Wednesday, May 14, 2008

May 14, 2008

Floor for the Church

This weekend was a very busy weekend for the members of the church and I as well. I spent three days hauling rock and sand with our cars. The first two days we went about twenty kms out into the countryside to gather rocks. They said we were going to an old abandoned railroad track to get rocks. I thought of the tracks near Shickley, Nebraska and the magnitude of nice rock that is still left over for the taking. This should not be that hard. However, the railroad track had been turned into a road and in order to collect the rocks we had to dig with picks and shovels in the hills left by the side from the road grader passing over the road. It took the church three days to collect five and a half truck loads of rock. We still need three more. It was good, however, for me to get out and do something with my hands where I do not have to think and to get away from e-mails and project proposals. It was also a really good time to get to know people a little better and have good conversation. The final day we had about 10 people helping to haul 6 loads of sand from a pit just outside of Gondola. We all shared boiled pumpkin, bread and tang for breakfast as we loaded the trucks. That afternoon we went and got one more load of rocks from the old railroad bed. The brakes went out the day before on one of our trucks so I was using the newer truck which seemed to handle it better. Jenny had promised to make a cake for the workers so we enjoyed a snack in the afternoon. It was a fun day with the youth like any other youth poking fun of the old men and the old men poking back. At the end of the day we were satisfied with enough sand and rock to begin construction. The youth were gathering for the youth meetings as we were getting ready to leave. They began singing and it was a very soothing sound at the end of a day of hard work.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


I have spent the afternoon cooking and listening to the BBC. It’s been months since I have heard any sort of news and so the News Hour this Saturday afternoon was quite interesting and made me miss listening to NPR.

This afternoon seems like a number of incongruities. It seems so strange to be listening to news about suffering – in Burma, Zimbabwe, Israel, Lebanon – when I am surrounded by suffering here. News, by definition, is what is not the norm, what deviates from ordinary life. On-going suffering in the average life of a significant number of someones in the world, unfortunately is normal. When something extraordinary happens, like a cyclone, elections, borders opening or closing, then the media highlight that. It seems to me then that one of the roles of incarnational ministry is to bridge the gap between normal lives. Many of our friends and family live fairly normal North American lives and many of the people with whom we are acquainted here in Mozambique live fairly normal Mozambican lives. Part of our role as MCCers here is to help people on both sides of our world understand each other. The normal happenings of life here do not make news on the BBC (and frequently the abnormal occurrences don’t either that I know of), but for us who are new here, they are news. For those who read our blog, they are news; news from our life here, news about how people here live.

The other irony was cooking. Cooking is something women around the world do every day, several times a day. That’s nothing newsworthy. But as I begin conversations with someone at Canadian Food Grains Bank (CFGB) to organize a learning tour in association with our sand dam project (that they are funding), he mentions the global food crisis in every email. Like I said, I haven’t heard the news in MONTHS (actually since early October 2006). We get our news from the International Newsweek which comes at least three weeks late and sometimes not at all, so we have quite a few gaps in our knowledge of the world. Plus the news that someone at CFGB has interest in is different than the reporters of Newsweek. So yesterday, I did some research on the internet about the global food crisis.

I learned that food prices are going up rapidly. As the prices increase the most vulnerable in the world are made even more vulnerable to food insecurity (Food security is the ability to feed oneself and family sufficiently, i.e. 3 meals a day, every day). Many of the people in the world who are subsistence farmers still depend on buying a significant quantity of their food. When prices of basic foods increase, those who are already struggling to provide food for their families in addition to school fees, transportation, etc. have to make difficult decisions between food and other necessities. Prices here in Mozambique are increasing and at least here in the Gondola-Chimoio area, the harvest is sketchy because of too much rain. This area of the country does not struggle with food security like places like the Mandie subdistrict where the sand dam project is located. This explains why someone at CFGB is concerned about the global food crisis. CFGB and MCC are both supporting the End Hunger Fast as a way to educate concerned persons in North America about the realities in other parts of the world. For more information about that check out or

So, I spent the afternoon cooking chili, baking a cake and making mint tea. The chili has ground beef, a treat for Joél and I here, and it will last for a minimum of three meals for the two of us. The cake has four eggs and sweetened condensed milk; I made it to take on our picnic tomorrow afternoon with our friends from the UK, whose fellowship rejuvenates our souls. Learning more about the global food crisis makes me think all the more about how do I live here with integrity. We live more simply than we did in the States but it still above the means of people in the church. Some people in the church are going to have some difficulties later this year because of their weak harvests.

How do we make choices that will benefit others and not take away from others’ lives? There are ways that we eat that is different than people here because of our understanding of nutrition and what our bodies need. There are ways that we eat that is different because of the differences between our cultures. There are ways that we eat that is different because of what we can afford. And yet what are ways that we can live that does not tax the earth and people’s survival and yet honors God? We could eat only rice and beans for economic and social reasons for the rest of our lives, but I do not think that is not being responsible stewards of the knowledge that God has given us or adequate long-term care of our bodies, created to do God’s work. I will eat rice and beans because I like them, because they are healthy, because they do not tax the earth, because they are cheap and should I ever have to make decisions to severely limit my food consumption they will be two foods that I will chose.

I have always struggled with inequalities – just ask my parents what I was like in my teens with regards to Christmas. I will continue to struggle with inequalities; it is who I am. Sometime during my teens when I was yet again having a conversation with my dad about inequalities (the conversation was about me being a girl and having access to education while many girls around the world do not have that opportunity), he said something that has stuck with me since then. He said that it is by God’s grace that I am where I am. God’s grace. I do not know why I am fortunate enough to have food security, health, education, a good husband, the opportunity to live and learn in another country, but I do. It is grace. I have a responsibility to use my resources to serve God and others. I will fail. And as this week, as I wrestle with the tension between my food security and the global food crisis, I have to give myself grace. Grace to learn, grace to make mistakes, grace to change, grace to share and grace to celebrate. That is not breaking news that will be reported on the BBC; but it is a good reminder to me that the weight of the world does not rest on my shoulders.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Photo of the week

Sometimes life just gets stressful and you have to blow it all out.


I saw my first snake in Africa yesterday. I expected that I would have seen one before now, before I had been here for a year and a half. But I saw my first one yesterday, exactly 1 year, 6 months and two days after I arrived in Mozambique. It was dead, squashed by some vehicle and on the shoulder of the road where I biked. I was glad not to have encountered it alive.

On Saturday, I have to “preach” for the Christian Council of Mozambique’s Women’s Society. They are having extraordinary elections on Saturday. The president of the group was suspended by her church and by virtue of her church rescinding her membership there, she also looses her place as an officer of the Women’s Society. The women in the group do not understand how her church’s action plays a role in limiting her involvement. I do but cannot explain it in Portuguese. Because CCM is comprised of 15 churches, the churches give recommendations for who can be officers within CCM. If someone is not in good standing with their own church, then the church can not recommend him/her to lead CCM. That’s what happened here and so on Saturday, they are holding new elections for vice president. The previous vice president is now residing president but is super busy with her own work in the Domestic Violence department of the Chimoio police (I think it’s a provincial department) and so does not have adequate time to devote to the leadership of the Women’s Society. Thus, they need to find a new vice president who can lead the group.

When they have larger meetings, they have a bit of worship service which includes several hymns and prayers by each of the member churches and someone preaches. This time it’s me. I normally enjoy the services. I like the singing and appreciate a worship service in Portuguese not drown out by translation into a local dialect. It is also moving to be a part of a group of strong women, which makes my job of preaching even more difficult. Today is Thursday and it is presently 3:20 PM according to the clock on my computer. I have no idea what to say and whenever I get the inspiration, it will take a while to then write out the sermon in Portuguese. I had expected to know what to say by this time this week. The president told me that I was preaching Saturday a week ago. I’ve had almost two weeks to prepare. But instead I feel like that snake by the road – dry without any life to share.

I preached at church on Sunday. It was the third time I’ve preached in my life and all three times have been here using my primitive Portuguese. I don’t like it much. It’s hard to do in another culture, in another language that I’m still very much learning, in a church where I do not understand what’s going on half the time except that they have high expectations of Joél and I to be their missionaries. We’re not missionaries in that way. I find myself bewildered that Jesus changed the entire course of human history in 3 short years at my age. I don’t have even half his wisdom. I try reading the Bible to see how he is a man my age but instead end up realizing that is like me at 14 comparing my ability to do a cartwheel to an Olympic gymnast the same age. Joél suggested that I use the same sermon that I did on Sunday for my sermon on Saturday. I could and if I don’t come up with anything between now and then I will, but it doesn’t fit with the situation of the Women’s Society.

It’s hard not to live with expectations. I expected that by this time in our MCC term, that we would not still be struggling with the ups and downs of culture shock that still shake our disposition depending on the day. I expected that we would have been able to make more Mozambican friends. That I would know what to do with persistent beggars on the streets of Chimoio and the 13 year old boy here in Gondola that follows me from the bus stop constantly saying “Dona, estou pedir mili” (literally “Dona, I’m asking for 1 meticais”). I expected that I would feel like I was fighting injustice instead of fighting just how to keep enough food in the house so we have lunch each day. I expected that people would be more eager commit to participating in activities that they seem interested in instead of saying that they are interested in starting savings groups or Sunday School but not showing up to the events. I expected that we would have found a more organized Mennonite church where we could participate, instead we’ve found a very young church that needs so much care that we can’t give and we’re participating even when they aren’t.

I’ve had some good expectations or unexpected ones. I didn’t expect to live in such a nice house and it has truly been a blessing and a place of refuge for us. Our house is not super ritzy, but it’s just right, especially after we painted the bathroom forest green (though we are still waiting with high hopes for the running water!). I didn’t expect the warm smiles from strangers that I pass while I walk through Gondola or the willingness to help me when my bike broke down (far away from the dead snake) four times yesterday. I didn’t expect to be able to buy popcorn which has helped our addition to popcorn and a movie on Sunday nights to relax. I didn’t expect that we would have been able to see our families twice this year – once to go to my brother’s wedding in the States and then in September my parents are coming and all of Joél’s family (parents, brothers, and sister-in-law) are coming in November. I didn’t expect that we’d live in the garden state of Mozambique where we have lots of varied types of fruits and vegetables. I didn’t expect that we’d keep up with our host family and that when we would get together with them now, they’d feel so comfortable and be real friends. I didn’t expect to fall in love with the silhouette of the palm trees in the setting sun that we see from our home office window. I didn’t expect to enjoy talking with my neighbors so much and how much fun we have talking together. Someday I’ll get a picture of Maria, Gersia, Mila, Teresa, Sandra, Manuel, and Rodriguez. I didn’t expect that people I don’t know at all or who are friends of my parents to pray for us, or people we do not know well (i.e. one of Joél’s good friend’s parents email us occasionally to let us know they are praying and we’re mentioned in the congregational prayer at my parents church where neither of us have attended) are praying for us. It says a lot about what it means to be the body of Christ.

I still don’t know what I’m going to preach on Saturday. But at least I can expect and know that my parents and friends and friends of them are praying for me. And that is a good expectation that will be met in ways that I can not imagine.

Any suggestions for my sermon?
Loud weekends

My neighbors have started the weekend early. It’s going to be a loud weekend if they are starting to play the same 5ish chords on the electronic piano on Thursday afternoon. They are advertising locally made alcohol. By playing music loudly, they advertise that they are open for business. It used to be that they played the same CD with the same song nonstop from 3 PM on Friday to 11 PM on Sunday. Then they got this piano and someone comes, tests it out and then plays the same thing over and over. I would think that would get boring, that they’d blast out their ear drums, and that their neighbors next door to them, wherever they are located, somewhere below my house, would complain. But none of this seems to happen and we all suffer from the same affliction – boring music, played too loudly. I suspect the neighbors in the immediate vicinity suffer from a lack of sleep and drunken people for a weekend as well.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

To Much To Do

This is the life of an MCCer. We either have too much to do or not enough. Many days I feel quite overwhelmed at all I have to do and how I am to do it. Having so much work to do I then feel like I never have the time to do all that I want to do to relax and rejuvenate as well. I always wondered about God and how God is the three in one. I decided it makes a lot of sense. Three can do a lot more than one so why not be three. I decided put this to practice.

It Really Works!

May 6, 2008

Getting Busy

Things are getting rather busy around here. After a lull in our program where we felt like we were sitting around a lot waiting for things to happen, the ball has begun to roll. Several things have happened in the past month. Jenny has picked up some responsibility working with future SALTer’s as well as with planning future learning tours to Mozambique. She continues to travel around talking about savings groups and has one that she hopes to visit in the next couple of months.

Banner Jenny made to help people understand how a savings group functions.
I am also getting busy. I am now taking a more administrative role when it comes to the Sand Dam projects in Mozambique. We have two more projects that are in the mix in two other provinces and I will be working some on oversight for these projects. This means more traveling, visiting sites and working with proposals. The food security project is also rolling now so I will be visiting that about one week a month to monitor and add whatever value I can to that project. In two weeks I will be heading up there to visit the three communities where it is taking place. They have already opened some vegetable fields and are demonstrating new techniques to the community. I have not yet arrived to those communities so I am anxious to go there. There are also a group of farmers here in Gondola that are starting a farmer’s association. They have a field together and want to start learning from each other. I have been visiting them from time to time to visit and support them in what ways that I can. We have given them some seeds for different vegetables for them to start going. My hope is that they can save the money from the vegetables to improve things for the group the second year and so on. If they get registered and are doing activities they can also receive support from the government in a loan.

"Associacao Kubatana Ngue Nyasha Dza Mwari"

Name of Farmer's Association in Mbia Bonque

Association Member and his Soybean Field
I also have been visiting the Anglican Preschools from time to time as I have time available. They have been receiving fruit trees and so we have helped do a little bit of teaching around tree planting.

On top of this we just had church meetings with the national leaders this past weekend. Things went really well and I think it has created new direction for the church but it was also emotionally exhausting. There is a lot of work to be done but I think the outlook is positive.

Keep us in your prayers.