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  • Writer's pictureChristina

Practicing what we Preach: March 2024 Update

(Christina was featured in a US physician periodical)

I’m leading a group of women through a season of spiritual formation, focusing on prayer and noticing God’s presence in our lives.  This group of missionaries and local Malawian leaders, most of whom are from a generation ahead of me, are part of a weekly Bible study which has met in Lilongwe for the last 30 years.  Three years ago, I was thrilled to receive my invitation to the group, and last year I found myself leading the meetings at least half the time.  After spending some intentional time last year practicing times of rest, solitude, meditation, and other spiritual disciplines, I felt a fresh love of God and scripture that I hadn’t enjoyed for decades. Quiet times alone with God felt more like dates than drudgery, and prayer was more of a peaceful conversation than a litany of lists.  I wanted to share that with my friends, so I suggested we start the new year off with a break from our study of 2 Timothy and with these weeks of spiritual formation instead.

We’ve used technology - What’sApp chats and Zoom - so that our friends can join us whether they are stuck across town or if they have moved to a different country. For those of us meeting in person, we try out different activities together, and when we close with prayer times, we try out fresh ways of communicating with God.  It’s been a refreshing and rewarding time for me as I share what I’ve learned over the last year and see my friends trying new ways to invite God into their lives throughout the day.  The ladies have liked trying out “breath prayers” where they connect with God as quickly as a breath, breathing in and out.  Some have also enjoyed a fresh look at the Psalms, viewing ancient prayers anew as they listen to musical psalms or paraphrase them into their own words.

So I’ve been happy that my friends are finding a freshness and new connection in their relationship with God, just as I was hoping to share when I suggested this project. But on the other hand, I’m feeling a bit dry and drained myself.  The newness of these techniques as I discovered and practiced them last year becomes a bit more dull as I prepare sessions trying to meet the needs and expectations of women from diverse walks of life.  Even as women are enjoying feeling God in different ways throughout their lives, I worry that I am getting too busy and feeling Him less.

I’m sure that part of my trouble is a lack of boundaries in other areas of life.  I’ve had some complicated patients lately, with visits going long and days going late. I spend time calling and emailing patients who don’t come in, and I have trouble turning away patients who come late to appointments or who come without an appointment.  The work I’m helping with in America is going well – projects to help with education, maternal health, and wellbeing of physicians.  But I find myself working until 8 or 9 pm most nights. It has been years since I’ve had a week where I could finish work by the time the sun sets. And some days I wake up to find messages from home, leading to stress and pain of being so far away as my family deals with loss and grief and fresh wounding.

A wall around our house fell down two months ago, and in the 6 weeks it took to repair it, we constantly had workers in our yard, neighbor’s dogs on our property, and our own doggies anxious to protect the yard from both.  The level of baseline agitation found its way into many areas of life, and now that our wall is safely back up, I still feel unsettled on some levels. I probably feel that way about this spiritual formation group as well. I was hoping it could be 4 weeks, and it was expanded to 6, and now we are 2 months in.  I long to hand the leadership of the group over to someone else, so that I can take my turn to learn from others and have a bit more rest.  I’ve tried assigning other leaders and announcing that I would skip certain weeks, but somehow still I find myself leading the study most weeks.  Greg is feeling much the same way, in his own activities. As he is pulled into training after training, he wonders how he can step back and encourage others to lead without him.

So we’re at a point where we are counting down the days until our furlough in the US.  We hope that this time when we are physically absent from our ministry sites will allow others to step forward and bring sustainability to the projects we’ve been pushing.  We hope for space and time to think about our own futures, and the which ministry areas match our giftings and opportunities as we move forward.  We never wanted to continue in the same service areas indefinitely, without allowing others to rise up and take things over. But somehow, the longer our uninterrupted time in Malawi, the more seems to rely on us.  So we’re planning to leave, and we’re counting down the weeks until departure.  Four weeks left. This may be our last trip to the lake, our last time seeing these friends for a while.  But maybe we’ll also have time to practice what we preach – things like spiritual disciplines and careful attention to sustainability of ministry.

This month, as we prepare for a seven-month furlough in the US, please pray that we can hand over ministries well and that God will show us what kind of focus areas and balance to pursue in the future.

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Daniel Krell
Daniel Krell
Apr 08

I greatly appreciate your dedication and the work you are doing, and recognize my envy of your situation.  I had the privilege of working in Malawi, 1966-68 as a Peace Corps volunteer in a tuberculosis control program, stationed in Nsanje.  I loved the work and my time, there.  PC training included great language instruction, so we entered Malawi with some credibility and recognition that we were really interested in participating in the country. This was shortly after independence was achieved, and the British colonizers never tried to learn the language or much about the culture; we all had experiences of starting to speak to Malawiians in Nyanja, only to be interrupted by: "Ah, Peacee Corps!" and being thanked for our…

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