Malawi: Fighting for the Light

 
Malawi was one of the toughest months of my life.
Traveling can lead to a lot of self gratification. It can make one feel pretty great about themselves and their accomplishments. It can also be one of the most humbling times of ones life. I have had the opportunity of spending time in Haiti and Honduras, so years ago was the first time I was humbled by overwhelming poverty and hunger. Malawi had a similar tone, but the most overwhelming part was the deep journey that I would enter into with myself. Malawi has been known to some as something that sends you on something of a soul search.
Challenge #1: No Kathryn
This trip took place before Kathryn I were married. We were on a missions trip together through several countries. On this trip, there was a contract that we signed against developing romantic feelings for another squad member. It was noticed by many that her and I were hitting things off and that we had a natural chemistry together. At the end of our time in Romania, We told the leadership that we had feelings for each other, and that we had a brief conversation with each other acknowledging those feelings. We were called to have a skype meeting with our leader who was stateside. We felt interrogated and overwhelmed. After two days of long drawn out conversations, it was made clear to the squad that Kathryn would be moving to another team. This would mean she would be in a different city as I was for the remainder of our trip. Malawi was the first month without her. I dug up an old entry about the first morning without her called  African Mourning
Challenge #2: Apparently I went to seminary?
Because we were all treated like it among the villages we went to.  For the whole month we went from village to village with a bible in our hands. I'll never forget, we had just arrived in Lilongwe, at our hosts location. Our host was a pastor of a church. His church had a marriage retreat happening the first weekend we arrived. It was on our five minute walk to said church that I as the leader realized who the main speakers were going to be for their marriage retreat---Us. 
Walking side by side with our host, I'm listening to him give me instructions on what we were to preach. He asked me if our group of 7 could all preach for 45 minutes at a time about "marriage, and submission of a wife to her husband". 
I reduce my walking speed as I'm dodging chickens, soccer balls, and rocks to remain closer to my team. I convey the instructions that I just received. I'll never forget the look on the face of my team, particularly the girls! It was brilliant. We dug through our bibles and asked for the retreat participants to grant us grace as we tried to figure out what to talk about.
This particular instance set the entire tone of this month. Every day we walked around preaching messages to random villagers. Messages we may not have had prepared until the moment we opened the good book.
Challenge #3: Darkness tangled in joy
There was a certain irony to all of the trouble that I was feeling. There I was, spending days upon days with these people who seemed to be experiencing such immense joy, though their living conditions were less than optimal. From the moment you woke up, you could hear music playing and people singing. They just dance, and dance, and dance. I had no choice but to push through my own pain and brokeness in this season. I was forced to dance.
 
I got sick for a few days, I honestly can't tell if I was actually sick, or if I was experiencing some kind of brief, dark depression. For a few days I felt like I mostly just laid in bed, looking at the ceiling. One day in particular, we were in a village and I asked permission to lay down in someones hut. I laid there for two or three hours while I felt God was enhancing my memory to remember many specific points in my life. I felt like I was watching my life unfold in front of me as I wandered down some of the most painful paths, and some of the most glorious paths of my life. 
I found this half written poem that I wrote in midst of the darkness.
SMLXL
Ceilings
staring at these ceilings
remembering, dreaming

days done, days not yet begun
trying to find you in it all

dusty beams, rusty metal
chapters, seasons, pain, reason
how they've made me me

victories, losses, my responses- 
It was a time of sancification and growth. God was giving me enough strength to persevere though that month felt like forever. It felt like he was preparing me for the next season of my life.... The season with my wife.

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