Two weeks ago, I got back from Malawi. I’ve had some time since then to catch up on sleep, get my feet back on the ground and get used to wearing shoes to work again. I was there with my church—we were helping out with a missionaries’ meeting and taking care of the kids. (In my day they were called Mission Meetings, but the names have changed so many times and there are acronyms now, so I don’t even know. I’m going to keep calling it a Mission Meeting.) Most of the folks at these meetings live pretty remotely, and all of them work ridiculously hard, so this is the one time of year they get to get together with people who speak their language, have a spiritual retreat and let someone else do the planning. We were there for a week to be missionaries to the missionaries.
I was working with the youth, along with two other people, Ashley and John. We had 13 kids between the ages of 12 and 17. They were awesome kids. We spent the week doing Bible study, playing games and eating candy. (Oh my word, the candy. Four suitcases’ worth, gone in four days.) Our Bible study focused on Hezekiah, and making your faith stronger than your fear. MK’s are deep wells, and we got off into some fairly deep water pretty quickly—the level of maturity they brought to the discussion took us around to the topic of spiritual warfare one day, with demons and witch doctors and all. We had some lighter moments in the studies as well—like the time one of the younger boys noticed a typo in the study guide, then proceeded to wonder at length whether 185,000 angels of death were really necessary to wipe out the same number of Assyrians, or if one (what it was supposed to be) would have done just fine.
After Bible study and in the afternoons, we played a lot of games. We had some organized competitions—camp-style games like a Food Relay, Capture the Flag and races. There was also a lot of time where they just wanted to swim or play cards. One day we cleared out the chairs in our room and set up a four-square court on the floor with duct tape. (It was roasting outside, and the room had A/C.) They taught us a game called Signs that they all loved, and would play for hours at a time. In the evenings, when everything scheduled was over for the day, they would get together and play some more, always inviting us to join them. Right from the start they were glad we were there, and dove right in trying to get to know us. We all got attached to each other very quickly.
What really struck me about the free time that we had, was that the kids were given the option of doing their own thing, but always chose to do things together. Even when choosing a game, if the minority wanted to do something different, instead of one group going off to play soccer and another going to the pool, they would discuss it a little and decide on one thing for all of them to do. They valued more their time together than their own agendas. It was amazing, too, to watch them together. They didn’t group off into little cliques, and the older kids always made the effort to make sure the younger ones felt included—choosing them for teams, helping them with difficult tasks, etc. They were like a little family, and they made sure the three of us were part of it right from the start. To be honest, I don’t know if we didn’t end up being more blessed by them than they did by us.
Teenagers are exhausting, and we were pretty wiped out by the time we got back, but as soon as I walked back into work, I was wishing I was back in Malawi. And not even for the beach, or the week of bare feet, or the twice daily tea time (This is something we need in America, by the way. Tea time is awesome.)—I missed the kids and spending time with them, teaching them, and just hanging out. Even though it was hard work, it felt like where I was supposed to be. I found it really re-ignited my desire to be doing the same thing at RVA this coming fall, and I’ve been working and praying harder since then to make sure it happens. Four of the kids we had go to RVA right now, and a fifth will be starting there soon, and they were just so excited that I will be coming out to join them there. I’m looking forward to seeing them too, and all the other kids I have yet to get to know and love.