Thursday, December 18, 2008

The rains have come.
It’s Thursday afternoon and they started Monday during the night and have basically not stopped since then. It’s a good soaking rain. During the periods when it hasn’t been raining, people have gone out to their fields and planted. The rains are good because it means that we’ll have rain this year and people can plant their corn (staple food) and will not have to fight hunger as much this year. Thank you God for hearing our prayers!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Wanted: RAIN Urgently
We ask your prayers for the country. Beira, Tete and Chimoio (Gondola) have not received rain and it is dry. The rainy season normally begins in with a few good showers in October, some more substantial ones in November and December so that by January, we are regularly receiving rain. It has maybe it rained once but not enough. The seeds are dying in the ground and the corn is dying. People say that if the rain does not come by the New Year that it may not come at all or the corn will not have enough time to grow before the rains end. This would be devastating, I cannot imagine it. People are already hungry because of a poor harvest (due to too much rain last year). Please pray for rain!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Truth
Sometimes the truth is shocking, shocking to the point of shaking the soul. Dividing the mind and spirit as the Bible puts it. There are those moments when the truth hits you and you wonder why you have never seen it before. “How could I have been so blind?” you think. I am reminded again and again how complex the world is and how little our human minds can really understand. It reminds me how much we need God and to trust him and his wisdom.

Where does this come from? Since coming to Mozambique I have had to confront on a daily basis the children that come and ask for money, for food, for candy or for pens. It is a constant question, do I give, or not. Why should I or should I not. Other missionaries will tell you, does not give to children. But, why not? It is a question that never ends or has good answers. We have trusted the advice of our missionary friends, at least most of the time.

Over the past few months I have come across candy in various ways. Why not give it to the children as I pass on the road. Give them a treat. I do not have food, but all children like candy, right? I pondered this over the last few weeks after having given to a few children. I started thinking about what we tell our children in North America. “Do not take candy (or other things) from strangers.” But surely in Africa we can give to children we do not know. They will be grateful, right? After all, they have nothing.

It just so happens I was having a conversation with a missionary that has been here for many years in Mozambique. She was telling us that she does not give candy to children. I asked why not. She said she does not want to train them to take things from strangers because hundreds of children are taken by strangers and sold into the sex slave industry by people who do that very same thing. She told the story of a pastor she knew who had lost a very young girl that very way. Fortunately she found her way back five years later, praise God!

The truth hit. Why would it be any different to accept candy from strangers here than in North America. There is no difference. But I am not a stranger, I am a good Christian man, I am not dangerous, I came from North America to help people in poverty, especially children. But to them there is no difference. I am a stranger. I am a foreigner, not to be trusted. By my giving I am just preparing them for the next person to come and offer a candy and take them away, destroying their life.

This also brings up other questions. Why would I do things in Africa that I would not do to in North America. Sometimes there are good reasons for this. Other times it is because we often do not really care about Africans. People are hungry, let’s get a shipment of food to them, meanwhile careless food distribution depresses the price of grain in the market putting farmers and merchants out of business and crippling them after the food distribution stops. What would happen if someone came to Nebraska and started giving grain to cattle farmers freely. The grain market would go down and the corn farmers would go out of business. There would be no-where to sell the corn. The market would be undercut. The grain farmers would be in uproar and it would cripple the local economy.

Granted this is a worst case scenario and I do not claim to know everything about farm economics in rural Nebraska. But this happens in Africa when we are not careful how we give. But they are poor we say. Yes, they are. But do we do in Africa what we would not do in our own communities. This is the big question for me. And when we do is that?

Maybe there are better ways to give.

God we need your wisdom to do your will in this complex world.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


So, I'm a little slow on the uptake this year. It's December 9th and today I just realized that Christmas is coming. Doesn't matter that I started reading an Advent devotional on the first Sunday of Advent. It still didn't register.

We have plans for Christmas (the first in our time here in Mozambique). We are going with 6 other people from our Bible Study to a house in South Africa on a nature reserve just outside Kruger Park. It should be fun. It still didn't register for me that Christmas is coming.

Joel's on the ball. In fact at this moment, he's out shopping for me. I have no clue what to give him. Here it seems rather pointless to give a gift because it is just accumulating more stuff that when we decide to leave, we'll have to make decisions, do we take it with us in our suit case or leave it? Plus, neither of us needs anything. The only thing I would really like, he can't give me...a time to go out with any number of my friends who live in the States for coffee or for lunch. That can't be given. As for him, I can't give him tickets to some event becuase there aren't events here...plays, sporting events, etc.

But even more than the gift issue in terms of just realizing Christmas is just around the corner, is the whole spiritual aspect of it. Frankly, the decorations and the music and the weather, help me feel in the Christmas mood. And no matter, how much we say it's materialistic, they are the things that I really miss at this time of year (plus my family). Because, hot days, roosters crowing and the occasional artificial tree put in a random air conditioned store display just do not signify Christmas for me. I wonder if it's the same for people who grew up in the southern hemisphere and move to the Northern, if it doesn't feel like Christmas when it's cold. Anyway, I miss the weekly Advent readings in church, the anticipation of children's programs at church, caroling and cookie exchanges with friends from church (not to mention making cookies when the oven is a welcome heat).

I received my extended family's Christmas gift giving email the other week. They always seem to try to come up with a creative, cheap gift to give. This year, they are pretending they are marooned on an island and so for $1 they have to come up with something they would not want to be without. I'd send twinkle lights if I could... :)
(this is our Christmas tree from last year.)

Sunday, December 07, 2008

What struck me most about the learning tour was...

This was one of the writing prompts (slightly adapted) that I gave the participants as a reflection exercise. The point was to just write whatever came to mind over a five minute period. So now as I reflect on the parts of the learning tour that I participated, this is what struck me most...

I was struck by the genuine concern of the participants for the people who they met. I had to remind myself that these are adults who chose to come, some doing fundraising in order to finance the trip, who have a vested interest in CFGB's activities because they donate money to CFGB and are not, as my past experience with short term trips, are teenagers coming to DOOR for a week (though in defense of youth groups, I had many enjoyable times with youth group reflections at DOOR). I was struck by the depth of their reflections that began to see the multi-faceted aspects of poverty and food security that exist here in Southern Africa.

I was struck how they prayed for the people and grappled with how best to give. I was struck by their reflections of what they will take home with them...stories of walking with their host families to fetch water, stories of spending a few nights separated from the group to live with a host family in Zambia, stories of their reaction to Tete's heat (coming in at 43 degrees celcius = something really hot in farenheit), stories of the hope they feel from the sand dams projects, how they wrestle with connecting what they have seen here with their communities back in Canada, and much more.

I was struck at how they shared where God met them. Showing them direction for their lives, to continue to be involved in CFGB Grow Projects.

I was struck by the laughter of the group. Joel had told me that they weren't really happy in Tete because of the heat (understandably so when coming from the cold of Canada a week earlier) but as our reflection time progressed, participants' senses of humor returned and we shared quite a bit of laughter (which was good for Joel and I because we tend to be too serious too much of the time). They were able to laugh at their miseries in Tete and uncomfortableness in their host families and see the good in those experiences.

I was struck how after the first morning of reflections, my immediate thought was this was worth it. Just being a part of the reflections, to hear what people were thinking, to hear what they experienced, to listen to their struggles as a group was worth all the daily headaches that I had endured since October when planning intensified and then in early November when Plan A was ditched for Plan B and the week prior to the trip when Plan B was ditched for Plan C and then while I worried in Beira how Joel was faring on Plan D. The reflection time was what I looked forward to the most throughout the planning process, the time of getting to know people, hearing their stories of what brought them to the learning tour, listening to what struck them and being able to offer a bit of what I've learned these past two years. The interchange between the community members and the participants, the interchange between the participants and the hosts-- CCM and MCC, that was what I looked forward to and that is what made it all worth it.

I was struck how the group was comprised of members of various churches. That they were unified in their prayers and care for one another and for the people they met, including us MCCers.

Now as they are on a plane back to Canada, I pray that they will be able to process all they have seen and heard and experienced and be able to communicate it to others, so that others have a better understanding of what life is like here in Zambia and Mozambique. I pray that they will share the hope that they saw along with the hardships, that they will be able to portray the dignity of the people that they met so that others see that too. I pray that God will continue to move in their lives and continue to call them to act justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly with their God.