I am just returning from Malawi Africa where our church is bringing the PEACE Plan, which works through the local churches to disciple and help a whole nation.
PEACE is a strategy for doing missions work and is an acronym meaning: Plant (& help) churches that promote reconciliation, Equip servant leaders, Assist the poor, Care for the sick, and Educate the next generation. I love that it does not enable people or poverty, which most American churches are unknowingly doing, but actually helps overcome it. (http://saddleback.com/connect/ministry/the-peace-plan)
Pastor Rick Warren and Saddleback Church in California created this program in Rwanda, and Rwanda, since approximately 12 years of the beginning the PEACE plan, has started healing, is truly overcoming poverty, and will be the first orphanage-free country ever --even after the genocide! It is an unbelievable clean country now.
Parkview is the beginning stages of implementing the PEACE plan there. After a year of training, over 280 pastors graduated, where they learned the Purpose Driven tools. They are so excited because they are so hungry and desperate for material and help.
We hosted a mini Pastor’s Wives/Women in Ministry conference. I was honored to be able to speak to the women in each region of Malawi.
If you are like me, you probably don’t even know where Malawi is. It is in southern Africa, in between Tanzania, Mozambique, and Zambia. It is divided into three regions in which we held the conference and graduation for that region.
Prior to the trip, a small team of us women from Parkview who would be going on the trip, discussed the Malawian women.. We discussed what needs they might have and what encouragement we could give them. Both our Mission’s Pastor’s wife and myself had been there before.
Now, the women of Malawi work themselves to the bone. Literally. There are very few people in Malawi who own a car so these women usually walk long distances or grab rides on trucks to get into town, which I use the term town, very loosely. And they carry heavy loads of either food, laundry, or supplies on their head to get them home. Babies ride on their backs. Honestly, you can’t imagine it.
The women may only own one to two outfits they have gotten used somewhere. Many, especially in the northern region and urban areas, have no electricity or running water in their homes and have to walk to a water pump and well to get the water. Quite unbelievable, isn’t it?
(For an interesting read on what Malawi is like, read “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” byWilliam Kamkwamba https://www.amazon.com/Boy-Who-Harnessed-Wind-Electricity/dp/0061730335/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1474039130&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Boy+Who+Harnassed+the+Wind+book )
So we decided these women, not unlike American women, need to be given permission to take care of them selves. They are working so hard just to help their families survive, and they honestly need permission to rest and take care of themselves if even a bit. They need to realize God loves them so much.
I spoke on the verse in Luke 9:62 (NIV), “Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”” But I talked about three areas of life that they may be neglecting that would help them “keep their hands on the plow” and to not let go.
So here is just one of the points I shared with these women who minister to so many others at their churches; some of you might need to hear this today as well:
One area of life you might not think of as part of your ministry is taking care of your self.
That may sound selfish and very self-centered to take care of yourself. But think of it from God's point of view.
I love arts and crafts. And quite a few years ago, I had made a doll out of the head of mop that turned out quite cute. It sounds silly, I know. But in fact, I loved this mop doll. I was so proud of it. One day I came home and my mop doll was on the floor and my dog was chewing on it! I was so upset because I loved that mop doll and it was very special to me because it was my creation.
God feels the same about you, girls! God made you! You are his precious creation. It makes Him very angry and hurt to see His creation not cared for. And if God cares about you, shouldn’t you? He cares deeply about you not only spiritually but also emotionally and physically.
Remember in Matthew 22 when the Pharisees were trying to trick Jesus about which commandment was greatest? And Jesus himself answered him:
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment.
>Now carefully pay attention to this next part:
39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Emphasis added)
We can’t love our neighbors until we have a healthy love for ourselves.
So many of us don’t love ourselves. We have been hurt, abused, used, and feel like we’ve been ignored or discarded--like a piece of trash.
BUT answer these questions:
Who made you?
Who gave you the gifts that you have?
Who died on the cross for YOU?
The Bible states that we will only love our neighbors IF we love ourselves.
Women—you are special. Scripture tells us:
o God’s child.
o Daughter of the King
o Uniquely designed and formed by God.
o You are God’s handiwork
o You are justified and redeemed.
o You will not be condemned by God.
o You have been called to be a saint.
o Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who dwells in you.
o You are chosen,
o You are holy, and
o You are blameless before God.
I was at a very low point in my own life quite a few years ago when our girls were small. I was exhausted, apathetic, drained, and so unable to enjoy things that I normally would. It was difficult for me to do ministry let alone care for my family.
I was blessed to be able to talk to a Christian counselor and they explained it to me like this: “Denise, you are like a car out of fuel. You have reached empty and you can no longer keep going like you have.” So I had to find ways to fill up my tank again—spiritually, emotionally, & physically. So I became more diligent in being in God’s word and prayer. My husband became the main caretaker of our children every Monday night and I would do something I enjoy. Do you all even remember what fun is? I also worked to get even a little more sleep at night. And it wasn’t long before I began to fill up and feel better, and became ready to serve and love others again.
So, women of Malawi (and America and the world), I give you permission to sleep, eat, trade child care with each other, and take a little more time for your heart, soul, mind, and body. God and I give you permission to love yourself and take care of yourself! That is the only way we will be able to last in ministry for very long, and how we are going to be able to serve God and impact our country! This will help us "keep our hand to the plow."
Back to my blog :D -- I covered two more points in this session, and then we closed with the women putting their handprints and names on a poster of a plow. I told them that the women and people of Parkview would be praying for them by name. Here is a photo of them doing that activity:
If you would like to pray for these women, we will be putting the posters up at the Missions booths at Parkview. I am also asking women involved in our Women’s
Bible study groups to pray for these women. I know you will.
God and I love you, sisters, so allow yourself to get even a little bit of self-care.
Because of Jesus,
Denise, Refueled and Ready
**Photo credits: Maxwell Shaw, Mari-Beth Nooner, Tarne Mixson, Matt Baird http://www.travelswithtwo.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/africa_map.gif
 Ps 139:13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
 Eph 2:10For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
 … To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, and called to be saints, with all those in every place who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours (1 Corinthians 1:2). (See also Ephesians 1:1, Philippians 1:1, and Colossians 1:2.)