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....

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!!