I was gone most of the summer and I got back around a month ago. Where was I? Africa! Yep that’s right I went to Africa with Teen Missions International, and it was so amazing!!!
Teen Missions sends out around thirty teams each year to different countries all around the world. My dad went with Teen Missions to Guatemala and my mom to Tanzania and then they went on the same team to Brazil (which is how they met). Adalia went to Honduras in 2011 and Judah went to Zambia in 2013, last year. This year Judah went to Guatemala and I went to Malawi.
Judah and me in the airport on the way to Boot Camp.
Before heading off for your country, you go to Florida for two weeks of training at The Lord’s Boot Camp. I love Boot Camp! Wake up at 5:30, run the Obstacle Course, have breakfast, devotions, then classes start at 8:00. There are classes on evangelism, puppets, drama, and music as well as construction, concrete pouring, steel-tying, and other skills you’ll need on the field. Lunch, then classes continue. In the afternoon you have an hour for bath and laundry as well as an hour of free time. More classes! Then dinner, and a bit of free time before evening rally at 7:00. The rallies are great! I love the music so much. After rally its back to your tent site, and then lights out at 9:30. It’s a busy schedule, and exhausting, but I love it! Once you arrive at Boot Camp, your team does everything together. But you still get to interact with the other teams- I got to see Judah several times throughout the day. My favorite part of Boot Camp is probably the Obstacle Course and the music at evening rallies.
My team ready to run the Obstacle Course.
Back row: Mr. Beaver, MacKenzie, Nathalie, Mady, Caity, May, Raewyn, Rebekah P., Nadia. Middle: Gwen, Anslie, Bekah S., Whitney, Teagan, Lydia F., Grace, Lydia B., Emily, Cayge. Front: Anslie, Me, Liana, Leah, Abby, Joel.
The Wall, part of the Obstacle Course. Me and Emily on top, pulling Anslie up.
Cayge, Leah, Nathalie, Liana, Caity, Grace.
learning how to use the drilling rig at Boot Camp
Liana and Abby
Nadia, Grace, Gwen, Emily, Leah
Our team had nineteen girls and two guys (plus two younger girls, Whitney and Valerie, the leaders’ kids)…
Mady doing Anslie’s hair while Anslie does my hair.
Me and Judah
Me and Judah!
The evening before Commissioning Day, there’s the Pizza and Milkshake night, which is what it sounds like… a night where you have pizza and milkshakes. That’s a treat because you don’t get cold drinks at boot camp, because you won’t have cold drinks on the field and boot camp is getting you ready for the field.
Judah and me
Grace, Caity, and Liana
After two weeks of Boot Camp, there’s the Commissioning service, where all the teams leave for the airport. A candlelight service, after which the teams walk across the property to the busses that will take them to the airport. Commissioning/Pack Out Day you spend all day packing up, weighing bags, taking down your tents, etc. It’s a busy day!
Me on commissioning day
Me and Judah on Commissioning
After the Commissioning Service, the first round of busses left at midnight. My team’s flight didn’t leave until a lot later so we were on a later bus. Our bus finally left at about 3:00 in the morning. We got to the airport, unloaded all our stuff, and settled down on the airport floor. We were all exhausted, but so excited we were finally on our way!
Joel, Mady, Lydia F.
We got to the airport around 5-ish in the morning. Our flight didn’t leave until about 6 that night. Yay. We got to camp out on the airport floor all day. It was okay though (and by the end of the summer we were totally used to airports!) We got to call home for a few minutes and talk to our families. Finally our flight left, bound for Washington D.C. where we had a layover before flying to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. That first flight was probably about four hours… but honestly I don’t remember. The next flight, from Washington D.C. to Ethiopia was fourteen hours! We got incredibly bored… but we were super pumped to finally be on our way to Malawi!
After that long flight we had a short two and a half hour flight to Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi. When we arrived there we drove about two hours to Chipoka, Malawi, where the main Teen Missions Base there is. Some of our duffel bags hadn’t shown up at the airport, so the next day the Teen Missions missionary in Malawi, Uncle Josiah, went back to the airport and got them. After that we drove from Chipoka to our project site, Rumphi. The drive was 12 hours, in the back of an uncomfortable and crowded truck!
In the airport parking lot when we first arrived in Malawi!
When we first got to Malawi… and we had no idea how we were going to fit 27 people and 50 duffel bags in this truck… but we did!
Our whole team plus a bunch of the Teen Missions staff in Malawi, on the way to church one day.
When we got to Rumphi we unloaded all our duffel bags and everything. Our project site was at the Teen Missions Bible, Missionary, and Work Training Center in Rumphi, Malawi. When we got there, there were a lot of children doing Sunday School (which happens every day of the week, not just on Sundays). We started singing a song we had learned at Boot Camp, ‘There’s No One Like Jesus’. We also knew the song in Chichewa, the national language of Malawi (in Rumphi they actually speak another language, Chitimbuku, not Chichewa, but they knew the song anyways) the children started singing with us, because they knew the song, and it was such an amazing moment! That first night we got settled in, then the next day was Saturday and we began setting up for drilling.
Our project was to drill a well- and we were Teen Missions’ very first well-drilling team! We were also drilling through the hardest ground in Malawi, which made it just that much more challenging. It sounds funny, but to drill a well it takes a lot of water. We dug a series of pits and trenches that we filled with water, and there was a pump with a hose that sucked the water up, the water went through the hose, through the metal pipes we were drilling with, into the hole we were drilling, through the trenches and pits, and all the way around. The first day we spent digging in preparation so that we would be ready to begin drilling first thing on Monday morning.
When we first arrived at our project site… a survey had been done of the property and this was the spot where water was most likely to be found, so this is where we drilled.
Digging the pits/trenches that we filled with water as part of the drilling setup.
Our head leader, Mr. Beaver.
Mady, Me, Bekah S., Joel
We drilled from about 9 to 5 or 6 every day except Sundays. We didn’t need any more than five people on the drill at a time, and we needed to be getting water a lot, so we split into four groups of five or six people (we called the groups ‘squads’). While your squad was on the drill, one person would be operating the controls, and the other people would be doing just little things that needed to be done around the drill site.
Measuring how far down the water was.
We used a special mud to drill with that coated the sides of hole and helped keep it from caving in.
We had one squad on the drill while the other squads would be getting water, or doing bathing, laundry, etc. We switched off during the day which squad was on the drill, and which squads were getting water. We needed lots and lots of water. Like I said, even though it sounds weird, it takes a whole lot of water to drill. Plus, we needed water for drinking, cooking, bathing, and laundry (bathing and laundry were done using buckets). So we had people getting water constantly throughout the day. The closest well was 1/4 mile away and it was a salt water well, so we used that for drilling, and sometimes laundry and bathing. The next closest well, and the closest fresh water well, was at least 1/2 mile away. We used 5 gallon buckets to carry the water, and we found that the easiest way was to carry the buckets on our heads. At first, it was so hard! But by the time we were finished, I had gotten used to it and it wasn’t really hard anymore.
Emily, MacKenzie, Mady
Who can resist a ‘carrying-water-in-a-bucket-on-my-head-in-Africa’ selfie?
Emily, Lydia B., Valerie, MacKenzie, Ms. Michelle, Nathalie
Nathalie, MacKenzie, Ms. Michelle, Anslie, Leah, Valerie
We slept in tents, and bathing and laundry was done using buckets!
Emily and me doing our laundry!
Every day at around 4:00 the children would come and we would get to play with them for a few hours until they had to go home and we had dinner.
Me with some of the children… they loved getting their pictures taken so much!
Anslie with a little girl.
Aspen with some little girls.
Me and Anslie with some of the children!
Liana showing a little boy a picture.
Grace playing with some children
MacKenzie drawing in the dirt with some children
Valerie, one of our leaders’ kids, playing with some children her age
Me with some adorable children!
I think this may possibly be my favorite picture from the whole trip… Anslie and Mady with some little girls.
Drilling was tough, but when we left Rumphi, we had hit fresh water. We installed a 4-inch pvc pipe in the hole we had drilled, as a casing, to prevent the hole from caving in, and to keep mud from contaminating the water. We weren’t able to get a pump installed before we had to leave, but the Teen Missions staff in Rumphi will be able to get a pump and install it.
When we left Rumphi, we drove eleven hours to Chipoka, where we stayed for several days before heading back the US of A. Most of our team got sick, but everyone was recovered after a few days. We got to shop for souvenirs at a craft market, which was so much fun- I love bartering! We also went on a safari, where we saw lots and lots of impala, bushbuck, and other types of antelope, a couple monkeys, and a few elephants from far away. Then we got back to the safari camp and there was a whole herd of elephants in the camp! On Wednesday morning we drove to the airport in Lilongwe. We flew to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, this time a 7 hour flight. It took so long because we stopped in Blantyre, Malawi, to pick up more passengers or something. Then we flew from Ethiopia to Washington D.C., and also stopped in Rome on the way, where we sat on the tarmac, in the middle of the night, so we couldn’t really see anything. That flight was 17 1/2 hours. We got bored out of our minds! In Washington D.C. we got to get American food in the airport, for the first time in a month! And just having fast food again… our leaders were such amazing cooks, but we still missed American food. We flew from Washington D.C. to Chicago, then from Chicago to Orlando. Then we had a short bus ride (by short I mean about an hour) back to Teen Missions for Debrief. At debrief you have classes on how to go home, and how to take back home what you learned over the summer. There are also several fun things planned throughout the day! On Saturday we went to Ron Jon’s Surf Shop and Cocoa Beach. On Monday night was the banquet, and several of our team members went home that night after the banquet. The next day, everyone else left. That was the worst day.
This summer was an absolutely amazing experience. I loved it so much! And I learned so much. One thing I learned is perspective. When you have to walk 1/2 mile or 1/4 mile with a bucket of water on your head and then wash your clothes by hand in that bucket of water, it really makes you appreciate washing machines. When you have to do the same thing just to take a freezing cold bucket bath, it makes you appreciate showers so much more than you ever thought was possible. When you have to walk 1/2 mile to a well, pump your bucket full of water, and walk 1/2 mile back with your full bucket, just so that you can have water to drink, (which you then have to filter, too…) you learn to really appreciate running water! There are just so many things that I’ve learned. I think it’s really important to know what other people live like… and in Malawi, not only did we get to see what they lived like, but we got to live like that, too.
Our team at debrief… minus MacKenzie. Teen Missions sends out teams at two different times each year, a couple of weeks apart. This year they had two teams to Malawi, at different times. MacKenzie stayed in Malawi and joined the second team after we left.
Back: Raewyn, Abby, Bekah S., Teagan, Mady, Cayge, Joel, Rebekah P., Grace. Middle: Nathalie, Gwen, Liana, May, Emily, Caity, Nadia. Front: Aspen, Anslie, Whitney, Lydia F., Me, Lydia B., Leah, Valerie, Ms. Michelle, Mr. Beaver.