Saturday, December 22, 2012

Tropical Disappointment

I should have known better, but hope against all hopes, I bought mangoes for a fruit salad. I already knew that bananas in the States aren't as sweet as ones in Mozambique. December, as I have mentioned in an earlier post, is fruit salad month in Mozambique--mangoes and pineapples are in season and bananas and papayas are always producing. So for the past six Decembers we have had luscious tropical fruit salad.

The mangoes I purchased came from Ecuador.  I cut into the first one, it was hard and pale yellow, not a succulent, juicy orange like I was accustomed to. The second one was a little riper and the third, though it looked much closer to Mozambican mangoes, the juice did not run down my hands, making it hard to hold the mango to slice.

Lesson learned...fruit that travels so far does not have the flavor or juice as local fresh fruit. Sigh. When I was in Moz I missed temperate climate fruit--apples, pears, peaches, berries. Now, I miss tropical fruit.

Monday, December 03, 2012


It's December again. For the first time in six years December is not hot! It certainly makes "getting in the Christmas spirit" much easier. We decorated our trees today; embarrassingly four. Two artificial (one we had and one my mom gave us), a small live Norway spruce that I gave Joel while we were dating and a smallish junky juniper in the flowerbed next to our front porch. The more the merrier, right?! Our mothers have both decided that now that we are in our own place here in the States, anything and everything that was ever ours in their homes are now in ours and in our house. We have way too many Christmas ornaments! We even have a themed tree--all the Christmas ornaments that we've ever received from Ten Thousand Villages or overseas, and it's not a small tree either. Yay for fair trade ornaments!
Our international ornaments tree--so big compared to what we had in Moz!

I've been missing Mozambique this week...The weekly women's Bible study that I attended, having a maid/nanny so I could get out of the house without the children, small cafes where we would get a cup of tea and pastry, the Anglican liturgy sung, the rich hues of the purple of Advent contrasting with white walls of the church's decorations, speaking Portuguese, and fruit salad. December in Moz is fruit salad month--bananas and papayas which are always in season and then mangoes and pineapples. As much as I longed for a cold November and December when I was there, I miss it now--not the sweating out every pore in my body but the now-familiar rhythms of the southern hemisphere seasons. Mangoes, papayas, bananas, pineapples that have to travel so far are just not the same as ones that are locally grown.  I noticed a picture of a mango in a magazine; it didn't even look ripe!

That said, it's been nice to see the decorations of the holiday season around. We admit that for the most part, our society goes overboard on the celebrating of Christmas and misses the amazing love of God coming to earth as Emmanuel; but from our perspective, it's lovely to see the wreaths, lights, colored balls, candles and holiday cheer. It's nice to be in a place where giving gifts is celebrated (in Moz people don't give gifts, usually because of poverty but also for unsaid cultural reasons). May you celebrate the love of God this Christmas season!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Our own pace

Tomorrow marks four months since we arrived in the States. A lot has happened during those three months. It no longer feels like we are "fresh off the boat". Moz feels like a distant dream which is hazy memories but affects . how we view the world and how we make decisions.

Joel is working long hours and I am a stay-at-home mom. There's a blessed monotony to our lives of circling through our days--taking walks, going to preschool, reading books, playing games, changing diapers, cooking, laundry and unpacking. I feel content in the monotony, knowing that it is a season of life. Our lives will not always be this uninteresting or under-involved in other people's lives. But frankly, after spending the past few years being outward focused, it's nice to focus inward on our own family. That said, it feels selfish and luxurious--like filling the bathtub full with hot water without thought to water consumption.The time will come when our lives will be busier (though I hope we won't be living at a super-frenetic pace that I observe many people being caught up in). I also know that we need to move at our own pace for becoming involved, for if we don't listen to our own rhythms and need for time, we will burnout and overdo it.

Friday, October 12, 2012


I have been enjoying autumn this year. It's basically the first autumn I've had since 2006. There were the things I was expecting to see--changing leaves, pumpkins and apples. I have been awestruck by the beauty of the late afternoon sun with its golden light illuminating whatever it touches. We made applesauce with my parents last weekend. It brought back memories of doing it as a kid with my brother, taking turns turning the handle of the Squeezo. I didn't remember it being as labor intensive as it was (probably because I didn't do anything with the actual canning and water bath needed to seal the jars when I was a kid).

We recently moved into our own place--yay! (and much thanks to my parents who graciously hosted us for several months). Nadia, Luke and I take a walk around our neighborhood most mornings. It's fun to see the colors of mums, the pumpkin decorations and scare crows. We've enjoyed walking through the crisp leaves that have fallen onto the sidewalks. It's hard to explain to a three-year old Halloween decorations. After several years of living where the spirit world is particularly close, ghosts, skeletons and the like are not fun decorations but rather ominous objects that I would rather not invite into my life or that of my children's. Nadia, in her own way, has created good from her exposure to the decorations. She'll often point out a ghost with its mouth open and tell me it's singing and then continue on our walk singing her own songs--mostly Sunday school songs and nursery rhymes.

I am impressed with our bodies. After having six years of HOT summers (this summer in the States, we were told was hot and we barely sweated), I guess our bodies grew accustomed to the heat. I didn't think so while we were there, I still sweated out of every pore of my body. But now as winter approaches and temperatures dip closer and closer to freezing, we are COLD! The other day on our walk, the temperatures were in the low 50s (13ish celcius). Nadia, Luke and I were dressed like we were ready for winter--winter hats, gloves and tukes. Parents waiting with their kids for the bus were dressed in jeans and fleeces. Joel and I already have three blankets on our beds and are sleeping in flannel pajamas. My fingers are constantly cold. We have multiple afghans on our sofa to curl up with. And it's only mid-October! Perhaps it is true that our blood (or whatever helps our bodies adjust to temperatures) does change.  So if you see us all bundled's not because we're odd, we're just cold.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Starting over

In Moz, I had a drawer full of spices. I left them all there. I need to start over again, accumulating my collection frequent, regular and rarely used spices. Moving from one country to another means that I need to start over with everything--the basics like salt, oil, flour and baking ingredients. Things that rarely all run out at the same time. It also means that we need to start over with communication devices (cell phones, landlines, internet), a car, insurance, etc. It all takes time and at times all the decisions seem overwhelming. We're doing it slowly but surely.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Socially Awkward

I don't generally consider myself a socially awkward person (if you know me and think I am, please keep it to yourself). However the act of returning to one's own culture after years away, renders some disconnect and gaps in conversation.

When first entering a new culture, I expect awkwardness. I don't know people; I don't know the culture; I don't know the language and conversation flows about as easily as a uncoordinated teenager learning to drive stick-shift up hill. That's expected. Meeting other foreigners is also disjointed but there's the easy questions--where are you from? what organization brings you here? how long have you been here/overseas? where do you live? etc.

But now, coming back to the States, I know the language in terms of vocabulary,though sometimes I feel like I've lost the rhythm and nuances underneath the words. In other words, I no longer have the cultural understanding that brings meaning. Sometimes it feels like there is no place to begin a conversation, as if my other world experiences prevent me from knowing how to converse here. It's not just my experiences that create a gap in understanding but also how much culture has changed too--media, technology, where someone my age "should" be financially/career-wise.

One of the biggest cultural changes I am noticing is how limited conversations are. People are in a hurry. Conversations are three sentences long. So even if I had questions or thoughts to contribute to the conversation, it's over before it began.

When people find out that I've spent the past five years overseas, it's interesting for a few seconds, enough to ask something benign like, "How'd you like it?" or "That was quite the experience". I know to expect that. I just didn't expect that my taking an interest in someone else would be as short.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


I hate roosters. It's a known fact. I started my dislike of them when I was in Russia in 1997. My time in Moz  did not help my dislike--it worsened it. The stupid birds crow whenever they feel like it, whether it be 3:00 in the afternoon or 2:00 in the middle of the night. For my 30th birthday in Moz, I wanted to go somewhere where I wouldn't hear a rooster. We went to a beach resort and didn't hear any--it was LOVELY. In my mind, roosters are just one of those necessary, annoying animals that help accomplish something for the greater good (help produce more chickens for eating and laying eggs). They are not quaint, they are not pretty, they are not darlingly chic. Someone in my parents' neighborhood has a rooster. I hear it in the mornings when I brush my teeth. Really? Here in Bucks County? Please get rid of it!

Thursday, August 23, 2012


Joel and I soon after arriving in Moz
I'm tired of transition. I should be accustomed to it by now because, my "normal" life, for at least the past seven years, has been constantly changing. Joel and I were only married a year and half before we went into MCC. Then we moved 2-5 times (if you count the three months of language study and going to Johannesburg twice for extended times for the births of our children). And now, after a little over two months in  the States we are transitioning again. Why? Because Joel got a job!

Our most recent family photo
Today was his first day at work. He's working for a landscape maintenance company. He came home really tired. But that's par for the course--having spent the greater part of the past 6 years working in an office to returning to manual labor.

The transition is welcome. We've been praying for a job for a long time, it's just the adjusting (again) that I'm tired of. It's a good reminder that this world is not our permanent home.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Now that we are back, people who find out that we have spent time overseas and have just returned, often ask if I liked Mozambique, my standard reply is that it's been a journey. They don't usually ask me to expound, but if I would here is some of the parts of the journey:

- a journey of liking being in Moz more than just for the bananas (which I now miss). It took me a while to like Mozambique. I remember a time during our second year someone asked me what I liked most about Moz. I promptly replied, "The bananas". He commented that I replied quickly. I responded that we had just spent some time in the States and I realized that if we had stayed in the US, the only thing at that point I would have missed were the bananas. As time passed, over five years, I found other things to like in Moz other than the bananas. And in my final year there, I found myself liking it more and more. I can't point to exact things but finding my way through the culture and making friends helped alot in that journey.

- a journey, still happening, of learning that who I am is more than what I do but who I am in Christ. This is a hard one, especially for those of us who like to do. I went into my term of MCC wanting to serve and do something for people, to change the world. But when things with my various assignments didn't work, out it hurt--alot. I had to learn, through many mental struggles, that my identity is not based on what I do or the roles that I normally defined myself, but just by being a follower of Christ and knowing how he sees me--a person deeply loved and that just being myself is all He wants me to be, in whatever circumstances I find myself.

- a journey of changing roles--from rarely considering myself an outsider to having that a part of my temporary identity (estrangeira--a foreigner), becoming a mother (of one then two children), of being a wife in a patriarchal society

- a journey of internalizing that the kind of woman I am and my experiences that I've had are just as valid as women around whose life experiences are vastly different than mine. And none of us are "less of a woman" than the other because of our differences. My first months in Gondola threw me for a loop because all the women I knew in the community carried their own water, may have had electricity in their homes (most did not), became mothers in their teens and attended only a few years of primary school. It took me a while to realize that prior to living in Gondola all the women I had ever known, from my great-grandmother born in 1904 to my women I knew in Russia and all the women I knew in the States had running water, for the most part completed high school, if not some university and had electricity. But we are all women.

- a journey of finding work and accepting when I didn't have work. When we started our term I did not have a defined job description with MCC. And my jobs changed sometimes by the year. There were busy times and slow times and not at all times. During one of my not-at-all times of work, I learned that it was okay to wait. It wasn't what I preferred. I felt guilty for living overseas being supported by other people without doing something but sometimes life is like that.

- a journey of putting into practice the social work mantra: don't do for others what they can do for themselves. This was hard. Like I said earlier, I went into MCC wanting to serve. There were times when it would have been easier to do something than to wait for the local people to do it. Inwardly, I longed to be needed and could just as easily do something instead of waiting for them to do it. But, if people don't do something for themselves, then they don't always own it. We talked about things that needed to be done and I stood by and encouraged them, but ultimately it was up to them to do things to change their life like it is up to me to change mine.

- a journey of pushing myself to go out even when I didn't feel like it. As my mom always said, "Attitude follows actions". Prior to our leaving for Moz, a couple who had just returned to from their MCC told us that someone had advised them to take a walk, even if they didn't feel like it. That getting out helps to clear one's head and get a new perspective. It's true. We often felt alot better after getting out.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Back in the States
We've been back in the States for a little over a month. The fog is lifting a bit, but probably just a bit--the past two weeks have been "hiding out", enjoying the quiet of Nebraska farm land. We drove from my parents' (Jenny's) in Pennsylvania to Joel's parents' in Nebraska. It was a long trip. It made driving from Maputo to Beira look like a short distance. The difference, though, here was despite the distance being longer and the time we drove longer, the roads were nicer--no pot holes(!) and plenty of gas stations and very little fear of other drivers driving crazy  and baby changing stations in restrooms and places to buy a cup of coffee and tea(!). I think all together our travel took 27 hours but we went 1200 miles--and that with a 3 year old and a 4 month old. In our family, so far, some of the keys to such a long trip is starting early in the morning (like 2 AM), fun little snacks (peanuts, craisins, etc) and lots of children's music.

Some observations about the States:
- America is BIG! Not just in miles and time it takes to travel, but cars (think double cab full size pick-up trucks and SUVs) houses, stores (big box stores), yards,  restaurant portions, cups (20oz cups), etc
- Alot of food is sweet--salad dressings, salads, cereals, juice
- High fructose corn syrup is in almost everything (Coke, for the record, in our opinion tastes much better made with sugar cane than high fructose corn syrup)
- America is very violent--not just the shooting that happened this past week in Aurora--but it seems like guns and other violence is norm in movies and on tv (I knew this before but am struck by it again after years of being away from it

I think that's all for now...excuse me as I go get a cashew-craisin-white chocolate cookie (homemade by my mother-in-law)

Friday, July 06, 2012

Immersed in Water
We bought a small inflatable kid's pool . For the most part, it's Nadia's but I like putting my feet in on these hot days while I'm watching her splash around in it. She's fun to watch, gleefully jumping in the water making splashes as much as 3 inches of water in a 4-foot diameter pool can make.

I am reminded of one of the scenes of one of "The God's Must Be Crazy" movies (I don't remember which one) where two children who live in a very water-scarce part of Africa come across an abandoned water tank truck that still is full. The older one, a girl, decides to see what's in the tank. When she discovers that it's full of water, she jumps in and invites her younger brother to do the same.The storyteller tells us that this is the children's first time ever being immersed in water.

I'm not sure why that scene has stuck with me. But as i watch my 3-year-old daughter play, I think back to Moz and wonder how many Mozambicans have had the joy of submerging their bodies in water on a hot day. I remember one weekend our first or second year there that we were stranded in the sand dams communities because our truck was broken down. We were so thankful that we were close to the slow, shallow Luenha River because we spent the greater part of the day floating in the warm waters, escaping the 48+ (way over 105 F) degree heat. Not all Mozambicans have access to water like that.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Catching up
It's been a few months since we last wrote; we have some catching up to do. We are now back in the States. We've been back for two and half weeks, though out of Mozambique for a month and 4 days.

We left Moz well. As it seems to go for me, in the weeks prior to leaving, my work with the Transformacao de Armas em Enxadas (TAE--Transforming Arms into Ploughshares) project started having more work for me. During the months of April and May, they had collected weapons from several communities. One of the communities took great care for secrecy and security to surrender their weapons. From these communities, TAE received 500+ weapons at one time and received a promise for 400+ more when they are able to return. This weapons collection was especially poignant because at the same time, small riots were happening in Northern Mozambique and the communities could have sent their weapons there in support of the riots but instead relinquished them to TAE. I am reminded again of people's bravery to go against cultural norms to pursue peace.

Both MCC and CCM had really nice despedidas (going away parties) for us. In Mozambican culture, giving a woman a capulana is a sign of respect. A capulana (the 2 meter traditional cloth used for skirts, baby carriers, head cloths, picnic blankets, etc.) is the gift that traditionally if a man traveled he brought one back for his wife. It's also what Mozambicans give to each other as a gift to honor someone. Usually the giver wraps the capulana around the recipient--as if showing her how to wear it. All this to say, I received a number of capulanas during our despedidas and Joel received several shirts made from capulanas.

On our return to the States, we spent two lovely weeks in England visiting dear friends from our time in Gondola and Chimoio who now live in Leeds, England. We took in the sites--visiting castles, drinking tea, watching the Queen's Diamond Jubilee on television, enjoying the quaint villages and towns dotting the countryside of Yorkshire (which, ironically, is very different than York, Nebraska where Joel was born), learning to love cream tea (tea with scones, jam and clotted cream) and beholding the wonders of the developed world (scheduled, on-time public transportation, fast paced life, orderly driving). I've always wanted to visit England and despite it being freezing for my thinned-accustomed-to-hot-Mozambique blood (I wore two fleeces and my rain coat for most of the time), it was great (even with the rain most days--but isn't that what England is known for?). It reminded me again of how going to a country helps one understand its literature better. Though we did not get to where Jane Austin (with whom we fell in love with her writing during our first years in Moz), we did see the village where she died and feel like we understand more of the English culture that is described.

We had forgotten about long summer evenings. Now, after five and half years of heading inside after dusk for fear of the malaria mosquito bites and rarely having evening engagements, we are in awe of being able to be outside after putting Nadia and Luke to bed in the light. Of course, with the sun still shining it means Nadia's harder to convince that it really is her bedtime. In England at our friends' house the sun set at 9:30 PM; here in Pennsylvania it's setting at 8:30 but it still gives us a nice bit of evening outside.

There are little things that we notice of how we have changed. I feel like I talk slower. We are definitely not in a hurry and I'm sure the few times that I have gone through a checkout the cashier wonders why I am slow and acting as if it confusing. Often when I am out (most of my outings have been grocery shopping with my mom), I fell like I'm in a fog. There are so many choices! We haven't been out to eat yet, but I imagine it could feel overwhelming at all the choices on the menu and that for the most part they have all of them available, not like Moz where they often don't have all the items on the menu and chicken and chips (fries) are the norm.

I'm struck by how many trees there are here. My parents (Jenny) live in eastern Pennsylvania, outside of Philadelphia, where some people can trace their property rights back to William Penn. It makes the meaning of Pennsylvania, Penn's Woods, make more sense. It's not that Moz didn't have trees, it didn't seem to have as many just for shade or woods or in people's yards beyond mango trees and acacia trees. Joel might disagree with me, but I feel like there are alot of trees here.

We got a cell phone. I chose the simplest phone possible and it still has internet, app and email capabilities. Oh and a camera! When I chose it, the salesman asked if I was sure that I wanted that one. Apparently no one wants a "basic" phone anymore. It took him five minutes to find one in stock. And because it took a "long time" (over a half an hour?) to get it set up, he gave it to us free. Feeling Mozambican, I impishly asked, "And we get the rebate too?" No. Oh well, as I learned in Moz, it never hurts to ask! This "basic" phone lacks the flashlight that our super-antiquated phones in Moz had.

Monday, April 02, 2012

This is an interesting article on Mozambique. Africa is no longer the Africa we have known it. Things are changing. But will it change for everyone. Time will tell. History has not always been good. But there is hope.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

I wonder if this guy's bike is overloaded?

2 Days and 20 Hours

Any way you slice it the trip from Maputo to Beira, it seems to always be an adventure. We are now a family of four and a 17 hour bus trip just seemed to be a bit much. So we decided to take the car, grit our teeth and make the two day trip, stopping in Vilanculos for the night. Here is advice for all those who have interest:
  • Vilanculos is not the place for budget accommodation. After 3 trips we finally found something somewhat decent but the bathroom leaked and it was hot. Pay your bucks and avoid unnecessary suffering, especially with children.

Our Place for the Night

  • If you travel with young kids, forget actually enjoying the beautiful beach scene, even if it is 30 meters away. You will not have time to see it anyway.
  • Get into town when the they are not repaving the main street, thus cutting you off from all the eating places on the other side of town. We ate tuna fish sandwiches and dry bread.
  • When you hear thunder, pack the car, quickly.
  • There is going to be some fatigue after dodging 5000 or so potholes.
  • Actually hitting less then 20 potholes is a good day.
  • It is indeed possible to get a small car through a truck sized pothole.

Potholes near Inhassoro

  • Yes friends, the Beira-Chimoio highway can get worse.
  • When studying whether your car can cross a pothole without scraping bottom, consider whether it looks higher than a curb in Maputo. (yes, we have to drive up curbs to park, or when avoiding traffic congestion during a hospital run)
  • 1200 miles of pristine land where a potty training child can pee is wonderful, unless it rains all day or she actually likes to stop just for the experience.
  • It is a bit frustrating to have a child that actually gets a thrill from testing all the public restrooms.

Our Child's Restroom

  • Not breaking down or having a flat tire is wonderful, and lucky.
  • Watching a bus barrel toward you with a blown tire is a bit scary.
  • Inhambane Province is just beautiful with palm trees as far as you can see and turquoise waters.

Palm Tree lined roads in Inhambane Province

  • A newborn will indeed feed every two hours.
  • It is ok to let infants cry, though we did learn on our last trip from South Africa that aids getting through customs.
  • Mozambicans are very good at stating the obvious. I can not count how many times we were told our baby is crying. In fact, we had to ask several to repeat in an effort to hear over the screams.
  • If you missed the first cashew salesman on the side of the road, there will be others, 10 others.
  • Despite the challenges, I still find Mozambique beautiful and incredibly interesting.
  • We get to do it again in 4 days, yeah!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Looking ahead, looking behind
In a little over two short months, we will be leaving Mozambique and our MCC term. Some days it's fun to dream about what we will have access to when we get back to the States and some days I try to think of what I have appreciated about our life here in Moz.

I look forward to...
- libraries
- comfy couches
- relatively pot-hole free roads
- not managing a maid
- store bought tortillas (instead of making them from scratch)
- reliable electricity and water
- quiet, no raucous, loud parties all hours of the night that prevent us from sleeping
- looking for a place to live and not having to clarify that I want running water (with hot water) and electricity--kitchens that exist more than just a sink
- finding ways to become involved in a church more than just attending Sunday mornings
- four seasons (with only 2-3 months of hot weather)
- not having to treat our drinking water

Things I've appreciated in Mozambique
- outdoor cafes with delicious pastries
- ordering tea and milk and having it come in a tea pot and a small milk pitcher
- learning to cook with foods locally available and in season
- having a maid so when we are tired, we don't have to wash our dishes and having our bathroom regularly cleaned
- being able to spend all year outside
- fresh bananas, pineapples, mangoes and avocadoes
- learning a new language
- participating in the Anglican church liturgy
- shopping at local stores and individuals selling produce on the street for most of our groceries
- making friends with people of faith from all around the world
- seeing many different places in the region and having a non-tourist experience because we've lived here
- adventures that though they were frustrating at the time, taught us patience, endurance, character (?) and that we can survive when things fall apart or don't go as planned or as fast as we'd like them
Losing Innocence
Around the time of Luke's birth, we stayed at a guesthouse for missionaries. We realized (once again) that our faith that prompts us to work and promote peace and non-violence is not shared by all Christians.

When we arrived at the guesthouse some of the toys Nadia discovered were long plastic swords, about the same height as she. Various families with boys came through and she learned the purposes of swords and the inevitable phrases: "I'm gonna kill you!" and "You're killing me!" without understanding the meaning. Joel, in an effort to protect Nadia (a very social two year old who isn't afraid of joining whatever aged kids in their play) from being bonked on the head and limit her exposure to violent toys, hid the swords.

I'm not sure who lost their innocence more--Joel and I as parents or Nadia. I know that our belief that Jesus calls us to actively live out love to everyone, including our enemies, is not a common one and that when our children are older we will have to be very intentional to talk and demonstrate our beliefs that are so counter cultural. But I didn't expect it to happen when our daughter is two.

Monday, March 12, 2012

St. Luke's

Whenever we are in South Africa we take the opportunity to attend services at St. Luke's Anglican church. I can't begin to tell you how amazing this church is. And it was not in a place that I thought I would find it. There is no doubt that God is present and it is always a refreshing experience to be amongst people who care so deeply and remind us of what God can really do with his people.

On first look the church has the old stone structure that can suggest cold, damp surroundings but on entering the greeters are sure to make you feel welcome, get your name and welcome you. What is so amazing is we have only attended a few times each time we are here but people know us by name, ask us how Mozambique is and know what is going on in our life. They are very attentive. They have organized themselves by their gifts and those that have hospitality are directed to make sure you feel welcome. People had observed that we were expecting a child and as I presented myself to take communion someone had told the priest that the child was born and he said a special blessing and welcome over us. About 5 or 6 people noticed and asked us how mother and child were doing. Last week a couple just invited us out to eat. We had a wonderful time.

Beyond the friendliness, they have a real focus on all the elements of worship and discipleship. They have a somewhat informal worship led by various worship teams with a variety of instruments depending on people's gifts. It is quite informal considering that the Anglican church is of the high church tradition. They weave the liturgy in with the worship and yet keep it fresh each time. People can raise their hands in worship or kneel on the cushions provided. There is freedom. There is time for prayer, for confession, for celebration, for challenge. The sermons challenge people to discipleship, to spread the word of God's love in both word and deed, to commit oneself to justice and mercy. There are small groups that are focused on the sermons of the week and challenging people to walk forward in faith. There is time for prophecy or reflection after the word is given where people can speak what God has revealed. There are people who surround you with prayer if you need it, you just walk to the side of the church during the Eucharist with a bit of faith and they pray for you. Children are welcomed in Sunday School or they are welcome in church, receiving a blessing from the priest or priestess. And there is a spirit of love and joyfulness in the faces of the people and emanating form the walls of the building with persons of almost every color. It is anything but cold stone but a warm hearth of God's Love.

And if you think you can get out the door, Krish, an Indian man, grabs you by the arms and insists that you stay for tea before you go. We will miss this place.

We had a little attempt at a South African braai. In South Africa, like the US, a man is not a real man unless he can braai, grill, barbeque, or whatever you want to call it. We attempted chicken with lemon, garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil. Mmmmm... it was delicious and tender, just the way a good grilled chicken should be.

Nadia loves the pool

Is this what it means when we say 'God has us in the palm of his hand'?

Yes buddy, that is the opposite sex. Be in awe but you will never understand them completely.

And then there were four.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Today is World Water Day. The theme is "water and food security" so given that we are building dams and teaching conservation agriculture to capture water and produce food in Mozambique the theme is very fitting. There are some really informative videos at the World Water Day website found on the right of this blog that really outline what we can do.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Luke Isaiah

27 February 2012
3:54 AM
3.46 kg (7 lb, 9 oz)
51 cm

Nadia and Luke

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Reflections during a Border Run

Yesterday I had to drive all the way from Johannesburg to the border of Mozambique, cross over the border, turn around down the hill and come right back. The law has it in Mozambique, and possibly South Africa as well, that we can only have our Mozambican registered car in South Africa for 30 day at a time or huge fines will be incurred on approaching the border. So I took off at 4:30 in the car, hoping that Jenny would not go into labor while I was 4-6 hours away.

Everything went smoothly and it was once again wonderful to drive through Mpumalanga Province and past Nelspruit through some of what is arguably one of South Africa's nicest landscapes. The country falls away from the 'high veld' (high plains) to the 'lowveld' (tropical savanna) leaving a mix of green hills covered in grass, trees, aloe and purple flowering trees with orchards and farms interspersed in the valleys. It was a good time of reflection and time alone where I could think about the comging transition to the US. Oh, yes, for those who do not know, we are coming back to the US. We are actually coming earlier than expected since budgets have and will be tight within MCC Mozambique. It is good timing though and I think we are ready. But it is also a scary and uncertain time.

Jenny has often commented that I find God in the beauty of nature. I think most people that have known me would shake their head in affirmation. It seems that when I am in that natural beauty God seems to enter in and in a humble way, maybe his thoughts become my thoughts for a time. As I was driving through the hills on my way home I listened to a CD that our friend Rachel had given us when we left Denver. Thanks Rachel. The songs were quite meaningful and I felt the praise rising up within me. I reflected on how the last 5 1/2 years in Mozambique have been quite a journey. It has been hard, yet very good. I have failed many times and acted less then Christ-like in many ways, yet I have given my best and a lot of good fruit came out of it. I could have done more, but I did enough and there are others in the 'great cloud of witnesses' who are carrying it on when we leave. It is wonderful indeed that we are not alone on this journey.

What I did note, however, was that there were many songs that I just couldn't sing. Often I would try but the tears would flow instead. Maybe it is that I used to sing them but the words never sunk in. Or maybe it is that the songs touch something so deep in my soul where I have been hurt, where I have struggled. Maybe it is touches on where the truth of sin, suffering and our brokenness meets with the grace and hope of Jesus's mission of restoration. It is something deep yet very real. What I do know is that there is a real sense that the journey has taught me of my insignificance and significance, my ability to sin and show grace, to succeed and fail and that I have grown but yet am far from perfect. I know deep down that the tears were not from sadness. No, they are the tears that speak of God's faithfullness through it all. Whatever I did or did not do I can still say, or speak with my soul that God is faithful and will continue to be faithful. To speak or sing is too much. It is too true. But the tears speak. I am greatful. If understanding God's faithfullness is all I have gained out of the last 5 1/2 years then it was worth every minute.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

I am loving South African weather. I think I say that every time I am here. It is just lovely. The temperature is always comfortable, not too hot, not too cold. As soon as it gets hot the thunderstorms start and it cools down again.

It is amazing how fast it changes. I left work and walked home in clear skies and sunny weather. In the 30 minutes we ate the weather changed and clouds began filling the sky. I told Jenny that I should probably get going if I was to make it without getting wet but in reality I thought I had plenty of time. I played about 5 minutes with Nadia and decided to take off. It was at the point that I knew I had better make a break for it or walk back and get an umbrella. So I made a break for it.

I lost. No sooner had I stepped out of the gate and the thunder and drops came. Incredibly fast changing weather. Even Nebraska does not change that fast. A few minutes into the walk it started picking up. I decided to keep close to the eucalyptus trees in hopes of avoiding the worst. It soon became apparent that it was a losing battle. So I ran. But I had a long way to go. Fortunately someone I knew happened by and picked me up but I still got wet running into the office.

No sooner had I entered the office and it poured for a minute and then stopped completely.

Wow, I love the weather.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Few Random Photos

Nadia, James and Rya

Making Russian Tea Cakes for Christmas with Mommy

Got Milk

Bilene Beach

Relaxing at Bilene with Nate, Deanna and Emily

There are things I can’t control:
- How hot (and humid) it is--regularly 30 C = mid-80's F with 70% humidity
- That our apartment is on the 4th floor apartment with no barrier between our ceiling and the roof and does not have cross-ventilation. And that is baked every sunny day from 1:00-sundown (around 6:45 PM).
- The weather—when the forecast is for cool, rainy weather one day and the next it is changed to hot, humid weather and the rain never comes
- That our neighbor after over a month of telling him that his water tank is leaking into our bathroom and destroying our wall, still hasn’t fixed it

There are things I can control
- Where I sit in our apartment in the heat—so far I’ve discovered sitting in the tub is the coolest spot
- What we cook in the hot weather
- How many cold showers I take a day
- How I react to disappointing weather predictions
- How I react to the constant leak in our bathroom

Things I can be thankful for
- Ceiling fans and floor fans
- Adequate water
- That it usually cools down overnight
- That though the water consistently leaks, it’s not flooding the bathroom
- That our bathroom is much cooler than the rest of our apartment

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Drama never Ends

I will try not to go into all the detail of everything that has happened over the last half year or so but I want all to know that it has been mostly good so this is definitely a glass half empty post.

For starters we have dealt over the past year with two water tanks above our apartment whose leaks have filtered into our apartment, spoiled the paint in our bedroom and started growing mold. We appealed to our neighbors, the head of the building and such but it took rather 6 months to get fixed. Not very neighborly I didn't think. They should have met Mr. Rodgers cause it was not a good day in the neighborhood. Unfortunately as soon as that stopped we received a new neighbor who proceeded to use the other cement tank above our bathroom even though we advised against it. It started overflowing running water into our bathroom. We complained. He added a plastic tank but continues to use the cement one and tried to put a new tube in. This tube drips and causes the water to constantly drip into the bathroom. I approached him numerous times, called our landlord and talked to our apartment head to no avail. We have settled for a bucket that collects the water and we keep our fan on to dry the wetness that appears on the wall and ceiling in our bedroom and bathroom each time it rains and as the water leaks out of the cracks in his tank.

Then, two weeks before we took off for Christmas to South Africa my wife ended up in the hospital, complications from the pregnancy. I have been in charge of getting groceries and cooking along with my regular work at the CCM office. As soon as she was out the guard came up and asked me to fix a tiny dripping down at ground level from my water meter. I decided I would fix it right away so as to keep my integrity. He came and fixed it a little bit but it still dripped, but less. I called him in again, big mistake. I should have left well enough alone. His cranking on the pipe broke the plastic pipe coming from the city water and we had 'old faithful' with water running out of the apartment and toward the street. Plumbers tend to mix plastic and metal piping to save cost . This he told me as he prepared another plastic pipe...hmmm. The water had to much pressure for him to stop it. It was embarrassing as neighbors went by shaking there head and saying, 'confusao' or confusion, literally translated, but basically means 'sorry for you, I am glad it is not me'. Confusion is not something Mozambicans like. After two hours he finally stopped it but we were without water.

Meanwhile, I had just managed to catch my breath and my MCC colleague calls me and says that our coordinator, who is coming in from South Africa, is driving in with what she thought was appendicitis. Given Jenny and I are the only ones with international drivers licences of the three of us, we ended up having to rescue her on December 23rd in the worst traffic of the year. It was the first time I saw my very considerate wife, cutting people off and butting in line. She half considered taking the sidewalk. We postponed our vacation to make sure she got through surgery alright. We left on the 24th, and had a great relaxing 5 days. On returning, however, the plumber who promised to fix our water when we were gone had taken off to Inhambane, about 400 kms up he coast. We called him right away and he was on his way back and fixed it the next day. Needless to say we were not impressed.

So, all has gone well since and most of the time we stayed house sitting for a friend in a really nice house next to a park in a nicer section of the city.

Oh, I almost forgot. We went to visit friends along Costa de Sol. It turns out it was the last day of vacation for most people. The road was filled with cars and you could not see the sand on the beach because of the quantity of people swimming and partying. On the way back we were trapped in traffic when we were suddenly hit from behind by a driver and his two lady friends who had been drinking. I kept calm and tried to ask what we could do. They blamed me for stopping suddenly. I had been stopped in the line. I said we should call the police to sort it out. They said I was causing, 'confusao'. There it is again, confusion. This time it means "You are going to cause me unnecessary problems, dummy". I tried to talk with our administrator in Beira and my phone was almost snatched from my hand by the man asking for my phone number and details. I tried to be patient and told him I would as soon as I was off the phone. I tried to get into the car to get away so I could talk in peace with my wife. He reached in and took my car keys. I almost slugged him...but I didn't. Fortunately our maid happened by with some friends and managed to help us call the police. I sat and watched as heated words were exchanged and fights almost broke out periodically. Amazingly in Africa your hired persons and their friends automatically stick up for you. They were great.

Needless to say the police never showed, they were more interested in getting bribes up the road. I had a terrible time filing the police report the next day trying to convince the police officer that I was not drinking the night before and it was the reason that I had not called the police. I had just said that I did call the police....aaaah. Police are less then helpful.

We returned yesterday from our friend's house.

Today, our water stopped....the tank was empty...what now. Hauling water up 5 flights of stairs and bucket baths. Managing our water resources. At least, Gondola taught us how to live without water in the house. But with a 2 year old and one on the way, this is not a good scenario. What's wrong? It worked fine a few weeks ago. Is there not enough pressure? Did the city water not run the last two days? Do we have plumbing problems or is it plugged? Did they cut our water? I will not know until tomorrow when the city water turns on. The big question is how I am going to sleep tonight and when can I go back to the land of flowing water and electricity, where the food appears on shelves on discount, where police actually have fast cars and use them, where there are ambulances, neighbors can be sued for problems they cause to your property and where ice cream does not melt before you can eat it.