Guest Blog: One Volunteer’s Story on Working at Mtendere Children’s Village- Erin Clemens

When I was in the 4th grade, my family took a trip to Togo, West Africa to visit some of our friends who were doing mission work there. During our stay we visited both village and international schools. Not long after the trip, I started telling myself I was going to be a teacher and I would move to a country in Africa. Fast forward many years and now I am employed as a teacher in south Nashville. I work at a school with a majority population of refugees and immigrants, and I love it! I get to spend my year teaching, loving, and empowering students from all over the world and then get to spend a few weeks out of my summer in Africa teaching, loving, and empowering students in Malawi while learning alongside their amazing teachers. It’s the best of both worlds.

What are 3 major things you have learnt from travelling abroad to work alongside another ministry?

Any time I am working with another ministry, I am learning new things. I have now been to Mtendere three times and each time the Lord has taught me more about these three things: joy, love, and community. These three are always revealed to me during time spent with the house mothers. A few memories in particular stick out to me where I learned more about joy, love and community. Hannah and I went to visit Mama Alice one day this summer. Mama Alice has a living room full of couches like all the other moms, but she has one special chair. This one chair appears to be very comfortable with a beautiful lace covering over it. Mama Alice watched Hannah walk toward the chair, sit down, and fall straight through to the ground. The entire room erupted in laughter. In fact, we were all laughing so hard we started crying. It turns out, Mama Alice has chosen not to fix that chair because she likes to see who will fall victim to it. She knows it will make everyone in the room laugh and it is the simplest and most hilarious way to bring joy to everyone who visits her. I learn so much about how to love better by spending time with Mama Ruth and her kids. This year, our team conducted home visits in typical education fashion and asked all the mamas what their hopes and dreams were for their kids. Sweet Mama Ruth explained how she hopes for her children to be good people. She told us about how she loves them well by praying for them. Each day they wake up and as a house pray over their days, and you can tell this group of children is especially close because of the way they know each other through the power of prayer. Prayer is such a simple thing for us to do and such a profound way to love each other. Finally, I have learned about the richness of living in community because of Mama Eunice. During my visit in 2017 Hannah and I went to visit Mama Eunice one night after dinner. Of course, she had another full meal for us and insisted we eat. Before we knew it the entire living room was full of people joining us for dinner. Mama Eunice explained to us later that most of the people in the room were not invited for dinner. Instead, they stumbled into a house full of people enjoying each other’s company and wanted to be part of it. We spent the night talking about books, families, goals, music, and everything under the moon. It was a great reminder of what we are created for. Nobody was checking their watches to see what time it was or thinking where they had to be next. Everyone was intentionally focused on the people in the room and nothing else. Often times when I am in America I find myself missing this time. It holds such sweet memories in my mind and serves as a concrete reminder that God intended for us to live in community so that we can share each other’s joy, burdens, love, and so much more. That is the amazing gift that Malawi and specifically Mtendere has given me. I have received joy, love, and community on a much deeper level and I am eternally blessed by that.

Have some of your perspective about education changed as you have worked with children in the education system here in the United States and in Malawi?

Absolutely they have and thank goodness for that! In August, I will begin my 3rd year of teaching and while I still have so much to learn I now have a more realistic perspective of education. Prior to beginning my career, I had an idea of teaching thinking that it would be a lot of sunshine and rainbow moments with tons of cute arts and crafts (thanks Pinterest). However, teaching is hard work-both in the United States and in Malawi. This year, our team started and ended our time working with the Mtendere teachers in a round table discussion. We chatted about our triumphs and celebrations as teachers and also our obstacles and struggles. The funny thing is, our answers were very similar even though we are teaching on different continents. We all struggle with having enough resources for our students and we all celebrate when a student finally understands a concept. However, the question each member at our table was able to answer quickest and with the most ease was, “tell about a student who has impacted your life.” Each one of us has a student that has made a lasting impact on our lives and our career. Many of the stories discussed were of amazing children who we will all remember for the rest of our lives. Therefore, I have come to realize that it doesn’t matter about the cute arts and crafts and it doesn’t matter about having intricate classroom décor, instead what matters is these children. I used to think I might have a great impact on every student who walked in my door. Instead, it is myself that has been impacted by these children (both in America and Malawi) and my life is much richer because of that.

What have you learnt about being part of a team?

I have learned that in the end, people matter most. This year, we talked a lot about how often times we get more caught up in making plans to complete things for our personal agendas and we forget about loving people. Working in a team forces you to be in community, it encourages you to be vulnerable, and it teaches you to love people who are different from you. I have learned that if we put aside our plans and focus on the people on our team and love them the outcome is far greater than any plan we could have created. Upon returning from Malawi, I was reading Everybody, Always by Bob Goff. In the book he says, “quit waiting for a plan; just go love everybody.” I love this quote especially in regards to being part of a team. Stop planning and start loving the people in front of you. 

What have you enjoyed the most about being a leader? What has been the most challenging part?

As a leader, it is really amazing to see everyone’s gifts and talents coming together for the greater good. I love being able to select members to join the team knowing what talents they can contribute and then to see it come into fruition on the trip. It is always a glimpse into the creativity of God and how he intricately and uniquely created each and every person. Another bonus to being the leader is being able to share about the wonder that is Mtendere all year with the team only to watch them instantaneously fall in love with the place that feels like home to me. The most challenging part, however, is the fact that by nature I am not a leader. I would much rather be a follower so I feel as if I lack many qualities of a leader and I am still learning how to navigate that as I co-lead this trip. However, I have now stepped into three leadership roles in different areas of my life so maybe God is trying to teach me something.

As an educator, what do you think are some of the most effective ways we can continue to advocate for vulnerable children’s education?

In regards to speaking to adults about advocating for vulnerable children’s education I think the greatest thing we can do is raise awareness-awareness for the great things that can become of a person when they are provided with a chance at education. When actually working with vulnerable children I believe the best thing you can do is empower them. Speak to them in a way that affirms in them the amazing things they can contribute to society. Do not speak to them in pity or sympathy because of their circumstances. That is crippling and the message can often be received as we believe they are not capable to amounting too much. Instead, we as educators and human beings need to lift them up in a way that makes them overlook their circumstances and believe in their future. Children in vulnerable circumstances are resilient and hard working. I have been privileged to know and work alongside many amazing adults who were once vulnerable children. They got where they are today because someone affirmed character traits they possess and empowered them to overcome their circumstances. We need to be better about believing in our youth and speaking up for them and speaking into their amazing possibilities.

Beyond Sunday…

Everything we believe in hinges on Sunday. If Jesus never walked out of that tomb then Friday would have been the end of a mediocre story. If Jesus was just a nice man who died on a cross, then His name would have been forgotten. But Sunday did happen, and He did walk out. In that single day over 2,000 years ago that nice man declared His Lordship by conquering death itself.

But what about Monday? What about the days when the glory of Sunday seems like a faint memory overwhelmed by the struggles of the present day?Through our work, we sometimes see the worst of those struggles. There a days when poverty and hunger, death, brokenness, pain and need, seem too big.

But if Sunday really happened then we have a resurrected King sitting on the throne of Heaven. His sovereignty is why we do what we do. He is alive and because He lives we will not stop.

Monday may seem unbearable but we will declare every Monday morning that King Jesus is alive and He has overcome the world!

 

Fuel

One of the fun things I enjoy is asking children what they want to be when they grow up. A couple of the children at Mtendere want to grow up to be a doctor, a president, a police officer, or a teacher. However, their ambition does not end in the career title alone, but in the fact that they want to be a force for justice and vessels to help bring hope in the lives of others. Fast forward a few years later, I see the joy in other children like Rosemary, who have grown up at Mtendere but are now graduating and impacting the lives of other young girls.

I remember at a young age when I wanted to become a ‘World Changer.’ I wanted to be a mover and shaker and help bring positive impact to my community. However, as I grew, I realized that the fuel to my actions was the lifeline that would determine how far I go. Sometimes we are driven by our passion and good intentions, and other times we can be driven by our frustrations and anger. The world is broken, and creation is groaning under the curse of sin. We come from broken places, and sometimes the million shattered pieces of glass cannot be put back together with the single tube of glue we have.

When we allow God to come in and fuel our actions, we give Him permission to find and pick up all the broken pieces; we allow Him to heal and create something new and beautiful for us. We cannot leave GOD out of this equation. Sometimes change is a hard and painful process. Similar to a wound, it first bleeds, then the inflammation starts, and slowly the formation of new tissue and binding of new cells brings complete healing. Although we wear the visible scars, we live out the beautiful story of healing and love. As we seek for a change in our communities and the world, and as we work with lives that are broken and oppressed; my prayer is that GOD fuels your drive and passion so that you never run on empty.

“All change comes from deepening your understanding of the salvation of Christ and living out the changes that understanding creates in your heart.”

― Timothy J. Keller

Happy New Year

Happy New Year Family!

We love you! The gifts you have given, the time you’ve spent in prayer and service, and the commitments you’ve followed through with this past year have brought so much of God’s love and freedom to our children. We are in awe as we look back and see what the Lord has done in 2017 and we look forward, with even greater expectation, to seeing what He has in mind for 2018. We know that the seeds you have sown in this past year will reap an even greater harvest and that God will be glorified through your love and obedience!

As we look forward to 2018, we ask you to pray for clear direction from the Lord about what he has for us in this upcoming year and that he would enable and empower us by his Spirit to continue to care for the lost and the broken children of the world. As we rest in his power and in his will, we trust that he will continue to do immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine, all for the glory of his Son, Jesus.

in His service

Christina Kadzamira Govati

 

 

 

What We Want for EVERY Girl.

Data shows that Adolescent girls ages 15 to 19 are 10 times more likely to be married than adolescent boys. (Population Reference Bureau). Early marriage puts young girls at risk of early childbearing and birth complications, prevents them from completing school, and limits their economic opportunities.

What we want for EVERY girl:

We want them to be EMPOWERED.

We want them to be EDUCATED.

We want them to be ENGAGED in their decisions.

We want them to EMBRACE their dreams and full potential.

We want them to be EQUIPPED spiritually.

We want them to ENDURE the process.

We want them to EXCEL.

And we want them to know that they were made for EXCELLENCE

5 Ways You Can Help

  1. Your voice. Talk about it—in conversations and social media.  Stories are powerful and passion is inspiring!
  2.  Your talents. The possibilities are endless. In your own special way, you can use your talents and what is already in your hands to influence great change.
  3. Your time. Take a trip or host an event or fundraiser. Gather some friends and be creative!
  4. Your finances. Your financial support directly impacts our ability to reach more children. Donate Today.
  5. Your prayers. Your prayers are critical to pushing back against the darkness.

 

 

Mtendere Stories: Tea Time

Some of my favorite memories involve gathering at the table for 4’oclock Tea Time.There is something special about the soothing taste of honey lemon Chombe tea and the delicious fresh baked bread bought from the local bakery; but mostly, the best part of Tea Time is the company that joins at the table, or on the porch, or under a tree to share stories and laughter.
 
At Mtendere, there are 16 house mothers, and I am almost always tempted to plan my visits to each house mid afternoon so I can slip in just in time for Tea Time. Mama Ruth usually has a bowl of popcorn kept away to treat the kids as they trickle in from afternoon classes. Occasionally, Mama Kita has her little mbaula-stove smoking away as she boils some milk to make some creamy sweet tea. As you approach Mama Alice’s house, you could smell the savory aroma of roasted sweet potatoes and right next-door Mama Loveness will be tenderly fixing some slices of bread for her little ones. Across the campus, you could hear Mama Naomi ardently calling in her older boys as she fixes them a treat she had hidden away all day. You can find Mama Eunice showing off her amazing baking skills as she bakes her yeast scones outside in the sun while little gleaming eyes and watery mouths eagerly linger around her. Bless Mama Loyce; her Tea Time is very unpredictable. Mama Loyce has a handful of little energetic boys, and almost without fail, she will be trying to straighten them out while hollering at them to wash their grubby little hands and feet before they enter the house.
 
During this whole time, as school breaks off and the children walk back home or play on the grounds, laughter and joy fills the air. There is an open invitation in each house to sit down together, to discuss and digest the day while we commune together and happily fill our bellies.
 
Tea Time fills my soul; it slows me down, reconnects me to the heart matters, and reminds me how special and unique each person at Mtendere is.
By Christina Govati

World Orphan Day

World Orphan Day

Today is World Orphan Day. This is an international day dedicated to recognizing and rescuing the orphans around the world. According to UNICEF, at least 153 million children worldwide have lost one or both of their parents. Once left without parents or other relatives who are able to adequately care for them, these children become incredibly vulnerable to hunger, sickness abuse, and even death.

Andiseni, a boy who now lives at Mtendere Children’s Village, is just one of these 153 million children around the world who became an orphan early on in life. His mother died while giving birth to him and his father, who was too sick to take care of him, would often forget to feed him. When Andiseni was brought to Mtendere, he was so thin and sick that his new family in the Village was afraid he might not live. By the grace of God, Andiseni was able to recover and is now a healthy and thriving young boy who is attending the fourth grade.

Andiseni when he first arrived at Mtendere 2005Andiseni when he first came to Mtendere Village as an infant

 

DSC07321Andisen now, as a healthy, happy boy living at Mtendere Village

God is so in love with the orphans of the world. Every single one of them, like Andiseni, is handcrafted by him to love him and be loved by him in a unique and personal way. This is why God’s children, who love Jesus and follow Him, are commanded to care for orphans and make it a priority to rescue them in any way possible. James 1:27 tells us, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” God is looking for people who will see the orphaned children of the world the way He sees them and who will love them like He loves them. This touches His heart more than all the church services and religious gatherings in the world.

As the world begins to recognize orphans through days like World Orphan Day, the Church that Jesus created to fill the world with His light and love, is rising up even more to love and rescue these desperate and hurting children. We pray that God will fill your heart with His love for the orphans of the world and that He will guide you in how to join Him in rescuing and redeeming them and to bringing them to Himself. We know that, ultimately, God is the father of the fatherless (Psalm 68:5) and will rescue and defend these precious children. We only want to join Him where He is and do the things that He is doing. God bless you as you love Him and follow Him into the lives of the orphans in your corner of the world.

Guest Post: Malawi, Summer 2015

After the amazing summer we had in Malawi with the many volunteer teams that visited Mtendere Village, we have loved hearing about how the Lord has impacted the lives of those who served with our children. One of the groups that visited sent us some testimonies from their group about what it was like to serve and love our children through tutoring and facilitating Vacation Bible School. We’d like to share with you what these wonderful volunteers wrote about their experiences:

“Our team leader gave a speech to the children of Mtendere on our first day in Malawi. He said, ‘the people on this team loved you before they even met you.’ I remember thinking how true that statement was. When we finally saw these children for the first time, I was overwhelmed with love that I had felt for these children for months leading up to the trip. I traveled around the world to see them and to show them that love and give these children as much as my heart as possible in two weeks.

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My favorite place to be was in the middle of a group of kids. I loved being surrounded by so many precious hearts. It’s amazing to watch them reflect what God wants us to be like in our faith. They have joy – a joy that can’t be taken from them. Someone from the village said one day, “if you can’t be happy here, where else can you be happy?” They believe in limitless possibilities and they have the most fun learning about new things. Interacting with the children at Mtendere taught me so many things, but above all, they taught me how to love everyone.

One night our team leader led a devotional in the village on being a light for the rest of the world. He used glow sticks to illustrate this, and every child got one. We continued to worship in the dark after his words because it all took place during a power outage. As I looked around at all the glow sticks and listened to the children YELL their praises to God I found myself in tears. I was experiencing worship with abandon. I was in the middle of a group of people who didn’t care how they looked or sounded. Their focus was on praising their Lord and Savior. I feel like the people of Mtendere gave me so much more than I gave them. But I know that’s how the family of God works, we come together and we are encouraged by one another. I know I have done that for Mtendere, and Mtendere has definitely done that for me.”

– Maggie (first time in Malawi)

 

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“Tutoring the children at Mtendere village was the most extraordinary and special experience I have ever had. This summer was my first time in Malawi and I am incredibly honored to have Although it was not always easy teaching them about negative numbers, sentence structure, about the Bible lessons, it was a truly amazing experience to connect and work with them. I’ll never forget when we were about to leave Malawi and the three girls I had taught hugged me and said, “I will miss you AK.” It meant so much more than they could ever imagine. I know the numerous hours of tutoring each day was not easy for them, but I could tell that they really appreciated us being there and that is an indescribable feeling. It’s been two months since I’ve been back in America, but not a day goes by where I don’t think about the many life and God lessons that I learned from the children at Mtendere village.”

– Alysa (first time in Malawi)

 

“Growing up I would have never thought that I would travel even down my own street to tutor young children, let alone to the opposite side of the world. So, when I was called to go on my first trip a year ago I felt inadequate and unsure even about teaching English and math. But there’s something different about Malawi and the children in Mtendere village which make it easy somehow. The young children I worked with have hearts like no other and a longing to learn more each day. While it is cliche to say ‘you will learn more from them then they will from you,’ I don’t believe that statement could be anymore true. While we can teach them simple addition or how to write an outline for an English paper; they teach us about true joy and how to love with your whole heart. As time passes there, it’s easy to grow tired from waking up early and staying up late every day working on academics. But when you see the joy in a child’s eye who finally understands something he or she’s been struggling with it makes it all worth while. That’s a feeling that you simply can’t compare to any other. This alone is reason enough to draw me to a place so far from where I’ve always called home. I’ve made that long journey two years in a row now, and I can honestly say that I pray every day for my family in Malawi and for God to reunite me with the children I love teaching so much.”

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– Nicole (second time in Malawi)

Natalie’s Story

Natalie“In my country, girls like me disappear into the sex trade and their story ends very differently.  I know Stella’s Voice and 100X saved my life.”

I grew up in the largest orphanage in Moldova.  When I was four, my mom became blind in an accident.  My grandmother looked after me for a while, but it was hard because she didn’t have a job.  When I was seven, she put me in the orphanage.  

Being in the orphanage was not fun.  I had no one.  No one ever told me that I was loved.  I had no hope, and wanted to give up on life.

At 16, we “graduate” and are kicked out of the orphanage.  When I turned 16, I would cry myself to sleep.  The orphanage wasn’t great, but it was all I had.  I was told about the risk of human trafficking, but without a place to go, I didn’t know how to avoid this risk.  I didn’t know who to ask for help.

A few days before I was put out, I was told about Stella’s House. I didn’t believe something like this existed for me—an orphan.  I couldn’t believe that I would be able to continue my studies and be a normal kid.  Stella’s House and 100X taught me about Christ by showing that they care for kids like me—they gave me a future when I didn’t have any hope and the family I’ve always wanted!  In my country, girls like me disappear into the sex trade and their story ends very differently.  I know Stella’s Voice and 100X saved my life.

You can help us reach more at-risk girls like Natalie.  Find out more.

*100X has partnered with Stella’s Voice in Moldova since 2006.