Thursday, March 25, 2010

Wikipedia Sand Dam Description
We have been speaking around the country in churches and schools and many people have asked many questions about sand dams and how they function. For those who do not have enough time to go to the Excellent Develepment or Sand sites and read all the description listed there, I have put a link to the right to a Wikipedia description of the sand dams. It is much shorter and gives some good insight into the technology.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Nadia's First MCC Position: Model

While we were in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Nadia had her first official MCC work. The women in the Resource center were designing a new robe for Newborn Kits and they needed to see how it fit on a baby. Here's a shot from the photo shoot.
Perhaps it is three years of living overseas and learning to live with the body’s ways of adjusting to a new culture or having an infant that brings me to this topic. But since being back in North America, I’ve grown to see bathrooms differently.

When I am in Mozambique, I do a 6 point check on public restrooms:
1. Is it clean?
2. Can I lock the door?
3. Does it have a toilet seat?
4. Does it have water (to flush and to wash my hands)?
5. Does it have toilet paper?
6. Does it have soap to wash my hands?
I’ve learned to carry some toilet paper and hand sanitizer to cover if the bathroom lacks those necessities, and for the most part, I’ve rarely had to forgo using the facilities. I’ve actually been pleasantly surprised by public restrooms’ cleanliness.

Here in North America, I don’t usually have to do the 6 point check most everything is present (though sometimes the automatic dispensers or switches on the tap do not always work). Now I have to add another check pointer: is there a place to change diapers? Sometimes there is and sometimes, there is a place in the men’s room to change diapers, so I don’t have to be the only one who can change Nadia’s diapers when we’re traveling.

I’ve also noticed something in our travels. Most people have a good shower head. Since moving to Chimoio last February, we have a shower and it is a good one. It is hooked up directly to a hot water heater and we can adjust the temperature mixing hot and cold water. Some people have what’s jokingly called a “widow maker” – an electric water heater that heats the water as it goes through the shower head. It can be switched on and off (depending on if you need hot water). The temperature is regulated by the volume of water flowing through. So if you want a hot shower, there won’t be a lot of water running through the shower head. Pressure for the shower isn’t always great either. Not in North America, most of the showers I’ve used have good pressure and I can mix the amount of hot and cold water to a temperature that I want.
(our bathroom in Chimoio)
We also have a bathtub in Mozambique and Joél’s mom has a beautiful claw foot tub. There is something really relaxing for me of laying in a tub of warm water, especially when I can add more warm water at will.

During our first year in Moz we traveled quite a bit to the sand dams communities. There people have to walk kilometers to fetch water and though it is super hot, they do not have the opportunity to bathe. I’ve noticed since moving to our house in Chimoio, I am more likely to dawdle in the luxury of perfect temperature water flowing over me or soaking in a bath. Sometimes it is as if I’m making up for the two years without running water. We had a MCC colleague who said that one of the crown achievements of Western civilization was running water.

I wonder how many people in the world have ever experienced being immersed in water. When we lived in Gondola without running water, it took several months for me to become accustomed to taking a bucket bath and feeling clean afterwards. For most Mozambicans, that is their reality. Those who have unlimited access to water, bathe frequently, considering the climate and amount of grime. After seeing how little water some Mozambicans have, it’s rare that I do not think about them as I shower, though I have to confess sometimes I push the thought aside and linger a little longer.

My years of living without running water has made me double check myself and my use of water. I still try to conserve water. I cringe when cleaning up after a meal, I have to throw out the water that someone did not finish so I can wash the glass. In South Africa, many showers had a knob that would shut off the water but retain the same temperature. That way, one could keep the temperature, but turn the water off to soap up, thus conserving water.

All this said, I’m very thankful for clean water and working bathrooms.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Food Resource Bank
Many have heard of Canadian Food Grains Bank (CFGB)which was started by MCC in an effort to give rural farmers in Canada a way to contribute toward ending world hunger. Groups of farmers work together in "Growing Projects" where they designate a portion of their land to CFGB. When the harvest comes the production from these designated areas is deposited from the local elevator in the account at CFGB and these funds go toward projects around the world that combat hunger such as the Sand Dams and Food Security/Agriculture work that we are doing in Mozambique. People who do not have land can also contribute monetarily toward CFGB. CFGB since has grown and spun off on its own. Development organizations of many church denominations are members and have an account within the Canadian Food Grains Banks. Organizations such as MCC can access money from their account to fund projects to end hunger. When a farmer takes his grain to market he can designate the funds to go toward any of the 15 church/development organization of his choice such as Lutheran World Relief or Nazarene Compassionate Ministries. Check it out at For the longest time farmers and others interested in ending world hunger in the USA did not have this option. However, that option now exists in the Food Resource Bank which functions basically the same way. For all of you looking for a way to practically put your Christian faith into action and feeding those who are hungry, check it out at

Sand Dams and Food Security Gaining Momentum
I have not done a good job of updating our blog in recent months. It has been a challenge focusing on our new expanding family and much of our work comprises of working on the computer during the day leaving minimal will and energy to do so in the evening. People ask us why we do not write more often, especially e-mails, but farmers who grow corn all day often do not like to work in the garden at night, accountants probably do not appreciate doing family accounting in the evening and MCC workers who spend time on the computer communicating would rather do something else.

In any case, I have found a little time in my busy schedule to add a little to our blog on the ever exciting Sand Dams and Food Security initiatives that are gaining momentum in Mozambique. Our country representative and engineer keep writing reports of the exciting things happening. It has finally rained significantly in Mozambique in February and many of the dams are filling up with water and sand. Several such that they can be raised to capture more rainwater. It seems that it is catching the attention of the government and visits from the government's public works (those in charge of public infrastructure) in Maputo have come to visit based on the good reports from the provincial offices. MCC also has sent key staff from the Christian Council of Mozambique to a training on conservation agriculture which seems to show potential for improving production and agriculture security alongside the sand dams. CCM staff seems excited and ready to train more of its staff in the technology and to implement it in the projects. What's more is that during the CCM annual meetings, they gave a presentation and many of the other provinces are really interested in what is happening. If you are interested in knowing more of the conservation agriculture see

The provincial government is also very interested and excited about the work. Recently Jon, our engineer, wrote, "CCM received attended meetings with the provincial departments of Public Works, Agriculture, and Emergency Management; the Mozambican Regional Water Administration for the Zambezi River Basin; and the World Food Program. The group in the meeting agreed to first make a visit to project sites, then meet again to figure out how they can work together to expand these kind of efforts, and do feasibility studies. There have been so many complaints from the population about drought and hunger, and the government is really glad to see someone working at it. They’re really wanting to turn around the situation of drought and hunger in these districts, and see this combined water and ag work as the way to go."

What does this mean for me, us, as a family. This means that we are moving to Maputo. MCC and CCM want to create core capacity within CCM National office to work at expanding and developing the vision of sand dams and food security within their network of provincial offices. A team will be formed, which I will be a part of, in order to work at this and connect up with potential donors, some of which are already lining up to support us with this initiative. This is all very exciting and scary at the same time. We will be starting over in a new place but with exciting new work. Jenny will have the opportunity to explore being involved in work with other initiatives within CCM (savings groups, contraband arms for art projects, learning tours and conflict resolution) and we will get to explore and experience the city of Maputo and its environs. Pray for us as we make this exciting yet scary and sometimes lonely change.
The last few weeks have been a crazy time of traveling and giving presentations in schools, churches, organizations and gatherings all across middle America. It has been a wonderful time of connecting with people and they truly are interested in the Sand Dams/Food Security and Savings Group projects that are growing and expanding in Mozambique. Some of our best times are when we have given a presentation on and people have the time to ask questions. It is fun to engage with people.

Yet, sometimes we do not know if we are getting through. Maybe our presentation is full of to much good news and not the realities. Maybe people are not as inspired as we hope. Maybe they are tired. We recently talked at Bethany Middle School in Goshen and I was told not to worry if people looked bored and ready to fall asleep. Actually, it does not really matter to me because there are so many people and I am so focused that I do not notice if people are bored. It is only when I try to engage with a joke or an interesting story that I can really tell if people are with me. Our presentation was ok, nothing stimulating but afterwards teachers told us that it was fascinating and well done. But did it connect with students? Later in the week my brother and sister in law took us to downtown Goshen for First Friday's and two youth came up to us and asked us if we were the ones that had spoken in chapel at Bethany.

"It was really interesting," they said and proceeded to ask questions. Yeah, we impacted someone.

When speaking at AMBS, one of the professors told us that our presentation was interesting, well done, smooth, relevant and connected faith and the church's active work in the world. That, from a professor at a seminary forming Pastor's was like a big high five. That was what we hoped we were getting across, God's living and active work in the world through the faith and action of many of his people.