Sunday, May 31, 2009

Diapers

In preparation for the impending birth of our baby, I have been sewing our cloth diapers. After consulting with several friends in the States about their preferences for diapers, I did my own research online about the various types of cloth diapers they told me about. There are all sorts of websites that both explain the differences between (Chinese) prefolds, pocket diapers and all in ones. They also proclaim the virtues of cloth diapers over disposables; but in Mozambique, the reality is if I want to cover my baby's bum, I have to use cloth diapers. Disposables are not always realiably in stock in the size one needs at the moment. Additionally, as another couple who have a baby pointed out in defense of using cloth diapers, they did not want to see their baby's soiled diapers on the trash heap outside their house. As I wrote in a previous post, I have not been able to find many cloth diapers here in Johannesburg. So in the absence of finding them, I decided to sew them.


I found a website that gave directions for how to sew one's own cloth diapers. By the end of my sewing project we will be the proud possessors of 22 prefold, 100% cotton, flannel diapers for an infant 0-6 months and 2 prefolds of the same material for babies 6-24 months. The type of prefold diapers that I am making consiste of 6 layers of flannel in the center third of the diaper, encased by two layers of flannel to complete the remainder of the diaper. I concentrated on the smaller size because they are the most urgent. Joel also bought some larger cloth diapers in Moz. The fun part of sewing our own diapers is that I could chose fun designs. So we have some that are green with various colored polka dots, some that are light blue with bears and others that are light blue with little dogs playing in the snow.

The next trick will be learning how to change the baby! And for the remainder of our time with MCC in Mozambique, we will be becoming adept at handwashing all these diapers! :)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Bananas
I am forever ruined when it comes to bananas. Until 2 and half years ago, when we arrived in Mozambique I had never really tasted a banana. The bananas I had were always picked green and then shipped from Central or South America to North America. But when I arrived in Moz, I tasted bananas that had been ripened on the tree. Nothing compares to that taste. Now, being in Johannesburg, I am again eating bananas that are picked far before they are ripe and they, after knowning the real flavor, have little taste. I doubt when our term in Mozambique is over, that I will be able to buy bananas again in the States! That's a whole reason in itself for our extending our term until 2010!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Do I Look Like I Would Like to Speak

I would like to be completely positive about my experience here in Mozambique because I truly believe at looking at the positives in life and hoping for the best in everything. But I have to admit there are moments when the lesser appreciated things in life show their ugly heads and we must recognize them for what they are, humiliating. I believe that a sense of humor goes a long way in appreciating life’s little embarrassments and I have to remember such occasions as such and remember to laugh and think I was privileged to be in such a humiliating position.

I was reminded today of how often I have been in situations of extreme embarrassment, humiliation or just a rock and a hard place with nowhere to hide. Sometimes I think I have a sign on my shirt that says I want to speak. The second week I arrived in Gondola I attended the funeral of the daughter of a dear friend. Her husband was of another church and it was this church and its Pastors responsibility to do the funeral. In Mozambique there seems to be some unspoken rule that when the “missionary” is there it is of utmost importance to let him say something. I was not even a real missionary, but clearly everyone thought I was. In this case, the Pastor of this church asked our Pastor if I could bring the “word of God” (Because surely I was dying to speak, it said so on my shirt. More than likely it is because hundreds of years of fire and brimstone missionaries have left an impression on these people that we love to ‘preach it’). Since I was only starting to stumble through Portuguese and not being able to speak in dialect, I said I cannot, I do not speak. They looked at me as if I was ridiculous and I believe they may have been a little offended. What could I do? It was a funeral.

This has happened numerous times and I have learned to be prepared to say anything, even something ridiculous, as long as I say something.

Today was another such example. Every year in Chimoio the different church denominations have a choir festival where various choir groups sing in a competition over several weeks until a winner is chosen. It is a wonderful event, with acapella singing in beautiful Southern African fashion. There is quite a wealth of music and talent in these churches. I was really excited to go and it was worth it. I finally found the place (it had changed location) though I arrived late. This is not a problem here and found that I was actually a little early even. I went in to take my seat in the back. I chose this seat specifically because I was the only foreigner (light skinned) person in the entire room of maybe around 1000 people. I felt all eyes on me and wanted to just hide and listen. Of course the usher soon found me and promptly escorted the “missionary” (which I said I wasn’t really a real missionary, though he did not understand this) to the front to sit by myself with 2000 eyes on my back. He promised me that others would come. They did, though they were all pastors, government officials (mayor, president of religious affairs and various other high level provincial officials) and other important people.

“Good grief, I just wanted to hear some music. I am going to have to say something before the end of this thing,” I thought. (Though I did not really believe this.)

The concert was wonderful as expected. We came to the end and the Mayor and one other important person was asked to give some closing words.

After they were done the master of ceremonies said,
“Let’s have one more person give some closing words. Someone who comes from America.”
He was looking in my direction.

“You’re kidding me, right,” I thought, “You have never seen me before in your life, why would you ask me.”

I kept looking around to see if anyone else is around. Why me, why am I of any importance. Do I look like I want to speak, is it cause I am handsome and look like a motivational speaker(clearly not true), do I look important, does my face say, “Pick me, pick me!”. You would not embarrass the only foreigner in the room by asking him to talk (I guess this did not cross his mind). I surely feel welcome (not). Imagine if you went to the Oscars and they invited you up to say thank you for an award for a movie you had never been in, let alone had even seen. This is how I felt.

I looked around trying to hide but as a white person in Africa it is pretty hard to hide. There is no way out. I could bolt for the door but that would be even more embarrassing. I asked my friend beside me, “What does he want me to say?”

“Just say something nice about the program,” he replied.

So I made my way up to the very high stage, with 2000 Mozambican eyes looking at this foreigner as I explained how I was from America and when I was in the university I was in the choir and enjoyed it. I said it was great to see this kind of event happening here in Mozambique and it is a pleasure to be here to hear it. (Though not here on stage, mind you.)

When I sat down, I asked my friend if I did OK. You did great (what was he supposed to say)!

“You are really speaking Portuguese well,” he added.

I will take that as a compliment.

Reflections on the “Meeting House” Tour

This week Jenny and I had the privilege of hosting a learning tour from a BIC church called the “Meeting House” based out of Toronto, Canada. It seems like she has already given her thoughts on the tour so I will try not to be redundant. I guess I can say I was along for the ride since Jenny did all the planning and arranging for the trip. I did all the background support that needed to be done, acted as tour guide to the work MCC is doing through our partners here in Mozambique and drove people around. The group was wonderful and quite refreshing. They came fully prepared and ready to learn from and love those around them. They had brought bubbles, soccer balls and other things to play games with the children. They did well at showing love and I am sure these children will never forget it.

We learned a lot about this church, “The Meeting House”, as well. I guess it is a seeker church in Toronto where God is really moving. In a few years the church has grown to a weekend attendance of almost 6000. They meet for teaching and worship on the weekends in several different sites. They receive the bible teaching on Sunday on the overhead from the main site and their main focus is in communities that meet together during the week for study and fellowship. My first inclination was to think mega-church but one member let me know that this was not who they were. In fact the more I got to know them the more amazed I was. They are very active in partnering in their community doing compassion ministries and are now partnering with MCC Southern Africa to help us fund projects. In fact there whole philosophy seems bent on becoming active followers of Christ by doing. Their focus is on community, compassion and relationship. In fact, they look very Anabaptist without having to even say it. It was quite encouraging seeing that this kind of movement is happening in North America where in the news always shows a dismal outlook for the church. It was quite encouraging for us as well because it made us feel like we have people behind us and people who are interested in building relationships here with people in MCC and the people of Mozambique.

As part of the partnership between The Meeting House and MCC Southern Africa, learning tours will come to visit the continent from the church to build relationships with our partners and churches here in Mozambique and the rest of Southern Africa. This is the second trip. There is a pastor for the compassion ministries who will be traveling along and helping them prepare. There also is a family living in Zambia that will help organize the tours from this end. I really feel good about this because it means there is a long term commitment to build a relationship between this church and the churches doing the work here. MCC is just the vehicle to make it happen. After the first tour I feel greatly encouraged by how God will work through these visits in the future. It helps encourage Jenny and I as we continue to follow what we feel Jesus is calling us to do in Mozambique.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Holy Moments and Hosting Visitors

We hosted another learning tour. This time the group came from The Meeting House, a large Brethren in Christ church based out of Toronto, Canada. From what I understand, they have a heart for southern Africa and are beginning a several year partnership with MCC. Through this partnership they are sending multiple teams each year to visit the various MCC programs within southern Africa. So last week, they visited Mozambique.

When I worked for DOOR, I sometimes wondered what my job had to do with my larger passions for life -- international peoples and social justice -- particularly because the majority of my work was in the national office. Now, three years after leaving DOOR, I am discovering that the adminstration skills and understanding of how to organize short term groups to visit a new place are coming into play. It's one of those mysteries of life that I find facinating how God weaves all parts of our lives together into a bigger picture that we don't see until much later.

The group arrived on Thursday and left the following Tuesday. It's good to host visitors (that sounds extremely African! They say in Moz that a house isn't a home unless it receives visitors.) Perhaps it sounds selfish to say how much I learn from seeing new perspectives. I like having people come because it shows me again where God is moving and how there is hope when often it seems to have become common place in daily living.

We visited an day time drop in center devoted to working with orphans affected by HIV. The group did a great job intereacting with the children. They had all sorts of games planned for the kids. In the morning, we visited a preschool. Suddenly the preschool was filled with not just preschoolers but older children, teens and mothers from the neighborhood curious to find out what this group of foriegners were doing. The kids played "pato, pato, ganso" (duck, duck, goose), the hokey-pokey, and listened to a story about Zacchaeus. In the afternoon, they interacted with older children (who got the idea of duck, duck goose really fast) and also had relays and played with a parachute.

We visited one of the Brethren in Christ (BIC) Theological Education by Extension (TEE) classes. TEE is a way that the BIC church in Mozambique is training its pastors in understanding the Bible, theology and what it means to be a pastor. Each week, the pastors go through a chapter of lessons then they meet once a week together to go over the material. The BIC church has added two additional components to the weekly meetings--discussions about what it means to be a pastor and a half hour discussion about what is happening in the pastors' communities. Through these discussions, one of the churches dug a well to help with the community's lack of water (we met at that church). So, we listened to the TEE class and in the afternoon, listened to the BIC HIV/AIDS project coordinators talk with the people present about HIV. The BIC's are developing an education program that is reaching out to their pastors through the TEE classes and regional conferences to talk about HIV and the church's response to people affected by HIV. As we listened to both the TEE class and the teaching about HIV, it felt like a holy moment because of how this burgeoning church is working to develop itself and spread Christ's love to their communities.

Sunday we worshipped with two of the BIC churches. Like I wrote earlier, an African house isn't a home without visitors. The same applies to churches and to receive a delegation like we had, was a cause for celebration. At the end of the service, the church members presented all the women (and me too) with matching capulanas and the men in the group with handkerchiefs as appreciation for visiting them. It was a good bonding time between the three churches and a greater understanding for all how global the church is.

Monday, we listened to the United Church of Christ's Women's Society talk about their savings group project. Once again, Dona Cristina and her husband shared how the savings groups are transforming their churches, communities and women's families. We visited a group and they shared how it is affecting them directly. Because of the savings group, some have opened up small stores which they then are able to give more to the church through their offerings. It was amazing how this group of women expressed their new found freedoms that this project is helping them to claim. Women who formerly would have sat in silence in the precense of the president of the denomination and foreign men and women, talked freely with their heads raised and making eye contact with us. Their eyes spoke of the confidence this group has helped them find. Again a holy moment and revelation how God is using something as simple as a wooden box, two locks and a group of people to transform lives.

Like I wrote in November about the learning tour from the Canadian Food Grains Bank having groups come to understand the complexities of life here is important. We in North America are talking more and more about the need to think about how our lives are interconnected with people from all over the globe. Learning tours like this help us understand people and they us. My hope is that from these visits, perhaps, God will call some to come and stay for a while, not just come for 1-2 weeks, but to come for several years. In the meantime, thanks for coming!

To read more about the group's thoughts and experiences in Mozambique, check out their blog at: http://africa.themeetinghouse.ca/?p=5 I wish I had photos to share of the group but I abided by their decision to have one photographer at a time so perhaps when I get their pictures, I can post some.

Friday, May 15, 2009

You're not in Mozambique any more...
On Tuesday, I flew to Johannesburg, South Africa, where I will wait for Joel's arrival on June first and then we will continue to wait for the birth of our child. I am staying with MCC's regional directors. The past three days have been full of seeing the distinctions between Mozambique and it's wealthy neighbor to the southwest.

Ways I know that I am not in Mozambique...
- When we got off the plane in Johannesburg, we walked to a bus that drove us to a cavernous entryway of the airport where we followed signed to our next flight or baggage claim and customs. When one arrives in Beira (where I left), we walked from the only gate out on the tarmac to the waiting plane.
- There is vehicle traffic everywhere and very few pedestrians
- The hospital where I will give birth is self contained and not a series of buildings around a courtyard.
- I pre-registered to be admitted to the hospital. So when the time comes, we just show up in the maternity ward and they'll be expecting me. I highly doubt that such a thing as pre-admission exists in Mozambican hospitals.
- There are numerous public restrooms and I don't have to do the 6 point restroom checklist (clean, locking door, toilet seat, toilet paper, water to flush, water to wash my hands)
- I don't think I've seen a pothole yet
- There is an ethic of customer service
- We buy our produce at the grocery store (neatly packaged in celophane) instead by the kilo at the open air market.
- I am having difficulty finding cloth diapers but every size of disposable diapers are available; whereas in Mozambique, I can easily find cloth diapers (albiet thin) and depending on the day random sizes of disposables.
- Very few women seem to have hair extensions.
- We go everywhere in a car.
- Everyone is wearing shoes
- People are accustomed to forming lines instead of all bunching up at the counter
- I receive a receipt for every purchase I make. In Mozambique very few stores give receipts without me asking for one.

Ways I know that I am still in Africa...
- The electricty blinked off several times while I was at the hospital today
- Similar flora
- Napkins at restaurants (in Mozambique, they might be available on your table, but chances are, someone has cut them in half. Here, I haven't seen them unless one orders a full meal)
- Walls, locks, barbed wire and security guards (even more so than in Mozambique)

It shall be interesting to see what else I observe while I stay here in South Africa.