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, August 4, 2013

From Cassava to Cookies and Chocolate

I am privileged to experience the most incredible adventures in my life here in Mozambique. As I have these experiences, two thoughts are foremost in my mind. First, “I can’t believe I am experiencing this!”, and second, “How can I share this experience with others?” I so wish you were with me to experience my adventures alongside me, but since you are not, I am left with the challenge of putting it into words for you. So here goes…

Rosita is a twelve year old girl who came to live at Iris Matola-Rio about two months ago. She was brought to Central Hospital in Maputo by her uncle. She was very sick- extremely malnourished, sores all over her body, and swollen feet. The hospital psychologist was concerned about allowing her to return to her home when she was ready to be released. Upon questioning the uncle, her concerns were confirmed. Rosita lived with her grandmother near the Swaziland border. Her grandmother was very poor and had no food in her home for her or her granddaughter. Her parents are both deceased. Because of this, Corrie, the director of Iris Matola-Rio, was asked to take her to live at the center. At the center, Rosita has become healthy and happy and is making new friends. But she has missed her grandmother and worries about her. So Corrie invited me to come with her to find her grandmother. We had no address to use and no directions to follow. We would have to depend on 12 year old Rosita to guide us to her old home.

Because she lived near the Swazi border, we headed out towards Boane. Our first obstacle was when we came upon a bridge that was washed out over a year ago and is under construction. I had recently been this way before with a friend and knew that it would require driving through the river in its most shallow spot. So we followed a truck in front of us and did just that, only to discover that once through the river, the path back up to the road is now blocked with large boulders. Apparently they are discouraging people from using this road. So we had to turn around and traverse back through the river past women washing their clothes curiously looking at us again. We were told that we could go further on and find a road that would connect us in the direction we needed to go. So off we went- way, way far out of our way. The drive, however, was beautiful. As we headed out into the bush, we were all impressed with its beauty. Recent rains have kept everything nice and green. We had to frequently pause for cows, goats, and chickens who were crossing the road. We passed school children who had miles upon miles to walk to get to their school. The entire time, Rosita was on the edge of her seat- eyes scanning the scenes around us for a glimpse of something that looked like home to her. After over an hour more of driving, we still had not come to a place she recognized. We still had not found a person along the roadside who even ever heard of her village, Nevenuane. But we had to go on, hoping against hope that we would find her village and her grandmother. After another hour of driving, we stopped to ask a man with two goats and a machete for directions. He took off his hat and approached the car, glad to have the attention of people and someone with whom to talk. He was the first person we encountered who did not look puzzled when we mentioned the name of her village. For the first time in three hours, we had hope! He spoke to our driver in the local language of Shongana and made gestures with his hands. We headed off in the direction he gave us trusting that he did indeed know what he was talking about. We continued on the paved road and finally reached a dirt road. After 15 miles on the dirt road, we came to Nevenuane!

Rosita directed us through the village, past the medical clinic and the school, to a mud home where her grandmother, Avo, was sleeping on the ground outside her home. I opened the door and jumped out of the van to allow Rosita to exit, fully expecting a joyous reunion filled with hugs and tears. What I saw really astounded me. This culture is so different from our own. Rosita came before her grandma and there were no tears, no hugs, no smiles; they simply shook hands and nodded at each other. Her grandmother went inside her home to bring out a grass mat for us to sit upon. 

She rolled out the mat and we all sat down. It was a bit awkward at first as no one knew what to say. The grandmother shared with us that she did not know whether Rosita was alive or dead. Rosita had never returned from the hospital, so she had no way of knowing what happened to her. Rosita’s grandmother survives on the little she is able to grow on her property- which to me appeared to only be cassava- a root that is kind of like a potato. The past harvest was not a good one, and she was hungry. I sat across from this woman, carefully observing her hands, feet, and face, worn from years of hard work under the hot African sun. She wore the traditional capulana and an old oversized shirt. Her gray hair peeked out from under the capulana that was wound around her head. I find the older women here to be so honorable, and I am held captivated by them as I ponder the life that they have led. They are so regal and beautiful in their own way. As I sat on the old worn out grass mat outside the mud home of a woman who has no food to eat and does not even know when or how she will have food, I realized that we have absolutely no concept of what it is like for the poor of this world. No concept at all.

Rosita also wanted to see her uncle, so she led us to his home. Here we were greeted by him along with his wife, daughter, and grandson. They offered us their plastic chairs to sit in while they sat on the grass mat on the ground. The conversation at first was a bit stiff, but as Corrie shared with them about Rosita and how she was doing, it loosened. While we were talking, Rosita's uncle nodded to his daughter as to direct her to do something. The daughter and her son got up and went to the garden area and began digging up cassava. 

Tears came to my eyes as I realized that these people who have absolutely nothing were going to offer to us a gift of the only thing they could- a part of their meager harvest. Rosita’s uncle had just told us that the soil in their area did not produce good harvests, but they did the best they could. Because everyone in their village is so poor, they had no money. Therefore, they trade what they are able to harvest for the things they need. This family seemed to be pretty well off because I also saw ducks and chickens roaming around on their property. They also had a little puppy, so thin that you could see every rib on his side.

Rosita’s family truly seemed happy to see her again. As they relaxed with each other, and us, they chatted with her and learned about her new life with 36 new brothers and sisters at Corrie’s center. Her family was glad to see her looking so healthy and well fed. Because all she had to eat when she lived there was mainly cassava and some vegetables, she never had proper nutrition to grow well and to be healthy. They gave Corrie 100 meticais (the equivalent of three American dollars) to buy something for Rosita. This was a very precious sacrifice for them to give. It was a clear demonstration of their thanks that their Rosita was now well cared for. They wanted to offer something to her to express their appreciation and love. Corrie also shared about God with them, and we were able to pray with them as well. 

Right before we were about to leave, the uncle’s daughter’s daughter came home from school. I waved at her as she came into the yard. She immediately hid her face in her sweater. She was so shy. She went inside their mud hut and changed out of her blue school pants into a skirt that didn’t even have a waistband to hold it up. She came out and hid behind her mother. Her mother directed her to greet their guests. She was so obedient, and despite her shyness, she immediately came to shake our hands and kiss our cheeks. She then crumpled next to her mom in a fit of laughter. She was so excited and said, “I have touched a white woman!” We were the first white people she had ever seen, let alone touched. This little girl was absolutely beautiful and had the most adorable dimples I have ever seen on a child. Assuming she had never had her picture taken before, I asked her if I could do this. After she gave permission, I took a picture of her and showed it to her in the view finder. I was then rewarded with the biggest smile and explosion of laughter. So I then took a picture of her with her mom and was again treated to her joyous laughter at seeing herself. She was just adorable!!

It was time for us to go, so the uncle led us back to Rosita’s grandmother’s house again. We then gave Rosita the gifts of food we had brought for her family and she passed them on- fish, rice, beans, oil, sugar, flour, cookies, and washing powder. Rosita shook her grandmother’s hand to say goodbye. I noted that they did not even make eye contact with each other. We climbed into the van with the bag of cassava, waved goodbye, and pulled away. The tone in the van took on a completely different feel. It did a complete change from anticipation and excitement to a somber and quiet sadness. Rosita sat with her head and eyes down. She knew it would be a very long time until she would be able to see her family again. She may now be in a center where she has food, a bed, an education, health care, and sisters and brothers, but clearly none of these things make up for her being with her family, even as poor as they are. My heart ached for this child sitting next to me. We simply sat in silence; Rosita sandwiched between Corrie and me. There was nothing we could really say. They say that time heals all wounds. I am not sure if that is exactly true, but as we continued on, Rosita eventually began to accept her situation. Corrie offered her a chocolate bar, and I gave her cookies. Corrie laughed as Rosita gobbled them down commenting on the fact that who would have ever thought that this little girl who was so malnourished from eating only cassava would now be spoiled with cookies and chocolate. She is a blessed girl indeed. She has the love of a family in the bush, where she can always return to visit. And she has the love of a new family at the center that can provide what she needs to thrive and grow into the young woman God has destined her to be. And as for me, again I am privileged to share in an experience that has forever been etched into my mind and my heart. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Joys of a Life Lived in Mozambique

My favorite Disney character is Eeyore. I have had a soft spot in my heart for this sad, little donkey since I was a child. I am not sure why. He has always just tugged at my heartstrings. My husband likes to occasionally compare me to Eeyore saying that I share his melancholy outlook on circumstances at times. As I look over my blogs that I have written since moving to Mozambique, I wonder if my husband is correct in his assessment. I began to worry that I may scare some of you off from coming here to visit me, so a few months ago I began to compile a list of the things that make me love this place hoping that it will make you love this place too. Please read on and don’t be put off by the length of this blog. The list is shorter than it looks - it is only the spacing makes it lengthy.
The things that make me love this place:
- Seeing my little friends who sell oranges in the parking lot at the grocery store. I always buy two from each boy. They love seeing me pull in and are so helpful to return my cart to the store for me.

- Watching one of these little boys as he crossed the street at the stop light one day. He carried his tub of oranges on his head. While balancing this tub on his head, he crossed the street doing very precise, very deliberate karate moves. I stopped to chat with him about his moves, and he told me he had been watching Kung Fu movies and was very inspired by them. Too cute!
- Participating in an African worship and prayer service. The people sing and dance with abandon. Every person sings. Every person claps. Every person dances. No one is standing still. No one is just moving their lips. No one holds back in expressing their love for God. No one cares what the person next to him thinks about what he is doing. They love to worship and it shows. They express their worship to God and God alone. They are not putting on a show for the people around them. It is a privilege to worship alongside them.

- Then when they pray, everyone erupts with prayers said out loud at the same time with genuine fervor. It illustrates to me how important prayer is to them and that they know to Whom they should turn to with their requests.
- Buying my vegetables from the lovely women along the street. I always give them a bit extra. It is pennies to us, but such a blessing to them.

- Watching a young man cross the road. He was all by himself, but apparently could not contain his joy. He was skipping, lifting his feet as high as his knees- just because.
- Hearing women breaking out into song as they walk down my street.

- Watching children run alongside my car racing me, laughing hysterically as they try to keep up.
- Watching the kids from the center in my rear view mirror chase my car as I pull away from the center. You would be as surprised as I am to see how fast and how long they run after me on those little legs!

- Greeting the lovely old mamas who come to church at the Bocaria garbage dump. They warmly embrace you and plant a kiss on each of your cheeks. Such a privilege!

- The chicken man - he rides his bike through town with at least a dozen chickens hanging from the handle bars by their feet.
- Simply greeting a stranger walking by my house and seeing them light up from ear to ear with a smile - all because you noticed them and said hello.

- Visiting with cashew farmers in the bush bush. They honor us by bringing out their best chairs for us to sit while they themselves sit in the dirt.
- Bringing a group of teenaged girls from the children’s center for a special day. Washing their precious hands and feet and painting their nails.

- Driving up to the children’s center to a chorus of “Mama Terri! Mama Terri!”
- Seeing my men (Don, Brent and Will) interacting with and loving on the kids at the center.

- Driving 4 year old Zefanias back after bringing him to Kids’ Praise and Play at our church. He sat in his seat carefully studying the craft he had made that day. It had the words “Merry Christmas” printed across the top of the paper. His picture was on the left side. On right side we painted his feet green and put his footprints like a wreath with a red heart in the middle. He was so happy to have made something like this. We hung it on the wall above the bed he shares with another boy.
- Successfully being able to send a text - in Portuguese!!!

- Buying tomatoes from Ajla - a dear sweet woman at the local market who has scarring from burns on her neck and chest and her hand is crippled- she hides it in her pocket. When I come, she greets me with a kiss on each cheek - such an honor!! And she always throws in a couple of extra tomatoes for me!
- Watching two little boys walk hand in hand down the street sharing a pair of blue sandals - one boy wore the right shoe, the other boy wore the left shoe.

- Tickling little Salito and hearing his giggles. He loves having his stomach poked at and can’t get enough of it. He rarely says a word to anyone. In fact as I think about it,  the only sounds I have ever heard him evoke are giggles.
- As I drove Will to school, a man was waiting at the side of the road for traffic to clear so he could cross. While waiting, he passed the time by dancing. I was last in the line of traffic, after my car passed, he threw his arms out and crossed the road with them spread wide - the picture of freedom!

- The creativity of children in the toys they make. A plastic grocery bag with a rock tied to the handles becomes a parachute. An old spool that once had wire becomes a pull toy when a rope is tied around it. Plastic grocery bags are torn into strips, tied together and become a Chinese jump rope.
- Watching all the “goings on” as we drive along the roads - people walking, talking, laughing; children running and playing; chickens and goats meandering about; goats riding on top of buses; venders selling their wares- I could go on and on, but suffice it to say that it is a visual delight and I never get bored of it!

- Having 20 year old Lyria come alongside me and hook her arm into my elbow in a Mozambican gesture of friendship and acceptance as we watch the workers at the center gut the fish for the evening dinner. Then hearing the laughter from the women at the look on my face when I was invited to join them in this effort. 
- The amazing Portuguese baked goods- yummy!

- Morning tea with Don up on our roof, overlooking the beautiful scenery beyond with a palm tree perfectly placed a bit to the left and the Matola-Rio in the background.
- As sad as this was for the cow, it was so funny to watch some men trying to lift a dead cow back up onto a wagon they were using to haul it on.

- Waving at the little children along the road and being gifted with a big smile and return wave from them. This brightens up the darkest of days.
- Chicken dinner at Tubiakanga! Come eat one with us - you will see!

- Driving by the large banana and sugar cane plantations in South Africa. So very lush and green!
- Listening to Berta sing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” as she cleans our home.

- Watching a young girl of about 12 dancing along the street like Ginger Rogers with an imaginary Fred Astaire. She was in her own little world, oblivious to the fact that anyone was watching her. She was just beautiful!
- Stuffing ten children into my car and driving them to school. When we arrive, all the doors are opened and they spill out into the school yard so excited for all their peers to see they had a ride in a car to school that day. Each one gets a kiss on the forehead and is told to study hard and have a good day.

As I drove them to school yesterday, I realize that I have become a part of a new community. Children from the center who were returning home from the morning session as well as the local village children waved at me and called out my name. Men and women who have gotten to know me waved as well. We passed a deaf and mute man named Domingo who sells me brooms and mops. He waved from his bike as we passed by. We saw Pai Sitoe with his children and got lots of smiles and exuberant waves from this happy bunch as well. I have been invited to little Teneka’s fifth birthday party in May and have been given the honor of cutting her cake. Mai and Pai Sitoe are planning a church wedding in July. Mai Sitoe has asked me to be her madrina (This is the term for matron of honor, but it is so much more here. I will be more like her godmother and will be look to for marital advice and wisdom-uh oh!).  I am touched deeply by the happiness we share together. I am touched that I am accepted and have earned their respect. I frequently feel the need to pinch myself to see whether I am dreaming or whether I really am experiencing a life in a place so far removed and different from where I have lived my whole life, a place I only ever dreamed of visiting. I am so often tossed into a feeling of awe for where God has placed me and what He has opened up to me. I am blessed and privileged indeed!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Children of the Dump

It is not difficult for my husband and I to recognize the fact that we live in a third-world country. The very moment we step outside our front door until we return home again, we come face-to-face with some of the poorest, neediest people in the world. I view these people as the most courageous people I have ever known. Their daily struggle to survive is an experience that I can honestly and selfishly admit I am glad I will never, Lord willing, have to know firsthand. I don’t know that I could be as strong as they are. I would probably live in self-pity, whining my way through my day. The fact that they are able to laugh, sing and find joy in life only increases my admiration for them. Each day I see people in tattered, dirty clothing. I see people walking long distances because they have no transportation. I see men laboring for a few dollars of pay and children selling oranges and peanuts in the parking lots to help their families. I see children and old women at my car window begging for a few pennies. Begging is pretty much the only source of income for the handicapped here. I see small children carrying their younger siblings on their backs as they go about their day. I see other children pushing wheelbarrows far distances to get water to bring home for their families.

Yet all of the impoverished conditions I see pale in comparison to what I see when I visit the Bocaria garbage dump with the missionaries and visitors from Iris Zimpeto. Here live the most courageous people in the entire world. They work daily searching the garbage for food or items to sell so as to tweak out an existence for their families. It is without a doubt the saddest, bleakest place on this planet. But it also is a testimony to their strength and perseverance. Saddest of all is to see the little children who are being raised in this squalor. And it is even sadder to see the faces of the moms who yearn for a better life for their children. Yet as much as darkness rules in this place, God reigns here. We walk about talking with people and ministering to them with prayer and sharing the love of God with them. They ask for prayer for health and for their families, and they close their eyes to receive our prayers. Often tears roll down their cheeks as we bring their needs before the throne of God in heaven. Two weeks ago during a visit there, I was blessed to seeing God heal a woman of back pain and another of knee pain. Another woman committed to turn from seeking the help of witch doctors for her illness. She committed to seek help from God alone and recommitted her life to him. She was immediately healed of stomach pains that have troubled her for months. You can “poo poo” away these testimonies, but had you been there to see the dance in their step and the joy in their tear-filled eyes, you would have no doubt that God heard and answered their prayers. He was, is, and always will be Jehovah-Rapha- the God who heals!

My visit today was a lesson in Heidi Baker’s mantra to “love the one before you”. As I entered the church, a little boy spied me, reached up his arms to be held, and became my new best friend. He latched on to me and would not let go. He was very solemn and quiet. He was just content to snuggle in my arms. This little guy smelled of urine and the filth on his clothes was overwhelming. All the children here are unclean, but this boy was almost offensively unclean. There are times when you must overlook such things and push yourself to ignore your own senses and love like Jesus did. I could not resist him. And once you do wrap your arms around them and hold them close, God gives you grace to pull them in close and love on them. You no longer mind the smell and the dirt. All you feel is an overwhelming peace and satisfaction. You feel the Father’s love for the child.

The time came for us to go out and pray for people, so I told my new friend that I would return for him. The children stay in the church while we go out to minister. When I returned, he was right there waiting for me. I scooped him back up in my arms and found a seat on one of the wooden benches that were filled with children just as dirty as he was. We sat next to a girl of about ten who had big, brown eyes and round, chubby, endearing cheeks that I couldn’t help but squeeze! She was there with her little brother. I shared with her how beautiful she was and how much her Father in heaven loves her. I told her that I loved her eyes and her round cheeks. I talked with her about her school and asked about her family. It was then that she told me that the mother of the little boy I held was very ill. She had gone to the hospital and had not yet returned. I asked her where he lived, and she pointed to the community beyond the dump. I asked her if he had any brothers? No. Sisters? No. Father? No. Grandmother? No. Anybody at all to care for him? No. I was stunned and asked who was caring for him; did he live alone? She said he was alone so her mother took him in and is caring for him. I was immediately consumed with a love and appreciation for this little girl’s mother, who would take on another mouth to feed when she probably had barely enough for her own children. I prayed for this mother, that God would provide all she needed and that He would bless her for her kindness to this little boy. I prayed for the mother of the little boy, that she would be well and would be able to come home to him soon. And I prayed for the little boy, that he would be at peace and content.

As we drove away from the dump, I reflected on the lesson I had learned. There were so many other children that I could have given my attention to today who smelled better and were not as dirty. But God brought me this boy and called on me to love him on His behalf. I am so thankful that I did hold him and love him for the time I was there. Knowing what I know now, I could never have lived with myself if I had turned away from him.  I did not choose him. He chose me. And I am a better person tonight because of it. I guess this is what the Bible means when it tells us to die to self. I put his needs before my own. And words cannot even begin to express how privileged I feel to have been the arms of God for this little boy.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The definition of Selfless - my friend Corrie Ockhuysen.

There are two jobs I have always said I will never, ever do no matter how desperate I will ever, ever get. The first job that you will never see me doing is cleaning a public bathroom. No need to explain this any further, so on to the second job you will never catch me in- bus driver. Neither of these people are paid what they are worth or what they deserve. I have now come to add a third job to my list that I will never, ever be employed in- director of a children’s center (or you may call it an orphanage- but out of respect for the fact that every one of these children has a heavenly Father, I prefer not to use that term. They are not orphans at all, but daughters and sons of the Most High King.).

I have gotten to know several directors of children’s centers here. There are no people on this planet for whom I have as much respect as I do for these people. They are completely selfless in their service to the children for which they are responsible. One of these directors humbles me completely in her work. That person is Corrie Ockhuysen, director of the Iris Matola-Rio children’s center, known to some as Project Raphael. When I think of Corrie, I think of the verses in the Bible that speak of dying to self. Corrie is not just "dying to self"; Corrie is "stone cold dead to self". I have never seen her once express a want or a need for herself. Her whole life is lived for others- her children, the people around her center, and her church members. She not only directs the center, she lives there. Therefore, she is on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Her only break is a trip to her native homeland, Holland, once every two years. She has given up all the luxuries that life here on earth has to offer in order to take in and love sick, dying, abandoned, abused, and unloved children back to life. She lives in a small cement home with few possessions to call her own. The only two indulgences I have seen her partake in are a bottle of Coke and a tub of yogurt. She is an example to all who know her of a servant of Jesus.

This was the first day I met Corrie (on March 28, 2011) when Don took me to
Africa for the first time.  She was holding one of her new children - Armandinho. 
Armandhinho is my favorite.....but I seem to say that about every one of her children. 

On a typical day, one can observe Corrie doing any one of the following:

-taking children to the hospital

-meeting with a school official or teacher regarding her children

-leading a team meeting of her workers

-hosting a visitor and giving a tour of the center

-talking with the educators who work for her

-translating for those of us who are not fluent in Portuguese (yet)

-leading her workers in a weekly praise and worship service

-counseling a church member

-administering medication

-giving money to a person in need

-giving money to pay for a need at the center

-giving money to a worker

-giving formula to a young mother, or an older mama who is caring for a grandchild

-putting a Band-Aid on a cut

-meeting with the pastor or a member of her church

-going to Jumbo Cash and Carry for a multitude of food and items for the center

-constantly being interrupted by the ring of her phone

This list could go on and on, but suffice it to say, Corrie literally oversees every aspect of the running of the center and the care of the children. And as she does these things, she is carrying a child, has a child hanging on her leg, has a child sleeping on her lap, or has a whole brood of them following her around. Her house is usually full of children. They cover her sofa, every chair, and every square inch of her floor. When a guest enters her home, she shushes the children off the furniture to make a place for her guest as she offers them a drink. She then finally takes a seat herself to converse with her guest- but not before the children get shushed right out the door. The both the metal protective gate and the wooden door to her home then must be shut and locked to prevent reentry from the more obstinate children who try to get back in. Often a child or two receives the special privilege of being able to stay inside. Corrie then relaxes in her chair and thoroughly enjoys the time she spends talking and catching up on you. When it is time to leave, it is just hilarious to open the wooden door to her home only to discover the iron gate beyond it is covered with little children that have climbed it and are assembled there like little monkeys. They excitedly call out your name and are so happy to regain entry into Mama Corrie’s home again.

As you can see, Corrie has absolutely no time to herself. For just this reason, she gets my adoration, praise, and appreciation. I watch her and realize, I could not be so selfless and giving each day- or even for a part of the day. While she was home in Holland recently for some much needed rest and relaxation, I had a small taste of what she experiences as I ran children to the medical center for malaria tests, picked up medication for them, and dealt with people asking me for money, baby clothes, baby formula, and even housing. And all the while, I was either holding a child, had one (and usually more than one) hanging on my legs, and was surrounded by a brood of attention starved little ones. It was no picnic, and most days I couldn’t wait to get to the solitude and peace of my home. And I was only at the center for a few hours each day!

Corrie helping me pass out dresses to her girls.  These dresses were made
by my sister's classroom back in Virginia.

Yet today I experienced first-hand an additional reason why I could not occupy her position as director. I arrived at the center for the Tuesday morning Praise and Worship time for adults and found Corrie in her home, in her chair, talking with a man I did not recognize who was seated on her sofa with one of the educators at the center named Salima. In between them were two little boys, probably around three and five. I was invited in to take a place in the empty chair. The father had just shown Corrie documents regarding his sons. My suspicion that he was looking to place his two sons at the center was confirmed as I heard more of their continuing conversation. Here before me sat a young father who had recently lost his wife and the mother of his two sons. He now was unable to care for them and maintain his employment as well. His only choice to maintain his existence and theirs was to give them up. He was a neighbor of Salima’s, so she brought them here for help. They had traveled from the north most of the morning by chappa to seek assistance from Corrie. They did not look desperate- they were all healthy, well dressed, and articulate. The youngest son sat on his father’s lap and was talkative, interrupting the conversation for a glass of water and other such things. He kept looking my way, curious about who I was and why I was there. He was a normal little boy, for all appearances. His older brother was quieter and sat sandwiched between his father and Salima. I wondered to myself what must be going through their minds. They had just lost their mother and now they faced living in a children’s center because their father could not care for them. They had to have known what was being discussed, but they showed no signs of the weight of the discussion and the impact it could have on their futures. And the father…what could he have been thinking and feeling…losing his wife and now being forced to send his two sons away. The discussion between Corrie and the father ended. The decision- she had to tell him that she could not take his children and care for them. I know Corrie’s heart for children, and I can only imagine how difficult it was for her to tell them that she could not help them. Her reasons- her center is full, in fact it is overcrowded at the moment. She can only take in the neediest of children- those who are sick, dying, and desperate. These boys were healthy and strong. She had to choose. She offered for them to stay for the praise and worship time that was about to happen. After that, they would get a lunch and she would give them some food to take back home to them. The father did indeed join us for praise and worship- singing and praying along with us while his two sons sat at a nearby table and gobbled down a plate of rice and beans. I left before they did, but as I sit and write this, I can’t help but wonder what they will do to get by. How will this father work and care for his children? Will the children be left to fend for themselves each day until he gets home? Will neighbors or family members step in and help? Or will they be left to tweak out an existence by themselves in this harsh world they live in? Whatever they face, I pray that they will seek God’s provision and that their faith with sustain them. This is exactly the message from the Bible that I shared with those present for the praise and worship today- a message to guard and grow your faith even when faced with trials and challenges. Maybe this was exactly what this father needed to hear today. I pray that it did encourage him, and that Corrie’s kindness to him will encourage him as well.

So you see, I am glad I was quietly sitting in my chair off to the side today. I am glad I did not sit in Corrie’s chair. I am glad I did not have to make this difficult decision. I will continue praying for Corrie as she selflessly serves her children and her church members. Not many of us could do a fraction of what Corrie does each day. One day she will stand before God, and I have no doubt that He will tell her, "Well done, my good and faithful servant. Now enter into your rest." And He will have prepared for her a mansion that will be the quiet, restful place she never had here on earth. It will be a place that someone like her deserves to enjoy for eternity. Maybe He will even throw in a refrigerator full of Cokes and yogurts. And as for me, I may just be charged with cleaning her bathroom!! Which for you, Corrie, I will happily do!

Monday, January 21, 2013

A Mozambican Funeral - Laying a good friend to rest.

Precious in the sight of the LORD
Is the death of His saints.

Psalm 116:15

We arrived at the cemetery in Machava shortly before the 10 o’clock service for Pastor Berto was to begin. The parking lot was crowded with cars, buses, vans, and people. There were processions of people going in and out of the walled cemetery. There were many people waiting around outside with us. People who would attend Pastor Berto’s funeral and others as well, quietly talking. It was sad to see how many people were there. More vehicles came carrying even more people as we waited. A truck came in with its bed full of passengers who were softly singing. The sky was filled with dark, gray clouds. It sprinkled several times as we waited, but the downpour that they threatened never did come.

We had to wait quite some time for the service to begin. The vehicle that was bringing Pastor Berto’s family had driven through some deep waters and broke down. We have had rain the last several days, and with no drainage system, the roads get very difficult to traverse. A van was sent to pick them up. This van also broke down. Yet they soon arrived. There was also a bus load of people from Iris Zimpeto, Pastor Berto’s father, Jose, is a pastor there. The last to arrive was a van and truck loaded with people from the Iris Matola-Rio center and from the church Pastor Berto shepherded. I greeted these people who I have come to know and love. It broke my heart to see Mama Helena. This always joyful, smiling, loving woman was simply blank. Her pain and hurt was so visible on her face. She was emotionless. Everyone began to file through the gate of the cemetery. Before they entered, they stopped to buy fresh flowers from venders located outside. We were one of the last to enter.

Before me I saw graves in every direction. The grave sites here are different than in the northeastern US. While the bodies are laid in the ground, they are not placed very deeply. Each grave is filled and a mound of dirt about 2 feet high that covers the grave site it left. Later, for those who can afford it, these dirt mounds are boxed off and tiled or cemented. It is similar to what I have seen in the south or in the Carribean. There was a cement building for registering for a burial site. On the side wall was hand painted the pricing for burying a person- one amount for an adult, another amount for a child. But what drew my attention was the sight of our gathering of mourners. The coffin had been placed under a large tree and everyone was gathered around this tree. I wish it had been appropriate to take a picture of this to show you. It is a sight I will always remember. The coffin under the tree, at least a hundred people encircling the tree singing, and the graves that surrounded them as far as the eye could see. The songs they sang were deep and soulful. Each was led by a woman with a strong voice and the people echoed and joined in. A few people quietly cried. Others were so distraught that they were taken off to the side to be consoled. It seemed that this was the proper etiquette. Mama Helena was the first to be taken to the side. She was so upset that she could barely walk. Young Albertina soon was taken to the side as well.  I, too, wanted to cry, but I couldn’t. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Pastor Berto is in heaven rejoicing with all the saints before the throne of God. He loved His Savior deeply. He is home. He does not need our tears. To cry for him just seemed wrong to me. Yet I did want to cry for the people here. Pastor Berto’s gain is our loss. He was loved, valued, respected, and is needed here. Yet I have faith that God will use this for good. He will not let Pastor Berto’s flock go unattended. He will send us another shepherd. My prayer is for this man to come soon!
Pastor Alberto on the left.....with Alberto on the right.

“Where, O death, is your victory?

Where, O death is your sting?

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. BUT THANKS BE TO GOD! HE GIVES US THE VICTORY THROUGH OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST.” I Corinthians 15:55

Songs were sung and interspersed with pastors and others sharing encouragement and words from Scripture. Pastor Paulo shared with the assembled group the hope that we have in Jesus Christ. Without Jesus Christ in our hearts and lives, we cannot be saved. We are by nature sinful.  Romans 3:23 “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Because of our sin, we are separated from God and will spend an eternity separated from Him. Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  But, we have hope. Our Father God loved us so much that He sent His only Son as a once and done sacrifice for our sins.  Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. “  Romans 10:9 And so, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 8:1  “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set ‘us’ free from the law of sin and death.”  Jesus has set us free from the bondage of sin and death. He waits for each of us to accept Him as our Lord and Savior. He knows how long eternity is. He faced death because He could not spend an eternity without us! I once read a quote that said as Jesus hung on the cross, He had my name (and yours) on His lips. This is how much He loves us! If you do not know Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, I encourage you today to seek Him. Read the Gospel of John. Find someone who does know and love Him that you can talk with and ask questions. Go ahead and ask the hard questions. Be honest and share your doubts. God is big enough to handle them! Pray and ask God to reveal His love for you. If you seek Him, you will find Him. This is the message Pastor Paulo shared with us yesterday. This is the message that I want to pass on to you.

Pastor Jose, Berto’s father, spied us in the back. He immediately sent someone to translate for us. How kind of him to think of us at his son’s funeral. Pastor Berto’s brother was in the center circle of people as well. His face was full of disbelief and he held his hand to his mouth. He bears a striking resemblance to his brother. Towards the end of the service, the casket was opened and people were invited to come by and see Pastor Berto one last time. As people passed by they anointed his head with powders and perfumes. I chose to remain in the back. I wanted to remember the vibrant joyful pastor who just one week ago led the service at his church in Chinonquilla.  This part of the service caused much pent up emotion to flow from his friends and family. People were overcome with emotion and began wailing and crying. This changed the whole tone of the service and it became very difficult. Mama Helena was again taken to the side where she fell face first, prostrate on the dirt path, her body wracked with sobs. Albertina again was overcome with emotion. Several of the younger girls from the Iris Matola-Rio center came to Emily and me for comfort after seeing his body. Beatriz was the most affected, crying uncontrollably, so I took her to the side to comfort her. Even Pastor Berto’s brother, Silas, needed to leave the congregation for a while. It was a blessing to see that each person was immediately surrounded by others who tenderly held and soothed them for as long as they needed it.

It was at this time that the most difficult time came for me, which almost sent me to the side to be consoled.  A new procession of people entered into the cemetery, quietly singing. It was led by a man carrying a very small, white coffin followed by a young grieving mother. Tears fill my eyes even now. My  heart hurts for this mother that I do not even know. I tried to look away, but then all I could turn my eyes to was the row upon row of graves that surrounded me. I wondered how many of these graves were filled with children taken by the enemy well before their time as well. I was overwhelmed by a feeling of despair for how difficult life is here. I cried for these people.  My Brent was at my side and held my hand, giving me strength and peace.

The coffin was sealed shut and the service under the tree came to an end. Pallbearers carried the coffin to its resting place, followed by the crowd of people. Final prayers were said and it was lowered into the ground.  As the dirt was shoveled in, people went forward to throw in a handful of dirt. A mound of dirt was piled on top of the site where the casket had been buried. People began going up and forming small holes in this mound and planting the flowers they had purchased in these holes. Don went up with me and helped me place our flowers. It was a beautiful sight to see the flowers covering his grave. Then a large container of water was brought forward. People began washing the dirt off that was on their hands from planting, letting the water flow over the flowers. More water was added to the flowers. Then water was poured over the sides of the dirt mound, smoothing out the sides as well as people forming and smoothing the sides of the mound with their hands. Each grave also had an arrangement of hand-made paper flowers on it. These were made from scrap paper and assembled on a circular piece of cardboard. They were beautiful. All around us were fresh graves covered by the same bed of flowers and paper flower arrangements. You knew they were recently buried because the flowers were still fresh and the paper flowers had not been ruined by last night’s rains.  There were too many of these around us. A closing prayer was said by Pastor Paulo. As he did so, the clouds began to release a gentle rain over us all.

Pastor Alberto's service with the J-Term team on Sunday - a few days before his passing.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Day 8 for the J-Term Team here in Mozambique

The team was blessed to have a rain free last day here in Mozambique. They spent the entire day at the center. It was evident that every person just wanted to soak in as much time as they could before having to leave. Scott and Ron got busy working around the center while they waited for Pastor Berto and our Mozambican work crew to arrive. The team members got busy with a Bible lesson and craft with the children. We had our rice and beans a la Berta half way through the day. We were all then gathered around the veranda at the center, just talking and holding the children. We were entertained by the amazing skill and precision of the Mozambican workers at they slung cement on the walls of the addition that was put on.  Even Scott and Ron stood still in silent awe watching like two little school boys. Later that afternoon we enjoyed a time of dancing and singing in the church which was a lot of fun! Ron Hoch led everyone in a congo line. This was the highlight of the afternoon. It finally came time to say our farewells and head back to the guesthouse to clean up for our last dinner together. Everyone was in firm agreement that they wanted to go to Tubiakanga for chicken, fried potatoes, and tomato salad one more time. Everyone laughed, talked, and ate their fill. Back at the guesthouse everyone got busy packing up their belongings for their 5 am departure the next morning. My family left with a load of donations of clothing, shoes, and left over craft materials that will really bless the center.

Our caretaker, Alberto, and the pastor of the church the team built last year, Pastor Berto, stayed on to spend some more time with the team. They both have the same name, except for their middle names- Alberto Juliao Novela and Alberto Jose Novela. Both men had worked alongside the team while they were here and the team was very fond of them. They left later that night after joining the team for devotions and a time of the team  praying for them. Sadly, we received a phone call at 4 am the next morning from Alberto’s sister saying that he was in a motorcycle accident on their way home. A car hit him as they pulled out of a gas station. Don and I shared this with Scott when we went at 5 am to see the team off. He said he would tell the team once they got on the road and they would pray. All we knew at the time was the Alberto was unconscious and we were hoping that he had already taken Pastor Berto home and that he was not involved. We called Pastor Berto’s number hoping that he would pick up, but we got no answer. Don and I arrived at Central Hospital in Maputo at 8am- the time when you are allowed to come. We were met by Alberto’s family. They shared with us that Alberto had regained consciousness but was hurt. My Portuguese is developing slowly, but I immediately recognized the word “morreu” when I heard it. We were shocked to hear them say that Pastor Berto had died. We were devastated. He was such a godly, good man. A true role model for other Mozambican men. He was only 32 years old. We were asked to go with a police officer to give her as much information as we could and we also set about getting in touch with his family. His funeral is this Saturday . I cried in as controlled of a manner as I could for being in such a public setting, surrounded by Mozambicans wondering why a white woman was at this place. I began to remember how he led the church service on Sunday. I sat right up front and remembered smiling as I watched his sheer joy and love for the Lord as he sang, danced, prayed, and taught his congregation from God’s Word. I was overwhelmed with peace as I realized that he has been welcomed home by the God he loves so very much and that he is now living with Him for eternity!

 Don was able to go see Alberto in the emergency room that morning, but I had to wait until visiting hours at 4pm. We went with our whole family, including Emily and our newest guest, Matheus (who is working with Don at the factory). Alberto is family to us, and we all had to see him and spend time with him. We were able to go in two by two to talk with him. He was so happy to see us, and we were just as happy to see him. I shared with him that it was Brent’s birthday and that he was Brent’s present. When Brent came in, he sang “Happy Birthday” to Brent.  All we know for now is that his left leg is broken. He has lacerations on his face, arms, hands, and body. The back of his head and the right side of his head are terribly swollen. But he is with us, and we praise God for that. We paid for him to be moved to a more private room and to receive better care, but they want to wait until all the test results are in before they move him out of the large ward he was in. As of tonight, they still have not treated his broken leg.  Please join us in prayer that he will receive excellent medical care, that no infection will set in, and that he will make a full recovery. He also has not yet been told about Pastor Berto. This will be very difficult for him to receive this news. We will be sure to keep you updated.

So our team went on their way for a safari in Kruger Park in South Africa. They spent the night in the park in tent accommodations. As I write this blog, they are on their plane and most likely about to take off for their long flight home. They will be very missed here in Mozambique by many people. They touched many lives- the children at the center, the people that attend the church we built, the people who live in the Bocaria, the Mozambican workers, and me and my family as well. They came here to make a difference, and they did. I pray that they leave feeling as blessed as we all feel!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

J-Term Team - Days 6 and 7

Day 6 - Monday

The past two days have been quite rainy, but the team did not let that deter them from their work here. Yesterday we set up stations in the church building (a large open cement building). The kids came in one by one. First they had their feet washed and lathered up with lotion. It was comical to see our son, Brent, and team member, PJ, rubbing the feet of these little ones. They then went and continued their manicures and pedicures with Kendall and Grace painting their fingernails and toenails. Next it was on to the hair station where Michaela and Haley dressed up their hair with beautiful flowered headbands and barretts that were donated. Finally they came up front to be outfitted with a pair of shoes. Many people sent these shoes overseas for us. But special thanks goes out to my good friend, Elizabeth Berry. She visited here in September 2011. She knew the needs of the children here. When she read a recent blog of mine about the needs of the people here, she was unable to just read it and move on with life; she wanted to make a difference. So she immediately posted a request on Facebook for donations. And in they came! So we were able to outfit each of the children with new shoes. They were so proud as they walked around. Little Armandinho, for example, got a lovely little pair of blue plaid shoes. He couldn’t take his eyes off of his feet and he had a perma-grin pasted on his face. Too cute! We also were able to outfit many of the kids with a new pair of school pants to begin their new academic year the next day.  While this was a joyful time of gift giving and serving the children, by the end of the morning, we all needed a break. So the team headed back to the guesthouse for a swim and lunch. The woman who works in our home prepared the traditional Mozambican rice and beans for their lunch.  They were a bit apprehensive at first and took small helpings. Soon all were back for seconds and even thirds! We returned that afternoon to the center to share a Bible story and craft with the kids.

While the team did this afternoon activity with the kids, there were children who needed to go to a health clinic. We had already visited a clinic on Sunday with Beatriz to get her tested for malaria- which she did have. With high temperatures and lots of rain right now, this is prime time for malaria. So on this day, we needed to take Zefanias for a test. We also took Augusto who has an infection in his knee that has caused it to swell up to at least four times its normal size. We arrived at the clinic to find dozens of people waiting in the hot sun for treatment. Augusto was taken first. Tracy went with the male educator, Makunana, who accompanied us. She came out a bit stunned because of the poor conditions of the clinic. Yet she was happy that she was able to learn how the injection of medication was to be given to him. Then she could do the injections herself for him. Emily, a previous team member of J-term 2012 who is helping out this year, waited with Zefanias until he received his malaria test and thankfully it came up negative. So he will just need some fever reducers to get his fever down. We took both children back to the center to join the others.

All during the day, Scott and Ron worked with a team of Mozambicans on the room that is being added to her house. At the end of the day, I needed to take them along with Pastor Berto (our master builder) to get 2 windows, a door frame, and a door for the room. A task like this in the US is a simple one. You just go down to your local Home Depot, pick them out from the dozens of different kinds available and haul them home. Here in Mozambique, it is nothing less than a  full out test of patience. We went to location after location after location in search of these items. But thankfully we finally found them all and took them back to the center. They were then ready for the next day’s work.

Day 7 - Tuesday

Today began with the threat of rain. While we hoped it would pass, it turned into a thunderstorm with downpours and steady showers all day and into the night now. The team began their work at the center by raking and cleaning up the outside yard hoping to get as much done as they could before the rain started. They then went inside the dorms of the children to pray in each room and over each bed. When they were ready to begin their Bible activity for the day, it was unfortunately time for the children to head off to school. Not all go at the same time. Some grades go from 7 am-12 noon, and others then go from 12 noon to 5 pm. Because it was the smaller children that were now heading off, they decided to wait until later to do these activities. So instead they got out coloring books. When I arrived at the center, I saw children ages 2 to 16 quietly coloring away in the many books that the team brought. They rarely get the chance to do this kind of thing, so it is enjoyed by all ages and genders of the children there. The team then went back for lunch and a nap. They then went back to the center in the late afternoon to spend time singing and playing with the kids. 

It is so nice for the kids to have the team here on rainy days. They are the highlight of their days right now!
A note about the afternoon nap the kids are taking. Yes… they are tired. Maybe it is some jetlag. Maybe it is the long days. And yes…it absolutely is the fact that they are staying up too late each night. BUT it is for a good reason. They have developed a routine of gathering together each night for a biblical discussion of a variety of topics led by our DC bible teacher, Ron Hoch. One day Tracy said it was so intense that smoke was coming out of her ears. Even though our adults Scott, Tracy, and Tracy are exhausted and just want to go to bed, they find they cannot do that because they don’t want to miss out on any of the questions and follow up discussions. So know that your children will come home with lots of ideas and things to share.
Meanwhile, Scott and Ron did their best with our Mozambican building crew to get work done despite the rains. They were planning on putting the roof on the room today but had to change their plans. They put in the windows and knocked out the area of the wall where the door will go. They put in a long good day, and a productive one.

And meanwhile, guess where Tracy, Emily and I went? The medical clinic! Today it was 11 year old Herminia, and she did test positive for malaria. So we got her the medication she needed at the pharmacy before taking her back to the center again. She also got to enjoy a stop at Mama Terri’s house where Emily indulged her with a popsicle and lollipop.

Right now we would like to ask for prayers for 12 year old Vasco. He has had pain in his left leg since the middle of December. Strangely though, he has also been losing drastic amounts of weight, and therefore has little energy and strength. His current weight is 23 kilograms (about 50 pounds). He did have Kaposi sarcoma cancer and was treated 2 years ago. Our concern is that it may be reoccurring. We are praying over him and Tracy bought him fortified soy milk to drink and she is making up a chart so we can keep track of his weight and how much he eats each day. He really needs our prayers right now!

Monday, January 14, 2013

J-Term Team - Days 4 and 5

Saturday was a fun day for all of us despite the rain that fell. We went downtown to the craft market where the local artisans display and sell their work. The team had a good time shopping and bartering with the salesmen. Scott kept his buying under control this year. J It was fun to see the purchases everyone was making. Most were buying gifts for family and friends back home. We then went out to lunch downtown at a restaurant on the beach by the Indian Ocean. At the end of the meal, a few of the kids went out to walk to the beach on a walkway out into the ocean. It was a great time for photo ops!

We returned to Iris Matola-Rio to spend the afternoon with the kids.  The team began with singing songs and teaching the kids some fun accompanying motions. Kendal then shared a story about baby Moses with the children. They then went and did a related craft which they all enjoyed.  Michaela displayed her servant’s heart by making sure that everyone had a picture to color and crayons to color with. Haley, PJ and Grace were busy helping children trace and cut their hands out. It was clear that these children have had very limited experience in using scissors. 

Each child was so proud of the picture they made. The students had a good time helping them color, cut and paste. Tracy Clark was again busy taking photos, Tracy Castelli was busy feeling foreheads and bandaging boo boos, while Scott and Ron were just busy getting the kids all wound up and having fun.

We left the center to head to the Larson’s favorite Mozambican restaurant, Tubiakanga, which specializes in chicken, fried potatoes, and tomato salad. This is an outdoor restaurant close to the guesthouse. We were all happy that the rain had stopped enough to allow us to indulge in this dinner. Again it was a fun time of fellowship. This team is very talkative and is having a great time laughing and experiencing everything together. After dinner, we returned them to the guesthouse to sleep.

When I showed up at the guesthouse on Sunday morning, it was clear that most of the team was feeling quite tired. It seemed that the full days and jet lag were catching up a bit. Yet they were all in good spirits as we loaded into the van to head out to church. We went out to the church that last year’s team built in Chinonquilla. Pastor Berto met us at the church where we joined hands in a large circle and prayed before entering. Worshipping alongside Mozambicans is a privilege. They are not afraid to sing out and dance as they praise God. It is a very joyful time, and it always makes me clap and smile until my hands and cheeks hurt. The first song ended with everyone going around and shaking hands and greeting each other in the name of Jesus. The worship, singing and dancing lasted for more than an hour. We were joined by Augusto Makanana, an educator at the children’s center. He played the drum and boldly led the congregation in many songs. The language spoken and sung was Shongana- the local indigenous dialect.

After worship, Ron Hoch shared a message from Matthew chapter 8 in which Jesus heals a man with leprosy. He reached out and touched this unclean man. Yet instead of becoming unclean Himself, the man was healed. His message was that Jesus cleanses us from all sin. Then it was time for testimonies. Mozambicans love giving speeches and hearing speeches. Several people got up to share, including the local chief. They greeted our team in the name of Jesus and thanked them for coming. They said that one day they could maybe go to America. They spoke of how we did not know each other before this trip, but that through the Holy Spirit we were united as brothers and sisters in Christ. They spoke of how meeting together like this with Mozambicans and westerners worshipping together in church does not happen. They were truly blessed by this team who took time to come and worship with them. Pappa Sitoi (Jim) got up and pointed out the team members he remembered from last year. He was so happy that we were back again. He was a big part of building the church last year and has been at the center helping us build the visitors’ room. Pastor Berto noted that our team brought a guitar with them and asked them to come and sing for them. Ron Hoch accompanied as the team sang two songs (“Lord I Lift Your Name on High” and “Amazing Grace”). Each time, Pastor Berto translated the words after the team sang so the people would know the message of the song. Scott shared his heart with the people. He has really connected in a deep way with them these past two years. He shared that if he is not able to return to see them again here, that he knows he will see them again in heaven one day. He encouraged them and then shared the Gospel message with the congregation saying that our prayer was that each one would know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. They then returned the favor by singing and dancing traditional African worship songs for us. It was a delight to hear these men raise their strong voices in song. The 3 hour service soon ended and the team went outside to play soccer and football with the children while the women finished preparing the meal.

At this point, Tracy Castelli, Emily, and I took Beatriz to the medical clinic. She was feverish, most likely due to malaria, and needed help. It was good we didn’t wait. She did indeed have malaria. When caught and medicated right away, malaria is no worse than having the flu. This meant though that we missed out on the chicken dinner that was prepared by the women at the church site. While we were at the clinic, the team enjoyed chicken, cole slaw, potato salad, rice, and fried potatoes.  From what I heard, everyone ate a lot and ate well. They all enjoyed the meal.

The group then had a few hours to shower and rest up. We had an early dinner at 5:00. The guesthouse prepared a braai for us- braai is Afrikaans for barbeque. We enjoyed a full meal of steak, sausage, beets, potatoes, pumpkin, salad, and ice cream for dessert. At this point, everyone was beginning to realize that they needed some exercise to work off all of today’s food. So a few took a walk while others chose to sit and converse in the dining room. The walkers joined us later and the conversations continued on. We concluded by seeing the team off to their rooms where they planned on spending some time in worship and playing games before heading off to bed.

I hope they don’t stay up too late. Tomorrow it is back to work for them!! We will continue the building project and will also conduct a “Hygiene Day”. We will set up stations in the church. At the first one, they will have their feet washed and then get sized up with a new pair of shoes from the generous amount of donated shoes that were brought over. The girls will then get their nails painted. They will also be fitted with a new pair of uniform pants or shorts for their first day of school on Tuesday. The team will also have another Bible lesson, songs, and crafts for the children to enjoy. Our next three days will be devoted to completing the building project and spending time with the children. The team has really connected with the children. Each member has developed special relationships with the children. It has been a beautiful thing to observe them fall in love with each other like this. They are being blessed by these kids’ love as much as they are blessing the kids.  

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Day 3 - Coming face to face with people who persevere....a trip to the Bocaria.

Our blog for Day 3 actually needs to begin with the night before. My son, William, and I left the guesthouse around 10:30 pm for our 15 minute drive home. We arrived home, pulled through our gate, parked, and got out of the car. Will then went to lock the gate for the night. This is our normal routine at the end of the day. As he approached the gate, two men swung the gate open, entered our property, and the entire family found ourselves faced with an armed robbery which resulted in two of our cars being stolen. Praise be to God that no one in our family was harmed in any way. God was with us and fully protected us from harm. He is good in all things!

Our first concern was for the team. Practically, the next day was their trip to the Bocaria garbage dump. This is an important part of this trip. It is impactful and really places the team members face to face with people who live in the most deplorable conditions possible. Yet these people face daily life with perseverance and determination. However in the world could we get them to Iris Zimpeto, a 45 minute drive away, to go on this outreach without our vehicles? We called the director of the Iris children’s center to tell him we would have to cancel. Yet our son Will kept saying that the team needed to go and that he believed that what happened was the enemy trying to prevent the team from having this life changing experience. I awoke the next morning wondering if indeed Will was right. I racked my brain trying to think of someone who could take the team for us. Into my head popped the names of two of our dearest friends here, Jonny and Becky Wakely. They are former Iris missionaries from England who have been given a vision from God of placing orphaned children into Mozambican families and coming alongside these families to build strong relationships.  I knew they were still seeking God’s will for the implementation of this vision and that they would be relatively “free” to help us. As soon as Don called Jonny, he gladly offered his assistance in not only taking the team for us, but to also pick them up in the afternoon. I met Jonny and the team at the guesthouse where I told the team I would be unable to take them and that Jonny was taking them. I then spoke privately with Tracy Castelli, sharing with her the details of what happened the previous night and why I could not go with them. I knew that together along with the DC administration, they would decide how to best tell the students and their parents about what happened. So the team went on their way with Jonny while Don and I went into town to buy a new van.

The day looked like it would be a total washout. The skies were gray and rain was falling pretty steadily. Yet I prayed asking God to clear it up for the team and to stop up the rain at 10:00- the time that they would be arriving at the Bocaria. As Don and I drove to town, the skies cleared and the rain did indeed stop. I looked at the clock in our car. It was 10 o’clock. Thank you Lord! You do hear and answer our prayers! The team spent their morning at the Bocaria with the Iris missionaries that lead this outreach. Half the members went up on the dump itself and half went out into the community of homes around the dump. Each group prayed with and shared God’s love with the people there. Then they returned to the Iris church at the dump for a service. (If you would like to read more about the Bocaria, read a previous blog I wrote about my visit there.) They then returned to the Iris Zimpeto children’s center where they had lunch (Mozambican rice and beans) with the children and they had a tour of the center led by hospitality.  By late afternoon, my husband arrived to bring them back to the guesthouse in Matola-Rio in our new van. It was at this time that the rain began to fall again.

I met the team at the guesthouse with a spaghetti dinner. I must admit that I did not know how I would be received or how they would respond to the news of what happened to our family the previous night. I was still trying to process and make sense of it myself. Truthfully, I didn’t even want to go out and see them. I felt so sad that this happened while they were here. I was literally prepared to drop off dinner and hightail it back home again. However, I am so glad I went… and that I stayed. During the day, the chaperones told the student members of the team what had happened to us. The team met us with hugs and concern for me and my family. Their concern was for us and how we were doing. Several shared with me that they now knew why God brought them here- it was to minister to us, to encourage us, and to support us through what happened. After dinner, they wanted to pray for us. We gathered in a circle and held hands while Tracy Clark led us in prayer, bringing our family before the throne of God and leaving us at His feet. Our family was enveloped in His perfect peace and compassion. Tracy Castelli summed it up well when she said that the Larson family is clearly up to something good for the enemy to do this to us. We know this is true. We know that our battle is not against flesh and blood. We know that we have been called here to change lives and to bring hope and a future to many. We know that the enemy does not want to see us succeed in what God has called us to do. This attack against our family occurred on the very day that the equipment for the factory was delivered. This is the very day that the vision God gave Don began to become a reality. We know what we have been called to do and we will not be deterred in seeing it through to completion. The team members “get it”. They are committed to support us and see us through this. God gave them to us, and we love them dearly for standing with us. We look forward to seeing how God is going to also use them in the lives of the children at Iris Matola-Rio in the coming week!

Day #2 - J-Term Team 2013

The team’s first full day in Mozambique began with a hearty breakfast at the guesthouse. I then took them to the Iris Matola-Rio children’s center where they would be spending most of their time while here. When we arrived, everyone was a bit shy. The children were spread about close to their dormitories curiously peering at their visitors. This was very unusual for them. Usually when I go there, they are out on the road and covering my car chanting “Mama Terri” before I even pull through the center’s gate! The team got out of the van and peered right back at them, a bit unsure of how to approach them. I called all of the children to the veranda to be seated so I could introduce the team to them. They sat strangely calm and quiet. They are usually a very rambunctious and noisy group. I shared with the children that the team would be at the center each day working on the room that would be added to Mama Corrie’s house as well as playing with the children. They began to smile. I then told them that the team would have special Bible stories, crafts, songs and games to share with them. Their smiles widened a bit. I finished by sharing that they brought special treats and presents for them also. The smiles broke into full grins. I introduced each team member to them and released them all to begin playing. The children sat still, unsure of what to do. But one by one, they got up and began mingling with the team members.

Within an hour, each team member was either playing with or holding children. Meanwhile, Scott Ryle and Ron Hoch got busy working with our team of Mozambicans led by Pastor Berto who were there to help with the building project. They had already begun the work the previous day. They continued adding layer upon layer of cement bricks to the walls that would form the new room. Tracy Clark was busy photographing the children, and Tracy Castelli was bandaging boo-boos and feeling the foreheads of feverish children. By lunchtime, the temperatures had reached at least 100 degrees and the humidity had us all uncomfortably hot, hot, hot. No one complained though, and they kept right on playing, bonding and working. We finished our time there with singing in the church. First Ron led them with his guitar, and then Tracy Castelli moved in with her songs with accompanying motions.

Around 4 pm we went to a project that the woman who works in my house began a year ago. Berta lives in a lower income area. She took note of the children in her neighborhood and recognized a need. Many of the children lived with their elderly grandmothers because their parents had died. These  grandmothers have a difficult time providing for the children, especially in purchasing uniforms and school supplies. She also noticed how many children had nothing to do, and that many would often play in the garbage dump behind her home. So she turned half of her home into a project for them where they come to learn Bible stories, songs, verses, as well as traditional African dances. She teaches them to make crafts- weaving, jewelry, potted plants- that they can then sell for income. We arrived and were greeted by the children who then sang and danced, delighting us all! The highlight of the program was when each member of the team was individually invited up to receive a gift from the children- either a headscarf or a purse (in the case of PJ, it was a “man purse”). A second highlight was when each team member was invited up by a child to dance a traditional African dance with them. Each member was gracious in honoring the children by accepting, even though it was highly embarrassing!! We then presented the children with candies and a toy to thank them for having us.

It was then time to return to the guesthouse for a traditional Afrikaans meal of fetcook (a deep fried bread filled with mince meat) and salad. We were all tired, hot, dirty and sweaty, but no one cared- because we were all in the same boat together with this. After dinner, some members returned to the guesthouse to relax and talk while other chose to go for a late night swim at the guesthouse pool. It was a good day and everyone was ready for bed!