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, 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!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Church Building, Skyping, Baby Hugging.....all in a day's work.

Today we spent the day out in the bush at the site where we will be building a church for the people living there to worship in.  We dug a 2 foot deep trench for the foundation of the building under the hot African sun in 100 degree temperatures. 

We went through a lot of water and sunscreen.  Everyone worked so very hard despite the heat and sun.  Amy was an amazing worker and we were all impressed with her efforts.  Tyler has now been nicknamed “The Mole” for his fast digging skills.  Jordan displayed his servant’s heart.  After digging all day, the truck carrying the stone for the work for tomorrow showed up.  The men were shoveling the heavy load off onto the ground.  Without being asked, Jordan hopped up onto the truck and assisted the 3 Mozambican men in this effort.  We all enjoyed a traditional Mozambican lunch of rice and beans under the shade of a tree. 

I think the best part of the kids was playing soccer with the neighborhood boys who were hanging out and watching us.  Once our work was done, we returned to our home to Skype with the elementary students at the 3-5 chapel.  We then went to the Iris Matola-Rio children’s center.  We figured we were already hot and dirty, so why not slip down for a quick introductory visit with the children before dinner.  The students thoroughly enjoyed the visit.  The children sang, danced, but mostly climbed and jumped all over us. Everyone was stretched when the children invited the team members to dance as well.  They all gave it a shot! The kids laughed heartily at us. Everyone was having such a good time that I literally could not get them to leave!  Even for the pizza and cold drinks that was waiting for them.  I finally had to get in the car, start it, and threaten to leave without them.  They got in only after I promised to bring them back tomorrow after their work is done.  Everyone is now soundly asleep in the guesthouse next door.  Sweet dreams to all!

Monday, January 2, 2012

DCCS Seniors have Arrived!

The J-term team arrived tonight at our home in Matola-Rio, Mozambique weary from their long hours of travel and grateful to finally have food, drink, and use a bathroom.  After a group photo outside our home, we came in to pray, enjoy a meal, and fellowship together.  For me, the evening was an emotionally overwhelming time. 

We have prayed and planned for this trip for some time now.  It was awesome to finally see these amazing young people in our home.  I cried when they arrived, I cried when we joined together in prayer to thank the Lord for this time, and most of all, I cried when I saw the multiple suitcases full of donations for the children at the centers here.  Many things have broken my heart here.  One of these things has been seeing these children lacking the items we Westerners take for granted that our children have- nice clothing, shoes, toys and balls, sunscreen, school supplies…  Thank you to all of you who donated items for these children.  And a special thank you to the DC third graders who gave up their class birthday gifts to buy, fill, and decorate pencil cases! Know that the children here will be blessed more than you can imagine when they receive these donations.  And to the parents of the young people here… Thank you for allowing us to host your children.  We know personally how difficult it is to let a child go, and we do not take your trust in our care for them lightly.  Our prayer is that they will return to you different than when they left- more in love with their Lord and possessing their Father’s heart for those in the world who are vulnerable and less fortunate.