Friday, October 25, 2013

Nuggets of Information!

I am so grateful to all of you that read my blog! Thank you. It is nice to know that people are reading. Thank you for your questions in emails, facebook messages, and letters. I love to answer them. I apologize, because I’ve noticed a theme…you all want to know what my daily life is like and I haven’t told you! Mainly because I don’t have a “typical” day yet, even so, I’ll try to flush out the details I do have for you!

I live at Sekoly Baiboly Amboaloboka in Fianaranstoa. The words look more difficult to pronounce than they actually are, I promise. Maybe I’ll make a youtube video pronouncing them. Sekoly (school) Baiboly (Bible) Amboaloboka is a Bible school for young women ages 16-30. Although, I’m pretty sure this year our oldest student is 24. There are about fifty young women who live here from October- June. There are two tracks here you can take, the fist is a 9-month program. These students focus solely on taking care of rabbits, chickens, pigs, and bees, gardening, cook, and this year learning English from me. The second track is an 18-month program. These students learn to cook, sew by hand and with a sewing machine, knit, crochet, as well as taking care of the animals and gardening. They also take courses on Martin Luther, ethics, theology, psychology, counseling, and again English from me. They are certainly busy!

I teach here on Monday, Tuesday, and Friday afternoons. Teaching English in a language you don’t know very well has its challenges but somehow the students are learning! Two of the best things I have taught are, “You are beautiful” and what a hug is. Now every morning after devotion I am greeted with, “Hello, Tatie (Aunt) Molly. You are beautiful. ” and a hug. I’m sure it is no surprise to anyone, but I love these young ladies. They have quickly become little sisters to me. After I finish class students rush to my side to help me put away my things, then one carries my bag, another my water bottle. I have no idea how it happens but I instantly have at least 6 of them hanging on to me ready to walk me to my house so I can put away my things and come back out to hang out with them. I love it.

Next, there is Sema Fi, the deaf school. I have about a 45-minute walk to the school. It has an absolutely breath taking view as it sits up really high. There are again, about 50 students who live at the school from October-June. These students range from about 5 years old to 18 or maybe a little older. They have 4 teachers and I think 2 maybe more young adults that live with the students and help take care of them. The students are very eager to sign with me so I am quickly trying to learn enough to be able to understand and sign with them. Right now, I am going there on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Finally, SALT, the seminary. My role here has yet to take shape but I will most likely be teaching the wives English and leading a conversation club with the Pastors. Most of the Pastors have already learned English and just need help with pronunciation and understanding within the context of a conversation. SALT, like Sema Fi is about a 45-minute walk.

Hopefully this answers a few more questions you have. If not, ask away and I will do my best to answer them. Thank you again for reading. I really do appreciate the support, love, and prayers for you all back home! 


I was blessed to be able to spend the month of May in Tanizania, Africa in 2010. I’d say it was the best experience of my life but I’ve had some here equally amazing. I was a picky eater back then. Okay, I’m still pretty picky but I have broadened my horizons! In Tanzania we would travel to small villages in the bush, worship with them and share a meal together. The meal almost always consisted of goat. Before the meal we would have “tea” made from warm goat milk, and bread. I wasn’t too fond of this cuisine. Luckily, I had wonderful friends who would drink my goat milk and eat my goat and bread so I didn’t have to. Thank you Jess, Nicole, Jen, and Britney! However, one meal I sat next to our professor who wasn’t going to let me get away with passing my food off. He sat next to me and told me to find my sanctuary. I looked at him puzzled. My sanctuary is on a different continent! It will take me a couple plane rides to find my sanctuary at Wartburg or back in Papillion! He explained he wasn’t referring to a physical place but more of a state of mind. The first Webster definition of sanctuary is, “a place of refuge or safety”. Sure, this could be a physical place but it can also be a state of mind. He continued to encourage me to find my sanctuary within my mind. Somewhere I felt safe. With each bite he reminded me of my sanctuary. It happened all too slowly but eventually, I finished my whole piece of mysterious goat meat. To this day, I vividly remember this exchange and use to conquer other uncomfortable situations or just in my daily life.

Typically, my sanctuary, my safe places are gazebos. I have no idea why I am drawn to gazebos but I am. One day I hope to have a gazebo of my own. LOVASOA, the Norwegian compound we had our three-week orientation at had a gazebo. Every morning that is where I could be found. I went to the gazebo to take refuge, not that I was in any physical danger, but moving to a new country is a challenge and my gazebo felt safe. As our three-weeks came to a close I was sad. Not only was I leaving the comfort of my friends but also the safety of my gazebo. Moving to Amboaloboka along with many other transitions meant finding a new sanctuary. Anna & Ian, two YAGM volunteers, stayed with me the first night before heading out to their own placements. As the three of us walked around the compound Anna spotted this little gazebo type area and said it could be my gazebo. It is filled with numerous plants that are just now starting to bloom. It is beautiful but after I tried it out, it just wasn’t fit to be my gazebo, my sanctuary.

I am pleased to tell you that I have found my sanctuary and it was in the most unlikely place. There is a small covered porch off of the kitchen. It actually, for all extensive purposes, is the kitchen. There are three charcoal stoves on this porch where all of our meals are prepared. At first, this porch intimated me. There were a lot more young women living in the house, six to be exact, compared to the two now (not including me or Salina). All six young women gathered on the porch to help cook. I’d try to come and help but with my limited Malagasy it was a challenge so I’d leave. Eventually, I started to stay and we would play a little game of charades to teach each other new words. As the weeks went on our numbers dwindled. Irena & Janelle, my host cousins, went back to their home in the south of Madagascar. Eliane, another host cousin, went back to work at the blind school several hours away. And Rova, moved into the school building to be with her classmates. Now, our porch has three attendees, Hanta, Paulette, and myself. Every night I bring the ukulele out to the porch and Hanta and I take turns playing. Hanta, who is learning English and ukulele, has successfully memorized the music and words to, Father I Adore You, I Exalt Thee, and ironically, Sanctuary. We take turns playing and who ever isn’t playing watches the meal cooking on the stove. This porch, this time together, has become my sanctuary. All of my previous sanctuaries have been different because they have been just for me. This one is special because I have let two other people in but it still feels just as safe.

My porch sanctuary has served another purpose; it is a time and place of worship. One of the things I miss most is standing next to my best friend, Jenn, every Sunday singing our hearts out with praise and adoration for Our God. I knew this would be something I’d miss because the last few times we worshiped together I couldn’t get through a single song without tears streaming down my face. I’ve struggled not having this time together with Jenn and I will continue to miss it but now I have something different. I sit on the porch and sing my favorite songs while Hanta and Paulette cook and listen. I get so into it that sometimes I don’t realize students have come around the front of the house to listen. What I really love is some of the songs I have sang so much the women add harmonies. I look forward to this time every night. It is a beautiful time of worship, and someplace safe, my porch sanctuary in Madagascar. 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Learning By Watching

I’ve been doing a great deal of watching while I have been in Madagascar. When you cannot always understand what is being said and you do not have enough language to ask what to do, you watch. I have learned the order the women I share a table with serve themselves by watching. I have learned the precise way to scoop rice onto a plate, smoosh it down, and place the appropriate amount of laoka (side) on top. I watch each greeting so I know when a handshake is appropriate and when kisses on each check should be used. While walking on an uneven path I stare at the person’s feet in front of me so I know exactly where to step. Almost everything I do, I watch someone else first. However, I am fortunate enough to be living alongside amazing women who not only want me to watch them but also want to teach me and then watch me do it!

If you are part of the Thanksgiving! Lutheran Church (T!LC) community in Bellevue, Nebraska, you may be thinking this sounds similar to the “D Square”. I was thinking the same thing! The “D Square” is short for discipleship square. T!LC adopted this from 3D Ministries ( Each side of the square represents a stage of discipleship. The sides are as follows, I do, you watch; I do, you help; you do, I help; you do, I watch. The “I” refers to the person teaching and the “you” to the person learning. If you look at how Jesus taught His displaces you will see this progression. What’s really cool is that the young women here without realizing it have successfully taken me through the square.

As I’ve said, I’ve spent a lot of time watching while I have been here. A good portion of that watching time is spent on the porch of my house, where all the cooking happens. We have a small oven and a gas stove in the kitchen but the students must cook on a charcoal stove so in solidarity, we prepare our meals on the charcoal stove on the porch. Elliana, Paulette, Hanta, and Rova work like a well oiled machine to prepare a delicious meal. I always try and ask, “afaka manampy?” can I help but they always reply with a smile and a no.

Salina told me that we had an excess of sweet potatoes so the young women were going to make a cake. A cake out of sweet potatoes? I am intrigued. I asked Salina to let me know when they would begin to prepare it because I wanted to watch. I heard a soft knock on my door and it was Rova inviting me to watch. So like usual, I stood in the kitchen and watched the women work with such precision. Two of the girls beat eggs and sugar together until it was completely smooth while the other two peeled and mashed the sweet potatoes. It came time to add the sweet potatoes to the mix and I heard one of the women say something to me I didn’t understand but I picked up one word “manampy”. Help, manampy means help! I put it all together when I was handed the whisk. I was so happy to be asked to help prepare this cake! Paulette began spooning in the sweet potato as I cautiously whisked it all together. Occasionally, she would spin the bowl or take the whisk from me and smooth out a clump. Next, came the flour. Paulette added the flour to both my bowl and Rova’s bowl who was also making this cake for the first time. It became a competition to see who could mix in all the flour first. I mixed, and mixed, and mixed as Paulette watched me and cheered me on with “tsara be!”, very good! I’m pretty sure Rova let me win but all the women continuously called me the winner, as I had taught them the words winner and loser earlier this week. We poured the batter into two cake pans a placed them into a large pot that sat on a charcoal stove. What’s really cool is you put the lid on upside down and add charcoal to the top of the pot too. It sits like that for an hour or so before it is “vita” finished. In the meantime we finished cooking dinner all while singing, laughing, dancing and teaching each other new words. I have come to love the time we spend on the porch together. The next morning we enjoyed our sweet potato cake for breakfast. The women made sure to tell Salina which cake was mine and everyone praised me for how it turned out. I couldn’t help but smile although knowing I wouldn’t have been successful had I not had their help.

I wish I could say I have processed through the D square and picked up on everything as quickly as I did with the sweet potato cake, but I haven’t. It is a process that takes time. However, I am so blessed to have women who are patient with me and show and tell me over and over again until I understand. Even when I forget the next day they smile and repeat the process. That is the beauty of living in a community of believers. Each day they forgive me for forgetting yet again, give me the grace I don’t deserve and lovingly and persistently teach me again.