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Answering God's call: Local woman headed to Africa to teach children

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Future Kondwani kindergarten students.
(Submitted photo)
Leaving the comforts of home and moving to Africa was not something Cathy Maya had planned or thought she would ever do. But later this month, the Cape Girardeau woman will do just that as she prepares to answer God's call on her life and move to Malawi.

Maya, 41, did not grow up in the church. But 13 years ago while attending with her friends the First Assembly of God in Cape Girardeau -- which is now Cape First -- she committed her life to God.

Over the next decade several individuals told her that God had something big planned for her life.

For about the last 11 years Maya has owned Above and Beyond Professional Cleaning Services. However, in recent years she has felt a call to ministry.

Cathy Maya with her cat, Bristol.
(Submitted photo)
"In my heart I knew that what I was doing wasn't going to be what I was always going to do," Maya said.

Six months ago, Maya asked her friend, Reno Anderson, to look for opportunities for her to serve overseas. Anderson presented several options, including an orphanage in Guatemala, a drama troupe from Germany that travels to the Middle East and a church in Peru. However, it was through a Facebook post that a friend sent to Reno about?a small kindergarten in Malawi that Maya discovered the opportunity she had been looking for.

"What broke my heart about that was everyone responded," Maya said of the many opportunities. "There is such a need out there. If you say 'I am ready to serve,' they call you back in three minutes, because there's not enough people doing it."

About four years ago Maya started attending La Croix United Methodist Church in Cape Girardeau. Since then she has taken leadership classes at the church, participated in the music ministry, and been a key volunteer in the Reign Forest children's ministry.

Though Maya knew she would eventually answer God's call on her life beyond what she was doing in Cape Girardeau, she said she felt other things needed to happen first.

"I was putting parameters on his plan," Maya said. "About six months ago I finally said to him [God] during a sermon ... 'Who am I to tell you when I'm ready? So let's do this. If it's time, it's time.' And I think it's time."

The Kondwani kindergarten building in progress.
(Submitted photo)
Maya went on to say that "everything has fallen into place" for her to start this new chapter in her life, including a support group of eight local individuals from four churches who meet monthly to pray for her as she begins this journey.

Maya, whose background is in journalism, said teaching will be a new experience for her and that she expects it will be different from school in this U.S.

"I think this is going to be more grassroots. I don't think that this is going to be kindergarten like we think of kindergarten.

"I got a feeling it's going to be a range of ages of children, and it's going to be their introduction to the world. It's going to be their introduction to education."

In addition to teaching basics like letters, colors, numbers, small words, shapes and geography, Maya also plans to integrate the Bible into her curriculum.

"I plan on teaching the Bible. I'm going to teach children's Bible stories, which also teaches them about the world and how it was formed and the players therein. The Bible's a big history book as well."

Though the Facebook post was how Maya first learned of the opportunity in Africa, the local connection to the project goes much deeper.

The Kondwani kindergarten building in progress.
(Submitted photo)
The Mango Advancement Project, which is seeking not-for-profit status in the U.S., is the organization Maya's service will be affiliated with. The organization's executive director is Colvin Chirwa. Chirwa and Anderson are friends and the two worked on an education project in Malawi from 1996 to 2000.

Asked why this opportunity stood out, Maya said, "It was like God's light was shining on that project. What we had been praying for all along was discernment in the search, because not everything is right for you."

Looking back on how God prepared her for this opportunity, Maya is amazed.

"If you'd asked me 13 years ago, 'You think you'll live in Africa some day and teach little kids about God?' I would have laughed so hard. I would have thought you were crazy. But what can happen in such a short amount of time to a person's heart is beyond remarkable."

Maya said she encourages others to listen to what God would have them to do in life.

Monkey Bay
"Each of us are put here to do something. Whether it's to be a greeter at church on a Sunday once a month. Or to cook meals. Or deliver meals for people who don't have enough food here."

A reception will be held for Maya from 7 to 9 p.m. Jan. 13 at the home of Reno and Herb Anderson, 1929 W. Cape Rock Drive in Cape Girardeau. Maya will speak to the group about the project at 8 p.m., and donations will also be accepted at the event for the project or for Maya.

For more information on the reception, call 334-5411. To learn more about the Mango Advancement Project, go to www.mango-advancement-project.org.



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This is all fine and wonderful, but why in the world doesn't helping those right here in our part of the world ever seem as appealing to these people? There is so much need. Hook up with our local United Way and see what you can do to improve our schools in the Cape Girardeau public school system. The needs are tremendous, and the more we pour into that, the more our community benefits. I was raised in the church, and I know what the scriptures say, but they also say to make sure your house is in order first. It's amazing to me how some of the churches seem to push and push for service in other countries where the man hours and the money seem to produce little good.

-- Posted by wuzthinking on Sun, Jan 8, 2012, at 12:13 PM

I am absolutely speechless at the comment above. Why is it that every time a story is written about people going to serve those who REALLY have needs - who live in a level of poverty unseen in our own country - there are negative comments made? The Bible is very clear that we are to be God's witnesses to the ends of the earth. There is also a clear imperative to care for the poor. I am certainly not against helping people in need right here at home, but most people I know who are involved in international missions are also involved in missions at home. If you've ever visited a developing country you would understand that even those living in poverty in the U.S. are RICH compared to people there. There are plenty of people who serve here at home, so let's encourage those who feel called to serve internationally. They do make a difference to people living in poverty who desperately need our help and encouragement.

-- Posted by Traveler1 on Sun, Jan 8, 2012, at 9:35 PM

I am excited for Cathy and the adventure she is setting out upon. It cannot be easy to be obedient to the point you give EVERYTHING you have, money, possessions, friendships, familiarity, comfort to the submissions of a life's calling. I am inspired by Cathy's bravery and trust in God and will be thrilled to hear reports back about what God is doing in Malawi through her and this education program!

-- Posted by soulgirl77 on Mon, Jan 9, 2012, at 10:30 AM

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