Saturday, February 09, 2008

I led a Bible Study the other day in a foreign language. Speaking Portuguese has become normal for me, but there are still people around me who speak less Portuguese than I do, and I don't mean expats. Most people who live in Gondola, their first language is Shiutewe and then Portuguese. For people who do not go to school or have much reason to leave Gondola, that's all they really know.

The women at church are visiting each other's houses on Thursday afternoons. They visited my house twice (the first time they had low attendance and I invited them back again). They visited the pastor's wife and this Thursday, it was at the former treasurer's house. I was the second to arrive, arriving in a timely 50 minutes past the house scheduled. The first to arrive was Joana, who speaks very little Portuguese. The women generally speak Shiutewe together and Thursday was no exception. I'm beginning to understand a bit but that's usually because they slip Portuguese into the conversation every once in a while. The third and final woman arrived about 45 minutes after I did.

So, after the hostess washed all her dishes and bathed (while we were waiting), we entered the house to pray. They made me pray and then they sang a few songs. Then they began discussing something and I guessed that they were talking about what to do. So I volunteered to read the Bible to them. They thought that was a good idea but did not have any favorite stories, so I selected Psalm 23. I read it slowly so they could hear the words well and hoped that they would be able to understand the words. They said they did, but when I asked them how David described God (which I had told them the Psalm was David describing God) they didn't understand what I meant. We began to talk about what a shepherd does and through one of the women translating my Portuguese into Shiutewe, they seemed to get it. But then the husband came home and she asked him to translate. So I reviewed what we talked about and then their faces lit up with understanding. I then asked him if he would roughly translate the Psalm for them so that they would understand it better. He graciously did and they understood it alot more. It makes me wonder how do we teach people the Bible (as the church is asking us) when we can't even speak their language and there aren't Bibles in their language for someone to read.
We are on the first leg of our journey back to the States for two weeks. We're going for my brother's wedding. They started dating the week we arrived in Mozambique, so it's a little weird to be welcoming someone into the family whom I've never met and that lives closer to my parents than I do. We'll get to meet my future sister-in-law about 24 hours before the wedding in her house where my brother is moving into.

Nonetheless we are traveling to the wedding. In typical Mozambican style, we came into Beira this morning. We caught a chapa in Chimoio headed to Beira and I think we were the last ones on because within 5 minutes of finding our seats, the bus left. Joel sat in a seat that folded down into the isle. I had the cramped seat in the back of the bus--the fifth person in a row meant for four. But of course, the row did not only have 5 adults, it also had 3 children. The seat in front of me was so close that I could not fully sit down, so the most comfortable position was almost the fetal position, with my right elbow resting on my leg, supporting my head from the bumps and the seat in front of me. Every time we stopped (police check points, buying things at a market, etc), I tried to stand up to adjust my legs. The two women with the three children got off first. The elderly woman sitting next to me, who was just as cramped as me, smiled with me as we unwound our bodies from the tight places. I was very thankful that we were only going to Beira and not somewhere very far away, like Quelimane (9 hours) or Maputo (17 hours).

Tomorrow morning we will catch a "luxury" bus to Maputo (Mozambique's capital city--we're anxious to see what it's like because the images we see of it on TV are completely different than the Mozambique we know). It's an express bus that supposedly goes from Beira to Maputo in one day. The schedule says we leave at 5 AM and get into Maputo at 20:00, but our experience in Moz tells us that it will be longer than that. Brooke said when she took that busline, she got to Maputo at 2:30 in the morning. I'm praying we'll be there sooner than that. This is a "luxury" bus line--meaning, everyone gets their own seat (no 5 people for 4 seats), there's air conditioning, and the luggage is in storage under the bus and not under everyone's seat. I wonder what it will feel like to have that much space after spending the past year on crowded chapas.

What Agriculture Could Be

We are really looking forward to getting away to the United States to the wedding of Jenny’s brother. We are anxious to see family since it has almost been a year and a half. We are also ready for a break and to get away and clear our heads. After a few months we start to get emotionally tired and need to get a break to get away from it all and think. We have found a bible study to go to every few weeks that is composed of some Brazilians, an African American and her husband from Barbados, an Argentinean Couple, a family from Sweden, a single lady from Holland and another from from Portugal. It is quite a mix and we have not even met everyone yet. We have worship services in both English and Portuguese but mostly in Portuguese because several of the Brazilians and the Argentineans cannot speak English well. We have really enjoyed getting to know so many people from different parts of the world. And yet we all seem to be able to understand each other because we are all missionaries living in another culture. We especially were excited to talk with the Argentineans because they are from our part of the world and I always loved Latino people and the Spanish language. It felt like I was talking to my neighbors from back in our side of the hemisphere. Many of these people have been missionaries a long time so they have helped us greatly to understand things and to encourage us in our work.

"Vetiver" Grass Lines in Pastor Fernando's Field

I had a good week last week. I went traveling with a Zimbabwean missionary to visit his agriculture projects. He introduced me to some new plants and seed varieties that I think will really work well here. I brought back a malaria fighting tree and have already had much interest from people in the church so I am propagating new trees so that people at the church can start to use it. They say it acts as a prophylaxis and also medication for malaria. I hope that it can spread more in the communities because people are set back so often with malaria throughout the year and it kills a number of people especially those who are older. I also brought some erosion controlling grass back and we started planting them in the Pastor’s field in lines to control erosion. I brought another farmer along to learn how to do it and he was really excited about it and took to use in his field. I also talked to the pastor about a tree that he already had in his yard. You can make it into a living fence, you can feed animals with it because it has a high protein count, it can be put in food for kids and adults to stop malnutrition and makes excellent firewood. He had been given it but never new it had these uses. He said he always wanted to raise animals but was not able to. This could provide him with the means to make a fence without cost, provide food and other benefits. I also want to introduce some of these seeds next year for them to try because they produce greater quantities and quicker and can shorten the hungry season by a couple of months. They have real potential to sell as well as there is good market for them. I want to introduce new varieties of peanuts, cowpeas, sorghum and maybe a couple of fruit trees like papayas that produce the first year and mangos that are larger and less stringy than the ones that you normally see being sold on the street. I hope to let them experiment with a number of seeds to see if they like them and if they have benefit. If so they can reproduce them from seed for the future.

Sunday School is also going well and people are really interested in learning, especially the youth. They are learning bible verses and I told them I will give them a bible when they learn 50 verses. In the United States this would not work because bibles do not have that worth. But here, with new Christians wanting to learn and any literature in scarce supply, getting a bible is actually a real incentive. Who knew!