We desire to bring sunshine to Africa....opportunities to allow people to realize their destinies and be released from oppression. We are starting in Mozambique with The Sunshine Nut Company. The majority of proceeds from this company will go to the poorest of farming communities and the neediest of children. Mozambique is ranked among the poorest in economic status but we believe they are among the richest in spirit. Join us in our adventure....

Friday, January 7, 2022

More Time...

 More time...it is something we all think we have. Yet "more time" is not always available to us. Whether it is us personally or someone we love, there will come a day when we will not have a tomorrow. So maybe we should make the decision to live our lives making the best use of the time we do have. Then we won't have regrets later on. I trust that my reflections in this blog will encourage me and all of you to live selflessly for the people in our lives while we still have them with us. 

My dear, sweet Vovo Theresa died yesterday. When Delcio called to tell me the news, he began by telling me that he needed me to be strong. I wasn't; the tears flowed out of me, unsolicited. But they dried up as quickly as they came. How could I be sad when this blessed saint has left a world of suffering and poverty and entered into her place in an eternal kingdom of abundant life?!? All I could picture was Vovo Theresa walking, dancing and skipping for joy as she entered a banquet feast prepared just for her! Her life on this earth was not at all nice. She grew up in a very impoverished village. She knew what it was like to be hungry and to go without the most basic of things. She was a wife and a mother (who has buried 5 or her 6 children) and a grandmother. She scraped out an existence for her and her family. She lived a life of extreme poverty that you and I will never even be able to begin to comprehend. 

When I first met her 9 years ago, she was just plain old. She didn't even know how old she was! She did not have use of her legs and was not able to walk anymore. She lived in a one-room cement house with a metal roof. There was no electricity or water. No bathroom. She had a door but no window. In order to be safe at night from robbers, she would push the door shut and put rocks against it. Her only belongings were a few bundles of clothing and a grass mat that she slept on. When you entered her house, it was airless, stuffy and smelled of urine. Often, you would spy a rat scurrying off for cover. She did not have the capacity to care for herself at all. 

Her little house was connected to one occupied by her son, Bento. Bento could not walk either. He did not have the use of the left side of his body, most likely due to a stroke. Bento was a bit more physically able than his mother. He kept his room neatly swept out and clean. He had a pile of clothing in a corner and a grass mat to sleep on at night as well. 

Every day, Vovo Theresa and Bento would crawl outside and sit in their dirt yard in each other's company. This is where we would find them each time we came to visit. As soon as we exited the car, Bento would begin calling out to me repeatedly, "Mama! Mama!" And even though she couldn't walk, Vovo Theresa always, always greeted me with a huge smile and a dance as she sat on the ground. They brought me so much joy. I always made sure to kiss their cheeks (with a very loud "mwah, mwah" as I did), hug them, and hold their hands. I would kneel down next to them to look them eye to eye, even though my aging knees protested, creaked and ached. It was important to me to be on their level and not look down on them. Even with the onset of Covid and the warnings to not kiss or touch other people, I continued on. How has it happened that we live in a world where you cannot touch people anymore?!? They were so alone and had no one in their lives to simply touch them. No one else ever took notice of them. People would pass by on the road and not even see them there. I felt compelled to be that one person who not only saw them, but touched them. 

Bento spoke a very slurred Portuguese, and I, of course, spoke my pathetic "American Portuguese", but we were able to understand each other. In communicating with Vovo Theresa, though, I had to rely on Delcio because she only spoke the local Shongan language. 

We did what we could for them, bringing them fresh clothing and blankets, tea, sugar and food...basic things like this. We discovered that when we brought them the more "luxurious" items that we thought would improve their lives...a soft pillow on which to lay their head when they slept, an absorbent bath towel to dry off, a cushy mat to put under them when they slept or an exercise mat to sit on when they were outside, or warm blankets to stave off the cold on a winter night... they didn't use them! They hid them away inside their house because if people saw them, they would come and steal them from them!

So we had to be creative in special gifts for them. We opted for socks that they would keep on their feet, solar-powered lamps small enough to be tucked away, sweet cakes and candies they could eat unnoticed, and poison rat traps that could be drilled into the floor of the house. Vovo Theresa's most favorite treat was when I would bring her cashews. She said they reminded her of when she was a little girl growing up in Gaza where cashew trees are plentiful. She was always kind to share her cashews, passing them out to the little children who would gather and join us during our visits. These were little things, but they helped improve their lives. 

Vovo Theresa and Bento had an interesting relationship. They were mother and son. They were neighbors. But they talked very little and knew very little about each other. They were simply companions and a presence in each other's life. They had each other and kept each other from being alone. 

A funny story about them...Morning tea (with way too much sugar) and a type of bread called "pao" are a daily staple for all Mozambicans. So we made sure each month that Vovo Theresa and Bento had tea and sugar, and we arranged for a neighbor to bring hot water. We brought a bag of tea and a small bag of sugar for each one and would leave it in their house at the beginning of the month. I remember one month, the store did not have the small bags of sugar we usually bought, so we bought a large one, gave it to Bento, and told him to please share with his mother. We were shocked a month later when we brought the new supply of tea and sugar to learn from Vovo Theresa that Bento did not share the sugar with her the entire month! He kept it all to himself and she had to go without. Oh Bento...shame on you! And lesson learned for us in making future purchases for them. 

Our dear Bento died last year. It was heartbreaking. He had been sick for some time with a bad flu. The last time I saw him, he laid on his mat looking up at me with pleading eyes, calling "Mama. Mama." We made a plan with extended family to take him to hospital the next morning, but when we arrived, he had already passed. As heartbreaking as it was for us, I couldn't even begin to imagine how heartwrenching it would be for his mother. The extended family made the decision to not tell her until the day of the funeral. A wooden coffin was brought to the home and he was placed in it. I had to turn my head away as I watched the family carry Vovo Theresa from her room to his room to see him one last time. And I wept as I watched them carry her frail body back to her room again as it heaved with sobs. 

Bento was laid to rest and life continued on for Vovo Theresa. Yet now, she was really alone. With increasing frequency, we would arrive to find her shut inside her house, sleeping with the protective rocks holding the door shut. She never ever denied us entry. She always got up and moved them out of the way for us to come in. In time, she was not able to crawl to the door and move them. She didn't have the strength. So Delcio would reach under and push them until we could squeeze past the door. Yet she still greeted us by sitting up and doing her dance with her happy smile. Then it came to a point where she was not able to sit up anymore. She would lie on her mat and talk with us. There was no more dance in her. 

It did not come as an unexpected shock to receive the call from Delcio that she had passed away. But still, I cried. And then, I rejoiced. But then, what did come as an unexpected shock to me was the ugliest of thoughts that came creeping in. Had I really done enough? Couldn't I have done more? How many times did I not pull off the road and go back to visit her because I was busy? Why didn't I stop by on New Year's Eve last week with a treat for her? How was it that I didn't even know she was sick this week? I had done so little and could have done so much more. I could have taken more time to sit with her, not even to talk, just to be there with her. In my house, I have many empty water bottles that I kept to bring water to her on hot days. Why were they still there in my house? I should have taken them to her filled with cool water. So now, I found myself throwing them out, one by one, realizing that each one represented time with her that I no longer have. 

I share all of this not to have anyone comfort me saying that I did do a lot for her and blessed her. I know I did. And I realize these horrible thoughts were sent to make me feel badly. So I chose to turn these negative thoughts into more constructive ones by asking myself, "What can I learn from this?"

Visiting with these two barely recognized people who were truly "the least of these" has been the biggest honor and privilege of my life. I loved them dearly, and they loved me back. Not for the things I brought for them, but I know in my heart that they loved me because I SAW them and spent time with them. When I would go away for long periods of time to the US, upon my return, Vovo Theresa would be so happy. She worried about me when I was away and didn't visit. She worried something happened to me! Me! This little old woman worried about me! Bless her dear heart!

So...what have I learned? Because of Vovo Theresa, I am going to make a conscious choice followed up with conscious actions to BE there for the people in my life. I don't want to be a self-centered person who indulges myself. I don't want to be too busy or too lazy to give of my time. I want to be the person who is willing to go out of my way and out of my comfort to bless others. We live in a world where we are increasingly being isolated from each other. This is wrong. This is destructive. I want to be the person who stands against this and chooses to love others and be with others... touching them, talking with them, being with them, and being a blessing. 

Over the past year, I have struggled to get out of the car at Vovo Theresa's house, knowing I would not be hearing Bento calling out, "Mama! Mama!" Today, I find it hard to bear the thought of going to their humble home for the funeral tomorrow and not being greeted by my sweet Vovo. But I will go and pay my respects to honor this lovely saint...and I will then move on to be a better person by actively loving the people in my life. Because we do not always have more time to love them. So we must take advantage of the time we have now. I hope you will make the choice to do the same. 

Sunday, December 12, 2021

The Best Present

The Christmas holidays bring many traditions to our families. Year after year, we celebrate this blessed and festive season by repeating these precious traditions. Some have been passed down to us from our parents and grandparents. Others are new ones that we create. Don and I have so many memories of the traditions our family of 5 celebrated every year….decorating the tree, baking cookies, making the kids wait at the top of the stairs on Christmas morning as their father made his coffee. But the one that I found the most meaningful was the packing of the Operation Christmas Child boxes for Samaritan’s Purse. Since 1993, more than 188 million Operation Christmas Child gift-filled shoeboxes have been distributed to children in more than 170 countries! 

 From the earliest Christmas that I can recall, we packed these OCC boxes with our children. First we let them choose the gender and age group for the child they wanted to bless. Then we took them shopping for items to fill the box. We purchased fun things like stuffed animals, toys, crayons, coloring books, stickers, jump ropes, and so much more. We also purchased needed items like soap, toothpaste, and a toothbrush. We placed each item in the box until it was filled. And then, we packed every available space left with candy, candy and more candy (which is now discouraged… and living in the hot African climate, I understand why they made this change!). On the top of the items, our children placed a letter and their photo for the child who would receive it. We even included our home address, hopeful that one day we might get a letter back! We put the lid on the box, taped it down for extra security, and wrapped the shoebox in bright, festive Christmas paper. Finally, we prayed for the child who would receive the box. The boxes were taken to our local church and shipped to the Samaritan’s Purse headquarters where they were distributed all over the world. 

 This family tradition has been taken up by my daughter and her husband who now pack OCC boxes with their children. I am so happy they do this. I loved the thought of giving joy to a child that we would never meet. I loved knowing that these boxes showed the child someone, somewhere out there in this big world loved them. I loved knowing that these boxes shared the joy of Christmas with a child. I loved knowing that each box also shared with a child the love of their Father in sending His only Son to be born in a stable and who would one day save all of mankind. 

 When we moved to Mozambique, one of my first thoughts was how great it would be to be on the receiving end of this OCC tradition. For years, we packed and sent off boxes. Now that I was in Africa, I could have the experience of passing out the boxes and seeing with my own eyes the joy of the children as they received them. I wrote an email to Samaritan’s Purse explaining who we were and requesting to receive OCC shoeboxes to distribute to the children with whom we work. I received a response saying that they were not distributing shoeboxes in Mozambique that year. Okay… 

 Not be deterred, I emailed Samaritan’s Purse the following year and got the same response. So I emailed again the following year… and the year after that and the year after that. I continued these emails for the next 9 years and finally realized that they were not coming to Mozambique, so I gave up. Wouldn’t you know that that very year, I saw posts from fellow missionaries here in Mozambique on Facebook and guess what they were doing…passing out OCC shoeboxes. WHAT?!?!?! The very first year I did not contact Samaritan’s Purse was the very first year they did actually distribute in Mozambique!!! I immediately got the contact information of the local representative and set a plan in action to ensure that our children would receive boxes the next year. 

 In July, our program administrator, Delcio, and our Sunshine House mothers who run our community children’s projects, Zelda, Ilda, and Catarina, all were to attend a full day seminar that would instruct them on the program and how to present not only the OCC shoeboxes to the children, but also how to present the story of why Jesus came along with a call to pray and accept Him as Lord of their lives. At the end of the training session, they would bring back the boxes for the 63 children in our care. BUT as fate would have it, the day before they were to attend, the president of Mozambique imposed new Covid restrictions that again shut down gatherings of any group of people larger than 15. I was beyond disappointed! The boxes were within my grasp and then ripped right out of it! 

 In September, the Covid restrictions were again relaxed and Delcio and our ladies were able to attend the training session. They brought back not only 63 OCC shoeboxes but also Portuguese Bibles and Portuguese Bible lesson books for children! THANK YOU SAMARITAN’S PURSE! Each child would also received a booklet entitled, “The Best Present”. It has been my joy to come upon our children reading this book in their homes on their own. We now had all we need to bless and train up our children.

In November, we ran the program with our children who live in our Sunshine Houses and with our three Beacons of Light community projects. The program began with the story of the fall of Adam and Eve and God's promise to send a Savor and continued through to the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

The program ended with a call to prayer. 

After this, the children were each given a shoebox. 

They were asked to not open it until everyone had received their box. They sat so very patiently. 

I looked at their little faces and realized that they had no idea what joy they were about to open. These children come from very impoverished families. They rarely, if ever, receive a present. They had no clue what was in the box they were holding. Little did they know it was stuffed with carefully selected treats that were prayed over just for them. They were in for a big big surprise. 

 After all the children received their boxes, we led them in a prayer for the people who packed and sent the boxes. 

 After the final “Amen”, we told them they could open their boxes on the count of 3. We counted 1- 2- 3 and they opened the boxes. Their eyes immediately went wide as they took in the sight. 

They began pulling out the items one by one, showing them to us and their friends. The excitement grew and grew as they pulled out more and more gifts. 

There were so many gifts that we had to work very hard to get them all packed in again when the children headed home. Some boxes had photos of the families, groups and individuals who packed them. Some boxes had letters or cards. 

But there was one box only that had an address offering the chance to connect back with the sender. Little Wesley had this box. 

It was sent from a girl named Amber who lived in Pennsylvania, not far from where I grew up! I asked Wesley if I could borrow the note to send a thank you email to the person who sent his box. He graciously accepted. I was so excited to connect with a sender and sent off an email to Amber that very night, along with photos of Wesley and his shoebox. I was surprised to not get back an immediate reply, and over time, I had forgotten about it. 

A month passed by until I saw an email in my inbox from her. I excitedly opened it to discover it was not from her, but from her mother. I was stunned as I read her words… 

 Thank you so much for your email to Amber. I'm her mom and we tragically lost our daughter in April of this year at 14. Your email came at a time when we desperately needed some encouragement and to see her handwritten note. God certainly knew the timing. We're so glad that you chose to respond and we will treasure these photos. :) 

 My husband and I are Area Coordinators for Operation Christmas Child Allegheny County in Pennsylvania and we've also been packing boxes for 12-13 years. Amber and our 11 year old son have grown up packing so they really don't know what it would be like to not have Operation Christmas Child in their lives. I remember Amber talking about the particular box that Wesley is holding. She packed it at a packing party we had that year. She always loved fitting in as many items as possible and really enjoyed the challenge of fitting in large stuffed animals. One of us also made the bracelet that she chose to send in that box. We've always taken time to make jewelry for our own boxes each year as well as the packing parties that we are a part of. 

 Again, thank you for your email. God used it to help carry us through our collection season this year in order to help pack over 600 boxes at our packing party and to help facilitate the sending of over 13,000 shoeboxes from our county this year. We pray that each of the recipients will be blessed and will come to know Christ as their Saviour if they do not already. We'll continue to pray for little Wesley and for all the children that you and your husband are blessed to serve through your company. 

 This was not at all what I was expecting! Even now, I don’t even know how to process this. My heart aches for this family. I wrote back an email to this mother expressing my sorrow for her loss and my appreciation for her note to me. I now understand why this Amber’s note made it to my hands…out of all the other thousands of hands it could have landed in any country around the world. Unlike the many unanswered notes my children and I had sent over the years, Amber’s note arrived in hands capable of writing back. The email response that her note prompted was never meant for her eyes. All along, God had a plan. He knew that her parents needed this note and that it would bring them comfort as they grieved the loss of their daughter. 

If you take a look, this photo I took of Wesley shows him holding the bracelet that Amber had lovingly made. I remember him pulling it out of the box and showing it to me. Of all the items in that box, he was the most drawn to this handmade bracelet. He knew how special it was. And now her family knows it ended up with a very appreciative little boy. 

 As I celebrate Christmas this year, my heart is full of appreciation and joy for all of the people who make the Operation Christmas Child program a success. My family’s Christmas tradition of packing these boxes has now come full circle...and Samaritan’s Purse will not be getting any more email requests from that persistent, crazy lady in Mozambique who refuses to give up! At least for a few years. Their goal is that every child will receive a box once in their lifetime. So I will have to wait until we have all new children in our community projects to have this program again…but as soon as we do, they will be hearing from me!

Sunday, December 5, 2021


In July 2021, we took on this cute little guy, Ivan, along with his older brother, Dario, and sister, Anabela. My recent blog,"They Are Worth It All" https://sunshineinafrica.blogspot.com/, shares the story of their homecoming with our foundation. 

My writing today is not as much about Ivan as it is about the desperate medical needs of so many people here in Mozambique. Ivan has gross motor skills deficiencies making it cumbersome for him to walk and run properly. He literally does not bend his hips or knees when he walks. We have taken him to doctors for a diagnosis as to why he walks this way. There is no physical cause for this, so we have been advised to take him for physical therapy to teach him to walk correctly. 

We have pursued this therapy through the public health care system. Ivan goes every Tuesday and Thursday for an “appointment” at the local Provincial Hospital. I put the word appointment in quotation marks because it really is not an appointment. Consults of any kind in Mozambique are first come, first serve. Because of this, everyone arrives very early at the hospitals and clinics so that they have a chance of seeing a doctor before the day’s end. By early, I mean very early…as in the wee hours of the day before the clinic even opens. It has broken my heart in the past to drive by clinics and see scores and scores of men, women, and children lined up outside waiting. Then you drive by hours later and still see them there…waiting. There are not enough doctors and nurses to meet the need, and many will go home unattended at the end of the day. 

My first experiences with people’s medical struggles came with several medical teams we hosted to conduct outreaches. We would set up our tables and chairs and then they would come…by the hundreds. They lined up and sat on the ground. After a while, so many had come that there no longer was a line, but a sea of people sitting patiently on the ground. Each one hoped to see the doctor. Each one hoped to get a medication that would cure them. But all we were able to do was put a “Band-Aid” on their illness. We could give them a medication that made them feel better for that day or the next week, but there would be no one to follow up and continue their treatment. I remember looking down the line of people in plastic chairs. They all had such hope in their eyes. Inside, I cried for them. I knew we could only do so much, and that wasn’t very much at all. 

At one medical outreach, the sun was setting and people were still coming! We had to put a grass mat over the door to stop more people from entering. We would not be able to take any other patients that day. All these people who walked for miles to seek attention would now have to turn around and walk home again in the dark. 

At another medical outreach, when the end of the day came, there were still hundreds of people sitting under the shade of a very large tree who had been waiting all day. Our tireless doctor has diagnosed and treated hundreds, but it did not make a dent in the need. When it was announced that we would not be able to see any more people that day, there were no complaints or murmurs. They had been in this situation countless times before. They all quietly got up and made their way home. 

At the end of our third medical team outreach, I swore I would never do another medical outreach like this again. They didn’t solve or help anything, and they left me feeling that there had to be a better way. 

Now I find myself in a public hospital setting right outside the capital city with Ivan. You would think the situation would be better here, but I see the same thing. There are hundreds of people lined up on chairs in the waiting room, lining the walls of the halls, sitting side by side along the courtyard…so much for social distancing.

We take Ivan to the Physical Therapy section of the hospital. It is the same situation there with people lined up in chairs with their crutches and others in wheelchairs and then there were those, like us, who arrived too late to snag a chair, leaning against the walls…and we wait and we wait and we wait.

Eventually an attendant comes out and collects the medical cards that each patient has placed in the box outside the door. One by one, names are called and people start to go in. After about an hour, Ivan’s name is called. We go in but all of the doctors are busy, so Ivan is told to go through the series of exercises he has been taught. He dutifully performs his squats...

 ...and goes up and down a set of stairs over and over until he tires out....

He then goes to the back room where he practices walking between two bars while watching himself in the mirror to check his posture. 

At one point, his doctor does come to check in on him. She clearly has more patients than time. So, she gives him an encouraging word about how well he did today and tells him she will see him next week. 

Almost 3 hours had passed since we entered the hospital, and we now found ourselves leaving without any real interaction with a doctor. As we left, the hundreds of people are still filling the chairs of the main waiting room and lining the halls of the corridors and courtyards. It appeared just as crowded as it was when we entered earlier. 

I have even experienced such patient endurance myself in the private sector. I called to make an appointment with a doctor at the private hospital. When I asked for an appointment time, I was told to come at 8:00 am. I arrived at 7:45 to a corridor lined with people. Apparently, the doctor begins seeing patients at 8:00; it wasn’t that I had an appointment at 8:00. So, I took my place in the last chair. For the next few hours, I moved along with the others advancing from chair to chair to chair as each person went into the examining room. I finally had my turn at 11:45! 

So, why do I share all of this? This all points to the next step in our work here in Mozambique. It is the main reason Don and I came 10 years ago. We came to implement Project Sunshine...a holistic approach to come alongside the cashew farmers and provide a better life for them and their families. As we head out into the villages to begin Project Sunshine, we hope to provide must needed relief for people. Here is a link to a video that best explains it all... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qEEmM-_tVQA&t=8s  Attached to each mini-factory in the villages, we will provide a transformation center where people can easily access the help they need right where they live. They will not have to travel long distances walking under the hot Africa sun or on overstuffed transports to get to a clinic where they will wait with all the crowds of other people who also have travelled from all over to receive medical attention. This is the Sunshine Approach. A model that will alleviate the suffering of people in remote areas and give them a hands-up to a better life and a brighter future for them and their children. This is why we gave up everything to come to Mozambique. We are very excited to finally get this project underway, and we are excited to take you with us along the way. We will be sure to keep you updated on progress!

Saturday, August 14, 2021

They Are Worth It All

When we take new children into our Sunshine Houses, I typically come home and write a blog right away about the experience. It is my way of processing my emotions from the day and wrapping my head around it all. For sure, bringing an orphaned child home and placing him into one of our families is a cause for celebration. But the process of doing this…hearing their sad story (which is usually shared with us right in from of the child as he sits with his eyes downcast), seeing the poor conditions they were existing in, and simply sitting alongside a child who has been abandoned and discarded…is emotionally draining. Yet the experience I had in accepting our 3 newest children was one that was so difficult, I could not even write about it. I have had to dwell on it, let it sink in, and watch with my own eyes to see the children transform to flourishing in our care before I could put it on paper. 

 In April 2021, my colleague and I were taken to visit three orphaned children living in our local community. We were told they were three girls, ages 13, 11, and 9. The representatives with us from Accao Social did not even know where their house was. But when we arrived at the market located near their home and began to ask the locals for directions to their house, literally everyone there knew of the “suffering children” and where they lived. A woman who sold charcoal at her stand agreed to accompany us and show us the way to the girls’ house. 

 We arrived and were faced with a 16-year-old boy, Dario, (with hair on his upper lip), a 10-year-old girl, Anabela, who was physically challenged and could not walk, and an 8-year-old boy, Ivan, who also had physical limitations, but at least he could walk. Anabela did not even make eye contact with us the whole time we were there. She sat on the ground banging a plastic bottle against the ground over and over and over, leaving me to question if she was also mentally challenged. Ivan was not at all interested in our visit and immediately left to play with friends. Dario was a gracious host and shared their story with us. 

Their mother had fallen ill 3 years ago, when Dario was just 13. He quit school to stay home and care for his mother and younger siblings. After a year filled with great suffering and struggles, their mother died. They had been living with their maternal grandmother, but she was overwhelmed by everything and abandoned them, going to South Africa and has not returned. No one in the family stepped in to take the children. They continued to live in their grandmother’s house, relying on neighbors to share an occasional meal with them. They would go for days without food. They never knew when they would eat next. They had a roof over their head but nothing else. The area they lived in was not at all secure or safe or clean. They had no one to protect them, nurture them, or provide for them. 

Anabela’s inability to walk started about 4 years ago. She developed a sore behind her knee. It was painful to walk, so she started to crawl. This happened at the same time that the mother became sick. Because everyone’s attention went to caring for the mother and then dealing with her death and funeral, Anabela was not given any treatment or attention. Her feet are now in a “ballerina position” pointing straight and her leg muscles have not properly developed. Because she has spent her life on the ground, she has difficulty even maintaining her balance while sitting in a chair.


Ivan walks/waddles with his legs straight. He can, however, easily bend his knees and go up and down stairs with no difficulty. From what we can determine, the root problem comes from his hips. So he can walk, but he cannot run and play with his peers. Dario didn't know what would have been the cause for this. 

We were so taken aback by all of this. It was totally unexpected. We left really struggling over the situation. We literally felt numb…not knowing what to say and certainly not knowing what to do for these children. We felt guilty that our first response was that we could not help with these children. How does a person see such a situation and then just walk away from it? 

Our Sunshine Approach Foundation creates families by pairing a widowed woman with 4-5 orphaned children. We provide a home, monthly living expenses, full assistance with medical and educational needs, as well as guidance and supervision for the mothers and children. We did not in any way have the capability to care for these 3 children. The oldest boy, Dario, was too old for our program. His sister’s, Anabela, and brother’s, Ivan, physical challenges were daunting. We have no experience in helping such children. We do not have the necessary equipment or the "know how" to help such children have access to life. Finally, when one takes on a child who cannot walk, they are taking on the care of that child for life! But again, we were left with the question…how can we not help them? Because it was very clear that no one was going to intervene.

We decided to move slowly and do what we could for them. We started by visiting and bringing food and clothing. We went back to see the children the very next day. Ivan met us at the car and welcomed us with a big hug. He went from being completely uninterested in our presence to showing affection to us. Anabela was down the street with friends. When she spotted us, she literally came racing down the road on her hands and knees, crawling to meet us. She was moving so quickly that there was a cloud of dust behind her. My heart leaped inside my chest…she could move! If she could make such agile use of her hips, knees, legs, arms, etc…could she be taught to walk again??? 

 Dario welcomed us to their home once again. This time, he took us inside to show us where they live. The “windows” were all closed up with cement blocks. There was no light or air in the house. The three children shared a double bed to sleep in. They had a small charcoal braai to cook food on…in fact Dario had just lit the charcoal to cook their meal for the day. We left them with food and some warm clothing and went on our way. 

Still the question lingered, how could we help them? I strongly felt that we could not abandon these children. But I was scared. What would our future be like with these children in our care. If you take on a child that cannot walk, you are taking that child on for life. Our mission is to raise up our Sunshine children to lead independent lives as active, contributing members in their communities. How would we find a mother who would be willing to care of Anabela? In Mozambique, handicaps of any kind are considered to be a curse on the person and on their family. Most women would not have the physical capacity to assist a 10-year-old child with their daily needs. But then to deal with the social stigma as well would be a lot to ask of her. And what was Dario really like? He was 16 years old! What kind of friends did he hang out with? What bad habits had he developed being on his own with no adult supervision or guidance for 3 years? He could be a huge problem for us. 

I continued to feel we could not do nothing. But I also felt peace in God confirming to me to move slowly. And so we did. 

The more we learned about Dario, the more we fell in love with him. He stayed home with his siblings and cared for them during his mother's illness. He returned to school after his mother's death and is now in 6th grade. His whole life consisted of going to school and caring for Anabela and Dario. He is the one who bathed them, washed their clothes, cooked their meals, and protected them. While visiting with him, we learned that he has no friends because all of his time is spent caring for his siblings. When asked if he ever goes out, he replied that he rarely does, and that when he does, he cannot stop thinking about his sister and brother and wondering if they were okay. Dario willingly gave his life and sacrificed for his family. He has a heart of gold! 

As we went through this lengthy process, these children never left my thoughts. They were my last thought upon going to sleep at night and my first thought upon waking in the morning. One morning as I woke, I felt God giving me assurance that Anabela would walk again. I also felt that He would confirm this to me in 3 ways. I got up to begin my daily devotional and prayer time. I opened my first prayer book, “90 Days of Power Prayers”…it began with Matthew 19:29- “But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, ‘With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.’” Wow! Confirmation #1. I even took a photo of it with my phone so as not to forget. After praying over this, I went on to my second book, “Praying for Your Husband” …it began with Mark 10:27- “Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.’” Confirmation #2!! I was on a roll! 

At this time, I was reading through the book of Romans, one chapter each day, and journaling on each one. On this day, I was on Romans 11. I opened my Bible fully expectant for my third confirmation. To my disappointment, this chapter was about the Gentiles being grafted in with the Israelites to God’s kingdom. Hmmm...not what I was looking for. I went on with my day, showering and heading out to work. As I went through the day, I wanted to believe Anabela would walk again, but I also felt I could not truly believe it without that third confirmation. I came home at the end of the day questioning if I truly did hear from God and starting to doubt. I sat down and began mindlessly scrolling through Facebook when I came upon a post by a friend in London. She wrote, “I so needed this reminder today…and maybe you need it too!!!” She posted a quote by Corrie Ten Boom, “The wonderful thing about praying is that you leave a world of not being able to do something, and enter God’s realm where everything is possible. Nothing is too great for His almighty power. Nothing is too small for His love.” Confirmation #3!!! Time to pray and move forward! 

I connected with a friend who is a physical therapist. She agreed to meet with Anabela and give us her opinion on her condition. We traveled to her office in nearby Maputo. The trip in the car gave me the opportunity to talk with Anabela and get to know her better. This little girl in no way has any mental restrictions. She was engaging and fun! She loves the beach, even though she has never been there. She very much wants a talking doll like the one she saw on television. When she grows up, her dream is to move away and live in a big city. Over the time I have known her, I can attest to the fact that Anabela is the most happy, joyful child I have ever met. She loves to play, smile, and dance. She is easy going and just plain happy. 

As my friend, Geraldine, poked, prodded, moved and adjusted Anabela, I rejoiced at every comment she made. She said that her feet are still soft and pliable. That she had good movement in her feet and hips. She concluded that with therapy, daily exercises done at home, the use of a standing frame and splints, it is very possible that Anabela can walk again! Immediate tears of joy filled my eyes. Those were some of the sweetest words I had ever heard! It will not be easy or inexpensive. The exercises Anabela must endure several times each day are painful and she cries. But we promised her that if Geraldine sees improvement at each consult, she will get that talking doll for her very own. Also, because Geraldine's office is not far from the beach, she will get rewarded with a stop at the beach after each appointment. These external rewards will indeed encourage her to work hard, but Anabela has a strong will to walk again. It is something she wants for herself. Therefore, I believe in her!

As a result of this consult, I posted on Facebook looking for someone who could make a standing frame for us to use in Anabela’s therapy. Connections that only God could orchestrate started to pour in! First a missionary acquaintance in nearby Machava contacted me. Her and her husband operate a ministry for the physically challenged. They could provide a walker and a standing from for Anabela. Then a woman who recently moved to Mozambique from South Africa contacted me. She is an orthotist and offered her help. At the same time, unbeknownst to either of us, Geraldine, the physical therapist, and this same woman had already connected regarding working together to treat Anabela using splints to straighten out her feet! Everything and everyone we would need to help Anabela began to fall into place! 

About a month after meeting the children, I sensed that we were to move and move immediately in taking these children. I began to ponder over which of our current mothers would be willing to accept and raise these children. I conducted by own informal poll and separately asked my colleague, Delcio, my husband and my son who they thought would be a good mom. Each of them gave me the same name, and this confirmed by initial thought…Zelda. 

Those of you who have read my blogs before know of Zelda. She was our first Sunshine mother. She has been with us for almost 8 years now caring for Cecilia, Madalena and Antonio. She is an absolute treasure and I often call her my angel. Delcio and I met with Zelda and shared the story of the children. We asked her to consider caring for them. We committed to walking alongside her and supporting her with this. We concluded by telling her that this was a big decision, we did not expect an answer right away, but we wanted her to take the time to think and pray before accepting. At this point, Zelda, who had been silent and had shown absolutely no expression on her face, held up her hand and stopped us. She said, “I do not need any more time to think or pray. I will accept these children.” Delcio and I burst into tears! (Delcio and I have done a lot of crying lately!) She then went home to discuss all of this with her three children at home as they too will play an important role as siblings. All three gladly agreed to accept Dario, Anabela and Ivan into their family! (Cue more tears!)

We moved into action planning and constructing an additional bedroom added onto Zelda’s house. We also turned her veranda into a kitchen, thus doubling the size of the living room. For three weeks, her house was a complete mess! What seemed like a simple, easy project turned out to be much more of a task than we had expected. Again, Zelda has been a complete saint…living in the dust and dealing with the daily confusion and noise. And she even took in the children before it was completed! So there were 6 children living with her in a two bedroom, torn apart house. They barely had room to move around, and so spent most of their days outside! 

At this point, the Beacon of Hope program entered my mind. I love everything about this program and its focus on raising up men of God! This is a three-year program operated the past 20 years by Angie Wheeler, a newly acquired friend of mine, in nearby Machava. They accept 12 teenaged boys every three years and provide them with all they need to grow into godly, responsible, independent young men. In a world where the social impact focus is on women and girls, I feel for the men and boys. Who is there to teach them and raise them up to be strong, responsible, loving, protective, godly leaders in their households and their cultures? I agree that the rights of women and girls must be developed and protected and that their position in many cultures must be elevated. But I also believe that if there is no attention given to training our young boys to be good men, any culture is going to be “half” and sorely lacking. 

 I knew that the program at Beacon of Hope had started operating again back in January. It was now May. I assumed that by now, the program was full and running smoothly. I assumed Dario would not be accepted into the program at this point. But I couldn’t stop thinking about Beacon of Hope and how perfect it would be for Dario. He never had a male role model in his household because his father abandoned the family when he was very young. Beacon of Hope has a staff that includes godly, male role models that Dario can look up to and learn from. Dario was only 16 and for years had been carrying the weight of his mother’s death and the care of his siblings. Dario was only a child when he took on all of this responsibility. He never had the privilege of being a carefree child and enjoying friends. Beacon of Hope would take the burden of these responsibilities off Dario’s shoulders. It would allow him to have friends and the camaraderie of brothers-in-Christ. Dario had fallen behind in school. Beacon of Hope would provide the tutoring he needed to catch up to his peers. Dario attended a local church when he was able, but his attendance was spotty at best. Beacon of Hope would provide him with daily spiritual teaching and guidance. But…I assumed it would be too late to get Dario into the program. 

I avoided calling Angie, even though I knew she would be extremely kind in turning us down. Finally, I felt God clearly pushing me to call Angie, so I decided to contact her. I cheated a bit and sent her a text message. I figured it would be easier to get the rejection in writing. I sent the text and within 30 seconds I got a call from Angie. I answered the phone and she immediately said, “So tell me about Dario.” After listening, she said she felt that they would be able to accept one more boy into the program but that she would have to discuss it with her staff and get back to me. She called me later that day and said the staff agreed and Dario was welcome! 

It was a frustratingly long and painful process to get these three children into our care. Social Action was not cooperative or caring about their horrible situation. After writing and submitting our letter of acceptance, it took 1 ½ months for them to complete the process. Once the process was completed, it sat on the director’s desk for 3 weeks until she signed it. Once she signed it, it took 2 weeks to get her letter of permission to release a social worker to accompany us to place the children in our home. We did our best during this time…bringing the children food and calling Social Action every single day. Our hearts hurt so much for these children. We wanted to help them, but our hands were tied. The case workers at Social Action were weary of our calls and badgering on the behalf of these children, but they were worth the fight. On July 1st, we finallyyyyyyy got the needed letter of permission to go with a case worker and move the children into our Sunshine House! 

 Dario is now flourishing at Beacon of Hope! He lives there in a dorm with 12 other boys, but on his school holidays, he will come live at our first Sunshine House. On a recent holiday visit, I asked him what is his favorite thing about Beacon of Hope. He thought for a moment and with a huge grin on his face replied, “Everything!” 

Anabela continues with her physical therapy. The daily exercises are grueling for her, but she submits to them, knowing they will help her to walk again. She is being schooled at home by Zelda (with help from her new siblings). 

She loves to play with dolls, sing and dance. Just today, we took Dario back to resume his studies at Beacon of Hope, but this time, Anabela did not cry. She feels safe and loved where she is living, and she knows that Dario will come back. 

Ivan has been enrolled in first grade at the local school. He has made many friends around the house. He is very good-natured and easy-going. Therefore, he has made friendships quickly. Once we have progress with Anabela's treatment, we will start physical therapy for Ivan.

God is indeed the defender of the oppressed and the fatherless. He saw Dario, Anabela and Ivan in their need. He had a plan for their lives. He is using the Sunshine Approach Foundation and Beacon of Hope to bring Dario, Anabela and Ivan into the full potential of His purpose for them! He is a good Father! On his recent holiday break, Delcio and I took Dario to the cemetery to put flowers on his mother’s grave. Before we left, we bowed our heads as he prayed. He told his mother that he loved her and knew she was in a good place in heaven. He thanked her for sending Delcio and me to care for them. Yet again, Delcio and I were in tears. We do not take our work for granted, and we are thankful, so very very thankful to have the privilege to be a part of every life God has entrusted to our care.

Friday, April 30, 2021

Forgotten No More

Can you even imagine being in this situation…your father has died. Then your mother dies, leaving you orphaned. You have no extended family to take you in. You have nowhere to go. You have no one to look after you. You are only 11 years old. And you have the responsibility of your 9-year-old sister. You have no identity because you have no documents, not even a birth certificate. You and your sister are taken by the police to a transitional children’s center. Here children are placed for a short time while representatives from Social Action search for your family. But they find no one for you. They search for an orphanage to place you in. But all of the orphanages are either full or they don’t take in older children. So, you remain at this center… watching other children come and go after being reunited with family or taken in by an orphanage. You wait and you wait for someone to come for you. But no one comes. Each day, you wake up, make your bed, shower and complete your chores. The rest of your day is spent waiting. You cannot go to school and study. You don’t go to church. The only time you leave the walls surrounding the center are when you are sick and must go for a consult at the hospital. No one thinks of you. No one cares about you. No one loves you best of all. 

 This was what Faustino and Beatriz lived for two years. They were forgotten. No one even really knew they existed. They did develop a friendship with another boy with a similar story. France arrived at this transitional center around the same time when he was 10 years old. He was born in South Africa and his Mozambican mother brought him back to Mozambique. She died leaving him orphaned with no family. So, France waited for a placement somewhere along with Faustino and Beatriz day after day. 

I cannot even comprehend the helplessness and hopelessness of being abandoned and left like these children. We don’t think about such things because we do not ever come into direct face-to-face contact with such children. In fact, those of us living in the first-world nations will probably never in our lifetime even meet an orphaned child. We go about our lives never giving much, if any thought, to orphaned and abandoned children. Let me tell you from personal experience, it is life altering to meet such children. It changes your whole outlook on life and what is important. Even after 10 years of working with orphaned and abandoned children, I still am emotionally devastated each time a new child is brought to my attention.  

It was heart wrenching to sit across from Faustino, Beatriz and France at a cement table and listen to their stories. Their greatest desire was to attend school. Faustino's dream is to work and have a job. Beatriz wants to be a teacher. France dreams of being a pastor. Their soft brown eyes took me in. The downcast expression on their faces conveyed their thoughts. They thought we also would not want them. They thought we also would leave them at this center and forget about them as we went on with our lives. But they thought wrong. They were about to have their whole world transformed. 

 Having heard their stories, we shared our story with the children. We explained who we were and why we were there. We invited them to come with us to be raised in one of our Sunshine Houses as a part of our family. Each one gave us a blank stare. We repeated to them that they were welcome if they chose to come. They stared back in disbelief. They looked at each other. They looked again at us. Again we told them they were welcome to come with us. This time, they responded and they eagerly accepted. Yet they still sat on the cement bench and didn’t move. So, we told them to go pack their belongings and say their goodbyes to the people who had cared for them at the center. They looked at us, looked at each other, and looked back at us again…and like the shot of a gun, they were off! Up they went to hug their primary caretaker and shake hands with the men who were the groundskeepers of the center, all of whom were seated within hearing distance following our entire conversation. The children headed off to pack, their primary caregiver right on their heels trying to keep up…brushing tears from her eyes.

 Each child showered and dressed in their best outfit and emerged from the dormitory with fully stuffed book bags. The children were offered lunch but not one of them was able to eat. They were too excited to go. After they returned their still full plates to the kitchen, we took a group photo before heading to the car. 

 Their primary caretaker walked with them all the way and helped to load them in the van, tears in her eyes. 

We reassured her, sharing that she had cared for them well and it was evident that she loved them. We promised her we would continue her good care for them. Satisfied, she moved away from the van and joined the group of men seeing them off. We waved goodbye to the group and began the hour trip back to Matola. 

 The children chattered together in the back of the van during the trip. I couldn’t understand what they were saying as they were speaking in Shongan. Again, I tried to imagine what they must be thinking and feeling. For sure, they were excited. The tone of their voices and the broad smiles on their faces every time I turned around to take a peek at them revealed this. As we arrived in Matola and began the drive through the community to their new home, it got very quiet in the back of the van. No one was speaking anymore. Reality was setting in. 

 We arrived at their home and were greeted first by Antonio, the little boy who lives at our first Sunshine House. He heard we were bringing children and wanted to be the first to meet them. I am sure he was happy to see two boys emerge from the van. Antonio, Vicente and Helio are for sure outnumbered by the 9 other girls in our houses. No sooner had Antonio greeted them than their new mother, Catarina, appeared around the corner of the wall. She was beaming! She had been waiting for two months for children to fill her home. She greeted each child with a kiss on each cheek as praised God for bringing these children to her. 

We proceeded to show the children the house and to make up their beds with fresh, new linens. Antonio was right there helping us with the work, but the three new children were drawn to the television in the living room…a very new and alluring attraction for them. The time arrived for us to leave Catarina and the children so they could get to know each other and spend their first night together as a family. Smiles were still plastered on every face but one…Faustino. His face was blank. He was doing his best to stay strong, but soon the tears began to stream down his sweet cheeks. I sat next to him with my arm around him consoling him, encouraging him, and loving him. I am so thankful he had his sister and his friend with him. They are a huge support to each other, so I asked them both do their best to help him adjust. We took a family photo and left the family to their evening. 

 These children and their new mother were in my continual thoughts for the remainder of the evening. I woke up at 3 am thinking of them again. So, I got up and prayed for them and all that is ahead of us. First thing this morning, I headed to their house excited to see how they were. As I parked my car, they all came running out to greet me. In fact, I couldn’t even get out of the car. They all tumbled in with smiles and greetings. They were joined by Madalena, Antonio’s sister at the first house. Like Antonio, she wanted to get to know the new children. Our Sunshine children are one big extended family. They may live in different houses, but they are brothers and sisters and support one another in the most beautiful ways.  

Catarina caught me up with how the night went. The two younger children went to bed early, exhausted from the full day they had. She then had the opportunity to sit on the sofa with Faustino and watch a film on television. It was quality time that left him feeling full and ready to sleep. All three children slept soundly and woke up to a new day and a new life ahead of them. 

 Faustino, Beatriz and France are no longer alone. They now are part of a family. They will grow up knowing they are a part of not only our Sunshine family, but they are part of God’s family. They will know that they have a heavenly Father who will never leave them or forsake them. They have a heavenly Father who saw them and their needs. He kept them just for us. They are now our treasures. We are three children richer today. These precious children are forgotten no more.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Our Newest Treasure

This sweet girl is the newest member of our Sunshine Family. Her name is Virginia, but she goes by the nickname Ginoca. Ginoca joined our family in December 2020. In the short time we have known her, we are truly astounded by the strong character of this little girl. She is going to go far in life. 

 Ginoca did not have an easy start to life. Her mother abandoned her and her father when she was just a baby. There is no record of her birth, so we don’t know her birthday or her age. Social Action assigned her a birth date of January 1, 2013, making her now 8 years old. She has never attended school. Her father abused her and then intimidated her into keeping quiet by saying that he would kill her if she told anyone. But our Ginoca was brave, and she did speak up… she told the local chefe. The chefe contacted the police, and they moved right into action removing Ginoca from the home and putting the father in jail where he is awaiting a trial. Social Action felt she would do better in a family-care setting, so they contacted our Sunshine Approach Foundation to place her in one of our homes. 

 I was in the United States visiting family at the time, so my husband, Don, and our son, William, joined my colleague, Delcio, in going to the orphanage in Machava. When our crew arrived, they were invited to sit outside in the shade of a tree while they talked with the orphanage’s nurse. As they were talking, a little girl came up, looked them over, and exclaimed, “Eles sao bonitos!” (They are beautiful!) 

My husband asked who this girl was, and the nurse informed him that this was the little girl they came to see. They thought they were just going to meet her… yet when she came out to meet them carrying her book bag packed up with all of her belongings and the nurse handed them a file with her documentation, they realized she was coming home with them…that very day! After the papers were signed, they climbed into the car and began the trip to Matola. 

 Throughout the whole experience, my husband was impressed by Ginoca. He expected to meet a shy, withdrawn, scared little girl. Ginoca instead was positive, outgoing, friendly and confident. On their way to Matola, they stopped at a local store and took Ginoca to the toy aisle. Don showed her all the rows and rows of dolls and told her she could pick any one she wanted… except for the one that was as tall as she was!!! Ginoca took about 10 minutes to carefully survey each doll in each row, and in the end chose the one to her liking. The doll was paid for and they continued on to her new home where she was welcomed into her new family. 

 That evening, Don and William called me to inform me that they had come to the decision that they were switching jobs with me. They would now run the foundation and I would run the factory. The day impacted them greatly, and they felt it was the most rewarding day of their life. My response, “No way!” But I did tell them they are welcome to join me in my work any day they would like. 

 Ginoca now lives with her new mother, Ilda, and her new 4 siblings, Virginia, Nina, Vicente and Helio. She became an immediate member of the family with the girls putting new braids in her hair, her brothers showing her how to get around the neighborhood, and Ilda teaching her the chores she would be expected to complete as a part of the family. She loves to play with dolls and can usually be found laughing and giggling with her sisters in their bedroom. She is inquisitive and curious. When we gather together every Sunday for our “Igrejinha”, our name for our children’s church attended by our Sunshine children, she sits in her chair with her face set like stone on whoever is sharing the message that day. She carries herself well and displays the best of manners. She is an all-around amazing young lady. 

 Today was the first day of school in Mozambique. Our schools have been closed since the start of the Covid restrictions in March 2020. For Ginoca, it was her first first-day of school ever! She never had the opportunity to attend school. So she will start at the beginning in grade 1. As we expected, she is not put off by this. She was ready to go and excited for what lies ahead of her. It was such a privilege and honor to take her to school today. I warned her ahead of time that Mama Terri would be taking many photos and there may even be some tears involved. She just smiled and gave me a warm hug. 

 As we drove to the school, I came to the realization of how popular she is in the community. Many other girls shouted out her name and called to her as we drove past. Ginoca responded to each girl with warm greetings and waves. I felt like I was chauffeuring a celebrity in my car! 

 At the school, I was more nervous than she was! She entered with confidence and security. 

We found her classroom and introduced her to her new teacher. After yet another photo, this time with her teacher, Delcio told me that it was time to go. 

 We mothers know that feeling of leaving our children behind on their first day of school. We look back again and again as we exit the classroom making sure that our child is okay. Our hearts feel like they are being torn in two and our eyes are welled up with tears. We think of a million things we have forgotten to tell them and remind them of. I felt all of these things as I left her room. She, however, was just fine. She sat in her little desk with a look of complete calm on her face. 

 So now I sit at home, waiting for a call from her mother, Ilda, to let me know she is back home. I’m waiting to hear her tell me how her day was. I’m anxious to know every detail. But we mothers know what I will hear. I will ask her how her day was, and she will respond like every other child. She will simply answer, “Good.”