Thursday, November 17, 2011

Happily Ever After in.....KENTUCKY??!!??

Well this has been a week, folks!!!  I was getting super excited to begin teaching pilates and kickboxing again at the local YMCA!  I was supposed to start today~except I'm not.  My hubby had submitted to be willing to God's offer of going to Africa in February on a mission with our church~except the door was shut.  Hallie was twirling and tapping her way to her very first dance recital in May~except she won't be going.  Parker was counting the days until he could play soccer again in the Spring~except the Strikers will be striking without him.  I realize this all sounds very over dramatic and it is intended to!  What you were just privilegded to read was the small temper tantrum of an almost 34-year old mature woman!  And now I'm done and I feel better.....

So a week ago today my darling husband called to tell me that he believed very much that we would be KENTUCKY.......the first week of.........JANUARY.  If you know our family or have read any of my blogs you know that we moved to Ohio from Indiana nearly 3 years ago for an 18 month "temporary" venture.  Well after 2 yrs we had just thrown up our hands, moved out of our apartment and into a rental home just this past May in order to "live where we live".  We were settling in~for the long haul.  Clearly, our timing and God's timing are not exactly the same.  I say 'long haul' (meaning a couple of years), HE hears 'long haul' (meaning 6 months).  So in the last week, I have played over the several moving opportunities we have heard about in the almost 3 years of being in Ohio, that didn't play out.  Let's see, there was Lincoln, Nebraska, Fresno, California, Boston, Massachusetts, Witchita, Kansas, and Highland, Illinois.  Each time I of course, like any supportive wife would, went straight to Google to research schools, homes, churches, climate, and of course driving distance from our extended families.  Each of those 'opportunites' were removed leaving us even more determined to just bloom where we had been planted.  But this time was different.

I saw a certainty in my lovie that told me, "this is for real~get to Goggling".  Once we were face to face to talk about this we both had the most amazing peace~you know the kind~it's as if your entire being sighs and you just know it's supposed to happen exactly as it unfolds.  So instead of resistance and dread of moving our kids in the middle of the school year, or the always pleasant church shopping, or having your house be full of strange men touching EVERYTHING (i'm kind of a germ-a-phobe) we are willing to accept WHATEVER, WHENEVER, WHEREVER!  

 Two years ago, we would not have been ready for this.  God allowed the opportunities, and shut the doors in order to better mold us and shape us both into who HE wanted us to be before leaving Ohio.  I'm convinced he brought us to Ohio for that purpose alone.  Now, let me just say that we are no where near our full potential in God's eyes, but we are so much more willing to be molded than if He has left us to ourselves in Indiana.  I know it doesn't have to be that way for everyone, some people can live in the same place forever and still be willing to be molded~but not the SISNEY'S!  He needed to isolate us and remove our comfort zone in order for us to become completely dependent on HIM.

And, I wouldn't change one part of the process even if I could.  Ohio has been the most amazing journey for our family!  We met some amazing people, learned so much about ourselves, and grew spiritually in ways I never thought possible.  So the temper tantrum you experienced is just my fleshy human response to the obvious~things change.  It's normally not pleasant, or anticipated, or desired, but it happens.  I am overwhelmed when I think about how much more God has to teach and show our family.  I expect Him to blow us away and it is already so obvious that HE is driving this ship~now if I can just remember to keep my hands off the wheel~we should all be just fine!

When I graduated from high school and RAN out of Kentucky, I never thought my Happily Ever After would bring me back there.  Thankfully though, we get to experience a city that neither of us ever would on our own accord.  Lexington, KY here come the Sisney's!  

Friday, November 4, 2011

Stirrin' the Pot and Pushin' the Plow

Today I am breathing.  I am breathing because God allows it.  Have you ever just sat and listened to yourself  It can be quite intimate when you put it into perspective with: 

Acts 17:28~For in Him we live and move and exist.  

We live because He created us, We move because he deems it so, We exist because he continues to sustain us~by design.  Not because we deserve it, not because we have earned it, and most certainly not because He has to.  HE desires to.  HE desires us.

Today I sit and I am breathing with a desire to be full of HIM, to not stand up unless He purposes me to do so.  For me this is how I lay myself at HIS feet.  Less of me, More of you, Lord.  Breath in YOU, Breath out ME.  Sometimes I have to come to these moments of simplicity to submit to God's stirring of the pot and to surrender my pushing of the plow.  

Let me just define these phrases according to the highly esteemed Sisney Family Reference.

"Stirrin' the Pot"~ a phrase used when the Spirit within is churning and bringing to realization the unavoidable purposes and plans the Lord God has predestined in our lives.

"Pushin' the Plow" ~ a phrase intended to express our fleshly abilities to "handle it" or "make it happen" because if it's something we desire, it MUST also be what God desires for us (or so we mistakenly believe at times).

And I am there at the corner of "Pushin' the Plow" and "Stirrin' the Pot".  I pause.  I breath.  I am reminded:

Proverbs 19:21 ~ You can make many plans, but the Lord's purpose will prevail.

I think I'll save myself the sprained ankles, broken spirit, and calloused heart that "Pushin' the Plow" can bring.   Instead, I will submit to the stirring and stand in awe of what my God will bring to the surface.

And I will continue breathing......because He is my air.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Peace and Passion

I wanted to badly to get these journal entries blogged immediately after returning from Africa, but guess what??  Life moved back in and robbed my time.  I am bitter about that because I have allowed it.  I am frustrated by that because it makes me want to retreat from all things, but how can God use me if I'm a home-bound hermit??  It is what it is and here is the "rest of the story" 

Day 12~It's starting to wind down.

Today was so peaceful.  This morning I was able to just stand out back of our cabin and look over the city of Zomba down below.  What a breath taking view and that's what I did~ I just breathed.  I prayed that god would not allow me to return home unchanged and for the amazing opportunities to see his hand.  I was invited to attend a teen girls seminar this morning about Etiquette at the Ku Chawe Hotel (Sunbird).  The hotel was beautiful, it's just a little farther up the mountain than our cabins.  I would definitely stay there for vacation, the food smelled delicious, the rooms seems so nice, and the views were unbelievable.  

Omega and Misse (from the Passion Center staff) gave a talk to the girls about Etiquette, not just how we outwardly present and handle ourselves, but also about how we inwardly reveal our beauty.  The one thing that just sizzled on my heart was when Omega told the girls they were "expensive" and not to cheapen themselves for anything or anyone.  After all, they are daughters of THE KING.  I can't wait to start teaching that to Hallie!  In the afternoon I went down to the Passion Center hoping to play with Kalipo and Phalles, but they weren't around.  However, God never disappoints because as soon as we showed up other children quickly joined us in playing with the was such fun!  

Team Time was amazing tonight.  First of all it was Joni's birthday (Chris' was the day before and since they are THE LOVIES we celebrated together!) so we got to have brownies...HOORAY!!  But we also sang Sweetly Broken one last time and it was such a precious moment for me.  "For on it my Savior, both bruised and crushed showed that God is love and God is just"  This is my favorite line because no matter what I have seen or experienced here in Malawi or what I want to change about the trials in the lives of the people here, I can have faith that God is LOVE and God is JUST even here in Zomba, Malawi.


It's bittersweet and I can honestly say THE most amazing experience of my life. This morning I went down to the Passion Center in the earliest leaving Pajero I could squeeze into.  When we arrived we took our last walk down to the Multipurpose Room and I silently prayed that God would allow me to love on Phalles and Kalipo one last time.  Oh boy did He provide!  As my head popped over the hedges I heard, "SUMMA, SUMMA!"  and there stood my Phalles arms open wide ready to run toward me for her hug!  Remember this is the same child who would barely make eye contact with me on Day 1.  What a precious child.  We played most of the morning and then I wanted to take her aside to explain that I had to go back to America tomorrow.  I couldn't even get a word out before she became so excited talking to me in Chechewan, pointing to herself and to the villages in the distance.  I, of course, couldn't understand her, so thankfully Fatsani, one of the interns from the Passion Center was close by and was able to translate for me.  Here's what she said, "I am so happy that you are here and I want you to come to my house."  I was thrilled and overwhelmed.  Fatsani walked with us (as navigation/direction is not my strong suit).  I held Phalles' hand as she practically pulled me through the village paths to her village.  I was able to meet her mother, who is so beautiful, and as soon as I arrived they hurried to get me a mat to sit on so I wouldn't get dirty by sitting on the ground.  Fatsani translated and this American mother, who loves her own children deperately, talked to this Malawian mother who is desperately trying to provide for her own child.  It was AWESOME!  I was so humbled to be accepted so willingly.  I mean a stranger shows up unexpected and instead of thinking 'oh my hair is a mess, or I haven't cleaned the house' Elina rushes to bring me a mat to sit on!  I could learn so much for this gorgeous lady.  Through Fatsani, I was able to ask Elina about specific prayer request, her health, Phalles, and her salvation.  I promised her that I would pray for her as requested and I learned that she had been saved in Dec. 2008~what a Blessing!  We took some pictures, we prayed and I encouraged her Mom 2 Mom.  I can't tell you how sweet this was, I am still so overwhelmed.

On our walk back, Fatsani also pointed out that Kalipo lived in the same village and we called his name to see if he was home.  After calling a few times, Fatsani asked if I would recognize him and I said on yes~I can't forget that smile!  Before long here comes my Kalipo beaming from ear to ear down his village road.  The funny thing was that after chatting both Phalles and Kalipo wanted to clean up before coming to play with me.  Fatsani and I headed back to the Passion soccer field and before long my sweets joined me.  Kalipo, his friends, and I played a little extreme Frisbee and Phalles had fun taking pictures.  After a bit I took Kalipo aside because I wanted to share a few things with him.  I told him I was leaving and I encouraged him to choose good friends and to live for God.  He said he understood but he never spoke English to me during my visit, so I trust that he heard me.  I told him that he would always be a piece of my heart and that I would pray daily for him.  I also let him know I would write and send pictures.  It was tough leaving them but I didn't want to cry in front of them.  I wanted them to remember smiles!  

Later on we gathered at The Rock for a group picture and before we parted for good I hugged them and blew them a kiss (which was precious~all Kalipos friends erupted in adolescent laughter punching him on the arm)  I redeemed him and went back for a much cooler love filled knuckle bump :~).  Phalles was just adorable and hugged and blew kisses over and over.  

I've said it before but a portion of my heart is shaped a little like Malawi now.  As we walked down the hill I kept looking back to that rock where the kids remained and I couldn't believe God chose me to be on this trip.  And to experience his Love and his Glory through a place called the Passion Center in Zomba, Malawi.

Tionana Zomba!!  (see you later, Zomba)

One Last Squeeze!


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Safari Day~Jeremiah 1:5-7

Day 11~Safari Day

Today was Safari Day!  We loaded on a huge bus with 28 of our team and Passion Center Staff, drove 3 hours to the National Park of Muvuu.  The first part of the land safari was uneventful except for a small herd of elephant crossing the road in front of us.  We had to stop our bus momentarily to allow the very small group of very large animals as much space as they needed.  The water safari was much more adventurous.  When we arrived and I saw the boats, which looked like they were straight out of the movie African Queen, I began to panic and actually considered backing out.  Remembering my promise to not let fear control me I figured I could not come all the way to Africa and not go on a real safari!  So on the boat I went!  It was beautiful.  I couldn't believe all the hippos and crocodiles lining the shore and how eerily they slipped into the water precisely as our boats approached.  We even had an up close and personal view of an elephant!  So glad I didn't allow fear to join me on that boat, I would have missed out on so much.

On the way back to Zomba, we came upon a village protest of the government concerning the fuel shortages.  It was a very tense moment, but God was all over it from the beginning.  Ahead of us we saw what appeared to be a fire in the road, after a few minutes we realized the fire was moving.  We found out later that it was moving because it was a large group of citizens holding torches.  Our driver stopped the bus and was approached by a few locals who told him what was going on and apparently that he should hide the bus for our safety.  While he was talking I noticed a little white Corolla with two military men inside and a little dirt path that presumably led to a village.  Our bus backed up and preceded to drive down this little dirt path into the village.  We went pretty far back into the brush and parked our very large 28 passenger bus in the front dirt patch (otherwise known as a yard here in the States) of some very unassuming although welcoming villagers.  The military men in the Corolla had led us back and we all sat very still and very quiet, praying....praying....praying.  We could smell the smoke from the torches and hear the yelling from the crowd.  I was sad for the people, I was scared of the circumstance, and I thought a lot about my lovies.  I saw God's hand, in the 2 military men that just "happened" to be available to escort us, on the village path that just "happened" to be right where we stopped offering a hiding place, and on our bus full of people who were standing in the gap, praying for God's will.  Just that morning I had spent time reading and praying on Jeremiah 1:5-7:

 "Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.  Don't say I'm too young; for you must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you and don't be afraid of the people for I will be with you and protect you.

My strong suit is not scripture memorization, but I am never short of amazed when God chooses to remind me of something I never thought I would remember.  I spent so much time reading that verse and hoping I could pull from it in the right situation~the problem was all the "I's"  God doesn't NEED me to make sure HIS will prevails~He will provide in ALL circumstances. 

We weren't in hiding more than a half hour before our bus was met at the main road by a truck full of fully armored military police ready to escort us all the way up the plateau.  Our bus erupted in cheers and the officers were so kind approaching our driver saying in broken English "No worries, you are safe, no worries."  Even in the most sour situations God will provide moments of sweetness.  It's up to us on which ones we choose to focus.

This is the most perfect African Safari Photo!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Mulungu Ndi Wabwino Nathawi Zonse

My last blog marked the end of the first week, but by no means the end of this adventure~this week's entries are sure to make me smile and cry as I relive the memories of Malawi!  Enjoy!

Day 9~Vacation Bible School & Youth Rally

Vacation Bible School was this morning and I was asked to teach the craft to the younger aged kids and it was great!  There were 3 different classes, each progressing in age a year or so.  So there were five of us selected to explain the craft, Brenda, Ashley, Kris, Kim, and myself.  Praise the Lord for our awesome translator, Carol as we would not have survived without her!  So we walk into the first class room where all the little tinies were seated on the floor.  I look in the front row and there was my sweet Phalles smiling from ear to ear, I haven't seen her light up like that all week!  We taught them Genesis 1:1 and helped them make a spinning wheel describing the days of creation.  They caught on very quickly and overall all three classes went well.  I was sad when it was over.  There was something so powerful about two different cultures (ours and theirs) coming together on the very first verse of the bible to remind us that we ALL have the SAME Creator!  

After lunch I was looking around in the Passion Center Office and saw "God is Good All the Time" written in Chichewa on a dry erase board.  I wrote it down in this journal in hopes of writing it on my heart:  Mulungu ndi wabwino nathawi zonse

In the afternoon I was able to go to the Youth Rally at the Botanical Gardens where Abusa Mark gave the message.  He rocked it!  I wrote down everything he said so that I could send it to Kalipo in a letter, it was that important!  He spoke on Purity and Choosing the Right Friends.  After his talk we broke up into small groups with the girls and boys separately.  Our charge was to encourage them to open up about what they had heard Pastor Mark speak on.  It was like pulling teeth to get those girls to talk!  Janessa and Missy were fantastic at getting on their level and were able to establish a safe place for the girls to share anything they'd like.  It was a special moment to encourage the girls to stand firm on the truth!

Day 10~ More VBS and Vision Clinic

Another round of VBS this morning.  The first session was crazy!!  There were 150 tinies trying to string tiny beads on a tiny string~it quickly became chaotic but we did the best we could.  The next two classes were much better, Ashley took the lead this time and explained it much better than I had in the first class, Praise the Lord!  The little ones just wanted to eat the beads and store them in their pockets for later.  Again, I was able to see Phalles and Kalipo in the classes!  At the end we handed out little goodie bags and their faces lit up~so excited to get their sweeties!  After it was over all the kids gathered in the school yard to receive juice and a snack, but it was very chaotic with all the kids!  For a moment I just stood on top of an old tree stump and just scanned the crowd thinking how awesome God was to allow me on the trip.  I had given Phalles a hug and said, "Tionana", see you later as I always do, but I couldn't find Kalipo.  We had gotten separated in the confusion of the crowd and I was bummed to leave without saying goodbye.  I waited for a bit but decided to head back down the hill on my own.  I had gotten to the bottom of the hill and was about to cross the bridge, and I felt the Holy Spirit saying, "Turn Around". So I did.  As I came to the top of the hill, there was my Kalipo standing on the same tree stump I had been on earlier and he was waiting for me.  I joked with him about not saying goodbye and we both left smiling.  Mulugu Ndi Wabwino Nathawi Zonse

The day ended with the Vision Clinic and it was awesome (i really do say this all the time, don't i?)  I got to help and it was such a blessing to see the excitement when these people could see for the first time in who knows how long.  God gave Brenda this "vision" and it was wonderful to see it come to life.  There were two "examining rooms" that were made up of three chairs and 1 table on the concrete slab that would eventually be a carport.  Two "eye charts" that were actually two of our team members (the patients were asked could they see our faces for distance screening or could they read a card for reading glass screening). At the very back of the "office" were three suitcases loaded with glasses and three team members fitting the patients.  It was the most beautiful optometrist office in the world at that moment! 

There was one sweet lady who was the sole guardian to 6 children and while she was waiting for her turn she said, "I love you so much for being here."  She was absolutely precious!  After she had been examined and walked out wearing her new glasses she said, "I still love you."  The Malawian people are beautiful and their joy is so raw, so simplistic, and so pure.  O how I long for just that.  And to that sweet little lady, "I love you too for just being here...."

Relaxing with the girls at the botanical gardens

Kalipo and friends at VBS

Phalles with her VBS craft

Optometry Office #1~Kara/Fatsani

Optometry Office #2 Brenda/Joseph
Eye charts Jessica/Kris
Fitting Lab in the distance

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Week 1~ Comes to a Close

It continues to be a blessing to relive these days through the rewriting of them!  Below are exact entries from my journal for Days 5-8

Days 5-7

So I have fallen a bit behind in my journals~I'll try to catch up!  Friday and Saturday were the Sports Bonanza.  The Passion Center has a team in the Futbol (Soccer) Division for boys and the Netball (Basketball) Division for girls.  The soccer boys didn't fair too well, but gave a great effort two days in a row.  It was so fun to watch.  They kick the ball so high and don't play with the ball on the ground as we do in the States.  I was amazed that several of them played with one or no shoes.  The Passion Netball team won the Championship!!  It was pretty cool.  I watched a little bit of it and realized I had no idea what they were doing and moved back over to the soccer field.  It held more of my interest for two reasons.  1) My sweet Parker enjoys playing soccer at home so much and it made me feel a bit more connected with him despite the distance.  2) My sweet Kalipo enjoys playing soccer in Malawi so much and it made me feel a bit more connected with him despite the distance.  I am telling you being with Kalipo was like being with Parker + 6 years!  God is incredible!

Kalipo and Phalles show up everywhere I am and I love it!  Kalipo is so well mannered and has immediately taken on the role of my protector.  If any other kids begin to overtake me he is quick to have them move back.  While sitting at the soccer game he would clear out anyone who sat in my line of sight.  He really enjoys playing Frisbee and is already trying to make it arch way out and come directly to me.  He can sing and loves to dance.  I truly believe My Parker and My Kalipo are different flowers from the same garden.  

Phalles was so quiet and shy when I met her.  She wouldn't reciprocate any emotions to me (not at all surprising or even expected) and now she is a big ball of excitement when she sees me.  Holding my hands and wanting to wear my sunglasses all the time.  I had a rip in my skirt and in her resourcefulness she noticed it and tied it together to "repair" the tear and it was really quite cute!  Her smile is so welcoming and her eyes tell such a story.  What a precious child.

The sun was hot these two days, the days were long, and the kids were many.  Last night my body shut down and I felt drained of life~like never before.  I've been worn out and even exhausted, but not like this.  This was complete fatigue.  Sweet Nurse Brenda made me go to bed @7 p.m. and I rested very well.  So thankful for the prayers from my team and family back home.  I woke up on Sunday feeling 90% better!  

Day 8~

Wow one week today!  Pastor Eric put it this way:  We have packed 25lbs into a 5lb bag so far on this trip.  It's been an amazing first week.  I am excited for the second, but also bummed that it will be over at the end of it.  

Today we split into groups and went to several of the village churches.  I attended Pastor Lawrence Mandwalla's Church and Chris Weaver gave the message.  Chris was fantastic  We all got to share our testimonies along with members of the congregations and a youth group came a long way to sing!  I was amazed, they were wonderful.  One moment that was so sweet for me was seeing the Pastors 3 year old daughter approach him at the pulpit with her little hand extended wanting daddy to give her money to put in the offering plate.  It just reminded me of my children of course, but it was another board in the bridge from Ohio to Malawi.  Little girls need their daddy's and that outstretched hand starts early and continues late, doesn't it?  Praise the Lord that our Heavenly Father can give beyond what we can even imagine.   There was nothing but praise and celebration for our Savior in that one room church.

Two other things happened today.  A girl from the Passion Center was buried today.  We had heard that she may have had Malaria, but someone else said she may have had a brain tumor.  Either way it's a harsh reminder of how much death is a part of this culture.  There's a purpose in the way God's plan is orchestrated here in Malawi, but it seems so hard to understand.

Also, precious Linda, a little 4 year old girl who lives at the Passion Center was taken to Blantyre Hospital for another operation to regain use of two more fingers on one of her hands.  A little background:  Linda had taken a radish when she lived with her grandmother a year or so ago because she was hungry.  Her grandmother practiced witchcraft and punished Linda by holding her little hands over an open fire.  When she was brought to the Passion Center (as you could imagine) she was broken and bruised, very distrusting, and filled with sadness.  Through the love of the staff at the Passion Center, serious prayers from those in Malawi and America, and doctors in Blantyre she is smiling, loving Jesus and regaining use of her hands.   We lifted her up at team time tonight for peace, and comfort and quick healing.

Well, that's catches us up to tonight (Sunday evening).  Tomorrow is Vacation Bible School.  There should be between 150-700 kids.  The real number is a surprise!  I also have a chance to attend a Youth Rally where Pastor Mark will be giving a message on Purity.  I pray that God gives me boldness and confidence in the Word.  I was so glad to talk to my sweets tonight!  I miss those sweet voices~And I so miss my Lovie....I can't wait to tell you guys everything!

Phalles in my glasses

Church on Sunday

Outside of Church

Abusa Lawrence Mandwalla and our Team (that's his sweet little girl)

This is a video of Kalipo dancing with his friends at the Sports Bonanza, he's in the khaki shorts and t shirt.  I think this is so fun~I wish I could share it with him he would think it was so cool to see himself!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Raw Emotions

Tough to rewrite this one today...i knew it was coming so I have procrastinated a bit.  Anyway, here's the next page of the story!

Day 4~Widow and Hospital Visit

My goodness we have been here only two days and have absorbed so much.  The electricity has gone off twice already and I don't really mind.  The simplicity is so refreshing.  Especially when it goes out at dinner/team time in the evenings.  There is something so intimate about 30 people sitting around tiny candles and holding flashlights to see what they are eating.  It's a fun part I will always remember.  

So this morning were the Widow visits in the villages.  I wasn't actually supposed to go on the widow visit because it was my duty to go to the market with Jon to buy supplies for the bags that would go to the hospital visit in the afternoon.  As we were loading up the Pajeros, Jamie (an advanced team member) offered to take my place with Jon at the market so that I could experience the widow visit as it was her favorite part in years past.  I was so appreciative.  This group really knows what it means to work as a team.  

We loaded up the Pajeros and were off to the village where several widows would be waiting for us. There were actually two villages to visit so our team split up to meet with them both at the same time.  When we arrived Pastor Eric asked me and two others to speak to the widows.  First there was a short panic and then immediately I knew what to share.  My "heart" verse Isaiah 41:10.  The Lord had given me that verse at a time in my life when I wasn't walking the path HE had laid out for me.  But in my own circumstance of loneliness and desperation I cried out to him and this verse was how he answered me.   Being with the widows was such a sweet moment.  Their bodies were plagued with pain after years of hard labor and to see them sitting there so welcoming of us was such a blessing to me.  After our talks we all handed out care bags with flour, sugar, oil, and rice to each widow and then prayed for their needs individually.   Thank you God for using Jamie to make sure I was in the place you wanted me at the time I needed to be there.  Those sweet people blessed me more than I could have imagined.

We had a quick second to recover before heading out to the Passion Center so we could regroup for the hospital visit that afternoon (uggh).  Jon and Jamie had returned with the supplies we needed to fill 150 care bags for the guardians of the children at the hospital.  We had to stuff all the bags in a hot second and the team did not disappoint.  We formed an assembly line in the Passion Center lunch room and before you knew it we were loaded up and heading to the hospital.  Several Passion kids were chosen to go along on the visit to pray and translate prayers for the sick children.  When we arrived we had to wait because the parents were feeding their little ones.  You see in Zomba the children are primarily cared for in the hospitals by their guardians (mom, grandmother, aunt, cousin) and sometimes wait weeks just to see a doctor.  While we were waiting we noticed a woman walking around the courtyard, where several were having lunch from the hospital, preaching the Word of God to any who would listen!  It was so cool!  

Then it was time....I didn't want to go in.  I wanted to turn and run, but I couldn't.  Once inside the ward I saw caregivers at the bedsides of their children just loving on them and doing anything they could to keep them comfortable.  And the reality of it all was more than I could have imagined.  I looked across the room and saw a team member sinking into himself to hide his sobs.  I know him and I knew he was seeing his own wife and prematurely born son on those beds, knowing that if God hadn't chosen them to be U.S. citizens that one or both of those sweet family members would not have made it.  A member of the Passion staff, Fatsani, shared the gospel inside the terminally ill ward and at the end he asked who would like to know Christ as their savior and over 1/2 of the guardians raised their hands.  Fatsani was on fire!  Can you imagine someone just walking up and down the halls of our own U.S. hospitals telling patients about the eternal healing our savior can provide?   I mean really, we could learn so much!

The "ward" was one big room lined with twin sized beds.  There were sometimes two or three patients sharing one bed, some on the floor all just waiting to be healed.  There just wasn't enough room for all the sick.  I just sobbed seeing children with 2nd & 3rd degree burns laying helplessly, and those with heads so full of fluid they couldn't sit up.  It was more than I could handle and I had to leave the room for a moment to get my emotions in check.  The last thing I wanted those sweet things to see was more sadness.  After Fatsani's message we took bags of supplies to the bedsides of patients and prayed with them.  I didn't have a translator with me, but the word "prayer" was universal, they knew what I was doing and to whom I was praying.  I chose to go to beds that held children close to the same age as my own Parker and Hallie.  It was heartbreaking because I could see my children there and I knew that if these children were in the U.S. they could be healed.  But that's not what God wanted me to do there, he wanted me to stand in the gap for these children.  The last bed I went to was a toddler whose pregnant mother grabbed her hands when I began to pray as if to say, "be still child, we are approaching the throne of grace."  And that's all I could do was to pray for God's mercy and grace for the children he created and strength for their families.  Death is such a normal part of life there, and it is here too, but the rawness of it in Zomba was so real and so painful.  

Team time tonight was a mesh of sobs and brokenness.  It was a sweet time for our team.  Doing the widow visit and hospital visit in one day was emotionally draining.  One was a group of people I hadn't planned on seeing and one was a group of people I didn't really want to see.  In the end God allowed me to be blessed by both opportunities as I saw their faces as He sees them~with love.

*Note these pictures are from others on our team.

Greeting the Widows

Sharing my heart verse

One of the widowed men bowed in prayer

The supply bags to hand out to the widows

Hospital Courtyard (where the woman was preaching)

A glimpse at the hospital

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Day of Blessing ~Zomba, Malawi

Day 3 ~ July 12th, 2011
Written at 10:08 p.m. Local Time/4:08 p.m. EST

Praise the Lord, He is so good to bless us when we ask outside of ourselves!!  I just can't even write fast enough to keep up with the joy in my heart right now.  Today was a huge day!  We were heading out to the Passion Center today to take a tour and meet the staff.

When we arrived we were welcomed by the staff~ so many women and men living their life for Christ and pouring it into the children.  Such gracious, friendly souls it was such a blessing to be welcomed with hugs as if we had been there for years!  This morning I had prayed that God would allow me to meet Kalipo and Phalles on my first day at the center.  I knew this was a little over zealous as our sponsor kids live in the village not at the center, and since school was out they may not be around very much.  I had written both children a letter a few months ago letting them know I was coming to visit and I included a picture of our family.

We toured the residence and offices, the kitchen and new office building.  The dorms were so neat.  Chris Prater and her daughter had done a fantastic job the year before painting murals and decorating the bunks for the children.  Too my surprise the boys dorm was clean as a whistle!  After our tour was complete we headed down to the multipurpose center where the children gather from the residence and the villages to have breakfast and lunch and to play.  We were also able to tour the soccer fields.  Some of the men from our team played soccer with the older boys and the rest of us took pictures of the kids which was so fun for them.  They would just giggle when they got to see themselves and then there would be a multitude of little voices in broken english saying "Picture Me".  

It was time for us to head back up to the residence to have lunch ourselves.  I was bummed because I knew that Kalipo and Phalles would probably be heading to the multipurpose center soon to have lunch and I was going to miss a chance to meet them.  I enjoyed the walk back, just taking in the scenery and chatting with another team member.  

At the top of the hill I turned the corner to walk into the security wall of the Passion Center and there before me was a picture of my sweet family in Ohio.  And the hands that held it were Kalipo's!!  He recognized me immediately and my heart skipped a beat.  He had just received his letter and was waiting at the gate for me.  He was so handsome with a bright joyful smile ~a smile you never forget~his whole face lights up just like my Parker's when he smiles!  He was so neat and clean and healthy!  I can't tell you how beautiful he was.  We didn't chat much because I was too busy hugging him and staring at his beautiful face.  Some of those around me realized I had just met one of my sponsor children and before I knew it, Joni was walking up behind me and said, "Ms. Summer we have someone else for you."  It was my Phalles (pronounced F-ALICE)!!  She was just a beautiful but a bit more shy.  She's only five and who knows what she thought of this crazy Azungu (white person) who was gushing over her.  Oh her eyes, they led right to her soul.  She was also holding the picture of our family.  After several more hugs for each of them we took some pictures and I said the only thing I knew in Chichewa at the time, "Jesus Amawa Conedo~ Jesus Loves You." And children so do I.

I am quite sure I could have ran to the top of the highest plateau at that moment.  God had whipsered in my ear, "Nothing is impossible with me".  It was such an awesome blessing to have met my kids on the first day, within 12 hours of being in Zomba!!  I am still so excited!

After lunch we visited Mercy who belongs to a Child Headed Household.  Actually she is the child who heads the household.  Children in this role have been orphaned by their parents, grandparents and any other guardian that could care for them so the oldest child must step into the role of caregiver for the rest of the family.  When the Passion Center found Mercy she was 17 and now she is 20 caring for 7 others in her home.  Our team and the Passion Center Staff were able to give them mattresses, pans, plates, cups, bowls and buckets to help make daily living a little easier.  However, at that age with that many depending on her I can't imagine anything being easy.  She was all smiles from the moment we arrived!  Some of us were able to do a mini bible school for the village children while the Pastors shared the Word with Mercy.  The children loved being able to make necklaces and bracelets and despite the language barrier it went very well.  It was my first experience being surrounded by children that I really couldn't relate to.  It was no accident that the greatest commandment is LOVE~it's universal!  I wasn't sure how I would react, but God allowed me to simply be his!

I am just in awe that the first day of this mission could be filled with so many blessings.  If God said, "Okay, Summer this is enough for you time to go home."  I could leave being completely changed and content!  However, I am excited for what tomorrow holds!  Now to calm myself down enough to sleep! 

It was so fun to rewrite this today~I still can't believe God chose me to go on this trip.....11 1/2 months is a long time to wait for the next one ;~)  Enjoy the pictures below!

Meeting Kalipo

Meeting Phalles

First "Family" Photo

The Child Headed Households & Team

Beautiful Mercy!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The first days~Zomba, Malawi

This is the first of several entries documenting my recent Mission Trip to Zomba, Malawi, Africa. I will try to be as detailed as possible for I know that family and friends want to know what it was like.  These will be lengthy entries, so I apologize.  I am still so humbled that God chose ME to experience this.  This entry covers just the travel days and the emotions of just leaving my comfort. I hope you will stay tuned for more of what GOD revealed on this amazing trip.  I am feeling more foreign here in America than I did in Malawi.  It's quite the adjustment and I've only been back two days.

Day 1~ July 10th, 2011
Drive from Ohio to Washington, D.C.
The goodbyes were so hard.  I don’t know how to be without my 3 lovies.  No baths to give, meals to fix, arguments to dissolve.  No holding hands, no unexpected hugs or “I loves you’s”.  Wow, can I really do this?? 
About an hour after we left church in our 2 van caravan I began to feel better.  The images of Hallie, Parker, and my sweet husband are still very fresh in my mind and boy how I’ll miss them.  And then somewhere between the West Virginia/Pennsylvania border God answered my previous question with “Yes, Summer you can do this~I am with you!”  The most amazing peace has since come over me.  I’m sure that is from all those who are praying for me and our entire team back home. 
 I am so excited about what’s ahead in the next 14 days.  Some of the veterans on my van are sharing stories from years past.  Thus far I know to expect Gecko-type lizards in our cabin, angry attacking ants, aggressive hippos and crocs on the safari and the most yummy bananas in the world!  All that to say and all I can think of is, 
DAY 2~ July 11th, 2011 
In flight!!  On take off everyone put their hands in the air like they were riding a roller coaster...those in my row decided maybe they were worshiping God.  There are several group mission teams on this flight and it’s so awesome!  
Oh I need to tell you about a little girl and her dad who we met at the airport.  Her name is Hannah and she is such a beautiful little girl~well I say little, she’s 13!  Her dad noticed our butterfly shirts and stated a conversation about his own Christianity and began telling us his story.  Hannah had collected 400,000 pencils in her home country of Toronto, Canada to hand deliver to children living in Ethiopia~so she and her dad were traveling back to their native country to walk through the villages hand delivering those pencils.  Can you believe it??  That was a child with a heart to love on God’s children and a dad who will escort her to the ends of the earth to share in HIS mission.  Wow, that’s just two brothers/sisters in Christ.  Imagine was all 23 of us could do if we are willing to be used!
Let’s talk about how awesome God is....
Since January and the opportunity came about for me to be a part of this team I have been waiting for Fear.  Isn’t that awful~who waits for Fear???  Well, I have spent far too many hours of my life living in fear and I’m pretty sure God was fed up!.  Guess who hasn’t shown up on this trip~Yep, FEAR!! 
I trust in God so why should I be afraid?  Psalm 56:4
I’m sitting on a flight that if Fear were present would not be taking place.  God has graciously given me peace, courage, and excitement for something I never believed I could endure.
Still Day 2...I think...
As I look at my watch and realize at home my sweet ones are probably having dinner; the display in front of me says that somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean is it 12:37 a.m~crazy.  The flight attendants are trying to get us on their clock and so our “lunch” was actually dinner (@ 2:37 p.m. EST) and in 3 hrs (approx 4 a.m. local time) we will be having breakfast!  Boy am I confused.  So right now I am having trail mix and a Diet Coke to celebrate my American heritage and the Easter Standard Time Zone!
I never knew a dreaded 12 + hour plane ride could be so full of treasures!  We were able to watch the sun peak over the horizon as we approached the northeast coast of Africa.  If began as a slight orange hue peaking over the edge of the horizon an then the most vibrant shade of magenta burst onto the scene.  It was amazing.  What's not so amazing is how confused my body is right now.  As the bright rising sun shone through my window my body just wants to tuck into a deep sleep.  My row of seats has just completed a very well choreographed sequence of plane-seat exercises.  It really was refreshing and actually helped my numb bumb and aching back.

Day 3~July 12th, 2011 3:04 a.m EST, 10:04 a.m. Local Time
Whew~landed in Addis Ababa the very back of a very long line at our gate.  We didn't pass any vending machines, bathrooms or anything else I was looking forward to.  The airport was like a warehouse, a group of internationals were smoking in the corner, several groups of fully dressed Muslims were scattered about, and beautiful Ethiopian women wearing VERY strong perfume were passing in all directions.  So far my first impression of the continent of Africa was very fragrant and eye-opening!  Time to load back up for our second, yet much shorter flight to Lilongwe, Malawi!  

4:45 pm EST  10:45 pm Local Time
Time to play catch up!  
We landed at the airport in Lilongwe, Malawi with no problems and were anxious to rush to the luggage terminal.  Very quickly our bags began shooting off the belt line one after another.  The men of our team were tossing them off as fast as they could and then all of a sudden the bags just stopped coming.  Not because we had them all, but because we only had 23 of our 47 bags that made it onto our plane!  EEK!!!  I had gotten my personal bag but not my team bag of supplies for various activities while in country.  My packing partner, Amy had not received her bag, but she did have some items in my luggage so she would be fine for a few days.  So Chris and Pilira stayed behind for the night in Lilongwe to hopefully intercept the remaining bags tomorrow.  Despite the temporary detour from our plan we were not dampened in spirit too much.
As we were leaving the airport we saw Joseph, Pilira, and Pastor Erik waiting with full smiles and it was such a relief!  We had made it to Malawi!!  The men began pushing our luggage through the window of a very long, very tall bus. Most everyone fit on that bus but a few of us rode with Erik in a Pajero (Mitsubishi made SUV).  It was nearly a 6 hour drive to Zomba and I could never have been prepared for what I was about to see on the way!  Besides just taking in the scenery of beautiful mountains and plateaus, I was overwhelmed with the number of people all around!  One woman sticks in my mind, she was walking down the street on both her feet and her hands.  Her body was permanently stuck in an upside down "V" position.  She was wearing her shoes on her hands and seemed not bothered at all by the challenge of just getting from point A to point B.  Wow.  A little further down the road a teenage boy with a baby strapped securely to his back approached the bus in front of us with his hands cupped open begging for anything.  Pretty soon, we see 3 Twizzlers lower down from on our team members on the bus.  He accepted them, turned and as he walked away he passed one back to the baby he was carrying.  Again, wow.  
The drive continued on village after village.  Women with baskets on their heads and babies on their backs were everywhere I looked.  The people were seriously everywhere!  The main roads were paved (to my surprise), but according to my Western view, they were driving on the wrong side of the road!  This illicited more than one panicked breath from me as I kept thinking we were going to be driving head on into the on coming traffic.  The people walked in the road, on the sides of the road, and many took daring darts across the road more than once.  People, People, People!  I noticed one common thread: for the most part everyone seemed happy and peaceful.  We saw huts that had colorful flags flying and Pastor Eric told us they were witch doctors.  How sad (I didn't realize how much this would hit me until later in my trip).  
Every 5 Km there were Muslim Mosque.  Pastor Eric informed us that the Muslim philosophy/strategy was to give handouts enticing people in need and once they showed up at the Mosque they would begin building their following.  People would return time after time in order to get the things they needed and would just become part of the fellowship.  There were some Mosque that didn't even have a following yet~they are just waiting for the next weary person in need.  It was really sad.
After a very winding ride straight up the Plateau we made it to our cabins.  It wasn't until we walked in the door of the common house that it showed up:  FEAR in the form of FLIGHT!!  I wasn't afraid, but in one split second I was overcome with defensive emotions.  The realities hit me like a brick.  I am very far from home, I miss my husband desperately, I want to love on my kids, and I want to go HOME!  A couple of deep breaths and a few tears later I remembered that I was ALL IN, no turning back only trusting and stepping out on faith.  
We ate dinner prepared by Dyson (our cook).  Then we were escorted through the foggy woods to our cabin.  Seriously it was like a scene from Harry Potter~such dense fog it was hard to see one foot in front of the other.  Being led only by flashlight we had made it.  I chuckled as I wished Ryan could see me in the forest of Africa trusting each step only because I was all in, I think he would be proud.  Time for a good nights sleep hopefully waking up ready to DO THIS!

I will stop here for the first entry!  The upcoming entries will be packed full of emotion and blessings.  As I relive this it makes my heart long to be there tonight, only this time with my hubby and my loves by my side!

 Part of our bags waiting to be checked at Dulles for the flight to Ethiopia

 My quarters for the 12+ hour flight!

 My bed is on the right, it was pretty comfy!

Peter's Cabin (where we stayed)

 The walk up to our cabin

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Countdown to Africa~10 DAYS!

Hi friends!  Well, since we have moved into our house I have been so busy playing outside, watering flowers, and enjoying our new found freedom with space I haven't taken time to write!  And now look where we are.....10 days 'til departure for Malawi!

Well all of my vaccinations are complete, I have a prescription for anti-malaria meds to be filled, and a first-aid kit with everything known to man ready to go.  Now, if I could only find my bottle of "don't cry your eyes out when you say goodbye to your husband and kids" pills.  It's going to be the hardest most rewarding thing I could ever do!  However, just last night I was telling my lovie that I felt completely inadequate to go on this trip.  He said, "Well, then it seems like you are just where you need to be to go on this trip."  He is so right, what better place can we be for God to have complete control over our lives than complete inadequacy?  Thank you God, for a husband who supports his wife in ALL things.

Can we talk about that for a moment?  My lovie is jumping in feet first to the life of a stay at home mom while I'm gone.  The only difference is that he also has to work on and off and make sure his employees don't feel abandoned.  Thanks to a couple of very awesome (maybe crazy after this is over) friends who will be loving on our kids for a few days a week he might be able to make it through without turning completely gray!  Would you please pray for my lovie and for our friends who will hug my kids when I can't in the coming weeks?  Thank you God for sweet willing friends!

I have been praying for the Lord to build a wall around my emotions and to keep me focused on Him and his plans.  He has heard my prayer, I do have times that tears fill my eyes when I just look at those sweet faces that I will miss so much for two weeks, but otherwise I am OK.  I don't think He wants me to be without emotion, but I don't want to be controlled by them either.  He will provide on this one!

One super awesome praise is that I was Baptised this past Sunday!  I had been convicted about this for years (having never actually been baptised by submersion) since rededicating my life to Christ.  Finally, I received confirmation enough to desire that portion of obedience to the God who saved me.  It was an awesome moment in my walk with the Lord!  Thank you God for the Pastors who feed me Spiritually.

And so here we are, 10 days 'til departure and I don't want to say goodbye to my family, I certainly do not want to fly 18 hours to get there, and I don't want to face my fears.  But guess what?  All of that is so easy to overcome when I think of being on African soil having the opportunity to share the Gospel with the children at the Passion Center.  To hopefully have the chance to meet the children we sponsor, Kalipe and Phalles, and hug them if they allow me that joy.  What sweet moments are to come!
Thank you God for calling and equipping the inadequate to be the vessels that share your love to the world! I can't believe this is happening......

I hope you enjoy this song by Caedmon's Call, "Two weeks in Africa".  It really sums up going on this trip for me!  And below that are a few pictures from my Baptism. *Note: this is just a video I found on YouTube because I love this song and not from Northwest Bible's trips to Africa but I hope to be able to share one from our trip when we return!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Perfect Timing

First, apology due for the long blogging lapse.  Excuse~life.  Sorry.

It's been almost two months since I last wrote and oh my has it been a whirlwind!  I believe I had mentioned in my last blog about moving into a rental home in Delaware, Oh on May 1st, right?  Well, let's make this long story short and tie it up with a bow because I am ready to move on!

So two weeks before we were to move into the home in Delaware, my lovie received a call letting him know about a position in Witchita, Kansas (of all places, right?).  My words, when he told me where, "I think I'm going to throw up."  I was serious.  The apartment was a gigantic mess, the kids were sleeping on an inflatable mattress in the living room, and the weather outside was beyond crappy (leaving us no where to escape the madness).  Hubby and I agreed he should at least see what the story was in Kansas and proceeded to fly to Iowa for an interview.  Meanwhile, we had enlisted our prayer warrior family to join us in praying for a CLEAR open or shut door nothing more, nothing less.  A week passed after the Iowa interview and we were still just on pause with our May 1st move just a few days away.   At the suggestion of my lovie the kids and I packed up the car and escaped to Indiana for the week for some rest and relaxation with the grandparents!  It was such a great time~all the while I was still praying for clarity and I had gained a huge peace about whatever the answer was to be.  On Wednesday, Ryan called and said we were moving to...........Delaware, Ohio!  Friday brought two packed cars, one set of very helpful grandparents and a U-Haul being towed behind!  Perfect Timing!

So here I am feeling like I should be in a Kool-Aid commercial sitting outside on the deck, with the sun kissing my hands as I type, two very happy children playing in the sprinkler, and Popsicle time quickly approaching!  What a blessing this house is to us.  I have certainly been reminded that I took the home and the yard we had back in Indiana very much for granted 3 years ago!  Being able to set on this deck and soak in the sweet laughter of my children on a perfectly perfect almost summer day is nothing more than Perfect Timing!

And should I mention that our team leaves for Malawi in 39 days!  EEEK!!!  I can feel the reality of emotions I'll have about leaving my kids and my husband welling up inside.  I am trying desperately to suppress them, but I know that God will have to bring me to my breaking point in order to have my full attention.  How can I be used there, if I can never face leaving here?  I have been praying specifically this week for God to help me build a wall around the emotions that are surfacing out of fear.  And then there's the daily dying to self that I am trying to make a priority in order to be filled with the Spirit.  Wow, did I never know I was this selfish and needy??!!  I'm sure I sound no different to God than my own children sound to me with their constant, "Mommy, I need this.  Mommy, I'm having trouble here.  Mommy, help me.  Mommy, Mommy, Mommy...."  Of course I will actually miss hearing all those Mommy requests some day, but I am becoming aware of how much my parent child relationship with my children is just like my FATHER child relationship with God.

Well, as the days pass and take off approaches I will trust that God will send me off very prepared, emotions in check, and eyes on HIM.  So when my feet touch that African soil (do they actually have soil in Africa??) I will have complete faith in HIS Perfect Timing.  

And so the page turns....

I had to include this picture, the very first flower Hallie chose for our yard is a Shasta Daisy.
I love that these sweet little bursts of happiness are ALWAYS looking straight UP!

Monday, April 18, 2011

And the story continues

Wow, this month is flying by and there have been many weeks when I needed a "foresday".  My son, Parker, when learning the days of the week, added an extra day after Friday called "foresday".  We often joke around here that we need a "foresday" when the weeks pass us by to quickly.  So how can I quickly bring everyone up to speed:

God found house for Sisney family to rent  (Momma Sisney knows it was God who found the house, because she purposely pushed same house to back burner because of location and it always kept moving to the front). Said house is 30 minutes north of Sisney's current location.  Momma Sisney was a bit concerned for Papa Sisney's drive to and from work nearing one hour each way.  God gave Momma Sisney a peace about house location and Sisney Family's rental application was accepted within 3 hours.  Sisney family began packing and organizing current apartment for upcoming departure.  Having been denied moving container (PODS) by apartment management, Sisney family became creative and disassembled children's bedroom changing it into storage room for packed boxes and new furniture.  Before mentioned children now sleeping with Momma and Papa Sisney, which is not working out so perfectly!  Momma Sisney foresees purchase of inflatable mattress for wee little Sisney's upcoming CARPET SLUMBER PARTY!  Storage room is working out wonderfully, Papa Sisney is so very wise!  In one day less than two weeks, Sisney family will be moving 30 minutes north to house that God found and enjoy very much transforming house into home!  Hopefully to continue living "Happily Ever After..."

WHEW!!  So that is that!  Turning the page...

The latest Malawi meeting was just as awesome as the first!  I continue to be amazed at how much excitement God is allowing me with this upcoming trip.  Of course there was another video, of course there were more tears, but I am noticing my tears turning to smiles thinking of being on the same soil as the children.  Pastor Mark was very clear that our objective is not to only clothe, feed, and provide for the immediate and obvious needs, but to share the Gospel because that is the one thing that cannot be taken away!  A travel itinerary has also been completed.  Remember, that I asked you to pray about the 6-hour bus ride from Lilongwe to Malawi?  Well, thank you for your prayers, but apparently this is God's will because the bus ride is still part of our trip.  Prayers, however, are always welcomed!

I sent out support letters last week and am so thankful for those who have already returned their support cards to me!  I am humbled by the sweet notes and in awe of God's provisions!  Thank you so much to those of you who have already committed to being part of my support team, it's awesome to know God has planted this in your heart and you have responded!  

Well, I have so many more thoughts to share, but I will stop here.  I appreciate those of you who follow this blog and take the time to read.  I never feel as though I share anything profound, but just being able to share is a joy for me.