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Perfection

Before anyone starts putting us on a pedestal thinking our kids are perfect here (Ha!), I just want to take a minute to share this slice of reality with you here.

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Oh yes, that would be my stubborn toddler throwing a silent “I’m going to disobediently cover myself in dirt while laying here on the church floor because you told me ‘no’ and I refuse to accept that choice” fit.

So in case you’re curious? Boundary testing happens on both sides of the ocean. ūüėČ

Among all ages. ūüėČ

 

And through the grace of God, we Stateside and we Missionary parents will keep plugging away at well-rounded, boundary-respecting little contributions to our world. =)

Happy Parenting. ūüėČ

 

 

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Through His Gracious Hand

We have been learning and growing here in Mozambique.

God is continuing to answer our joined prayers in opening our minds to Portuguese and Mozambican culture here.

Through His gracious hand, we are thriving well here.

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Matt has begun a Wednesday afternoon Bible study with local area pastors. It’s a great time to be an encouragement and be encouraged through those God has called to lead here amongst the local bodies of believers. Matt is also leading a Thursday morning Bible study in a village, allowing for our use of storying to encourage a budding body of Christ about an hour away. There is an understanding and grace extended from many here, as most in Mozambique have had to learn Portuguese as a second or third language as well.¬†Matt has also joining a preaching rotation at the local body of believers we have joined here in Q.

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I, and¬†the younger¬†girls¬†also have the opportunity to attend and participate in the Thursday study with Matt. It has been a wonderful opportunity to be out in the community, build continued endurance of the little ones in self-entertainment and appropriate boundaries, and, of course, use our Portuguese to share the Good News.¬†I have also begun teaching the adolescent’s Sunday school class at the church we attend. I am thankful for the opportunity to struggle through Portuguese for the sake of the Gospel. This opportunity has also allowed me to use some of the storying techniques that we learned in our FPO training to help the 10-14yr olds hang onto the big, underlining ¬†story¬†in¬†the Bible. I am also enjoying coming alongside of a friend in her education process. We have begun studying daily for a half hour to an hour each morning in her various school subjects. It has proven to be fruitful for us both in learning Portuguese as a second language. =)

Rachael and Abi are excelling in school and have passed from the transition stage to the “school is old hat” norms.

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Rachael took her beginning of the year testing and scored a 13/20 possible points in Portuguese (it’s taught like “English” is taught in our school systems as a school subject, but the entire¬†day is taught in Portuguese as well.), 15/20 points in Social/Natural Sciences and 16/20 in Mathematics. Let me remind you that this child did not know how to read or write in Portuguese 3 week prior to these tests. Let me also paint the picture of her uphill climb: She had to learn first how to understand what was being asked of her, secondly she had to learn how to spell it, and thirdly she need¬†to learn how to write it in the modified cursive from Portugal. So Math looked like knowing the answer to a geometric shape in English, but having to guess at the Portuguese word for that shape, then guessing at how spell it and working through how to write it. Yep, this kid had a STEEP uphill climb, but she¬†is ROCKING IT and we couldn’t be more proud! Rachael has taken a healthy pride in overcoming Portuguese and is very determined to do her best¬†on her¬†school work. Rachael has also made a sweet little friend at school with whom she has enjoyed playing tag and sharing snack time together. Rachael has even used her learned cultural games that she plays with her friend at school to play with village children outside of a local church we visited a few weeks back.

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Abi is doing well in her class, learning the basic building blocks of cursive writing (since it’s taught first in the school systems here).¬†Abi has thus far scored a 19.5/20 in Mathematics and a 19.25/20 in Portuguese. I know, she needs to raise the bar, right?! ūüėČ She enjoys catching lizards and frogs at school during her break and enjoys school. She’s a pretty straight-forward kid who tells you what’s on her mind and is quick to adjust. =) She is randomly vocal about not wanting to do the workload, reminiscing on the easier days of less-demanding workloads, but she’s happy and well-adjusted. Abi has met a friend at school who is quite the spirited little thing so they have a typical flighty kid friendship, playing some days and wandering around in their own worlds other days during recess. Abi is still enjoying drawing and often uses that as a bridge with other kids when we go to a village church. Abi is my happy little introvert that is more than content to live in her joyful world, getting her social fixes at times and happily playing solo, inventing some elaborate game or rescuing “lost” frogs. ūüėČ

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Hannah is frolicking in the autumn mist of childhood. She LOVES the sheer freedom of running amuck in the house and shadowing Emilia. Hannah will be quick to tell you she doesn’t know what someone is saying in Portuguese and then respond perfectly to their question. She doesn’t know how¬†much she has absorbed. Hannah is a social butterfly who desperately wants to know what everyone is saying and will often ask us to translate. Hannah has really taken to our morning language teacher, Suzana, and confides in her like they are old friends. Suzana eats it up (having 5 girls of her own) and they have a special little sit-together time-sharing Portuguese stories (thank you, Ellen for those that you have given to our family, they have gone a LONG way in bridging the two cultures through Emilia and Suzana reading the girls the books), picture books and often involving Hannah asking Suzana to braid her hair. Hannah absolutely adores it here and is often lost in utter and hysterical laughter.

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(Oh the “eye business”. Hehe.)

Eden is flowering here too. Eden has learned the respectful Mozambican greeting and it’s absolutely adorable when her little two-year old voice offers it up with such ease. Eden is still her Mommy’s girl, but she has grown into a spirited little toddler, singing ALL THE TIME and offering snuggle-love to those that are normal in her life. Eden is quieter in public, but quick to come out of her shell around her sisters. Eden LOVES the worship songs at church and she comes up with her own 2-year-old rendition of the local dialect songs, singing them much to the delight of Emilia throughout the week.¬†Eden and Emilia have a special bond, and Eden loves to ride Emilia’s hip and “help” Emilia in washing the dishes and¬†laundry care. Emilia welcomes her little helper with open arms.¬†Many in the community are attracted to Eden because she’s “the baby” and as long as Eden is close to me, she is tolerant of such attention.¬†Eden¬†knows a few Portuguese responses, but has a great understanding of the Portuguese language as is seen through her immediate action when asked¬†to do something in Portuguese or her English response to the Portuguese question (hehe). Eden is flourishing in her English, grasping more and more¬†vocabulary each day and experimenting with some bigger vocab words. She has started adding¬† “just” to her sentences, “I’m just playing with this,” and “I’m just looking at something.” Hehe. She likes to put the emphasis on the “just” in a cute little high-pitched way.

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Titan has grown like a fat, rambunctious and teething weed. He adds daily spunk to our worlds and sometimes that spunk has to be reined in a bit. Ha! We’re definitely still in the puppy training phase, but he has proven himself to be much more than a GREAT guard dog who has put some fear into a few local night-time robbers (one trying to steal our car tire and one jiggling our gate). Don’t anyone panic, crime here is¬†petty crime¬†of opportunity and Titan and our night guards are determined to disuade all opportunity. ūüėČ Titan may only be a beastly mid-sized dog, but his bark sounds ike a polar bear and by all means people, “don’t mess with Texas!”. ūüėČ

[For my friends and family who are still panicking inside at my last statement about robbers, we have steel bars caged on all our widows, doors and reenforcement steel pipes behind out doors. The IMB doesn’t play around with safety. We have 4 barrier layers that anyone would have to get through before they could even enter the house. In both cases, our car was on the street and the robber passed by on the sidewalk outside of our gate. Beyond the physical safety, we have put all our hopes in the One True safety our Lord, God Almighty¬†Who protects FAR GREATER than anything we can ever construct. We are WELL cared for indeed!]

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Bun-buns, as she¬†has been¬†affectionately called by Eden, (also know as Penney), got a happy cage upgrade and is a wonderful addition to our home. She is so gentle, licks fingers, tolerates toddler hugs and stands on her back legs to be held by us. Bun-buns is everyone’s love and despite those¬†prickly claws (which we’ll be happy to cut when we can get some cutters in town), she is rarely ever in her cage since there is SO MUCH love to go around between four awesome little girls. Bun-buns is often a playmate at tea parties, a princess castle pet, and a friend to read books to. Oh how these little girls adore their beloved bunny.

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So as you can see, God is at work among us and is answering your faithful prayer in teaching us and growing us here in Mozambique.

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We are indeed thriving here, through His Gracious hand.

Thank you again, for your continued prayers.

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Entering Our Normal

We had the opportunity to host our team leaders for a week of blessing this past month. The Jacksons are just such a wonderful family and we’re thankful to have gotten the chance to share our normal with them.¬†They were overflowing with grace at our early rising crew and¬†Karla made quick friends with our little ladies, distracting and playing away the morning¬†while Matt and I were in language. The girls got used to their consistent hugs and the house just felt too quiet without them. Hannah ask 2 days after they left, “When’s Karla coming down for breakfast?” before she thought about it. =)

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Cheers, Karla! =)

We got the chance¬†to do some fun things that week too, enjoying pizza at the restaurant down the road, going to a local park and even taking a whole day off of school and language to go play at the beach. We also enjoyed the normal together:¬†picking up the girls from school, running errands, Friday night pizza and a movie night, skyping with one of the Jackson kiddos (if that term is even applicable once their “kid” in in college. hehe), and family worship song¬†time.

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Karla and Steve were beyond gracious to smile through the kid interruptions, convince Titan that he doesn’t need to use his teeth to¬†play (*sigh* puppies), and the realities of toddler tantrums. But I’ve got to tell you, friends, the sweetest time by far for me was¬†after the kids went to bed. I loved¬†just sitting around the table playing ticket to ride together and sitting out on the couch talking about God’s work in our lives. I loved the randomly placed times throughout the day when we got the opportunity to absorb wisdom about future ministry and laugh about Portuguese confusion. Karla and Steve are just such a blessing and we’re so thankful to have had the opportunity to do a week of life together. We can’t wait to work closer together on¬†the team down¬†south once we complete our training here.

Thanks for being just another part of the family, Steve and Karla.

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Face to Face

She stumbled through the crowd toward the truck. We hadn’t seen her yet. She was lost in the sea of people.

People were everywhere! Sitting, standing, repeating the same Shwabo chorus. It rippled through the crowd, taking on its own identity. A quiet, heart-moaning song.

We were standing for the service before the sea turned in our direction after the pick-up truck pulled up. We could tell the body was being transported to the truck with the oncoming wailing. Such brokenness. Death has such a sting.

But then I caught a glimpse of her and I instantly had to wipe away tears. She buried her face in her shawl.¬†Our sister… our precious sister… was completely overcome by her grief. Oh how face to face changes the story…

She wasn’t shrieking in the usual Mozambican fashion, but her body trembled and heaved as she was overcome in her goodbye. Such a contrast from Monday when¬†her stone eyes¬†hit the floor as she made the report. Her brother whom she had spent years helping to care for. Her precious brother who took her in when she became a widow at so young. Her precious brother whom her young daughter calls “Papa”.¬†He was so, so sick…

It was a quiet walk to the cemetery behind the truck. The exhaust hot on our ankles. The African sun burning into the backs of our necks. As we approached the cemetery the songs began again. Lead by a church. Eerie words hung in the air speaking of burial being the end result. Hopelessness stained on faces in the crowd. Sung against the background of her sobs. Her family¬†stumbling through tears and gravestones until they reached their beloved’s resting place.

We couldn’t hear all that was said from the man standing in front of the community’s sea as the graveside service commenced. Swarms from everywhere. This brother’s legacy was far-reaching. The community was embracing this family in their time of need. Face to face changes the story.

I couldn’t find her in the crowd. I wished I could have done more. Could have said more. But then what could I say? What should you say? What really can I say in Portuguese beyond what I have already said? The language wall stings even more in times of grief. In times of heartbreak for such a precious friend.

I remembered the hug we shared the day before. Her clinging to me and sobbing on my shoulder. All I could do was repeat her name tenderly and hug right back. Language is so important but right then I couldn’t find any extra words. Just her name. Oh just her precious name… And yet face to face changes the story and changes me.

So much is still so foreign. But I knew one thing for sure on that day in the cemetery. So I just stood there in Matt’s shadow and prayed for our dear sister. Prayed over her.

…Precious Jesus, comfort like only You can…

And then the crowd began to slowly swell back toward the road.

She led the line out. The sea parting for her and her family. She was now completely silent. Now carrying the burden privately. As culture dictates.

Another’s words burned into my mind as I watched her walking: “So many missionary wives and Americans have said that they think African women are so strong,” A friend spoke from years of language classes with Westerners. “But we’re not strong, we’re just stuck in great suffering.¬†It is just as devastating as it is to Americans. We just live with it more.”

These words repeated over and over as she took each step. She stared straight ahead. No one spoke to her as she returned to the house. No one reached out their hand to her. They just moved aside so she could go.¬†Returning to the house. Because… what else do you do?

The time of public pain was now complete.

His body was in the ground.

 

I found her back at the house and waited my turn to hug her.

Our precious sister. She was so stiff and slow. So calculated, but sincere.

I gave her the pictures and cards the girls made her. They wanted to show their love for her even though they couldn’t be there. She smiled¬†that familiar smile, and a little light of the tension released from her body as¬†she asked¬†about “our Eden” who only wanted¬†her¬†on that Monday. Eden had woken up with a slight teething¬†fever and found her place comfortably on our sister’s back. Eden lay her head on our sister’s shoulder blades and they both just smiled. Such comfort for them both amidst a challenging day. We¬†all didn’t know it would be his last day here.¬†We didn’t know he would take his last breath late that night. And¬†then¬†when I went to take Eden so our sister could finish her work, Eden just cried and cried¬†to be back on her dear friend’s back.¬†“I can’t let the baby cry,” she swaddled Eden back in place and Eden was instantly happy again. Such a smile that came from our sister as she brought such peace to Eden. That same smile on her face as I stood there¬†with our sister outside of her brother’s house. Our sister graciously received the girls’ paper love with genuine gratitude. Face to face changes the story.

And then our dear sister returned to the house, washed up and put on new clothes. The eminent pain now over. Hope still found in a new start.

Hope amongst the sorrow.

 

Praise the Lord that her brother in no longer in pain.

But more importantly, praise the Lord that she will see her brother again when she sees her Jesus face to face.

Because face to face really does change everything about this story.

 

It was a long few days of waiting. The timing wasn’t right to go. Though our hearts longed to see her again, we waited for the right time. Prayers were constantly lifted up. And we missed her so. She’s just our normal, friends and family. It has nothing to do with her¬†carrying the workload for us, we gladly shouldered the load without her. But it has everything to do with¬†just her personality. She is always missed when she’s absent.

The rain hit as soon as our feet hit the soil outside of the car. We all broke out in laughter with the neighbors, graciously sharing their closet-sized road-side shack as the rains down-poured. We laughed and greeted everyone as they offered us chairs because Africans know how to do hospitality like no one else I have seen.

And she came running through the down-pour, all smiles and hugs for the girls. We all laughed about the rain and then made a dash for her house between shower waves. The whole family came to life during our visit. There were so many smiles as the girls snuggled our sister, Rachael shared stories in Portuguese and we laughed about getting soaked to the bone the other day when the big rains hit in a crazy storm. Oh how the people here celebrate the rain. Rain brings forth crops and is much to be thankful for.

It was SUCH a blessing to see¬†our sister¬†laugh and Eden absolutely sank into her, putting her arms around her precious friend¬†and holding her tight. Eden sat there completely still for 10 minutes, just holding onto her precious normal.¬†Our sister’s¬†relatives were all smiles at Eden’s affections. Even¬†the spouse of the deceased¬†was all smiles as she shared in the visit. Praise the Lord for children. They are for sure a helper in hard times.

After a week of missing our sister and walking this hard road with her, it warmed all of our hearts to see so many prayers at work in her life. She absolutely glowed in the middle of the harsher realities of this world.

Jesus is healing her and her family one day at a time.

Oh how face to face has continually changed this story.

Thanks be to God, for the face to face.

I am forever thankful  and forever changed by the face to face.

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That Beauty that has No Boundaries

It catches me off-guard sometimes.

Those moments that capture such beauty.

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Drinking in another’s normal.

A glimpse of the sky through a deteriorating grass roof.

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Delight can be found anywhere.

Language cannot deter her quiet, delicate curiosity. Friendship is not hindered by words.

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It’s all amongst the raw,

That beauty that has no boundaries.