Saturday, September 29, 2007

Abelo

My darling Abelo has lost his mom. One of the saddest things about that is, truly, he barely had her. Abelo and his three older brothers have been living in our center for about six years now. I'm not positive about before I moved in but in the three years I've been in the dorm, he visited her for the first time this July. The oldest two brothers, 18 and 16, had been reintgrated in July, meaning they had gone back to live with their mom. During school holidays, Abelo and his next older brother went to stay for the five weeks. They spent a lot of time at their aunt's house but also were with their mom and we were all hopeful about a relationship being built between them again. I think Abelo was actually hopeful that maybe he could go live at home as well. He is a wounded little boy, with lots of barriers around his heart that he sometimes let's down and I was excited at seeing how this process was helping him.

Sadly, his mom passed away yesterday and the funeral was today. While I prepared to go to the funeral, I found out it had already started (it was supposed to start at 3 and it was only 1). So I couldn't have my friend Larry meet me anywhere to show me the way since he was at the funeral already. I called my head educator, Eliza Julieta, who is on holiday now, to tell her about it and - ridiculously - ask her if she could EXPLAIN to me where he lived (we're talking dirt roads, turn at the traintracks, then the twisted tree sort of directions) and she said she'd go with me. Vella went as well. I'm so grateful to EJ because I really wanted to go and couldn't have if she didn't drop everything to go as well. Abelo was so glad to see us. He wasn't crying when we arrived but then he just cried and cried. It's not encouraged to cry here really, but Vella and I always tell the boys it's ok to cry when they're sad, so I think he felt free to cry once he was in our arms.

When we arrived, the burial was over but there was still a service at the house, under a large tree. So we were able to pay our respects, I even said a brief word. I just said I didn't know her but know her beautiful boys who have such lovely hearts so I know she must have been lovely as well and that I was very sorry for their loss. Then we were all served lunch, rice and beans, that neighbor ladies spent all morning cooking for all the people. Larry walked us over to the grave, a few hundred yards away, with two of the four boys, Abelo chose not to go again. One of the things they do here is all the attendees break off a piece of a plant and put it in the fresh dirt covering the grave. Then it will grow and have plants covering it. So me, Vella and Eliza Juliet did that ourselves. While I was at her grave, I thought, Lord Jesus, please help me to have a passion to share your truth with more and more people so that no one should die without knowing you and your love. I don't know what she believed but she didn't go to church which here is fairly indicative of if a person believes in Jesus or not.

An amazing example of the strength of community life here in Mozambique: while we were walking back from the grave, a man passed and began talking to Bebe, Abelo's oldest brother. He explained that his mother was Bebe's mother's neighbor in the north, where she was from. So he offered to get in touch with his mom to tell her what happened so she could tell any remaining family of the mother still living in that community that might not know. I just shook my head in wonder at the close-up view of what's called the Bush Telephone.

My last thought on the funeral: Abelo's grandmother is still alive and had been living with her daughter. As I sat with her and several of her friends, while the men all sat on their side of the tree, and looked at their weather-beaten faces, thinking "she can't be more than 55 or so and looks so much older" I thought how tragic it is in any culture for a parent to bury their child, but how surprising it is here in Mozambique to bury an adult child when the life expectancy rate is so low. This is one of the tolls of AIDS, which is stealing the middle generations.

Abelo just surprised me by coming home a few minutes ago. I thought he was going to stay with family until tomorrow. He's lived here for years so I guess this is just home to him. Tia Raquel knocked on the door to let him enter and he just fell into my arms crying again. We prayed for him and sat and talked for awhile. Meanwhile, four other boys were in my bedroom watching Inspector Gadget on my TV for the Saturday Night Sleepover. So I invited Abelo to join them which he did. I think being the center of 40 plus boys attention is a little overwhelming. So he'll sleep over tonight as well, even though he's in Room 2, not Room 1! He's joined them for popcorn and coke and although he's cried a few more times while sitting there, I think he's glad for the distraction.

I am praying God comforts his heart and helps me know how to comfort him as well.
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Festival Gastronomica!

Last Saturday, me and some friends went into the city to participate in the Festival Gastronomica. By "participate" I mean EAT! I wanted to support Maputo's foray into city celebrations and thought it would be fun to take three of my boys, a couple missionaries and my friends Dario and Rita. Super fun - it was their first anniversary, and even though I had attended their wedding, I had forgotten the day. So it was a nice day out for them. The city blocked off the street along the marginal so we were near the bay. It was a lovely, sunny day, there was live music and lots of people. I was really pleased to see that the majority of people were Mozambicans, rather than foreigners. We did at one point think that it was a bit risky to eat food at a street fair in Mozambique and thought we might end up at a favorite restaurant but thought it was worth checking out. We had the most yummy grilled chicken, lots of salads and xima, a corn-based type of porridge, well, kinda. It was a lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon!


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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I hate saying goodbye . . .

I remember the night I met him ~ I was having dinner with friends and the chefes (youth who help in the dorms) to appreciate their work when one of the members of our street ministry team walked in with a litle boy with a huge belly. (I would later discover his huge smile as well!)He looked to be about six years old. His name was Albano Paulo. They explained that the police had found him but hadn't been able to find his family and would we take him in to our center? Of course, we would! That was almost three years ago.

Several times we tried to find Albano's home and family, always coming to dead ends. He seemed to have lots of information but we never found anyone. He told us last week that he had lied to us in the past but now he was ready to tell us truly where his family was. He's been in a lot of trouble in the last month, stealing excessively and lying even when caught red-handed, and he said it was so we would want to take him home. That doesn't completely make sense because we wanted to find his family. Also, there may be some truth to it but Albano has had a serious history of stealing and I think he was coming up with an excuse for this latest round.

Regardless, the home visit staff decided to take him last week and see if he could indeed show him where he lived. AND HE DID! He directed them right to the house and walked right in. There was much celebrating by family and neighbors, all of whom thought he had died. So sad. So Albano stayed through the weekend and came home Sunday night. It was arranged that he would go home every weekend and would move home in November when school is over.

Sadly, that wasn't enough for Albano. Yesterday, he decided to steal a pastor's camera as well as our head administrators two flash drives, containing financial information of the ministry amongst other things. Praise God, he was caught trying to sell the items in front of the center so they were recovered.
The director of the children's center, Felipe, decided that Albano needed to go home today rather than wait til the end of school because he is quite likely to continue trying to steal things before he leaves. Which means he won't finish school and will likely have to repeat next year when he only had one month to go. It also means we weren't able to properly celebrate with him before he left but we did send him off with prayers and lots of hugs this morning at breakfast. He's in the orange/white jumper.

We are full of joy and praise to God that Albano has been reunited with his family but our celebration is definitely dampened by the circumstances he's left under. My Educators (Tias) are very concerned that he will steal in his community which may have much more severe consequences for him.

Please pray that Albano will be welcomed smoothly back into his family and that the stronghold of stealing will be broken off of him. I spoke to him and prayed for him that he wouldn't "leave Jesus here at the center" but rather would take Him with him in his life, back to his family and community. Please pray that Albano will truly learn to surrender his heart and life to the Lord Jesus and walk with him all the days of his life!

Here's Albano with his favorite friend, Feliciano. F will sure miss Albano's tender loving care!

I'll miss my little darling Albano too ~ I really hate saying goodbye . . .





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Saturday, September 15, 2007

Visiting Thabo at the Hospital

Our little Thabo has been in the hospital three months now. I confess there have been times when I've left his bedside that I thought I might never see him again. But although these photos show how devastated his little eight-year old body has been, I am confident that his spirit and will are strong and he has turned a corner so to speak. This banana was only the second time he'd eaten solid food in two months but the next day he began

eating soup! (If you can call that "solid" food!) He is delighted as he asks every day for pipoca (popcorn or salty snack), potatoes, meat - anything but the milk he's been drinking eight times a day. It's fortified milk for malnourished children and he was not responding as well as they wanted which is why he was on it so long.

This visit was also the second time he's been out of his hospital room. I think this is huge part of him feeling better and more spirited. He loves being outside and who can blame him?

Ultimately, I know that God created Thabo for a purpose and he knows the numbers of the days of his life. He knows the plans He has for him, and they are good. Please pray for Thabo that God will continue to sustain his life and fill him with hope and joy! Please also pray for my Educators who have been with him 24 hours a day for the last three months. They take turns with 24 hour shifts, sitting on a hard, metal chair and sleeping on a corner of his bed. I pray God blesses them richly for this act of service and love.




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Friday, September 14, 2007

Elidio and the mumps!

Well, I realized as I began this entry that I haven't yet introduced you to Elidio! He came about three weeks ago. His older sister is living in our girls area as well. He has three older siblings who have stayed at home. His mother is disabled, only walking on her hands and knees. One night recently, her husband was mad at her so he threw boiling water on her. He's run away now. So we agreed to take the two youngest children while she recovers - she'll need her older children to help her. We are hopeful that Elidio and his sister will be able to return to be with their mom.

This week, Elidio came down with Mumps! One night, Antonio was at my door, with a big and sore throat - the next morning, three more boys knocked at my door with the same symptoms, one at a time. I thought "uh-oh! - mumps!" Praise God, no one else has yet to come down with it but it can take six to twelve days to appear.

When he's well, I'll have to post another photo when he doesn't have a donut around his neck!
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