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, April 17, 2016

Three Little Words

Time and time again, I experience first-hand that all people want is to be noticed and to know that someone cares. This is true throughout the whole world, not just here in Mozambique.

This was our third Saturday of feeding the children in the Matola-Santos community a meal. This month we started out small, feeding the 39 children in Berta's Project and inviting in about 40 children from the community. After taking care of the children in Berta's Project, we invite the community children to come through her gate. They wash their hands, receive their meal, and settle down to eat it. After they are done eating and the plates are collected, I sing with them, share a Bible story with them, and send them off. Our goal for our first month was to get ourselves organized and everything running smoothly. Next month, we will increase the number of children we invite.

Last week I told them the story of how God created the world. This week, I reviewed it with them. We reviewed what God did on each day and added in hand motions to help them remember it. I would show out (in Portuguese) and they would repeat after me: Day 1…God made…the day and the night. Day 2…God made…the great big sky. Day 3…God made…the oceans in one place, the land in another place, and the plants. Day 4…God made…the sun, the moon, and the stars. Day 5…God made…the fish (and we made fish faces, which made us all laugh hysterically) and the birds. Day 6…God made…animals and people. Day 7…(whispering) God rested (and we snored, making us all laugh hysterically again). They did not just repeat these phrases, they screamed them out with enthusiasm. I believe the entire population of Matola-Santos learned along with them. We had a blast!

At the end, we were exhausted. They were all sitting on the ground as I stood before them. And then…my world was wrecked. A little girl in a torn yellow shirt and pink tutu, stood up, came to my side, looked straight up into my face and clearly stated, “Mama Terri, eu te gosto.” (Mama Terri, I like you.) I melted to my knees and told her that I liked her as well. She wrapped her skinny arms around my neck and hugged me tightly, not letting go. As she did, the 41 children assembled before us began to cheer loudly and clap their hands. In this culture, it is not accepted for a grown person to cry, but I could not help myself. I cried. And I cried. And the more I cried, the more they cheered.

I cried because this little girl felt God’s love. I cried because this moment would not have happened without my husband I having taken a huge step of faith to reach out to these children. I cried because these 3 little words and this hug made all the years of sacrifice and tears worth it all. I cried because so many family members and friends support our work financially and through their prayers. It is because of them that I can do the work I do here, and they will never have the joy of having a little girl look up at them and say, “Eu te gusto,” and be able to feel her arms wrapped around their necks. I cried because many of the 42 children with me don’t have anyone in their lives who tells them that they like them.

Once I finally collected myself, and the little girl let go of my neck, and the cheering died down, I stood before 42 children with the biggest grins on their faces. They were elated. They touched me deeply, and it thrilled them. We sang “Jesus Loves Me”, I prayed for them, and they were dismissed to go home. As they filed out the gate, each and every child made their way to me, arms outstretched to receive a hug. Even the older 14 year old boys came for a hug! They wanted to be loved as well. I could hardly contain my emotions. After the last child was hugged and had slipped out the gate, I shut the gate and saw Berta looking on. She was grinning from ear to ear, having witnessed what had just happened at her project. It was good. So very very good. And it was all God.

So for all the children who had full bellies yesterday and felt the love of God, I want to tell each of you reading this story, “Nos te gostamos” (We like you). Imagine our arms wrapped around your neck and consider yourself hugged!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

My Vovos

In Mozambique, people use different titles to address others. These titles are dependent upon their age. A young man is called “mano”, meaning brother, and “mana” for a young woman, meaning sister. As a person ages and reaches about 30 years of age, they become “pai” or father and “mae” or  mother. A person over 40 is called a vovo, which literally means grandparent but in actuality what they are saying is that you are just plain old. Technically, I am a vovo but I don’t let anyone call me that. I make them call me Mama Terri!

Some time ago, Berta told me about two vovos  that her 13 year old daughter Amanda was helping. Amanda would see this man and woman sitting outside their homes on her way to and from school each day. They were old and unable to walk. They had no one to care for them. So Amanda took it upon herself to bring them food from her family’s own meager supplies and to clean and mop their one room homes. I was impressed by Amanda’s care for them, but not surprised. She has the heart of her mother who runs a community project for 39 orphaned and vulnerable children as well as a preschool for 80 needy children and helps many families with their needs.

In my frequent drives through the community while going to Berta’s, I finally spied two vovos who appeared to be the older people Berta had described to me. Berta confirmed to me that these were indeed Amanda’s vovos. She told me the woman was the mother of the man. I didn’t just want to go walking up to two strangers! But now that I had seen them with my own eyes, my heart also was touched seeing them sitting in the dirt outside their little homes.

Our relationship started out slowly. I would wave as I passed by and they would wave back. I was never quite sure if the woman could see or hear me. Her son always saw me first and would point me out to her. She then would wave in my direction. I wanted more than just to wave at them, so I stopped by one day with food for them. The son spoke a little Portuguese. He has a speech impediment and is difficult to understand, but we make do.  His mother understood Portuguese but spoke Shongan, but we make do as well. Pretty much what happens is that  I “talk” at her and she “talks” at me. I used the little bit of Shongan that I know, which impressed her thoroughly. As you can see, our communication was a bit stifled, but that was just fine with the three of us. We simply enjoyed each other’s company. I even learned their names. The woman is Teresa (my name..Theresa!! How cool is that?! We all had a good laugh over that one, and it seems to increase our bond to each other). The man is Bento.

Their warm acceptance of me during that first visit emboldened me to go further and stop by more. Yet I did not want them to get the impression that I would bring something to them every time I drive by…I go up and down that road multiple times a day. They would get fat and I would go broke! So sometimes I stop with food and sometimes I just wave. I have taken them food many more times, as well as clothing and shoes. I brought a new capulana for the woman one day, which thrilled her!! (In fact, I see that she has it around her shoulders in the photo above.) It makes me want to take her one every day from here on out! Our communication remains a bit limited, to put it nicely, but we still get along just fine. Sometimes there are other ways to communicate than with words.

I must admit I was also a bit nervous what their neighbors would think about a white woman stopping in their area so much.  It is a tight dirt road, so I have to pull up onto someone’s property in order to be out of the way. I worried they would begin to ask me for things as well, which puts me in an uncomfortable situation. After all, as much as I would like to, I can’t help everyone. And I even worried they may just not like me being there. Yet despite my concerns, I have received a very favorable response. They already recognized me because I was forever driving by, but now they knew I cared enough to stop and care for these two people who do not have the capacity to care for themselves. During one visit the cheffe of the area (like the mayor) came to see me. He introduced himself to me and thanked me for taking an interest in these two people who live in his zone. So now I am not just a passerby. They are happy to see me come and stop.

My stops have also opened up somewhat of a relationship with the neighbors. One time as I was getting back into my car, I saw a  tiny girl with capulana wrapped around her foot. This is their version of a BandAid. I asked her what her name was ( Emilinha) and if her foot was hurt (Yes). She said she had a ferida (skin problem). I asked her if I could take off the capulana to see it. She shook her head yes. As I did,  I asked her to call her mother over. Her mother came and explained that the girl had burned her foot about a week ago. Removing the capulana confirmed what the mother had said. She had a wound on the top of her foot and it seemed to be healing nicely. I asked permission and then cleaned it with some antiseptic, put some ointment for burns and infection on it, and wrapped it up. I asked the mother to bring her a little sock to wear so that the would the bandage would stay semi-clean and in place. I instructed them to leave it on for two days and I would return to treat it again. For two days, little Emilinha waved at me and showed me her sock as I drove by. On the third day, I returned to clean and treat her little foot a second time. For two more days, she smiled, waved, and showed me her sock. On the following third day, the sock and bandages were removed to reveal a nicely healed foot. No more sock or pain for her.

As I treated Emilinha’s little foot, another mom came over with her baby who had a mild ferida on his arm. I cleaned it and put ointment and a BandAid on it. She walked off as happy as a clam. Sometimes all people want is to be noticed. To know that someone sees them and cares about their needs. I was happy to be that person for them.

Curious children tend to gather around my car when I stop. They like to see what I am doing. We chat as I return from my little visit and climb into my car again. Sometimes I bring them a candy or a balloon. But again, I don’t want them to think they will get something every time I come!! So sometimes all they get is a pat on the head. Even so, I get treated every time I come. They treat me to smiles and waves. What began as a kind act of simply waving as I passed by two elderly, forgotten people has now turned into a fun relationship with the vovos, their neighbors, and the children. I may not treat them to something each time I drive through, but they never cease to treat me to their smiles and waves. I have said it before and I am saying it again…I am blessed!