Monday, July 22, 2013

School Days...

I’ve been in language school for a month now... and loving it. There is just something deeply rewarding about opening my mouth, jabbering a bit, and having people actually understand.

In fact, my Portuguese is coming rather quickly.

This is due in part to the other languages I speak (French and Spanish), but I also think it has a lot to do with the fact my classes are catered to my particular needs. Meaning... I can go as quickly as I want.

There have been a few delays however.

For instance, at first my language director and various teachers were confused at my insistence on homework. (They don’t seem to give homework here?!)

What is more... when I told them they could not teach me out of a textbook, they looked absolutely lost.

“How can we teach you if we don’t follow a book?” they complained.
“I don’t like these books,” I explained, “They go too slow.”
“Too slow?”
“Yes. If we follow this book, I won’t be speaking for ages. I don’t have ages. We have to go quickly.
“Hum... okay,” they finally agreed. “Let’s try....”

Well. I can honestly say that they made lots of adjustments for me and have tried to keep up with me. And now, they are convinced my way of learning is far better.

They are absolutely amazed that I’m as conversant as I am after only a month. And you know what... so am I!

What a blessing to have this time to focus on language! What a blessing to be able to converse with people in the streets and learn about this fabulous culture through friendships. I feel absolutely humbled and blessed!

I only hope and pray that learning Chitewe will be so simple.

I guess we’ll see. Won’t we?

Please pray that I’m able to finish strong. I have another month of language instruction before I complete my Portuguese lessons. Then I’ll have a bit of a break as I receive a missions team from my home church and then go to a missions conference in S. Africa.


New Car.

About the time I had given up all hope of finding a car in my price range and on the very day I was determined to purchase a shiny red motorcycle, God moved.

And I got a text.

God seems to like taking me to the very end of my patience and then surprising me with something great. But in this case, I’m convinced He moved, in part, so I would not be dodging goats and semi-trucks on a 50cc bike.

Even with the helmet I bought in S. Africa... it would have been sketchy.

But I digress.

The text was a quick message with a number saying there was a Brazilian selling a Toyota Surf (sold in the States as a 4runner) at a price that seemed more than fair.

When I called him about it --even though my portuguese was limited-- we arranged to meet and discussed the finer details of the car.

So that afternoon instead of buying a bike, I found myself test driving a dark grey Surf.

Since there were a few things we could still not discuss (as my lessons had not included car parts vocabulary), we drove to a mutual friend for translation help.

And in no time, I learned the words for brake pads, shocks, and springs.

As we spoke, I prayed asking God to direct me as the last thing I needed was a lemon. And in response, He flooded me with peace.

Not wanting to be hasty, I asked if he’d mind if my director had a look the next day. He agreed and by 9 the next morning we were back again, looking under the hood and kicking tires.

The car is an older model but one that has low milage. It’s not pretty to look at but... it works.

Roy heartily approved of the purchase and we made arrangements to buy it then and there.

Two days later the money was in his account and I got the keys!

It has its quirks --as any older car might-- but it has been treating me well. I pray it will continue to be a blessing to this ministry for years to come.

Thank you all who prayed and gave generously to make this vehicle a reality! I am deeply grateful.... and blessed.

A Blue Ribbon?

On the way to the garbage pit the other day, I stumbled across a snake in the grass.

I was almost on top of him before I noticed the opalescent blue of his skin and stopped to process.

There was a long delay in my brain as I flipped through the rolodex of “blue things”... and “long, skinny things”.... and “things lying in grass”. But even after a good 20 seconds, it still hadn’t come to a definite conclusion.

It had never seen anything like it... and so naturally my brain made a new rolodex card and informed me that the best guess was “snake”.


At this news, it mounted the appropriate alarm, shooting gobs of adrenaline through my veins, and causing my body to jerk back with an involuntary jolt.

High on adrenaline, I was then alert enough to ‘play possum’. So I froze in my gum boots and waited.

Absolutely nothing raced through my mind.


All I could do was stare at this thin, blue, ribbon-esc thing in the grass and hope it wouldn’t bite me.

I was transfixed.

An embarrassing amount of time went by before I realized it was dead.

Its head was intact... and its body was whole, but its tail was unnaturally short. Something had chewed it down to a crumbled nob, then just left it there.

Eventually, I leaned in to inspect it closer and saw slight indentations on its body, as if something had knocked it about... or squeezed it about its center.

Had you been there you would have laughed at the loud sigh of relief I made.

Then somehow my feet worked again and I continued down the path to the garbage dump.

However on the way back from the dump, I decided to pick it up and take it home.

In my brain, Logic argued with Reason insisting that ‘since it was dead, I should just reach down and pick it up with my hand’.

But Reason would have none of that and started screaming, “No! Whatever you never touch snakes. NEVER. Especially ones you don’t know.”

And again... I stood there hesitating over the lumpy, half-chewed beast.

Eventually, Reason won the argument and I found a long stick. Using it, I picked up my new blue ribbon by its middle, and carried it home with me.

Half way home, Lumpy, the white pregnant cat, came to greet me. And I laid the blue ribbon in front of her thinking she might enjoy a snack.

She is always scrounging for new treats and often comes to beg.

However when she approached my “gift”, she too did the same involuntary jolt, jumping back a good three inches.


Apparently, even pregnant cats have their limits and this was it! She would not eat it. Instead, she sat several feet away and watched it out of the corner of her eye.

Eventually she left it undisturbed on my porch for one of the orphans to find.

He he he...

Friday, July 12, 2013

Preaching in Pinayanga.

After I first arrived in Mozambique, I was having dinner at a missionary-friend’s house and the topic of Simply the Story came up. I was naturally enthusiastic having just come from another training (before I left the States) and I was discussing how it’s used for oral learners.

My friends (and missionaries from Australia), Roger and Amanda, were curious but hesitant to hear about another teaching method. Didn’t Africa have enough of them already?

I insisted it had its place and offered to show them how it worked sometime. Roger, who teaches pastors in the villages, listened but made no indication that he’d be interested.

Nevertheless, part of his pastor training curriculum focuses on various types of teaching methods. So in an effort to teach the pastors a more oral way, he invited me out to teach. Attendance was not mandatory since it was a ‘special feature’ of sorts, but I was thrilled at the opportunity all the same.

When I prayed about which story to share, God led me to the story of Jesus calming the storm and the waves found in Mark 4:35-41.

I prepared by testing it out on a few missionaries at Maforga a few days before, and I prayed.

A lot.

The village in which Roger teaches is called Pinayanga. You might remember that Pinayanga is also the village I visited last year when I discussed the possibility of teaching their girls nurse-midwifery. (You can read that story here and here.)

When the Pinayanga villagers learned that I was coming, they remembered me and were eager to have me come. I suspect most were eager because of medical questions, but, at least for now, they were going to get a STS story instead.

In preparation for the teaching, Roger arranged two translators (one to speak for me, and one to speak to me). I tried to explain to them what it would entail but some of it was lost in translation.

Early Monday morning as we drove to the village, Roger tried to lower my expectations.

-- “I don’t want you to get your hopes up,” he warned. “This group doesn’t participate much.
-- “Oh..?” I said softly then waited, seeing he had more to say.
-- “Yes. I cannot get them to answer any of my questions. They only like to listen and they won’t ask questions. It’s the way they learn in school here,” he continued.
-- “Okay.” I answered slowly, adding optimistically. “But perhaps with this style, it will be different...”
He glanced at me sideways as if to say he knew better. But didn’t say any more.

"Ultimately," I thought to myself. "God would speak to them through this passage or He wouldn’t. How much they answered didn’t matter." So I continued.

-- “If they don’t answer... then the teaching will be very short,” I added matter-of-factly. “Anyway... it’s more the chance to practice and learn, right?”

He nodded in agreement, and we continued to drive in silence.

I, however, continued to pray. I’d seen this teaching method bring crowds alive with discussion and was eager to see how these villagers would respond.

But more than anything, I anticipated good things.

For God is good.

We didn’t have to announce our arrival. The minute our shiny black SUV drove through the main square, people started making their way to the church property. Within a few minutes we had about a dozen women and children, and a spattering of men.

Apparently, most of the pastors had in fact decided to take this day off.

When we walked into the church there was a young girl waiting for us. Sitting slightly slumped on the church bench this girl moaned to herself in pain. Her mother stood behind her propping her up.

It was clear she was burning up with fever.


She’d been this way for two days.

I asked a few quick questions about her status, then we laid hands on her and prayed. Her mother thanked us then placed her on a blanket in the back of the church.

I couldn’t understand why she was not getting any treatment. So I asked.
-- “Isn’t there a health post here?” I asked her mother.
-- “Yes, but the guy who runs it left for the weekend (which was 2 days before). He won’t arrive until this afternoon.”
-- “I see.”
-- “Can’t you buy the medicine in town?” I asked.
They nodded a clear yes, but then didn’t explain why they hadn’t.

Was it from lack of money? I didn’t think so. A few paracetamol are not expensive.

Then why?

I never got my answer.

The young girl moaned and slept while the rest of the learners arrived. And turning my attention for the girl, I happily joined the women all the while testing my new language skills and taking pictures.

They were thrilled to see their faces in the display screen on my camera, but many squinted in blurry disinterest when it came their turn. I couldn’t help but wonder how much sight rested in those clouded windows.

As more women arrived, I was informed they ‘needed’ pictures as well and I happily snapped off a few more shots.

The colors and layers were fascinating.


Not long after, Roger called us in and the story began. My translators struggled at first but quickly picked up on what was expected of them.

The crowd had grown slightly and was then roughly two dozen strong. More men had snuck in towards the back. Plus, a number of breastfeeding mothers had gathered as well, rocking and swaying their babes as they listened.

Telling the story was easy enough. My translator had memorized the story in preparation. But Roger was right, the minute I went to ask them a question... they turned their faces to the floor so I wouldn’t call on them.

However, with time and a little encouragement, the answers started coming. First tentatively, then in full force.

Roger watched in surprise as one after the other stood to answer and throw out his or her ideas. Soon, it became a lively conversation.

There were some cultural snags nonetheless.

For instance, I could not get them to think of how anyone could have done anything different in the situation. (For those familiar with STS, this was the ‘choices’ question.)

Also, when I suggested that anyone could have done something ‘not quite right’, they argued with me saying, “No. They could not have done that. That is not possible.” The only way we found around this was by discussing ‘failure’ to do what was right. Only then did they understand and concede the possibility.

Later, Roger explained that many in church believe that one must never speak of their own failures in public. Instead, one must only speak positively.

I suspect this has something to do with the widely held belief that evil spirits are always listening, and that some things should never be spoken out loud. But that is just a suspicion.

Alas... I have much to learn!

I won’t go on and on. But know that the day was a huge success. At the end when I applied the lessons we had discussed, immediately the group came up with examples of those lessons.

One by one, they stood to testify of how and when they had clearly obeyed God and yet had still had massive spiritual attacks, and how God had gotten them through it by His power and love.

It was amazing!

So. Much. Fun.

(Happy sigh.)

They invited me to come back and teach on a Sunday morning in a few week’s time. This has to be arranged of course, but I’m excited at the possibility. Please pray with me as to when and how this might happen.

Thank you!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Life in Pictures: June & July

This beautiful chameleon was brought to me by Danny, my neighbor's son. He remembered from my last visit that I like them. But learning from past experiences, I decided not to bring him into my home (there are fortunately not enough bugs for him to enjoy inside). Instead, I placed him on the tree out front. He stayed four days, then meandered off. 

This funeral procession left the local hospital. Driving slowly behind, we could hear them singing worship songs. Remarkably, the deceased was in a real hearse.

It is tomato season right now... but despite the massive amounts being sold on each side, no one has discounted them. They are, in fact, MORE expensive than ever. I wonder if Mozambicans street venders fully grasp the concept of supply and demand?

Yummy tomatoes!

Not long ago, Nana (the lovely septuagenarian in orange) had her children visiting. It was the first time all four of them have been together in a long time. As a result, we called them forward at church and prayed over them all.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Cleaning Party!

Last Saturday --in an effort to make the clinic a bit more presentable for when the director of the ministry of health comes-- a group of us gathered at the clinic with mop and broom in hand.

We started early by pulling apart each room and cleaning it from top to bottom. So much work was accomplished in such little time that we were able to close up shop by lunch.

But I credit this more to my enthusiastic helpers than any work on my part!

Afterwards as a reward I threw my happy little helpers a party.

Our party consisted of massive amounts of bread pudding, custard, cookies, and pie!

As I brought each new dessert out in thanks, I got enthusiastic applause and freshly cleared plates.

But by the end of the third dessert, their appetites waned. Apparently, teeny-boppers really can saturate on sugar!
    --Who knew?

And naturally when I pulled out my camera, my over-sugared guests immediately morphed into supermodels --posing for shot after endless shot.

This led to massive amounts of laughter which closed down the evening in style. And my giggling guests eventually left with a song on their lips --their happy voices trailing after as they went.
    --What a crazy day! 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Blessing Update

We prayed for favor and God answered.

Yesterday, Roy and I met with the Ministry of Health (MOH). He was welcoming but hurried --not so much looking for information but ready to give it.

He started in Portuguese but once he understood my language skills were limited, he kindly switched to English.

After explaining that they (The MOH) were happy to reopen the clinic in partnership with Maforga Mission, he introduced us to his assistant who will be handling things from now on.

The assistant will be writing on my behalf so I can get my degrees recognized and eventually get my midwifery license to work here legally. This is huge... but still might take a lot of time.
    --Please pray that it goes through quickly.

Also, the MOH assistant was happy to hear the clinic was larger than he expected, and immediately offered to come this morning to do a quick inspection.
    --So excited!

What is more, the main director will be coming to inspect it in two weeks!
When Roy and I learned of these visits, both of us shared a long, humored smile. But neither of us said a word.

I don’t know about Roy, but personally all I could do was think of how dusty the clinic had become over the last six months (after the clinic maid was let go).

Had the bats moved in with the termites? I was not sure.

So naturally, my first call once I left the meeting was to see how many helpers we could get to start cleaning it! Ha ha.

Since I had school, I couldn’t come for myself, but I’m told most of the staff at Maforga turned out and ‘got stuck in it’, as Trish was pleased to explain later that night.

Even now as I watch the sun paint a pale pink in the East, I’m eager to go pray over the building and inspect it myself.

Oh Lord... What do you have planned for this? It looks so much bigger than what I expected. So excited. I’m ready to do all that You ask. May Your will be done.

More to come...

                          .... the next day. 

They came. They saw. They appeared to like it.

But after the meeting... I’m not sure what to think. I’m confused.

They seem ready to use the facilities, provide drugs, and offer some nursing staff. But we would then have the responsibility to lodge them, pay all the other facility staff, and maintain the grounds (which would include several renovations according to them).

But what they offered is what is available at the government clinic minus any of the government finances. When I suggested this be a semi-private clinic, they didn’t seem to understand the concept.

When I explained my ideas, they seemed out of their depths but promised to discuss it with the higher-ups and get back to me.

In this country, there are private clinics and there are government clinics. So far as I can tell there are no... how shall I say it... inbetweeners.

If you get sick, you have one of two choices; government or private.

A private clinic might be modern with lots of fancy equipment, but it will cost you 800 mtn (roughly $25 dollars, or over a weeks salary for a day-laborer) for a consultation. Add to that all your medicines and your run-of-the-mill case of malaria might cost you over $40 bucks to treat.

Nevertheless, the benefits of going to a private clinic are many. Not to mention, you get fast, friendly service in air-conditioned rooms.

What’s not to like?

However, the government run clinics are different. By law, they can only charge you 5 mtn (or roughly $1.50) for a consultation. This includes all your medicines which are heavily subsidized by only heaven-knows-who.

The drawback is it might take hours to be seen. And once it is your turn, the overworked staff demands a bribe before he’ll pick up a pen. If you don’t pay, you are not seen.

However even after you’ve waited the hours and paid the bribe, you still might not leave with any medicine. Often the clinics are out of stock (since the government drugs are being sold on the black market).

So in the end, what can a government nurse do for you? She can write you a prescription and send you on your way. It will then be up to you to buy what you need on the black market or at a fancy pharmacy.

No wonder so few people are willing to go.

Some people have told me they would rather die at home than go through the hassle of all this, only to be turned away.

Can you blame them?


What I suggested to the ministry of health is different in scope... but they might have their hand’s tied. I’m not sure if they will or can allow it. But I pray they do.

The details of it will come at a later date. I don’t have the heart to share it right now.

But please know... that if ever there was a time to be praying, it is now.

I need wisdom. I need clear direction. I need continued favor and... well... frankly, I need anything that God deems right.

Also pray that whatever the Ministry of Health recommends next would be in the best interest of the people, and that I would remain flexible in it all.


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Blessings Upon Blessings!

This new month brings new joys... and MANY new blessings. There are so many in fact that I just need to brag on my God a bit. I hope you'll indulge me for a few.

Oh, He blesses me so! 

Blessing Number One:

Yesterday, I got the call. The ministry of health is ready to talk.

Even as I write that... I get chills of anticipation. I cannot wait. Of course, the meeting can go in any direction (good, bad, ugly!), but I see God's hand so mightily it's hard not to get excited.

It feels like Christmas. It really does!

In less than an hour, I'll be meeting with them. God alone knows how things will go but I trust Him. May His will be done.

Blessing Number Two: 

Immediately after hearing the meeting was granted, I learned of another great surprise. This particular surprise has been in the making for months, but until yesterday I had no idea of it.

As God would have it several months ago, a group of Australians decided to send Maforga a shipping container of goodies. Our directors expected clothes and household furniture.... and they are getting that.

But what they did not expect was a hospital in a box!

On this container, God has packaged me over 220 boxes of medical equipment, hospital beds, and misc. hospital goodies! It arrives in less than two weeks.

Can you believe His tremendous love? Can you? 

Did I say that it feels like Christmas?

(Happy sigh.)

He is so good. So very good to me. 

Blessing Number Three: 

Anyway... a few hours later I learned that a group of extraordinary kids (and adults, of course!) raised a LOT of money for a chicken project to help fund the clinic.

I have not spoken much of this project in my previous newsletters, but I've been planning and praying about it for months.

Before I left the States, I mentioned it to the children's ministry director at Calvary Chapel Lone Mountain and he instantly got excited. Within no time, we planned to raise money for it during this summer's VBS.

That was last week. 

I'm told that roughly 300 excited children had a blast covering each other in eggs and feathers as they raised money for this project.

What God did in this short week, humbles me and flattens me in praise. I'm overcome! He is so, so very good.

Praise Him! 

Anyway... I thought you'd want to know.

Oh.. and please pray for the meeting today. May His will be done. Amen.