Sunday, June 15, 2008

All my bags are packed and I'm ready to go...

That's right... I'm outta here!

No... don't freak out! I'm not moving to Siberia or anything. I'm just moving to a new blog.

Basically, "Hope from Malawi" is a bit outdated these days. Not that there is no longer "hope" in Malawi, but, well... there is no longer "Ryan" in Malawi.

But, fear not... you will still be able to stalk me and my happenings at an all new and improved location:

Now... for those of you who knew me prior to my "Hope from Malawi" days, you may recall that I had a blog with a very similar name. Well... names are hard to come by, and take a lot of creativity... and I quite like that name... so, I kept it. What I didn't keep is the same blog service. I switched to Wordpress.

So... All you people that keep a blogroll with my name on it, please change the link!! Please... seriously... I'm begging you! Take the 5 seconds it takes to do this and change it. It's a pet peeve of mine when people don't have accurate links. So, humor me and DO IT! OK... I'll step off my soapbox now...

I will keep this blog up (but probably not up-to-date). Who knows... maybe I will keep it up to date with the latest from Malawi. But, for now it will remain dormant, yet accessible to all who want to relive the time spent in Malawi.

So... check out the new look at the new place and leave me a comment or something so I will feel important!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Pastors' Book Set Conferences

In May and June, SIM Malawi is undertaking an once-in-a-lifetime project to provide 2,000 Malawian pastors and church leaders with the unprecedented opportunity to receive their own personal library of 65 books — resources that will equip and empower their ministries.

This Pastors’ Book Set project is a series of four week-long conferences that will provide vital training and resources for church leaders in Malawi - where it is estimated that less than 5% of all pastors are seminary-educated.

Each pastor will pay US$75. The actual cost of the conference and library is US$150 per participant. Please join us in praying that God will provide the resources for as many pastors as possible to attend. If you would like to partner with us or know anyone who would, contributions can be directed to project #96558 and sent to your national SIM office. Each $75 raised will cover the costs for one pastor to attend. Thank you for praying with us!

For more information, visit http://www.sim.org/index.php/project/96558

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


I pulled this straight off of my friend/ex-coworker's blog. I know it's a copyright infringement, but honestly, there isn't a lot she can do to prosecute me from Malawi.

This is the story about a lady named Jane that I had the opportunity to meet and on one occasion transport to the hospital while in Malawi. Cynthia did a great job portraying who she was and what Home-based Care looks like in Malawi. So, I thought you may be interested.

You can check out her blog at cynthiainnes.blogspot.com


A few minutes after my alarm rang this morning, the text came through.

"Jane Banda, Naotcha patient, is dead."

I first met Jane last October. I was filming for HOPE for AIDS, SIM Malawi's HIV and AIDS ministry, and that day's shooting took me to Naotcha, a mountainside village on the outskirts of Blantyre, where HOPE for AIDS runs a home-based care program.

Home-based care is exactly what it sounds like. Each week, small groups of volunteers gather together to visit a number of sick individuals in their community. Sometimes they bring household supplies - sugar, soap; sometimes they help around the home with cleaning or cooking. They are trained to offer advice that will encourage patients to live healthy lifestyles. They always pray with the patients, and always share the hope of Christ. They care for people who need it most.

I had inquired with one of the missionary nurses who works with the Naotcha home-based care volunteer team as to whether there might be a patient in their visitation rotation who would be willing to share about her life with AIDS and the role HOPE for AIDS home-based care was playing in it. Was there maybe someone who, like me, believed that if they could share their story, some attention might be brought to this epidemic that was missing before - that some heart might be moved to action, an action that would join with many others to bring an end to death by AIDS? Without hesitation, Jane Banda was asked. I wasn't in her home long before I understood why. Jane was genuine hope.

I sat in her living room with the volunteers, Mr. Banda and Jane's sister. Jane, dressed in her best, crawled into the room. Legs too weak to allow her to stand on her feet, she wobbled determined on all fours to her chair, and shaking, pulled herself up, slowly settling into her seat. She straightened her skirt. Adjusted her top. Looked straight at me. And offered me her biggest, most welcoming smile, reflecting up into her gentle brown eyes.

I visited Jane once more after that first day. She allowed me to film the home-based care visit. She spoke on camera about her life, her little boy who was off at school, her hopes for her son, her dreams for herself. The disease that she lived with. The sicknesses she was now plagued with because of her body's vulnerability. The hope in her life even this disease could not destroy. And each time, as her language was translated into mine, I grew to know a woman who was every bit like me - but stronger for fighting a battle she should not be in, yet refusing to be overcome.

The months passed, but I didn't visit Jane again. I thought of her often as I edited my footage, shaping the story of HOPE for AIDS, incorporating her gentle spirit into a film that would soon be taken around the world. I heard about her trips in and out of hospital. I sent a Christmas gift. She asked her home-based care volunteers about me. I sent my greetings.

And life went on. Until sometime last night, when Jane's life on earth ended.

Though I had thanked her, I'm not sure she could understand how her own willingness to be open about her life with AIDS would touch my life, and how her willingness to share her life on camera could touch the hearts of people on the other side of the world. And how perhaps sharing her fight could possibly negate a fight for someone coming after her.

This is the hope we share. That someday there will be no more AIDS waged in bodies that cannot fight back.

That someday, Jane, this fight you fought will no longer be repeated.
This Jane, is my prayer.


Saturday, May 24, 2008

Hit the Ground Running

Well... my feet are officially on American soil, but I kinda feel like I'm walking in opposite directions from the rest of the world. I mean, driving down the road still feels a bit awkward and out of place. And yesterday as I was visiting with my grandparents just talking about random things, they just stopped and looked at each other and said, "honey, what do you think about that accent our boy has?" All the while, I was thinking that I was quickly regaining my Texas drawl. Apparently not!

All in all, I'm feeling really great about seeing people again and eating food that I love. Last night, we ate shrimp and oysters, and then chased it down with root beer floats! Can you get any better than that?

The night before, we eagerly made our way into a cool Mexican food restaurant to devour the essence of all things pure. About an hour later, I burst through the front door of the place in a much different mood, and quickly made my way to the flower bed in front of my car where I upchucked every ounce of food I had just placed in my body. It was at this point that I realized I have a long road ahead. Reconditioning my body to America will be a process. I just love the irony of the fact that 9 months of living in Malawi equalled never being sick, but the first real day back in America ended with chunks of enchilada sprinkled on my sandals.

Other than that, I feel like my transition back into this world is going better than expected. Although the 5 leg flight back to Houston was long and tiresome, I managed to make it with very little problems, all my luggage and no one weighing my over sized bags! Thanks for praying!

My schedule for the next week is to be in Vidor until Wednesday and then head up to Bryan/College Station through the weekend. After that, I don't really know the specs, but I will make my way to Austin and back through Vidor and wherever else I can manage. So, I want to see you!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I am officially in the air... hopefully!

I will be traveling from continent to continent [via South Africa, London, Chicago, Charlotte, Houston] over the next several days.


As much as I like traveling and stuff... I'm pretty sure that traveling doesn't like me! On my way here back in September, as I stood in line to get on the last leg of my grueling flight, I realized that I didn't have a ticket on me for that one. In panic mode, I managed to talk my way on that flight... pretty much because I just have mad skills like that!

Then... the other day, while flipping through all my travel documents, I realized once again that I don't have any ticket to speak of in my possession! So, we have been on the phone with people for the last few days trying to sort if out. It's not quite as easy as one might think.

Nonetheless... I am going to step out in faith and board a plane leaving from Blantyre. I need you to pray that I will be able to board a plane in Johannesburg, London, Chicago and Charlotte. Seriously, airport people are so finicky! They could let me on in one place and then tell me there's no way in the next.

So... please... if you ever want to see my face again... PRAY ME HOME!

See you soon [depending on where you are reading this from]!

Reflections Series [3]...

Confessions of a Western Missionary
Friday, November 2, 2007

OK… I admit it…

I write with the assumption that you know exactly what’s going on in my head and around me each day.

I don’t really stop to think that you may not really know me. Only a small handful of the people reading this (who am I kidding… that’s probably all there is anyway) really know the heart behind each word that I write. I assume that you have sat down with me over a long cup of coffee and talked through some of the things that I have been processing through over the last several years.

Things like…

What does faith in Jesus look like?

Why does the majority of the world hate Americans?

Why do I get to choose from 30 varieties of coffee?

Stuff like that.

So… I write. And, it rarely comes across right. Such is life I guess. Such is the internet! I mean… I would much rather magically fly each person that visits my blog to Malawi and have each of you just sit down over a nice cup of tea with me and talk about this stuff. If you could bring some chips and hot sauce and perhaps a grand piano with you as well, that would just about complete my happy place.

OK… time to pinch myself and wake up! That’s not gonna happen!

So… I’ve come to realize that part of being raised in the West (or probably just being “raised” anywhere… although I can only speak from the West) is that you think you have things figured out. I mean, if you are culturally savvy, you recognize other points of view as legit in public settings, but when you lay your head down at night, you mostly just pray that people will change and become like you. Am I right?

I’m guilty… Confession #1.

Confession #2…

I really struggle with not being able to logically figure things out. I see a problem and I know that there has to be a solution. I don’t care too much for trial and error. I would rather work by myself to get it done “right”. Am I alone out here?

Trouble is… that just doesn’t work out here. I’m not too sure who’s bright idea it was for us to take the things that work well for us in the West and try to transfer that to a different culture… But, they must have just been smokin’ crack! You just can’t do that. My Western ideas are rubbish around here. That’s just the simple truth.

Confession #3…

I think that I know Jesus better than the rest of the world. The only reason I was able to type that is because I know that deep down, you probably think the same thing. So, don’t go throwin’ stones at me… I’m just being honest. Because God has blessed me in an unbelievable way with the gift of literacy (which I will never again take for granted)… and I have the resources to be reading 5 different books at the same time, with about 30 more desperately waiting for me to shut the others (which I am currently doing)… I think that, obviously, I know more about God, and can therefore please Him more than… say an illiterate person living in a remote village.

Is it getting hot in here? I’m sweating a little…

If you read my previous post, dealing with issues about discipleship, you can probably see this coming out a bit. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not changing my stance on discipleship. I still think that it is foundational. But, I am beginning to realize that true discipleship is not about throwing your opinions and thoughts on to someone else. It’s about walking on a spiritual journey together with someone else. Both of you, learning along the way.

So what… I can read! Who died and said that was the end all of life. The reality is… half the stuff I read, I don’t even come close to putting into practice in my daily life. If you are honest with yourself… you would have to agree. In the West, we like to pat ourselves on the back for being about to find the book of Habakkuk in under 30 seconds, but we can’t even begin to understand things about the spiritual world like people in Africa can. Just typing that, I know that I already freaked a bunch of people out. Those are the sections of our Bibles that we like to skip over, or water down and make them sound logical. That stuff is just as much a reality, and in my opinion, much more of a necessity, than memorizing John 3:16. Don’t get me wrong… there is a lot of “spiritual” stuff that is straight from Satan… I’m not endorsing that the church should accept that. I’m just saying that I can’t even begin to comprehend the spiritual depths of Biblical things that people around here can.

They also have much to teach us about generosity as well. I’m sure I will write much more about this in the future… but, just read Acts 4:32, and you will get a pretty good picture of what Malawi looks like. I think we struggle more with this one verse in the West than any other verse in the Bible. So much so, that as western missionaries, we do our best to try and get people to stop doing it. It really bothers us that Malawians will just as soon give all of their savings to their cousin who needs to put a new roof on his house, than to put it up for retirement. Who seems to be living more Biblically in this scenario?

In my last post, I wrote about a quote that says: “Christianity in Africa is a mile wide and only and inch deep.”

This quote was obviously written by a Westerner that needs to question their own society. I mean… I guess if you are measuring “Christianity” by the size of your church and the number of people on your worship team, you may have a point. Or maybe you are using the per capita “Bible per household” ratio. Or maybe it’s that Western kids can recite the books of the Bible at incredible speeds… yup, that’s probably the deciding factor.

Sorry… I’m cynical… It’s a sin, I know!

I believe… and I may be completely wrong… that faith and discipleship just look a little bit different here.

We need to be extremely careful when we “disciple” people, that we take off all our cultural clothes. Standing naked, except for the Word of God. There is a lot of stuff that we believe with all our heart to be “Biblical”, but in reality it is simply cultural. That stuff needs to be left at the baggage claim.

I saw a sign in the bathroom of a Christian health clinic the other day that read: “Cleanliness is next to Godliness… Wash your hands and flush!”

I heard that a million times growing up. It’s not a bad idea to wash your hands after being so close to feces… I know that. But, I think that after years of saying that, we have come to think that it is Biblical. It’s not.

If we’re not careful, we will start doing that with other, more serious principles. We will hold on so tight to things we swear to be truth… that we will think that the rest of the world has to be headed to Hell right behind everyone else that we disagree with.

Let Scripture stand alone.

I don’t know… maybe you have already figured all of this out for yourself. Me… I’ve had to learn the hard way on a lot of it.

I just don’t want people to think that I am sitting over here eating mangos with everything figured out. Other than the mango part… that is far from the truth! I get up each day and wrestle through stuff.

But… realizing that I have much to learn from the people that I thought I would be “teaching”, was a step in the right direction for me.

I confess… I’m still on this journey.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Saying Goodbyes...

Is this not the coolest thing in the entire world?!?

Talea and Liala (2 of the 4 German kids that live on the same property as me) made this for me. They are such amazing kids, and I will miss them like crazy!

Notice the resemblance between them and their picture. Normally their hair is always in a side pony-tail like the drawing though.