We desire to bring sunshine to Africa....opportunities to allow people to realize their destinies and be released from oppression. We are starting in Mozambique with The Sunshine Nut Company. The majority of proceeds from this company will go to the poorest of farming communities and the neediest of children. Mozambique is ranked among the poorest in economic status but we believe they are among the richest in spirit. Join us in our adventure....

Sunday, January 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!