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 BRAVO, celebrating life, JOY, my heart, the Oldest, willing hands

And Then We Have a Nine Year Old!

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This amazing little girl turned NINE yesterday surrounded by our adopted overseas family.

The children’s department made much of our birthday girl throughout the day

and then there was much rejoicing as she enjoyed a piece of ice cream cake in the evening among friends.

She had counted down the days and her radiant smile throughout the day was nothing but contagious.

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Rachael,

I could not be more proud of you. Your heart is beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. How you gently care for the little ones that flock around you is just amazing to watch. Your kindness, your gentleness. You see even the smallest ones and long for all to be included. You graciously listen when others just pass on by and you are always willing to offer your arms to help embrace another. Your laugh is contagious and your joy radiates. How you go out of your way to speak well of others, even if they have not been kind to you. How you see the best in people. How you long to honor others in speech and actions. I am just so incredibly blessed to get to be your Mom.

Thank you for daring to embrace people from other cultures, even when it’s messy and hard. Thank you for daring to listen to others when you are not sure if they will stop to listen to you. Thank you for being so willing to offer reckless abandonment hugs to any and all who will receive them.

You lead your sisters so beautifully well. You care for the inner hearts of people, even when it costs you time and tears. You just love so incredibly well, holding nothing back and offering all that you have. You are such an example to me, Rachael, and you encourage me so by just being you.

So here’s to a wonderful year ahead, my dear Rachael. I absolutely thrill at the opportunity to watch you grow and take flight in our Lord. Oh how awesome it is to get to cheer you on as your beautiful heart grows in the Lord.

I just adore you so, Rachael. Happy, happy ninth birthday, Love. And thanks for letting me still call you my baby. =)

Love,

Mommy

 P.S. Stop telling people you only have 4 more years until you’re a teenager. Mommy’s heart can’t take it. 😉 

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Happy 9 years, sweet Rachael. You are an absolute blessing to our little pack of foreigners.

 

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.