July 9, 2017; Beautiful Stories
Her eyes gaze at the floor, a smile across her face as she formulates the answer in her mind. The conversation is tough and she’s being asked questions that many would not want to answer. Maybe it’s easier because she’s talking to a stranger or maybe it’s because she feels safe, knowing that we are not there to judge, but to learn and to love.
A couple of the girls and their mother’s sign consent forms.
You see her presence was requested, but it was completely voluntary for her to show up, provide consent, and share about her life and those in her community. Like I said, the conversation was tough, not about her favorite food or what she likes to do in her spare time, but about HIV. The aim is to understand knowledge gaps surrounding HIV in an area of the country that is burdened by a very high rate of those infected. These female youths are sharing their experiences in attending initiation (some as young as 7 years old), pressures felt by family, and what/who encourages them to stay in school.
Their stories are beautiful and heartbreaking in the same moment. The challenges felt by some here are extraordinary and yet they stay positive and filled with joy...a true testament to God.
I am thirsty for our Savior, each and every day – the days are often long, troubling, and emotionally exhaustive. Thankfulness for His blessings, even the small ones, is key to growing closer to Him and understanding the true purpose of being here.
“As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.” Psalm 42:1-2
The opportunity to return to Malawi came through a research project which is required for my master’s program…such a struggle having to come back here, they really had to twist my arm. ;) It’s now been a month since arriving in Phalombe and I’m very excited to finally start interviewing. The process of gaining clearance consisted of more hoops than expected, but here we are, learning new lessons. All a part of the adventure.
These girls are letting me into a small part of their world, an area that is often taboo to discuss, and I feel extremely privileged by their willingness to share. My heart yearns to stay, learn more about the individuals they truly are, and encourage them in their hopes and dreams. Unfortunately, that’s not the plan this time around, but He doesn’t put in our heart something by accident. I’m confident He will use me now and in the future here to listen, learn, love, and encourage.
“Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” 1 John 4:11-12
June 28, 2017; Hills and Valleys
Two are in labor, one is 7cm and the other 6cm along, it will be a while, the midwife says. No less than thirty minutes later and one started to deliver. The strength of these women is nearly immortal as they push a living being from their womb without medication or their husband by their side. This beautiful life came into the world just a mere three feet away from me, a baby girl who would go home to two older brothers. She was a true gift – we could see how happy the mother was to welcome a girl into the family. Then not fifteen minutes later and she is standing, getting dressed, and amazingly carrying her own bags and the baby to the next room for examination. I was absolutely floored by this experience on so many different levels.
Only a few moments after the birth of the beautiful, unnamed girl, a woman arrived via ambulance who needed surgery after the loss of much blood from an abortion. The third bed in the room held another wanting tube ligation. Although I was encouraged to watch each of these…I could only bring myself to experience part of the tube ligation. Let’s just say it was a day I will not forget!
While not quite as extreme, we have conducted two youth focus groups in our partner communities. One male and one female; both asked the same questions regarding their new understanding of HIV and sexual health post-intervention. I look forward to conducting individual interviews with female youth in a few weeks’ time.
This may be my 3rd time in Malawi, but each opens new opportunities to experience a different region of the country and several types of work. Research is not my first desire, although important and very interesting, my passion is service; to work with, in, and among the people to listen, love, and encourage.
“You are the God of the hills and valleys and I am not alone…” (Tauren Wells)
I certainly did not make it onto this mountain alone and as I have walked through valleys of darkness to get here, I knew I was never alone. While He takes away He also provides so much joy – He delights in His children. We are not alone, no matter how much pain, suffering, and isolation that may be felt. There is so much joy here yet pain always seems to be around the next corner in the form of death of a loved one, loss of job, or lack of food and medicine for the family.
“May the God of HOPE fill you with all JOY and PEACE as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with HOPE by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13