Jul 31, 2010

Encouraging words

It's Saturday morning and I am working on the message I will be sharing tomorrow at Centro Emissor. Sharing a message with a group of people....how things have changed in my life!

In the past this would have caused me great turmoil ( I like that word), to say the least. I would have needed many days, if not weeks, to prepare.  The very worst part of all would be how preoccupied my mind would be leading up to the event.

Now don't get me wrong I'm not like "hey, this is no big deal".  But here I am the day before with no idea what God wants me to speak about, and I'm not even a little stressed...at least not yet.

I have a few ideas and I've prayed about them, and so right now I'm waiting to see what God says...I feel like He is telling me to share about how He is sufficient.

As I was reflecting on that, I realized that today is exactly 2 weeks since Kathy left for America, and I headed to the church plant in the bush.

Several things came to mind as I thought about that day.
I was really struggling with the thought of Kathy not being there when I got back.
I was having a super hard time, mostly because I knew my heart was not in the right place.

Not in the right place to be able to share God's love. I was feeling sorry for myself, how could I speak truth into other lives?  How could I shine with the joy of the Lord like we are called to?
I didn't want to go.... if only I could stay back and feel sorry for myself.  That actually sounded like a good idea at the time.

Fortunately, for me the people in my car were quiet as I drove, so I had plenty of time to pray. I asked God to help my attitude. I was feeling lonely and even more my heart was heavy for Kathy and what she may be facing when she got home. I wanted to be with her, no wait I wanted her to be with me.
It was long drive and I prayed.

I prayed for her, her mom, all the family. I prayed that God would give her wisdom and strength and good health. I prayed that God would give me wisdom and skill as I drove on some very treacherous  roads.
I prayed that He would change my heart and give me peace as this was going to be a long weekend.

By the time we arrived at Matundo, I could feel that God had been listening to all my prayers. I was able to jump right in and do what was put before me. My attitude was right and my heart was full of thankfullness to God for being ever faithful!
As Kathy and her family would come to mind, I would again ask God to be with her and strengthen her.
That's all I needed to do...

As I blogged before about the trip, it was a blessed time. I was asked to speak, not once but twice and I didn't even have anything prepared! God is always right on top of things, ya know?
He always provides what we need and we are never alone when we ask Him to be with us!

Well there you have it, that will be my message for tomorrow.
God is always with us...AMEN!

Thanks for reading...Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Chrrist.

Jul 30, 2010

Chico, our girls, visas...

The other day I was headed over to Mafranhia to pick up some of the team who were painting at the Nutrition center. As I was leaving the housing complex where we live I saw Chico our gardener . He was dressed in his street clothes and even though I was pretty sure of the answer I asked if he was done for the day.
He said yes, he was headed home. Now Chico understands some English, but at this point I was using my Portuguese.  Chico, like our other workers has come to understand my redition of Portuguese and so I try to practice whenever I can. Like the others he will correct me and help restructure my sentence so it actually makes sense.
I told him I was headed to Maf. and I asked if he wanted a ride. He agreed and jumped in the car and we headed off to the nutrition center.
After a few minutes I got thinking about it and was pretty sure Chico did not live in Maf. I decided to question him about exactly where he lives. He then asks if I know where Manuel lived. I asked which Manuel and once he clarified I said yes, I know. Chico said 'I live near him'.
So now picture this, I'm driving this poor young man in complete opposite direction of his home. There he sits beside me smiling away, happy as ever, he has a grin that just won't quit!
I tried then to explain and apologize for taking him in the wrong direction.
He just kept smiling, saying 'nao, noa, isso nao problemo'.

We picked up the team, and now I 'm trying to explain why we're going to be taking Chico home. It was  the least I could do as I had just taken the guy a good 30 additional minutes from his home!
So off we go, Chico in the front seat just a-smilin away the entire time. I was grateful to be able to take him home, to repay his kindness. After all he only got in the car in the first place to please me!

Yesterday morning was a special time I have to tell you about. I think I've mentioned that we meet with all our Mozambican staff at 7am each morning. We have a time for devotions, or bible study, prayer requests and then a song or two. We also get our business of the day worked in and then the staff head out to begin their work. It's proven to be a truly perfect way to start each day.

So yesterday morning, I could hear that the empregada's were outside, their laughter is quite distinct and contageous I might add. After a few minutes I could hear the ladies, the laughter and talking had turned into singing. There they were coming in dancing in a line, singing as they entered the house!
They had gotten together and planned this little performance, they even had bought matching capalanas with the extra money we gave them to enjoy their holiday!!
I was so blessed by their thoughtfulness...it was just a sweet moment and I so wished that Kathy could have been there to see 'our girls' giving us what they could afford to give, themselves ...singing and dancing songs to the Lord!

Today, Todd, Ercylio, Manuel and I were off to Beria, we had documents in hand, signed by government officials and everything. We are in the process of trying to get our visas stamped and extended for another 60+ days. They did eventually 'accept' the papers, but this is no guarantee that they will extend the visa, this just means....now we wait. It is good news really, because they could have refused to even accept them, to look at and review, so you never know.
We will go back on Monday and see if they have made any decision. Depending on what they decide, we may or maynot be heading to the airport enroute to Joberg for an over night stay, next week.

Prayer requests:
                          * Pray for Chico...he's a good young man and we are blessed to know him.
                          * Pray for our emprigadas, their health and their families.
                          * Pray that they will stamp and extend our visas, without having to fly to Joberg.

Thanks once again for reading this, and for praying!!

Jul 27, 2010

God's direction is always the right one

For those of you who may not know, Kathy had to return home to Cedar Rapids quite suddenly on Saturday July 17th. Her mother had gotten sick and no one knew what to expect. So Kathy is at ‘home’ in the states with her family.

Here in Dondo, Kathy and I pretty much would do everything together and that works well for us. So, unless we needed to go off in different directions, you most always would see us working together.

So it goes without saying that I am missing my dear friend, it’s lonely and way too quiet in the house, especially at night! There has been no laughing, no guitar playing, no movie night and that means no popcorn either!  Okay I did have popcorn one nightJ
The one thing I have continued, in her absence is reading the Psalms, out loud, before I go to bed, it sure does make for a peaceful nights rest….thanks Kathy J

I love life here, but until now I have only known life here with Kathy. Now there have been times, as you know when she’s been laid up with Malaria and I would step up and do both jobs, and visa versa.
 The difference being, she was just down the hall and I could get her input on something or together we could make a decision. 
This is no longer the case, not to mention the fact that we have not had internet since she left, and the cell phone service has been the most unreliable and inconsistent EVER!!!!

So not only am I missing my friend but I have had no communication with her or my daughters for a week now….talk about feeling isolated!

So today, after delivering team members to their ministry sites, I had several errands to run. Like most days you start off with one thing in mind and eventually you may actually get that one thing accomplished.
The great thing about getting a job done here, is the path you have to take to make it happen, it’s nothing you could ever ‘plan’ for.
For example, the people you stop and talk with or the rides you may need to give, the emergencies that come up or the stories that get shared, always something. The best part of all is being able to share the love of Jesus. By listening, by giving a ride, by praying for someone’s sick relative, it’s all part of God’s plan.

 Today felt different at least from my perspective, as I was alone in the car.
But as far as the path, or should I say paths, that needed to be taken to get some things done, well that was pretty much the same. The really cool thing is eventually it all gets done.

Now where was I?  Oh yes, the point of this blog was to share about the ‘normal’ twists and turns most days take. But also to point out how we may perceive things as ‘bad’, but God has the ‘Whole Perspective’ in view.

I found myself sharing this thought with Agustino, one of our translators. As I was driving him around looking for kerosene….you guessed it, kerosene was not part of any plan for this morning.

Anyway, today I’m wondering if God is simply answering some of the questions I have been asking.

When you become accustomed to doing something one way, and then all of a sudden it’s a different way, it shows you many things. 
Very often I find myself saying “ you don’t know, what you don’t know”.
 This seems to be a significant theme in my life lately. But once you do know, you need to use what you have learned and move forward.

I don’t know what I am capable of until it’s before me. It still amazes me every time I do something and think, ‘how in the world did I ever accomplish that’.  The answer is always the same…only through the Lord’s strength and provision.

So I’ve been thinking, it’s easy to observe when someone else is in the lead, especially as you learn to be slow to speak and quick to listen. You can get comfortable there…. following. But, at the same time you may begin to question your own abilities.  
Many times I have thought ‘I wonder if I could do this work if I were alone?’

What I am learning is that “I can do all things though Him who strengthens me” Philippians 4:13.

God continues to show me what I am capable of. He also is showing me that He provided me with a friend and helper to make the journey all the sweeter!

I have needed to take the lead in many instances since Kathy went home.  But God… has so thoroughly blessed me, even my Portuguese seems to have improved! Definitely only God could do that!

It’s been different, being here by myself that’s for sure and it wouldn’t be what I would have chosen.  I think about the ‘Whole Perspective ‘ that God has, and His perfect plan for each of our lives.
I can see where He will use every circumstance to grow and teach us.
I pray that I am learning what He is teaching.

Beria with the 3 Amigos

I can’t say it was my first time to Beria without Kathy, but it certainly wasn’t the same! I had to drive and navigate, which is hard to do in the city where a stop sign is only a suggestion, and people drive right through red lights all the time!

I took the 3 Amigos with me, that was the best part, I just love those guys!
First to the open market for the vegetables we would need for the week. The fruit we buy from the guys who come running as soon as they spot the car. They do their best to sell you what they have on hand, which is not necessarily what you need.  Then we needed to exchanged money.

This is still such a wild thing for me....there is this small store in town,  you go to the back room where a lady or sometimes her brother will exchange your American currency into Metacais. It’s all legal and everything, but each time I’ve done this I feel like I’m in a James Bond movie or something.

Fernando ‘stood watch’ in the store while I went in back. He is such a fine young man and so funny, he definitely takes his job seriously when told to be my "protector". ( At the same time I feel like I need to watch out for them, they're just young boys) 
So, Captain and Afonso waited in the car and when we were done they were treated to a pop and a pastry.
It was pouring rain all day today so the original plans that we had for the team, which included a trip to the beach had to be changed.  The rain then did allow me the opportunity to get my errands run, but it is more difficult to do anything here when it rains.

We ran back to the car, soaked by the time we got in. I turned the key and nothing, the car was dead. There I sat with a whole lot of money in my bag, 3 young boys, a car full of fruit and vegetables, pouring rain….and no Kathy! She's the one who learned from her father the mechanic.

The car had been working fine, no issues so I thought a minute and remembered about checking the fusses. 
Over the years now, Kathy has taught me many things, among them car maintanence. How to charge and or change a battery, or how to pop a clutch! ( My personal favorite)  Change wipers, check the fluids etc.  This past spring Kathy had taught me how to change a fuss.  Then about a month ago John Pieper, a fellow CRI missionary helped us change one on this car.  God knew!

It was hard to see what I was doing exactly, I got the cover off and as I was trying to figure out which one needed to be replaced, Fernando says “ mom, it’s really raining very hard now”.
I was standing outside the car with my head stuck under the steering wheel and my lower half getting soaked!
By the grace of God I managed to figure out and change the right fuss, on my first try.  
The boys all clapped and complimented me “for being so good with the car”. God is so good to me!

It was great to hear their encouraging words, but I was even more grateful to be on our way.
We had one more stop to make before heading home, and we had just enough time to get back before dark.

Even with the rain it turned out to be a good day.
I thought of Kathy often as people would ask about her or she would come to mind. I prayed for her often asked God to give her strength.
I really wished that she could have been there when I fixed the car, but then if she were there I wouldn’t have gotten the chance to use what she had taught me. For that matter the 3 Amigos would not have been with me either.
Okay, so although I am missing my friend, God is blessing me in many different ways, I just need to keep my eyes on Him so I can see when He blesses me.

God blessed me many times today. I pray that each of you feels His blessings this day!
Please pray for the 3 Amigos when you think of them, thanks!

My trip to Matundo

This entry is now a week old, and a little on the long side…….

I just returned from an overnight visit to one of our church plants out in the bush. We left early on Saturday morning and about 4+ hours later we arrived.
It’s a very long 4 hours as the roads are quite difficult to maneuver.
But we praise God that the weather was clear and sunny both days. At night the sky was amazing as you are surrounded by total darkness, the stars were like millions of light bulbs you could reach out and touch! Absolutely breathtaking!

As soon as we arrived there was a large welcoming committee, probably 30 people all singing and smiling and waving…so excited to see us!
We unloaded our things into the guest home they had built last year for a wedding at the church.
It’s a large bamboo stick structure, with a straw roof. It has 4 small rooms inside, so the girls in one room, boys in the other, one room for storage and a common area for eating.
The teens got right into their games with the kids, I started helping with meal preparation while the guys set up the tent for the translators.
We were having rice and fish for lunch, and today would be the day that I would learn how to clean and prepare fish. I finally got the hang of it but while I was doing my best, 2 other ladies came over to assist in the process. It took the 3 of us about 40 minutes to clean this tub full of fish.

Over the course of the day, at least a hundred, if not more, ladies, men, and children of all ages showed up.
Shanna and I were to meet with the ladies of the church.
Shanna, the team leader for the group we had taken out, had a message prepared. When we were told we had about 2 hours to fill I was asked to share as well.
 I spoke of God’s faithfulness, and tried to encourage these women who are so very poor. No words could fully explain the degree of poverty to you.

We then asked them to sing for us, we didn’t need to ask twice! When they finally stopped we didn’t have too much more time to fill.
I shared a part of my testimony and spoke of how God has more than filled the void left behind when my husband died. Many of these ladies are widows with so little hope. I pray that I was able to encourage the way the Lord has encouraged me.

I then found myself repeating things I had recently heard, about speaking the name of Jesus out loud, so that the devil has no choice but to flee. Different scriptures were coming to mind, it was totally God using me, I was like watching the whole thing happen, Praise the Lord!
We then asked for prayer requests and Shanna prayed for all the women.

Then I spoke a little about nutrition and hygiene. Trying to explain to them about germs they cannot see that can make them sick. This is a difficult concept for them to understand. I am certain we all would have a hard time with this concept, if we hadn’t been blessed to be living where we live.
It looked like every women in the church was either pregnant or carrying a baby on her back.
By now there were well over 100 children alone, they were everywhere! It seemed appropriate to speak about drinking enough ‘clean’ water, and washing your hands and teaching your children to do this as well.

As it started to get dark they started a fire, not only for the warmth but it was the only source of light as well.
The team ate in the guest house, put on mosquito repellent and warmer clothes and then joined with the Mozambican’s by the fire. We were warm, fed and protected from bites. They sat there in the same clothes, short sleeves, no shoes and very little in their belly. I really struggled with this….

 As I joined them I noticed no one was talking, each were in their own world watching the fire. As I sat there I could see that all eyes were on me. After a bit I asked Simone to ask if they would like to hear a story. There were a few nodding heads but no one spoke, they just watched.
I started by trying to explain the awesomeness of our God and telling them how much He loves us and how He sent His son to die for us. I explained that all God asks of us is to love Him and love one another.
I gave a few examples of how they could love each other and then asked them to remember to always talk with God and He will always listen.
It really was such a sweet time, I still don’t know exactly how it happen, certainly it was unplanned but what a blessing!
I guess I had forgotten how dark it can get when there are NO lights anywhere! The light from the fire illuminated their faces to a degree, but all I could clearly see were their staring eyes as they were fixed on me the entire time I spoke.
 Praise God that His word was spoken and does not come back void.

About 8:30 I headed to bed, leaving the children sitting at the fire. I would be sleeping in the car, to be very honest I wasn’t looking forward to it. I kept telling myself ‘it’s only for one night’.
Several times as I tried to find a comfortable spot, God reminded me of those children huddled around this small fire trying to keep warm. Would they get any sleep tonight? Is tonight any different from every other night for them? I fell asleep asking God to comfort them.
I woke up about an hour later to the sounds of singing and drumming! Many of the people who were planning to be here for church in the morning had arrived tonight.
They were singing praises to God that He had brought us, their special guests, to spend time with them. They were thanking God for answering their prayers! This singing went on until well after midnight, and then they slept right where they were….in the church, on the ground.

While I enjoyed the comfort of the car and had a perfect view of the stars. I also was facing in the right direction to see the sun come up.
When I woke up I could see where others were sleeping outside next to the fire.
 I thought about how stiff and sore I felt from lying on a car seat, while they only had a narrow wooden bench or the ground.

Today was another celebration for the people of Matundo, because we were there to share God’s word with them. First the youth on the team had some children’s program stuff to do, while the ladies prepared the goat we would be having for lunch.
Several of us were headed to a new, small church plant nearby. Unfortunately we never made it as we had a flat tire.
Ultimately to fix this flat tire we needed the help of, not one but two different Mozambican’s who allowed us to borrow their bikes.
While we waited we bought a case of pop and a bag of cookies from one of the men who let us use his bike.
 We greeted practically every person that passed by, asking how they were and thanking God each time. We had several stop to offer suggestions, one man said that we could all simply lift the truck while someone else slips the tire on! That’s exactly how they would do it, gotta love it!

We did finally get the tire on and as it was too late to get to the other church plant we headed back. The children’s programs were completed, having been a huge success, and we could hear the singing as we approached.

Pastor Cory the leader of this team gave the message, it was about being honest with God.  Every so often you would hear one person say ‘amenie’ and then the whole church would respond with ‘amenie’, it was great!
Again more and more singing and dancing.
Finally the service needed to end so we could get ready and get back before dark.

We needed to eat our lunch, inside the guest house, as there was not enough food for everyone. But we gifted the church leader and his wife 75kg of rice and  5 liters of oil and other things. They will prepare food over the next few days so that everyone will get something.

It’s so hard to accept, we are satisfied, our stomachs are full, and everyone else hasn’t eaten today.  I know God knows, and I know we can only do so much…. I wonder, are we doing enough? I find myself asking that question all the time. Are we doing enough?

The goodbye’s were difficult as the church leader and his wife, were truly sad that we had to leave, and they begged that God would bring us back to them soon.
I hugged and thanked some of the women who had been at the bible study yesterday. I also wanted to say goodbye and thank the women who taught me how to cook like a Mozambican in the bush!

As we drove off, the women were all singing and all the children started running behind the cars. They kept this up for quite a ways, singing the whole time. Once we had gotten far enough away, no more kids, no more singing. I was struggling to watch the path as I maneuvered around giant ditches and holes. I realized that I was still smiling!  Praise God!
 Then several minutes later we passed a group of people who had been at church, they all waved and called out to us, it was great!
We drive for over an hour on a narrow dirt path. How narrow you might ask? The people on bikes need to stop and get over into the weeds to let the car pass by.

It was a great trip, the cars made it back home with no further issues, and we got home before dark, Praise the Lord!
Please remember the people of Matundo in your prayers, please!

Jul 15, 2010

Lunch at the beach

Today after taking care of a few pressing issues, Kathy and I headed to Beria. I had taken inventory of both our house and the team house and now with my lists in hand we were off.
The day was gorgeous, sunny and warmer than it has been. This is to be expected as we are now headed into the beginning of the warmer months.
The plan was to get as much done as possible before the stores close. Most everything closes from 12-2pm give or take 20-30 minutes either way.
We had a plan and as we headed south the warmth of the sun gave us yet another reason to praise and thank God. We pray as we go, often distracted by the sights, trucks that look like they are coming at you sideways. People carrying loads on their heads or on their bikes, crazy loads! You'd think we'd get used to seeing some of this, and just when we think we've seen it all, bam! A guy on a bike carrying not one but 2 live goats! Or the man that was riding his bike while balancing a large plastic wash tub full of tangerines on his head!
You wonder why we love life here!? It's amazing, everyday!

So after sucessfully buying many needed supplies, we headed to the beach for lunch.  After all the shops were going to be closed for the next 2 hours, right?
As long as we needed to take a break and wait, we might as well do it on the beach.
We went to a place called Biques. Pronounced Beeks.

We love this place, the food is consistantly excellent, and they generally have Coke light on hand:)
We either get the chicken or go for fish. Kathy gets the fish and me, always the prawn! They are giant, you get the whole deal and I mean all of it.... head, tentacles everything!
So as we were enjoying our lunch we noticed some children walk past on the beach. There were 6 of them, the oldest was maybe 9 or 10 years old. As they played they would glance in our direction, it was almost as if they knew that we were talking about them.

There are always poor children around to pull at your heart, I am always talking with God and trying to rationalize...why? Yet I also have His assurance  that He has everything under His control.
It doesn't make it any easier when you sit there filling your belly and wondering when was the last time  these kids had anything to eat.

Once again, Kathy and I were tracking with each other and before we knew it we were ordering 5 large rolls. I covered each one with a thick layer of butter and then put the left over fish in each one.
We motioned to the older girl to come over, and Kathy walked to the end of the patio and explained that we wanted to give them lunch.
Kathy must have asked if they knew Jesus, and the one boy about 7or 8 years old, pointed up to the sky and said yes, he's up there.
Kathy told them that He, Jesus wanted them to have lunch today. It was such a sweet, blessed moment. The children were beaming, their smiles as big as any you have ever seen! Praise God!
I am so glad that the stores close at noon, and because of that we were here at this particular moment.
                 What an honor and blessing to be God's hands and feet here in Mozambique.

Jul 8, 2010

Update from Dondo

I am trusting that at least some of you have opened my blog looking for an update over these past few weeks. Well, here it is...finally.

As I look back over my last blog entries I see that I neglected to mentioned the fact that I was having some health issues. The most likely explanation for not sharing this would be my unwillingness to give in to being sick, I just hate letting it get the best of me.

So I guess I need to rewind to June 14th, that would be the day I felt a bad pain in my back. I had been going non-stop for several weeks and thought that I must have strained it. My plan was to hang in there a few more days, as the team we were hosting were scheduled to leave on the 17th.
 I would really rest it then, as we would be without visitors for almost a full month, due to the limited flights available as a result of the world cup. So we had been looking forward to this lengthy respite since we arrived in May!

First one week then the next, my back was not letting up, actually it was getting worse. Now I can honestly say that I am the furthest thing from a hypochondriac, but it was starting to get the better of me. I was not sleeping and the pain was pretty constant. The thing that concerned me the most was the thought that I may have to return to the states.
Then finally during the night on June 30th I was awake all night. The pain was incredible, like none I ever remember, and so I prayed for God to stay with me and show me what I needed to do.

At the Lord's prompting I sent an email during the night to Dr Brian, an American doctor I know who teaches at the University in Beria. He called me that morning and after we talked he agreed with my concern that it was probably my kidney and not my back after all.
 He said he needed to examine me but wouldn't have access to an ultrasound machine until the next day, so I needed to wait.

Friday morning we headed to the University clinic to see Dr Brian. Examine and ultrasound done.
( details of these procedures are a story in and of themselves, trust me)
He said he felt that  "one shadow area" was either a stone or cyst which may have burst. He said I needed to have an IVP done to be certain.
He instructed me on what I needed to take for the pain and said to notify him when I had the results from the IVP, x-rays and blood work he ordered.

That all happen one week ago.

I couldn't have the blood work till Monday the 5th ( there's another story :) The x-rays would be done the next day ( Tuesday) and the IVP needed to wait till the following Monday the 12th.
So as the days passed, I am waiting, and I'm praying for God's direction in all of this.

I started to notice that the pain was much less, was it because of the medicine or was I getting better?
By Sunday I had stopped taking the medicine to see if I was pain free without the meds.
I was! I still felt nothing like myself, sleeping the entire weekend away....but I was better!

I continued to pray for God's direction through all of this, as I wanted to follow where He was leading.
 I know many of you were praying for a healing and I thank you! He heard every one of those prayers and I am here to tell you He has healed me!
My blood work on Monday showed nothing out of the norm. I am still not sure about the x-rays. Here you are given your actual x-rays, you then take them to your doctor for interpretation.
As far as the IVP, because I am almost back to normal, I am not planning on having the test done.

Needless to say I never expected the events of these past few weeks to occur. I really was planning on taking things slow and getting some good rest, honestly! But, clearly God had other plans for me.

 I have been humbled and blessed by the events of this past week.  God has blessed me with increased wisdom as a result of what I have experienced. He has shown himself to be faithful, even when my faith was lacking.
He has helped me to see how blessed I am to have a dearly loved friend with me on this journey. He has helped me to see first hand the power of prayer, and His ability to heal.

He has also given me insight into how the medical system works in a Third World country. How the people here endure daily, things that would never be tolerated or even imagined in the states. How absolutely blessed we are to be wealthy, privileged Americans, with every comfort and convenience!

This experience has given me a deeper understanding of just how intimate God's wants to be with me, and with each one of us.
He has taught me the power of prayer, not just "saying the words" prayer, but the kind of prayer that you believe can and will be answered.
He is the only true Physician, who is able to heal all sickness.
Thank you all for your prayers!!!!

 ...the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much ( James 5:16)