Lessons and blessings

Kelby Eickmann shares her experiences as a student missionary in Malawi


Kelby Eickmann graduated as a history and elementary education double major in spring of 2023, and is currently a student missionary in Makwasa, Malawi. She teaches at Malamulo Adventist International School (MAIS); this is a small, two-room primary school with nine students spanning multiple languages, nationalities, cultures, and grade levels. The first half of her mornings are spent leading song service at worship and teaching core classes (English, reading, math, and spelling) to the 4th graders. The second half of the morning, and during afternoon sessions, her and fellow student missionary, Madelyn, team teach Bible, science, history, music, physical education, and art to all of the students.

Madelyn and Kelby share a few highlights from the school year so far: birthday celebrations, costume day, cookie decorating, a Christmas nativity program, fun crafts, LOTS of capture the flag, and Football Club every Wednesday afternoon. They both love getting to know the kids and spending time with them. Kelby recently shared some unexpected lessons she has learned as a student missionary.


Some of the things I’ve learned while in Malawi are practical skills like how to convert Fahrenheit to Celsius, how to determine which critters are friends and which are foes, or how to sleep on blazing hot nights without a fan. Many of these learning opportunities have come through interesting circumstances.

For example, Madelyn was turning 21, and to celebrate her birthday, I wanted to surprise her with a cake. I was frustrated to find that our oven only went to 230 degrees. This seemed ridiculous to me: weren’t most cakes baked around 300 degrees? I proceeded to bake the cake assuming it would take hours to bake at such a low temperature. I was shocked to see my cake was fully done in about 10 minutes. I eventually realized I had scorched Madelyn’s cake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit in our Celsius oven. Thankfully, it miraculously turned out delicious!

Our students have also given us a thorough education, specifically on which critters will harm you and which are safe. Centipedes and millipedes have frequently visited our classroom, but thankfully the larger millipedes, known in Malawi as bongololos, are harmless. The centipedes on the other hand will cause painful stings. While chameleons cause widespread fear in Malawi, they are harmless, and we have had multiple as temporary class pets. To our chagrin, we have also had a few snakes around our classroom. Two thirds of the snakes in Malawi are venomous, so snakes are not something we mess around with.

A very memorable day was when our first and second grade students found a snake on the playground. Rather than immediately leaving the snake alone, our students got closer and closer to the snake debating whether it was dead or alive. Thankfully, Cosmas, the grounds keeper at MAIS, took care of the snake. He later informed Madelyn and I that it was a black mamba. This reaffirmed our commitment to stay away from snakes at all costs. It is all a part of our education on how to survive in a completely new environment.

Not only have my new experiences in Malawi taught me practical skills, but they have also taught me some spiritual lessons. One that stands out is the value of surrendering to God. Being here has made it blatantly clear how much of life is outside of my control. Specific scenarios that make life feel out of control are common power outages, water shortages, countless critters, witnessing the realities of poverty, and different cultural norms. In spite of this blatant lack of control, I do have the power to live faithfully in God one day at a time. Even on the chaotic days where nothing seems to go as planned, my main purpose is to surrender my life to God and serve him.

Another lesson I have learned in Malawi is to appreciate beauty in simplicity. Some of the little things that have brought Madelyn and I joy here would seem miniscule at home. For example, the little fan attached to our ceiling makes a huge difference in our ability to sleep on hot nights. Getting feta and chocolate at the closest grocery store (1 1/2 hours away) has been a huge source of joy. Some of our most cherished moments have been Friday nights spent reading by candlelight during lengthy power outages. And enjoying nature by walking through the miles and miles of gorgeous tea fields has also been an appreciated outlet. There aren’t fancy stores, entertainment parks, or gourmet restaurants here, but there have been so many beautiful moments.

My time in Malawi has also taught me the value of community. Around Malamulo there is a welcoming group of kindhearted, generous, and thoughtful people. We have been blessed to take basket weaving lessons from a local man named Mr. Singano; Mrs. Banyira has welcomed us onto her team of Sabbath school staff; Mrs. Kolleh helped us buy groceries at the open market when we forgot our money; strangers graciously protected us by intervening when we were being followed by an unsavory character; and Cosmas, a fellow worker at MAIS, has taken care of us by killing snakes, centipedes, and spiders around the school. These people have welcomed us with open arms and have left a lasting impact on us.

The missionary families at Malamulo have also impacted me in a way that I will never forget. They have taught me the power of community and the necessity of sometimes asking for help. The missionary doctors have checked on us multiple times with all of our health concerns and scares, and have picked up groceries for us in town—making it feel like Christmas on a regular basis. The families have fed us home cooked meals, and even raised money to build a water tower so we could have a more consistent water source. Most importantly, these families have welcomed us into their homes and treated us like family. While being independent is a quality I have always valued, being here has taught me that being a part of a supportive community is equally as valuable.

These are just a couple of the lessons and blessings I have been so grateful to receive during my student mission’s experience. I am beyond thankful for your support and prayers throughout my time here. I would so appreciate your continued prayers for Madelyn and me, our students, the Malamulo mission, and the people of Malawi.

Sending love from the warm heart of Africa,

Posted Feb. 8, 2024.

Madelyn and Kelby stand outside in an African landscape
Kelby (right) and Madelyn are serving as student missionaries in rural Malawi.
Kelby works with a group of kids in the classroom
Kelby teaches core classes to the 4th graders, and helps teach Bible, science, history, arts, and P.E. to all the students at MAIS.
Kelby Eickmann with her students in Malawi