As they say here in Malawi, “EISH.”

Translated: Wow.  Yikes.  Holy moly.

All that to say, “Dude, that was crazy.”

What was crazy, you ask?  THE PAST WHOLE YEAR.  All of it.  Crazy good.  Sometimes crazy hard.  Mostly, just crazy enough to leave me glancing around as the dust of year #1 settles wondering, “What. Was. That.”

And I know a lot of you guys are wondering the same thing.  Wondering what we’re doing.  Wondering how we’re actually doing.  Wondering how you can be praying.  Well you’re in luck, my friends.  Prepare yourselves for a very news-y Allison life update.

So what have we been doing here in Lilongwe this whole year?

In short? (Though, in actuality, it sometimes seemed very, very, VERY long.)  Language + Culture.

Our full-time job this past year has been to learn Chichewa and, in the process, the culture of Malawi.  Practically speaking, this looked like three hours a day of formal lessons and several more hours a day out in the community- our neighborhood, the village market, church gatherings, etc, etc- to practice with anyone and everyone (mostly, everyone) who was interested in talking to the kind-of-ridiculous azungu.  And then, after all of that, fried brains and very early bedtimes.

By December, both Matt and I reached the level of language proficiency required by our organization GLORY HALLELUJAH because it was touch and go there for a hot second.  Following this, we had an intense three additional weeks of culture training during which we were tasked with various daily objectives and conversations.  Chat with a village chief.  Hang out with a witchdoctor.  You know.  Just everyday Malawi things.

All of this culminated with a weekend stay with a local pastor and his family here in Lilongwe a few weeks ago.  Imagine a giant family-wide slumber party.  With nsima.  In Chichewa.  If there’s one running theme of this past year, it would be our gratitude for the hospitality of our Malawian friends, and this weekend was no exception.  We were welcomed so graciously and were FED SO STINKIN WELL.  And with that- with full hearts and bellies, we wrapped up our formal language and culture learning.  (The dear bosses of mine who might be reading this would want me to add the disclaimer that we are NEVER DONE learning language and culture!  We’re always learning!!  So, heeeey dear bosses of mine!  I’ll go ahead and accept my gold star next time we’re together.)

Okay, so full-time language and culture?  Check.  Now what?  Well, a lot.

Matt’s currently in his sweet spot using words like “metrics” and doing things like spreadsheets and strategic planning and all those things that he loves with his whole heart.  He’s stoked to be in conversation with lots of pastors here in Malawi as he continues to learn about what all is going down with our convention of churches here. He’ll be traveling quite a bit throughout the country soon to scope out churches that we know of and other regions that we don’t know so much about after all.  In short, he (WE) have loads to learn, and that’s what this season looks like: coming alongside local pastors who are DOING THIS THING and learning allll the things from them in an effort to, in turn, encourage them in the things they are doing and partner with as we do this thing together.  How’s that for a job description, Matt?  You’re welcome.

Me?  Well, I have stumbled into a community of ladies here in Lilongwe that I just can’t get enough of.  A group that calls themselves Hope for Widows- a ministry of a local church that’s led by Amess, one of my dearest friends here.  It’s a group that is doing some phenomenal work to empower widows and prevent kids from being orphans and bring the hope of the gospel to their communities and it clearly (!!) gets me all just so fired up.  In addition to widows and orphans (and trying desperately to find boneless skinless chicken breasts in our city… no shame, man), you can find me searching my calendar daily, trying to come up with a whole six free weeks to do the hospital orientation that’s required for me to be licensed to begin work as an NP here in Malawi.  No really.  I do this daily.  As if our schedule is going to change and magically clear up.  Once I can knock out this orientation, I’ll be able to start working in the clinic here, but until then, you can find me running my own clinic for my own people out of our home and with our ready access to OTC “prescription” meds.  Because TURNS OUT, there’s always a kid to deworm and skin to de-rash!   

Speaking of kids.  They’re awesome, y’all.  I’ve been blown away by how well they’ve done here and credit God and God alone for that.  Now, don’t go thinking things are perfect because that would be a straight lie.  They still whine about village church.  They still cry when they turn on the shower and it’s cold.  Again.  And they still miss fast WiFi something fierce (solidarity, kids).  But still.  To think of all they’ve been asked to learn, do, and adjust to in the past year?  I’m so stinkin proud.

Carson’s got himself a whole posse of awkward middle school boys to… be awkward with.  They have a name for their club and a test to enter their club and they walk around together with their heads down and with whisper voices talking about whatever video game-ish things they talk about in their club.  I don’t even know.  But I do know that they’ve made one exception to the middle-school-boys-only rule of their club admission policy:  Mary Grace.  Because OF COURSE.  When she’s not scheming with the middle school boys (help me Lord Jesus), Mary Grace can be found after school on the tennis court and the basketball court and the soccer field, with ALL of her fiery passion on display all the time.  Elizabeth has had the opportunity to start dancing again this year which has been one of the greatest blessings and answers to prayer that I’ve experienced thus far in Malawi.  Truly.  She has a tight-knit group of other third grade girls who happen to have more drama than I ever, EVER remember experiencing in third grade.  But they’re all just the cutest together, even with their high-pitch-squealing and girl drama.

This is getting to be novel-ish, so let me go ahead and wrap up with what’s probably the most important piece of news here.  Specifically, how y’all can be praying for us. Here we go.

  • Pray for wisdom as we make decisions on where/how/with whom to invest our time and energy.  The needs are overwhelming.  Like, head-spinning-ly so.  Our pastor back in the States often reminds us that “not everything from heaven has your name on it,” but we’re sometimes left looking around wondering, “K, cool. But what DOES have our names on it? Because there’s a LOT to do.” This can get really tiring really fast.  So yeah- just pray for wisdom and clarity.
  • Pray for Elizabeth’s seizures.  Many of you know that I flew to South Africa with Elizabeth back in November for a neurological workup, at which time she was diagnosed with epilepsy. For those of you who have watched one too many episodes of Grey’s Anatomy and really like medical details, she started having absence seizures last year- like, lots a day. Just out of the blue which was AWESOME in our first year living overseas. (Incidentally, sarcasm doesn’t translate well in Malawi. So, let me translate for you. It wasn’t awesome. At all.) Anyway, this is a relatively common type of childhood epilepsy, it isn’t hurting her, and it will likely self-resolve over time. Even so, it’s been an… adventure… trying to get her on the right dose of the right med here in a country with pretty limited healthcare options.  And we’re still working on it.  Pray that her seizures would be well-controlled with the medical options that are available to us here in Malawi. 
  • Pray for relationships. Pray that we would ALL have deep friendships here in Malawi.  
  • Pray for our marriage to stay strong.  This past year was HARD, Y’ALL, but through/in/despite it all, God has brought us closer in marriage than probably ever before.  But we’re also not oblivious to the fact that there IS an enemy and that he IS out to steal, kill, and destroy and that marriage is so so often the vehicle through which this happens… so pray that God would continue to protect our marriage.
  • Pray that our number one daily objective would be to ABIDE. 

To those of you who made it this far- you probably deserve a trophy or something. If you ever make it to Malawi, remind me. There’s a store with a whole WALL of random Chinese trophies and medals (because Malawi), and I would be happy to treat you to one.  But really. Thank you.  Thank you for caring and reading and praying.  Thank you for calling us and messaging us to catch us up on YOUR lives and YOUR families.  Thank you for responding to my shameless online plea for Christmas cards and for filling our PO Box to the BRIM with your pretty faces.  Thank you for having our backs and reminding us that- YES- life keeps marching right onward without us in the States but that we’re not forgotten after all.

Thanks for being our people.  Until the next way-way-too-long family update…. Tionana!