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....

Wednesday, October 4, 2017


On my daily drives through the community, I have seen a lot of growth over the years. This growth comes from industrious people, usually women, who want to make a better life for themselves and their families. In order to make some income, they set up little businesses.

Some women will set up a little table outside their property along the road where they sell small things people need like vegetables or bread.  This woman told me that she goes into the city every morning at 4:30 to purchase these vegetables to bring them back out to Matola to sell at her stand.

Women who live along the path children take while walking to and from school set up a table with candies, cookies, and chips. Ingenious! What child could resist making a purchase like this?!

Women fry up and sell all manner of foods for hungry people to buy…small bean patties called bejias that are put in bread to make a sandwich, samosas, donuts, and little fried pieces of dough with coconut.

Yet the woman I have admired the most is a sweet, old lady who has been growing lettuce. She is just so very adorable in her wee-little rubber boots, tending her garden. As I drive by, I always greet her and compliment her on her work. She beams with a smile that lights up her face. She began about two years ago with a small plot in front of her humble home. It was a small start. I have watched as she has tried new and inventive ideas to keep away pests like cats, insects, or small children.  I have seen her struggling to carry heavy buckets of water to shower the lettuce plants. At times, I have seen her work destroyed by lack of water, a storm, or even trampled by who knows what. Yet she has persevered day after day, month after month.

I have always wanted to take her photo but had been too shy to ask. Today, I garnered up the courage to just go for it. The worst she could do would be say, “No.” Instead of turning me down, she gladly accepted. I told her I just had to share the fruit of her labor with my friends in America.

Take a look at her now! She has not just one small plot, but many at different stages of growth. Here you see just two large plots of mature lettuce plants, but to the side are 4 more plots, equally as large. She also now has a garden hose so that she can easily water her lettuce each day. She has strung up strips of black plastic to shoo away pests. And she has put a line of barbed wire along the road to keep out unwanted passersby.

Mozambique is not an easy place to live. Yet, this woman has proved that “Where there is a will, there is a way”. She has made a way for herself. It is a testimony to me, and I hope to you as well!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Frustrations...turned to victory!!

On April 30th, I posted a blog about our fight to save Api’s leg. http://sunshineinafrica.blogspot.com/  I wrote this only a week after he had the surgery on his leg. It was titled, “Frustrations…but all for the good of others”. What a difficult time that was for us. If you read this blog, you know that this was not just a battle to save his physical leg, but a battle to save his life from a curse that was put on him.

Since his surgery, Api has continued to persevere with a brave attitude. He missed a month of school and was forced to leave his active play life behind to sit at home. If he were to get up to move around, he had to use crutches and was not able to put any weight on his leg. He was to take antibiotics, and we filled him with nutrient rich foods and vitamins. He proved to be a very good boy and followed the doctor’s instructions, not to mention he dealt well with us hovering over him. His wound needed to be cleaned and his bandages replaced every other day during this time period. I was only able to care for him for two weeks, at which time I made a trip to the US. During my absence, my co-worker Sebi was amazingly faithful in going to his home every other day to carry on the wound care, as well as take him to the city for doctor check ups.

Today we are pleased to announce that Api has been downgraded to a Band-Aid!!! This Band-Aid is a victory that we are all celebrating. After a year and a half of having his leg bandaged and treated, he now just has a little bit of his wound that needs to heal. I know that many of you have kept him in your prayers, so I wanted to share this victory with you so that you may join in celebrating and praising God with me. 

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Frustrations... but all for the good of others

I often am tempted to attempt to put into writing the daily frustration we face in trying to get anything accomplished in our work here in Mozambique. I was tempted when I went through the deliriously tedious process of getting our Sunshine Children registered for private school education this past December and January. I am tempted every time I deal with a construction project here and it takes me full days of searching and searching and searching for the needed materials before we can start, only to go to the site each day to hear, “Mama Terri, I’m sorry but we also need…” I am tempted when I want to pull off a holiday party for the children and am searching far and wide for the simplest of materials to make it special. (Oh, what I wouldn’t give for a Dollar Store here in Mozambique!!!) I am tempted when I go through the incredibly lengthy process of getting permission and authorization from every level (national, provincial, and district) of both the Departments of Health and Education just to get in a team of dentists and dental students to teach school children how to brush their teeth and eat well. Each day, we are hit from all sides by delays, distractions, problems, frustrations…I could go on but you get my point.  I always hesitate to write such a blog because I wonder who would really want to read it?! Yet after walking through the process of getting surgery for a little boy in our children’s project, I can no longer keep quiet. I write this not for you to feel sorry for me and what I have to go through to transform lives. I write this for you to feel sorry for the people here and what they must go through to simply live. I have advantages that they do not… like a car and money. I seriously cannot even begin to comprehend how in the world the average person here can get things done, or remain healthy, or get an education, or anything else!
So…here goes…

Meet Api.

Api is a very handsome boy of 9 years. He is a good boy. He is very respectful and helpful to his mother. His mother, Louisa, has no employment and, as is often the sad case here, sells herself in order to get the money needed for her to survive. Api has two younger brothers, Junior and Boane.

All three boys have different fathers, whom they will never know. Api is often found caring for his brothers in his mother’s absence. He is really good with them - attentive to their needs, protective, and playful.

I first met Api in January 2016. Berta called him to my attention. He had a ferida (wound) on his lower right leg just below the knee. It caused his leg to be swollen twice the size of the other leg, and it was very painful for him. 

I immediately contacted my Australian friend Kit, who is a nurse, to come to his aid.  Kit began treating him with antibiotics and creams. We went three times each week to change his bandages and apply more cream to the wound. Kit said that it would take at least a year of such treatment in order to heal this wound because it was so deep. We continued treating him together until Kit left Mozambique in June 2016, leaving me with her instruction and guidance to continue caring for him on my own. 

Over the course of this past year and a half, the condition of his leg did improve but his leg has not healed, The wound still was seeping blood and pus, and he still had pain in his leg. He still could not run and play like a little 9 year old boy should. This is a battle I will not lose. Let me share why…this is the story the Api’s mother shared with Berta when she was asked about how this wound began.

When Api was 7 years old, he was playing with a little girl. While playing, he knocked her down. When she fell, she lost the money she had been given by her grandfather. When the grandfather found out about what happened, he was very angry and went to Api’s house. He put a curse on Api and told him he would not like what was going to happen. That very night, Api had pain in his right ankle and when he woke up the next morning, he had a wound on his ankle. His mother took him to the hospital when it did not improve. She was told to wash it with soap and it would be fine. It continued to worsen. In desperation, his mother went to the man who cursed Api and returned the money that his granddaughter had lost when Api knocked her over. She asked him to remove the curse. He said he would not remove the curse and that Api would die from this wound.

I have complete faith that Api is going to be a testimony to his entire community that God is more powerful than any curse or assignment from the enemy. Api knows the Lord and is a child of God. He will be well, in Jesus’ name. Every time I treat his leg, I pray over it as I clean the wound, apply antibiotic ointment, and put on the bandages. Api closes his eyes and prays along with me as well. In fact, at times, all of the children in Vovo Berta’s Project surround us and pray for him. He is going to be a testimony of God’s faithfulness. I am fighting in the spiritual realm by covering him in prayer and in the natural realm by committing to do whatever needs to be done to heal him.

Last month, I decided that enough is enough. I took him to the private hospital in Maputo to see a doctor. This is a privilege few people here can afford. We started by paying for a consult with a pediatrician. She referred us to another doctor, which meant another consultation fee. This doctor was very concerned when he saw the wound. He ordered an immediate x-ray and blood tests. We paid for these tests and had them done right away. We returned to his office a few hours later with the x-rays. The x-rays confirmed his grave concern. The infection had entered on his right ankle, it traveled up the bone in his leg and exited out just below the knee where the blood and pus had been seeping out. He referred us to an orthopedic surgeon. Another consultation fee was paid and in we went to get his guidance on what to do. He looked at the x-rays and told us that if Api did not have surgery to remove the dead and infected parts of the bone, he would lose his leg. Treatment would require surgery plus 10 days in hospital where he would receive strong antibiotics to fight the infection. The quote to have this done at this hospital was $4,500 USD. Phew! I was prepared for anything…but this was a lot! When faced with spending money, I must always weigh the amount being spent and how many lives it is transforming so as to make the most effective use of our foundation’s money. But how could I stand by and see him lose his leg?

This is where Sebi began a search. Sebi works for our Sunshine Nut Co. We recently asked her to come alongside me and assist me with our foundation’s work as well. She agreed and has been an immense help to me already! I sent Sebi to search out quotes from other hospitals, both public and private. We wanted Api to have this surgery at the best possible hospital at the best possible price. We finally decided upon the Veteran’s Hospital in Maputo. The orthopedic surgeon there gave the same treatment plan as the first surgeon, yet at this hospital, the cost would be affordable, about $1,000. A date was set for the surgery and we moved forward. His mother gave approval for the surgery and was told to organize a plan for someone to stay with Api during his 10 days in the hospital.

The day before Api’s surgery, he needed to go in for blood tests and a consult with the doctor. Sebi made arrangements to meet them at a grocery store near their home an hour before the consult so they would have time to arrive in the city on time. She arrived there at the appointed time, and after waiting 30 minutes for them to show, she drove back into their neighborhood to their house only to discover they had not even started preparing to meet her. With great patience, our slightly disturbed Sebi waited while they pulled themselves together. She hurried them into the city, to the hospital, and they arrived late to the appointment but were still able to be seen. At the end of the day when she dropped them off at home, Sebi again reminded his mother to organize someone who would stay with him during his 10 days of confinement. She also informed her that we would pick them up at our meeting point the next morning at 5am to get Api to the hospital in time for his 6am consultation before the surgery. Our plan was to pick them up at 5:30, so by telling them 5:00, we knew they would be “on time”.

The next morning, Sebi arrived at my house at 5:15, we headed off in my car and arrived at the meeting point at 5:25. We waited 5 minutes and knew that they were not going to show. We headed off into the dark neighborhood, parked the car, and walked down the still dark road to their house. We knocked on the locked front gate. They were still in bed sleeping! They all got up very quickly and set about getting ready. We overheard Louisa telling Api to go take his shower, to which Sebi and I both called out, “No shower this morning! We must get going!” Louisa wrapped herself up in a capulana, grabbed the baby and tied him on her back in another capulana; Api brushed his teeth and grabbed his bookbag. We were off!

This delay set us back greatly as now we were not only 40 minutes late, but we would be in the midst of the morning rush hour traffic heading in to the city. We prayed for safety and favor and arrived at the hospital at 6:40. This in itself is a miracle- ask any fellow commuters here. It literally could have taken us hours to get there. We scurried in and took a seat on the benches in the hallway. Fortunately for us, the surgery ward nurse, Susana, arrived late as well. Susana got her uniform on and came to invite us to see the room Api would be staying in and to put his things away. He had a private room with a television, his own bathroom, a ceiling fan, and an air conditioner. He would also receive three meals a day (I’m not sure he gets even two meals a day at home). After seeing all of this, I thought to myself that he might not want to ever leave! Sad, but true. Susana went off to find a suitable surgery shirt for Api to wear because they only had adult shirts. She returned with the smallest one she could find. It was an adult man’s shirt that consumed our little Api, and it smelled of body odor as well. I wondered to myself if it had even been washed since it was last used.

We were then directed to head over to the surgery waiting room. 

Here we waited for about an hour. We passed the time by watching children’s shows on the old TV that made everyone appear green in color and playing with SnapChat. 

A man came in and ordered Api to redress in a surgical gown and gave him cloth “boots’ made for an adult to tie onto his feet. We all laughed to see him come out wearing these grossly oversized clothes!

 It wasn’t long until the operating room nurse came to the door. She looked at our little Api with a stern face and in an emotionless voice simply said, “Come with me.” Api dutifully got up and started walking towards the door. The mother in me caused me to jump up and cover him with one last hug, a prayer, and “I love you. It will all be fine,” before I could let him go. I stood in the doorway and watched him follow the nurse down the hallway to the surgery room…his head bowed, looking at the floor. This nurse did not say anything to encourage him, nor did she touch him. She just walked ahead of him. I almost burst into tears for him. What a brave, brave little boy he was to take this walk to surgery on his own.

Sebi and I then headed outside to wait with Api’s mother until the surgery was completed. Waiting while someone is in surgery is endless. You wait for what seems hours, only to look at your watch and see that 5 minutes has passed. You pray and you wait. You wait and you pray. After about two hours, the surgeon came out to tell us the surgery was a success and that Api was in the recovery room. We were all relieved. About an hour later, a stretcher was rolled down the hall with our Api sound asleep under a heavy blanket. It covered him up so much that I had to strain to even see if it was him or not.

He was taken to him room and put into his bed. The nurse came out and asked if we wanted to go in and see him. Sebi and I leaped up from our bench ready to go. Api’s mom did not move. We turned and asked her if she would like to come see Api. She calmly replied, “No thank you.” Sebi asked her to please come as she should see her son. She got up and came with us. We entered his room and stood at his bedside. 

I restrained myself from going to Api first...this was a privilege reserved for his mother, not me. Yet she just stood back and listened as the nurse talked about the surgery and how he would now be cared for. She did not even look at him! I moved in and rubbed his arm, beheld his sweet sleeping face, held his hand, smoothed the course hair on his head, lifted the blanket to take a peek at his leg, and kissed him on his forehead. All the while, his mom showed no sign of being interested in him at all. I could not understand this. But I often think like the American that I am, so I brushed it off. Maybe I was “missing” something. After we left the room to return home, I gave her enough money to use the public transport to come visit Api every day and to get herself food along the way. I knew that she did not have the extra money to afford this, and I wanted her to have the freedom to visit her son.

We then asked his mother what arrangements she had made for someone to stay with Api for the next 10 days. She gave us a blank stare. We asked her again. She said she did not make any arrangements. We were stunned. We asked her what the possibilities were. She could not stay with him because she has an 11 month old son that she is still nursing. She suggested that maybe her sister would come stay with Api. We asked the nurse to please watch over Api and that someone would come shortly to stay with him. We took Louisa home so she could go ask her sister for help. Her sister came to meet with us and said she was not able to help. She lived on the property of her husband’s family. They would not like to have other people’s children there running around and making noise while Louisa stayed in the hospital with Api. She could not go in and stay with Api at the hospital either because her husband would not allow it. At this point, Louisa and her sister got up and walked off. No goodbye. No thank you. They just headed back home, stranding us…and Api. This is when our Berta stepped in to save the day. We asked two of the men who work with the children’s project to take day and night shifts. Elsidio, who oversees the sewing project, agreed to take the night shift. Arlindo, who oversee the garden project, agreed to take the day shift. I gave each of them money and food for the next five days and wearily headed home.

I was up early the next morning after a sleepless night and off to the hospital, anxious to check on Api and see him awake. I was rewarded with his bright smile when I entered his room, the television blaring with cartoons. 

He had woken up late the afternoon before, eaten his dinner and his breakfast that morning. He had no pain and was feeling well. I was so happy. I unloaded a bag full of juices, snacks, crayons, books, puzzles, and toy cars for him. I also gave him a blanket I made for him to keep him warm and cozy at night. While I was there, the surgeon came in to check on him and change his bandages. I wasn’t so sure I was prepared to see the wound, so I was very grateful when he only removed the outer layer of bandages and replaced them with clean ones. I was given a prescription for antibiotics that Api would take four times each day. It was critical he start them right away to prevent infection. The only problem was that the hospital did not have any of this medication in stock. I gave Arlindo money to go buy it at the pharmacy at the end of the street. He returned to say that he went to two pharmacies, and neither one had the medicine. I took the prescription and headed off to the private hospital. Surely they would have this antibiotic. I arrived and waited in a line for an hour. The woman went and searched the shelves only to return shaking her head. They did not have the medication either. I went on to pharmacy after pharmacy until it was suggested I go to the other side of the city to Farmacia Luis Valente. I was told that if this pharmacy did not have the medication, no one would. I called Don at home, crying to him because I was so frustrated and had no idea how to find this pharmacy. He looked it up on his computer and gave me directions. I dried my eyes and drove off. I found the pharmacy, parked my car, and entered in. When the man behind the counter told me that they did indeed have the medication, I had to restrain myself from leaping right over the counter and hugging him!! I purchased the medication and returned to the hospital to pass it off to Arlindo who was still with Api. I then returned home weary again.

Over the course of the next days, Api’s recovery process was up and down…keeping me awake and praying at night. My biggest concern was that the medicine was to be taken on an empty stomach. This made him sick and he would throw up. What good could it do then? So after messaging Kit in Australia, she confirmed that it would be better for him to take it on a full stomach and keep it down than to take it on an empty stomach and throw it up. This has been very successful. The only other issue we faced was that Api’s mother did not come to visit him even one time while he was in the hospital.

We received a call on Wednesday afternoon that they were going to release Api from hospital, four days earlier than we had expected. He was doing well enough that he could return home. Since it was late in the day, they agreed to keep him until the next morning. Nurse Susana had become quite fond of Api. She said they would keep him one more night and put new bandages on him the next day at no additional cost.

Our plan was to have Api stay at Berta’s during his recovery from the surgery. Berta would ensure that he would get his medication at the required times and that he was fed well. His mother came to tell Berta that she could not accept this. Her reason…her family thinks she is irresponsible, not a good mother, and that she is not “right in her head”.  So she wanted to do this to show them that she can be responsible. While I am all for her improving her life, I am not interested in her doing this at the risk of Api healing properly. Yet she is his mother and we cannot go against her will.

Thursday morning, Sebi and I headed to the city to bring Api home. On our way, we picked up a beautiful bouquet of yellow flowers for nurse Louisa. She was so thrilled when we gave them to her.

 We packed up Api’s belongings and he received his first lesson on how to use the crutches we purchased for him. He was unsteady but determined to master walking. 

After going down the hallway, out the door, and toward the parking area, he was exhausted. I decided to bring the car to him. As we left to fetch the car, the guard at the gate said that it would cost us 10 meticais to go in to get him. 10 meticais is not much money at all, but seriously?! You have to pay to go in and fetch a patient who can’t walk to the car?! Clearly this guard would be using the money to buy himself a refreshment later in the day. Jokingly, I asked Sebi if he would also require us to pay 10 meticais to leave as well.

We drove in and found Api slumped on a bench, waiting with the attendant. He was so exhausted that the attendant carried him to the car. We headed out toward the main gate to leave the hospital. Instead of lifting the boom, the guard approached our car window. I thought to myself, “No way! He IS going to ask us for money to leave!” Indeed he said, “You must pay 10 meticais.” Sebi told him that we had already paid him. He questioned us, “You paid 10 meticais to enter?” Sebi responded that we did. Then he smiled wide and said, “Oh yes you did. I had forgotten your faces!” Now seriously, how many white women did he have pay to enter through that gate in the past 5 minutes, let alone the past month!! He lifted the boom and we waved kindly as we passed him on our way out.

We brought Api to his house and gave all the instructions his mother would need to care for him. We gave her instructions for administering the antibiotic, telling her she would have to get up at midnight and 6 am in addition to the 12 noon and 6 pm times. She has no alarm clock or phone to set to wake up to give him his meds. She said she would leave her television on all night so that she could wake up and see the time. We gave her the vitamins and calcium pills to take in the mornings and the iron supplement to add to his water once each day. We gave her milk for him to drink and food and snacks for him to eat.  Api sleeps in a separate building on the property from her bedroom. Thankfully she said that she had already determined that he would sleep with her. We gave her the doctor’s note to take to the school to notify them that Api had surgery and would not return until May 26th. We asked her to find a tutor for him and we would pay for this fee so that he would not fall behind in his classes. Once we exhausted ourselves of everything we had to tell her, we left Api in her care. We again returned home, more weary than ever.

Sebi and I were back at Api’s house the next day on Friday, not to be snoops, but to take him to the health clinic for the daily changing of his bandages. We took him along with his mother, in case we needed her permission to do something. I wanted to see what they would do to clean and dress his wound as this responsibility would be mine over the weekend. The clinics are not open on Saturday and Sunday. We went to the clinic nearest his home and helped Api navigate his way across the road. It was packed with men, women, and children lined up on benches and standing along the walls, waiting to receive care. Sebi sought out where we needed to go, only to be told that they did not have any bandages. They directed us to try another clinic. We drove to this clinic and again Api struggled in on his crutches and again we were told they did not have any bandages. How? How? How do people here get proper care? Clearly, they don’t. At this point, I told Sebi that we were going to the local private hospital and would pay to get the bandages changed. Surely the private hospital would have bandages.

Thank goodness we were forced to do this. We arrived, paid the fee, and went back into an examining room with a nurse. He removed the bandaging on Api’s leg and for the first time we saw the wound. We were stunned and tears stung our eyes. It was horrible! We expected the incision to be a long one, and it was. It went all the way from below his knee to just above his ankle. But we expected to see a clean wound, stitched shut and healing. What we saw looked like something from a Frankenstein movie! The stitches were about an inch apart, therefore leaving gaping openings between them. The lower part of the wound was already white with infection. This did not happen over one night! How could they have changed his bandages each day in the hospital and not seen this? Had they not been using antibiotic cream to prevent infection? This nurse was joined by another nurse.  Both of them stood looking at his wound in disbelief. Meanwhile, Sebi moved into action, taking a photo and messaging it to the surgeon along with a few questions. He responded that he was out of the office for the next week and that we would need to make an appointment with his colleague and see him next week if we are concerned. The nurse proceeded to do a very thorough job of cleaning his wound with two disinfectants, slathering antibiotic cream from one end to the other, and bandaging him back up again. We took him back home, stopping on our way to buy a phone for his mother so that she could know the time, set an alarm to give him his medications, plus be in touch with us.  We finished by again reviewing with Louisa her instructions for his care, and wearily headed home yet again.

Today, Saturday, I took Api to the hospital again for his bandages to be changed. It is not cheap to do this, but it must be done in order for him to heal properly. I am so glad to have chosen to do this. While it still looks bad, I could see slight improvement since yesterday. We had a lovely nurse named Sophie. She talked with me about it all and told me that most likely the doctor put the stitches this far apart to allow blood and any remaining infection to drain out. She assured me that if we kept up with the oral antibiotics and antibiotic cream, that we could drive out the infection. She was so kind and helpful. I left feeling better. Still weary, but now hopeful.

As we continue forward, I am weary but grateful for so much…I am grateful that I am able to be here for Api. I am grateful that I have a car to transport him to hospital each day. I am grateful that our foundation had the resources to provide this surgery for him. I am grateful for the help of so many people- Sebi, Elsidio, Arlindo, Berta- without them, this opportunity could not have happened. I am grateful for my loving husband who was there to meet me in the driveway as I returned home each night with a comforting hug. I am grateful for Alice Lee, who came along to covertly take these amazing photos and kept me company. We are now "partners in crime". I am grateful for many others who are holding Api in prayer for complete healing. If you are reading this, please do keep Api in your prayers. And please keep his mother in your prayers as well. I would like to believe that she will take the necessary care that Api requires right now. I would like to believe that this will be the catalyst she needs to turn her life around. I would like to have the faith that she will do this. I would like to encourage her and not doubt her intentions. Maybe I need the prayers more than she does?! I have done everything I possibly can to help this little boy. He is now in the hands of his Father. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

Sunshine in the Schools

Part of the privilege we enjoy here in Mozambique is in hosting guests and teams who come from all around the world. They come in all shapes and sizes and for a variety of reasons. It is very overwhelming to host a team both in the preparation before they come (which includes meal planning, food shopping, preparing beds, letters of invite for visas, and getting the necessary governmental authorizations to complete the work they intend to do), in hosting them (which includes providing 3 meals a day, getting them up and transported to where they are working, and reassuring them that if they got bit by a mosquito they will most likely not get malaria), and the clean up after they go (washing up all of those towels and sheets and storing them away for the next group). Yet…each team or guest we have hosted has given us so so so much!

Our guests bring us an ever new outlook on this crazy place in which we live as we get used to things and take them for granted. When we look through their eyes, we see things here in a fresh way. Their fellowship with us brings  lots of good conversations as we get to know each other…they come as strangers and leave as family. They bring with them knowledge in their particular field to share and help people here- it can be construction, medical, dental, educational, ministerial, or simply just loving and playing with the children. They bring us donations that we can use to bless the children and people. The “best” kind of guests bring me Reese’s Mini-Peanut Butter Cups-ha ha!

Visiting here has its challenges. It can be hot. Very hot! We sometimes do not have power to run the air conditioners or fans that keep us cool at night. We sometimes do not get water and therefore one cannot shower or wash clothing. No dishwashers or fancy appliances here, so we all must chip in and share the load of work. There are snakes. There are mosquitos. There are pickpockets. There are many things to be wary about….but nothing to be afraid of.

Today we said farewell to a group of amazing teachers, organized and led by our daughter Cassie, who joined us from the Landmark School in Massachusetts. The tears flowed at the airport as we hugged goodbye. I seriously considered ripping up their return tickets and keeping them here with me! The team came to train teachers in some local high schools. This was a pilot program to see how it would go. If a success, Landmark would like to send a team of teachers to us each year. Because it was a pilot program, we decided to work within  the private school arena so as to try it out without having to go through the red tape of working in a public school. We chose three schools- Christian Academy of Mozambique, Anna Mogas Catholic School, and Cantinhou do Ceu Christian School.

Previous to the team’s arrival, I met with the directors of each school several times. First to receive their permission to come and run a training program at their school. We personally know the director of Christian Academy and our William attended school there, so that was the easy one. When I met with the directors of the Portuguese schools, I got the feeling they were thinking to themselves, “Exactly who is this white woman and why is she bothering me?” But they were kind and gracious and agreed to allow us in. I invited them to share with me what their needs were for their teachers and I shared with them the ideas we had- training in classroom management, lesson planning, creative teaching strategies, teacher/student relationship, etc. I also shared with them that we would provide a meal for the teachers…”If you feed them, they will come!” I returned several times to make sure all was set …I was worried they would forget!!

While I was laying the groundwork here, Cassie and her team were busy preparing and organizing a training program. They met multiple times to create the lessons, presentation slides, and assemble the needed materials. Cassie was joined by 4 experienced Landmark teachers- Lauren, Kaleigh, Kate, and Kyle.

The team arrived on a Sunday afternoon just shy of 2 weeks ago. They arrived tired and feeling dirty, but I told them that no one would be sleeping or showering just yet. We came home so they could unpack and freshen up a bit, but we then headed out to play with children at a local orphanage (which is why it made no sense to shower first) and then to eat a traditional Mozambican chicken dinner at our all-time favorite Mozambican restaurant, Tubikanga. My whole purpose in this was to keep them moving and awake until bedtime. They would have no time to relax and adjust to the time change or get over their jet lag. We would have to be up and out the door at 6:30am the next morning to our first day of training. They did great and lasted up to bedtime. In hind sight, they now thank me for having done this. Every one of them did adjust quickly.

Monday morning we completed an all-day inservice training for the 21 teachers at the Christian Academy of Mozmabique (CAM). This was a great start for the team because this is an English speaking school, so there was no need for translation. Our team shared their presentation and were doubly blessed by a capulana service just before lunch in which the teachers sang traditional songs and wrapped each team member in a capulana. At the end of the day, they made speeches and thanked our team. One teacher shared that he had not learning anything new since university…and he has been teaching for 20 years! The teachers again broke into song and dance and presented the team with yet another gift.

Tuesday morning we returned to CAM. Pairs of or team went into classrooms and taught lessons to model the strategies taught during the inservice the day before. The CAM teachers observed. On Wednesday, our teachers then observed the CAM teachers looking for them to use the strategies. We provided them with feedback as well. I observed a 10th grade Portuguese class. (I must brag a bit here and say that I understood every part of the lesson and instruction. I used to say I spoke equivalent to a 5 year old child, but now I think I can say that I speak more like a high school student!!) I was so excited to see this male teacher put into practice so much of what was taught the day before. It was also exciting to see how the students responded enthusiastically to his new techniques.

Before leaving CAM on Wednesday, Cassie met with the director to plan dates for next year’s trip in March. They were that excited! The director said that the team was so well received because they were experienced teachers who could relate well to her teachers. It was fun to see everyone commiserating together, especially over the funny things that students do during lessons!

Thursday morning we headed off to Anna Mogas. Everyone was a bit nervous. This would be very new territory for us. We would have to use a translator because this was a Portuguese speaking school. Our Sunshine Nut Company employee, Sebi, was our official translator. She did a fabulous job in relaying the information and also on elaborating when necessary. The students at most Portuguese schools study only half a day and therefore, the teachers only teach half a day. We ran a training program in the morning for the afternoon teachers and one in the afternoon for the morning teachers. There were 37 teachers in attendance. We did this on Thursday and Friday. The teachers were very enthusiastic and received everything that was shared with them.  They also shared a lot with us as well. On the second day that we were there, a teacher told us how much he had benefited from our training. He said that he went back into his classroom that afternoon with new eyes. Another teacher shared that she tried the simple technique of developing relationship with her students by giving each one a “high five” as they entered the classroom. She said she could not believe the difference it made in the atmosphere of her classroom.  In the end, the director invited us to return again next year but this time, he invited us to come spend more time there and run a program like we did at CAM where we would go into the classrooms to model lessons and observe teachers. He said that we are now family.

Our final training program was a Saturday morning at Cantinho do Ceu where we presented to 48 teachers. The team was now “on a roll” with their program. They also were more in tune to asking the teachers to share their ideas- this was a big hit and got everyone discussing and sharing. Our main goal was to come alongside the teachers in Mozambique and collaborate. Again, the director was effervescent in his appreciation of the program. He invited us back to not only present again but to do a 3 day program like we did at CAM. When we told him that we would be happy to return in March 2018. He was disappointed that they would have to wait a year and asked if we could return sooner! He said that our team had changed his views on America- that we were a nation of people who were not selfish, who were very helpful, and who want to do good. A teacher at this school thanked the team in front of his colleagues saying that this was the first further training he has received since he graduated from teacher training many years ago.

I received the following message from a teacher who attended the training program. It pretty much sums up how very successful this program was…

Hello. I am one of the teachers from CAM. I just wanted to let you know how much the workshop the teachers did was appreciated. I have heard so many positive remarks and more importantly, a couple of teachers said they are changing their ways and seeing results already. One remarked on how positive they (the training team)  were. She said they didn’t tell us what we were doing wrong, but only gave us ideas to use. Just thought you would like to know you made a difference!

SCORE!!!  Looking forward to having you back again next year, Landmark!!!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

It's Raining Boys!!!

After three years of drought conditions, southern Mozambique is being blessed by lots of rain this year. We are all so thankful for this. Yet my life is not only filled with rain from the skies in the form of water, but it’s raining boys!

In my previous blog, “My Birthday Present- It’s a Boy!”, I wrote about our new little guy Samuel. He is being cared for by Berta in our second Sunshine House along with Juju, who has been abandoned by her parents. He is doing great…eating everything in sight (we had to teach him to not pick up food off the ground and eat it), playing with lots of other children from sun up to sun down, and bringing tons of joy and giggles into our lives. He truly is a picture of God’s grace.

Samuel came to us on my birthday, January 3rd. On that very same day, there were two other boys needing a place to call home and a family, but it was too premature to say anything yet. Now I can! 

Meet Maiquen and Samuel. Maiquen is 15 years old and will be entering grade 7 soon. Samuel is 9 years old and will be in grade 2. 

Again, it was a neighbor of these boys who connected with Berta to share their story. Each boy had a different father whom they never knew. The fathers abandoned the mother and their sons when they were infants. Their mother died in April 2016 from Aids. Their older 24 year old brother was left with the responsibility of providing for the boys. He rents a very small, one-room cement home where he lives with his wife and son. He has no job. To make money, he does biscata- the word for odd jobs. He barely earns enough to feed his own family and certainly not enough to feed two more boys. He tried to get help from extended family members, but no one had the conditions to take in more children. My heart breaks to imagine the emotional pain of losing your mother and then not having anywhere to belong…not having anyone willing to accept you into their home and to care for you…not knowing where you will live or how you will survive.

We had already been planning to put together a third Sunshine House. We had a widowed woman named Guida who had agreed to take in and care for children. Guida has worked at Berta’s preschool for the past two years. She is a lovely woman whose husband passed away and her children have grown up and left her behind to pursue their lives.  Guida also has a huge heart for children. In fact, on the morning of the very day that I first heard about Maiquen and Samuel, I had seen Guida. She asked me when we would be able to get the project started. My response to her was, “As soon as we get some children who need a home.” I asked her if she would like boys or girls or any particular aged child. She responded, “Qualquer”, whatever. So all we needed was whatever children God would bring our way. Unbeknownst to us, He had already provided.

I met Maiquen and Samuel for the first time today. They waited quietly for me to finish the community feeding program. I don’t even know at what point they showed up…dishing up food for 200 noisy, squirmy children does keep you pretty occupied! When the dust had settled, I found them in Berta’s Project room sitting in two plastic chairs. I pulled up a chair beside them. I was unsure of how to introduce myself and what to share with them. So I told them our story…how God had called us to leave everything behind and come to Mozambique to help the poor and orphaned. I told them that we would be happy to have them join our family.  I invited Berta to share with the boys. She told them how special they were to have this opportunity and reaffirmed again and again with them that they needed to respect me as well as their new tia, Guida. Guida then spoke a little bit with them telling them that she would care for them and help them to grow in the Lord.

All the while, quietly sitting on the sidelines listening in, was our Cecilia, who is the oldest child living in our first Sunshine House. I asked her if she had anything she wanted to tell the boys. What she shared was so strikingly beautiful. It revealed to us that there is something very special being created in this very large group of widows and children that we refer to as our Sunshine Family. She said that she understood how they felt because she too lost her parents early at a  young age. She told them that I am now their mother and that Don is now their father. She  told them they no longer need to fear or worry because we will be there for them. It was such a tender moment and it made me understand that these children can support each other in a way that I cannot…I don’t know what it is like to lose your parents and to have no where to go. I don’t know what it is like to be turned away by every member of your family. Because these children have gone through similar life circumstances, they will be able to understand and encourage each other. I saw this again a bit later. After our meeting, we were all waiting inside because there was a sudden downpour of rain that kept us from leaving. I went off to another room to talk with Berta. While we were meeting, I saw that Cecilia had pulled up a chair next to the boys and was continuing to talk with them. I pointed it out to Berta. A smile spread across both of our faces as we realized what was occurring.

As I write out this blog, I feel the weight of responsibility on my shoulders. We now have three families to look out for. We have three women and 7 orphaned children who rely on us. We have made a lifelong commitment to them. Our company, Sunshine Nut Co., was created to transform lives and provide hope and a future for those who have been brought low by their circumstances in life. This is a big deal to us and to the people whose lives with which we are involved.  I find comfort in knowing that each one of these women and children were brought to us by God, and He will sustain what He has started. I also take comfort in knowing that I am not alone…I have Zelda, Berta, and Guida, and in fact, they are the ones who will carry the majority of the work. I have the entire staff of Sunshine Nut Co. behind me. And I have you, our consumers…who not only support our work by buying our cashews, but so many of you are our best cheerleaders by spreading the word about the work we are doing.  As it says in Galatians 6:2, “Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law.” I see a lot of stooping and sharing of burdens in all of our futures, and I believe we are all ready for this task!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

My birthday present - it's a BOY!

My husband always says how happy he is when birthdays come around here in Mozambique. Life is so simple and uncomplicated for us. There is nothing we want and nothing to buy, even if we wanted it. This is what makes birthdays easy to celebrate. The worries of figuring out what the person would want, where to buy it, how much to spend, wrapping it up, choosing a card… all of this fuss does not exist for us anymore. My birthday just came on January 3rd. We planned a nice evening out to dinner with our son, William, who is visiting from university right now. I knew there would be no presents for me. And while I am fine with that, there is still that little selfish part of me that wants a present even so. I did not receive any presents to unwrap on that day, but God, in His infinite goodness, remembered my birthday with the best present I could ever receive. It didn’t come in a box. It was not bought in a store. It came in the form of a little boy named Samuel.

Samuel is just five years of age. His mother died when he was only two years old. His father took on a new wife. What happened next is a sad but all too common scenario here in Mozambique. The stepparent would not accept or care for this child because he is not her biological child. This woman refused to give the child food, did not give him water, and beat him regularly. The neighbor witnessed this and told the woman that she was doing wrong. The neighbor told the stepmother that if she lived in the city, she would have been arrested and taken to jail by the police. But apparently, when this type of situation occurs out in the bush area, nothing is done.

Berta was contacted by this concerned neighbor; she is a member of Berta’s church family. The father had come to the neighbor and asked her if she knew of anyone who would accept the boy to live in their house. He desires to keep this wife more than he desires to keep his own son. The neighbor knows Berta has a heart for children and told her about Samuel.

Samuel had recently been admitted to the hospital due to being severely malnourished. At 5 years of age, he weighed only 9 kilograms, 20 pounds, when he was admitted. He was literally skin and bones. His stomach had stopped digesting food. Thanks to the care he has received in the hospital, he has gained 2 kilograms, but he is still very poor in health. We expressed interest in having Samuel as a Sunshine child, so Berta visited Samuel in the hospital.  She asked the stepmother if she could care for him when he was released. The stepmother agreed. Berta left her with money for phone credit and told her to call her on the day he was released. She asked her to not take him home at all but to take him to the neighbor’s house and Berta would fetch him from there. Berta already heads up our second Sunshine House in caring not just for her own two children, Zaca and Amanda, but also for her abandoned granddaughter, Juju, and the 39 community children in her project. She agreed to take on the full-time care of Samuel as well.

I was so thrilled to learn of this on my birthday. I was elated to receive this special gift who would be part of our Sunshine family. I immediately began praying for this little boy’s physical and emotional healing. Berta had sent me photos of him from the hospital, so I had his little face imprinted in my mind as I prayed. I couldn’t wait to receive the word that he was with Berta in her home and that I could come and meet him. We didn’t know how much longer he would have to stay in the hospital. We were all anxious to get him into our care and to know that he wouldn’t have to return to his previous horrible home life. We worried that the father and stepmother might change their minds and just take him home with them again. Thankfully we didn’t have to wait and worry for long. In just two days, he was released from the hospital, the stepmother did call Berta to come fetch the boy, and she gave Berta all of his documents to take with her.

If I were to tell you that today you were going to meet a 5 year old boy who had just been rescued from living in a home where he suffered from beatings and was deprived of food since he was 2, what would you expect to see? A sad little boy? With a broken spirit? No smiles? Scared? Withdrawn? This is what we expected… yet it was not what we encountered.

Samuel walked into the room and came directly to me without hesitation. As I bent down to receive him, he nestled right into me like he had always known me. I wanted to scoop him up and snuggle him tight, but I was still a bit concerned he might be scared. So I moved slowly, first just laying my hand on his thin arm, then wrapping my arm around his frail body, and then moving on to pulling him in close and holding him in a tight hug that conveyed he was now in a place where he is loved… all the while thanking God for this special gift and praying for his future.

I presented him with a stuffed monkey that I bought for him. He took it and smiled. This smile led to more smiles and these smiles led to laughter! As Don stood by with the camera taking photos, Samuel erupted with giggles, filling us all with great happiness and a wonderment of how a little boy who had been through such suffering could be so joyful. My words in retelling these moments are lacking the depth of what we all felt and experienced. However, the photos that show these moments convey the emotions that meager words cannot.

Don could no longer stand to wait behind a camera capturing the moment. He put the camera down and came over to hug Samuel as well. Samuel treated us to kisses and hugs and love. Samuel cozied up to William, giving him sweet kisses on his cheek. We fell in love with this little boy. Our whole family fell into an awe of the grace of God that is clearly on his life. This little boy now has a future. He will be loved and cared for. He will never again suffer from physical abuse. He is the child of a God that will never leave him or forsake him. He will grow up in a loving environment that offers him dignity, hope and opportunity. He will come into the plan God has for his life.

He truly is my best birthday gift ever…one that will keep bringing me joy for many years to come!