Friday, August 31, 2012


When I first caught a glimse of his lime-green cureled tail, I thought he was a lizard pure and simple. But then I saw him move.
Instead of speeding off in a huff, he reach one tentative paw forward and danced it about slowly before he chose where it would land. Every move he made looked as if he were swiming in molasses.

Seeing that I could catch him with ease, I picked him up and placed him on my arm. But he didn’t like that much, and subsequently let out a menacing puff of air meant to deter me.
        --but he failed.

Immediately, his lime-green facade burned browner and large camelflage speckles broke out on his back like a rash.
        --He was mad.

With time, his green hue faded completely and he stayed a steady brown which matched my skin tone expertly. He climped my arm, then dangled precariously on my earring, and eventually landed in my hair.

When the kids saw I had a chameleon peaking out from behind my brouwn curls, they freaked. Only the bravest got close enough to touch him.

Several of the older girls preferred to squeek and squeal at the thought, dancing excitedly about in an effort to shake the germ-infested image from their minds. All I could do was laugh.

Only later would I learn that chameleons hold a special place of fear in Mozambican culture. They are universally feared and hated because of their use in witchcraft. Apparently, witchdoctors use them in ceremonies, placing demon spirits on them.

When I learned this, I prayed for my sweet chameleon to be set free from any curses and I’ve not had any problems with him yet.

He doesn’t seem to want to eat anything though. I brought him a few ants and he just let them walk off. So I brought him a cricket (which I’m told they love), but he has been ignoring it for days.

Anybody know how often a chameleon eats?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Mountain of Confusion.

Saturday I joined some of the Maforga staff for a quick jaunt up the Mountain of Confusion (or in the local tongue Nharo-Nharo). This curiously named mountain is believed to be a spiritual place, and as such is used by witchdoctors to perform ceremonies.

(In fact, due to this spiritual side to the mountain, I’m told many of the locals who have lived here all their lives and never been to its peak; it’s just too scary.)

In addition to its spiritual fear, it also has a very real physical one as well –land mines.

Years ago during the war, Nharo-Nharos’s high elevation made for an ideal look-out spot for rebels. To keep their enemies away, land mines were generously peppered along its slopes. However today, that means there is still the very real danger that unexploded land mines still await anyone foolish enough to tread off the beaten path.

Well, oddly enough witchcraft and land mines didn’t seem to deter our motley crew. There were fourteen of us in all –two Americans, an Aussie, a Brit, a Dutchman, and a medley of missionary kids and orphans.

We made a bit of a scene when we arrived at the mountain’s base. It’s not everyday, I suppose, that 14 people jump out of one truck and march up the steepest slope.

Had I known that we’d be taking the hardest route up the mountain, I would have submitted an official protest, but my one vote would not have mattered much; I am sure.

And had they all known that they’d invited the world’s least fit American up the mountain, they may have pushed me from the truck long before we ever arrived at our destination.
               --But I guess a surprises never hurt anyone, right?

More than once did I see doubt in their eyes as they watched me huff and puff my miserable way up the mountain. I sounded like a winded tea kettle and was equally as hot.

The kids didn’t seem to even notice the near vertical incline; and rarely did the (ridiculously fit and) seasoned missionaries stop in their upward climb; I was the only straggler.

At one point, one of the kids decided to try and walk with me, but I could see she was bored rather quickly. I’d take three steps than stop, huff and puff, turn three shades of red, then take three more steps.
             -- Slow and steady wins the race, right?

It didn’t take us long to reach the top, however, and in the end all my huffing and puffing was worth it. The view was spectacular.

Yellowed under the smoky haze and sparsely planted with trees, the Mozambican landscape stretched out for miles. It vibrated with potential.

It’s a land rich in beauty just begging to burst in green lush-ness… if only the rains would come.

At the top, we had a quick devotion then lunched on egg sandwiches and bananas. Afterward we took pictures and enjoyed the view. But we were not the only ones on top of the mountain; there was a Zionist group there as well.

I am told that the Zionists practice a synchronized religion of Christianity and traditional witchcraft. And naturally, since they believe the ‘high grounds’ get one closer to God, they often go to the Mountain of Confusion to worship.

Coming down the mountain was faster but just as hard as going up. The steep incline made balancing difficult, and many of our group chose to scoot down on their butts. But since the mountain has been scorched (much like the rest of the nation), this meant we arrived soot covered but safe.

All in all, it was a good day. I’m so glad I went.

Missionary Time.

There is a running joke among the staff here that things start and stop on missionary time. The best example of that would be bedtime.

When I first got here, my cruel jet lag insisted I wake at 2:30 a.m., but within a few days I was waking up a the more reasonable hour of 4 a.m. And since naps are often out of the question with all there is to do, that means I’m dead to the world by 8 p.m.

For anyone who knows me well, this reversal in my sleep schedule is massive. I’m a night owl if there ever was one. To think that I’m up with the songbirds and off to bed with the chickens would first make my mother laugh… then (hopefully) make her proud.

My mother is one of those ‘early to bed, early to rise’ kinds, and I’ve always been the opposite. But Mozambique has reset my internal clock, and I’m on Missionary Time now.

Don’t tell my mother… but I kind of like it.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Mozambican Welcome.

As the plane touched ground then bounced down the runway, I soaked up the sights of this new land. From my plexiglass window, the first thing that struck me was the massive amounts of concrete coating everything.

Strange, I know. But there you have it.

This airport had an honest to goodness tarmac! I’m so used to the half-paved and pot-holed messes often found in South Sudan, that I was deeply impressed with this hardened, grey facade.

Once the seatbelt sign switched off, I scrambled out of my seat, grabbed my back-pack, and bumped down the airplane aisle, pushing past the deep blue seats and scattered newspapers on my way.

As I deplaned, my first breath of Mozambique was curiously cold. At a whopping 8 degrees Celsius, I immediately knew I’d packed optimistically light.

I fished my (one and only) sweater from my bag and hugged it tightly around my shoulders. This surprising drop in temperature was welcomed, however, as it has been ages since I’ve been cold.

As I walked to the main terminal the wind picked up, carrying whiffs of petrol, bon fires, and dirt. Later I would learn that even though Mozambique is just finishing up with its winter months (June, July, and August -which are supposed to be wet), the rains never came.

These unusually dry months have yellowed the grass and stripped the trees, leaving the land wind swept and parched. Plus the water table has dropped dangerously low, much like the gloomy smoke-filled haze that sits just above the horizon.

It’s not good --not good at all.

I’m also told this is the ‘Season of Burning’ which is when the locals torch their fields to clear the land for planting. Often these fires take on a life of their own. And sometimes more than the fields are destroyed.

Day after day, I’ve watched Roy our director get calls to inspect reports of fires heading our way. It’s a constant battle. And today, I learned one of our guard’s homes was burned to the ground.

They burn to clear the lands, but they also burn to hunt for rats. At first I thought the rat hunting was to keep them off their lands and out of their food storages, but I was wrong. Apparently, they like to eat them.

Roughly the size of a kitten, these rats dig tunnels underground, and as a result they must be coaxed out of the ground to be caught.

I’ve yet to see one, but I’m not looking forward to the day. Rats of all shapes and sizes have the honor of being the lone item on my phobia list. Frankly, the idea that they are hunted and eaten here locally makes me cringe deep in my gut.

Lord, please. May I never be asked to eat one. Ever. Amen.

Wait... wait.. How did I get on the subject of rats? Forgive me. I’ve digressed in my tale. Let’s see. Where was I? Yes. My arrival in Mozambique. That was my point.

I landed (on tarmac), slipped on my sweater (for the cold), then stood in line for my visa.

The airport official, a short coffee-colored man with smiling eyes, took my index fingerprints, sixty-six dollars, and my picture before he handed me back my passport. In it he’d pasted an elaborate visa (which included my mug shot!) and the words “Visto Republica de Mocambique”.

Passport in hand, I walked excitedly up to the only Muzungus (white people) waiting outside of customs. They were hard to miss.

A taller than average blond with soulful eyes and a pleasant smile wrung her hands as I approached. So I smiled back and asked, “Are you Trish?”

-- “Oh.Yes. I’m Trish,” she started, then signaled for her husband to join her. “This is Roy.”

-- “Great to meet you both! I’m Stephanie.”

-- “Stephanie! Oh good. For the life of us, we couldn’t remember your name. So it’s “Steph-an-ie”?” she asked slowly, stressing my name into three long syllables.

Surprised I blinked a few times, then nodded.

I couldn’t help but wonder at our odd greeting. This couldn’t be a good sign, could it?

As we shook hands and politely chatted about the flight, my mind raced with questions. Had I really just flown half-way around the world to meet up with people who didn’t even know my name? What had I signed up for?

Nevertheless, Roy took my bag and we headed for the truck; we had to get on the road quickly, or we’d run out of daylight. As we drove the 3 hours back to Maforga, Trish regaled me with stories of Mozambique and asked me questions about my work in South Sudan. Roy, being more of the meditative listener, was happy to drive and listen to us talk.

Roy and Trish are celebrities of sorts in these parts. They started the work at Maforga 27 years ago and have seen more than their share of adventures. In the past few days, I’ve watched them juggle so much that it’s easy to see how they could forget silly things like names.

This week they’ve introduced me to the various government and social welfare offices to see about opening a birthing clinic. And if things go well, we’ll meet with the Ministry of Health in the coming weeks. There is even talk of gathering a number of midwives together for a meet and greet.

Please pray for these meetings as they are essential to any future medical work in this country. Naturally, I want God’s perfect will for my future, so I’m asking God to grant me extraordinary favor with the Ministry of Health if I’m to start a work here. But if He wants me to move on, then to close these doors tightly and show me where to go next.

Will you please join me in this prayer?

Also pray for me to meet up with and interview the midwives of the area, as well as a group of women and several of the village pastors. Thanks.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Gracio the Second!

As I write these words, Gracio the Second*, a small bull stomps outside my window. Every now and again, he knocks the wall in his effort to get the blighted grass, chews it slowly, then stomps on.
Brown with crusty splotches on his legs, he is not the prettiest of beasts, but he’s alive.

I’m told that 2 months ago he lay down sick, and the local tongues started wagging. Everyone had something to say, and none of it was good.

“He’s cursed!” “It’s a sign.” “He’ll never recover.”

But instead of growing thinner and breathing his last, he rallied. Five whole weeks after he was supposed to die, he stood up and ate again. And now, he stomps, chomps, and knocks his horns about.

Somehow, I can relate.

It’s been five months since I left South Sudan. At the time, my heart was broken and my nerves were frayed. All I wanted to do was lie down and cry.

Numb and half-crazed, I did not look like much, and I’m sure more than one tongue wagged on my behalf.

“Maybe she should just leave the field.” “Why does she keep going to these awful places?” “Can’t she just get married and settled down like a normal girl?”

But despite the disapproving crowds, God stirred life back in me, and I was able to stand --then walk --and now dance!

Mozambique is far from what I expected. It feels like what you’d get if you mixed Mexico with Uzbekistan... and then planted it in a modern South Sudan.

Let’s just say, it’s not easy to describe. Suffice it to say, that I’m happy to be here. Very happy.

And much like Gracio the Second --the splotchy bull in my back yard-- I’m alive again... by His grace.

I promise to write of the many things I’m seeing, feeling, and experiencing. (Believe me it’s intense!) But for now, let me just sign off with a happy thank you.

Thank you for praying for safe travels and rest. God has been answering your prayers in beautiful ways.

* Gracio means Grace, so his name actually means Second Grace, or Grace the Second.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Catching Up!

In my efforts to catch everyone up on the last few months--yet somehow not bore you with the minutia of my life-- let me just say, this summer has been busy!

When I landed that first day in Pennsylvania --exhausted yet thrilled to be attending my first Midwifery Today conference-- it felt a bit like a dream.

There I was at 2:30 am, trying not to wake my room-mates with my rustling, but no longer able to sleep. The jet lag was still at full force. The desk clerk in the lobby was kind enough to fill me with high-octane coffee while I grappled with the never ending changes about me.

Plush carpets, down comforters, and a neurotically stubborn room-mate who insisted that 79 degrees was WAY too hot to bare, made for a cold (but remarkably comfortable) first week back in the States.

The Midwifery conference classes were insightful --as most were taught by highly skilled midwives and doctors around the globe. I relished the joy of being around other birth-geeks and frankly was on cloud nine.

But like all good things must do, the conference ended. And I returned to the great state of Nevada to be with my church family again.

Time flew by in a blur of hugs, kisses, and manic catching-up time. There was two years worth of chatting to do in a little less than two weeks!

What a blessing to be loved on so well by so many! I absolutely LOVE my church!

However, there is good reason that furlough is referred to as whir-lough by most missionaries. Tornadoes would cause less emotional havoc! (Okay... maybe not. But it’s got to be close!)

After Nevada, my travels took me far --farther than I expected.

In the last few months, I road-tripped out to central and southern California; I rushed off to Utah for a wedding; I trekked to New Mexico to catch up with old friends and make new ones; I flew off to Washington state to soak up some much needed time with friends (but missed out on seeing several others); And then, just as I finished my time in Washington and was planning on another road trip through Oregon, California, and Idaho... my tooth decided to take my mouth hostage by inflicting massive amounts of pain and torture.

I had to capitulate.

This sent me on an emergency visit to Mexico (as I was not about to pay $3000.00 dollars for a root canal in the States!). 

While I was there God moved in so many wonderful ways. My tooth was fixed in record time (and at a fraction of the price), my Mexican citizenship paperwork finally came through, and my Mexican family had a delightful reunion. I was able to see so many people that I haven’t seen in ages... all at the same time!

What a blessing!

Plus, my mother and her husband are church planting in Mexico (in her home town). It was such a beautiful blessing to see how God has built His church over the last few years.

I’m in awe. Truly.

After my stay at my mom’s, God sent me even more south to Oaxaca, Mexico to meet missionary friends working among the indigenes tribes in the mountains and at a birthing clinic in the city.

However the 36 hour bus ride there (coupled with my previous 2 month mad-furlough-dash) left me fried. I needed time to sit and pray and that is exactly what they gave me! I spent the first week resting, praying, eating, and hiding out in a mountain top retreat next to a lake.

What a tremendous blessing!

By the second week, I felt new again so I joined my missionary friends in doing ministry stuff (teaching midwifery classes, assisting at the birthing clinic, and teaching emergency birthing classes in the mountains). My hosts were delightful --to say the least! And I thoroughly fell in love with Oaxaca (pronounced: WA-hock-A for those who (like me) are unfamiliar with the word).

(Plus, I have many funny Mexican stories to tell... those will come shortly.)

Now I’m back in Vegas, preparing to head out to Mozambique in less than two weeks. Each day, I’m more excited about this opportunity than the one before. I do not know yet what God might have me do next... but I am confident that it will be great --for our God is GREAT!

  • Please be in prayer with me as I prepare for Mozambique and my upcoming travels (they are long, extended, and a bit hectic).
  • Pray for closed doors if I’m not to walk through them (for I’m too stupid to know otherwise!).
  • Pray for favor with the government and missionary staff in Mozambique (if I’m to start a work there). 
  • I only want to know His will --pray that this season of silence would end.

To hear is to obey.

“And Jehovah came, and stood, and called as at the other times, Samuel, Samuel! And Samuel said, Speak, for thy servant hears” ~ 1 Sam 3:10 NKJV

Oh that I might be like Samuel, “Speak Lord for your servant hears”!

Did you know that the word ‘hears’ in this passage is ‘Qal’ and is an active participle of the verb. It can be translated; to hear, listen to, or obey.

Are you actively hearing, listening, and obeying? I hope so. It is my prayer. May it be yours as well.