Jayne and Sam in Malawi!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

It All Starts With God!

EMAIL REMINDER – Please do not email through this site. Please send your emails to powers.jayne@yahoo.co.uk Thank you.

Yesterday was the 16th October and I have been in Malawi exactly three months. I took the opportunity to read through my previous blog entries because I wanted to remind myself of all the things that I have told you about. As you know, the purpose of the blog is to keep you updated with all of our news and to hopefully paint an accurate picture of what life in Malawi is like. I really want to share this amazing experience with you and I hope that the site is fulfilling its aims. However, in looking back at my previous entries, I have been struck by something, namely, that so much of our ‘news’ seems to read like a great big pat on the back! It has left me feeling very uncomfortable because as a Christian, I know that daily living is about banishing the ‘self’ life (self obsession, self interest, self centeredness, self righteousness, self pity etc. etc) in favour of living for God. In other words, as Christians, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves, but about Jesus Christ. There is a gaping hole in my blog entries to date and it is important to rectify this; it is important to situate all of our news into its proper (Christian) context. So I’d like to take a step back and to start shovelling; I need to fill in the hole!

So firstly – why are we even here in Malawi? Well quite simply because I have been called to be here – called by God. I received a God given opportunity to come here to work with the Christian charity ‘Joy to the World Ministries’ and to begin a new ministry here, in the town of Kasungu – The Lighthouse. If you are reading this and are a Christian, you will have no difficulty in understanding such a statement about being ‘called’. We know that God leads his people; He calls them to do His work. If you are a non Christian however, you may find this truth very difficult to grasp. I guess then, that this particular blog entry is primarily for you. When I say that I feel blessed to be here, I truly mean it – I have been blessed by God and know that our ministry is equally blessed. Yet the last three months have been a rollercoaster ride (as I’ve previously described) – a combination of great highs and great lows - successes and failures. There have been many, many challenges, difficulties and setbacks along the way and this fact begs the following question: “If God has called me to be here in Malawi, why have things been so tough at times?” It is a pertinent question and one that strikes at the heart of a key Christian conundrum, namely, why do Christians suffer – why doesn’t God give us charmed, carefree, trouble free lives? Quite simply because suffering is good for us; it makes us stronger.

"We rejoice in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; character, hope." Romans 5:3-5

Suffering also equips us to help others; when others are troubled, needing our sympathy and encouragement, we are in a position where we can pass on to them the same help that we have received for God. This is something that should be at the heart of every Christian’s life. So far from being something to avoid then, suffering is actually to be cherished because if we use it properly, it helps us to grow spiritually. And of course, God never leaves us to suffer alone - He is with us always. Sometimes when the going gets tough it is easy to forget this, which is why we need discipline in our pain. We need to commit ourselves fully to God and if we do so, He will always give us the strength to endure. Christians have their struggles and their failures just like everyone else – we get knocked down just like everyone else, but crucially, we know that these things have a purpose – we know that God is there, training us to become stronger, wiser and more compassionate. We know that in God we have a Father who gives us everything we need; our theology determines our psychology, which is why we are not defeated. Rather, we have the inner strength to get back up again and to keep going.

And we have kept going. The Lighthouse is open – we are doing business and we are slowly and steadily building our customer base and our reputation in Kasungu. Each day brings new wonders as we reach out to our customers and serve them in so many different ways. Yet we know that in our daily dealings, we depend on the Lord for his help; we know that we cannot achieve anything without it. I work with a remarkable group of people – Christians who have felt God’s call to come and work for Joy to the World Ministries. JTW was formed in 2006 and over the last three years these people have achieved a staggering amount for other people; each one of them has their own special talents and gifts and together they make a formidable team. I know how fortunate I am to be working as a member of this team; it is a team that embodies honesty, integrity, selflessness, humility, commitment and great, great humour. I like to think that I have added my own qualities, talents and gifts to the mix; in doing so, I sincerely hope that I have made the team richer. I think I have. Yet for all this talk of ‘qualities’, ‘talents’ and ‘gifts’, we all know who we have to thank. When I look at The Lighthouse I am aware that we have achieved nothing; any success that we have is as a direct result of God’s grace to us. What we know absolutely is that He is using us to reach out to others to further His Kingdom. At The Lighthouse and in our daily lives, we are striving to be His ambassadors. We are His servants. God works though us to do His work. Living a Christ centred life isn’t always easy and yet it brings with it the most wonderful sense of purpose. It also prepares us for eternity.

“The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever”
1 John 2:17

Life is not all there is. It is not the end; our bodies are merely a temporary residence – our real home awaits us in Heaven. But not everyone will receive their keys! Our relationship to God on earth will ultimately determine our relationship to him in eternity. If you are a non Christian reading this, I would like to ask you a question - "Where would you like to spend your eternity?" You need to make a choice because death is heading your way! It may not arrive today, tomorrow or even next week – it may be years away – but it’s coming. As Rick Warren says in his thought provoking book ‘The Purpose Driven Life’, only a fool would go through life unprepared for what we all know will eventually happen. On that day, all of us will be required to stand before Christ to be judged; make no mistake, at that moment, our lives will be laid bare before us. The deeds of this life are the destiny of the next. If you suddenly found yourself standing face to face with Jesus – RIGHT NOW – what would he say to you? Would he say “well done”? At this point, you may be thinking that you are safe, but even if you are sticking to the Ten Commandments religiously each day, you will not be saved. You won’t. Being a good person simply isn’t enough; you need to be a Christian. Living a Christian style life is a great thing to do and the world would certainly be a better place if more people did it. However, on its own it doesn't offer people a meaningful relationship with God; only being a Christian does that. Only by putting your trust in Jesus Christ - by welcoming him into your life and by making a commitment to serving him, will you be reconciled to God. You will also start to experience an entirely new kind of living; things that you previously thought were important (earthly things), will suddenly seem trivial and petty – your whole value system will change and your priorities will be rearranged. You will know that your sins have been forgiven by the blood that was shed for you on the cross by Christ. It’s amazing and I would challenge you to stop and think about such a possibility and then to act. If you fail to do so – if you reject his love, forgiveness and salvation - you will spend eternity apart from Him – forever. But for those who live in Christ, there is the sure knowledge that death will be a gateway to Heaven and you will be home at last.

Does this all sound a bit extreme? A bit scary? A bit 'full on'? A bit melodramatic? Or maybe you think I've spent too much time in the Malawi sun and have gone a bit loopy! I promise you that I haven't and that all I've just said is the truth. It would therefore be wonderful if you could take the next step - to get a Bible and spend some time exploring these issues a bit futher. The following are key Christian beliefs:

1. We all need a Saviour. Read Romans 3:23 and Exekiel 18:20

2. We can’t save ourselves. Read 1 Timothy 2:5 and John 14:16

3. God wants to save the world. Read John 3:16-17

4. God sent his son Jesus to save us. Christ suffered on the cross so that our sins could be forgiven. All who believe in Him will be saved. Read Galatians 4:4-5 and 1 Peter 3:18

5. The Bible is our blueprint for successful living; it teaches us how to grow in the Christian life. Read John 10:10 and Peter 3:18

6. Each of us has the power to decide our eternal destiny. Read Luke 13: 1-5 and Matthew 10: 32-33

Once you have done this, seek out someone who can take you further on your exploration of the Christian faith - a Christian friend, a local Minister, a Christian website (and of course you are welcome to email me) - let them help you to reach a decision about this man called Jesus. Do you believe him to be the son of God or do you simply see him as a blasphemous lunatic? Some people take the easy option and don't think about it too greatly. Unfortunately, this approach is a bit of a luxury because the clock is ticking for all of us. Eventually we all have to make up ours minds about God and that decision will determine where we spend eternity.

There is a wonderful quote by CS Lewis that I would love to share with you;

"Christianity is a statement which, if false, is of no importance and if true, of infinite importance. The one thing it cannot be is moderately important"

And that’s it; here we are in Malawi and it isn’t always easy; in fact it is very hard at times. Yet in the last three months I have learnt so much about myself and also so much more about God and His purpose for me. I know that this is where He wants us to be right now and that’s good enough for me.

As always, we thank you for your support, news, good wishes and prayers. It makes such a difference. God Bless


Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Lighthouse – Ten Days On

EMAIL REMINDER – Please do not email through this site. Please send your emails to powers.jayne@yahoo.co.uk

Here we are, ten days on. So how are we doing? Well it’s been a tough ten days – a baptism by fire no less. Our computers and our printer have certainly given us our fair share of headaches – as has our Internet provider! The days are long and we are tired when we finally ‘clock off’, but it is a great feeling to be open, to finally be able to welcome people into The Lighthouse and to serve the people of Kasungu. Our customer numbers are fairly modest at the moment and the same is also true of our bank balance! But everyone who steps through our doors is struck by the warmth of the welcome they receive, by the quality of our services and by the level of our customer care. Every one of our customers has left feeling positive about The Lighthouse. We are slowly building a regular customer base here in Kasungu and what we now have do, is to increase the number of people who are actually giving us money!!! We know we are doing a really good job, but of course, there is an inescapable financial dimension to our situation as well. We know that spiritually, The Lighthouse is hitting its current target but that financially, we are well off the mark. Yet we have great faith that this will change and our spirits are high - when the technology works that is!!!

What has become crystal clear to us is that only a few people in Kasungu actually know how to use a computer and/or the Internet – it's approximately 3% - 4% of the population. It’s terrible; most people have simply never had the opportunity to access a PC; even the secondary schools don’t have computers - apart from the very expensive ones which cater for the very affluent. As a result, there is a desperate need for computer training here. I honestly don’t know why I am so surprised by this fact – this is a developing county after all! We are hoping to address this need though; each Wednesday we will open our doors to local people and sit down with them and give them some basic training on the ‘ins and outs’ of using a computer. We have decided not to charge a set fee for this service, but will simply ask people to pay what they can afford. On one hand we know that this is one day of the week when our ability to make money will be severely compromised, but on the other, we know absolutely that it is something that we need to do. We want The Lighthouse to be completely inclusive; it's not simply a place for people who have money. As Manager, I think that this represents is my biggest challenge – getting the balance right between the hard financial realities of running a business and the charitable, spiritual work that I want The Lighthouse to be undertaking. I am hoping that this will develop naturally over the coming weeks and months though. In terms of our offer to provide computer training, we are in no doubt that the demand will be high. We are currently trying to work out the practicalities of delivery, but by Wednesday we will be ready to go – if we don’t melt first! It is hot here – VERY hot; in between juggling general computer, Internet and financial concerns, I am also trying to get acclimatised to the scorching Malawi weather. The average daily temperature here is currently 37 degrees and believe me when I say that it makes the working day very difficult. I am struggling to keep hydrated throughout the day and have frequent headaches as a result; we desperately need fans at the business but simply cannot afford them at the moment. In fact fans are way down our list of priorities – after improved security and a desk where MacDonald (my Deputy Manager) and I can work. But we will get there.

As for Sam – he’s fine. Working full time means that I have to leave him at home during the day now; I miss him terribly. Unfortunately, dogs, computers and books don’t mix very well and so I don’t have any choice in the matter. I have a lovely Malawian girl who looks after him though, so he’s not on his own and he’s still getting his three good walks each day. As much as I love being at The Lighthouse, it’s a wonderful feeling to go home to him at the end of each day – he’s always the same – a scruffy mutt, tail wagging, bouncing up and down and ready to give me lots of wet kisses. He’s a great little dog – full of unconditional love. I would swap him for anything.

On the subject of animals, I have met two terrific people – and they’re BRITISH! Andrea and Keith have arrived in Malawi to work at Kasungu National Park; they are actually specialists in working with primates. I haven’t had the opportunity to visit the park yet because I have just been too busy, but I fully intend to visit as soon as The Lighthouse is solidly on its feet. It’s great to have some Brits to talk to though; that sense of the familiar is just so comforting.

A FINAL APOLOGY - Now that The Lighthouse is up and running, I had hoped that I would be able to upload photographs to the site. Unfortunately, my camera card broke last week and at the moment I can’t afford to buy another one. So at this moment in time the site will remain without photos and I’m afraid you’ll have to make do with my words only – I’m really sorry.

As always, we send you our love and our best wishes; you are in our thoughts and prayers. As always, we ask you to keep us all in yours. Thank you so much.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

When the Going Gets Tough....

It's twelve hours since my last blog and the going has been tough. I haven't slept for over 24 hours and I'm hoping that my tiredness is the reason I'm feeling a little fragile right now. We (my Deputy Manager and I) are sitting in the Lighthouse and so far today we have had about ten customers. I must admit that it's not how I thought things would go; I honestly thought we would be a lot busier. Ironically, our lack of business has been an absolute blessing though due to the fact that we have a bank of computers that refuse to behave and that seem to have minds of their own. Does anyone know a good ICT Technician? We are suddenly becoming aware of our own lack of expertise in this area and it doesn't feel good, given that the financial success of the business is largely down to the ICT side of things. The library side of The Lighthouse is solid - fortunately we are blessed with the services of a fantastic librarian!! Joking aside, it's scary. I currently have no access to vital software, the printer has just flashed up that it's about to run out of toner (and we can't find a supplier in Malawi), we have lost our Internet connection and I have an IT Help Desk that tells me it will call me back, but rarely does. To top it all, my camera card has just snapped and I have no means of uploading photos. All in all, things could be going better! Are we downhearted? Well, yes, I am a little. Suddenly, all the joy and euphoria of what we have acomplished over the last two months is under attack. But I know we have to pick ourselves up and sort things out; I guess this is the harsh reality of running this business. We now know that we are facing a huge learning curve; I am aware that the buck stops with me and it is a sobering thought right now. So at 5pm I will go home, give Sam a huge cuddle and a walk and then go to bed and get some sleep. I know that things will be brighter in the morning - they always are! I am very grateful for your thoughts, good wishes and prayers. Jayne

Please Keep Us In Your Thoughts and Prayers

It is 3am in the morning on 1st October 2009; in a few hours time The Lighthouse will be open for business. It has been quite a journey and what has been accomplished here is quite remarkable. Two months ago, this business unit was a shabby, dirty, unloved shell of a place – but no longer. It has been transformed into something very special. It hasn’t been easy and there have been many, many challenges along the way; we’ve had our fair share of setbacks and there have been frustrating and demoralising days galore. Our limited finances have hindered our efforts still further and we have had to curtail some of our plans – for the time being at least. Yet despite all of this, here we are! Finally, we are on the verge of opening and it’s a glorious feeling! The Lighthouse is a wonderful example of what can be achieved through team work; each member of the JTW team has brought their own individual skills and talents to the project. In addition, there has been an array of workers on site and their gifts (painting, carpentry, electrical, building, IT etc) have breathed new life into this place. Believe me when I say that we have all slogged to get the business to this point - are we excited? You bet we are. I wish I could adequately explain to you just how unique The Lighthouse will be in Kasungu. Make no mistake, we have to make money; the business has to be financially viable. Equally important is the knowledge that the more money we make, the more we can accomplish. These are basic realities. But HOW we make that money is at the heart of both our Business Plan and our Mission Statement and this is where The Lighthouse will come into its own. Our standards – in terms of our business environment/facilities, our services and our level of customer care – will be very high. The Lighthouse derives its name from our desire to bear witness to the light of Christ; our aim is and has always been to create a place where the light of God’s love shines out to people. Yet I have come to understand that its name is appropriate for quite another reason - we want to dazzle Kasungu with what we are offering - we want to set an example for others to follow. If this sounds arrogant in any way then I apologise. It truly isn’t meant to. I’m just so inordinately proud of The Lighthouse and of the work that has taken place over the last two months. I have the privilege and the responsibility of being Project Manager and I know how much I have to thank other people for. It isn’t just my JTW colleagues, or the various people who have worked at the business. It is the many, many people back in the UK and the US who have been supporting us and who have been sending us their good wishes – it is the many, many people who have been keeping us in their thoughts and prayers. In other words, it is you! Thank you.

When we open our doors at 8am, we know that we will be opening a new chapter in the life of JTW and in the charitable work it undertakes in Malawi; as we enter the final hours of preparatory work, we need you today more than ever. Please keep us all in your thoughts and prayers. Jayne