I Am a Quilt

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These days I feel like I’ve been thrown in the washing machine, twisting back and forth, back and forth, agitation at every turn and then holding on as the spinning makes the blood rush to my head and threatens to spin my life completely out of control.

But then comes a pause. A signal ending the cycle. A reminder that “though I am surrounded by troubles…the Lord will work out His plans for my life – for [His] faithful love…endures forever” (Psa. 138:7, 8 NLT). And I remember.


Somewhere along the way I started thinking I was a prom dress with delicately appliquéd beads and lace and a tulle skirt flowing to the ankles and this rough agitation and spinning would send the beads flying and rip the tulle to shreds.


Photo credit: Rebecca Love Photography

But now I remember. I’m not a prom dress. I’m a quilt. Bits and pieces patched together in unlikely harmony to make up what I am. I’m not the kind that never gets used or hangs on a wall. I’m the kind that is a little quirky and gets jumped on and wrapped around and dragged on the floor and picnicked on and gets dirty.




So I need washing. And into the washer I go and twist back and forth, back and forth by the merciless agitator, and then spin and spin and spin.


And I am clean again.


This beautifully made quilt was laying on the bed in the room prepared for us in one of the homes where we stayed for three weeks in the Philippines. Below is the quilt label attached to the backing of the quilt. The label states, “Quilt machine pieced and quilted by: Nancy Christensen; Mont Vernon, NH 2003. I made this quilt as a fundraiser for Alex Hansen who is fighting a long battle with cancer. May this quilt bring joy and warmth to the new owner and a miracle for Alex!” The quilt was raffled and won by the Filipino woman we were staying with when she was living in New Hampshire with her New Hampshire native husband over ten years ago. It was one of the few things that made its way to the Philippines when they moved, and it has been giving “joy and warmth” to more than just its owner. It was such a comfort to me while staying in a new place for the season we were there.


Here We Go!

matt and lisa 2016

In a little over a week, Lisa and I will embark on yet another exciting, but terrifying, adventure. As my “cousin-in-law” Chris said, “every adventure is about 30% terror!” Easy for him to say. Truthfully, there is little risk without the unknown, and there is little faith without massive possibility of failure.

We might be scared sometimes or a lot of the time, and fear can seem overwhelming, but we are forced to be courageous. “Courage is fear holding on a minute longer,” according to General George Patton.

What we do at this point still takes courage, but it’s not what you think. What we do is dwell in the secret place of the Most High. He is our fortress and in Him do we trust. We abide in the shadow of the Almighty (Psalm 91).

The Next Step

We had the amazing privilege of serving for two years in Malawi, Southern Africa, with Pastor Chris Arman and his family. We grew daily, and we ministered and were ministered to by the wonderful people of  Malawi.

By the grace of God we are looking forward to our next step in ministry. We will be serving in church planting and discipleship ministry with Pastor Manny Harrison and his wife, Molly, in Dumaguete, Philippines.

We need and appreciate your prayers and always welcome your support in any way possible.

Much Love,

Matt and Lisa Sliva

Painting Layers

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I find a misty well rising in my eyes these days. Stinging. Breaking. Falling. Like my heart. It’s because every tear holds a face, and every face holds my heart. Tears drip onto pages of my life and the colors bleed together, making forever indistinguishable what was once separate.


I suppose this is what makes endings so hard. It seems that between the beginning and ending of things there is the messy bit called the middle. And, it’s in the middle where the tears and faces and hearts all bleed together like colors on the pages of my life.


Endings loom and threaten to deem senseless what has become permanently united. And, if I simply end here, there is no meaning in the blending. But, I think it is not truly so. These colors and this bleeding and this ending is but a layer, a foundation. I cannot see the fullness of this purpose, but I know every future layer relies on this beginning one.


I read the wise words of one whose colored pages are still being layered upon despite his earthly ending. “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind,” says C.S. Lewis. There is a stinging note to this statement if it means that what “we leave behind” is to be forgotten. But, I think that it can make such a bold statement because it looks with hope to the things ahead, notwithstanding the things behind.


How can a painter complete a painting if he mourns the ending of each layer? He must rejoice in that layer and begin again with newness and freshness and excitement for what he will build upon the previous. 


I suppose one of the greatest joys to a painter is the actual process of painting. In reality, it’s a continual series of beginnings and endings that make up a whole realm between the beginning and the ending. The middleness of it all. I wonder if it’s really this middle part we are after, the process between the beginning and the ending, and the process of beginnings and endings.


It is here that I catch a glimpse of the Ultimate Painter, the One painting on the pages of my life. I find myself mourning the ends of the layers and fearing the beginnings of new ones, and the tears sting and break and fall in the process. But, I forget that He is the Master Painter, loving every stroke and blend of life and color in each season that I pass through, willing to allow unseemly drips and tears to become a part of it all because I think He loves the middleness, too.


He came and lived in the middleness. He painted the lives and loved the heart faces that He bled for. With blood He painted their lives into finishedness. And, so He paints mine. I am not finished in my life today, but I am being painted into finishedness, layer by layer, grace upon grace, glory to glory. And, as He paints strokes and layers, blends lives and colors, He is making something beautiful in the finishing process; making beauty in the middleness.


Zambia Conference 2016 in Photos

Zamcon-Banner-2016

 

At this years Zamcon we witnessed a great move of God. The conference theme was Fervent Prayer Availing Grace. Pastor Scibelli, along with Pastors from seven different countries shared from the word of God. The highlight being the Saturday night session which included a graduation and a message on Brokenness by Pastor Scibelli. The churches of Southern Africa also came together to recognize and honor Pastor Scibelli for serving in his 30th year in Africa. Hope to see you next year!

lifting hands in worship south african worship

South African Worship Team

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Zambian Worship Team

woman worshiping Zamcon Worship crowd praising God Pastor Martin Coti

Pastor Martin Koti

Pastor Scibelli addressing graduates Pastor Emil - Congo

Pastor Emil Conan

recognizing 30 years in africa - Pastor Scibelli Pastor Daniel and friends

Pastor Daniel Timofte & Zimbabwe Guys

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“Mama” Carol Arman

Zambian Pastors

Pastor Paul, Martin & Enoch

Pastor Nemo and wife

Pastor Nemo & Lebo – Mozambique

Kitwe Church

Kitwe, Zambia Church

Malawi Church

Malawi Church

A Creative Adventure in Faith

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Have you ever had someone recognize something in you that you couldn’t see or thought was insignificant about yourself? If so, it was probably someone who knows you really well like a parent, close friend, or mentor. But, what if it was a total stranger? Someone you have never met, but who was put in your path by no contrivance of your own. Things like that never happen to me. But, last month, it did.

I’ve been wanting to write a post about the whole thing, but on top of it being rather busy around here and being sick, I felt like I didn’t have sufficient words to describe the whole experience. I still don’t know if I have the right words, but I’m going to try.

(Before I start, let me pause for a minute and just mention that I am not generally someone who seeks deep significant meaning from simple decisions or experiences. I believe in seeking God for guidance each day so that I can make the best use of my time, but I don’t usually overthink everyday events. So, when I share this story, please know that I’m not trying to make something out of nothing, it just so happens that on an ordinary day while doing ordinary things, an extraordinary thing happened.)

When we came back to Malawi from Baltimore the last time, I was just discovering how much I love brush calligraphy, so I was of course searching all over social media for inspiration. I came across a wonderfully unique Christian artist from Australia who had the most delightfully intriguing way of illustrating stories from the Bible. So I clicked the “follow” button on her account, and more or less continued on my way. But, little did I know the impact that simple click to follow would have.

Unbeknownst to me, it had been in this unique artist’s heart to start blessing people with old fashioned “snail mail” packages, as she calls them, as part of a set of creative ideas for 2016. I had read her blog post about it and admired her heart, but it never crossed my mind that what was forming in hers was that I should be her first recipient…

Skip over to my sector of the globe, and you’ll find a simple girl trying to make the most of what she has in her tiny green hulk of an apartment. One thing I’ve learned over the last year or so is how much I love to make things. It started out with having to make things if I didn’t want to stare down the Incredible Hulk every moment of every day, but then I had the most amazing revelation that if I am made in the image of my Creator, He very possibly could have put a creative capacity within me.


The Incredible hulk kitchen before


…and after

So, I began to explore. I started doodling Bible verses and sketching bits that inspired me and painting a little with the cheapest children’s watercolor set I could find. I studied more polished “artists” and thought about a day and time when I might have the opportunity to practice with “real” materials, not just make do with my $2 watercolor set.

Fast forward to March. I received an email that nearly blew my mind. It was the unsolicited and humbling request from someone named Adelyn Siew, the same amazing Australian artist I had started following, wondering if she could bless me with a craft care package, and what might I like? I sat dumbfounded.

I struggled for a day or so with what to reply to her email (because how does one answer such an invitation?) and finally managed to humbly admit my love for her unique pen drawings and that I couldn’t find any of those pens in Malawi. And, so she thanked me, and I waited.

One of Adelyn’s pen drawings that inspired me

Fast forward again a few short weeks, and a slip was in the PO Box for a package to be picked up. I could scarcely contain my excitement, but since we share a PO Box with the team and they had picked up the slip, I still had to arrange for a time to actually go to the post office myself to pick up the package. I waited three days, and finally Matt was going into town and I begged him to stop by the post office to see if he could get it. He waited over 45 minutes behind Peace Corps workers and local people to finally get the little bubble mailer with my name on it.

As soon as he got home, I couldn’t wait to tear into the package! And, when I opened it, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Not one, but SIX pens, I had loved, a brush calligraphy pen, a pen specifically for watercolor doodling, a paint brush pen, a sketchbook, and the most beautiful set of PROFESSIONAL watercolors I had ever seen. I sat there, eyes filling with tears and heart about to burst, looking at this extravagant gesture of kindness from someone I had never met.

photo courtesy of adelyn. I was too excited to even take a picture!

Time and space aren’t sufficient to explain how meaningful each item was, but it was like God had recorded the secret desires of my heart and whispered them into her heart as she picked out each item. It was one of the most personal and profound things I’ve ever experienced. So much so that I kind of just kept taking out the paints and pens and looking at them in disbelief for a few weeks. (LOL!)

But, finally, this past weekend, I opened the paints and with trembling hands painted my first few strokes. I can’t explain the excitement that bubbled up within me, but it was like something was being tapped into that I didn’t know was there. Maybe it sounds really lame to some people, but for me at that moment it was the farthest thing from lame. I had the sense that it was God stirring something He put in me and has wanted to draw out but that He knew I would never have pursued on my own unless it came in the form of a completely unsolicited, unexpected gift. This dear lady saw something in me that I couldn’t see, but I believe God must have revealed to her. To me, there is just no other explanation.






So, today I found myself in prayer, wondering what all of this is for: the love for making things, doodling, sewing, painting, journaling. I committed it to the Lord, and then opened the sketchbook I had received in the package. Immediately, a very simple illustration came to mind and the words to follow.

“Adventure in faith.” There are so many people who plaster their walls with words of adventure and travel, but rarely do they leave their living room. I may be living halfway around the world from many of those people, and it can seem like an adventure in itself, but the idea of adventuring in faith adds a whole new meaning to it. I want my whole life to be an adventure in faith.

As I thought about this, I thought of Abraham who ventured from all that he knew to a place God told him, “I will show you” (Gen. 12:1 AMP), and “by faith…he went, although he did not know or trouble his mind about where he was to go” (Heb. 11:8 AMP).

Everything that God is doing in my life can seem so fragmentary at times, but there is such a simplicity and freedom in knowing that I will be shown, and that I don’t need to trouble my mind about where I’m going. 

I’m so grateful for the life of this lady, and I’m grateful that she was willing to adventure in faith to send that package. I’m not sure where all of this will lead, but I’m excited to take this ordinary day I’ve been given and take a step in this adventure of faith.

Malawi Conference 2016 in Photos

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MalawiCon 2016 was another significant event marking the continuation of God’s faithfulness to the work in Malawi. Pastor Scibelli, the Missions Director of Greater Grace Church, was the guest speaker for the conference and graduation. Fifty students graduated with either a two year certificate or three year diploma. Over three-hundred people were in attendance, filling the hall to maximum capacity. It was a great celebration as we watched God promote many young men and women in the faith.







malawi 2016 - Pastor Scibelli
























Find out more about Malawi at armanmissions.com and mattsliva.com

The Barriers to Loving and to Being Loved

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The Boy

The other day I walked into town. It’s about a 20 minute walk. I like to walk into town because it’s a chance to be quiet. I can pray or take some time to hash things out in my mind that have been troubling me. A couple minutes into my walk, a little boy came up next to me and started asking me for money. He could not have been more than 4 or 5 years old. His little shirt and shorts were filled with holes, and he didn’t have shoes. If he had bathed in the last two months, there was absolutely no evidence of that event. 

two little boys

The Battle

We see this sight almost everyday, so it was not new to me, and it was quite easy to give him my usual canned answer. It goes like this, “I don’t have any money,” “no kwacha,” “sorry, maybe next time,” and, eventually, the straight up “no.” My answer fell on deaf ears, mostly likely because he didn’t understand English, and he continued to follow me for the next 15 minutes. His persistence became clear, and it became obvious to me that he wasn’t going away.

At first I was annoyed with him, but what use was that? Then I started to get upset with God. After all, this was my quiet time, and I actually had something on my mind I was looking forward to thinking through. However, in my frustration, I started to get the sense that the boy was not a distraction to take my mind from God, but a little life sent across my path by God. My quietness and my thoughts were not as important.

storm drain

The Barriers

Just up ahead I knew there was a pretty large storm drain we would have to cross, and I promised myself if he could make it over that drain, I would take him into the town market and buy him a few pieces of fruit. We came to the drain. I was a few steps ahead of him, and I hopped over and continued to walk.

I looked back to see what he would do. As he approached the drain his eyes got wide, he shuffled his feet as he contemplated the imminent peril ahead and took the leap. At this point the little man inside of me was rooting for him wholeheartedly. He made it! I celebrated on the inside, took his hand, and led him to the market. He didn’t say another word. I gave him his reward, and he was on his way and me on mine.

For me the storm drain was a barrier to keep me from loving this boy, and for the boy the storm drain was a barrier to keep him from being loved. The simple lesson here is we have to see the value in ourselves that Christ sees before we can see the value in others. What was keeping me from loving this boy had nothing to do with the boy, but everything to do with me not believing that I was valuable enough to be loved.

Stories: Katie Ngoma

Katie Ngoma

 

We first met this courageous lady as a group of us gathered around her bed in the post-surgical ward of a local Korean owned hospital. Hooked up to an IV that she monitored herself, she smiled wide at us while recounting the events that led up to her fifth (and thankfully, final) corrective surgery following the botched Caesarean section that brought her first and only child into the world.

From that day we have watched her miraculous recovery and fearless confidence in God. For those of you who will understand this reference, she is the “Trish Watson” of our church in Malawi. She is a “capable, intelligent, and virtuous woman” of the Proverbs 31 quality. She is a pensive problem-solver and planner, characteristics that are a bit rare culturally speaking for a Malawian. You will often hear her saying, “ah, but we can do it!”

She is married to a vigorous, enthusiastic man in our church named Brave, and they have a beautiful daughter named Yanko, who just turned a year old after Christmas. They are a faithful, godly family in our church and we are so grateful for them!

How You Can Pray for This Family:

Despite being well educated, which is not something every Malawian can boast, they struggle to find jobs they are amply qualified for since the job market here is poor. As a result, finances can be a challenge. However, you will often hear them speak faithfully, “I know my God is faithful” and “nothing is a problem.” Please keep them in your prayers as they endeavor to grow in seeking “first the kingdom of God” (Matt. 6:33).

Stitching Line upon Line

desk landscape

“For the Word that God speaks is alive and full of power [making it active, operative, energizing, and effective]; it is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating to the dividing line of the breath of life (soul) and [the immortal] spirit, and of joints and marrow [of the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and sifting and analyzing and judging the very thoughts and purposes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)


These days have been filled with stitching. 

Needle pierces fabric; a tiny sword piercing flesh, “penetrating…the deepest parts of our nature.” Needle goes down, pulling crimson thread behind. Sword piercing flesh drawing blood and “crushing in my bones” (Psa. 42:10). “My inner self thirst for God, for the living God.” (Psa. 42:2).


Needle pierces fabric; tiny sword emerging from flesh. Needle comes up, pulling crimson thread behind. Sword stained with blood of “joints and marrow.” Exposing. Sifting. Analyzing.

Thoughts. Purposes. Motivations. From “the deepest parts of our nature.”

Blood is everywhere; pouring out of every prick and pierce of sword. Crimson mess of pain and crushing and heaviness. I am dizzy from the loss of blood. “Why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? When shall I come and behold the face of God?” (Psa. 42:9, 2).


Needle goes down again, crimson thread in tow. Sword pierces flesh again, touching depths of trust and reliance. Needle comes up again, crimson thread following. Sword stained, but — the gush is slowing? Needle down, sword piercing. Needle up, blood ceasing. Needle down, sword pricking. Needle up, bleeding stops.

I look down at my hoop. The needle rests. I see the results. Crimson threads stacked, line upon line… Purpose is revealed.


Each crushing blow of sword stitching me back together. The hemorrhage of discouragement quenched. The oozing fear dried up.


 “God Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. I will not, I will not, I will not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let you down or relax My hold on you! Assuredly not!

So we take comfort and are encouraged and confidently and boldly say, The Lord is my Helper; I will not be seized with alarm, I will not fear or dread or be terrified” (Heb. 13:5-6).


“For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome” (Jer. 29:11).

Stitches stacked up, line upon line, making me whole. Beauty created.




Chinsapo Bible Study Photos

Pastor-Chris-Praying-chinsapo-bible-study

Every Thursday we have a Bible Study in one of the poorest areas of Lilongwe. This was the first time Lisa and I went. We walked about a third of the way. On foot you can really get a picture of the lives people live here. The surprising thing is you still find people laughing and kids playing. Its hard to translate what we see into words but hopefully these pictures will give you a better idea what is like to be here.

Kids are always interested to see us. A little wave or a thumbs up will make their day.

Sometimes they trim a tree and it comes back, sometimes its doesn’t.

Walking home.