The steering wheel is on the wrong side of the car. And, Oh my, they drive on the wrong side of thle road! They speak Chichewa. Thank goodness, they also speak English! The men (yes, the men!) are very animated when they sing. They sing loud and clap and dance and laugh. They skip and hop and pump their arms. (Men in the United States do this particular gesture--arm pumping--but usually for very different reasons.) Toto, we are not in Kansas anymore!
Such are some of the most obvious differences I have encountered here in Lilongwe, Malawi. But capturing my attention far more are the ways that we are the same. Parents are tired in Malawi just like in the United States. They are tired from lack of sleep but they are also tired from the serious challenges of being a mom or a dad. Teachers in Malawi have enormous jobs because they not only teach, they also parent, and counsel, and care for students whose home lives are far from nurturing. People are hungry for meaning and significance in their lives beyond a job well done. They long to make a difference in the lives of others and they struggle with how to do this when the circumstances are very serious and very complicated. My very limited and new understanding is that, at least proportionately, the complexity of the struggle of the people of Malawi is far greater than where I come from. And though with much less resources they are working hard to make a difference.
The Malawians I am coming to know who are in full time ministry struggle as I do to balance work and home. Just like me, they have a heart to train others to multiply the fruit of the work. But it is sometimes a challenge to find others who have the desire and, usually more frequently, the time to be trained. FTS like San Clemente Pres is working to reach out and stretch the impact of their ministry and are not satisfied with being a holy huddle. FTS is definitely a community for the community! And, most amazing of all, because it confirms why God's wise and wonderful and humorous plan has me here, the staff and volunteers of FTS are at a place where they want to go deeper. They want to grow in their love and trust of God so that they are able to live every day more faithfully what they are teaching and preaching and reaching out to others with. They want fresh hope in order to offer real hope to others. They do not want to rest on what they have done in the past or what they are currently doing very well. They want to be grounded deeper spiritually in order to go out faithfully wider. All these things we have in common.
Continents apart, times zones away I am seeing with my own eyes that God is indeed at work powerfully in every place doing the same thing he does in every place--bringing his kingdom to earth one person at a time, one act of love at a time, one word of hope at a time, one generous gift at a time. I am quite sure that after seeing what I have seen here in Lilongwe, I will be better equipped to see what I need to see in San Clemente. The stark differences as well as the clear commonalities are improving my vision. Louise drives on the wrong side of the road and the Lord gets her safely where she is going anyway! What an amazing God we serve!