Sunday, February 25, 2007

We've found Pedro's Mom!

An amazing thing has happened – we have found my darling Pedro’s mother and family!!! After a total of eight years apart, the last five living here at Iris, they are reunited! Although the story is long, it is precious to me as he is the boy I was praying about and planning to try and adopt. Let me start at the beginning:

When Pedro, who’s real name is Juliao Jose Mindou, was two years and two months old, he was stolen from his mother by a neighbor woman. She took him to live in Inhambane, about eight hours north of here and his mother and father were never able to find him. Sadly, his father accused his mother of selling him and they split up. A few years later, the woman who stole him brought him back to the Matola area where he was from and took him to the police, claiming she had found him abandoned on the streets. They took him to a children’s center and a short time later, he came to live at Iris Ministries, at the same time as five other boys with no identifiable family. A time later, his mother saw the woman who had taken him at the market and ran to her, crying “where is my son?!?” She took her to the police where the woman eventually confessed. They were able to track the child to the first children’s center, and then to Iris.

His mother came to our center with her new husband (she had another daughter by this time as well, who is now 7) and the police, but our Head Administrator at that time did not believe that she was Pedro’s mother. The administrator felt it would be impossible to prove that Pedro was the same boy so she essentially refused to look into it further and denied his mother’s requests for visits. Eventually, she gave up asking, which seems impossible for us in the West (a loose term we use a lot here) to imagine. I won’t go into an in-depth explanation here but trust me when I say her acceptance has nothing to do with whether or not she loved and wanted her son and everything to with the defeatism and fatalism that so often accompany poverty and repression. I know that won’t appease most people reading this but you’ll just have to try and withhold judgment. (If you’d like to dialogue about this more, feel free to contact me.)

I have seven boys in my dorm right now with no identifiable family, including Pedro with his unique story, some of which we knew. This last year, as we have completed home visits for all of other children, it has been so on my heart, and my co-worker Vella’s, to investigate these boys’ situations and see what we can find, even if that literally means driving to a market and start walking around and seeing if the boy recognizes anything. With Pedro, we had more to go on and we started at the police “station” (literally a one room cement building in a clearing under a tree!) where the police report was filed. The Chefe (chief) who had signed the report was retired but the new Chefe said he was having a leader’s meeting the following day and he would ask around about this story. That was on a Friday. Monday morning began with a visit from our new Head Administrator yelling “It’s a Miracle – they’ve found his mother already! Praise God!!” She was still living in the same area and although the new Chefe didn’t know her story, nearly everyone else in the community did.

So my Educators arranged a visit for the following morning to meet the mother and try and ascertain if she was indeed his mother. When my head Educator, Eliza Juliet returned she said “Mana Laura, if you walked in the room, you wouldn’t need to ask which one is Pedro’s mother, he looks just like her!” Everyone felt that she is his mother and so they arranged for her and her mother (and her gorgeous ten month old daughter) to come to the center the next morning to meet Pedro.

Now, here’s the amazing part. The biggest miracle of the whole story. When Vella and I began doing home visits on the boys, Pedro began telling me that he didn’t want to visit his home (even though he didn’t know where it was). I asked, “you don’t want us to try and find your family?” and he would say no. For a visit? No! He always insisted he didn’t want to find his family. He didn’t know that we had gone looking for his family last Friday. On Monday morning we were called with the news his mother was found. On Monday night, still not aware any of this was happening (we were waiting to tell him until after my educators had met the mother and could find out more), he said “Mana Laura? I’m ready to find my family. I want to visit my house. I have been praying every night that God will show you and Mana Juliet where my mother is!” I HAVE TEARS IN MY EYES AS I WRITE THIS!!!! God had prepared him in exactly the right time for finding his mother. I was incredulous! I still didn’t say anything, although I was bursting to shout “God has heard and answered your prayers!!!” but was waiting for the meeting the following day.

So after that meeting with me educators and his family, Mana Juliet told him they had found her. He did not believe her at first. I was in the city with a group of boys and when I returned, he met me at my car with the hugest grin – now I know what people mean when they say “grinning from ear to ear!” He was ecstatic!

The next day, his mother, Filomena and her ten month old daughter and her mother, Pedro’s grandmother, arrived early for their 9am meeting. We then called Pedro from school and he was so precious when he saw her. Their visit lasted over five hours and they all had such a wonderful time together. Pedro warmed to her immediately and even asked how many chapas (loosely, buses) it takes to get to her house so he could visit her. I had a moment of doubt when I realized he has a step-father and in this culture it sadly isn’t uncommon for the step-father to not receive another man’s sons. I went into my house for something when that thought hit me with a fear in my stomach and I felt the Lord say to me “don’t you think I can work that out too???” Yes, Lord I do. When I went back outside, Mana Juliet was asking her about her husband and how he would react! She explained that she had already called him in South Africa where he often works and he is thrilled not only because he knows how much he means to her but now he’ll have a son and an older brother for his two daughters! Amazing!

Monday afternoon, Pedro can visit and see the home as well. This will begin a series of visits that will culminate in him moving home at the end of the school year in October, unless something really strange happens.

The people who know this story now have an immediate question for me: How are YOU doing in this? Pedro has been my special boy for three and a half years now, before I even moved into my dorm. He’s was my daily visitor and kept his things in my house back when I was working in Hospitality. (Here he is on the left, in 2003, when he first adopted me!) For the last two years I have been praying about adopting Pedro and this last summer while I was at home in the States felt what I call the green light from God to go ahead and begin the process, the first step of which would be to investigate this story in his files. For the last two years I have daydreamed and planned and hoped and prayed about he and I becoming a family for real. You see, he is already my son in my heart.

And now, I have to entrust him to his real mother. Until this very moment as I write this, I have only felt overjoyed for their reunion, especially for a mother to really find and be given back her son after eight long years. I think I’ve been in a bit of denial and knew the time would come when I would grieve my loss while I rejoice with them. The moment has arrived as I am writing this. I have to keep stopping to wipe away my tears.

As for many others, one of my favorite verses in the Bible is God’s promise in Jeremiah that “he knows the plans he has for us, for our good and not to harm us.” I have shared it with Pedro often, as I have with my other boys. In the midst of my sorrow for not being able to adopt Pedro, I have a rock-solid, unshakable faith that God’s plans for me, for Pedro, for his mother Filomena, are for our good and he has orchestrated this so amazingly. Who knows if we would have found Pedro’s mother had it not been for my desire to adopt him? (I like to think we would have anyway.) I know that this will remain one of the most satisfying things I have been a part of during my whole time here, to reunite this mother and son, even though it means letting go of him myself.
Mana Juliet said a precious thing to me when we heard she’d been found but before we met her. She said, “Mana Laura, if Pedro goes back to live with her, you will not have lost a son, you will then have his whole family to be part of your family.”

Please pray for Pedro and his mother Filomena and the rest of his family to be knit together in their hearts and become a true family. Please pray for Pedro in particular as he processes ultimately leaving what has been his home for the last five years and leaving me, whom he calls Mama. Please pray for me that I will love Pedro well and truly in these upcoming months, including equipping him for going home. Please join me in giving thanks to God for his marvelous works!!!

Four years!

In honor of my four year anniversary in Mozambique, I’ve just sent out an email kind of describing what I do all day. But I also feel the need to confess something – I’m not a saint. I’m not even a perfect missionary! I didn’t add this into my email newsletter because it was so ridiculously long already! But it feels kind of false not to include the less than rosy side of my life here.

In fact, on the very day of my anniversary, February 23, (which is actually when I’m writing this but not posting it because I’m away from the Internet), at exactly 4:15, I ran out of patience. For anything and everything! I just hit a wall and walked around my room saying “It’s gone, my patience is gone, I’m done, finished!” Not for good mind you, just for that moment. I’d like to say I took every thought captive to Christ and fought those feelings but the truth is I indulged them completely and didn’t even want my patience back. I wanted to soak in the moment of self-pity and self-protection. Cuz in a way, to not feel overwhelmed and at the end of my rope was to somehow seem as if really irritating things hadn’t happened and then who would feel sorry for me for all that I endure? Does that make any sense? I didn’t want to be an overcomer, I wanted someone, if only myself, to acknowledge how hard things can be.

Thankfully, it is Friday night and I was already planning to head into the city for an overnight getaway. Boy did I need it! God is so good to meet us in those times and I’ve always being a proponent of being really honest with God because it’s when I speak ridiculous things out loud (like the above) that I realize what lies they are. Some would say that saying those things out loud, even to God, give them more authority, but I’ve always found in my life, it gives them less. It’s when I pretend those silly (sinful, dishonest) thoughts aren’t there that they pervade my thinking, behavior and emotions more than I realize. Saying them out loud to God always brings me back to a place of repentance and acknowledging his truth and that his ways are for my best. Including his admonishment to take every thought captive to Christ. That’s not just good advice, it’s the way to true life, abundant life, rich life in Him, and that’s what I truly want and need. Even when I think I need a good pity party!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Mozambique's Weather Crisis

We are absolutely fine here in Zimpeto, in fact, wishing it would rain! Mozambique is nearly twice as long as California and I'm as at the bottom as you can be, so we're well away from the problems. Especially as the bulk of this problem is caused not by slightly above average rainfall in the middle of the country, but by the flooding of the Zambezi River because of all the rains in Zambia and Malawi, where the river runs through first. The irony is that just a few hours from where crops are destroyed by the overflowing river, crops are in danger due to drought. We here in the capital area are not in drought conditions either but it could go that way. Sadly, a cyclone has just hit the same affected area last night and another one is projected to hit sometime in the middle of the night. Please keep the country and those people in your prayers! The government learned a lot from the devastating floods of 2000-2001 so the response has been better but this will have long-term affects as most people have subsistence agricultural at their family homes and this will obviously destroy most of those local farms. Iris Ministries is attempting to meet some of the needs through their northern and central centers, which are 5-10 hours away from the most impacted areas. Please pray that God will give wisdom for all involved in trying to resolve the situation as well as for protection for the people.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

It's gonna be a hot one today

It's 10 am and it's 88.2 degrees in my house, with the arrow going up, and 66% humidity, with the arrow heading down. You can just feel when it's gonna be a really hot day, even if the temperature is so far the same as yesterday. There's not a cloud in the sky, it's a brilliant blue and sadly, not a leaf on the lemon trees outside my window is blowing. That's what it is here ~ wind or no wind can make or break a hot day! (All the kids in the center, and several adults, come and pick these lemons, which I suspect are actually limes.)

Complicating the hot day, we have no water! It's been off since Friday, with little spurts of it on, I'd guess about 5% of the time. We all have our taps on a little so if it comes on, we can rush and try and fill water bottles with the trickle that comes out. It came on last night at 12:30 am so I filled a plastic tub for the boys to use in the morning for "showering" and all the water bottles I had for drinking. Silly me, I forgot to jump in the shower while I had the chance - my only comfort is that no one else has probably had a shower either! People have been working to try and get it repaired. And actually, we do have water in our main kitchen, they've diverted all water there so everyone can still eat. I hope the water comes back on today!!!

This photo is in my back garden, looking toward my house. The window above the garbage can (which isn't there anymore) is where I'm sitting right now - I'm looking OUT that window. Those are my lemon trees just before my storage shed. And that's my beautiful African sky!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Add Swaziland to my list of countries visited

Well, come to think of it, I may have included it previously because I did in fact go to the border once and use the restroom! But now, I've really been there. I took Vella, my friend and co-worker in the dorm, out because she needed to go out of the country for her visa. So we went to a little town called Sitake, had lunch (toasted cheese and ham, 4Rand extra for the toasting!), bought some paint for the dorm at half the Mozambican price and came home. The elevation is higher than in Moz and it is lovely and green right now, as it's the rainy season. What I could see of Swaziland was much like South Africa, except without all the white people! I'd like to go again and check out a Royal Game Reserve we passed and see what else can be found to do in the Kingdom of Swaziland! (That's really me, all tiny there, and yes, it's an advert for a bank! The official welcome sign is within the border and they won't let you take photos there - sad.)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

What a day!

It started out pleasantly enough, nothing unusual about the morning. Then Paito, my hearing-impaired boy, came home from a doctor appointment too late for his usual ride to school in the city. So I told him to get ready and I would quickly take him, even though we would be late. By the way,"quickly take him" is 35 minutes each way! Well, he hadn't begun to change clothes when I stepped out ready to go. He ended up crying, saying he didn't want to go to that school, he wanted to go to our school here with his friends. He didn't do this last year. Well, I brought him to my head educator to speak with him to try and find out why he was so upset, not to discipline him or get him to stop crying even. This educator is considered out best in the center, she is a friend of mine, I would hand over the keys to the dorm to her when I left, I just think so highly of her. And yet, she's not perfect and doesn't do everything the way I would want her to. After explaining once why Paito had to go to school today, and he kept crying, she ended up threatening him with being sent out of the center if he kept crying, meaning, not be able to live here anymore! I was devastated because I don't want to breed fear in my kids but that is what people here use so often. So we left even later and on the way to school, I explained to him that this is his home here and he will never lose it. We arrive at his school, only to find out, they don't have any school today! So it was a total waste of time and gas and energy and made me late for my afternoon's plans. So I wasn't happy, and in fact, slightly-less-than-perfect missionary that I am, I burst into tears while crying out, "why can't anything ever be normal here!?!"

The afternoon turned out much better. Although we left 1 1/2 hours later than planned due to the school situation, I took two brothers, Chico (photo in the blue striped jumper) and Antonio (photo in the OKO sweatshirt), and two educators to search for the family of the boys. They've lived at our center for over 4 years and no family has ever visited and no one knew where they lived or what had become of the parents. So we just decided to take the boys and see if they could remember anything (they knew the general community they had lived in). We prayed that God would lead us to the right places and the right people who would have the information we need. We stopped at a roadside market and asked after the name of the father. One woman knew of someone with the same last name so she left her stall, hopped in the truck and led us down one narrow dirt path after another. That didn't turn out to be the home but it led to the boys remembering a railroad track near a church. This woman knew of a church near a railroad so we hopped back in the truck and drove around a while more, finally coming upon the church, after indeed, crossing a railroad. I stayed with the car and was delighted to get a call a half hour later from Juliet, the educator, saying they had found something and she was sending a neighborhood boy to accompany me to them. We found the family home!!! Sadly, it had been abandoned, however, an uncle stops by occasionally to check on the house so we left phone numbers for him to call us. One neighbor remembered the boys immediately and in fact, her son came home from school while we were there and when he entered he looked around (undoubtedly wondering what a white woman was doing in his yard!) and nearly shouted "Chico!" Several boys knew Chico and Antonio and it was so fun to see them with former playmates!

The neighbor thinks that the mother might be mentally ill and live on the streets and although that news is devastating, we are very hopeful about finding the family of the father through this uncle. At this point, we aren't looking toward the boys going to live with anyone, we just so want them to have family who can be a part of their lives, even if it's small. They, of course, would love that too. I am praying that God will open doors to reunite this family if that is in their best interest. I am so excited!

The rest of this week we will be investigating other boys whom we have little to no information on. I know some of these situations might be difficult so it is my sincerest prayer that God will lead us to them if it will be beneficial for the boys to find family. Please pray with me as well!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

I love having company!

My friends Sunhee and Sylvia were just here with me for a whirlwind week and it was lovely! Sunhee and her husband Benjamin are pastors at Living Hope Christian Center in Emeryville, Ca. Sylvia is the overseer of the Missions Department. This is the third time they've both been here! They always come ready to bless me, the kids and the long-term missionaries. And what a great job they do! This photo is from the Ladies Night in Air Conditioning! They rented a suite and a room at a local hotel and we had dinner and a movie in AC - it was so fun. They brought jewelery and gave gifts and four ladies got to stay the night in the hotel. They purchased gift certificates for a massage, mani/pedi for the other ladies! They really know how to pamper us. Look out for another post with a photo of my fridge/freezer: they stocked me up on prepared meals so I can make dinner in a snap! Yum! Thanks Living Hope for sending such prepared and equipped teams to minister all over the world! (You can check out Living Hope at )

Friday, February 09, 2007

The good old summertime!

It's HOT! Did I mention it is HOT? Because it's really HOT! I'm ready for it NOT to be HOT! February is the HOTtest month in Mozambique so my only consolation is, that the end is near. Please. One of my pastors at Living Hope in Emeryville (she and her husband co-pastor), Sunhee, and the missions coordinator, Sylvia, were just here for a week and a half. They totally spoiled me and paid for everything I happened to buy while they were here, including this pool for my boys. If you look close, you can see there are actually two pools, one inside the other. That's cuz the old one is ruined and too much duck tape has already been applied, so we bought a new one and I thought putting it in the old one will offer a little protection - we'll see. You need a lot of protection from 40 boys! Aren't they handsome??? Anyone wanna come swim? Just remember, it's HOT!!!