What We Know and What We Don't

These last six months for us have been like reading a story that keeps you captivated as it slowly unfolds, with new twists and turns in every chapter! 

It's been riveting to watch the way the Lord seems to be leading us away from Malawi and toward South Africa. Every step along the way, we have wondered about new things. In time, some of those become clear, but the new chapters bring new mysteries and surprises too.

This journey would probably be really scary, except that we know that our Heavenly Father is the Author, sovereignly ordaining each event to sanctify us and bring Him honor! 

To bring you along on this story, we'll catch you up on the last few chapters and what's still unknown. There are many ways we'd treasure your prayers!

A Warm Welcome at Antioch Bible Church

When we last wrote, we were on our way down to Johannesburg for a visit. We had a fantastic time with the church! We enjoyed meeting many families, youth, university students, and local pastors; I joined in for outreaches to a settlement and local police station; and we were able to join the church body for worship services, discipleship meetings, classes, Bible studies, and fellowship events. In eleven short days we got a great sense of the church's heartbeat, and loved it.
Some of you remember that on one day last October, four godly men all independently suggested I talk to Tim Cantrell. While that isn't infallible, it certainly means a lot that people who know us both recognized a similarity in our vision and values. As we spent time with Pastor Tim and his family, I saw what they meant. I told Rachel later, "Even if the Lord doesn't bring us here, it's just encouraging to know this church exists!"
With Pastor Tim Cantrell and his family
There were other displays of God's providence. During lunch with the church staff one day I summarized my strengths, weaknesses, and desires. Later, Tim showed me a document one of the elders had prepared a year before which identified the greatest needs at Antioch. He pointed out that more than half of the needs on the list matched up with areas I had said I'm eager to serve!
Tim teaching the Biblical Counseling course for lay leaders in the church
We began to discuss the possibility of me joining the church staff with a focus on counseling and discipleship. That obviously would have me counseling and discipling people towards Christlikeness, but also means helping equip church members to do the same. In addition, Antioch has a lot of people who want to grow and serve plus a lot of opportunities, but they need some organization and structure to help connect them strategically. Helping people better use their gifts is a great joy for me! Finally, being in Johannesburg got me excited about the potential to leverage Antioch's location in a major hub to strengthen other churches across Africa. There's a lot to get excited about.

After presenting it to the entire church, the elders of Antioch officially invited us last month.

Please Pray for Our Visa!

We'd really appreciate your prayer for our visas. Several people have been telling us how difficult it is to get volunteer visas for South Africa these days. We also know some people who have had to reschedule their moving plans because their visa hasn't come through. 

Since December, we've been collecting lots of information for our visa. We've met with doctors, police officers, lawyers, consular officers, and airline reps. We've gotten photographed, x-rayed, and fingerprinted. We've had to prove our marriage, citizenship, birthplace, residency, finances, education, insurance...and guarantee that someone will pay for our deportation (if necessary).
The stamps are the important part.
On Monday, I submitted my application. Each time I've visited the South African High Commission, the estimate of how long it will take gets longer. The form says "five to ten business days," but the lady said it could take up to a month. Then it was "one to two months." Then it was "something like two months." This is important because the plane tickets we bought as part of our visa application would have us moving to South Africa on May 24th (yes, that's just over two months).

Additionally, the High Commission raised a few other concerns. First, the Lilongwe office hasn't issued a volunteer visa for two years. I could still apply, but there was no assurance it would be approved. My other option was applying in Los Angeles, but we'd all need to go in person. (Plan B?) 

Second, Rachel and kids can only apply after my visa is approved. It's a shorter process, but it's still separate. And one consular officer told me he'd never heard of someone with a volunteer visa getting approved for an accompanying spouse. (But I'm not going without her.) 
Finally, because our kids are school age, they need to apply for student visas. One of the requirements is a letter from a registered school in South Africa. We were planning to continue homeschooling our kids, but although homeschooling is legal in SA, there is absolutely no provision for it in the visa process. We're still looking into this one.

Those odds would be very discouraging if it weren't for the Lord's complete control of everything (including bureaucracies!). We know that if the Lord wants us in South Africa, He can make it happen in a moment. We've been praying about it every day, and look forward to seeing what He does.

Please join us in praying for our visa application, and also that the Lord will strengthen our confidence in Him while we wait. This is a great opportunity for God to produce endurance, character, and hope in us!


Preparing for a New Country

Malawi has been our home for the last ten years, and we've truly loved it here. It's going to be very difficult to leave, though it has been reassuring to see some glimpses of other good works God has prepared for us to walk in. Here are a few of the big changes we anticipate.

Goodbyes. After years of helping people come and go, this time we're the ones leaving. We'll be leaving so many dear friends behind! We are going to miss them dearly (though many have promised to visit us on their way through SA!)
IBF Care Group
We'll definitely miss our care group! (We tried to have Abi take a photo so Matt could be in it, but she's still working on keeping the phone still.)
We recently told the girls that Simba and Samson won't be coming with us. 😢
City life. Johannesburg is a big city! It has a lot more conveniences, and a lot more crime. Some of our friends from Malawi said moving to JoBurg made them feel like The Beverly Hillbillies. There are a lot of good things, but it'll be a change to live in a culture where everyone's in a rush. 

It might cost a little bit more too. Because so many goods in Malawi are imported from South Africa, some of our expenses (e.g. food, fuel) will actually go down. Others will go up or be new (e.g. security, banking). The only significant change would be rent. We've always enjoyed hosting people in our home, but to do that in JoBurg, we'd need an additional $500 in monthly support. Please join us in praying about that too, and let us know if you're interested in being part of our support team.
This average road in JoBurg would be considered a major road in Malawi. Plus, I took this photo from the wonderfully modern Gautrain...
CAPA changes. Our departure will also mean lots of changes for our teammates at CAPA. One of the more interesting adjustments is that the seminary will be moving into our house when we go. Please pray for the rest of team Malawi as they continue to train pastors and serve the church here!
Here's a summary of the prayers and praises:
  • Praise God for continuing to clearly direct us towards Antioch. We don't know all He's doing, but we trust His plans are good.
  • Pray for Matt's visa to be approved quickly.
  • Pray for Rachel to get a visa to accompany Matt.
  • Pray that we could get visas for the girls without having to enroll them in a school with a strong secular agenda.
  • Praise God for the ten years of friendships we've enjoyed in Malawi.
  • Pray that our relationships would be centered on Christ and not just on saying goodbye.
  • Pray for a good home for our dogs (someone who doesn't mind buying lots of dog food in exchange for super-sized doggie affection).
  • Praise God for providing for our support needs up to today! (Your sacrificial generosity is so humbling!)
  • Pray for the extra $500/mo needed to rent a house with space to host guests, if possible.
  • Praise God for all he's used us to do at IBF Church and CAPA up to now.
  • Pray for the rest of our team as they continue to serve the Lord in Malawi.
  • Pray that we may continue to grow in love for Christ as we grow in knowledge of His character.
Thank you for letting us share our praises and prayer requests with you. We have some big requests this time, and we look forward to sharing the big ways our Mighty God will answer them! 

We are so grateful for our partnerships with each one of you, and we thank the Lord for the encouragement you bring to us. How can we pray for you?
By grace,
Matt & Rachel
Abigail & Naomi

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Matt & Rachel Floreen • 13248 Roscoe Blvd. • Sun Valley, CA 91352

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