Victor Kubik interviews Lewis and Lena VanAusdle about their upcoming move to Africa, and the work they will be doing there.
[Victor Kubik] This is Victor Kubik, President of the United Church of God. Our guests today are Lewis and Lena VanAusdle. Lewis and Lena are ministerial trainees in Northern Alabama, and they are about to embark on an adventure far away. Welcome to Inside United.
[Lewis VanAusdle] Thanks for having us. We're excited to be here.
[Lena VanAusdle] Yeah, thank you.
[Victor] Today, we’re going to talk about a new assignment for you, which will be in South and South Central Africa. Lewis and Lena will be leaving in two days, on Thursday, to South Africa, first, for a family camp, youth camp primarily, and then they will fly up to Lilongwe, Malawi, where he will assume the role of pastor of the church there. And this promises to be a real adventure. My wife Bev and I have traveled to Malawi many times, and for us, it's exciting to see ministry from here serving in this challenging area of the world.
Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world, but it's a country which has people that have a warm heart. It's called The Warm Heart of Africa, and it certainly is. Lewis, how did you hear about this assignment and this opportunity?
[Lewis] It was while we were in Alabama on our previous assignment, and I got a phone call. It was actually the 4th of July, and I had… We were over visiting some brethren at a barbecue. I had to climb out of the swimming pool and answer my phone, and it was the President of the church, and that's… we went from there.
[Victor] Well, we sure appreciate your taking this assignment. Lena, what was your reaction, and was it as exciting to you?
[Lena] It is. Lewis and I have always wanted to travel, and we love to travel, and we love to visit new places and meet new people. So it was very exciting, but there's also a fear of the unknown. We didn't know what we were getting into, and it's a big responsibility, and we recognize that it's a big responsibility. That weighed on me, especially in the beginning, and I think Lewis as well.
[Lewis] Well, I think, I get excited when I think about it because, you know, I love to travel and to meet people, and to see how they live and to be able to understand them better, and to be able to help out where I can. And then, you know, this is my job to go and visit to with people, to get to know them, to teach them, to help them understand God's word better, and so I get excited when I think about this opportunity.
[Victor] Well, you said you wanted to travel, but you've always been traveling. And that's one reason why we thought, well, they would probably like this assignment as well. You know, I might just say, too, is that Lilongwe... Well, the country of Malawi is a very, very long, skinny country. It's almost 850 miles long or so, and in places 75 to 100 miles wide. And it runs along Lake Malawi for much of that distance. And where Lilongwe is, there is really no pastor there or even leaders who live right close in town. And yet it's a viable group of people that really need support, pastoring, and help from leadership like that.
[Lewis] Well, I agree. I mean I think it would be… it's something that's needed. We're really looking forward to being there with the congregation and sort of helping jumpstart the congregation, getting them, helping them to hopefully be invested in being a congregation and working together. So that's something that is a fantastic opportunity to be able to be a part of.
[Victor] What other places would you be traveling to while based in Lilongwe?
[Lewis] Well, it sounds like we’re going to be able to see some other countries as well. Besides other cities in Malawi, we'll have a chance to travel to Zambia and Zimbabwe, and we're hoping to be able to see other African countries as well since we’ll be on the continent.
[Victor] Well, I know that for us, it's been a challenge in maintaining stewardship of those countries because we pretty much have to do it from the United States. Those countries are heavily subsidized, you know, in order just to even function, to be able to have services, halls to meet in. Having a Feast of Tabernacles and camps is really dependent a lot on the generosity of our brethren here in the United States to make these things possible. So we really appreciate having somebody really close and on the scene to be able to help that out. We really appreciate both of your work, Lewis and Lena, you know, in caring for the men, and women, and the children of those parts of the world.
Tell us more about your thoughts as to how this affects your life and your career now in the ministry? I might add, too, that Lewis was just recently ordained as an elder in the Church.
[Lewis] It's definitely different. I'm going from being a trainee to having… working directly with a pastor in the week-to-week operations to being the pastor, taking on that role, but this is what I've been training for. Sometimes I think that I could use some more training, but you know, that's life sometimes. You get a lot of on the job training.
[Victor] Well, this certainly will be added to you, except there won't be somebody standing right side by side, but you're learning from experiences. Lewis has been a trainee for a year and a half, an apprentice in one sense of the world, and he's done very, very well, and very, very high recommendations from his pastor and the members in the area.
Lena is also has a job, which she will continue doing, as director of our Good Works Program. That's one of the outreaches of the church. We do have Good Works which works directly as a function of the church and also LifeNets which my wife manages, and together, we help out a lot of people out in a very, very organized and syncretistic way.
Tell us more about some of the humanitarian needs in Malawi from what you know and what your thoughts of it might be.
[Lena] Well, in Malawi, especially, and in Zambia, as you know, they've had a drought for the last three years. And it's just been in… they did get some rain in the last few weeks and we pray that that continues, but there has been a real need with food and LifeNets has done fundraising to provide food stores for families there. And most recently, through LifeNets and the church, we have provided feed for people so that they can plant. Because they just haven't had those needs, so I'm sure we'll have some hand in helping with that. LifeNets has a lot of things going on there. They do a lot of scholarships, and we'll be able to interact with the recipients of those scholarships and see how they're doing and how they're being helped.
And Good Works and LifeNets primarily has been paying for buildings we built, and Good works is starting to get a hand in that as well so that we have a place for church to be and for services to be. And small businesses are being built and run, and that's a wonderful thing. And it'll be exciting to see up front and in person how lives are being changed from the generosity of our members and the generosity of people who donate to LifeNets. It’s just a wonderful thing.
[Victor] Well, I know that Lewis and Lena have been here at the home office and we've spent time talking to them about what to expect, what to do, and what things to bring, and so forth. We've also had Aaron Dean and his wife Michelle who will be going with them or be going about the same time. They are to help them get situated and settled in those areas.
So can you tell us any more about your thoughts and your plans? I suppose at this point, there's not much more that can be said because you're not there yet. And I'm sure that when you return, there will be a lot more that you can say.
[Lewis] It's going to be definitely, like you said, it's going to be an adventure. You know, it's going to be a wonderful experience that we're going to be able to talk about for the rest of our lives. And that's one aspect that makes this opportunity just fantastic and unique. I mean who gets to live in Africa for a year? Not very many people that I know, a few of them, but not too many.
[Lena] It's a little overwhelming; it's so exciting. We know that there will be challenges. We're not naive about the fact that it's a different place and things work differently there. And we have different concerns there, with health concerns, with some of the diseases that are there. We know we have to be careful, and we'll have to be safe, but we also know that God's going with us and that whatever challenges we face, we can do it with the support of God and we have the support of you and Aaron Dean, and everyone here is just offering their support. And I know our congregations back in Northern Alabama are praying fervently for our safety and for the success there, and hopefully everyone who hears this is also praying for that as well.
[Victor] Well, we certainly have been praying. We've been praying that all go well because, believe me, things will go wrong. A lot of things that are not convenient to us is just a way of life in Africa, but we've been praying for that. We kind of know what it is. And my wife Bev and I are planning to come and visit for the Passover season and hope to keep the Passover with you and the finished building by that time where you're at. So there's many, many exciting things to look forward to.
But my wife really enjoys going to Africa. She doesn't always like to travel to many places, but when talking about going to Africa, she's right there, and she's ready to go. And I know that we're going to be counting the days down to April when we will be going and seeing you. But I know that Lewis and Lena will really help us out with assessing the success of some of our projects we do. Not only have scholarships but we also drill boreholes, and we drill them on members properties usually but make them available to the community. We've also had some really small business startups and helping people be able to make a living because unemployment is very, very high at 60, 70, 80%. People live at subsistence level mostly in that country, also in Zambia, so it would be good to see that.
Anyway, I want to thank you very much for taking this assignment. You have the prayers of the church and many of your friends. We'll be looking to see what you do on Facebook, you know, and hear about your progress from there. And we want to thank you very much for taking the time to come here and talk to us.
[Lewis] And thanks for having us, Vic.
[Victor] Thank you for joining us on Inside United. Please come back again soon for more.
[Announcer] This is a production of the United Church of God. For more, visit ucg.org.