Posted in being a friend, celebrating life, communicating trust, Mozambique, thankful and grateful

A Little Gem

Little did we know when a late night call for transportation to the hospital would result in such a wonderful blessing to our family. This is our guard’s baby, *”Little Gem” and he adds so much to our church Body. Children are celebrated and valued so in this culture and he sure adds a lot of joy to the Body of Christ here.

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And I just have to say, this little guy is absolutely adored by our family.

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We’re so thankful that our guard and his dear wife share Little Gem with us. It’s nice to get our turn to love on him as he gets passed around the church Body on Sundays. He’s definitely a highlight of our home visits and Sundays. =)

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He’s just so wonderfully smiley. =)

*Name changed for protection of the little guy.

Posted in Crossing Cultures, living in their world, Mozambique, thankful and grateful, willing hands

Chopi-Land

Thanks be to God, the work has begun in what we affectionately now call “Chopi-Land” (Show-pea land). It’s much like Disneyland, only way more fun. 😉

The term Chopi-land emerged out of an extremely simple desire to keep track of where Matt was headed each day. And since names of places here are a little complicated to translate back to you all there in the States, Chopi-land it is.

Who are the Chopi? Well for those of you catching up on this amazing rollercoaster adventure with us, they are our assigned unreached, unengaged people group here in Mozambique. Let me start by unpacking that for a minute so we’re all on the same page. The Chopi are a local people group of over a million strong that are, thus far, only found in Mozambique. They are a branch of a southern Mozambique native mother language and therefore we often classify people (just to merely keep track of the vastly different people groups in the world) by the language they speak. That being said, if you step foot in southern Mozambique and ask where the Chopi life you will be looked at like you have 3 heads. You know… just throwing that out there out of a mere hypothetical situation and not cause some overly-excited missionary lady might have said that once in a conversation here in M. Ha! But, all that to be said, the Chopi are here and cover a happily HUGE 4-5 hour span of land here in southern Mozambique.

Ok, so let’s move onto the unreached, unengaged part. That part is decently simple to explain. Unreached means there is not a significantly impactful evangelical presence in the Chopi community. Unengaged means there is not anything currently really being done to reach the Chopi with the Gospel.

… Until now…. 😉 Just kidding. We don’t have that kind of influence. Ha! But God totally does!

So let me give you a happy praise report for those of you whom have yet to hear:

God blessed our first steps into the community with an open government-affiliated leader who showed us an area far off the “beaten path” that had been asking for a church presence. Yeah, you read that right, the Chopi were already asking for a church presence when we got there. That’s the hand of God for you right there.

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With some compliance paperwork completed to protect the people there and make sure we were working within government regulations for religious groups, Matt was given a contact of a man there who could help translate (since we have yet to learn the Chopi dialect) and Matt was able to meet with the local leader “Father” of the particular area. There Matt began making visits as we prayed for people of peace to help us bridge into the community. Due to the nature of the work, Matt was our wonderful primary leg into the community and the girls and I remained behind to pray. Matt took M’s Baptist church pastor with him since the local congregation here in M had and continue to want to share in the work there in Chopi-land.

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The girls and I got the chance to come to a community-wide meeting in which we introduced ourselves, explained our beliefs and answered the many theological questions before the community all voted and agreed to the evangelistic work that lay ahead.

From visits, Matt was able to launch a weekly bible study where he started walking through Creation to the Ressurection of Christ during two visits per week. Matt intentionally chose not to offer a time of response as he etched through the full Gospel in order to make sure the whole thing was fully understood. Over the process of 10 weeks, Matt and many times the M pastor or other brothers in the Lord here in M traveled down to Chopi-land.

 

Then we were able to have a team of two gentlemen from the States come share some time with us here in Chopi-land as their church prays over possibly adopting the Chopi through persistent prayer. God gave us the opportunity to spend a Saturday together there in Chopi-land investing in the community, playing games with the kids, sharing testimonies the adults, eating together and then watching the Jesus Film together all huddled together under the African stars. The film was presented in the Mother language, not Chopi, but a language that is more fully understood by all ages that were present.

The following week, when Matt returned to the regular teaching time, he brought along the Pastor from M2 Baptist church an hour north of M as well as the return of our team leader from the capital. And that day after M2 Pastor shared his testimony of turning from his own cultural ways to receive Christ as his Savior and Christ’s radical change of his heart, the entire group under the power of the Holy Spirit cried out to receive Christ. The group was divided into three sections and each person was counseled and walked through receiving Christ. There were tears of repentance, talk of casting off old cultural ways and desperate cries for guideance on how to now live in close relationship with our Father. Twenty-three people fell on their faces before the Lord and sincere Holy-Spirit inspired brokenness over sin resulted in a new family of Christ there in Chopi-land.

When Matt returned for the following study, two more came and received the Lord as their Savior.

We’re not a numbers kind of couple. We find it an honor to be here, even if just one more would come to know Him, it is worth having left it all in the States and having spent a year pulling our hair out learning Portuguese so we could speak through a translator to share the Gospel with even one Chopi (or seriously anyone down here, but the focus of this post today is the Chopi). But we are beyond floored, BEYOND FLOORED, that God would allow us to be a part of twenty-five new brothers and sisters in the faith. We don’t deserve such an honor.

I just got back today from a day out in Chopi-land with the girls. We shared in the lessons a bit today as we walked through the Creation story again as we’re now starting to have them learn the stories in an effort to share them with others. And I just have to say, that group out there is an absolute blast! They are just so ridiculously joyful. They absolutely ate up the Creation story, laughing and giving their all to try so hard to remember each day of Creation. Oh how they laughed and cheered each other on as Matt called on volunteers from the group to retell each day. How they eagerly listened and asked questions.

In the video above, a national is recounting the story from last week that Matt taught the group.

It helps many times to write cues in the sand to keep things straight in recalling stories.

Here is Matt involving the girls by using them as props for the telling of the first seven days of creation. They were great sports and it really helped everyone to visualize the days as distinctive and separate. Plus it was just fun for all involved. What I did not catch on video was when those from the group came up individually and touched each volunteer’s head as they physically walked through the days of creation. The girls were such willing volunteers, even though they ended up “standing” up there for a good 35 minute lesson when it was all said and done. On the way home, they each reported that their favorite part of the time down in Chopi-land was getting to participate in the storying. We plan on sending Matt with creation numbers and a few simple drawings to aid in the review of the seven days of creation next week. =) Here you get a feel for how the community storying time is very interactive as meaning is clarified and all questions are welcomed. It’s a blessing to see how willing the Chopi are to learn the stories and how much they want to learn them well to share with others.

(This video clip has nothing to do with the Chopi but has everything to do with the realities of serving as a family. Here as people slowly trickle in before the study began, the girls were enjoying singing and frolicking about, to the enjoyment of those there. With each new participant, the girls would stop and greet them. =) I’m thankful for the opportunities to serve as a family… even when a piece of tree bark is unwelcome in a watering eye. 😉 )

*Please pray for the Chopi, that the Lord would grow their hearts in their hunger for Him.

*Pray for Him to continue to bless their committing to memory these stories as they begin to walk through retelling Creation through Christ’s Return for themselves.

*And please pray as they wade through the fight against flesh and culture, as they cast off old lifestyles and learn to have the mind of Christ.

*And by all means fall on your knees with us and thank the Lord, thank Him so for all that He is already doing in the lives of these 25 new believers who are HUNGRY for His words. The Life on their faces is quite a thing to behold!

Oh praise the One who paid my debt and raised this life up from the dead!

Posted in celebrating life, Crossing Cultures, Mozambique, thankful and grateful, willing hands

Cupping a Treasure

We laughed about how the road had deteriorated from the rain as the car leaned to the right on the sandy back-roads. We squeaked past the sideways growing coconut tree, forming an uncomfortably close “bridge” over the only passable part of the road. We rounded the government building, proudly displaying the Mozambique flag on it’s flag pole. How interesting to find the government building out there, tossed right into a neighborhood. I wondered which one came first as we pulled off and parked near the woven palm-branch fence.

Out came four little girls, bounding down the familiar path. “I can’t see him,” they strained to look past the laundry dancing in the breeze. She used a broken piece of a mirror as she picked and styled her hair with the little one cooing on the mat at her feet. Her smile was huge when she caught glimpse of the girls bounding past the clean diapers on the line.

She jumped up to grab us chairs. The girls all went straight to the mat to coo at the baby. “Isn’t he so cute?” They called out his name, let him grab their fingers and his whole face radiated with delight when he focused on their faces. I love that our stories are so inter-twined. I still remember that phone call at nearly midnight. How Matt drove our guard and his wife to the hospital in time to welcome their first child. And this little guy there at all our feet, how we all rejoiced at his welcome to our world. How we celebrated his first day at church when we could all marvel at his little precious self that God had given us all, his community.

Shoes were instantly flung aside as the girls dug into the sand with their toes and found some stray items with which to start an adventure. Mountains were formed in the sand, paths etched out by an unrecognizable metal object they found, and they proceeded to frolic about in the “yard”, adhering to the natural boundaries of the beaten dirt borders.   

There was no agenda. No necessity to our visit. No business to discuss. And suddenly I realized that we had arrived at the very moment in which I had yearned for over a year of language learning. We were just visiting friends. Here in our home city. And it just was normal. 

We were rolling with laughter over stories of learning to drive the stick-shift on the opposite side of the road here in Moz. We listened to shared life challenges and encouraged this dear sister. We bounced from topic to topic as we passed around the baby. Oh that smile he imitates. It’s almost as addicting as just being there, with our friend, doing the normal together.

And when the time came, we walked together to our car, saying goodbye along the way. Four girls bounded to give hugs and say goodbye to our friends. One hug for my friend. One hug for the baby. They waited patiently as they made eye contact with him before they said goodbye. Promises to come again soon and “See you in a few days” were exchanged. Windows were rolled down as the girls waved to a group of kids nearby the car as we backed up. Smiles exchanged and a little greeting. Eden cupping a treasure in her hand as she bounced in the back seat. 

I uttered a prayer of thanksgiving on our drive home. Thankful for my friend, praying our friendship would grow stronger. And thankful for her wonderful little baby. And four little girls who my friend just adored watching gawk over her son. Thankful that Eden had felt comfortable enough to stumble over asking in Portuguese if she could bring home a fake earring pearl that she had found in my friend’s yard. How Rachael had smothered that little baby in love and kept him content for thirty solid minutes. How he just lit up watching her face, locking eyes and using every ounce of his energy down to his toes to coo at our Rachael. And just how the time flew until it felt like we were leaving far too soon despite the passing time.

How richly He blesses us. What a beautiful Body of Christ we find.

Right here on the deteriorating sandy back-roads

In our Mozambique.

Posted in being a mom, homeschooling, honesty, life thoughts, the Cost of Love

The Sometimes and the Most-of-the-Time

Sometimes you just want what you want. Selfishness moves in where compassion once lived.

Sometimes the day has worn on too long. The heat too strong. And your emotions cave and a crying monster emerges who desperately needs a hug and an early bedtime. Not a punishment bedtime, we won’t even tell you that we put you in bed early. But we’ll just so happen to read an extra chapter of our bedtime read-aloud that day, requiring us all to pop into bed a little early. And there over the top of the book, I will watch you drift off before I even complete the first chapter.

Or sometimes. you just can’t put into words what it feels like to live thousands of miles away from those who used to live within a finger’s reach of you, for as long as you can remember.

Sometimes you need to tell me again how much you didn’t like Portuguese school, even though I also remember how much you couldn’t wait to go. Because today you remembered someone saying something mean and assuming you couldn’t understand it. Today you remember the harder instead of the good. The growing pains over the victories. And you just need someone to listen and agree with you, even if it’s not where we both know you’ll land when you think about it again tomorrow.

Sometimes all four of you have those kind of moments in one day. Or a series of days. And it’s tiring for us all. Emotionally and physically.

But then there’s the most-of-the-time that catches me. How we look back at your photos of just last year and you notice how your face has changed. How you have grown.

And I remind you how God has been shaping you this whole time. During those sometimes moments as well as those elated moments of joy during the most-of-the-times.

And I see that little girl in a phase of wrestling to surrender selfishness for loving compassion, pouring over a puppy when no one else is looking.

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You are listening and internalizing, even if the battle is uphill sometimes.

 

I see a “me too” little girl finding her welcome place amid a new sister-and-friend dynamic.

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Even when dynamic changes can come with growing pains.

 

I see a young girl growing into a confidence of self-control and responsibility not being an unwanted consequence,

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but choosing instead to embrace them as a gift, even if it costs a sacrifice of selfishness.

 

Yes, I see your quiet efforts of increasing self-discipline and chosen obedience

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even when responsibility costs the price of your perceived frolicking freedom.

 

My ladies, I am proud of you. I am really, really proud of you. Kindness, self-control and responsibility can feel like very sacrificial choices at times. And I am praying for God to continue to give me the grace to extend to you all as you learn these critical lessons. Oh the sometimes moments have happened and will happen again. Maybe even for another series of days. But I trust that just as He sustains me when I turn to Him to teach me how to love you better, He will continue to grow you through all that He has given you in this life. And I am proud of you. Keep wrestling to do right when wrong feels so easy. Keep fighting to be kind and gentle when roughness and selfishness feel so natural. And know that even in the rawness of the processing, I am still thanking the Lord that He has given me the gift of being your Mom.

 

I love you, little ladies. What a privilege to fight the good fight together.