Come to find out, I’m not so good at these. You know, these missionary “update letters” if you will. Except here I am, bucking the system by subbing out “update letters” for update blogs, which… aren’t blogs just as archaic as the side part and skinny jeans these days? I think, yes.
Let me just shoot straight. Updating my people- you people- on life here has grown increasingly tricky with time. The reason? I’m pretty sure I’m not gonna give you what you want. Or maybe that’s just me projecting.
The truth is that I desperately want to convey to you the beauty of Malawi. Of the stories we see lived out here. Of the people we’ve come to know. Of the mess and the glory and the brokenness and the mundane. I long to tell stories and paint word pictures and offer you a glimpse into this life here, but to even attempt to do so right now feels so flat at best. Objectifying at worse.
Just months into our time here in Malawi, I had someone tell me, “Catherine. Everyone thinks you’re living in luxury over there in Malawi. Post more pictures of the poverty.” And, sure, I could do that in a heartbeat. It’s everywhere. But, is fetishizing the poverty here really the answer? Do I truly want to contribute to the monolithic grass-huts-everywhere vision much of the globe has of Africa? So what if they think I’m living in luxury? That it’s “not that bad.” Not to sound snarky or anything (trigger warning: it’s totally gonna sound snarky), but they don’t know my life. And it’s true anyway. Compared to most of Malawi, I am totally living in luxury.
And? It’s not that bad. In fact, it’s pretty great.
Listen. Not only am I living in a comfortable house that I am not paying for in a country with the best weather imaginable, but I have good friends and a sense of purpose and loads of people patting me on the back for simply living this life I love so much. We get to stand on the shoulders of those who came before us who sacrificed so big. We get to watch the church here getting after it. We get to be the cheerleaders and high-fivers. We get to do this. Sure, it’s not always rainbows and unicorns (what life IS?), but it’s a pretty good gig. And I’m certainly no martyr.
You see, I’m pretty sure it’s the martyr stories that sell. That attract donors and pity. And yes, for SURE glory to the God who sustains and equips and restores. Absolutely. I am living here in Malawi partially because of the impact those very stories had on me.
I’m convinced, though, that God doesn’t only get glory from the pain of those who are suffering for the kingdom. He also gets the glory from those who are living their best lives with people they love in countries that feel a lot like… home. People who don’t feel like they’re sacrificing greatly on the daily. People who might not come at you with the numbers and the compelling photos from an exotic overseas life but whose eyes light up when they tell you about their friends who have taught them so much about their Jesus. Their friends with whom they’ve downed somanymugs of rooibos tea and consumed literal pounds of nsima and shared more randomly-pulled-together dinners from the Allison kitchen than we could even count. I don’t know, man. Maybe we just eat a lot here.
I’m more convinced than ever that our God will get his glory. And he’s going to do that whether we’re living in the American suburbs or the Malawian bush or a Southeast Asian megacity. God won’t be boxed in, nor does he need our extravagant sacrifice or missionary martyr stories. No, he wants our hearts. He delights in our faithfulness. And wherever we are and whatever we’re doing in this great big world, he will keep on at it proving himself steady and just and kind and good every day that passes.
So, I guess that’s my “missionary update letter” for today. Life is good. God is faithful. The Malawian Church is crushing it. And we, Allisons, are just as crazy as ever.
With our side parts and our skinny jeans and our blogs, OH HEY LAST DECADE. But at least we have an excuse. We are MISSIONARIES Y’ALL. You should probably pity us or something.