From graduation to furlough

June was a monumental month as we moved from graduation to furlough.

June has been a monumental month. In some ways, it feels like six months. We feel both the literal and figurative distance between our life in Malawi and our temporary furlough life in Kentucky.

Sometimes the distance is comical, like when Abraham thought the squirrels were bush babies. Sometimes it can be a little dangerous, like when certain unnamed people have caught themselves driving on the wrong side of the road.

But we are thankful for both of these lives. We can come here because of our fantastic team in Malawi who will continue ministering in our absence. Even now, they are preparing for our annual day camp ministry to youth, which we will update you about next month. We are excited to be able to update many of you in-person over the next seven months that we are in the US, and to share some of the big dreams God has given us. (If you want a preview, listen to our latest podcast episode.)

Three church planting teams

Before graduating, our seven candidates for graduation at Shepherds Academy had to complete their final church planting assignment. Three teams went to remote areas of Mangochi, Chiradzulu, and Thyolo districts. These teams faced hardship in various forms — opposition, sickness, discouragement — but they also saw God work. About a dozen people made professions of faith, and three small groups formed that will grow into fully-mature churches, Lord willing.

Through this experience, these graduates hopefully began to learn their most important lesson: to trust God.

Seven new graduates

After their return from the church planting project, we celebrated graduation with these seven young men and their families. I charged the graduates of Shepherds Academy from 2 Timothy 3:10–17 to continue in what they have learned.

Already, we know how God will be using some of these graduates. Elias John has been called to pastor his home church, as the current pastor will be planting a new church. Chipoya MacDonald has recently married and moved to his wife’s village in Machinga district, where he plans to plant a church.

Flying to the US

A week after graduation, our family packed up and flew out of Malawi. Thanks to all your prayers, we made it to the US in one piece and with all our luggage. As I’m writing, we still feel a little “off,” but we are slowly adjusting to our new temporary life in Murray, Kentucky. Thank you to everyone who helped to make the house we are living in feel like a home.

I will start visiting churches this Sunday at Edgewood Baptist in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. I hope to see many of you as I travel the country!

Picture of Joshua Hutchens

Joshua Hutchens

Joshua Hutchens (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is a missionary to Malawi and president of Gospel Life. Before becoming president of Gospel Life, he served as a pastor in Kentucky. He is married to Stacy Leigh, and they have five children.

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