Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Market Shopping!

Shopping in Mozambique can be much like in the West. There are supermarkets with neatly packaged boxes and over priced cans. And yes, sometimes I shop there.

But when I have a choice, I much prefer the outdoor market.

This is where I find my dried fish, canisters of beans, and bags of potatoes. Plus, veggies and fruits of varying ripeness are piled high for the picking. I like that.

At first sight of all the wonderful beans... the Mexican in me started to drool. I honestly bought enough beans to feed me for three months! Assuming they last that long! (The weevles have found them!)

But what I love best about the outdoor market is the price. I can buy a week's worth of fruits and veggies for under $10 dollars.

Now that's what I'm talkin' about!!! 

African Moments: Mixed Berry Yogurt

I was visiting friends in Zimbabwe a week or so back... they have a man who helps them around the house named Sam.

It’s hard to guess Sam’s age just by looking at him. His brown eyes clouded in cataracts tell me he is more on the end of life than the middle of it.

The years have not been kind to him, but you would never know it from his demeanor!

Greying with a slight hunch, he greets all visitors with cheerful (yet broken) English and a huge smile.

Sam loves Jesus and as such, there is kindness and love in all he does.

One day Sam introduced me to the gardener, Louis, by saying, “Dis is Stephanie. She missionary. She loves Jesus. She number one!”

With such a glowing recommendation, I could not help but smile. Louis smiled back and we chatted a bit about Mozambique. Louis is Mozambican by birth but has lived in Zimbabwe for a number of years.

Later that same day, I was enjoying (an overpriced but delightful) mixed berry yogurt I’d found in the supermarket.

As I savored the creamy splendor of ‘home’, I asked Sam if he liked yogurt. He smiled and said he didn’t know.

-- “What do you mean ‘you don’t know’? I asked flatly.
He continued to wash the dishes with his back turned to me, then repeated himself. “I don’t know the taste.”
-- “Here...”, I offered him, putting a glob of it in a small bowl. “Try it. You’ll like it.”
He smiled and took it with joy, but then put it aside until the dishes were done.

And I went back to slurping mine down.

A few minutes later, Louis passed by the half-opened door and Sam eagerly called him over. Happy to share his new treasure, Sam spooned out a generous glob of his portion into Louis’ cupped hand.

I smiled widely as I watch Louis lick the yogurt tentatively from his hand while heading back to work. His eyes brightened with the taste.

Shortly afterward, Sam took his first bite and smiled widely.

They agreed it was delicious.


Do you remember your first bite of mixed berry yogurt?

Name that fruit?


The other day I bought a mystery fruit in the market. Roughly the size of a potato with smooth, waxy skin covered in spikes, this fruit immediately caught my eye.

I like trying new fruit. Heck... let’s face it. I like trying new things. Period.

So... naturally, I picked up a couple to taste.

Cutting them open reminded me of a squash with only seeds. But instead of pulpy flesh, I was welcomed with a refreshing, grassy, slime that tasted a lot like jello.

Green jello to be precise. Except this green jello had a bit more texture.

I have to say, I’d happily buy it again. But next time, I’d put it in the fridge before I serve it.

Warm, crunchy, green jello just doesn’t sit quite right.

If jello needs to be crunchy... it best be cold.
       --Just sayin’.

Question: Anyone have any idea what this fruit is named? I seriously don’t know where to start looking? My dictionary is woefully lacking in the spiky, fruit department.

Labor of Love: June 2013

Sunday, June 23, 2013

In the News: Strike hurts Mozambique hospitals

Strike hurts Mozambique hospitals: A Mozambique medical strike now in its third week has paralysed all but essential services at some of the country's busiest hospitals.

In the News: Gunmen attack vehicles on Moz highway

Gunmen attack vehicles on Moz highway: Gunmen have ambushed two vehicles driving along Mozambique’s main north-south highway, a report says, just days after ex-rebels had vowed to block main transport routes.

Thursday, June 13, 2013


This week it was time to renew my visa for Mozambique which meant I’d have to leave the country for a day. But instead of getting another tourist visa, I was going to attempt to get a long-term missionary visa.

This required a lot more work... and expense. But it had to be at least attempted.

--Why do I keep using the word ‘attempt’?

Good question. Very good question. Let me explain.

Within days of arriving last month, I learned that my American police clearance had expired.

Yes. Expired.

Since it was the first one to come through in my police clearance furkunckle last year, it was naturally the first to expire. (To read more about these furkunckles check out these previous posts. Police Clearance: Part One and Police Clearance: Part Two.)

But silly me... it never occurred to me that it would expire.


Because there was no place on the blasted document that said it did!

Nevertheless our government liaison and master diplomat, Manuel, had the unhappy task of informing me this might be a problem.

As he explained, I twisted my mouth in disappointment while my heart sank.


Only time would tell if I had to return to the States... or make a special trip to Maputo (Mozambique’s capital) to sort it out.

When tempted to worry, I turned it over to God and prayed. Each time He lifted my heart assuring me everything would be fine.

So I stopped worrying but kept on praying --and praying hard!

As you might remember, I also asked you to pray!

Our first answer to prayer was when the office in Chimoio said they’d overlook the expiration date. They too thought it unnecessary to have my fly back to the States.

But what would the consulate in Matare think? We’d have to wait and pray.

Matare is in Zimbabwe, the nearest border to Maforga, and is where the local consulate is located.

So naturally when it came time to get my long-term missionary visa worked out, I had to come to Zimbabwe.

Again... I kept covering it in prayer.

Tuesday morning started early since we had a few hours drive and a questionably long wait at the border.

We arrived by 10:30 am and got stamped out of Mozambique. Then stood in line to buy a visa into Zimbabwe.

The line wasn’t a problem... but getting change back from the government official was. Since when did government offices stop breaking hundreds? I mean, come on!

Frankly, he seemed offended I would use such a large bill. And I was offended he’d not break it.

Lessons in Africa: Travel with small bills in Africa. They NEVER like giving change. Ha!

Once we were through, Roy dropped me off at the consulate directly.

Intimidated that no one was going to come with me (as they had to drop visitors off at an airport) I hummed and hawed a bit before saying goodbye.

-- “Where do I go,” I asked sheepishly. “What do I do?”

Roy pointed to a guarded metal gate then explained how to get home by myself. They were in a hurry so they only told me once and got back in the truck to leave.

Confused and intimidated, I lingered longer than I should have to say my goodbyes.

Almost as an afterthought Trish interjected, “Oh yeah... remember to ask for Senor ____. He is our friend here. It might help you.

-- “Senor ____?” I repeated a few times to myself, then quickly wrote it on my hand. I needed all the help I could get.

-- “Yes. He knows us well. Tell him you work with us,” she said in a hurry. And then they were off.

Roy was all business that morning... and understandably so. Their friends had a flight to catch!

I sheepishly walked through the metal gate to find two official looking guards and a round faced woman with a clip board.

She greeted me warmly but with a flicker of surprise at my accent.

-- “How are you doing today?” I asked.
-- “Oh.. well. So well. But it’s cold,” she responded. “And how are you?
I responded with a large smile and some quip about doing fabulous, and she reply quite openly. “Yes. You are. I can see that.”

It surprised me to hear and I smiled deeper as I handed her my passport and signed in.

Once at the consulate counter, I was please to see there were no lines. I unpacked my papers and again greeted the sir behind the inch-thick, tinted window with my sincerest smile.

I could barely see him but surmised he was smiling back. I explained who I was and what I was there for, handing him my translated documents. Then I remembered to ask... “Is Senor ___ here today?”

-- “You know Senor ___?” he asked with surprise.
-- “No. But I work with Roy and Trish Perkins at Maforga. And they wanted me to say hello,” I explained. “Is he in?”
-- “Yes. yes. He is in. Let me call him.”
Surprised, I smiled again feeling a bit guilty to be name dropping but all the while remembering that this is how it is done in Africa.

The official looked over my expired papers and asked me to fill out a form while we waited for Senor ___ to arrive.

I filled it out wrong and he was helping me correct it when Senor __ arrived. He too was hard to see because of the tinted glass, but I greeted him warmly on the part of Maforga and we talked briefly.

I cannot remember what was said... only that the official was pleased to know my bosses knew his boss and that my papers looked great.

He had me pay the fees, but again couldn’t give me change. In the end, the change was  so slight I didn’t fuss and encouraged him to keep it. (See previous note on Lessons in Africa. Ha ha!)

Roy had warned me that it might take a few days to get my visa, so I asked him when I should return to pick it up.

--- “So,” I asked the official behind the glass, “Should I come tomorrow or the next day.”
-- “No. Just wait here,” he said. “Oh...  and give me your passport.”

I waited in the lobby not sure what would happen next. There was a couple sitting next to me speaking in broken English. He was most definitely Muslim and was teaching her about Islam. She on the other hand was feigning interest almost to the point of flattery. I tried not to listen.

Instead I prayed for an opportunity to share Christ and started reading my Bible.

An hour went by.

I think I might have drifted off to sleep at one point; all the early traveling cut into my coffee time. I seriously needed a pick me up.

As lunch time drew near, my tummy grumbled as if on cue and I wondered if I’d have to wait through lunch.

Fortunately a well dressed man in a shiny red tie came in the room and broke up the monotony.

First he spoke to the Arab and his Zimbabwean friend, asking them the nature of their business. They were traders working with import and export stuff. The conversation was brief and stilted as the Arabic man seemed closed-mouthed.

So instead he turned to me. When I explained that I was a missionary here to open a clinic, he peppered me with questions.

He was pleased to tell me of all the places he had visited in America as the Mozambican ambassador and it dawned on me that this was not a low-level office worker... his shoes and tie was evidence enough... but still.

Each question he asked led to more questions and soon we were well engrossed in a discussion on how to help orphans and possible project that could be done to raise funds for them.

Within no time, he was giving me contact numbers for various pastors and government officials and taking my information. He was pleased to learn that Maforga had been around for so long and ensured I got his email and business card.

It was a strange conversation (for me at least) but one that felt so natural.

Years ago, one of my friends explained why Africans tend to exchange information so quickly. I can still remember the words he shared. He said, “In Africa, a person’s most valuable asset is his connections. It is more important than money, talent, or intelligence.”

“Without connections,” he added “nothing lasting can be accomplished here.”

His words surprised me at the time (because of the worldview shift). But since then, they have opened my mind to another way of seeing things... and doing things.

So now when someone wants to connect with me, I do not hesitate. I enjoy the encounter and pray for an opportunity to share Christ.

This encounter felt very providential... and I did not hesitate to enjoy it.

With time, the ambassador left for lunch and I sat down again. The couple sitting on the other side of the room looked at me curiously but didn’t say a word.

Not long after, we both got our visas back and we left together.

Thank you so so much for praying! Not only did God blind them to the expired documents, but I was able to get my visa in a matter of hours --not days!

Plus, I’m even more encouraged by the enthusiasm of the ambassador I met.

Praise the Lord!

Just know... your prayers are heard. Please continue to lift up this work.

Next please pray for
-- my DIRI (or long-term resident paperwork) to be quickly processed.
-- my language classes to go smoothly. I start on Monday.
-- a trustworthy vehicle to purchase.
-- favor at my upcoming meeting with the Ministry of Health in the next week or so.

Also... I’ve learned that the hospitals in Mozambique are in complete disarray right now. The staff is on strike for higher wages.  Some are asking for a 300% increase in pay! As a result many are suffering longer waits and deaths.

Thank you for praying!

Wintering in

Winter is starting here and I’m kicking myself for not bringing warmer clothes. I foolishly thought I’d be fine with just a few light jackets.
    --What was I thinking?

It’s been rainy and cold --gusty and damp-- but at least the trees are still green, right? Soon winter will wither the grasses and strip the trees and this magical land of cool lushness will fade into browns, charcoal grays, and black.
   --Sigh. I’m not looking forward to that.

Interior view of my cottage
The small cottage I call home lets in the draft but up until last week my heater was working just fine. However, it is now wonky... so I’m back to lots of layers and warm slippers for my feet.

It is hard to imagine how those without windows keep out the cold.

Anyway... this past month I’ve spent quite a lot of time organizing my house and furnishing it --tables, curtains, kitchen pots, towels.

View from my back door. Beautiful!
It’s surprising all it takes to make a four walls a "home".
   --But I’m happy to. So happy!

This is the first time in 7 years I’ve had the privilege of hanging pictures and arranging flowers. I dreamed of this day for so long!

   --What a blessing!

My cottage is a one bedroom en suite with a living room and kitchen. It’s cramped for entertaining... but certainly ideal for just me! I love it!

There are a number of things I still have to work out of course --hot water heater, electrical shorts in the wiring, more furniture, flooring, kitchen sink, etc.

Nevertheless, I feel blessed to call it home.

Kapulana Store!


The other day we went shopping for curtains. This brought us to the kapulana store.

Kapulanas are the colorful wraps worn by Mozambicans. They are called by other names in other countries, of course, but the idea is the same. And each country has its own colors, designs, and quality of material.

Some are worn tied up over one shoulder --like in South Sudan. Some are sown in a circle and climbed into before you wrap them around you --like in the Philippines. But here, they are flat, square cloths worn over pants or leggings.

And they are very useful at that!

I couldn't help it and bought a green and brown pattern for a skirt. It was just too lovely.

... but I was not able to find anything I liked well enough for curtains. Maybe I'm just not African enough yet! Ha!

Video: Mozambican Vision

Video: Clinic & Chicken Project

Video: Maforga's Orphans

Video: Life in Mozambique

Video: Compound and Missionaries

Video: Church in Moz

Children’s Church!

The church at Maforga is made up of missionaries and orphans. Several workers and local residents come as well, but it’s predominantly orphans. As such, it is more like children’s church thank anything else.

We typically start at 10 am to allow everyone time to come. Brightly colored children who just hours before were hauling water from the nearby pump, are now clean and pressed and ready to sing.

And oh do they sing!

The first hour or two is spent doing just that. Forget about singing just one or two songs! No. Here they clap and dance and sway to their tiny heart’s desire. And often anyone is allowed to pick the next song.

Once one praise song is over, another happy, warbling soprano from the back of the room pipes up. I often turn to see who this tiny voice belongs to, only to discover a pint sized orphan in braids. 

She sings the first line of the song in a strained high-pitched melody, then the rest of the room booms in a raucous echo. A new song has begun.

Mostly they sing in Portuguese, but sometimes they belt out praise in Shona (or Chitewe... I’m not sure yet). Every now and again, they’ll switch to English.

And when they do... familiar songs rattle about my ears with surprising freshness. It’s startling to find the song reinterpreted with African rhythms. I like it.

After the singing comes the testimonies and prayer. This is when anyone with a burden on their heart stands before the church to share what God has done for them this week... or informs the church about important prayers.

One week little Carolina (a girl of about 7 or 8) stood before us saying, “I was very sick last week with malaria. We almost had to send me to Zimbabwe. But you prayed and I am now well. Thank you Jesus!” Then she sang a song of praise in a haunting voice that stirred our hearts and silenced the room.


After the testimonies the tithe is taken by placing a grass woven basket in the front of the room. Those who have a heart to give, do so with joy.

Last week, instead of money one of the local women offered a large sac of ground millet as her offering. It was so heavy she hefted it up slowly to bring it forward, then propped it next to the basket as we sang.

Once the offering has been taken, someone preaches. So far it has been one of three different men --all of whom speak fluent Portuguese. Nevertheless, there is always an English translator for visitors like me.

We are typically finished by around 1 pm. We say our goodbyes, then head off in our various directions for lunch.

After one service, there was such a joyous Spirit that no one wanted to go home. Many stayed to dance and sing some more. I caught a little of it on video. Enjoy!

(Note: video to come shortly if I can get youtube to work.)