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, November 25, 2018

Up Day/ Down Day

We’ve all had these kinds of days. The ones where you are up one minute and down the next. I never know what to expect or what I will encounter when I pull out of my gate each morning. But my Tuesday this past week was an emotional roller coaster that left me with much to contemplate about my life and the lives of those I am here to serve.

My day began with a quick stop at ShopRite. Today was the last day of school for the 3 children in our first Sunshine House. They have worked hard this year, and I wanted for their caretaker to be able to celebrate their accomplishment with them. I arrived at the grocery store about 5 minutes before it opened at 9 am. As I got out of my car, I saw at least 30 people waiting outside the closed doors, all of them jockeying for a good position once the doors would be opened. It kind of looked like a scene from Black Friday. I couldn’t imagine what the big draw was. So I waited patiently in the back, not wanting to get trampled when it was time to enter. The doors opened a few minutes late, and everyone filed in. I felt a bit impatient; the late opening of the store made the start of my already packed day delayed as well. Like a robot on a mission, I headed straight back to the bakery and grabbed a chocolate cake. I passed by the frozen foods and grabbed a half-gallon of ice cream. Then I hurried my way to the register. As I stood with the attendant who rang me up, I took notice of the long line of people at the next register. There were young people, old people, and children. There were no women, only men. Their clothes were dirty and had tears in them. Each of their arms were laden with reduced foods from the deli that were left over from the day before…sandwiches, French fries, and the like. Each food item had a bright pink tag on it. The highest priced item I saw was 15 meticais, the equivalent of 25 cents. It dawned on me that they were buying up all the day-old food because this was what they could afford to eat. And there I stood with my luxury items for which I barely even glanced at the prices. And I felt horrible. Absolutely horrible. I felt like Marie Antoinette…”Let them eat cake.” Most of us reading this will never know the desperation of poverty and hunger. How very much we all need to realize how blessed we really and truly are.

I finished paying and scooted on my way. I had too much to do and too little time to get it done in.  I dropped the goods off at Sunshine House 1, hung up a “Parabens” (Congratulations) sign and some balloons, and then headed to our community project at Sunshine House 2 where I was teaching a Bible lesson and craft. As I drove down the final lane to the house, my car was swarmed by dozens of children. Their school holidays began just last week. Because they have been in school, most don’t know me. All I could hear was the playful chanting of “Mulungo” (white person) as I got out of my car. The little ones not old enough for school yet who do know me came up to the car looking for a balloon or lollipop. This is where I stopped them all and told them that I have a name and it is not “Mulungo” but “Mama Terri” and that if anyone ever wanted a balloon or lollipop from me again, I had better not hear the word “Mulungo” ever again! They watched in silence as I walked away, for sure pondering what just happened.

Before I went into the gate of Sunshine House 2, I stopped by to visit with one of my very favorite people who always brings an instantaneous huge grin to my face. Next to Sunshine House 2 lives a little old lady that I call my vovo (grandmother). She is utterly adorable. She is all of 4 feet tall. She wears a black shirt with a skull and cross bones on it…this cracks me up and endears her to me even more! She doesn’t even know how old she is, nor does anyone in her family. Her brown eyes have turned a bright blue over the many years. Her brown skin is wrinkled with age. She speaks a tribal language from the area she come from, so no one can even understand her, nor can she understand us. But that doesn’t keep us from communicating. I adore this little old woman. 

Her face lights up when she sees me and we exchange the biggest of hugs. Who needs words when you have hugs? Yet when I arrived today, she was hurriedly putting something into the small fire that was cooking their morning porridge. I couldn’t believe my eyes! I looked at my vovo and exclaimed, “Voce fuma cigarros?” (You smoke cigarettes?) She looked at me sheepishly, like a small child, and nodded yes. And we both burst out laughing until we were crying! This resulted in her whole family joining us in laughter. This in turn drew the attention of everyone around…what a scene it was!

I composed myself, gave my vovo one last hug, told her to not smoke anymore as it was bad, bad, bad for her health, and went in to greet the darling group of 15 children at Guida’s community project. As is customary with school children in Mozambique, they have been taught to stand when an adult enters and greet them with a little memorized group of lines. Each of these children are so adorable in their own unique way; they are God’s gift to me. Yet today, there was an additional little girl amongst them as well as an older woman sitting by the house. Guida pulled me over and introduced me to Maria. She is the grandmother on the mother’s side of 6 year old Maura, who was then brought over to join us. 

Maria shared with me that Maura is an orphan. Her father abandoned her mother when she was pregnant and her mother died only 2 months ago. Maura now lived with an elderly grandfather on Maura’s father’s side of the family. He is not able to take care of himself, let alone a little girl. The neighbors have been bringing her food to keep her from starving. Maria came at the grandfather’s request to ask us to take Maura into our care. This is one of those moments I now have at times where I cannot believe I am living here and experiencing these things. I sit here, a privileged white woman from a small town in America, next to an orphaned child who lost her mother only two months ago. A child who is suffering and alone in the world. And I look down at her, and she looks up at me with her big brown eyes, and I fall helplessly, hopelessly in love with her. I want to take her in and make sure that she is never left abandoned or suffers again. Yet, I know I first have some hoops to jump through to get the proper permissions granted. The process to give Guida guardianship of Maura has started and I am really hopeful that she will be able to move into our second Sunshine House by Christmas.

After my lesson was taught and the craft completed, it was time to head back to Sunshine House 1 to do my lesson and craft with Zelda’s project children. As I walked out to my car, all the children returned…this time chanting “Mama Terri” as I drove away. Memo to self…buy lots of lollipops for the next trip in!

I arrived at Sunshine House 1 and entered the gate. Again I was greeted by a group of little ones, welcoming me to their project. Yet this time, we were missing a child. Juis was not to be seen. He is our littlest guy. In the beginning of the year, he was very quiet and shy, but he has grown to be the life of the project. Zelda shared with me that the day before, instead of going  home, he wandered off. He was not found until the next morning allllllllll the way down near the grocery store, Spar! That was at least 2 miles away! He had spent the night sitting on a rock. The police found him just that morning! Be still my heart! Our poor little Juis! Countless numbers of children go missing in Mozambique each year. They even have a TV segment each day where a man stands at a podium showing photos of missing children and giving out a phone number to call if you have seen the child.

Just as Zelda finished recounting the story to me, the gate slowly slid open and Juis poked his head in, giving us a shy smile, seeming to know that we were talking about him.  We were never quite so happy to see him. He was slathered in big hugs from us all. Once we settled down, I completed the lesson and craft with the children and began to say my goodbyes until next week. As I turned to leave, one child came up and wrapped her arms around my legs. This led to another and another all coming forward to hug me goodbye. This was a new development. These children don’t have many encounters with white people, and for most of the year, they have been quite hesitant about me and who I am. This was a wonderful breakthrough for us and it warmed my heart.

Now it was time to visit my other vovos, Theresa and Bento. They live on the other side of the Matola Santos community. Theresa is the mother, and she is just plain old. Bento is her son, and it appears he has had a stroke and cannot use one side of his body. Neither one can walk and they have no means of taking care of themselves. Each day, they drag themselves out of their little houses to sit …Theresa sits in the shade under a tree and Bento sits in his front doorway. We provide a meal for them twice each week as well as daily tea and sugar. The funny part here is that we discovered we must divide the tea and sugar giving each one half. In the beginning, we gave the month’s supply to Bento, assuming he would share with his mother. We assumed wrong. She finally tattled on him one day, telling us he kept it all to himself! Shame on you, Bento! 

I do love sitting and visiting with these two lovely people. Bento’s speech is slurred and Theresa only speaks the tribal Shongan language (of which I know maybe 10 phrases), but that’s okay. We just like each other’s company. I do know how to ask, “How are you” in Shongan, and Theresa always does a dance with her arms as she sits on the ground to show me that she is as fit as ever. Bento can understand my “American-Portuguese” that I speak to him and I pretend that I understand what he says back to me.  Ha ha! Our visit came to a close and I left to head home, looking forward to an ice cold Coca Cola after a long, hot day.

I only drove a short way before I encountered Vovo Theresa and Bento’s neighbor, a young woman named Bia, who had been recently widowed only a month ago. According to cultural tradition, she must wear only black for one year. She was dressed carrying her little boy, Candido, with her. Candido is terribly afraid of me. Not only am I white, but I also treated his badly burned leg and foot a year ago. It was a painful process of soaking off the blackened skin twice each week and bandaging it until I returned to do it again. Every time he sees me, he screams and runs the other way!  Needless to say, he was not happy to see me stop to chat with his mother. He didn’t scream, but he did pull back into her arms as far as he could and stared me down with wide eyes that shouted, “Don’t come any closer or I will scream!” This was the first time I had seen Bia since her husband’s death. I shared my condolences with her and she shared with me the horrible events of his passing after being badly burned on his chest, neck and face while on the job. His company refused to give him medical treatment or to give him money to go seek it out. They were too poor to afford the treatment, and he died. Bia’s sweet eyes filled with tears as she retold me of his suffering. She is now a 27 year old widow with a 7 year old girl, Amina, and 1 1/2 year old Candido. I asked her if I could pray for her, and she accepted. It was a privilege. Then I offered Candido a lollipop, and he accepted it from my hand! Bia and I were thrilled! Our short visit ended on a good note, but still, I drove away with such a heavy heart for this dear young woman.

This day left me with a lot to think about and a lot to celebrate. I miss home so very much. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss my family and my life back in the US. I have no doubt that God gives me days like this one to center me and remind me that I am an important part of what He is doing here. I am humbled to be just a small part of His work.