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....

Sunday, December 18, 2011

An African Child's Ultimate Joy

In our first world nation, our children’s ultimate joy is usually connected to something electronic.  Ask my kids what would make them happy and you would get one of the following: a new I-phone, a new I-Touch, an I-pad (notice the things that begin with “I”?), a new video game, a new video system.  These items are probably on the top of most kids’ Christmas lists right now.  Yet for African children, these things are not a possibility in their world; it would never even occur to them to ask for one.  Most probably don’t even know they exist.  The one thing that we love here in Africa is the simplicity of life.  Things move more slowly here.  The things that are most valued do not have price tags on them- things like spending time with others, talking with friends. 

Today I got to see children who were experiencing ultimate joy that came at no cost.  As I drove Don to the airport for a flight to Cape Town, there was a powerful storm.  Lightning was striking everywhere, the wind was whipping, and the rain was pummeling the dry, thirsty land.  As we drove along, we noticed three young boys stripped down to their underwear dancing along the side of the road.  Their faces were turned up to the rainy sky, their arms outstretched and swinging wildly, their legs skipping along, their feet splashing the water up, and they were all grinning from ear to ear.  Don had to pull my attention back to my driving as I had meandered over into the opposing lane (Thank the Lord there was no oncoming traffic!).  It is at times like this when I would love to be able to stop and capture the image on film.  Yet Don had a plane to catch, the rain was really coming down hard,  lightning was striking right next to us, and if I had stopped and gotten out with a camera, my presence would have ruined the magic of the moment and the boys would have stopped and stared at me wondering why a white woman was standing in front of them with a camera in the pouring rain.  So we continued on.

After dropping Don off,  the storm passed, and Will and I headed for home.  As we traveled back the same road, we were amazed at how the road had now become a stream of water flowing along at a good pace.  There really is not draining system here.  The water just flows and collects in deeper areas.  We came upon a huge group of boys (in the traditional Mozambican swim wear of their undies) out on a dirt soccer field that had become a knee- deep lake.  They were kicking, splashing, and playing enthusiastically in the water.  We then passed another group of children who had found a swimming pool that was created where the rain water had drained into one area.  These children were all swimming and diving in the muddy water having the time of their lives.  It was fun to just watch them play and be happy.  

Today, we again found ourselves privileged to have a small glimpse into the lives of people who have nothing, yet have everything.  I am humbled again. 

As I recall these moments. I am reminded of a moment some years ago when our children were young.  We lived on Blue Mountain Parkway in Harrisburg.  A huge rain storm had ended and there was a steady stream of water rushing down our driveway.  At their request, we let them go outside and play in this stream of water.  I still can see their smiles and hear their laughter as they jumped, played and even lay down letting the water rush over their little bodies.  What a fun time for them.  This water was much cleaner than what the children today played in.  I must admit that as I watched my kids have fun, all I could think of was how dirty they would be and the mess I would have on my hands when they were done.  I also worried that maybe this water was unhealthy for them to play in.  As it turns out, none of them caught any dreaded disease, and after a bath they were all squeaky clean.  As for the water these children played in today, it was so dirty that we would not let our children even put their little toe in it!  Yet these kids too will catch no disease and will be squeaky clean after their baths.  My encouragement to you to end this blog… next time it storms, let your kids go out and find some water to jump and play in; even join them yourself.  You may find yourselves enjoying the memory of a life time!  And it won’t cost you a penny.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

My Inaugural African "Snake" Experience

Well… I knew it would happen sooner or later.  I knew that at some point I would encounter my first snake here in Mozambique.  I was just hoping for two things.  First, that it would not be inside my house.  Secondly, that it would be later… much, much later! 

I am thankful and pleased to say that “No”, it did not happen inside my house.  Well, unless you count your garage as part of your home.  In this case, I guess it was technically in my house.  And unfortunately for me, it happened sooner rather than later.

On a recent Saturday, I headed out my kitchen door into the garage to put a load of wash into my washing machine. As my foot hit the cement floor, my attention was drawn to a 2 foot “snake” slithering about 3 feet in front of me in a direct line for me!  I turned back to the kitchen door and screamed first for Don, and next for Jack (our Jack Russell Terrier who you may recall killed the neighbor’s monkey when we first got here.  The caretaker of our home also tells us that he killed a cobra on the property.) I guess in my subconscious mind, I first called the long time, ever faithful male protector of our family. Then knowing we were in African territory, I called for the new male protector of our family who had experience in dealing with such creatures!  Both Don and Jack came running at the same time. 

By the way, I should insert that our other faithful terrier Rusty was there too.  He was first on the scene and had come out the door with me.  He was a bit tentative, sizing up the situation.  As Rusty contemplated what to do, Jack came … not sure what verb to use here to give you a good picture of this… ripping… no… screaming through the garage at full speed from my left.  Without hesitation, he snatched the “snake” up in his mouth at its midpoint,  swung his head from side to side so violently that the “snake” literally ripped in half!  Blood spewed everywhere- all over Jack, the floor, and the front of Don’s car.  Half of the carcass flew under Don’s car, and Jack ran off to the front yard with the other half as his prize.  Don, Will (who by now had joined us to see what the excitement was about), and I cheered and praised Jack for his quick moves. 

You may wonder why I keep putting the word “snake” in quotations.  This is because we are not sure what it was.  It was gray and scaly like a snake, but it did not have a defined head or eyes like a snake.  It almost resembled a gray worm with scales.  The scales and the size of it (at least as thick as a big man’s thumb and 2 feet long) made us think it was a snake.  Yet its head was nothing like a snake.   Just the night previous, our dog Jack had left a prize on our doormat for us.  It resembled a gray, shriveled up snake.  But we were not sure, because again it didn’t have a snake head.  But it did have scales.  We asked around and were told by locals that this creature is more of a worm thing than a snake…whatever that means.  This was confirmed for us when the next day Jack left us another present on our outside door mat.  When we opened the door, we found a dead snake left on the mat.  This was definitely a snake.  It had the triangular head and eyes of a snake.  So maybe the locals are right.  Maybe I should change the title of this blog from “My Inaugural African ‘Snake’ Experience” to “My Inaugural African Worm Experience”.  But then again, would that really capture anyone’s interest?  I have always taught my students to use a catchy title to grab their reader’s attention and make them want to read their story.  So I guess I should stick with the original title as is!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Dump.....the harshest of circumstances. Can it get worse than this?

Last Friday I joined the team from Iris to go to the Bocaria.  This was my second trip to the Bocaria.  The first time I went, I join a group of Mozambicans to go to the homes in the village beside the dump where we prayed and ministered to people there.  This time, I decided I would join the team that goes  up on top of this large dump.  I thought I was prepared emotionally, yet nothing can prepare one for this experience.  One look showed this was a place of complete desolation and desperation.

The climb to the top of the dump is steep and long.  I am not sure of the exact height of this dump, but it was at least 3 stories high, if not more.  As I reached the top, I saw before me a vast wasteland that stretched as far as I could see.  Scattered about were people searching through the garbage or sitting on cardboard sifting through their finds.  It was difficult to breathe due to the smell of the rotting garbage and the smoke from the fires that burned throughout the dump.  Flies swarmed everywhere.  During my time there, I did my best to not be bothered by them and swat at them, but there were times when I just couldn't help myself.  Farther beyond us, large dump trucks brought in new loads of garbage and plows were pushing the piles of garbage around as well.  Many people were gathered around this area.  We were invited to only talk with the people who were sitting down as they were resting.  We were asked to not speak with the people who were up because they were working and would not want to be interrupted.
We walked over to a woman sitting on a flattened cardboard box.  Around her were piles of glass bottles, cans, and plastics.  On her cardboard were several bags.  One was a larger tote bag that was filled with food she had found in the garbage.  I was sickened to see a swarm of hundreds of flies around this food, knowing that she and others would eat it later.  As pitiful as her situation may sound to you, I was struck by how beautiful and regal she appeared sitting amidst the garbage.  A young pastor who spoke the local tribal language of Shongun began speaking with her about God.  We were then asked to share anything that God revealed to us for her and he would translate it for the woman.  We all were silent.  I can't speak for the visitors with me, but I know that I was speechless.  Who was I, a privileged white lady, to share anything with her.  Someone finally spoke up and shared a message of God's love for her.  She then was asked how we could pray for her.  She asked for prayer for her unborn child.  We gathered around her to pray.  As we came close, she was clearly embarassed that we all would be able to see the food she had collected in that bag I had mentioned.  She shyly took it and tied it closed.  We laid hands on her and prayed.  She sat peacefully with her eyes closed.  Then she thanked each of us with a warm handshake and smile.
We continued on to where an older and younger woman were sorting items.  The young pastor spoke with the older woman and asked for us to share.  I so wanted to share something with her and begged the Lord for a word to bless her.  It was then that my eyes were drawn to the capulana she had tied around her waist. It was decorated in butterflies  (Those of you who know the third grade science curriculum at DC would know how fond we third grade teachers and students are of butterflies!  So it was perfect for me!)  Immediately I recalled the verse from 1 Corinthians 5:17 that tells us that we are a new creation in Christ Jesus.  I spoke up and shared this message with her.  We then prayed for her, and again we were thanked with a warm handshake.  All of this time, the young woman beside her watched and listened. The group moved on without noting her.  Her face was so expressionless.  I had to see her smile.  I had to bless her in some way.  I saw that she had the biggest, most gorgeous, gentle brown eyes.  In the best Portuguese I could muster, I told her that she had beautiful eyes.  I was rewarded with a big, joyful smile, and again, a warm handshake of appreciation.
I caught up to the group.  At this point we were where the dump trucks and plows were.  The dump truck would dump its load and dozens of men, women, and children would hastily climb up on it, dig through it with metal picks, and search out items of value to them.  They reminded me of ants swarming a pile of crumbs. Occasionally, the plow would come through to then plow down the pile.  The plow was followed by more people hoping that something would be turned up in its wake.  The Mozambican pastor who lives and ministers full time at the dump came to talk with us at this point.  He shared that they all had heavy hearts because three of their friends had died this past week.  He did not say what they died of, but as he continued we were able to figure it out.  He shared that the people sometimes get so caught up in their work that they do not pay attention to and listen for the dump trucks and plows.  When this happens, they sometimes get run over.  This is how little their lives are valued.  Apparently, at least one or more of their friends had died this way. 

For the rest of our time, this pastor took us to meet several of the people living there.  It was then that a recurring theme of "abandonment" was illustrated.  The first man we met, we were told, would not talk to us. He was very quiet, but he would listen and would accept our message of God's love for him.  He believed in God.  This man had been abandoned by his family as a child and had lived in this dump for the past 20 years. A member of our group from South Africa shared a vision God gave him for this man and we prayed for him.  This was followed by another loving handshake for each person in our group.  We next were introduced to a woman whose husband had abandoned her, therefore she was forced to live here.  We prayed for her.  All of these cherished sons and daughters of the Most High were abandoned by society, left here to make a living amongst our refuse.  I knew in my heart that God had not abandoned them and that He would want them to know of this and of His great love for them.  I struggled then and still to this day am questioning the Lord in how one would share this message with these people.  How could these people believe that God had not abandoned them when they lived in such a place?
The pastor then wanted to take us over to the side along the wall where people lived and slept.  He warned us that many would be drunk and would not speak kindly to us, but he wanted us to not let that deter us.  As we walked across the expanse of garbage, I would pause from time to time to look around me.  I was stunned by the size of the dump.  Have you ever been in a boat on a large lake or the ocean?  Recall looking around you in all directions and seeing only water and sky.  This is what I can best equate what I saw to you.  As I looked in all directions, all I could see was garbage and sky.  Smoke burned our eyes and filled our lungs, causing us to cough. The flies covered us. The stench filled our nostrils. The dirt covered our legs and clothes. It truly was as close to being hell on earth as anything I have ever witnessed. The place was repulsive - dirty, smelly, smoky, and fly-infested.  I knew that I would soon be able to leave and return to my home and all of the comforts it had to offer.  But these people would not be able to leave and get out of this place.  They live here and work here every day and night of the week. As we walked, I saw a young girl off to our side about 20 yards away walking barefoot in a parallel line to us.  I noticed that she was just strolling along with no particular purpose.  It did not appear she had anywhere to get to or that she even had any particular destination in mind.  As she looked my way, I lifted my hand and waved to her.  She smiled and waved back.  Such a small connection between us, but it touched me deeply.
Along the side wall of the dump was a line of makeshift "homes" created from garbage.  Some were made out of old suitcases, some were cardboard boxes and plastic sheets, and some were old refrigerators that were on their side with the bottom taken out so that the resident could crawl inside.  The pastor took us to one man's home.  He did not want to come out at first, so the Mozambicans in our group began singing an African worship song.  This motivated him to crawl out and sit with us.  The pastor shared his story.  He had been here since a child.  He had been run over several times, yet each time God healed him and he did not die.  Yet he was not able to use his legs due to these accidents.  He is forced to stay in his home all the time since he can't walk.  He cannot go out and search for food or work.  Yet God provides for him.  Each day people come by with food for him.  The man was thankful to God for this.  As we prayed for this man, he wept openly.
At this time, the smoke from the fires was getting heavy and the wind was carrying it our way.  The pastor felt it was best for us to return to the church since it was bad for our well-being to continue on.  We again climbed up the side of the dump to get back to the top.  It was so steep in some places; I was glad there were some gentlemen along to give us ladies a hand in some difficult spots.  We made the long trek back across the dump.  All of us were silent and deeply, irrevocably affected by our experience.  I felt led to quietly hum a worship song to the Lord as I walked.  It wasn't what I felt like doing.  I felt such sorrow and discouragement.  I felt numb.  But I knew that I knew that it was right to give God praise, glory, and honor - even in this place.
We entered the church as the service was being carried on. It was filled with mostly women and children. A few men were present.  A song was sung and a brief message shared.  Then, as had happened the last time, a small child stood up front on the altar with a wicker basket.  Children and women came forward to give money.  Again I couldn't help thinking of how often when we have difficult and tight financial times, we are tempted to not give to the Lord.  And here were children in filthy, frayed clothing who had nothing, yet they were coming forward with an offering for the collection.  Even the old women who could not walk offered money, giving it to a child to take up and place in the basket for them.  This clearly brings to mind the story of the widow who gave all she had in the bible.  Even though it was a small amount, it was "more" in the eyes of the Lord than what the other person gave from his surplus. 
Our time there ended as do all Iris trips to the Bocaria do.  We passed out bread first to the children and then to the men and women present.  We walked back to the truck and were taken home much dirtier than when we left and much impacted by our experience.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The sights - being out and about....

Being out and about in Mozambique is always an adventure. Looking out the window as we drive around is like having a visual feast to take in. Each day I see things and wish so much that I could share them with you. Some things are beautiful and exhilirating to take in, others are sad and troubling. Yet together, they paint a picture of life here. Since you are not here with me to see them yourself, let me share a list with you of what we see on a typical day:

- Chapas everywhere! Chapas are small vans that transport people for a small amount of money. These vans look to be quite old- some lean to the side, some have the doors tied down to stay close, some have broken windows- but all of them look ready for the junkyard. The drivers are absolutely crazy- the quicker they get their passengers to a destination, the more money they make. Crowds of people wait at various locations for a ride. The people pile into them and are literally on top of each other. It reminds me of the circus routine where they see how many clowns can fit in a car.

- Open bed trucks also transport people. Again, it is amazing to see how many people crowd onto the back of these trucks for a ride. It looks downright dangerous to me and I can't understand how they all fit on and stay on with the bumpy roads.

- Women in brightly colored, patterned capulanas

- Women balancing heavy loads of produce, bags of rice, etc on their heads and walking with such grace

- Moms with babies strapped to their backs with capulanas. The babies are either peacefully sleeping or peeking over Mom's shoulder to see. (What delights me is to see how patiently these little ones lie on their moms' backs as they get tied up. I recall the raging battles I had with my own children as I attempted to get them into their carseats!! These occurrences were loud, unruly, and ended up with me holding the screaming child down with one hand while buckling him in with the other.)

- Fresh produce adds color to the scenery- red tomatoes, green lettuce and cucumbers, oranges, yellow bananas. These items are not just haphazardly piled up, but they are artfully displayed in carefully placed pyramids.

- Marketstands selling everything from brooms to building materials to Coke to toilets to wedding gowns! Entire storefuls of items are hung and displayed each day and taken down at the end of the day.

- Children everywhere! In the US, we are very guarded about where our children play, keeping them in the house or in our fenced in back yards under our watchful eye. Here, for better or for worse, they run freely. I see children . . .
      -running and playing openly along the road
      -walking to and from school in their uniforms - even the tiniest of preschoolers whose bookbags are as big as they are dancing and singing
     -brushing their teeth in drainage water by the roadside
     -fashioning a toy out of plastic bags, cans, tires
     -running along rolling a car tire with their friends
     -waving as you pass by
     -cheering when they see you wave back at them
     -hauling wheelbarrows of water containers back home
     -standing along the road holding out a fish, squid, or crab for purchase that they or a family member caught that day

-Fully plumed roosters stutting their stuff

-Hens leading their chicks

-Chickens so scrawny and with so few feathers that you want to buy them to put them out of their misery

-Goats randomly wandering about

-Little donkeys pulling carts

-The Chicken Man - our term for the young man who each day pushes his bicycle along with chickens hanging
upside down lining his handle bars.

-Teenagers assembled in groups outside their school talking and laughing

-Adorable, complacent puppies held up in the palms of their sellers hands looking at you with their little puppy dog eyes

-People walking everywhere

-Ugly chairs for sale- let me explain. At a nearby intersection, a man appeared one day with six very ugly chairs. They were faux leather, with very high backs that curled forward at the top. We laughed as we pictured sitting in one and have a dinner conversation with your head angled down at your plate. This man sat with his chairs day after day after day. I reached the point where I was ready to buy them just so the poor guy wouldn't have to sit there every day anymore, when all of a sudden, one day they were gone- sold! I was so glad for him. Shortly after that, he appeared again with six more chairs even more ugly than the first set because they were made with a rust colored velvet material. I no longer feel badly for him. If he is going to make such ugly chairs, he is just going to have to sit there with them!

-Wedding processions- the lead car with the happy couple is decorated with a bouqet of flowers on the hood and ribbon

-Broken down trucks- for some reason they only break down in the middle of an intersection

-Trucks so dangerously loaded down with stone or cement blocks that the sides bow out

-Here it is common for a man to hold another man's hand or for two women to hold hands as they walk. This is a sign of friendship and is very common. In fact, it is unusual to see a couple of the opposite sex holding hands. Even little boys and girls walk along holding hands or with their arms around each other.

-The Marginale is a street in downtown Maputo that follows the ocean. It is lined with palm trees and beyond is the white sandy beach and the blue waters of the Indian Ocean. It is so beautiful, you would think you were in the Caribbean!

This is just a sampling of what we see. I am sure that as soon as I head out today, I will see something else that I wish I had included but forgot. So, I guess that means you all just need to get over here for a visit and see it all for yourselves!!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Loving the one....

Heidi Baker's call to us all to "love the one in front of us" has been a huge motivator for me in coming to Mozambique.  This is something I can do.  In fact, each one of us can love the one in front of us no matter where we are.  This call to "love the one" is what brought me here.  Upon arriving,  I found the amount of ones in front of me to love overwhelming.  I recall thinking to myself in desperation that there are so very many children, how can I love "the one".  I am learning how to do just that. 

"Loving the one" has different looks to it.  Sometimes it looks like being covered in children.  Each child does not seem to care that I am not doting over just him, and him alone.  Sometimes each child is content to just get any piece of my affection and attention, even if it means sharing your lap with several others. 

Sometimes, I do have the opportunity to love on just "the one".  As I was spending my morning at Iris Matola with the 6 babies there, Junior was being very fussy and clingy all morning.  We played inside, and he hung on me.  We played outside, and he hung on me.  We played on the patio, and he hung on me.  The other babies were playing nicely over the watchful eye of an educator, so I took Junior into the living room area where there are two daybeds.  I layed him down and covered him with a sheet.  I layed next to him stroking his arm, his back, and  his sweet cheeks.  I prayed over him and sang to him.  He soon fell asleep.  It brought to mind the countless times when I would be tucking our William into bed as a little boy.  I would often think about how many children in the world go to bed each night and do not have someone to tuck them in, and it would break my heart.  God has mended this brokeness and allowed me to sing one of His precious children to sleep. 

Friday, September 9, 2011

A New Beginning for Julie

In my third blog, I shared a story about a little 10 year old girl named Julie that my new friend Katie picks up each week on Friday.  The little girl’s mother allows Katie to take to her daughter to the center for the weekend to keep her away and safe from the men who frequent her home for prostitution.  She only keeps Julie around because she needs Julie to care for her and her home.   I went with Katie tonight to pick Julie up for the weekend.  Many of you have responded that you are praying for this little girl.  Tonight I learned that God has heard and answered our prayers for Julie.  Her mom told Katie that she is moving to South Africa and so Julie can move to the center and live full time!!  The big smile on Julie’s face showed her joy despite her attempts to cover her mouth with her hands.  She was so happy.  Praise God for His goodness to this little girl.
Speaking of God’s goodness...  We spent a good bit of time at the center with the children.  Right now they live in a small structure made of grasses. The dirt floors are covered with cardboard.  They do have electricity, but no plumbing.  A beautiful new center that has been under construction for the past year sits on the corner of the lot and will soon be ready for them to move into. It has big, bright rooms for them to live in as well as a bathroom that is so nice - it is referred to as a “hotel bathroom”.  Katie’s vision is to have the mothers who have left prostitution behind (she calls these women Princesses) and graduated from her program come and live at the center with their children until they can afford to live independently. 
Right now, the children live there with educators (hired Mozambican women) who care for them.  Katie’s little one year old boy, Nathan, is a big hit with the children.  All eyes were on him while we were there.  It was clear that they adore him.  We were watching from the side as the children formed a circle around him.  They all began singing and clapping to get him to clap along.  They were singing, “God is so good.  God is so good.  God is so good.  He’s so good to me.”  I could not help but to cry as I observed these little ones singing of God’s goodness to them.  These are children of prostitutes.  Several of them are orphaned because their mothers have died.  Several have mothers who do not bother to come see them at all. They live in the dirt.  They do not have one possession to call their own.  These children are the poorest of the poor, yet they sang of God’s goodness to them.  Humbling.  Very humbling.  This is why we have come here. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A visit to the Bocaria (Maputo's Dump)

Friday, September2, 2011

Today I joined the Iris Ministry Team in Zimpeto for their weekly outreach to the Bocaria. The Bocaria is the garbage dump in Maputo. It is enormous both in the land area that it covers as well as its height. It literally is a mountain of rotting, smoking, and stinking garbage. People live there picking out an existence from what is dumped. Here they find their food, their clothing, and search for things they can sell to make money. I went with 4 young women from England who are visiting Iris and 4 Mozambican men and 1 woman. As we drove in, I prayed and prayed that I would find God in this place and that He would reveal His Spirit to the people we would minister to there. I was not as shocked as I thought I would be in this place for the first time. I guess that is because I have been here for a month and am getting used to seeing poverty. What did touch me was the number of children that are there. As we walked to the church where they hold a service, a small village was on our left and a mountain of garbage was to our right. As far as I could see in front of me, there were small children playing and running. And not just a few, but dozens and dozens. I saw very few adults. Only children, There was one man calling out to us from up on the garbage heap, “Give me your bread. I want your bread.” as we walked by. I have been told that most people who live here want food first, and then they will listen. But they will not listen if you do not offer them food.

We entered the church building. It was a cement block building with a metal roof. A cement altar was in the front and it was filled with benches for sitting. We were greeted at the door by an elderly woman with a warm hug. I later learned this same woman took the role of overseeing all the children during the service. She sternly patrolled the aisles with a stick, making the children sat up alert and attentive and ensuring they stood to sing and pray. Foolishness and play was not tolerated. There was a clear expectation for behavior and she enforced it. After we entered in, we were swarmed by young children. The children quickly got a position in someone’s arms or lap and those who didn’t get there in time were content to sit next to you or hold your hand. These children’s physical appearance clearly evidenced that they were the poorest of the poor. They wore what was available to them. One little boy wore a cotton pair of shorts with pink flowers on it, the waistband so stretched out that he had to hold them up with his hand. Another little boy (who had gained priority seating on my lap) wore a blue skirt. Their shirts were tattered and torn. Many of them had their shirts on inside out or unbuttoned. Some children wore sweaters or winter jackets despite the warm temperature this day (about 33 degrees Celcius). If they took them off, someone would steal them away. Yet their darling faces beamed with joy and they were a precious site to behold. We sang and prayed together. More elderly women began to arrive, sitting on a mat on the floor in the front of the church. One woman came using crutches. As she reached the door, she laid her crutches on the floor, crawled into the building on her hands and knees, and then stood and used her crutches to walk to the front of the building. There were young girls no more than 12 or 13 with their babies. There were young children no more than 6 or 7 carrying their younger brothers and sisters in capulanas strapped around their backs. The back row was lined with little ones, barely able to walk. They all came here to worship our Father and it was humbling to worship with them.

Then it was time to go out and minister to the people. One group of people went up onto the mountain of garbage to pray for people. Having worn flip flops this day, I decided I’d be better off going into the surrounding community to pray for people in their homes. I went with 3 men and 2 women who live there and know the people. We walked through a maze of pathways through this village. Life went on here as it does everywhere else with people tweaking out an existence. Moms were bathing their babies in basins, women were washing and hanging their clothes out to dry, men were working at simple trades in their yards, children played and went to and from school. It was hard to believe they lived bordering a dump.

The first house we went to had a woman who was probably younger than me, yet looked to be decades older. She had fallen and hurt her hip. It also seemed she did not have use of her left arm as she would lift it and move it with her right arm. The team began singing in Portuguese and then broke into prayer. The prayer grew in intensity becoming very loud and forceful. As they prayed this way, we all stood around the room as this woman continued to sit on a mattress leaning against a wall, at times crying uncontrollably. I kept thinking to myself that if Jesus were here, He would crawl right onto that mattress with her, wrap His arms around her, and hold her. I so wanted to do just that, but held back not knowing if that was appropriate and did not want to offend anyone. They finished and began to file out of the home, yet I just had to love on this woman before I could move on. One of the young men stayed behind with me. I knelt at her feet, placed my hands on her outstretched legs and prayed for her. I continued to pray feeling led to cup her sweet, anguished face in my hand, to stroke her arm, and to hold her hand. I just so wanted her to know and feel Father God’s love for her. Through the young man who stayed with me, I shared with her that I felt that I could just see light in her and that God wanted her to know of His heart for her and how much He wanted her heart in return. That He would bring her the healing she needs if she would only give Him her heart. Then I felt released to leave her. I am so glad I stayed to finish this work.
We continued on to another home. A man was sitting on a chair facing the entrance as we entered the yard. He stood as we came in. It was clear he was waiting; he knew he had an appointment- expectantly looking for something or someone to come. He was not well- very thin. We went into his home with him and his sister. Again the team sang. This time, I could sing along as it was very simple. “Abrigado Deus, Alleluia” (Thank you God). You would have had to have been there to experience this singing. The words so simple, yet the way it was sung was exquisite and powerful. One of the young men shared a verse from the bible and a message with the man that God laid on his heart, we prayed over the man and his sister, and it was then time to get back to the church.

When we got back to the church, there were twice as many people, mostly children, as before. The visitors were asked to share their name, place of origin, and a message with the people that was translated. This was followed by at least an hour of singing, a story for the children, and more singing. All along, the elderly grandma patrolled the children keeping them in line. When we were done, the people were dismissed with bread to take home. Outside were many children looking for bread as well. Yet they clearly knew that they must attend the church service to receive the bread. We then walked out to the road to catch our ride back home again.

Don was waiting for me when I returned to the Iris base. I was sweaty, dirty, and my eyes were stinging from the smoke. He asked me how it was. All I can say is that it was a privilege to have had this experience. It was a privilege to see into the lives of people we only ever hear about from others and we wonder to ourselves, “Is it really that bad?” It was a privilege to hold and love and pray for a small child who is being raised in a dump. It was a privilege to pray for adults and to share God’s love for them; that He sees them, He loves them, and He wants to deliver them. It was an extreme privilege for me that I hope to experience again.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Our Life Here

As you know, we are here because God called Don to come and building food processing factories to transform this county. The people here are sweet and fun. As we drive along the road, we see that they are very social and love laughing, talking, and enjoying each other. They are so very pleasant. Their joy is not dependent on what they have or their circumstances. They love life and live it to the fullest with the little they have. Yet we also see that they are forced to work very hard to make a living. They look tired from years of laboring for very little gain. As I see the beautiful children, they are so happy and carefree. And then I think, “What do they have to look forward to?” We hope to be able to enable them to achieve more and experience God’s best for them. Don is in the final stages of completing the legal documents to establish his company so that the final sale of the property can go through. He has been working on finalizing the establishment of his company here in Mozambique so that he can finalize the purchase of the factory so that he can finalize getting his work papers. He hopes to be up and running in January.

William is a very happy boy here in Mozambique. He spent most of his summer vacation quiet and a bit withdrawn. He clearly was worrying over this move and how it would go for him. Yet as soon as we arrived, he transformed into a very happy, jovial young man. It appears he is relieved and glad to be here. He enjoys our caretaker, Alberto. It was so cool to look out front one day shortly after our arrival and see him talking with Alberto, playing soccer, and playing with the dogs. It is just neat to see him developing a relationship with someone so different from himself. He is now in his third week of 8th grade at the Christian Academy of Mozambique. The school is located in Machava. When asked how he liked it when we picked him up on the first day he responded, “That school is small!” And it is.

William’s class of 8th graders consists of 6 students (including Will). They do combine with the 7th grade class for some subjects. I told him to consider himself lucky. Just think how many questions he will get to answer in a day! No more sitting back and letting others answer for you. He was not impressed. He is making great friends (Luke, Muhammad, Junior ) and enjoys going each day. The students are from many different countries. We have been fortunate to join with 2 other families from Matola to carpool together. The drive to the school is about 25 minutes for us. His friend, Luke, is from one of these families. He is a very impressive and nice young man that we highly approve of. He and Will get along great and are already planning to get together outside of school. Will loves his new phys ed teacher and the headmaster of the school has taken a great liking to him. Because she is American as well, she loves to tease him since, as she says, he is one of a few who gets her humor. His favorite part of the school day, playing soccer after they finish lunch. William is also making friends at our church, New Life, particularly with the DeTombe family’s kids. They have 14 year old Dawson, 13 year old Leah, and 12 year old Jack. These kids and others get together on Saturday afternoons at a soccer field near the pizza shop, Mimmo’s, and play soccer. He is looking forward to going this week. He is enjoying his new bedroom and is decorating it with a Liverpool theme. He also loves the dogs. They have been good for him since he had to leave Bailey behind. Of all of our kids, he took leaving Bailey the hardest. He would prefer for them to sleep with him at night, but he has learned that their role is to guard our home and therefore they must be outside patroling the yard at night. When we let them in the morning, they head straight to Will’s room, jump on his bed, lick him all over, and then curl up next to him and they all go back to sleep together.

As for me, I have been taking time to first just be with the Lord. My favorite spot to meet him was quickly discovered - our front porch. I love it out there. The roof allows you to sit in the shade but you can stick your legs and feet out in the sun to warm them after a cold night. The front yard is beautifully landscaped and a delight to take in. There is usually a breeze blowing as well making the nicest sounds as it goes through the palm trees. As the day progresses and the sun rises, the entire porch is shaded and the breeze continues to blow, keeping you cool, Therefore, being here is an all day treat. I go out with my cup of Robois tea and a few lemon cream cookies. Don joins me on the weekends. I bring along my bible, journal, my all-time favorite devotional book, Come Away, My Beloved and a new one called Jesus Calling. (Cassie and I each have a copy of this. We do one each day knowing that we are doing the same one. She and I have found ways to feel connected despite the distance that separates us. Like the matching bracelets we got to wear 24/7 to remind us of each other.) I begin my day out on the porch and return to it often between other tasks as well. I plan on going to the Iris Matola-Rio orphanage each week on Monday and Thursday mornings to play with the babies. Don had been driving me there, but the road to the center is deeply rutted and difficult to travel on for our little Honda Accord. After several trips, Don told me that it was not good for the car and he could not drive me there again until we got a 4x4 car. It is not safe for me to walk there alone, so I am waiting for him to get that car. I miss seeing them. There are 6 babies. Armandinho is 1 and ½ years old. He is quiet and sweet, HIV positive. He is the quiet one of the group. Dircio is about 7 and has cerebral palsy (they think). He is in a stroller all the time. The educators (the name for the workers) are busy and can not give him the attention he needs. He loves, however, to be held. He especially likes being taken outside and seated in a small plastic chair in the sun watching the children play around him. He smiles and waves his arms in circles. Junior and Zefania are twins who recently arrived at the center, weak and malnourished. Their grandmother brought them in from the bush. She just could not continue to care for them and provide for them. They are getting strong, gaining weight, and thriving. Zefania is the mischievous one. Junior, HIV positive, is the cuddly one. He loves to climb on you and be held. The twins are 4 years old but are the size and development of a 2 year old. Carlito and Andri (the only girl) are the children of a young unwed woman who lives at the center. Carlito is very bright and social. He plays well with the other children and seems to be the peacekeeper in the group. His sister Andri is still just a baby. She is so tiny and delicate. I really enjoy going and playing with them, loving on them, and praying over them. While the center does provide the children with a safe home, a bed, food, clothing, and medical care, it is sad to see how poor, dirty, broken, and old these provisions are. You and I would never allow such things in our home. We would throw them away. It is also difficult to see these children with no mom or dad to love them best of all. This is why Don and I are here. They deserve God’s best not just in material things, but in life and in their future.

I am developing new friendships with wonderful people here, which I will describe more in the next section. They are helping me adjust, showing me around, fetching me when Don can’t drive me to an event, and just plain helping me learn to live life here. I immediately connected in with a ladies’ group that meets at Katy’s home every Wednesday. Most of the women are from South Africa, one from Zambia. All are ex-pat wives like me. Some of them go to the new church we attend as well.


Where to begin?

Cila is a young woman Don has hired to oversee the workers at the plant. She worked at the Rogue plant that was there before. Rogue made high end leather safari hats. She is pregnant and due on Sept. 23rd. She has been instrumental in getting us settled here. We swear she personally knows everyone in Mozambique. She has amazing connections and got us internet and DS TV in one day- something that normally takes months. She connects us with everything we need- even fresh pizza dough for our brick pizza oven. She is honest and truthful. She is kind and giving. She is the kind of person who would give you the shirt off her back if you needed it. She barters and battles getting us a good price on what we need. She is our personal translator as well.

Alberto is the caretaker of our home. He is 26 and has worked on this property for 11 years now.
The previous owner took him in when he was just a boy of 8 and has pretty much raised him. Alberto speaks very good English. He did have to get used to our accent (apparently we have a slow drawl). He comes to our home Mon-Fri from 7am to 4 pm. He takes care of and cleans the entire house and maintains the yard as well. He washes the dogs and the cars. He does anything we need to be done.

This is an incredible treat for me. I didn’t understand how invaluable he would be until I realized the constant daily battle here in keeping up with the dirt and dust! It truly is a full time job. Cleaning once a week just isn’t enough. For me, just doing the laundry is an all day affair. We do have a washing machine. The water trickles in and so I must fill and pour bucket after bucket of water into it to fill it up. I have learned to use this time to exercise, so I do leg lifts and squats to pass the time as I wait for the buckets to fill. NO BODY invests in a dryer. (I have discovered they do sell them and have put that at the top of my Christmas list). So everything is hung on the clothes line to dry. I have mastered this job in keeping everything out of the dirt below and hanging it in time to dry before the sun sets. It did take us some getting used to having him around all the time and the loss of privacy. It is also very weird to be called, “Boss” and “Madam” But we are getting used to it and see that he is growing to be a part of our family. He is faithful, honest, and trustworthy. Alberto is a Christian. He spends his break time reading his bible (in English). He accepted our invitation to join us in the Alpha course (a course explaining the basics of Christian beliefs) at our church, so we are excited about that. He knows the bible well and comes to us with questions to discuss. He is very bright and is studying to take exams in physics and chemistry in December. He wants to get an electrician’s degree. Don really wants to take him and use him at the factory. While I don’t know how I could live without him, I wouldn’t want to stand in the way of God’s best for him. He has so much more potential and should be more than just a caretaker.

Katie is the friend who hosts the Wed ladies bible study and the mother of the 3 children Will is becoming great friends with at church. She married Chris, a widower, 3 years ago and became an instant mother of 4 children (they also have a 17 year old daughter) and they just had baby Nathan about a year ago. Katy came to Mozambique from Michigan as an Iris missionary and worked with Heidi Baker. She left Iris to begin a ministry to street prostitutes. She, and others like her, fascinate me with their selfless devotion to God and their bravery and courage. She has a center downtown in Maputo where prostitutes who want to change can come for education and food. She also has a center out past our house that is a safe house for these women’s children. She invited me to go with her last Sunday to pick up a little 10 year old girl and take her back home to her mom in Machava. While Katie would like her to live at the center full time, her mom (a prostitute) will not allow it. Mom needs her to work around the house and to care for her when she is servicing men or passed out drunk. Thankfully she does allow Katie to take her on weekends as that is the worst time for her. You see, when men come to her mom for services, if she is passed out or unavailable, they use this little girl. The weekends are when most of the men come calling. So here I sat in the truck right next to this little girl. I didn’t know what to say or what to do. I was wrecked. How can one relate to the life she must live. We took her to her home. It was a cement block structure (which means mom must do pretty well). The door was a hole in the wall, there were no windows, no electricity, no plumbing. There were 2 rooms off the main one for bedrooms, and the only furniture was a small table and 2 stools. We prayed with this little girl, hugged her, and she went in. She didn’t complain, cry, or balk in any way. This is her life and she says that at least the men bring her food.

Katy M. is another friend who also came as an Iris missionary with Heidi Baker. She is from England. She left Iris when God called her to go out on her own and adopt 4 children (3 girls and 1 boy). She has since married Emile (a South African) and had a little girl who is soon to be 3. She recently opened an orphanage called The Promise Center in Matola. She has 30 children there. It is a lovely center and her creative touches are seen in everything from its design, to the paint colors on the walls, to the colored mosquitos nets over the children’s beds. As I was going to the center with her, I got to experience first hand how she receives new children. She got a phone call from someone who had a little 3 year old girl left at their doorstep. The little girl was abused by her step-father and the mom could not care for her anymore. Earlier this year Katy suffered a brutal attack by a man robbing their home. According to the doctors, she is a living miracle and they can not understand how she survived. She is still recovering physically and emotionally, as is her husband. I was privileged to join her on her first trip to the city since the incident. We went shopping and to lunch. It was a lovely day and we really enjoyed each other’s company. We had lunch together at Zambi’s. It is located right along the water in Maputo. We sat outside overlooking the blue water, sandy beaches, street lined with palm trees, a beautiful blue sky, and a lovely breeze. I found it very hard to believe I was in Africa!

Corrie is the director of the Iris Matola-Rio orphanage near us. I am learning that these people are not just dying to self, they are stone cold dead to self in their sacrificial lives of service to Jesus. Corrie has very little and her accommodations are quite crude. Yet she loves her children (about 30 of them) and they are her life. That is not to say that she doesn’t need a break from them and this life. She comes with one of the 19 year old girls raised at Iris named Amina to teach us Portuguese. Afterwards, we either enjoy a meal together or treat them to chicken at Tubiakanga, a restaurant right down the road from our house. They only make chicken, but it is amazing!

We quickly learned that part of the reason why we received this home was to use it to bless the missionaries in giving them a place to take a break. One of our first guests were Sherri (the head nurse at Iris Zimpeto) and Matt (the tech guy). They began breathing a sigh of relief and refreshment as soon as they shut the doors of their car. They told us countless times that night how their time in our home felt like a vacation for them away from the noise, children, and problems of the center. They stayed quite late, wanted to enjoy every moment that they could squeeze out. We had lots of fun learning how to cook pizzas in our brick over pizza without ruining them. Rolling and tossing the dough as well as adding the toppings became a competition among everyone to see who would make the best pizza.


Contrary to popular belief, zebras, elephants, lions, and monkeys are not seen just sauntering around in Africa. And I have not seen a single snake yet- Praise the Lord! To see such things, one must go to a safari park. We are fortunate to have what is claimed to be the best safari park in Africa, Kruger Park, just across the border in South Africa only an hour and a half away. We took Willliam shortly after we arrived. He had great favor in seeing most of the major animals within the first hour of driving through the park. It usually takes a full day of driving to see them all.

Here at home we have the enjoyment of monkeys and a baboon named Bobby living at the guest house next door to us. William had requested a pet monkey before we moved here. As I mentioned earlier, he has learned first hand why this is not possible. When Matt and Sherri were visiting, we took them over to see the monkeys. William dared Sherri to touch the tail of one that was sitting just a few feet from her. They all looked so cute, so she did. This monkey did not like this at all. It bared its teeth and took off after her. She ran and then stopped. The monkey stopped, stared her down, and began to chase her again. She was smart enough to run to our gate and open it. Our faithful and fearless dogs came charging out and chased the monkey away.

These monkeys had been coming into our yard and would sit on our roof and in our trees eating the leaves. This drove our dogs crazy. One day while we took Will to school, one of the monkeys did not make it over the fence in time. Jack got ahold of it and a fight to the monkey’s death began. Another monkey came to help, but Rusty held him off until he retreated back across the fence. Jack dragged the bloody monkey carcass back to our front porch. Fortunately, Alberto was here to see it all, as well as to deliver the monkey back to its owners and to clean the front porch before we got home. The owners were not upset. In fact, they said this monkey was the naughty one, For the next two days, however, the mate and baby of this monkey were coming over and looking for her. Apparently when a monkey dies, they take the body and mourn over it. How very sad.

Little lizards, like geckos, are quite common here, even in your house. But this is a good thing since they eat the mosquitoes. One day a lizard was on Will’s wall. He kept throwing a box of pencils at it to knock it down. He finally succeeded, but Jack caught it mid-air in his mouth. He went running out of the room with its tail hanging out of his tightly locked jaws. After some coaxing, he spit it out on the living room floor, dead. But the tail came off. And it was still moving. I guess this is a self-defense mechanism they have to distract predators. Will refused to discard the lizard and its tail, so I had to do it- with a very, very large wad of Kleenex. I must admit that I was screaming the entire time. I guess there are some things I will have to be very brave about over here.


Of course my children, Cassie and Brent are at the top of this list. We are so blessed to be able to easily call and Skype them. Yet it is hard to be away from them. Brent’s first day of his senior year was especially difficult for me. I was teary often throughout the day wishing I were there.

Close behind our children would be our family and friends, DC, and East Gate. We look forward to seeing you again, but even more so, to have you over here to experience Africa! So much that I see makes me think of you. One day we were held up by a mother hen crossing the road with her little chicks. I knew my fellow 3rd grade colleagues Peggy and Karen would have loved this. I think of my dog when each day I see the mangy mutt who lies in the middle of the road on the way to Will’s school. He doesn’t move and could care less about what is going on around him. Also, he would get such a kick out of seeing how they tow cars by simply tying a rope to the bumper and pull it along. As I see the little children who so need a hug, you all come to mind.

Next, I would give my right arm to have my warm cozy Ugg slippers here! Winter here is colder than you would think. The weather here is fantastic. Imagine the most beautiful ever spring day, and that is what it is like for most of the year. We will have to face the rains in November and December and the heat of January and February, but the rest of it is just gorgeous.

Materialistically, I miss…
- Reeses’ peanut butter cups and chocolate covered pretzels
- BBQ Kettle Cooked potato chips
- parmesan cheese
- fresh pasteurized milk
- Burlap & Bean and Starbucks (but we did find a cafĂ© near Will’s school that sells an Indian chai that is not as sweet but very good. It will do just fine for now.)
- my electric dryer
- water pressure
- going out to buy what I want when I want it

I guess that is not so bad. I was thinking my list would be longer. We can get most of what we need here or in South Africa. We even found Hershey’s chocolate syrup, chocolate chips, and Hellman’s mayo.

Our Arrival

We arrived in Maputo in the evening hours of Friday, July 29th and were met by Matt and Sherri Steer from Iris. They took us to the Zimpeto base where we would stay at the visitor’s center for 2 nights before we moved into our home in Matola-Rio. While we were disappointed we did not have a house to stay in, I was glad to be “forced” into the opportunity to experience living in the visitor’s center. I would never request to stay at these less than plush accommodations. I was able to deal just fine with the basic housing and community bathrooms, but the lack of privacy was what ultimately made me happy to pack and move out to our home on Sunday. We were greeted at our home by Elizabeth (the owner), Alberto (the caretaker), and George (who would be available to assist us when extra help was needed) and his wife. I was touched by these Mozambican people who treated us like royalty by wearing their very best clothing to be there to meet us. Elizabeth showed us around and left us with final written instructions regarding the maintenance of the home and her beloved dogs, two Jack Russell terriers named Jack and Rusty, that she was leaving in our care. I could totally empathize with her as she got in her car and left for South Africa. We had had the same experience of leaving everything behind only days before.

Again, God provided for our needs with this home. Elizabeth sold us the contents (furniture, decorations) of the home, and even left some dishes and pillows to see us through until we could buy our own. She was also thoughtful enough to leave a daily devotional for the year and an American cloth runner in the bathroom complete with stars and stripes. As we arrived, the government was installing an outside light at the back of our property along the road. Therefore, we have lighting at both ends of our property providing safety for us at night. As many of you know, the house is a blessing from God in how beautiful and accommodating it is for us.

We even have monkeys next door at the guesthouse to provide entertainment and, as we have learned, to teach William first hand why monkeys are wild animals and do not make good pets- more on this later). Our backside is a family with 3 children (one close to William’s age) and the front is bordered by a police officer - nice! We have settled into the home very well. We have needed to buy items for the kitchen (plates, pots and pans- we are still looking for silverware that doesn’t break our bank account. It is amazing how expensive things are here.) and other things like towels, sheets, and believe it or not- a down comforter for our bed. Funny that I never owned a down comforter until I moved to Africa! Yet the nights get very cold, especially during the winter months. Buying what you need is time consuming and frustrating. Shopping in Mozambique is dreadfully expensive. Everything must be imported in, therefore the price the store charges has to be high to cover the transport costs and taxes. Then there is the difficulty of finding a store that has what you want. It took many unsuccessful shopping trips for us to finally find a shower curtain and rod. Shopping across the border in South Africa is an nice as shopping in the States. The problem for us however is that we can only bring $50 or less of purchases per person back into Mozambique. If we go over and they catch us at the border, we have to pay a 40% import tax! Ouch! All in all, our house is starting to take on the feel of home for us now. We look forward to our shipment arriving from the US so that we can add our personal items. Until then, we are making due.

The Move

We left our home in the US for Mozambique just over a month ago on July 28th. Having waited this long to begin our blog, I am now faced with the monumental task of retelling all that has transpired during this time, plus keep up with the daily happenings we currently experience. This will certainly take more than one sitting to accomplish, so let me begin at the beginning and work my way up. So…here goes…

The 3 weeks preceding our move were the most emotionally and physically demanding time of our lives. The goodbyes to family and friends were emotionally draining and teary, at times leaving me questioning what we were embarking on. The goodbyes to our “stuff” were easier on us emotionally. We were so prepared to leave all of that behind and it actually was a very freeing experience to sell everything off. We stored away our mementos and precious items into a storage unit. We put items to be shipped to Africa later in another storage space. We sold the majority of our worldly possessions on Craig’s List and at a yard sale. While it was easy to let go of these physical possessions, I discovered that each one had a memory attached to it. These memories filled my mind as I watched each item go down the driveway. The process of deciding what to do with our stuff was the overwhelming part, maybe because we did have so much stuff. Imagine taking every item you own, every cup, plate, and bowl, every piece of clothing, every game, every picture and knick knack, every everything in your home and having to discern whether you want to keep it or get rid of it. Then, if you decide you can’t live without it, you must discern- is it important enough to store away for years or is it important enough to my life in Africa to ship it across the ocean. If they item is not a keeper, you must discern whether to sell it (and here a choice is made between Craig’s List and yard sale) or if it should go to Good Will or should just be plain pitched. Throughout the whole process, our one take away was that we keep a lot of stuff around that we don’t need and don’t use! Finally, we packed what we absolutely could not live without for the next 3 or 4 months into 2 suitcases apiece to take with us on the airplane. Now that was tough! We ended up with one bag for Don’s clothing, one bag for Will’s clothing, one bag for Don’s business needs, one bag for personal care items (most of which were my hair care products J ), and two bags for my clothing- oh yeah!

God was good through all of this in providing buyers for everything we needed to sell, even our home. After almost a year of being on the market and me cleaning it nonstop for showings and worrying too much about it selling (while Don was at peace the whole time believing that God would had the most amazing plan for us), He brought us the most perfect family. My prayer always was not just that our house would sell, but that God would bring a family who would love and enjoy it as much as we had. I loved that house. It was our home. He not only brought us such a family, but they were even better than what I asked for. They purchased items we still had in our home (items on the walls, some furniture, rugs, etc) for an amount above what I would have expected, but even threw in an extra $100 to bless us so that we could bless the children here! They liked our dog, Bailey, and asked if they could keep him as well. So Bailey got a new family, with younger children who were more interested in him than what ours had grown to be, and he never had to move from his home! Since our move, they have been so kind as to dispose of the pile of garbage we left in the garage and to oversee our mail that still shows up at our home.

We have so many people to thank for blessing us before we left. We were treated to the most awesome of meals in their homes. We received cards and notes of encouragement and blessing. We received gifts to take with us. My good friend Kim came and spent hours in my garage with me helping me prepare for our yard sale. My other good friend, Adrienne, spent months working tirelessly to find a buyer for our home. Nancy, a friend from church, arrived during our packing week and brought food to feed an army of helpers. Don’s sister Laurie and brother Billy were two of those workers who came from Lancaster and spent the day helping us pack and move out items. And I can’t forget Karen who took time out of her busy summer to have one last chai with me at Burlap and Bean the day before we left.

So we packed, stored, pitched, and sold right up to the very minute we left for the airport. We were hoping for some down-time with our children before we would leave and be separated for the coming year, but this did not happen with all there was to do. While I was upset that this opportunity was stolen from me, looking back on it, I can see it was for my own good. By keeping busy, my mind was kept from dwelling on the unavoidable and difficult separation from my two oldest children that was looming before me. We did make sure to pray first before Cassie and Brent left. We joined hands together in the kitchen and I am so thankful for Brent’s prayer as he led us off. If I had gone first, I would have dwelled on our separation and it would have been very sad and would have left me sobbing. Yet Brent had the wisdom from above to focus on praising and thanking God for the good work He is doing in our family. He set us all straight in where our eyes should be set. So we all said a prayer and we went out to the driveway to see Cassie and Brent off in their loaded up cars. Both were so excited and joyful for what was ahead of them. Cassie was excited to be heading back to Gordon for her senior year. She would be living in an apartment on campus, working in the student government as vice-president of academic affairs, and her sweet boyfriend, Dillon, and all of her friends would be there as well. Brent was just beaming from ear to ear as he anticipated the independence and freedom that was ahead of him with his parents being out of country. He had his senior year to look forward to. Not to mention living with the Ferro family who have gone above and beyond the call of duty in providing a home for him this year. They say he will be the son they never had. He says they will treat him like a prince. His first days with them would be spent at their vacation home at the beach. While I felt like my heart was being torn from my chest, it was hard to not be happy for them, pleased at how well they were prepared for this step, and thankful that they have a such a great life to look forward to.

After they left, we rolled up our sleeves to finish one last ditch effort to clear out of our house. Dawn Sutphin, who we knew by my having had the privilege of teaching her daughter Gracie a few years ago, came to drive us to the Dulles airport in Washington, D.C. She is one of the many people God has brought into our life recently to come alongside of us in what He is asking us to do. Like the Ferros, she has gone above and beyond as a friend, lawyer, and even a chauffeur in driving us and our suitcases. Again and again we have been humbled by these people and their selfless giving. I was thankful for Dawn in that because this was such an emotional time, she was someone I felt very comfortable about being a part of our final steps to leaving. I probably wasn’t good company during the drive down as I couldn’t stay awake. We had stayed up until 1 am the night before and got up at 4 am to finish our packing up. Fortunately Don kept her busy talking. She drove us to our drop off point and we set a porter to the work of getting our luggage into the terminal. As we walked in, she waited watching us until we were out of sight. I couldn’t help but be thankful again for her care for us, and I couldn’t help wondering what she must think of us!

I don’t think there ever has been any passengers as grateful to step onto a plane as Don, William, and I were that day. The emotional and physical separations were now behind us. Almost everything we owned was gone. We were drained. Now all that was required of us for the next 16 hours was to eat, sleep, watch movies, and rest. That was a very welcome thing for us. Now that we had given up everything, we had everything to look forward to.