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....

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Life as we know it now....a new perspective since moving to Mozambique.

This blog comes with a warning to its readers. Do not read this if you do not want to be stretched, challenged, and maybe even convicted. I write this not to point any fingers anywhere- except at me, myself and I. Yet I have felt compelled to share this for some time. I wrote most of this last month but didn’t post it because, to be totally honest with you, I felt so guilty. I see the poverty all around me. I hold these orphaned children in my lap.
But because I am embarrassed to have blankets on my bedroom windows, I went and bought curtains when I could have helped someone in need. I only need to walk out my front door to meet hundreds of them. Yet a friend’s recent post on Facebook (which I will soon share with you) and spending the past two days crying and praying with the woman who works in our home about her desperate situation have prompted me to not sit on this any longer.

This is what my friend recently posted (to the tune of 10 likes and 3 comments):

It’s almost Christmas time. I remember reading an article several Christmases ago by an economist who theorized that if each and every one of us took all the money and energy we spend each year on Christmas stuff and focused all of it instead on appropriating food around the world, we could end world hunger almost overnight. Easily.

Think about that. The world having the power and the ability to celebrate Jesus’ birth, if even for just one year, by ending hunger on this planet. Right now. That’s pretty powerful. But would we?

For some, this might start to sound like a real sacrifice. Give up Christmas?! Surely not. But Jesus’ parable gets serious and challenges many of our easy assumptions of what sacrifice looks like when we live in abundance compared to those who have nothing.

I wonder if the parable in Mark’s Gospel might challenge each of us to imagine how Jesus would want his birth celebrated this year. Just something to think about.  Marc van Bulck

I read such things like this and think the same things you are thinking right now to yourself. And then…I go on with life. The problem for me now is that I just can’t go on with life, or with Christmas. I can’t go out and buy decorations, cards, presents, gift wrap, supplies for baking cookies, an extravagant Christmas meal, etc. anymore. These starving, struggling people are now part of my daily life. I laugh with them and cry with them. I cannot ignore them and their needs anymore. Let me just share a few of their stories with you.

Let me start with our caretaker, Juliao. Juliao is a lovely man. He is gentle, intelligent, dependable, and trustworthy. He comes and cares for our yard every day, rain or shine. He is the father of 9 children. In order to provide for their family, his wife lives and works in Inhambane, about 4 hours away. She lives with two of their children there. She farms and sends food back here for their family. Juliao sees his wife only once each year. He takes leave for the month of December to spend time with her. This is an all too common situation for many families here.

Berta is the woman who works in our home. She has such a heart for others. Her husband was hit by a car and died 9 years ago, leaving her with 7 children, the youngest only 2 months old at the time. Berta has the biggest heart of anyone I know. She takes in all kinds of needy people and provides for them with the little she has herself. For example, she took in and cared for an elderly widow who was ill and had no one to care for her. Berta also took note of the children in her community. They had nothing to do and spent time rummaging through the garbage behind her home, looking for things to sell or eat. She devoted a fourth of her small home and began a project. The children come each day and learn Bible stories, songs, and verses. They learn dances and songs. They learn how to make simple crafts like baskets and jewelry to sell. Berta lives in two small rooms that make up about one-fourth of her home. She has only three children at home with her now. She rents out the largest section of her home, the equivalent of half the building, to a family. She does this so she can give the money to her oldest son for the rent on his home and food for his family.

Berta came to me this week very troubled and asking for prayer. The husband of the family she rents half of her house to, abandoned his wife and three children at the beginning of the month and went to Tete in northern Mozambique. He left her with no money, no food… nothing. Berta has been caring for them, but she has nothing herself. Her pastor and godfather have spoken with her about her situation. They told her that God knew what He was doing when he brought her a woman like herself- a woman with no husband and children to care for. They tell Berta that she should care for this family. The problem with all of this is that Berta has nothing herself. She is really struggling and does not know what to do. She does not have enough money to provide for her own family. Just last month she came to us a week before her pay day and asked for money. They had no money and no food in the house. Can you and I even relate to this- having not a single thing in our cupboards to feed our children? And now, her church is asking her to care for another family as well.

Today I was at the Iris Matola-Rio children’s center. I had taken Lieza and Herminia for shoes. Lieza had been sad all week because she did not have any. So I told her we would take a Girl’s Day Out and get her new ones. I brought Herminia along for company. As Lieza began trying on and selecting a pair of shoes, Herminia stood by us in an old, beaten up pair of shoes that had seen much better days.  I realized that I would need to buy a pair for Herminia as well. Lieza chose a pair of sweet little Mary Janes made from flowered canvas material. Herminia had her eye on a pair of very dressy white shoes with little kitten heels. I talked her into a more everyday kind of shoe. She chose a cute pair of blue plaid high top canvas sneakers. At the register, they were eyeing up the candy bars, so we took home a chocolate bar as well. At home, I treated them to Cokes to enjoy with their chocolate bar. And yes, this was all before lunch. But, hey…they are orphans, okay? Just to add- I did have them eat a banana first so that they did get some valuable nutrition in them. When I brought the girls back to the center, I realized how quickly news travels there. I was met by about a dozen children showing me their battered shoes, telling me that they also needed new shoes. They wanted to know when I would take them to the store. They stood before me in their dirty, tattered and torn, over- and under-sized used clothing. It made me just want to weep. They need much more than shoes.

 As I was about to leave the center, Joaninha came running telling me that the tias (the term for the women who care for the children) wanted to see me. They were gathered on the covered veranda to escape the hot midday sun. They cleared a space and asked me to sit with them. They shared with me that they needed my help. A young woman that I did not recognize was with them. She quietly sat amongst the other women with tears rolling down her beautiful cheeks. I learned that she is building a cement block home in the area. While it is being constructed, she was living in another home that belongs to someone else. For whatever reason, the owner of the home suddenly decided today to put her out. She came home from work to find all of her belongings in the yard and the door locked. She now has nowhere to go. Her immediate need is to find a place to live until she can finish her home. After her home is finished, she can bring her four year old daughter to live with her. Her second need is to get the funds to finish her home. She needs 300 cement blocks, seven chapas (metal sheets) for her roof, and the wood to provide the support for the chapas. All of these items would most likely cost the amount we drop at the grocery store or mall on any given day.  At the very same time, Pastor Helena and I both said we must pray. (Pastor Helena herself is right now in a fight for the home she and her children live in. Her husband has abandoned them as well and wants to sell the home. She is fearful because he is using witchcraft against her to get her out. My struggle in this is…the cost of building her a new home is even less than the amount of the cost of a plane ticket to bring our daughter, Cassie, over to spend time with us at Christmas. My dilemma- a home for Mama Helena or a week with my daughter.) Praying with Mozambican women is such a privilege. They begin by singing- Pastor Helena leading and the group echoing. Then they all simultaneously break into fervent, heartfelt prayer. When we finished, I shared words of encouragement with Delcia and told her that I would not forget her. I don’t know where she is tonight, but I know that she is the daughter of the Most High King and I know that He sees her tears and I have faith that He will provide for her in her time of need.

The part that can overwhelm and discourage me is that these stories are repeated in most of the lives here. I can’t help everyone. These people look to us for help, thinking that because we are white we have loads of money to give.
The poverty is so real and so widespread. It can really overwhelm me. This, however, is why we are here. Not to give handouts, but to give a hand-up. Through the Sunshine Approach, we will transform lives one community at a time with jobs, education, health care, and basic needs like water. Please join us in praying that God continues to provide favor with the needed business and government connections and the funds to bring His vision for the people of Africa to completion. And please keep the poor in your prayers as well.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

What I love most....The Children!

If I were asked what I love most about Mozambique, I would not hesitate to immediately respond, “The children!”  I have always loved children.  I was, after all, an elementary teacher for 17 years.  And while I love children everywhere (my own included), the children of Mozambique have a tender, joyful endearing quality about them that just delights me. They captivate me as I see them out and about.  At first glance, they appear to be little dirty ruffians in even dirtier clothing.  But to me, they are just adorable and I want to wrap them up and love on them!  The dirt and tattered clothing just makes them all the more appealing to me.  I think it is because of the joy they have despite their material circumstances.  They have so little materially, yet they are so content and happy.

Of course I am totally smitten with the children at the Iris Matola-Rio Children’s Center.  Who wouldn’t be?  As my car rounds the bend in the dirt road that leads to the center, they begin chanting my name repeatedly, “Mama Terri!  Mama Terri!” as they come running from every nook and cranny around to gather around my car.  As I get out, I am swarmed with hugs and smiles.  They are filthy, their noses are runny, their feet are bare, and their clothes need a good washing, but I could care less.  God has truly given me His heart for these children.  I just scoop them up and love on each one until  each child has received an individual greeting, hug, and kiss.

 I don’t even have to know the children to be delighted by them.  It is often these little ones that bring the biggest smiles to my face.  As I drive down the road, they are out everywhere- playing, singing, talking with friends, walking to and from school in their blue uniforms with their little backpacks on their backs.  Some are working hard wheeling wheelbarrows full of bags of rice or cement or large plastic containers of water for their families’ use. Others are out using a primitive hoe to tend their families’ plantings. Little boys that can’t be a day over 8 years old are herding enormous cattle with really big horns guiding them along the road to graze. Older siblings are given charge over their younger ones.  I love seeing the older children walking holding onto their younger brother or sister’s hand, watching protectively over them.  Little girls, as young as 7 or 8, can be found walking along with their little siblings tied onto their backs being carried along.   In the US, we are so guarded with our children.  We keep them close by and their only freedom to play is often in our fenced in back yards.  But here, they roam about freely. 

The children out here always look at passing cars inquisitively to see who is in them.  Not many cars travel the back roads. They step to the side of the road as I approach and stare intensely as I go by. When I look back at them in my rearview mirror, I often see that they have stopped and turned to watch me as I continue on.  As they look at me, I can’t help but wonder what they must be thinking- their faces are so still.  Yet when I lift my hand to wave and smile, they break into a full ear to ear smile as they wave back at me.  It just tickles me and makes me giggle every single time.  What I wouldn’t do to have a big bag of DumDum lollipops from America to pass out as I go by. 

I must add that the adults I pass are just as inquisitive and kind.  They also step to the side as I pass.  I wave to thank them for their courtesy and to simply acknowledge them and bless them. They smile and raise both hands to say, “You are welcome”.

As I said, most of these experiences happen on the back dirt roads that lead to our home and on the road I travel frequently to the Iris Matola-Rio Children’s Center.  We are soon moving into the town of Matola.  I am already sad that I won’t be driving on these roads anymore.  Yes, there will still be children everywhere doing the same things in town as they do out here closer to the bush, but there are so many more cars passing by and so they pay little attention to them. Fortunately I will still be coming out this way to spend time at the children’s center and with friends, so I will still get to see them.  Life in Mozambique for me would be less meaningful without these experiences.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Mango Fruit Flies...they really like to get under your skin...literally. Unfortunately William found out first!

Life in Africa continues to expose us to situations we never imagined experiencing.  This is one we could have been happy without - especially for William. 

When we first arrived, we received counsel from some people (mostly ex-pats who were not born and raised here) regarding mango fly eggs. 

We were told that these flies will lay their eggs on your clothing as it hangs to dry on the line outside.  When you wear the clothes, your body heat enables the eggs to hatch and the worm will embed itself into your skin.  We were told there were two ways to combat this. Option  #1- Dry your clothes in an electric dryer.  The heat will kill the eggs.  The problem with this is that not only are dryers difficult to find to purchase, but they are outrageously expensive.  At this point, we were just not able to afford one.  Option #2- Iron everything you wash.  Ironing is my very least favorite thing in the whole world.  The thought of ironing everything I wash- sheets, towels. shirts, pants, socks, underwear- overwhelms me.  Most people hire an Impregada to do this job.  We again are not able to afford this either. 
So we listened to the other group of people (mainly Mozambicans who have lived here all of their life) who said this was silly. They don’t iron their clothes, and they have never had a worm.  They said you just need to not leave your clothes on the line too long, make sure they are in the hot sun, and try not wearing them immediately after taking them in. I was not convinced, but Don reassured me that the first group of people were paranoid and they we had nothing to fear.  (Just to be sure though, I always brought our underwear inside to dry!!)

Well, we should have listened to the first group of people.  Last week, Will had what we thought was an infected bug bite on his left upper arm.  The owner of our home we rent was here with a man who was giving us a quote on putting up an electric fence around our property.  I showed them Will’s arm.  Both immediately agreed that it was not an infected bug bite, but a worm imbedded in his arm.  I exclaimed, “What?”  They said it was a worm.  I again exclaimed, “What?”  And they repeated their answer.  The man, Pete, said all I needed to do was squeeze it out.  Simple, right?  Well, clearly he saw the shock and disgust on my face and offered to show me how to do it. 

After washing his hands, he began squeezing with his thumb nails on either side of the site.  He did this at least a dozen times as Elizabeth (who has become like a family member to us) held Will tightly as he grimaced in pain.  I must admit, I stood on the other side of the kitchen watching from afar.  Pete was so brave to do this as pus not only seeped out but flew at him.  (Sorry to share this with those of you who are easily sickened by it, but hey- this is Africa!)  After multiple attempts, he squeezed out a small white worm.  Ew, yuck, disgusting!  And then squeezed more to make sure it was all out.  By this time, our brave Will was shaking and cringing, but he held fast and stuck it out.  The area where the worm was had a glaringly red circle about the side of a half-dollar coin and the center was a bloody crater.  Yet we all breathed a sigh of relief that the worm was out and the ordeal was over.  Will’s arm was so sore the rest of the day.  Poor guy could barely even stand to play video games!

P.S.  There is now a brand-spanking new electric dryer in my house. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Church Dedication Service - 7 Hours Long!

Life here is such a mix of emotions.  Just yesterday I was missing home, family, friends, DC… I was pining for a normal life again and wanting to go home.  And then, God gave me today. He gave me an experience that very few people are able to have, and I found myself thankful for being right where I am.  I was able to participate, or maybe I should say observe, a true Mozambican church service.  During the service, I found myself often snapping to my senses in amazement of what I was privileged to be a part of.  The culture here is so different and it felt so surreal to take this event in.
The kanisoo church built by the DC students on their J-term mission trip had its inaugural service yesterday and we were invited to attend this special event.  We were told that church begins at 9:00 African time.  So we showed up at 9:30. 

We arrived at the site and parked in our usual spot that we used while the team was here.  It was very strange to not have all of the kids with me as I got out of the car.  I was greeted by the same adults and children who were with us as we worked last month, and it was very sad for me to be there without the DC students.  As I walked along the house and down to the church, I recalled the many trips between the car and church carrying water for thirsty laborers, tools to build, cement blocks to be laid, and going to open and close up the van every time someone needed to get something out.  At the end of the path was the small tree that we would gather under to find a bit of relief from the hot sun in the shade.  It seemed bigger before.  I found it hard to now believe that this little tree gave us such comfort.  I then rounded the corner and entered the church building.
We went inside the church to see that we were preceded by two men.  Shortly after us, a woman and her child arrived.  One by one they began to filter in.  After about an hour I turned to Don and commented, “We need to build a bigger church!”  All of the chairs, benches, and grass mats were filled with people.  And there were more still yet to come.  The local Iris churches from Matola-Rio and Chinoquela were attending as well to show their support for this new church.

As the church began to fill, a woman began to sing out and was joined in by the people.  They sung in Shongon, the local tribal language.  No one had a hymnal, no words were posted on an overhead screen, but they sang song after song knowing all of the words by heart.  Their voices were accompanied by a woman playing the drum with her hands.  I just love hearing their voices joining together.  It is hard to describe.  The best way to put it is that is sounds just so African!!  The Matola-Rio group showed up with their own drum and joined in with a little boy playing.  He was amazing and I could not believe how long he played without tiring.  These people sing with their whole heart and soul.  I clapped along as well.  After a while, my hands began to get sore, but I kept going.  Also my mouth began to hurt from smiling so much!  It was so fun to participate and to watch the people.  The men are especially energetic dancers and love to show off.  Everyone, and I mean everyone, participates.  Every mouth is moving, every hand is clapping, and every foot is dancing.  The worship is alive and vibrant.  This continued for about three hours.  Yep, you read that right, three hours!  These people were so hungry for God and so in love with them.  They loved worshipping and loving Him!

The churches were then each invited to come up and perform for the people.  Each group sang and danced.  They danced so hard that the room filled with the dust from their stomping feet.  No one seemed to notice the dirt or the heat.  They were just loving this time of worship.

We then settled into our chairs to hear of the history of the property.  The people had been meeting and praying under a tree on this property for years.  A few years ago they bought the land with the hope of building a church.  That hope is now a reality.  As I heard them recount these past few years, I was humbled by God’s goodness.  You see, at times when things have been hard, I have questioned whether I should have come with Don this past year.  I have wondered whether I should have stayed back for Brent’s senior year and Will’s 8th grade year. Yet God clearly showed me today that I have been in His will.  If I had not come, these people would not have been worshipping in this church!  I am not implicating that I deserve full credit, or much of any credit at all, so hear me out on this one!  J 

Last March after visiting Mozambique for 2 weeks with Don, I returned to DC with the vision of bringing high school kids over to experience this culture for their J-term experience.  The first time I saw Scott Ryle, the head of maintenance at DC, I thought to myself, “He would be great to come over the lead the kids in a construction project.”  But I was afraid he wouldn’t be interested, so I kept it to myself for the rest of the day.  The next time I saw him, I felt that I was to say it, so I blurted out, “Scott Ryle… I have a J-term mission trip with your name written all over it!”  That afternoon he stopped by my classroom to find out what I had in mind and by the end of the week it was officially proposed and accepted as a J-term trip.  At that time, I envisioned a new playground for the children at the Iris Matola-Rio children’s center.  Yet when I asked the director, Corrie, what she would want the team to build, she said a new church.  This is a true example of how selfless Corrie is.  So that is how it all began.  God reminded me of all of this. and brought me to the realization that if I had not come here, this J-term trip would never have happened, and this church would not be standing in the bush!  During the testimony time at the service today, several people thanked God for this church. 

I join them in praising You and thanking You, Lord, for working in the hearts of so many people - me, Scott Ryle and the other chaperones, the students who came, their families and friends who supported them financially, and so many others.  These people made this place of worship possible.  And they not only built a church, they built relationships.  I looked around at the congregation and saw many people who touched us and were touched by us.  There was “Jim” (name given by Scott Ryle.  He had trouble remembering everyone’s Mozambican name, so he gave them all American names.) , a quiet, gentle Mozambican man who gave his time and expertise to help us build the church.  I recall how patient he was with the students.  He could have laid and mortared those cement blocks in half the time it took the team to do it.  But he patiently taught the students and stood at their side to intercede should they run into trouble. Many of the children with whom the team played soccer with each day were present.  The little girl who during the time of construction was suffering from a severe sinus infection and scabs on her head that was so bad that she was covered in flies was there.  She was well and no longer showed signs of any infection.  Throughout the day I saw here snuggling with her mother, always at her side. Sambo, the owner of the house by the site was there.  He clearly was proud to have this church being dedicated to the Lord.  The women who so kindly cooked our rice and beans each day for us were there.  Mama Helena who had come to pray with us over the site as the foundation was being laid was there.  It was a blessing to see them again and to see their joy in worshipping in this place.

The pastor of the church, Pastor Paulo, shared from the book of Ezekiel with the people.  I looked around at their faces during his preaching.  Every face was alert and attentive to the message.  The people again showed their hunger for more of God as they listened to His Word.  Pastor Helena and Pastor Janito, who will be assisting with the church, also shared and led the people in a prayer of blessing the church.  There was lots of sharing (Mozambicans love speeches!) and lots of prayers and even more singing for the next two hours.  The sign that was designed and painted by members of the J-term team was presented.  Sambo even presented the kids with the soccer ball that was left for them by the team. 

If you are keeping track of the time, by the way, you may have noticed that we now have been in church for five hours!  Yet no one was growing weary and everyone was hungry for more.  At this point, my stomach was beginning to growl, and I wondered if anyone else was having this experience.  It must have been so, for things soon wrapped up and we all went out to have lunch that was prepared by the women.

Everyone sat around in small groups.  I joined Corrie and some of her girls under the tree where we had previously eaten each day while building the church.  A woman came around with a pitcher of water and a basin.  She poured the water over our hands and gave us a towel to dry off with. She began with me, which was an honor.  Then mega-sized pots of rice, fish, and fried potatoes were brought out and dished up.  Each person was brought their meal where they were sitting.  I was humbled, almost to the point of embarrassment, when I realized that Don, Will, and I were again served first.   We were the guests of honor at this event when all we ever wanted was to serve.  We all ate as we were served and then sat and fellowshipped for the longest time.  It is always a challenge to talk with people for us.  We are still learning our Portuguese but we always seem to get by. It helped to have Corrie and Amina (our faithful Portuguese teachers) nearby.  The Mozambican people are very social and love to talk.  Eventually our thirst for a glass of fresh, cold, bottled water overtook our desire to stay.  So we said our goodbyes and headed down the road to home again.  We had such a delightful time and were thrilled when before leaving they asked us how long it would be until we came back again!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The final days of the J-Term trip - a wonderful way to end the adventure.

A story without an ending is no good at all.  Therefore, even though it has been over 2 weeks since the J-term team left Mozambique, and even though they are now deeply embedded in the second academic semester of their senior year, and even though none of their parents will probably read this ending blog of their time here (why would they- they can hear it from their own child’s mouth after all), I still have unfinished business to attend to in order to close out this first DC sponsored mission trip to Mozambique. 
So this is how the story ended…
Thursday, Jan. 12th was a quiet day for us in Matola-Rio.  The guys went down to the Iris Matola-Rio children’s center to repair the broken pieces of the playground while the girls stayed back with me to watch the “Mama Heidi” DVD.  One cannot watch this movie without being motivated to love the one in front of him, no matter how unlovely that one may be.  We then went down to the center to play with the children one last time.   In the evening, we returned to the center for a prayer service.  Just like they did for the team last week, the children performed their songs, skits, and dances for this new team of US students. 

I could tell that everyone was impressed by their skill and were thinking, “Could this be the same group of runny-nosed ruffians who were running all over and playing in the dirt this morning?”  Towards the end of the service, the team was called up front to sit at the altar while the children from the center prayed over them. 

As they bowed their heads, the children from the youngest to the oldes went up and laid hands on the team members and prayed.  These children do not just lift up a simple, “Bless this person” prayer to Father God and move on.  They pray fervently over each and every person.  I am always taken aback to see their little faces transformed when they pray.  They show that they truly believe God hears and answers their prayers and they take this time very seriously. 

I don’t believe that one member of the team left that altar with a dry eye.  All were touched by the presence of God that was brought on by the prayers of these children.  I then was able to hand out pencil boxes preciously made by the third graders at DCCS. 

At the end of the service, the women who care for the children at the center treated us to home cooked samosas and dumplings and soda. 

On Friday morning, I took the team to visit the Promise Center.  Here they received a tour of the center and then had time to sit and play with the children.  We returned home to await the arrival of the other team who was coming from Zimpeto.  It was fun to reconnect and be together for the rest of the day and evening.  We went out to the church they had built around 4:00 for a dedication service.  It was exciting for the first group (who had built the foundation) to see the finished product. 

The sign designed by Jordan and Amy and painted by Tara and Linda was presented. 

Team pictures were taken in front of the church. 

We then headed in for the service that was led by the man who will pastor this new church, Pai Sitoe and his wife.  Everyone was attentive.

He will also have help from Pastor Paulo and Mama Helena.   Songs, prayers and the Word of God were lifted up and shared in Portuguese and Shongun and thankfully translated into English for us. 

About a dozen Mozambican men, a dozen women, and two dozen children joined us.  The kanisso provided a rather cool place to worship in despite the hot afternoon temperatures outside.  The reeds allow for a most welcome breeze to blow through the room. After the service we headed back to our home for a brai (South African term for barbeque) in which we were joined by some of the Iris missionaries.  After everyone ate their fill, Jimmy and Linda (two of these Iris missionaries) led us all in a period of worship and praise.  It was a wonderful time to end the trip- lifting up and glorifying God for who He is and all He has done.  We concluded the evening with a time of heartfelt sharing about the trip and what impacted us during this time. 

 Most of us went to bed since we had an early wake up call, but a few did head off to the pool at the guesthouse for a late night swim.

The team left on Saturday to return home.  The bus pulled out right on schedule at 6:00 am.  It was not at all easy for me to see them off after the time I had shared with them and spent getting to know each person.  The fact that my own two children, Cassie and Brent were on board just made it all the worse. 

They made a side trip through Kruger Safari Park on their way to Johannesburg Airport.  The guide with them told us they saw a male and female lion by the riverbed, rhinos, hippos, the usual game (zebras, giraffes, warthogs, impalas), and elephants (one which tried to crawl in the back window!).  They made it to the airport in plenty of time to check in and board their plane home.  After the two full weeks they spent here in Mozambique, I am sure they appreciated the 16 hours of flying time to catch up on their sleep and to process all they had seen and done.

Now I am left with two reminders of their time here.  One reminder is the loads of laundry on the floor to be washed- clothes, sheets, and towels plus shoes, sunscreen, etc. left by the team- all will be donated to those less fortunate.  The second reminder is the multitude of children who greet me at the orphanage asking where the “visitas” are and if they will be coming back.  The team was so loved by these children and they will be greatly missed.

Until we meet again next year.....Goodbye from Mozambique.  May all who traveled here be blessed with a new appreciation for this wonderful land and people. 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The church is finished....so we put it to good use with medical care, emotional care, and eternal care.

Blog- January 12, 2012

Yesterday was a busy, busy day at the church building site.  Three projects were going on simultaneously.  Mr. Ryle and the guys completed the roof of the new church. 

As they were doing this, many of the local people were arriving for the medical clinic.  Once the team of doctors and nurses from Holland arrived, Mrs. Castelli and Mrs. Weidemann got down to business.  They were the first point of contact for those who came.  They took and recorded the blood pressure, pulse, and weight of the people.  Then through a translator and their own evaluation, they recorded the patient’s physical problems. 

The patient was then sent on to the doctors to be diagnosed.  They then went to the pharmacy- boxes of medications in the back of a car that were dispensed via a nurse.  The final station was to come for prayer for healing with Tim, from Holland, and myself.  A young Mozambican girl named Lyria was our translator.  It was a privilege to talk with each person about Jesus and to pray for their needs.  It was humbling to see ill mothers who had many needs of their own ask for prayer not for themselves but for their children.  God touched each person as they were prayed for, but one in particular did stand out.  An elderly woman had blurred vision.  We could see that her eyes were cloudy.  We prayed over her for some time.  When we finished, I thought she was crying because she kept her head bowed and was rubbing her eyes like they hurt.  Yet she raised her head with the biggest grin.  Through our translator, Lyria, she shared with us that she could see more clearly. We could physically see that her eyes were clearer.  Praise God!  Another blessing was that again and again people shared how happy they were that they now had a church to attend and said that they would be worshipping there!  As the guys were hammering, the medical team was diagnosing and healing, the girls were managing the crowd of children entertaining them with balloon animals, string bracelets, and face paints. 

The children were all overly exuberant in their joy at receiving such special treatment. 

Later in the day, the medical team took a break to offer an impromptu church service.  I was out running people around and doing errands, but returned in time to catch the end of it.  As Mr. Ryle and I pulled up, the Mozambican men had taken it upon themselves to finish off the last bit of concrete on the back of the church floor and the step up into the church- doing this right while the service was being held!  Mr. Ryle jumped in and joined them.  I went in as the Word of God was being shared with the people.  Men, women, and children sat on plastic chairs, cement blocks, and grass mats listening intently to Tim share. 

At the end, he asked for anyone who wanted to accept Jesus into their lives to come forward.  Two women, two children, and one man came and knelt on the concrete floor before him where they received prayer.  How awesome our God is!  He didn’t wait for the church to be officially dedicated or even completed before He started working in the hearts of the people!  These people were hungry to receive their Savior and they did! 

After the service, there was lots of picture taking, hugs, and fond farewells as we left with the exhausted medical team.  We then enjoyed a chicken dinner at Tubiakanga before coming home to again drop into bed… well some of us…these girls love to giggle and talk!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A house made of sticks but full of love....

Jan. 10 Blog
The new team woke up on Monday morning and took their first drive out to the construction site.  We pulled up to a finished foundation with large wooden poles that will support the walls.  In the past two days, we have been able to complete the walls for the church.  Now when we pull up, we see a building that will glorify God!  How exciting is that!  Learning how kanisso (large reeds similar to bamboo) is cut and assembled into walls was a very educational experience for us all, especially for Mr. Ryle.  He filmed and photographed and made mental notes every step of the process. 

Brent and Jacob, being our only guy-power this week, worked alongside him in the sun tirelessly.  Again, without the help of Mozambicans who volunteered their time, we could never have done this.  The girls worked alongside the guys, hauling the bundles of kanisso to the site, cutting them to the needed length, and handing them to the guys as they put them up.  The girls also enjoyed fellowshipping and playing with the children who gather in greater and greater numbers at our site each day. 

Emily had the children laughing, dancing, singing, and snoring (yes, you read that right…snoring) with the greatest of exuberance. 

Sarah, Natasha, Tara, and Linda oversaw and managed creating bracelets of colorful string for them.This was no easy task.Once the first child received his bracelet, they all crowded around and , being typical children, wanted theirs too.

Sue Weidemann was impressive as she showed off her soccer skills with the boys.  Even the hot sun did not diminish her efforts.  And Mrs. Castelli continued to be the Mrs. Castelli we all know and love as she skittered about making sure that everyone was drinking and hydrated and using their sunscreen.

Yesterday we left the guys at the worksite to go to the Iris Matola-Rio children’s center.  After a tour of the center, the girls got back to making bracelets for the children and playing with them.  Emily took her hair out of her braid and the older girls got busy putting in small braids all over her head!  All of the educators and staff who work at the center arrived for a special training meeting on health and hygiene with Mrs. Castelli and another team consisting of a doctor and nurses who have come from Holland to serve.  The meeting began with a Spirit-led time of praise, worship, and prayer led by Mama Helena, the Mozambican pastor of the church there.  Mrs. Castelli then stayed for a long, long meeting held in a hot, hot cement church building for the afternoon.  She was a real trooper in sticking it out also because the meeting was held in Portuguese. 

The girls and I returned to the work site to have lunch with our guys.  When we got there, the guys had already eaten and were resting on the grass mats that were laid out for them.  A clue as to how tired they were from the morning’s labor was seen in the fact that Brent was using a cement block as a pillow! The Mozambicans treated us girls to a very special lunch.  They served our lunch on a small table draped with a capulana table cloth.  They brought out our lunch in their best dishes and served us.  They made an amazing brown rice, cabbage salad and fried fish.  I was impressed by the students’ willingness to try these foods.  They were very apprehensive at first, but those who stuck out their necks and gave it a try were surprised by how very delicious it was.  In fact, they came back for seconds!  Mr. Ryle provided after-lunch entertainment by having arm wrestling contests with the Mozambican men.  We all cheered him on as he held his own, yet in the end, a strong young man had the final victory.  Mr. Ryle hung on to the very end!

We were hoping to fully complete the roof yesterday as well, yet the time it took to get the wood and other materials to do this took up the rest of our day.  Tomorrow the guys will complete the roof while the girls assist with a medical outreach clinic that will be held on the property to bless the community of people who live here.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

These kids are hanging in there....and enjoying every minute of it.

J-term Trip- Jan. 9

After a full week of back breaking physical labor in 90+ degree temps with little cloud cover, the Iris Matola-Rio team was more than ready for two days of rest and fun when the weekend came.  The team finished their work on the foundation of the church on Friday by completing the cement floor.  Before leaving the house, we received a phone call that the water at the site was not available - Welcome to Africa!!  So we had to scavenge for large containers of water to fill and haul over with us.  Afterall, cement cannot be made without water! When we arrived at the site, we were informed that 14 wheelbarrows full of sand and an equally daunting amount of stone were to be shoveled and wheeled over to the construction site.  We watched in amazement as the Mozambicans mixed this together with the water into a huge hill of cement.  Again, shovels, wheelbarrows, and muscles were put to the ultimate test when load after load of cement was hauled up a wooden plank and poured out onto the church floor.  At the end of the day, we were just shy of completing the floor when we ran out of materials.  So it looks like next week’s group will get a little taste of cement mixing after all!

On Saturday we met up with the Iris Zimpeto team to enjoy the day.  We had lunch overlooking the Indian Ocean and then went to a craft market. 

Here the kids had an interesting experience of bartering with the vendors and making purchases for friends and family back home.  On Sunday, we brought out team over to meet up with the Zimpeto team.  We worshipped together at church.  Church here begins with a fun time of singing and dancing.  It was great to see the kids get up front and join the children as they danced.  We were all hot and sweaty but had a fantastic time. 

We were also treated to several groups of children who danced and sang for the gathering.  The most touching part of a Zimpeto service is the capulana blessings.  Visitors who are leaving Zimpeto are called to the front to sit.  Children come forward and lay capulanas over them, lay hands on them, and pray for them.  There was not a dry eye in the church. 
The students themselves were so touched and broken by this gesture from the children.  Pastor Jose then preached a powerful teaching from the pulpit.  After closing prayer, the team enjoyed our favorite Zimpeto meal.  We call it “Triple Carbs”- rice, pasta, and potatoes in a chicken broth - Mmm, Mmm! 

After lunch, we gathered under the tree in the visitors’ center.  Each team shared their highlights from the past week.  It was rewarding to hear them share how the events of this trip have impacted them.  The main theme was that they have been blessed more than the people they have come to serve.  After the team meeting, the Zimpeto team took the new team on a tour of the center. 

Later, we all joined the babies who were playing out at the playground.  There was lots of introductions of everyone’s favorites whom the students had come to love during the past week. 

And of course, I had to introduce my beautiful 2 year old Igor to everyone there!  After we pulled everyone away from the babies, we went on to enjoy a Mozambican meal at Bussine’s.  The students have also been learning about what we refer to as “Mozambican time”.  We ordered our food around 2:00 that afternoon, arrived at 5:00, waited at least 30 minutes to get our drinks (which is a long time when you are hot and thirsty) and then waited another 45 minutes after that to get our food (which is a very long time when you are hot, thirsty, and hungry).  The Mozambican people are much more patient than we westerners are.  Yet it was a good cultural lesson too as the students learned firsthand the value Mozambicans place on social engagement with each other.  So there was lots of time for catching up and chatting as we waited.  And the food was worth the wait!  We enjoy chicken, steak, pork, fried potatoes, tomato salad, and shima (similar to dumplings made with corn meal) - all for the price of $150 for all 25 of us- tax and tip included.

As the sun set, we returned to the visitors’ center.  The new Zimpeto team had their orientation meeting to attend, and we had a new team of students to bring out to Matola-Rio.  The adults were having a difficult time making this transition after having spent a week with their students, but the students were bursting out the door to the bus with anticipation of their week ahead.  So we said goodbye, loaded up, and headed back to Matola where the team was very happy to settle into their air conditioned rooms.  Tomorrow, they will discover why they NEED this comfort!  Tomorrow, they will begin their work on the church.

Before I close, I must share with you all what a truly wonderful group of young people DC has sent to us.  DC is very near and dear to our hearts and we love the community of people who attend and work and support DC.  We know firsthand the quality of the DC community.  I was proud of them before they came and am proud to introduce them to our connections here.  The woman who is in charge of hospitality at Iris Zimpeto sees hundreds of groups come and go through their visitors’ center each year.  She shared with me that she has come to love this group and is thoroughly impressed with them.  She even cried during the capulana service at church in the morning as she feels truly sad to see the group leave.  She felt better after I told her that fortunately for her, she had a week ahead with another equally wonderful group awaiting her.  The students have represented DC and their Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, with maturity, godliness, love, selfless service, and joy in an exceedingly exemplary manner.  Don and I join our heavenly Father in smiling as we say, “Well done, good and faithful servants!”

Thursday, January 5, 2012

It's HOT, but so incredibly cool at the same time!

Where to begin?  The past two days have been so full.  The kids on Team 1 have been amazing in numerous ways.  All of them have worked selflessly in the hot sun to complete the foundation for the church.  No offense to Team 2 who will be here next week, but this is by far the most difficult part of the building process.  In fact just this morning, our caretaker, Alberto, suggested we bring over the team from Zimpeto to work today.  He felt Team 1 deserved a break and that Team 2 should have a taste of the enormous physical effort required in this phase of building.  Next week, Team 2 will construct the walls from large reeds called kanisso.  The work is intricate but not demanding.
After digging the 2 foot deep trench that outlined the foundation on Tuesday, they then proceeded to lay the cement blocks on Wednesday.  This meant mixing the cement for the mortar by hand by mixing water, sand, and cement together.  This then had to be shoveled into a wheelbarrow and wheeled over to the site.  Might I also add that the wheelbarrows here do not have the nice plump front tires that the ones in America have.  They are very difficult to push.  Building the base wall took the whole day.  The cement was then shoveled onto and in between the blocks to hold them fast.  During all of this, Mrs. Castelli is very attentive to everyone’s needs- filling water bottles and encouraging those who look a little red to apply more sunscreen.

It has been so impressive to see the patience the Mozambican men have for teaching the students how to do this work.  They were kindly asked to allow the students to do most of the work.  They truly must be using out of this world self-control to not step in and take over as they watch us putz along at a pace far slower than what they would be able to follow.  I watched as Ailon volunteered to be the first one to apply the cement that would hold the blocks together. 
She was helped by a man whom Scott has affectionately renamed Jim.  He could have done the job himself with little effort and much more quickly, yet he handed her the spade, watched her and corrected her, and coached her from the side until she had mastered it.  He then did this same thing with Katelyn and Grace who wanted to take a turn next.  Tools are limited so these girls figured out that they could also do this work by scooping out the cement by hand and pushing it down between the blocks with their fingers. This shows how motivated they are to be involved and working.
We left the site in the late afternoon and enjoyed burgers braiied (the African term for “grilled”) by Mr. Ryle.  We then went to a children’s prayer service at Iris Matola-Rio.  One has not fully worshipped until one has done so in an African church.  There are no instruments other than the voices of the people and a drum.  The singing is soulful and full of joy and it is accompanied by lots of energetic dancing. The children led us in an extraordinary time of praising the Father.  We then were led into a time of prayer by Nelia, a 14 year old girl who lives at the center.  She truly has a calling on her life! 

After prayer, the children were invited to come up and share what they are thankful for.  It touched us all to see these orphans come up thanking Father God for their life, joy, and even for school which will start soon.  Many thank Father God for the visitors who came and brought them much happiness.  After the service, we again had a very difficult time getting our team back into the van to come home.  They so love being there and are really connecting with the children.

Today we all were thanking God for the cloud cover that He graciously provided for us. It was still hot, but at least the sun was hidden- at least until lunch time.  Our team arrived at the site, a bit sore and weary from two already strenuous days to face what would be the most difficult day yet.  Today they filled in the gaps along the inside and outside of the wall they had built.  They then brought in wheelbarrows of dirt to raise and level the floor inside the foundation.  Then more cement was mixed and holes were dug for the wall supports.  The wall supports were cemented into the ground. 

By 1:30 they were all tuckered out and ready to go home when the truck carrying the stone for the foundation arrived.  Grace, Jordan , PJ, and Tyler jumped right up with shovels and hoes to pull it off without even being asked to do so.  The team then worked to fill wheelbarrow load after load with this stone, wheel it to the site, dump it, spread it, and then head back for another load.  Mr. Ryle was an effective encourager as he motivated them to not give up and to do the job and do it well. 

After putting in the longest and hardest day of all, we crawled into the van to head home. 

I should add that a highlight of each day has been playing with and getting to know the neighboring children who arrive at the site to watch these strange people work.  At first the children were quite shy.  Some had never seen white people before.  But they quickly warmed up to us.

The team has enjoyed playing soccer with the children, teaching them songs, feeding them cookies and pao (Mozambican bread), and holding them.  Mr. Ryle has impressed them with his skill of spinning a soccer ball on his pointer finger and balancing a rake on his forehead. The students also love taking the children’s pictures and then showing them to the children - many of whom have never seen their photo before.  Each day as we leave, they gather around the van and shout “Tchau” as we drive off.

After a shower and spaghetti dinner, we again headed to our favorite place - the Iris Matola Rio center.  Tonight the children treated us to numerous African dances and songs. 
As I looked at the students during the performance, I noticed that every one of them had children in their laps and snuggled up next to them on each side.  The director of the center, Corrie, shared with me that it is not common for a team to form such an instant and strong connection with the children as what has been formed this week.  There truly is a lot of love coming from both sides. 

After the performance, Mrs. Castelli was in her glory as she led the children in a song with motions.  The children were then invited to come up in small groups to choose a toy that had been brought by the team.  It was lots of fun to see them choose from the four suitcases full of books, Barbies, cars, balls, etc.  We then were treated to a Mozambican snack of samosas and dumplings and even Coke!  The women who work at the center planned, shopped, and cooked this treat for us with the older girls.  This generous outpouring is very rare and illustrated the impact this team is having on the children’s center.  As we finished our snack, we knew it was time to go judging by the yawning children, teenagers, and adults in the church.  We returned home, and again, everyone has bunked down for the night. 

Lord willing, they will sleep well. Tomorrow we finish the floor with a layer of cement- which again will require shoveling, mixing, hauling and spreading in the heat.  Please do pray for continued energy, strength, and supernatural muscle power!