Posted in being a mom, communicating trust, God's heart, great helper, Hi, We're New Here, living in their world, thankful and grateful, willing hands

As We Enter Here

We always know when the city is pumping water. You can see it in that little bounce in our steps. We’re actually going to have good water pressure, right now. Quick, everyone take a shower!!!

 

So we live in a city of 100,000+ people, which manifests itself  in a handful of “city blocks” and a never-ending wind of pot-hole filled, sometimes deteriorating, dirt roads. You can almost see the accepted, yet urban pants-wearing young adult woman and foreigner contrasting the overwhelming majority of the skirt-wearing, rural farm-wife community. We are the beautiful tapestry of six blocks of urban gets dropped into the lap of the rural countryside.

For us that means entering the community well. Learning the patterns of city water pumping. Talking to a whole host of “can you help us fix this” people. Beginning friendships with a lot of “can you help us build this” now-familiar faces. We are breaking through conversations as, our previous supervisor says, people put us in “boxes” or “files” of where we belong. Are we a traveler? Are we actually going to stick around? Are we here to hand out stuff? Are we going to respect them and their culture? Are we going to be a flaunting Westerner? Are we going to be a lavish vacationer? Are we going to respond when they speak the local dialect? Where do we belong?

We’ve been told we speak Portuguese like people from our language city. I use it as an opportunity to pray for and thank the Lord for my language teacher and the program up north. The hours and hours of investment. I will never take them for granted.

But with the slight distance of such a “you are foreign” statement, comes a softness in their eyes as we know the normal greeting. Sincerity can be seen and felt. It’s a slow process, but a process that has begun, nonetheless.

We are the white family with four girls. No, we are not in need of a little boy. Yes, they are all just like a flight of stairs. Yes, they all understand Portuguese. Yes, the oldest can carry a conversation with you in Portuguese. Yes, the baby of our family looks like a doll. And yes, sometimes the littlest ones in our family will also say the respectfully appropriate greeting while you swoon and try to tickle their chins. We go through this same routine with every new and semi-new face.

But that’s ok. Because it’s called entering a community. And it happens slowly. Building daily. As we enter here one footprint at a time.

Through our preschooler, you can experience the entrance process: When the house has no furniture, you ask questions of when we will return to our “real home in” our language city. As our belongings come in from our language city (5 days later), you have a flood of delight and still confusion about when we will return to our “real home in” our language city.  The one everyone calls your twin whom you still take naps with, keeps talking about all the homes you have lived in. She lists off grandma’s house, something called FPO which she always refers to as having those familiar names of our friends who were there, then there’s Disney World which she keeps telling you was an awesome home we lived in, but you don’t believe her when she says this is our new home. In the first newness, you announce in your excitement that next time we have ice cream, we should bring Emilia (our house helper from our language city). When your sisters explain that Emilia lives 2 days away by car, you look puzzled and take a bite of your cone.

The first time we walk to the market is an automatic hip-riding experience. Don’t look at me, don’t touch me. I belong to Mommy. The second time, you walk to the entrance of the market holding Mommy’s hand, then the first time someone talks to you, it’s an INSTANT pick-up need. I belong to Mommy.

The next time to the market you make it past the entrance on your own feet, but descending the steps someone tries to tickle your chin and it’s game over. I belong to Mommy, here in Mommy’s arms. Mommy keeps saying they’re just trying to play with you. You don’t believe it. You remind Mommy that they are a stranger, not your real friends. Mommy explains that you said hello to your real friends for the first time back in your language city. You think for a minute. You talk about it a little with Mommy. And the next time prompted, you say hello and ask how the strange lady is doing today. Mommy kisses you and tells you how proud she is of you.

Then the next series of visits come with a mixture of walking the aisles all on your own, the incredibly important job of holding the one left-over coin, saying hellos occasionally and many times needing Mommy’s arms for some extra security when things get too close. BUT you walk to and from the market on your own, willingly.

And then one day comes when you leave the gate, bounce off to the market along with your gaggle of sisters, have zero stress in your body as we cross the threshold into the market, follow right along with the pack of foreigners (also know as your family), smile, wave and say hello to the ladies at the market, and return home telling a hundred stories about how happy our guinea pigs will be with their new lettuce and cucumbers.

We are entering into a community in that we might dwell among those here because He chooses to dwell among us.

Oh it takes time and trust building to dwell somewhere. And it takes security snuggling moments. It takes courage and perspective changes. And it takes a lot of practice. But it’s starting to look like home around here. And it’s starting to feel like home too.

One day at a time.

One moment at a time.

Thanks to our Father, Who patiently and gently guides us.

Our Refuge, Our Rock and Our Redeemer.

May they see You as we enter here.

Posted in being a friend, Crossing Cultures, God's heart, Mozambique, my heart, willing hands

Mai de Y

It started with her report that her dear little friend had not returned to school. The break was over, but still Abi had not seen her buddy. Little Y is a frequent visitor to our home. It began with an innocent self-invitation one day in the schoolyard. “Mai de Abi,” (translated: Abi’s Mom) her little browns looked up at me, “(Can I come play at Abi’s house today?)” Little did I know that the first yes would result in our new normal. Little Y lives only a block away and at 2p we’d catch her eyes at the gate. That little hopeful smile.

Little Y with her “Abi… Abi…” consistently putting forth efforts to play with my little first grade introvert. I cannot begin to express my thankfulness for Y in our lives. She’s so patient, kind and willing. One time she brought her little brother over too and I was impressed at how gentle he was. They just played freely, but so respectfully.

I only met her once, Y’s mom (“Mai de Y”), as she came by maybe the third or fourth time Y had played over at our house. That’s normal for the community here. Mai (My) de Y just wanted to check in and make sure Y was playing well and being respectful. I saw how Y hugged her mom. There was evidence of love and a sweet bond.

But today I found myself in a capalana (Cop-ooh-lah-nah) skirt. I used my nine inches of capulana-alotted walking space wisely, slowly and quietly as Matt and I walked a block over. This time she met our eyes at her gate. Sweet little Y. She played with the neighbor kids this afternoon, but ran over to talk to “Mai de Abi” and “Pai de Abi”. We asked for her father, knowing he had come into town at the news. He was somewhere across the street, but Y told us her grandma was inside.

Out came grandma to the gate as she welcomed us into her home. Three little rooms and a living room space. Our shoes left at the door. A capulana applied to grandma’s nightgown dress. A warm welcome and an offering of the couch to sit. And there she shared the details that had broken all of our hearts.

It started as a headache before her visit down to the capital. She checked into a local hospital, which is as normal as a doctor’s visit for us. And that’s when her blood pressure dropped. Lower and lower. Lower and lower, until they received the news that awful day. Mai de Y was gone.

Just like that.

Gone.

It was just a normal trip visiting family in the capital, but it was the last time Y or her little brother would ever see their mom.

 

 

We sat there in the tear-stained silence of that little sub-let house. Grandma looked at the ceiling as tears streamed down her face. People here don’t cry in front of others. But this she could not help.

Grandma shared of raising eleven children, eight boys and three girls. She laughed at the joys of children and told us the same thing everyone tells us: that one day we will have a boy. We smiled and giggled. Boys here are the heads of households. We know her sentiment well. Children are so valued. They are treasured. She knows the joys well.

The future is uncertain for little Y and her little brother. Things are complicated. Father didn’t live with them, but is now in town to see if he can parent them. The family just waits, knowing he will need help. Then the maternal and paternal sides will work it out. One tradition will speak over another and a final verdict will be made. And then little Y and her brother will move away – somewhere… The family will usually try to keep them together, but Y is getting close to that age. The age of possibly becoming a house helper to a relative with a new baby.

So many things are left unresolved. So much hangs in the valance.

“They are so young” comes a grandmother’s pain. She knows she is not the deciding factor in the children’s future home. And yet she has helped raise them. She has lived with them. She is their normal.

We left a Bible and prayed with and over Y’s household. Her grandmother choked back tears again as we reminded her that Y is always welcome to play in our home. “That is so good for her,” she semi-whispered, “It’s good for her to play with friends.”

And I instantly flashed back to that first day Y was back in school. I was waiting for Abi as usual when Y came running up and threw her arms around me. How my heart hurt as I pet her hair and told her we were praying for her and her family. She just held me for five minutes. People here aren’t big huggers. I just kept petting her hair. She asked if she could come over and play. I assured her that she is always welcome.

 

 

She is always welcome…

 

-Please join me in praying for little Y, her little brother, and her family.

 

Posted in God's heart, living in their world, Mozambique, willing hands

In the Dim and Dusty

It happens week in and week out here in the dusty village church. Sometimes it’s easy to get lost in the chaos of it all. Over a hundred kids. All of whom are struggling to read. And all of whom are needing your attention. Right now. Or they’ll get too squirmy and run off in herds to the “bathroom” at the back of the church. Apparently when you’re a boy you use the overgrown brush urinal best when with a friend… or seven. Ha!

They all sit there in the mud-hut church, chattering on so in the beginning. Two languages permeate the dimly lit space. One of which I am fighting to grasp, the other of which is still completely foreign. Sometimes it’s easy to get lost in the organization of it all. Math pages in plastic pockets go here. Everyone’s group lists to distribute. Then there’s the list of absentee children that needs to be on hand should once the master list is called we still have bodies in the seats. It’s hard to say “come back next year” to those that have been missing for over a month and have been lost in our advancement forward in the lessons. Try as we may, the line is still a hard one when you’re strapped for teachers.

Sometimes there are so many kids that one can be found looking up from a mat on the floor outside of the church. Reading lessons are complete and they’re now surrounding you. Fourteen or Fifteen big smiles. Their dirty little feet squirming. And they’re all just waiting in anticipation as you grade their math papers. They laugh and cheer as you grade their friends’ papers. And then magically you assign a number. One through twenty. They await with bated breath for a twenty. Sometimes I give the struggling ones three or four chances to gain a twenty. I don’t know if they’ll ever gain a twenty in their school. And that kind of twenty joy is radiant.

This time there were only a handful. So I got a chance to see more than I usually do. Dedication of a generation pouring into the next. Even one that can barely read above the children’s level, trying hard to help them reach and advance beyond his skill level. A teacher who has become a friend, flexing into a patience that only comes from a greater desire to give than to receive. Teaching children may not be her thing, but she’s not going to let that stop her attempt to help better someone else.

But here in the dim light, I see another face. She’s seen this little boy for years. And try as she has, and try as he might, he’s still just here. His peers have left him in the dust as the years have proven more fruitful for them than this little boy. But here she sits, teaching. Showing. Trying to help him embrace a skill that is thus far conquering him. She encourages. She’s consistent. And there I saw her heart. Her desire for this little guy to get it. He has aged out of the group, but he still needs the help so. So she invests and invests. Quietly. In a mud hut. In a country that you won’t find in the news. In the heart of Africa.

And she’s been here for over twenty years.

Not for her glory. None of this is.

And she’d be the first to tell you that she’s just a normal person.

Because she is.

We each are.

It’s all for His glory.

And it was just beautiful to see her heart in that dimly lit mud-hut.

Each of their hearts.

Here in a dusty village church.

Week in and week out.

 

 

Posted in God's heart, JOY, life thoughts, my heart, willing hands

Refreshing

Cause I’ll never get by living on my own ability!

How REFRESHING to know you don’t need me!

How AMAZING to find that you want me!

 

I am completely insufficient of a warrior in this battle. This battle is beyond me in immeasurable ways. The wisdom needed, the grace offered, the endurance, and so much more … I am completely insufficient! I am absolutely nothing on my own!

But the power of CHRIST in me makes me strong

This completely blows me away! How He does not need me. Not even in the slightest! He’s completely and entirely All-Sufficient!

And yet how utterly amazing to find that He still wants me.

I am completely humbled that He would choose to use me as His mouthpiece. ME?!! Oh how HE must be the One bringing the victory through these lips, through these hands…

And how He so willingly receives this offering that I lay at His glorious throne…

I am brought to tears at His utter grace.

How He takes the incapable, breathes the life in them, gives them the words and the boldness, orchestrates the listeners, touches the hearts, and then receives it gladly as an offering unto Himself.

It was all Him!

All Him all along!

Oh thank you, Lord, that You would bless me so to be a tool in Your hands.

How humbly amazing indeed!

 

 

 

Posted in celebrating life, God's heart, JOY, living in their world, Mozambique

Their Surprise Porker

The little girls have given up and gained much in this transition and adjustment of moving to Africa. Here in this language and culture learning city, our little girls have had many adjustments. Their weekday routine looks pretty similar each day: get up, eat, entertain yourselves for three hours in the morning while Mommy and Daddy do language, play with the big sisters when they come back from school, eat, nap for 2 hours, play with big sisters again, many times watch a 30 minute film, many times family play time, dinner, baths, and bedtime routine. Then it’s “wash, rinse and repeat”. 😉

Emilia is many times a friendly playmate during the three hours of play during our language sessions, but the truth of our culture shift has left the little girls hungry for their Mommy and Daddy. It’s hard to explain how proud I am of them and yet how hard it is for them to have given up so much intentional time together during our otherwise normal homeschool hours. These girls are RESILIENT, but there is also the double-edge sword of our busy world here resulting in a lot more expectation of self-entertainment by these two. They have grown so much in creativity and their sweet little friendship, though here seven months into our schedule, our little ones are growing a little tired.

So one weekend, I worked to set up “table toy” bins again. Toys are REALLY hard to find here so I got really creative. Back came out the rice bin (never underestimate the power of pouring and filling for the preschool crowd). Magnetic toys made their way into a bin and another bin was donated to our magnetic dolls. Then came a clothes-pin gripping game in which I drew the outlines of a bunch of tiny items that the girls get to match onto the little papers by using “the claw” (a few different kinds/strengths of clothes pins). Then I used q-tips to make little designs and the outline of little pictures and letters to help the girls do a puzzle-type activity.

Toys here are VERY cheaply made and after playing with the same suitcase full of toys and reading the same 20 books for seven months straight, our littles are tired. But these little boxes helped recharge their batteries again. I put the bins out at the table and they can rotate through the seats at the kitchen table until they have played with each box’s contents independently. Many people refer to these little boxes as “busy boxes” but we refer to them as LIFESAVERS!

We also found some little colorful wooden building blocks by utter mistake in a store one day. When I speak of the rarity of good, solid toys here you must understand that you can wait for months and check every single store and find absolutely nothing of lasting quality here. So what does that mean for our girls? It means they randomly get a gift of a cheap little chinese store gift from school. They instantly fall in love with the gift and make HUGE plans (you know how kids are) about how that little toy is going to travel all over the world with them, etc. And then we cry big tears when that little item breaks within an hour of play. And for my girls that play really gently with things, this is heartbreaking. So as a Mom, we just avoid the heartache by avoiding the cheaper toys.

In an effort to help the littles more with their “I’m tired of the effect of language learning on my attention level” moments, we have been trying to divide and conquer where we can. This looks like Hannah running errands with Matt and his language helper. And that looks like Eden going with Suzana and I sometimes. Nope it doesn’t happen all the time – not even close. But we do try to involve them in more errands and get them out of the house more where we can.

One such errand I ended up bringing Hannah and Eden both with Suzana and I as we went to a clothing market. Suzana had a few things she was looking for and I was hoping to drop off a dress pattern to a tailor and the material we had previously picked out for a new dress for Hannah and Eden (hence their need to come a well, since it’s hard to measure a child who’s not in attendance). Here the cost of the material AND the handmaking of a dress is about $6 for a child.

The previous week, we took Hannah and Eden to the market to pick out their own material. They LOVED that freedom and ate up the opportunity to have their little opinions validated. With some slight nudging away from more scary choices ;), we all left the shops happily.

Oh and I forgot to tell you, when we are out together and it is language time, we speak Portuguese! Go figure! 😉 So this is nice too to keep the little girls building their vocabulary, forcing me to think on my feet when others approach us to talk about the kids, and allowing us all to be exposed to an ever-growing language and culture experience.

And it was here in the middle of our language and cultural experience one day at the market that we found Mr. Pig lying on a mat on the floor with other toys. Recognize him, Heather McKinney? Our girls absolutely MELTED! With a happy $2USD exchange, this face, that is pictured below, on my ECSTATIC four year old absolutely squealed in delight throughout the rest of our market trip as she and Eden discussed their plans for Mr. Pig (whom they named “Pinky” of course!). They also absolutely danced through the market booths introducing Pinky to their Africa. “And here, Pinky is a store that sells dresses and here’s one that sells beds!” Oh how those two little girls went ON and ON in utter ecstasy.

And then to discover at home after Pinky got a good bath and a fresh set of batteries that he actually works too?! Oh my goodness! This picture below was the face of utter delight EVEN BEFORE we had the batteries to test if he worked. Oh, friends! Oh, family! So great is the utter delight at this little pig!

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And it has brought me to a place of sheer thankfulness that God saw it fitting in His beautiful heart to so bless two little girls whom have made such sacrifices in these past seven months. How wonderful of a Father to reach down to these two little ones in such a beautiful little blessing that utterly rocks their world with delight. I think of His Sovereign hand gently guiding Pinky from wherever he was donated, orchestrating his placement on this very mat of this very booth that we would pass by.

Oh sure, I could give away His glory to some rare chance.

But I know better.

It’s Him, dear brothers and sisters. It’s all Him.

And it absolutely blesses my heart so.

And these precious little girls…

Thank You. Just thank You, Father.