When you take a mission trip to Africa, one of the first lessons you learn is flexibility. You learn to expect people to operate on “African time,” you learn that things may not go as planned, and you learn to adapt.
As our team prepared to present a teacher seminar this week, I entered with all these expectations. We were told to prepare for sixty teachers, but I wasn’t sure if word about the seminar had spread. We had prepared a PowerPoint, but we knew the electricity might go out. And the day before the seminar began, we weren’t sure where the first day of the seminar would be held. I was okay with all that. I just set my expectations low and was ready to implement Plans B, C, and D. I didn’t realize that I was setting low expectations for what God wanted to accomplish. I didn’t know that He wanted to surprise our team with lots of little gifts.
The first gift came when one of the head teachers pulled me into one of the classrooms to show me how he had set it up for the seminar. By some miracle, seating for sixty teachers at tables worked in the classroom space! I was relieved, but I still held my breath about the number of teachers and opportunity to use our PowerPoint. I had accepted that we probably wouldn’t have the projector when one of the boys walked in with it. Gradually, more extension cords arrived. We tried a few different ways to create a white background for the projector, including a whiteboard on top of a chair on top of a desk. Suddenly, another young man walked in with a large white tarp. We had a working projector, we had electricity, and we would be able to use our PowerPoint! The seminar had not even begun, and God was already surprising me with a gift beyond my expectations or hopes.
As the teachers came in, the room with just enough space for the sixty teachers filled. Once again, God exceeded my expectations. Word must have spread because the next day we had several new teachers, and when we handed out certificates today we had just enough for the seventy teachers who finished the seminar with us. We were overwhelmed by the teachers’ engagement and gratitude. None of us wanted our shared time together to come to an end.
Malawians continually teach me to see God in the everyday gifts. This culture has an amazing ability to trust that God is good when things don’t go as planned and still expect Him to bless them abundantly. In my effort to be flexible, I had neglected to expect God to do “exceedingly abundantly beyond what I can ask, think, or imagine.” (Ephesians 3:20) God graciously chose to bless our team with beautiful gifts even when I expected little. He’s a good God.
If you would like to be a part of one of our future trips to Africa, please email Nathan Boyett at email@example.com.
Mollie Mitchell lived in Malawi from August 2012 to August 2014 serving as an education consultant for Children of the Nations. This summer, she led a team of teachers from Summit in partnering with Children of the Nations to put on a teaching seminar for teachers in Malawi. She is also excited to continue to promote education in Malawi through The Dress Project. Currently she is a middle school language arts teacher at Orangewood Christian School.