Katherine’s Month with Pure Mission
By the time Katherine had made it all the way from Dallas to Lilongwe, she was ready for a hug. The long journey had given her plenty of time to fully absorb the craziness of what she was doing—and it was starting to hit her that she was a world away from her family and she would be for a month. Thankfully, Ashley Fern was there to meet her at the airport and readily gave her that hug.
They got back to Esther’s House late that evening, just in time for a quick dinner before bed… Then, after a short night’s rest, we put her to work. Like, we really put her to work. On her first afternoon at Esther’s House, Ashley asked her: “How do you feel about teaching a class 3 days a week?” The idea intimidated Katherine, but she was excited to try. “Sure!” she told her. “OK, great,” Ashley said. “How do you feel about teaching a class in an hour?”
Welcome to Malawi, Katherine!
It turns out Katherine does great when thrown right into the deep end. She taught Standard 1 and 2 English with the help of the Martins’ sweet twin girls. She taught them the alphabet and how to read and count in English—a skill that some of them hadn’t mastered yet in school. Her hard work really paid off!
She also began working with Elford, one of our residential kids. We aren’t sure of his whole backstory, but Elford has some developmental disabilities that we’ve never fully been able to understand. He doesn’t talk much, he hasn’t been yet learned how to read and he lacks the motor skills to write. Since Ashley arrived, she’s been working with him one-on-one, using tips she learns from friends who are speech and occupational therapists. The occupational therapists helped Ashley ascertain that Elford has a neurological issue connecting his hand muscles to his brain, which makes it very difficult for him to do things like grip a pencil.
So Katherine spent the month working with him on building muscle control in his hands. “We would do things like play with play-doh, paint, trace letters of the alphabet or play with rubber stamps,” Katherine said. “And I helped him practice writing his name. He was just so fun to be with.“
She also worked with him on speaking. It seems that one of the reasons Elford doesn’t talk is because he has a really hard time making the sounds we use a lot in English. So Kathering worked with him on those, sounding out letters over and over again until he got them right.
In the evenings, she got to know her dorm-mates, the girls who live at Esther’s House. Initially, none of them knew quite what to do with each other! They said hello to each other when they passed each in the halls and smiled, but Katherine didn’t know what to say or how to connect… until one night when she heard a knock on her door. She opened it to find the girls gathered in the hallway. Limbani, the oldest, timidly asked, “Would you like to chat?” Katherine laughed and told them she would love to. And so she followed them across the hall to Limbani’s room, bringing her Oreos and coloring book with her. They stayed up late painting nails, coloring and talking 🙂
From then on, they hung out together almost every evening. They helped Katherine cook dinner for herself and do her laundry by hand. They asked her about boys and she asked them about school and life in Malawi. “Eventually, it was just like talking to my friends in America,” Katherine said. “We would laugh and joke just the same.”
In addition to her dorm-mates, Katherine forged strong friendships with all our missionaries. Bonnie and Casey had her over for lunches and dinners on days when she needed to get “outside the walls” of Esther’s House and became some of her dearest friends in Malawi. Catherine made way too many batches of cookies with her and Ashley dragged her along on trips to the dentist and long walks in the Malawian countryside. “I learned the importance of community,” Katherine said. “And I learned that if you’re going to commit to a place and be able to stay there, you have to take care of yourself.” She paid close attention to the way each family took time to rest, unplug and take care of each other and tried to model that for herself. “I started getting up at 5:30 every morning, because that was the only time I could really be alone and just be with Jesus,” she said.
Now that she’s back in Texas, she’s looking ahead to what’s next—Concordia College in Chicago—but her picture of the future has already begun to change. She had been planning to study Youth Ministry, but she’s decided to also become a certified ESL teacher. And then who knows? Maybe she’ll be back… She’s already scheming about next summer…. But we’ll see 🙂 For now, we’re just glad for the time we had with her at Esther’s House and we’re really proud of the way she grew and challenged herself over the course of her internship with us.
Is Katherine’s story tugging at your heart? Are you looking for a way to challenge yourself, gain real-world experience in your field and grow in your faith? Then consider applying to our Borrowed Talent Internship. Katherine will be the first to tell you it’s a worthwhile experience. Read all about it here.