Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Being pregnant in Mozambique is much different than I would imagine it would be in the States. I recently read a blog entry of a friend in the States who is also pregnant. She listed all sorts of crazy comments that people say to her about her pregnancy. Here it is a different story.

When we lived in Gondola, my understanding was that people did not talk about pregnancy with the pregnant woman. One of the women at church told me she was so embarrassed when the former MCC Rep’s wife cheerily asked her when she was due. You just don’t talk about pregnancy in Gondola or amongst people who tend to be more traditional and not as westernized. Why? They fear that the pregnancy will last 14 months, the baby will be born dead or a monkey or some other object. Recently, in the national news of Mozambique, there was a woman who was pregnant and instead of giving birth to a baby, she had several plastic teacups. People believe that talking about pregnancy will inform the spirit world and some harm may come to their baby. So, they just do not talk about it. But when the baby is born, they celebrate and every one is excited for them. I'm really surprised that they go to prenatal appointments but they told me that they can't let anyone know that they are going.

However, here in the city, people do talk about pregnancy. I’ve had several really good conversations with women about being pregnant. On Saturday, I was at a conference for the CCM women’s group and several women who I haven’t seen for a while joyfully exclaimed about my pregnancy. They were so excited for me to be having a baby. Dona Cristina, the woman who heads up the savings group project, always asks me “How’s our baby?” Those who are able to afford to go to the private clinic are accustomed to having ultrasounds and some find out if they are having a boy or a girl. Whereas, when Noemia, our former housekeeper, was expecting and I told her that there were machines that you could see your baby prior to its birth, just looked at me like I had said we lived on the moon.

I think being pregnant here in Mozambique is teaching me more and more about the differences between class and rural/urban. The upper/middle classes and those who are moving up (like teachers’ families) are limiting the number of children they are having and I’ve had conversations with women about that. The lower classes/rural families are still having numerous children. The reception of a pregnant woman in the city is much more one of care (like I experience amongst expats) but perhaps that has to do with being a foreigner, but I think not entirely based on their comments.

At any rate, regardless of class and location, when our baby arrives there will be much rejoicing by everyone who knows us. One of our night guards, told me that when we bring the baby home, we’ll have a “festa” with sodas to celebrate our baby. Joél’s been told that now that we are expecting a baby he is now officially a “Senhor”. He can now be considered a true man because he has a child on the way. Babies are well loved and I’m beginning to see doors opened to me that haven’t previously been options because I am expecting a child.

On the State side, we’ve been overwhelmed with people’s excitement and care for us. I’ve enjoyed emailing close friends who have had babies recently (practically all) and some who are pregnant now. It’s been a good way of getting to know my friends better. On Sunday, my parents’ Sunday School class had a surprise shower for us. It’s amazing to think how my parents’ friends, some who barely know us, are so generous to us. Grace. And I guess that’s what a child is too—a generous gift from God that we do not always know what to do with, except love it and pray for it. (below is a picture of the baby shower)
I can not say because of our move to Chimoio, that we have discovered the following things, but it has been since our move. Perhaps some has to do with being in a city or that because our beloved fellow MCCer, Brooke, returned to the States, we now have several kitchen appliances that we didn’t have before because we are storing all the things from her house. However, we have discovered some of the following in the past few weeks:
• Smoothies—we now have a blender (thanks to Brooke’s kitchen). And because of our proximity to a large fruit/vegetable market, we’ve been making smoothies. This morning we had a banana, tangerine juice and yogurt smoothie. The other day we had an avocado, banana, milk, and cinnamon smoothie. We’ve made some with papayas, orange juice and bananas. It’s fun way to get more fruit and to spice up our life.
• Soccer—At one of our recent Bible Studies, Joél was talking with some of the men about soccer. They told him that there is a group of guys that play early in the morning close to our house. So, since then, Joél’s gone at 5:30-7:00 and played soccer. The first few times the men we know didn’t come so he bravely played with the Mozambicans that were there. Then the last time he went, several of the men from the Bible Study were there and that was more fun for him. He’s now trying to practice at home more so he can improve his skills on the field. He practices with our day guard, Vumba, who seems to really enjoy the interaction.
• Taking walks—perhaps this isn’t so much of a discovery as much as a renewal of a favorite activity. In Denver, we enjoyed taking walks around our neighborhood, looking at peoples’ landscaping, and talking. In Gondola we tried to but often came home frustrated because it felt like we were always the center of attention. Here, we are able to take walks and walk places—shopping, the bank, CCM, church, etc—and we aren’t the center of attention. We’re able to just talk and be, admire the beautiful flowers in people’s yards (that we didn’t see much in Gondola, probably because of the lack of water directly in people’s houses), and it feels really good to be able to do that. It reminds us that we do live in a tropical country with all the beautiful flora that the tropics have.
• Ice cream—we knew that one of the cafes in town had ice cream and most of the time that we tried to get it, they had a flavor that would give me a migraine—chocolate or strawberry (It’s really rough to be “allergic” to chocolate and strawberries.). But a few weeks ago, we went into the café and they had vanilla! We celebrated and each had a cone. Joél got coffee and we discovered that they also sell individual bottles of sparkling grape juice. Yum!

Sunday, April 19, 2009


I think God created the diversity of the landscape in this world to confuse us sometimes to show us how humble our existence really is. Or maybe he created us this way so that our lives are interesting or for a laugh or two at our expense. Flora, fauna, rocks, trees, mountains, seas all seem to be laid out in maze in which humans throughout the centuries have lived and died, explored, traversed, been divide, found themselves or gotten lost. These create our stories, our histories and all in all just make life interesting.

I have returned from the maze of roads, forests, rocky hills and bush lands in which I found myself the last few days in the effort to see the results and ongoing work of our projects in Mandie. The sand dams are coming along and in each new community I find myself memorizing the landscape with my eyes, the wheels of my car or my feet in an effort to remember how to get there the next time. The land in which we work is difficult, and the roads often wind around trees and rocky hillsides, avoiding deep eroded ravines and mud if the rainy season is in course. The temptation is always there to take the shortcut and the local people are always quick to point you to them.

Our colleague Sr. Manwensa who travels in this terrain daily on motorcycle and foot to work with communities is well aware of the pluses and minuses of which routes to take but there are always the surprises. The first day, he, along with Anthony was traveling to two different communities, one of which was quite a distance. The road they were on was rock filled and difficult for the motorcycle. On encountering a local leader he pointed them to the shortcut (which there always is). The temptation was there and they took it. Thus began an adventure of travel through high grass skin slashing grass on a path in which my colleague exclaims,”Not even an Antelope would travel.”

It was the second day and we arrived at the dam site in which we were to visit a little earlier then Sr. Manwensa. We were to go and see the site shortly and he would catch up. After finishing our work we returned on the path, winding through the bushes, grass and trees, passing various other paths in which we would have never been successful without our faithful guides.

“Is there a shortcut,” Anthony asks.

“Ummm, no!” the guide says.

We return to the car. Sr. Manwensa’s motorcycle is there but he is nowhere to be seen. Twenty minutes later we see him dragging himself up the road, sweat dripping down his shirt. He gave me a look in which I could see the full measure of his frustration. He had taken the path, which he thought, led to the dam. It was only after a length of time passed that a villager found him wandering the paths opposite the village from the dam site and brought him back to his bike. Shortcut maybe…

We arrived at the final village to see the work they were doing on their dam. They had excavated the earth down to hard rock on one end but had carved quite deeply without encountering the rock on the other side.

“Great work,” said Sr. Manwensa.

“But you have to dig deeper. You have to reach the rock.”

“What if we do not reach rock? It is a lot of work to carve that deep.” one person said. Translated: Is there a shortcut?

“You will encounter rock below. It is there. If you do not dig that deep, the dam will leak or could fall over if not anchored in a strong base,” replied Sr. Manwensa.

He knew. He had learned. The shortcut is not always the best way.
New Things April 19, 2009

I have noticed over the past few years that in the midst of the difficult work, which development work often is, it is the little things that a person notices that brightens life. I have been noticing things that have appeared or have improved over the last couple of years. These things make me feel like things are getting better in the country and that development is really happening to make this country a better place.

I have made a list of 25 things that I have noticed of late:

1. Man mowing the park with a lawn mower in Chimoio. (This is the first I have seen a lawn mower in use in this part of Mozambique, it is normally done by hand. The parks look nice.)
2. Improving parks, new plants.
3. Three new car/truck and/or road grader dealerships
4. Seed for butternut squash, cauliflower and radishes
5. One person mechanical seeder. (It would save so much time for farmers and can be used with no till agriculture better than a hoe.)
6. Seed corn signs appearing in people’s fields to advertise seed.
7. Two new, very high class hotels in Chimoio.
8. New tractors for use by the municipalities
9. More and more cars being parked on the street.
10. Car modeled after an Indian rickshaw
11. New schools and administration buildings going up in the countryside
12. Sparkling grape juice now available in local cafes as well as new kinds of cakes and sweats.
13. 2 brand new cell phone stores in one block down town
14. New individual cement stalls/stores being constructed for all the major markets in town
15. New conference center just finished last year, complete with functioning cordless microphone and speaker system, power point projector, wireless internet, beautiful pool and rooms, café and mini-golf course. (This may be commonplace in the states now, but it feels like luxury here.)
16. Gondola now has city water
17. New water piping going into the lake 50 kms outside of Chimoio. It will bring more water to the burgeoning populations of Chimoio and Gondola
18. Electricity has arrived to all the major towns along our route to Tete and Mandie where we have projects. (The hospital no longer needs to run on a generator.) These towns also have new mini banks complete with ATMs.)
19. Solar panels in the towns in the bush for small stores, lighting and services.
20. Railroad from the huge new coal mines in Tete to the port city of Beira almost completed. (Tete is a boomtown of foreign workers, this also means that we will be able to take a train from Beira to Tete which will be nice, quicker and safer.)
21. New bridge across the Zambezi River almost completed will speed traffic from the south to the north of the country.
22. Construction on the Tete/Chimoio road is moving at a good pace and travel next year should be easier, faster and safer.
23. The bus station in Chimoio has been filled with twice as many buses as were when we first came. Better, bigger buses are running between major towns. Large towns are starting to get luxury buses like Greyhound (believe me this is luxury for us)
24. Fields of crops planted for Bio-Diesel production in coming years.
25. Newer and better tourist investment and opportunities. Mozambique is a beautiful place. Come and visit!
Palm Sunday

We decided to visit the Anglican Church again this week for Palm Sunday. I suggested we take another route to get to the church. Jenny said it was God that directed me, for we ended up running into a group of about 100 people gathered with palm branches in the plaza near our house. It was the Anglican congregation preparing to walk to the church as Jesus entered Jerusalem. We prayed, read scripture and the youth holding a cross draped in royal purple lead the march, singing through town.

“Halleluiah, halleluiah, halleluiah,” we sang in procession, the father and church clergy following with incense in the rear. It was a very moving experience for the senses. Here was a church proclaiming faith as it walked past stores, houses and people going to work and bars blaring music which were muffled by the song of believers as they passed. It was as if we were walking the road in faith and it felt like it would only be natural to say, “Come join us in following the Christ,” to those who watched us pass.

What if we did this in our churches in our communities in North America? Could I imagine a procession on Palm Sunday through the streets of Shickley, walking all the way through the fields of corn to the church in praise of our Savior? Would we look weird? Sure, we would, but then maybe people would want to join us in the journey. Maybe it would look to ritualistic? Maybe they would find faith by our statement together as faith communities. Maybe we are too confined to our buildings? These are all questions that cannot be answered but are thought provoking.

We circled the church once, as the youth entered. The two groups echoed one another in song, inside and out, until all were in the church. The youth choir lined the aisles welcoming us and the celebration grew as we entered Jerusalem, the “New Jerusalem” (the church). The church was especially full. The singing of people and movement of palm branches flowed in rhythm to the drums, clapping and the occasional tambourine as it filled the space between the cement walls of the church. The whole story of the crucifixion from the entry to Jerusalem to the burial of Jesus body was read in song and a sermon was given on four characters in the story, Jesus, Judas, Peter and Joseph of Arimathea.

The service ended not in sobering words of the death but with Halleluiahs as if to say that Jesus death and trial is not intended for sadness but it is the beginning of joyfulness, the true joyfulness of Christ’s saving love.


Palm Sunday – Over the past few Sundays since moving to Chimoio we have been visiting several CCM churches that we are familiar with but never had the chance to attend. The first of which was Catholic (not a CCM member), Anglican and the Nazarene. Each one has been interesting in its own way. First was the Catholic Church with its huge building and liturgy appropriate for the Lenten season. The gardens outside with palms and rocks draping with cascading flowers welcomed reflection of God’s creative beauty, the orderliness of the Stations of the Cross, and a wooden cross with the suffering Christ in the front to remind you of his sacrifice. The Anglican Church, which we had attended at times in Beira, had familiar and wonderful songs and liturgy, the drums echoing off the walls as people sway and clapped to the music. The smell of incense as the bread was broken and wine prepared for the feast of believers and dancing up the aisles in celebration of offerings given for the Kingdom.

It is hard to compare since music is so much a part of worship and all the churches we have attended have beautiful music. The Nazarene, however, had the most beautiful music. The youth choir makes your heart praise God just by listening. The whole service is a flow of music. On particular moment struck me when the Pastor stood up in the pulpit and with a booming voice announced that one of the sister’s that had been missing from church for a while was back. He said he missed her beautiful voice and asked her to come up front and sing a song for the congregation. I was a little taken aback, but in Africa when a Pastor asks you to do something you do it. How embarrassing for her, I thought. I would want to hide. But as she began to sing, the Pastor’s wife (who has one of the most beautiful voices) and a number of other women joined her. Shortly men with their low voices grunting musical undertones came up front as well. Before long there was a whole throng of people singing and the woman who had been asked to sing was singing with confidence and a smile. I broke down and cried. What I thought was an embarrassing moment was the most beautiful welcome of a believer I had ever seen. The community had surrounded her and was saying you are not singing this journey alone, we are with you. Let us sing together and we will be strong.

I do not know why I cried. All I knew was this….that it was love.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Report on Sand Dam and Food Security Project of Changara – Tete Province, April 1, 2009

Dzunga in the Sunset

I visited Dzunga and neighboring communities this last week where I was quite impressed with the work that is being done and wanted to give a report to all who are interested in our continuing work here in Mozambique with fighting hunger and so that those who support us know that it is making a difference. I noticed remarkable differences in temperature as this is the ending of the rainy season and beginning of the dry, cold season though in Tete city I still suffered from the heat. Everything was green and growing in Dzunga and the sky was beautiful and air fresh. I slept well in the almost too cool temperatures of the evening and would have loved to stay there longer. The people were quite friendly and enjoyable to talk to. I joked with Sr. Rui, our friend and colleague in the community that I wanted to build a house there for vacation to enjoy the sunsets, quiet and countryside. He has his own house for sleeping made of mud, sticks and thatch, typical of there.

“No problem,” he said.

I laughed knowing full well that they would love to build me a house like his there. Sr. Rui is the programs director for CCM Tete. He is in charge of overseeing work on the projects in the field and lives out in Dzunga. He is the only Mozambican I have yet met that loves to be by himself for long periods of time reading. Do not get me wrong, he is a very friendly outgoing person and loves interacting with people. Everyone loves him. But he does need his space which is an unusual concept for an African.

“Everyone asks me if I am afraid to sleep out there in the bush all alone.” he says. He is not afraid even though a Hyena entered the village over the weekend to kill a goat. He said they do not hurt people just animals.

Children Swimming in the Water from the Sand Dam in Dzunga

The first dam at Dzunga has been completed and already filled to the level with sand. I walked the river several kms back and the river is full of water after the rainy season. At points we fell into mild quicksand in the saturated sand where at points the water is actually running above the surface of the dam. In the picture I am sending kids are swimming in the pool made by the dam. You may ask why there is water on the downside of the dam. This is because of the natural dam downstream. There is a noticeable higher level of water equal to the height of the dam on the upward side which means it is holding water. Dzunga is not like the communities in Mandie where water is non-existent however, there is not enough for agriculture activities like vegetables, grains and livestock for all or in stressed times like drought or to grow fruit trees since water disappears in the dry season at times where all trees would die. It will be interesting to watch the level of the water behind the dam in the coming months to see what happens as the dry season commences. The community has parceled out land on both sides of the river back about 1 km for those interested in planting and irrigating vegetables. The community members are quite motivated in opening new fields and eager to plant vegetables where only a few had space and water to do so in the past. Walking further up river a person can see other random fields being opened above river by people who are not directly beneficiaries of the project.

There are now 2 agriculture extension agents working for the project. They have encouraged the communities to leave 3-6 meters of grass along the bank margins to control erosion and will be teaching people in vegetable production. We did a demonstration of how make contour lines using grass to conserve the soil and improve water infiltration in the field.

Grass Contour Line Demonstrations

The goal is to plant fruit trees (bananas, oranges, mangos) along the grass strip on the margin of the river where there is now water. CCM also wants to bring manioc to the community. This crop is one that produces during the time of year when people are hungry and can supply food in times of shortage and drought as it is extremely hardy and drought resistant. CCM is planning to work with the government to get treadle pumps to be shared in the community for farmers to irrigate there vegetables more efficiently and boost production.

The trench for the second dam in Cuchumano (we visited this site), has been dug and women are collecting sand and rock for construction. The third dam has also been dug and we are waiting for cement to come to begin construction. At all three sites, the community members have identified, marked and fenced off fields from cattle and goats for use in future production.

All of this work would not have been possible if it had not been for the help of the World Food Program who has been supporting the project through Food for Work ever since the CFGB learning tour was here in November. This has helped the communities to be able to continue to work through the hungry season. The WFP was very willing to support the work in the community because the community members are showing initiative to work to better their own lives by improving the infrastructures in their own community. We hope this good partnership continues.

All in all things are moving forward, there are difficulties like all of life and we ask that you continue to pray for all involved and for the work.