Thursday, December 28, 2006

Anticipation!


Ahh, Christmas morning! Kids all over the world await what the day holds. My boys are no exception - they start thinking about Christmas presents weeks ahead! Every time I walk in with a bag, I can hear them whisper "dia de vinte-cinco!" which means "the 25th!!" And as most parents can attest to, it's an effort to also keep their minds on the reason we celebrate the 25th at all - the precious gift of the birth of Christ, our Savior! But we do try, they just can't help be excited about new clothes and presents as well. I don't know many other kids who are so delighted when their presents all fit in one small gift bag. Yet my boys are truly thrilled. In fact, one of my boys Fauso, his mom had given him 1000 mets (equal to about 4 cents or so) and Christmas morning he walked right up and gave it to me, saying he wanted to give me a present too! Precious! I've attached this "before" photo of the boys in their grubby play clothes, waiting for their new ones. They truly are so joyful, not just on Christmas day but nearly every day. I am inspired by them. You would be too! Why don't you come and meet them??? I hope your Christmas was lovely and that you find joy in the small gifts of life as well!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Favorite Colors

One of our missionaries, Sheri, is moving home this week. Her friend was preaching at our church on Sunday and invited her to the front. She asked the kids, "how many of you know Sheri's favorite color?" and a few other similar questions. She said that Sheri has lived with us for two years and is leaving now and if we didn't get to know her, we don't have the chance anymore. She went on to make the comparison to Jesus, that he's right here with us and we can know him but many of us don't. Unlike Sheri, He isn't going anywhere but one day it will be too late for us to know Him. I wasn't at church on Sunday, I was visiting another children's center. But my co-worked Vella told me that after church, two of our boys, Beto and Tome, ran up to her and said, "Mana Vella, we know your favorite color - it's yellow! And we know Mana Laura's - it's green! We know you!!" I was so touched and amazed that they knew. As you know, green is my favorite color, but I only have one green top and nearly everything in my house is blue. And it's not like they shop with me or anything and see me drawn to green things. I must have just mentioned it once or twice and they remembered. I came home and went into their rooms where they were sleeping and just prayed that God would help me to know them as well. With 45 of them, it is hard! I will admit that readily. But I pray that God will give me insight into who they are and who he is making them to be. And perhaps, even their favorite colors!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Hearing Aids for Paito

Here's my darling Paito Dambo. He came to live with us about six months after his little brother did. His brother was quite sick. Paito was healthy when he came to us but must have been sick in the past which caused him to lose most of his hearing. We know he could hear because he can speak and make car and airplane noises. I SO want him to be able to hear those noises again! After - how many, 15, 20, 25? - visits to Central Hospital, this week he finally came home with hearing aids!!! We're pretty sure he can hear more now but this stage is quite confusing because it's difficult for him to distinguish noises, something we take for granted as our brain is used to sorting out all the noises it hears (the difference between the person talking to us and the converstion going on nearby, kids playing, birds chirping, cars driving by). It's likely a bit of a jumble for him right now but we are praying - not only that his hearing and brain will come into alignment so he can understand what he hears but also that he won't even need the hearing aids, because we know God can heal him completely! Paito is going to a school for the hearing impaired in the city, learning sign language and to read lips. I'm so hopeful that these hearing aids will make those the back-up plan! I am thankful to God for his provision for allowing us to be here to help Paito!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

I'm a Mozambicana!!!

Well, not exactly, but I have my DIRE! It's more of a green card (it's a residency permit) then citizenship but after almost four years, it certainly makes me feel more Mozambican. No more having to buy a new visa every month which is a good thing because last month, they went from $15 to $105!!!!!!! So I'm very happy!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

I'm on the Internet - I must be Famous!

I know I already told you about Justin Fox's website but now I'm on it! ( http://justinfox.com ) There's a little sidebar on it that has a photo of me and some of my darling boys. Just wanted to share my excitement about being on the Internet! (As I wrote that, I realized THIS is on the internet but it's not the same when you put yourself there. . . ) Listen to Justin's cool music while you're at it! Hope everyone's recovering from eating too much turkey and pumpkin pie!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

Well, I've been blessed with two Thanksgiving celebrations! Last night, the missionaries got together for a potluck that was yummy and fantastic fun. It is good to come together and thank God for his amazing blessings upon us. Some visitors brought pumpkin pie mix so we even had that quintesential Thanksgiving treat! Then today I was invited to join a group of very international friends for another potluck, hosted by an American couple. Pumpkin pie again! This time from scratch! Enough about food. I am thankful for so many things this year, as always. My mom's life and health after last year's cancer diagnosis. My sister and two of her sons moving to a new place and a new start. My strong friendships without which my life wouldn't be the same. And my darling boys - I was thinking today how strong and healthy they are. We've not even had a serious illness or injury this year. What an amazing blessing - thank you God! I'm thankful for God's provision and faithfulness. And perhaps most of all, his persistent love for me. He is full of grace and mercy and loving kindness and I am grateful every day for his presence in my life! Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Rough Night

It's been a bit of a rough night tonight. I came home from picking up a visitor from the airport and as I approached my dorm, I could hear terrible screaming. When I arrived, I discovered Glouber, one of my boys who arrived while I was in America this summer, clinging to the gate just crying and screaming his head off. He had been at home with his step-mom (his dad died this summer and there are appoximately 20 people living in the house so she asked if we could care for him here) for a visit and when she brought him back and said goodbye, he began his screaming. My first job was to get him in my house and away from the 40 other boys who never help in situations like this. I was surprised when he continued crying at the top of his lungs for another hour. He finally wound down of his own accord and I asked him to sit on my bed, then lay down and rest. He promptly fell asleep and has been sleeping ever since. I took a photo of him to show you. I hope that doesn't seem weird. My heart is broken for Glouber, at one point while I was sitting with him on my lap, trying to console him, I just began weeping right along with him, which surprised him enough for a twenty second lull in the screams but then he began again. I've never had a boy act like this when coming back from a visit home but sadly, this type of tantrum isn't rare, it happens at least once a week where one of the boys just loses control, even ones who are nine and ten years old. I think they don't know how to properly deal with their emotions and so when something sets them off, they go to this place that's difficult to return from. But for so many boys, those times are becoming much less frequent and I'm so grateful for that. I'll just continue to pray for Glouber, that God comforts his heart and mind. I know that God has promised to place the lonely in families and so I pray that Glouber will feel a part of our family here as well as at home.

Meet Justin Fox!

Do you ever wonder about so-called normal people who are friends of celebrities? Like who they are and how they got to know the "stars?" Well, you can just ask me anything you want to know. Cuz my friend, Justin Fox, is a rock star! Really - check out his website, www.justinfox.com if you don't believe me. He's also a gifted worship leader, a dedicated husband and father and a surfer! Justin has been serving in music ministry for over 13 years which is so amazing in the music business. He's got tons of CDs, he plays in large and small venues and has travelled internationally to bless others with his unique style of music and ministry. His wife Heidi and our friend Pamela, both my dear friends for over 16 years (I was in their weddings!), came to visit me here in Mozambique last year. Justin and Heidi have faithfully supported me since I came in 2003 and now want to get even more involved. Justin is going to share the news about what God is doing here with my boys at his concerts! I am so humbled and honored that he wants to partner with me in ministry in this way. Thanks Justin for your support! You rock!

Justin and Heidi Fox, Me, Pamela and Trent Maddox (L-R around the table)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Feeling Blue

I'm just feeling a bit homesick these days. I really love Fall and miss enjoying it so much. It's just such a comfortable season, with lots of reading curled up under a blanket on the couch, the cool, crisp, sunny days, and of course, FOOTBALL! Here in Mozambique, it's the reverse now: can I find a thinner sheet for the bed? The blazing hot days and what ARE the rules to the futball my boys play?? The other day at a meeting, someone mentioned November 23rd and I teared up thinking of not being home for Thanksgiving. I try to be thankful every day so of life so Thanksgiving isn't just about thankfulness, it's about all the comfortable, familiar things of home and family. I'll be coordinating an American Thanksgiving dinner with a couple other Americans, for our whole missionary family of about 25. So that will be fun, just not quite the same. But, a wise manager at Shoprite gets turkeys in November and someone is bringing us some pumpkin pie filling just in time so at least we'll have all the ingredients for a feast! I'm just glad someone else is cooking them so I won't be heating up my house baking!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Five on Friday

1. Given a choice, and imagining that money and time were no object, would you rather cook dinner, eat out or order in? Cook dinner (although I DO love to eat out as well!). When time isn't an issue, I love to cook.
2. What is the most elaborate meal you've ever prepared yourself or purchased at a restaurant? Purchased - from Trader Vic's in the Bay Area, a set dinner that isn't on the menu any more but the ladies in my family went every year for my granny's birthday for almost 20 years. Begins with turtle soup and ends with Cherries Jubilee. Everything in between is amazing!
3. What food do you find yourself making and/or eating way too much? Soup - I eat canned or powdered soup several times a week. But that'll change now that it's heated up again here in Moz.
4. What was your most disastrous cooking/eating out experience? I can't think of a disastrous one but a funny one - the first turkey I ever made, I cooked upside down! I kept sticking it back in the oven cuz the "breast" wasn't white enough! Finally realized it was upside down and then learned that some people prefer it that way so the meat stays juicier - who knew?
5. Would you rather cook for someone else or have them cook for you? All my friends are such good cooks - I enjoy both but for now I'd say, I'd rather they cook for me.

Here's a couple photos of some yummy food from my short-lived "Eating My Way Across America" tour this summer:
Dessert in Seattle


1/2 price starters in Costa Mesa

Thursday, October 26, 2006

It's Never Easy To Say Goodbye


My Darling Boys: Fernando, Ivo, QuiQui, Alfredo and Fernando

Tonight was our Reintegration service at church. That means tomorrow I will be taking four of my boys home to live with their families. One more will go later, possibly January, due to some extenuating circumstances.

I am so sad right now because I will miss them dearly. I have been like a mother to them these last two-plus years and I am sad at having to let them go. They are each so precious to me and our house won't be the same without them.

I have been a part of the process of deciding if any of my boys could go home so they go with my full approval, they are just taking part of my heart with them as well.

Fernando and QuiQui are brothers who have lived here for seven years. My co-worker has recently helped build their mother (with three other siblings) a new house and she wants them so we are optimistic about them living with her. They have always wanted to go until yesterday - I think they are getting a bit scared, as well as excited, as I can imagine.

Ivo is who will go in January. He has been here six years and is HIV+. But his mother is lovely now and if I could give her an award, it would be Most Improved Mother! She and her husband are both HIV+ as well, they all go to the GATV clinic for their meds and she has learned how to responsibly take care of Ivo. She has had him home with her almost every weekend for the last year and they have now built a home quite near our center, so he can have access to our clinic and school and still visit all of us. He is the star of our dorm! But also the boy I'm most delighted to see reunited with his mom permanently. He is sad he can't go tomorrow like the rest - he is more than ready to live with his mom and step-dad!

Alfredo has lived here several years. His two older sisters were reintegrated last year. We prefer not to have more than two kids go home at a time, to ease into things, unless there are really unusual circumstances. Of all the kids going home, he's the one I'm least confident of. His parents seem a bit distant and he's already a bit of a lost child. I'm not overly worried, just of the five, he's the one I'm concerned about most for the adjustment.
Fernando is going to live with his mother's sister, his aunt. She and her husband are lovely, but poor, and we'll be helping them with a twice-monthly food box. Through another situation, I was able to see how kind and generous this couple is and my educator, Juliet, who essentially makes the final decisions on these, thinks she's wonderful. Fernando can't wait to go home!

I'm putting together backpacks full of assorted things and when I thought of a towel, I cried. Our kids are well taken care of here and don't lack for material comforts, among other things. And it's a bit hard for them to lose that. But as our director always says, God hasn't changed his mind about families and whenever possible, children should be with their families, even if means no electricity, or no towels!

Please pray for these boys and their families - and for me!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Cooking Class

Ummm, esparguete! Spaghetti to the rest of us! Every week, I have what I creatively call the "Afternoon Program" where Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, Rooms 3, 2 and 1, respectively come in my house for - well, for the afternoon program! Sometimes we just play: puzzles, play-doh, etc. Sometimes we have a Bible story and corresponding craft, sometimes we make fun things, sometimes we do educational activities. Last month I introduced a new element, hands-down the favorite: cooking "class!" Once a month, the activity will be cooking something together. So three times in a row, with 15 boys each at a time, we make something they can eat at the end. Last month it was mini-fritattas, courtesy of Giada on the Food Network. This month it's spaghetti. I have to be a bit creative to give something to each of them to do. For example, rather than filling the pot for the water to boil, I let five different boys fill a measuring cup with water than pour in the pot. This photo is of Room 2, my oldest boys, so I actually let them near the stove enough to stir and that was the highlight. For the mini-fritattas, the coveted job was to chop the ham with a mini-chopper. They loved bam-bam-bamming it! I overheard them making the noise later that night as they were all talking! Food is the absolute favorite commodity here so anything involving it is popular. But the boys love making something "themselves" and are now convinced they are quite good cooks! Future months might include: banana pancakes, chicken-veg soup, muffins, and even some local foods like shima (a porridge-like staple) and matapa (a sauce made of greens). Hope you have as much fun making dinner tonight as I did!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Meet My Mom


This is my mom, Joyce, at the library in Barnegat, New Jersey, where she earned the Presidential Medal for Volunteerism because she volunteers so many hours there. She also volunteers at Interfaith, a multi-faceted ministry at the local hospital but she focuses on finding rides to doctor's appointments for elderly people who are without their own transportation. Anyone think I might have picked up my desire to volunteer from her???

On Friday, she finished her second complete round of chemo treatment for non-Hodgkins lymphoma. She has had none of the side effects associated with chemo and I am so grateful to God for this answer to prayer. She has been a trooper and I am so proud of her and grateful for her life! Yay Mom!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Tailights

Is there a spiritual significance to taillights? More specifically, to them being stolen off the same car, twice in one week, in two different locations 15 kilometers apart?

This is the question that, believe it or not, keeps tugging at my mind this week. Because . . . last Thursday night, during church, the two rear tailights and the front side light were stolen off of my car. They also tried to break into the rear hatchback lock, only succeeding in preventing me from ever being able to use it again. (But I count my blessings that they didn't get in, and I can always climb over the back seat to unlock the rear door!) Amazingly, I was able to get the lights replaced on Monday morning in only two hours time - oh, if you only knew what a true miracle that is! A driver went with me and dropped me at the local ShopRite so he could get the non-mulungu (white person) price. So about a hundred bucks later (that's US dollars) I was street-ready again.

The next Thursday night, I spent in the city at my friend's house while she was in South Africa. The next morning, as I entered the gated, guarded carport, my mouth dropped open to see my two rear lights gone! Again! I think I must have stood there for at least two minutes, just trying to take it in. They didn't steal the front lights but instead, this time, stole the side view mirrors. It is incredibly hard to drive in Mozambique without side view mirrors as I am frequently inching my way past pulled over chapas, carts, pedestrians, potholes, etc!

Anyway, I confess to a brief cry on my drive back home, but while doing so, got a call from Felipe, one of our staff, to say they found my lights that had been stolen the previous week! I was so confused, and so was he when I explained they had been stolen again. His comment - "Eppa!" The previous week, they had been stolen in the center, by a boy who lived here before. They caught him trying again, took him to the police who went to his house (after giving him his punishment - a beating) and found my old lights there. So, the bright side is, I didn't have to pay again for new lights, they were recovered in time to put the old ones back on. But it still leaves me puzzling over my lights being stolen two Thursdays in a row, when in two years of having the car only my radio was stolen once, two years ago, when the car was left unlocked in the city. Anyway, I did have to buy new mirrors, to the tune of another almost hundred bucks, BUT - they too were replaced in about two hours. I wish I could do everything (buy paint, register my car, buy honey, take a child's passport photo, etc., etc.) with this mechanic! By the way, the two places my lights/mirrors were stolen are about 15 kilometers from each other and the one who stole them first was being caught stealing 15 kilometers away when they were being stolen the second time, so it's not the same person. Did you follow that? I know, it's confusing. Hmmm, I'm still wondering if there's some message there!

Five on Friday

Shipping & Handling
1. What method of shipping do you prefer when receiving a package?
AIRMAIL! It's fastest, albeit most expensive, and food isn't past the expiry date when I get it!

2. Do you know your local delivery person?
Yes, but he doesn't deliver. His name is John and works at 3@1 in South Africa where I have my postbox. If I get a package and open it in the shop, I share my American candy with him if there is any. I shared a Reeses and he went and bought me a Black Cat, South Africa's version, to compare. Reeses wins, hand down!

3. If you receive a tracking number for a package, how do you use it?
I did use it when I prepaid for my Mozambican visa which meant my passport was travelling through the mail. I checked often to see where it was.

4. What service do you use to send packages?
I use the "Nice American visitors travelling back to the US" system. I pick the nicest ones who won't mind going to the PO to check to see how much it will cost. I part with my precious American dollars to do so, although sometimes, really nice people offer to pay for it. I also send regular letters this way, having brought US postage with me.

5. Do you ever send mail-order or Internet purchases back
Ugh! This is why I don't shop much online. I wrangled my way through the system for a rechargable battery system that stopped working after one month. Because I'm in Mozambique, and made a big stink about not wanting to pay return postage for something I'd already paid shipping for when it wasn't my fault it broke, they said "keep the defective one" and just sent me a new one - very nice of them!

I like this Five on Friday. You can get it here: Five on Friday

Where in the USA has Laura been?


create your own visited states map

If I hadn't had to cut my Road Trip short, I'd have a lot more red
on this map :( There's always next year . . .

All Over the World



create your own visited countries map


6%, 15 countries - only 94% more to visit in the next 50 years! I can't wait!
Next on the dream list: Botswana, Kenya, Malawi, Lesotho for Africa and
Austria, Hungary, Germany and Switzerland for my trip home through Europe!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Will I Ever Keep Up?

Well, as usual, I'm not too up to date on my blog but I'm gonna keep trying! I've just spent almost the entire Sunday holed up in another missionary's home (who was in the city overnight) reading the book, "Intercessary Prayer" by Dutch Sheets. (I highly recomend it so far, about halfway through.) Well, reading and napping - I basically would read a chapter, then take a nap, read a chapter, fall asleep, and so on! I'm sure it would have been better had I been interceding in between chapters! But I needed the rest. Their house is only about 50 or so yards from mine but it is SO quiet in comparison! I couldn't believe I could nap in the middle of the day! A new week begins tomorrow and it will be busy. First priority: replace the lights that were stolen off my car on Thursday night during church! I'll also be doing final home visits to the homes of the boys who will be reintegrated this year and will be going home in the beginning of November, to make sure everything is in order in their homes. I will certainly write more about that! Now, it's time for more reading and sleeping!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Introducing . . .


the newest members of our family/dorm - Afonso and Paulo! They've just graduated form our Baby House - as you can see, we use the term "baby" loosely! They've been acclimating to our dorm by coming over every afternoon for the last two months, eating lunch with Room 3 and joining in on all their festivities. But last night was their first night to sleep here. The other littlies who were in the Baby House with them walked them over to us and we had a little "festa" (party) to welcome them. I anticipated a few tears when it was bedtime but they were both happy little campers and woke up with grins on their faces - at 6 am! Paulo is 5 years old and is HIV+ but quite healthy presently which is a blessing. He is on medications called Anti-Retro Virals (ARVs) which some may have heard about in the news. They are amazing and I am so grateful for how they improve the health and lives of our precious kids. Afonso is 4 and very smart - he can cut a straight line on a paper better than most of my 8 year olds can. He doesn't talk much but, mostly nods his head in a quick, abrupt nod for a yes, but I'm working on getting him to loosen up a bit. They are wonderful new additions to my house of already-darling boys! If you have kids of your own, say a little prayer for Afonso and Paulo when you tuck your own kids into bed!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Happy Easter!





This is the day that my faith is based on - that Jesus gave his life for me, for all of us, but lives again now and forever! I feel so grateful for the truth of this and the knowledge of it. Our Easter service here at the Zimpeto Children's Center was filled with singing, dancing, praying and celebrating Jesus' gift to us! My 40 boys are watching a film about the passion of Jesus right now (not the recent, graphic one, they're a little young for that!). My prayer is that the truth of Jesus love for them will overpower them, like a tremendous waterfall, like Niagra Falls, or Victoria Falls since I'm in Africa, and transform their lives, today and every day. Mine too! I love our newest boy, Selso, peeking out during prayer! He came to live with us almost a month ago now, from the street. We think he'd only been there a few days, having left his aunt's house who he was living with after both his parents died. We are still trying to track down the aunt and ascertain his story and see if there's any way they can be reconciled. He's gorgeous though, isn't he??

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Christmas in Zimpeto

Christmas in Zimpeto! I'm giving Nelson his gift while the other boys wait so patiently. The boys are always delighted with whatever they receive! They aren't saints but their expectations aren't out-of-this world and they are grateful for the smallest things. It's a joy to bless them!