Saturday, December 28, 2013

Maforga Christmas Play

Christmas is quite the tradition here at Maforga! Each year a Christmas play is written and produced by someone new... and this year Jose, one of the older orphans, chose to do it. (You can see Jose holding the papers behind the red chair in the photo above. He was narrator to this year's play.)

Above you see the angels singing before the creation of the world, then there was the story of Adam and Eve's fall in the garden... and how sin entered the world.

 Afterwards, Isaiah (as seen in blue above) prophesied of the coming Messiah.

Then the story of Mary's visit from Gabriel, the journey of Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem, and Jesus' birth! When He was born (someone handed our youngest orphan, Abraham, through the back of the curtain and a huge cheer rippled through the spectators. So fun!)

Then Joseph and Mary presented Jesus in the temple. Aren't they adorable? During this dedication of Jesus, they hear the prophesies and worship of Simeon and Anna in the temple. (Don't mind the fact this is out of order. :- )

Next the shepherds come to worship and they do so to rap music and break dancing! Oh, how I love watching little boys flip through the air and do robot jerks! Too fun!

 After the shepherds worship and the angles sing (above), Jesus is visited by another group. Yep... the Star(s) of Bethlehem (below).

 As the stars entered the scene, they twirled and danced in a shining line... much like a streak.

 Following the stars were three very lavishly dressed Wise Men holding telescopes to their eyes.

 First the Wise Men go to the King in Jerusalem. Then they head to Bethlehem and offer the gifts to Jesus and this parents... who then run off to Egypt to flee the coming massacre.

Once safely away, the whole production came to dance and dance... and dance some more in celebration of the Lowly King's birth!

This year.... baby Abraham played Jesus. Surprisingly, he slept through it all. All the cheers. All the dancing. All the waving him about. It was so fun to see him so clueless... and so peaceful! 

 The next day, for Christmas, we all (meaning staff, over 100 orphans, and various friends) gathered to celebrate the day with a huge feast, futbol, and more dancing at Maforga's annual "Maforga's Got Talent" show.
 Futbol galore!
 For the talent show we had poetry reading, dancing, and more dancing! So fun!

 We also started dinner (like most African feasts) with dessert first! Ha ha! Yummy!

Some of the missionary kids growing up at the orphanage. 
Many of the orphans enjoying Christmas dinner. Wow was the roasted lamb good!

I pray all of you had a wonderful Christmas! Love from all of us at Maforga!

Sunday, December 8, 2013


During my road trip last week, I started reading Trish’s book, In Rebel Hands.

For those who don’t know, Trish and her husband Roy (my directors) were taken hostage by the RENAMO rebels some 20 years ago during the Mozambican civil war and a few years back, she wrote a book about it.

This book recalls the fears of nightly attacks, their raid and capture, and then their 3 month trek through the Gorangoso mountains as prisoners, until their eventual release.

It’s moving and insightful and I’m honestly wondering what took me so long to read it. But more than that... It has helped me to understand both Roy and Trish a bit better and has given me a clearer view of what the RENAMO are after and why they fight.

So... last Friday with these ideas still bouncing through my head as I de-bused from my ridiculously long ride back from Maputo, Roy was there to pick me up.

As we drove up the short drive towards Maforga, we chatted about nothing in particular. Maputo. The Bus. My exhaustion, etc. But eventually, the mundane topics petered out.


As I looked over at Roy driving, I could see he had something to say... but wasn’t sure how to begin.

Finally, he spoke.

-- “So we had a strange thing happen today that I think you need to be aware of.”
-- “Oh, yeah?” I said flatly. I was too tired to put any more effort into my response.

He waited a few moments then added, “We had a visitor today that nobody recognized. Long beard. Muscular. A maluco that no one paid much attention to at first...”

I nodded in the dark for him to continue but... he couldn’t see me. So he turned his body slightly to see if I got the full impact of what he was saying. I didn’t.

So he continued. “This maluco (or madman) was wearing bad clothes and looking through all the windows. He seemed particularly interested in the clinic.”

By this point he’d got my attention. So I prodded for more: “What do you mean?”

-- “Once he had carefully looked at everything, he said some troubling things to the guards which made them think he was RENAMO military in disguise. So we called the police to report it.”

-- “Oh, Okay.” I stated coolly but my mind was racing with Trish’s book. Then I asked, “So you think they might cause problems here?”

-- “It’s hard to say,” he said softly, than paused. “I just need you to be aware that if they come to attack us... you and the Bells (another American missionary family on the farm) are the most attractive hostages.” He paused a moment, then added, “I worry about those little kids.”

Instantly my mind raced back to the book. In it, I’d learned that Roy and Trish were not the only ones captured during that raid. There were seven adults and three kids, but only one American.

The American hostage gave the RENAMO greater negotiating power as it forced the US government to officially recognize them at a political power.

-- “I see,” I said a bit absentmindedly, my mind racing ahead to the news I heard in Maputo the night before. Another medical clinic in Tika (a few hours drive from here) was attacked and raided. No one was hurt, but everything that could be stolen was.

Linens. Medicines. Buckets.

By this time we had reached our destination, but neither of us got out of the car.

More questions. More confirmations.

In the end, he explained the details of the day once again and I thanked him as I opened my car door to go. 

-- “There’s one more thing...” he added. “If you hear anyone outside your window or door trying to force their way in, please just try to sneak out the back and hide in the bushes.”

This was what they had done during the war. They escaped more than one raid that way. Trish talks of it now and again, sometimes pointing out to various bushed or trees on the farm and saying, “Oh.. see there? That is where we hid from the RENAMO during the attack which killed four rebels. When we woke the next morning, a dead man was lying just there,” she said pointing to a grassy knoll.

That night, I confess I had moments of halting fear and plenty of “What ifs”. But then I prayed and God gave me peace. I also asked you all to pray and now the fear has gone completely.

If they attack, then... well... they attack. I can’t control that. If they decide to take me hostage... not sure I’ll have much say in that either. So why worry about it now?

The next day, however, I spoke to another team member about it. He reminded me that only government clinics are being attacked. “It’s unlikely that any private clinics will be bothered”, he assured me.

So there you have it.

Malucos. Rumors of raids. Wars. Etc.

I don’t now if we’ll have any troubles... all I know is that God fights for us. I feel His presence; I breathe in His peace.

Nevertheless, please be in prayer for this country and the many skirmishes that are fought in it every week. The government won’t allow most of it to be reported. Many are in the dark about it all --including me.

Please pray.


Saturday, December 7, 2013

Life as I know it.

I’ve been asked more than once in the last few weeks what I do all day. Am I catching babies? Am I studying? Working? What?

The answer to that is simple; I do whatever needs to be done.

Some days it requires action with meetings, shopping, working, and such. On other days it requires less action and more prayer and a pulling aside to seek His face.

What do I mean? Well... let’s look at this week for example. It has been an unusual week in some regards, but not so unusual as you might guess.

Here goes:

Sunday: Wake early for housework and Bible study, then scoot off to church. Church is a loud, happy ruckus and we find ourselves sharing testimonies of Thanksgiving in honor of the Oh-so-American holiday a few days before. Lunch is a quick sandwich which I eat over my computer, trying to catch up on emails and back-logged everything. But the heat of the day makes much of the afternoon impossible. I find myself planting seeds on used egg trays and praying something will grow.

Monday: Wake early to talk with Jesus. So much to do. Today is a shopping day in Chimoio (a 45 min drive away) for construction supplies. I’m supposed to get the sheets of wood (if I can find them), paint, and concrete to complete some of the clinic repairs coming up next week. By mid-morning, I’ve completed the shopping but am disappointed to find out that the truck we rented to carry our supplies back to Maforga fell through. Something about a strike of bus drivers keeping all the major trucks out of circulation for fear of police retaliation, etc.

Disappointed but unfazed, I move on. The truck will pick up my supplies the next day. But I have something else in mind for this week. I have to go to Maputo to follow up on my clinic papers. So I buy a bus ticket to Maputo which leaves in the wee hours of the morning. I take the bus since it’s so much cheaper than flying, and since the highway is open again. Finally. Ticket in hand, I return home to pack and close up my house for the week. Later that night (achem at 2 am actually), I return to Chimoio to catch the bus.

Tuesday: Travel from 3:30am to 10pm on a cramped, swaying bus which has been modified to fit more travelers than the manufacturer ever intended by squeezing them in makeshift seats in the aisle. Elbows rub ribs, knees knock against seats, butt cheeks cramp continually. Every inch of it is crammed with boxes, backpacks, and people. We inch painfully toward our destination but with the periodic stops (to pee alongside the road) and the massive potholes the advance is slow. Achingly slow. Finally we arrive in Maputo. I step out of the bus into torrential rain, find a cab, and make it to the youth hostel in time to find it still awake and bustling. I fall asleep in a dorm room with backpackers and vagabonds from all over the world. Sleep fitfully.

Wednesday: Rise early to prepare for the day. I have to return to the Ministry of Education to follow up on my application for my degrees to be approved. I tried for two weeks to follow up by phone but the number they gave me was ‘offline’ or ‘out of service’ each time I called. Thus the need to go to Maputo in the first place. I catch the bus to bounce through the capital’s streets, it’s glaringly clear not many foreigners take the bus. I’m conspicuously white but happy not to pay the outrageous fees for a cab ride there.

The office staff remember me well and ask if I was able to drive down. When I told them I had to come by bus they are surprised the highway is open again... but more surprised I took the cross-country bus in the first place. When the clerk asks why I didn’t call first, I informed them the number never worked and I had no choice but to follow up in person. Then I’m quickly informed that my papers are still being processed. However, on closer review only one was sent to be done. I ask that my second degree be processed and it is submitted immediately... but it still won’t be completed for another week.

The rest of the day is spent trying to stretch out my cramped legs in a street cafe full of smoking Portuguese and the occasional street vendor. I buy a newspaper off one of them and learn that the Ministry of health is inviting all NGOs working in the health sector to a planning and cooperation meeting the next morning. Do I stay and attend? A few phone calls to my team back at Maforga and it’s unanimous; they all think I should attend. I decide to postpone my return a day and attend it. I return to the backpacker hostel I’m staying in with a can of tuna and a piece of bread for dinner. I sleep well but the guy in my dorm room is too chatty for deep rest. I fall asleep late and wake up the next morning exhausted.

Thursday: I breakfast early and freshen up quickly to make it to the 8:30 am meeting in time. But when I get there, only three men in suits are waiting with me. The meeting room is set up for at least 60 people... and in the adjoining room movement for some kind of lunch is being prepared. But where are all the people? An hour goes by and only one more person arrives. I decide more coffee is needed for this kind of rigamarole but when I return, only one more person has arrived. I leave to get my book back at the hostel, ready to wait it out. But when I return, I find none of the original crew there. In their place, two new men with stacks of papers are shuffling around the room, looking rushed. Finally, I ask someone when this is suppose to start indicating that the notice on the wall said it started at 9am. She tells me it isn’t supposed to start until 11 am and smiles. Ugh! I leave.

Frustrated. I go have an early lunch in disgust and wait another hour or so. When I return, the room is full and everyone’s introducing themselves. The meeting is okay... but not what I expected. By 1:30 pm, I’ve had enough and head home. Feels like a complete waste of time. I finished up a few emails, then rush off to get my bus ticket home.

I’m not sure where I’m going so I go early to scope it out and buy my ticket. Two hours later, I have my bus ticket in hand and am feeling quite accomplished. I return to the backpackers to pick up my bags, eat a quick dinner, and head out again. But this time the traffic isn’t as bad and I make it to the station in only a half hour. It’s 9pm and I’m ready for bed. But with the constant comings and goings on the bus, more fitful sleep on stone hard seats awaits me. At 3:30 am we take off in a rumble of engines and diesel fumes.

Friday: Basically, the reverse of Tuesday. More cramped seats. More potholes. More street vendors through the cracked bus window. Fitful and cramped sleep. But when we get to the spot in the highway that has been under attack by the RENAMO forces, there are more delays than usual. This is the stretch of road that has the periodic rebel attacks and therefore must be patrolled by the military.

As we arrive, we are told there had been some shooting around noon and we might have to wait until morning to pass through. Discouraged but with nothing left to do but wait. We sit curbside and chat. I meet a darling granny named Teresa Maria with a unique story (which I might tell another time) and we look for water together. The water we find is salty, but still wet. She drinks it. I don’t.

After 2 hours of waiting, the convoy arrives and we are allowed to cross into the heavily guarded stretch of brush, but we must wait another hour or so before the escort is ready. The soldiers usher us through the 100 km stretch, stopping now and again to walk --guns at their shoulders-- ready for combat. Because of these delays, we arrive in two hours instead of one.

Once safely passed, our bus driver starts praising the Lord over and over again marking his praise with progressively louder “Hallelujahs”. More driving. More stopping. I make it back by 9:30 pm and am thoroughly worn out. I’m welcomed back to news of a possibility that RENAMO has been suspected of scoping us out in hopes of attacking the clinic for our outdated meds and linens. (More about that later.) I go to sleep --once again-- fitfully.

Saturday (today): I wake rested, but late. I spend my morning in my pajamas since the on and off rain storms have cooled my cabin to a slight chill. The lush and low clouds of mist invade my house and I feel protected. But in the distance, I can hear the sounds of preparations. Today is Maria’s wedding. (More about that later.) Maria is one of the orphans who has grown up at Maforga. She married a man named Manual, a widower almost twice her age and with four kids at home. A beautiful bride. A happy groom. A church full of dancing, food, and deafening keyboard music with the occasional (painful) speaker feedback. Ouch! Food was fabulous. Everyone leaves by 5pm with high spirits and full bellies.

This is what life looks like for me these days. This is what life is like... as I know it. 

I share it with you so you might pray. Please pray for perseverance and a drive to move forward in all He asks --day after day. Pray also that I would not grow weary in doing good, and that I’d have more wisdom and patience in the details... and not get distracted along the way. Also pray, that I’d find a way to avoid those silly buses in the future. Ha!


Screeching Halt.

Over the last few months, I’ve really felt the urgency to write. But I just didn’t trust myself.

The words I had to share were anything but up lifting. The troubles racing through my heart and mind sounded too much like the piercing screech of metal against concrete, right before impact.

The question was not “if” but “when” it would collide.

     What would it look like when the flames hissed out?

I talk about it each time I enter a new field. I talk about the stresses and strains, the chaos and calamity, and the eventual ear piercing screech of culture shock. But each time, it hits a little different. Some times the bumper is scratched, and on others the back window is shattered.

     Cosmetic stuff, really. Nothing more.

But the way those silly brakes lock and skid me about always gives me a shock.

    Yes. A shock.

There is no better way to describe it.

So there you have it. It’s no excuse. Just an honest observation.

This time the hardest impact hit around 6 months in... (September 2013) and has lasted until today. Even now, I’m still reeling from the force of it, like tremors. And as I move about, my body aches and my soul whimpers.

“What has been so hard?”

Nothing and everything at once. That is why it’s so sneaky.

One minute I’m driving along just fine, and the next... BAM! The airbag is inflated and the front left tire is in a ditch.

Sigh. And all I can think is... “Oh, No! Culture shock has struck again!”

I’m happy to report, however, that I’ve missed writing. I’ve missed reaching out into the great chasm of words and spaces, of dots and dashes, of blogs and bloggers and grabbing hold of an eye... and hopefully a heart.

    Have you missed me?

So, I’m back. Or at least I intend to be. Only time will tell if I am truly able to see straight enough to type.

But like before, I promise... not to hold any of it back --mangled chassis and souls alike.

Photos thanks to 123RF Royalty Free stock photos @