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 celebrating life, Crossing Cultures, Mozambique, Overwhelmingly Thankful, willing hands

What a Year!

Today we are officially 1 year old American Africans. That’s right, one year ago to the date we first stepped foot in Mozambique. We completed our 18 month language requirement in 11 months and 4 days by the grace of God. Being a one year old American African finds us packing away our things to transport to our job city, a two day’s travel south.

Our house looks more and more bare with each passing day as we are doing our best to give away helpful things to others. Our beloved crate is due to enter a port 6-7 hours from our job city on October 18th and then we will be awaiting however long it takes to clear customs and be delivered to our doorstep on that glorious Christmas-like day of seeing many of our old belongings again.

We are hoping to move south to our new house by the time our crate hits port, depending on moving guy time frames and other logistics. But as crazy as it sounds, here a week before we are moving, we have yet to have an official departure date. I am learning to be flexible (sometimes with gritted teeth) and learning to yield all control to our Sovereign Father (again, sometimes with gritted teeth -ha!) as He orchestrates and directs our every step.

The girls are doing well and learning to give away some of their toys that we brought with us from the States in our suitcases. The girls are learning the valuable lesson of anticipating something that is yet coming, while letting go of something from your own hands first. And honestly, these girls are blowing me away at their ease of giving to others. Goodbye wooden play kitchen sink/stove, building blocks, bouncy cow, and baby doll. They are utterly besides themselves with joy at giving these gift to their friends who literally have nothing to play with. Goodbye coloring books, some art supplies, and some other beloved things. Oh how beautiful to see their hearts emerge as they squeal over the hours of play blessing they know this will bring to their friends they will miss dearly. How delightful to see them leave their own legacy in another’s life.

This past year has been full of sacrifice, lessons and self-discovery for the glory of God. It has been a year of yielding and throwing out pride for the sake of serving another better. It has been a year of tears of delight, frustration and deep hurts as we have walked alongside of others with great depth. This year has been a year of stretch-marks on top of stretch-marks that we were sure were about to burst, but God held together.

This past year a middle-class American homeschooling family became an upper-class (this is still super weird to me, but happened when we entered into a developing country) American private school family who speaks a foreign language in a developing country halfway around the world.

This year Portuguese entered our home until we can flip between two languages at the drop of a hat and our children will respond in either language being used. I can literally tell Eden complicated instructions in Portuguese with what I think may be new vocabulary for her and she goes and does them without batting an eye. We like to play a game sometimes with the older ones, interrupting them in mid sentence and saying, “Portuguese” and seeing if they can instantly flip to Portuguese while still communicating the same depth of meaning in their story. We like to send Hannah to ask familiar adults things in Portuguese for us and return to us with a response as a game to try to expand Hannah’s use and understanding of Portuguese. Portuguese has entered our home and has settled into the fibers of our family until it has become just … normal, so much so that we don’t even really talk about it too much any more. Isn’t that funny? The novelty of the language is gone. And yeah, we just so happen to speak Portuguese… just like everyone else here… 😉

This year we all embraced the reality that each day is an opportunity to open our hearts and our arms to another with Jesus love – even when that fight was just to remember how to introduce ourselves or sit through another hour of class without crying more than 2 times in utter confusion. Excluding Matt, each one of us has cried and, including Matt, fought for every single step of learning a new language and culture in a way that honors and respects those around you, even when you have not grown up with anything even close to their worldview.

And now as we move into a new layer of our family and our personal daily seeking of God in our job city, we will “return” to some familiars in the world of homeschooling, home-making, Bible studies, supporting and encouraging churches, teaching and spurring on local Pastors and church leaders, sharing the Gospel with those who have yet to hear or whom have never heard the whole story, visiting the sick, sharing what we have been given to help feed others, and just being a part of the Body of Christ. … We just happen to be doing all that in Mozambique instead of a Western country. 😉

Happy 1 Year in Moz, Matt, Rachael, Abi, Hannah and Eden!!!

Now let’s go celebrate with some chicken nuggets and French fries at our favorite “kid-friendly” restaurant in the city. That’s right, we’ll be celebrating with our little fake American slice of Africa for dinner. =)

Orange Fanta and Coke cheers to the next year… and however many more the Lord would grant us here amongst our beloved Mozambicans.

Posted in honesty, life thoughts, Mozambique, that's just life, willing hands

Goodbyes Again

We stood there laughing as we dripped oil from our fingers. We laughed at how horrendously I attempted to roll the slippery dough before I got the hang of it. We joked about being overly emotional when the onions were cut. We marveled words of encouragement as we learned how to make chamusas together (a meat-pocket of goodness here in Mozambique).  And there standing over the burner stirring the meat, I had a moment.  “This will never happen again. This will only live on as a treasured memory.”

 

I guess after almost a year of seeing someone Mondays through Fridays you just get used to the normal. Oh the normal can feel crazy and out of control and stretch you in ways you never even had a file for back in the States, but still the faces are your normal. The conversations, the shared stories, the depth.

A part of my normal is leaving and it hurts…

 

Someone once said that you know the friendship was real when it hurts to say goodbye.

 

That day I said goodbye to my language teachers. But they were so much more than teachers, they’re dear friends. My sweet sisters in Christ. And while neither of us is dying, Lord willing, fifteen hours south is quite a distance to behold (especially in a developing country).

 

I was talking with my dear friend in Senegal, cause she’s a dear sister. You know, we were just talking one day about real things, deep things… cause she’s a safe place to process depth. And it hit me, “I think sometimes we process saying goodbye when we have to say goodbye again in a new place.”

It’s the quiet underlying that I don’t really know how to put words to. It’s a mixture of excitement and fear of “being on our own” for the first time without dear supervisors to “bail us out” in our city. And yet there is this confidence that I cannot possibly explain that in all my insufficiency, He is and will continue to prove Himself more than Sufficient.

It’s a jumbling of butterflies that make you both thrilled and feel a bit sick to your stomach. It’s a great and very raw new stress. And it’s all coming to a head as they begin to hand over details about our new home in our job city. As we get our new car and trade in our old one (thanks again, Taylor, for the reliable transportation). As we pack away what we will bring with us and give away what we thought we would need when we moved here, but didn’t. As we learn how to settle into just being us again, without schedules and rushing the girls to school and hurrying to get homework done in time for baths and we just find ourselves… embracing us again. It’s the days that we have prayed for, cried over and longed to hold in our hands that are now being handed to us. And it’s just a lot to think about sometimes. A lot to hold in these hands. A lot to pray about.

Life is life, with it’s curves and twists and hilltops. And we are continuing to learn how to lift each day as an offering to the Father who so graciously gives us each day.

Each step forward.

Each butterfly.

Each tear, both good and hard.

Each anxiety that we lay at His feet.

Each moment.

Lord, help us to embrace each part and say goodbye well.

Before we get to say our next good-hello.

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.