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.

Guest Blog: Q & A with Child Sponsor, Brennan Boucher

One day at lunch in the Lipscomb University cafeteria 3 years ago, my best friend approached me about the opportunity to go on a mission trip to Malawi, Africa through the Lipscomb Mission program. We had been on multiple mission trips together and if we were going to travel across the ocean, we wanted to do so with each other. At first, I had no idea where Malawi was or what this mission trip would look like. We were both in our junior year of school studying Education at Lipscomb and this was a trip primarily for future teachers. I love working with children and traveling, so I was immediately interested in this trip. After several weeks of researching Malawi and praying, I decided to apply. At this time, I had no idea the impact Malawi, specifically, Mtendere Children’s Village would have on my life.

Q: What inspired you to become a sponsor?

A: I have always been passionate about children. I grew up working in a pre-school and babysitting. Being around children, is where I feel completely whole and where I see God work the most. While in Jamaica several years earlier, I enjoyed getting to know the children and being able to return each year to see them. Whenever possible, I would send Hope for Haiti boxes through my church. For years, I have felt called to love and care for children around the globe. It was the beginning of my second week in Malawi and I had already fallen in love with the people and the culture. I was immediately drawn to the children of Mtendere and knew I wanted to have a connection with them for years to come. I asked about what being a sponsor would look like and began the search for a child who needed one. It was then that I came across a young boy in 4th grade who was needing sponsorship. He was the same age as the kids I worked with back home and he was in primary school where I was training to become a teacher. It was at that moment that I knew I needed to sponsor him and continue to be a part of the Mtendere community.

Q: What does child sponsorship mean to you?

A: Being a child sponsor means that you are vowing to pray for your child daily. It means that you get to be a part of this child’s life, even in such a small way. To me, being a child sponsor means being a way for that child to receive a great education through the school on campus, to ensure that child gets their 3 meals a day and medical attention, and to encourage them to continue being kind, respectful children. Being a child sponsor means making a commitment to love that child from across the ocean.

Q: What is your favorite thing about the volunteer work you do in Malawi?

A: I am extremely lucky to be able to return to Malawi year after year. I have been able to watch my child grow both academically and spiritually for the past 3 years. Each year that I go to Mtendere, I get to strengthen the relationships I have made both with my sponsor child, as well as, the other children in the village. My favorite thing about working in Malawi, is being able to experience academics in the Mtendere Primary School. I love working with and learning from the teachers at Mtendere. Through our partnership with Mtendere Primary, we share teaching strategies, stories, and ideas on how to be a more successful teacher. Both American and Malawian teachers grow in their professionalism during these two weeks. I also enjoy being able to teach in the classes and see my sponsor child grow as a student.

Q: How have you involved your family and friends in this experience?

A: My family and friends have been my biggest supporters. They encourage me to return to Malawi every year and they help make financial donations to get me there. Many of my friends go on this trip with me and together we learn and grow from the people of Mtendere. My family and friends know about my sponsor child and pray for him along with me. I also enjoy teaching my students in America about Malawi. They love to hear stories, watch videos, and see pictures of the classroom, children, and especially, the child I get to sponsor. This past year, students in America wrote to the students in Malawi. It was an amazing experience to learn more about my students, as well as, the students in Malawi.

Q: If you could share one thing with someone considering sponsoring a child, what would it be?

A: Take the leap of faith. You will not regret taking the chance to sponsor a child. They will change your life even from miles away. Being a part of my sponsor child’s life has been a great blessing. He has taught me about the love and the grace of our God. Your monthly donation goes to an incredible organization who cares deeply for these children. They are passionate about making sure all children are cared for. The children are grateful for you and they will make sure they show that to you through letters, pictures, and hugs. Being a child sponsor, is one of the best ways to connect with others around the globe and show the love of our Father,

Will you join us? For more information, please visit our child sponsorship page, or email sponsor@100XDevelopment.com.

Guest Blog: Residing in Clouds, by Rosalie Ruell

Picture taken by : Rosalie Ruell

Residing in Clouds

Roosters Crow
Presence Acknowledged
Fog Lifts
Sun Rising

Fires Kindle
Porridge Simmers
Inhale
Bell Calling

Song of Birds
Foreign Chatter
Native Tongue
Community Gathering

Peaceful Valley
White Blossoms
Thoughts Vacate
Morning Greeting

Spirits Soar
Green Leaves, New Life
Bird Glides
Prayers Rising

Light Fills
Roofs Peek Through
Reside in the Clouds
More Are Coming

Sweet Air
Fresh Breath
Earth Glows
Peace Confirming

Rock Foundation
Single Flower, Forging Through
Dreams Prevail
Lives Linking

Busy lives
Set Aside
Stop and Notice
Fresh Perspective
Heaven Reflecting


I’ve known for a very longtime that I see the world differently than most. While others are seeing the big picture, I’m scrutinizing the details, looking at every color, size, shape and balance; I’m listening to sounds, considering scents, feeling nuances and emotions. I’m just figuring it out, when others are packing up to leave.

As a designer, my gift comes in very handy while I work to create spaces that will bring visual and emotional pleasure. These skills also compliment my ability to teach, helping me to know and recognize talents and tribulations of my students.

Moreover, my trip to Mtendere Children’s Village came alive in my mind and my heart, in ways that one cannot appreciate unless one experiences it firsthand. The people are simple, beautiful and wise beyond their years. The sights, the sounds, and the smells all add to the joy of the journey.

One of my favorite destinations was mornings spent in The Hut above the village. As I sat, I looked out over the valley filled with people I had come to love and appreciate, I noticed how the clouds had settled and were lifting with the sun rise. It was a visual representation of Heaven for me; I had to capture it with photography and words, but truly can only be appreciated in person.

Rosalie Ruell, 4th Grade ELA Teacher,  Nashville, TN

Lipscomb Education Missions Team teachers and Mtendere Primary School teachers: Malawi 2018

 

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

 

 

 

Guest Blog: A Birthday

We are throwing it back this Thursday with a story from one of  our volunteer teachers who worked at Mtendere last summer. Our Guest blogger is McCarley Jane Thomas from Nashville Tennessee. McCarley works at Nolensville High School

Day 3: Our first day to work with the teachers. We had visited most of the classrooms and met the teachers briefly on the first day, but we had not had the chance to sit down and get to know them yet.

3 o’clock came around, and one by one the teachers made their way into the classroom. We spread ourselves amongst the teachers, and began a short icebreaker.

The premise of the icebreaker was simple. A list of questions were hung on the bored. Each person answered the questions about him or herself to their partner. The partner would then have the responsibility of presenting their new friend to the rest of the group.

I wound up sitting by a high school Math teacher named Douglas. Let me tell you some things I learned about Douglas. I learned he has been teaching for 15 years, his favorite food is chicken with rice, and he has two daughters. Douglas also told me that he teaches because of the connections the profession allows him to make with his students.

After a good amount of time, we started to come back together to share with the rest of the teachers in the room. Before we left, Douglas grabbed my hand and asked me when my birthday is. I smiled and said, “July, 9th. When is yours?” His is May 5th. I made a silly comment about Cinco De Mayo before realizing the people of Malawi have no idea what that means.

We came back together and shared about our partners before continuing with our first day of training.

Fast forward with me to our second to last day of training with the teachers. I found myself sitting at a table with Douglas. It was the first time we had been at a table together since that first day of training.

We were doing an exercise that required a leader for the table. We determined who the leader was by everyone sharing their birthdays, and whoever’s was closest got to be the leader. One by one we went around the table sharing our birthdays. I was last.

I opened my mouth, but before I could say anything I heard Douglas. “Mac. July 9th!” I looked at him with a similar look to the one I gave the boy with the corn cobs earlier in the trip. I smiled and said, “Douglas, you remembered.” He smiled back, “Of course I did, Mac! You are my friend.”

I was floored. It had been nearly ten days since we had talked about the small details of our lives, and he had specifically asked me about my birthday. But he remembered, and that meant more to me than he will ever know.

I learned two very important lessons from Douglas that day: the importance of being thoughtful and intentional and the incredible impact those two things can have on the people around you.

I miss my friend Douglas along with so many others from Malawi, and I think about them often. This week I celebrated my 22nd birthday. I can’t help but think that as Saturday, July 9th rolled around, somewhere in a home in Malawi a high school Math teacher smiled to himself as he remembered his new, tall, English teaching, American friend. I know one thing for sure: when May 5th comes back around, I will be doing the same thing.

God Bless,

McCarley

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