able to return to the tent, but the rest of the night was ruined. Thankfully everyone was safe and unharmed, but I am disappointed that the thing that sticks out in their minds the most about the night is not the beautiful message or the important commitments made, but is instead the scary storm and soiled clothes.
I am reminded more each day that there is a real spiritual battle going on here. I really cannot express enough how needed and appreciated your prayers are for this country and the ministry going on here. Thank you so much for investing in these kids with me.
Here are a couple pictures from Valentine's Day:
Boys: "Miss, why is your face red?"
Me: "I got sunburned."
Boys: (with a quizzical look) "How did it happen?"
Me: "I was in the sun too long and it burned me."
Boys:"Will it go away?"
Me: "Yes, probably in a couple of days, but it may peel a little on my forehead and nose."
Boys: "Peel? Really?? That's weird!"
This conversation cracked me up! I guess some things we just take for granted that everyone knows. I think both the kids and I learn something new every day!
- The other day I answered a knock on my door and found Orelebe there with a candy bar and a poem that she'd written for me, telling me how much I mean to her.
- In the mornings before the kids go to school, they stop to tell me if they have a test that day so that I will do a little cheer for them (Two bits, four bits, six bits a dollar...all for the test-takers, stand up and holler!) They then come and find me at the end of the day to tell me how they think they did.
- Today I was having kind of a rough afternoon and wasn't in the best mood, but then I went to dinner and found that Modiko had a package of ground coffee that he had bought for me on their town trip today, just because he knows how much I love it.
- A few minutes later, three boys brought me a candy bar and two packages of cookies that they know I love and had bought in town.
- At "Fire by Nite" when the words to "Totela Bayaweh" came on the screen, the kids turned around and smiled at me because they know how much I love that song (I sing it all the time!)
- Right after worship time, a group of four girls came up to me, gave me hugs, and said, "Did you hear your song tonight?" They then sang it with me as we danced around.
- I felt such a sadness in my heart as I thought about what life will be like when the term ends and the kids leave for a month. What will I do??
- Walking back to the bus surrounded by teenagers and a big smile on my face, I took a minute to take in the moment and realize just how much I love these kids. My heart really is overflowing! Even at the end of a week that held sadness, frustration, and fear, I end it full of love and joy and such an incredible excitement for where God has placed me.
Another recent cause for concern is the number of mosquitos that are out since it's been raining so much. Although Maun is not known for having high rates of malaria, it is of course possible. I try to be really good about wearing spray, but I had an unfortunate lapse in judgment the other day when I layed on top of my bed to take a nap without putting on spray. I woke up to 23 mosquito bites and two little mosquitos flying around my room. I killed the guys, but their bites have been itchy nuisances the past couple of days. Please pray for protection from the mosquitos and that there would be no outbreak at all of malaria around here. It might also be helpful to pray that God will remind me to put on spray when I need it!
I've come to a little bump in the road in obtaining my work permit here. A temporary one has been issued to me, but the permanent one cannot be issued until I have a criminal background check from back home. This is a new requirement, which is why I didn't already have one in my paperwork. I am finding it to be somewhat of a challenge to get that done from over here and am finding myself getting frustrated. The immigration office in Botswana can be very harsh and you definitely don't want to get on their bad side. I am praying for God to show me the best way to quickly get ahold of my criminal background check and into the hands of the immigration office before my temporary permit expires at the beginning of March.
Finally, there are some upcoming changes that will affect me around here. Graham, our cook and the man that lives on the opposite side and takes care of the boys, has resigned and will be moving at the end of February. The school's PE teacher and coach from Zimbabwe, Tundai, will probably be taking his place as the dorm master and two women will be hired to take care of the cooking and the administration side of things here. I am praying for several things with these changes: 1)That Tundai and I will work really well together and become good friends, 2)That the boys will develop good relationships with him and that he will be a spiritual leader for them, and 3)That there will be camaraderie and teamwork among all of us as staff members.
I appreciate your prayers so much and will keep you posted on how things continue to go. I was reminded today that although things are going so great, I am still in a spiritual battle and need to be on guard and always prayed up. Knowing that I have the faithful and powerful prayers of my spiritual family back home encourages me and gives me much greater confidence. Thank you!!
P.S. Could you also say a prayer for our computer technician, Adrian, who sadly and tragically lost his father in a car accident last weekend. We've all had heavy hearts for him this week.
An Inconvenient Blessing
On Wednesday we had a very interesting evening here in Maun. Most of the town lost its power at 4:00pm and it didn't return until 10 or 11pm. That is bad in and of itself, but when you are responsible for entertaining 32 kids for hours without power, well that is just horrible! I knew things would be ok until sunset. I had the kids start their study time a little early so they could use the sunlight, and they were so wonderfully cooperative. After that, as I watched the sun setting, knowing we still had no power, I began to get a little worried. I took some time to pray and ask God to just take control of this situation. Boy, did He ever! As I was sitting and talking to a few of the kids, God reminded me that there was a box of "Guesstures" cards in my classroom and a flashlight in my room. I got them both and had the kids all gather together so we could play "Spotlight Charades"! It was so great!! When we got tired of that, we moved to "Spotlight Pictionary" using the whiteboard at the dorm. I am so proud of the kids for having great attitudes about the power/water outtage and being willing to have "lights-out" a little early. We actually had a great time and I'm really thankful for the bonding time God gave me with them.
Bible study continues to go well with the girls. This week we discussed the importance of prayer and why we pray. I taught them the "ACTS" prayer method for those who just didn't know where to begin with praying. I was really excited this week because I am finally seeing the girls begin to open up and talk some during our study!
Fire by Nite
It looks like I will be regularly accompanying the kids to their youth group time, "Fire by Nite". I love this time because I, too, get to have worship time and really, really love hanging out with the kids outside the dorm atmosphere. Last night Gary had asked me to share, and after much prayer God led me to share about worship and praise: what they really are and why we do them. I was nervous of course, but I can only hope that every bit of Andrea was put aside and that God spoke through me in some way to the kids who were there.
Definitely the most powerful time of the night was after I finished speaking. We played the song "Jesus, Lover of My Soul (It's All About You)", a beautiful song of surrender to Jesus. Kids kneeled at the front, praying, some crying, spending some real time with the Lord. God totally showed up and you could feel His presence. When Gary gave the invitation for anyone who would like to rededicate their lives to the Lord and get things right, many of the kids came forward. We ended the night playing "Undignified" and the kids just let loose and danced before the Lord as David did in 2 Samuel 6. There was such joy and victory in that place! Amazing!!
A friend mentioned to me when I first arrived here and was still feeling nervous about working with teenagers that the most important thing to remember was that teenagers just want to know that you authentically care about them and that this takes TIME. I have seen the wisdom in those words many times while being here and am SO excited to see that relationships are really being made and trust is being established between me and each of the kids here, both girls and boys. I absolutely adore these teens and really enjoy my time with them. I love getting to know them, hearing their thoughts and hopes, learning their personalities, and totally cracking up everytime I'm around them. They are amazed when I tell them that people in America know about them, have seen their pictures, and care about them. THANK YOU for investing in their lives with me.
For those who've been wondering about my health and energy, I am very excited to report that I have been feeling great! Prayers have definitely been answered! I've also been better about getting more rest and usually have tons of energy. Yay!! I am filled with so much joy in what I am doing and where I am in my life. Every day has such purpose. When I think back to the original dream and vision that God gave me of me in Africa surrounded by kids, and look around me to see that that is really my life now, my heart just cries out with thankfulness and absolute awe!
Here I am with some of "my kids":