Sunday, January 27, 2008


So it's four o'clock in the morning and I hear this strangJanuary 2008 003e meow.  Didn't even think it was one of my cats!  So I turned on the light and there's PussPuss with her prize catch, a rat - at the time with his head still attached.  Having shown me, she then proceeded to bite the head off of it!  Well, it wasn't long after that before the whole thing was finished off without a bit of anything left behind!

I guess I should consider it a progress of manners that she woke me with a meow - last month, I awoke to the crunch, crunch, crunch of bones!

I really don't think these rats live in my house.  I've never seen droppings, or shreddings or heard scurryings.  I think she catches them outside and brings them as presents.  Such a thoughtful girl! 

Friday, January 25, 2008

My Selso is back home

Selso on New Years Day Selso gave me quite a scare recently.  He ran away two weeks ago, on Tuesday, January 8th.  I'll tell you the end of the story first - we found him two weeks later, on Tuesday the 22nd, Praise GOD! 

We found Selso on the street before he came to live with us almost two years ago.  Last year, he talked about wanting to go back, and I had written a group email asking people to pray for him. 

On Tuesday the 8th, he and all the other boys from Room 2 were in my house and we were arranging their clothes bag they were going to be taking with them when they moved to the next dorm that evening.  I was giving them all new underwear, shoes, sandals, and shirts. 

Right in the middle of giving them these gifts, Selso and another boy, Nelson, left my house and went and stole another boy's peanut butter (the New Year's Day gift).  I was very angry when I found out, that right while they are being blessed, they are stealing!  They knew I was angry as well.  I said that I wasn't going to give them the new clothes that day, they could have them later but I wasn't going to give them gifts when they are stealing.  So they had to leave my house while I continued sorting out the other boys' clothes.  But they were welcome to come to the little leaving party we were having at 4.

When it was time for out little party, Nelson was there but Selso was no where to be found.  The Tias went and looked for him but couldn't find him.  It was my night to go into the city so I spent my whole evening searching the streets for him.  I knew he was angry, he never apologized although Nelson had, and he left very mad.  Sadly, I didn't find him.

Over the next two weeks, I spent many afternoons and evenings driving the streets, talking to street kids, looking everywhere I could think for him.  Our pastors on street ministry were looking for him as well. 

On Tuesday the 22nd, a friend, Sarah, was going on Street Ministry.  I was going to the city as well.  She said "see you tomorrow" and I replied, "see you tonight when you call me to tell me you guys have found Selso!"  And at about 5:15, my phone rang and they had spotted him!  Sadly, he had run, and the pastors ran after him but didn't catch him.

But I went to the area and just walked around, sat at a cafe and ate a cookie, hid in bushes, waiting to see if he would re-appear, etc.  After about 1 1/2 hours, he did!  And when I approached him, thankfully, he didn't run!  But he wasn't happy to see me either.  He wouldn't let me hug him and barely replied to anything I asked.  He wouldn't let me buy him dinner (we were in front of KFC) or even a coke, or even sit down on the curb with me.  So we stood for over an hour, me trying to persuade him to come home with me, or at least let me take him home.  (He was insisting he was staying with an aunt which I knew wasn't true and indeed, it wasn't.)  Selso's birthday party

He started to walk away when three guards who'd been watching us starting talking with him.  While they were, I called the pastor on street ministry and told him I was with Selso if he wanted to come back.  The guards were behaving fairly typically, issuing lots of warnings about life on the street, one even said if he refused to go with me, he couldn't come there any more (a prime location for kids who beg as a lot of foreigners eat at KFC) to try and make money, he would beat him if he saw him again.  But one was very kind, bent down to Selso's level and began talking to him about God, saying he knew that inside Selso wanted to go home but that the devil was telling him "no, stay on the street" and that he should listen to what God was telling him instead.  He was very kind.

While he was talking with him, the pastor arrived and tried to just talk normally with Selso but he refused and acted like he was going to leave.  Ultimately, the pastor just picked him up and forcibly carried him to the van, Selso crying, kicking and screaming all the way.  He even tore the pastor's pants!  They forced him into the van where he made a fuss all the way home (30 minutes!).

The interesting thing is, they had found two brothers, 7 and 8, very little, on the street who had been there over two weeks.  So they were in the van being brought back into the center where we can investigate their situation.  I can only imagine what they were thinking when it looked like Selso was being kidnapped!  But Sarah said they just fell asleep on the way back to the center. 

Although I had misgivings about using force, in a way, I think it showed Selso that we were going to do whatever was necessary for him to be safe, that we loved him and we were going to push through the barrier he had put up.  I think small children (he's about 10) who act like that really want someone to pursue them and not give up, perhaps even force them to do what they can't choose for themselves.  At least that's me looking on the bright side!Selso in shades, Children's Day

When he came home, he still refused to stay. I told him I had his clothes and bracelet and at least come up to the dorm to get his things, then we could take him back if he really wanted to.  All of us had agreed we weren't going to lock him in, we're not a prison.  So I finally coaxed him to let go of the kinesu fence he was clinging to, and amazingly, he let me take his hand and walked with me to the dorm.  One of our Mozambican men who is part of our staff and a good buddy to Selso was talking with him as well and really was the most instrumental in helping him calm down. 

We arrived in the dorm where the Tias were so happy to see him.  They greeted him as though he'd just come home fairly normally, said "let's go take a shower" because he hadn't showered or changed his clothes since he'd left.  Then he sat down in front of the worship DVD they were watching and ate some bread they gave him.  When he fell asleep in front of the TV, I said just leave him, wake him when you go to bed and perhaps he'll be too sleepy to refuse!  Which is what happened and he went to bed like normal.

The next day was quite touch and go.  I felt like we were doing an awkward dance.  In the morning, he had refused to eat and I sat on the step with him where he refused to talk to me as well.  It struck me that this is what God deals with all the time and has for thousands of years!  He offers love and care and only wants what's best for someone and how often people refuse to respond or even to look at him!  So I asked God to help me love Selso like he loves us in those situations and what that would look like.  I felt like it would look like continuing to offer that love, regardless of the response.  So I just sat with him, until my Head Tia arrived who made some small progress with him. 

She brought him to my house where he sat very distantly most of the morning, us making baby steps toward one another, me afraid to push him away, him undoubtedly afraid to show any sign of opening up.  At one point, I turned to him and said "Selso, I so wish I could speak to you in English because I'm afraid perhaps sometimes I say things the wrong way in Portuguese.  But I really, really, really want you to stay.  It's so nice to have you here and I've missed you.  I just want you to know that."  Again, I was just trying to offer him love with no expectation of response. 

My main strategy was to get him involved in things.  So he helped sweep my house, helped me make salad, helped set up the chairs and tables for the Afternoon Program, etc.  When it was time for lunch, the Tias called him but he said he wouldn't eat.  I offered he could eat in my house but he said no.  A few minutes later I had stepped out and came back and said "Selso, it's beans!"  All the boys know beans are my favorite!  I asked would he go get me a plate and if he wanted to bring in a plate, he should feel free.  And he did!!  That was a huge victory.

I knew we'd finally turned the corner when it was shower time and the Tias called him to go shower.  He went without a fuss and afterward, standing in his towel, he asked "Mana Laura, can I go in your house and get my bag of clothes?" I said sure!  When he returned, he dressed then plunked his bag down with the other boys', right where it belongs!  It may have been internal but my "Thank You Jesus!" may have been one of the loudest I've ever shouted!

It's been two full days now and he shows no sign of leaving.  We're taking baby steps in talking about everything.  it seems that one of the reasons he left is being afraid of moving to the next dorm.  For now he's staying in my dorm and we haven't decided if he can stay for the next year, or should move up as planned.  We need God's wisdom on this.  It might be a good time for me to learn a lesson about grace over principles. 

I am so thankful he is home!  Honestly, for two solid weeks EVERY SINGLE TIME my cell phone rang or I got a message, I would think "maybe someone's found Selso!"  He was never off my mind. 

Searching for him on the streets just made me so aware how little he has and who would look for him if I didn't?  it made me sad all over again that he doesn't have his own family looking out for him.  While I was looking behind buildings, I noticed how many mosquitos there were and I thought, "who would help him if he got malaria?  would he just die from it?"  I don't know what all happened during those two weeks on the street, but I know these streets are mean.  I'm praying that God will reveal anything that has happened and we'll know how to help Selso through it, as well as deal with the issues that led him there to begin with. 

Pedro, Me and SelsoSelso's closest friend is Pedro and in God's perfect wisdom, we had planned for Pedro to come visit this weekend.  He had been praying for Selso's return. 

Here we are playing a dice/bowling game, just tonight. Lovely Selso is on the right. 

Sorry for the long post!  Thank you for reading and please keep praying for Selso and all my darling boys!  And for me, for wisdom, perseverance and patience!  And faith!  And joy!  Oh, for all of the fruit of the Spirit!  I need it all!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

San Diego Super Chargers?

They'll always be that to me, even if they came up short in the AFC championship game against the Patriots. By the way, do you know that I love football? LOVE it! After searching all over for a way to watch or listen to the game online, I finally settled for's live play by play. It's not quite the same, let me tell you. But neither was the pain at watching Tom Brady take a knee the last couple plays.

I'm proud of my San Diego Chargers for a tremendous season- well done guys!

And strangely enough perhaps, I'm posting this photo in hopes that it inspires you as much as it did me. Seeing Antonio Cromartie look so absolutely perfect isn't the result of an accident. Perhaps he couldn't choreograph that exact play, but the effort and practice he puts into his craft day after day is what brings about results like this. This photo inspires me to want to work hard, practice and excel in everything I do.
(If this post seems a bit disconnected, it's probably because it's 1:30 am here, the game just ended!)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Relaxing in South Africa

Hello!  I've had the great opportunity to spend a couple days with my friend Adele who is from South Africa but living in Kenya, working with ELI as a missionary there.  Some of you might remember I celebrated my 40th birthday with Adele - you can read about it here if you forgot! 

Adele flew to South Africa just before Christmas to spend time with her family.  Terrible violence broke out in Kenya just after Christmas and Adele hasn't been able to return to her home there.  We were talking on the phone and suddenly realized "hey, let's get together!"  So we met up in Nelspruit, where I come every 4-6 weeks and where she had lived for a couple years as a child.

We've had a great time together - it's so nice to have company while on my respite in SA!  We spent an afternoon at the Botanical Gardens and the next day, drove through the beautiful Lowfeld area to a town called Hoedspruit where there is a Cheetah Rescue project.  I thought I'd see a few cheetahs but we also saw a baby rhino, a baby zebra, hundreds of vultures, two lions, grounded hornbills,  a King Cheetah, VERY rare, and . . . a tiger!  Yep, that's right, a tiger!  Yes, he's on the wrong continent but will probably live out his life in this refuge.  He was actually abandoned in Mozambique by a Portuguese circus.  Sounds bizarre and I don't think I got all the details.   But it was still wild to see him.  His growth is too stunted to release back into the wild, that's why they're not transporting him back to Asia. 

This trip, and even the beauty of the drive, was probably the highlight of what we did. But the highlight of my time was definitely just talking with Adele.  As another missionary with several more years experience than I, she is a great sounding board, encourager, resource, etc., for life on the mission field, in so many areas.  As a single woman, ministering among the poor in an African nation, even being a white missionary in a primarily black culture.  And let me not forget - just as a fellow Christian passionately pursuing God.  It was good to spend time together and it's given me lots to think and pray about!  Thank you Adele for being such a great example!  And for coming to Nelspruit!

(In addition - Adele is very techno savvy - can you tell she reminded me how to add links in my blog?!?)


Sunday, January 13, 2008

Two New Darlings

Let me introduce our two newest little ones to the dorm: Israel and Salomone. They both have lived here at the center for several years. They lived in the Baby House, then spent the last year in a new-then transition house, with seven small ones total. The idea, and it was a good one!, is to help them have some adjustment from the Baby House system to coming to live with the big boys! So far it's gone quite well.

Salomone has been a dream. Israel, a bit more of a challenge. He was actually supposed to come last year and thought not ready emotionally so we waited a year. He still has some issues that are likely not only related to where he lives. Each day, he has a least one screaming tantrum that can last up to a half hour. However, amazingly, when he calms down (usually with a cup of water he's always obedient to take, even in the midst of screaming - hmm), he almost immediately says "desculpe" and does whatever he needs to make amends. Please pray for me for patience and wisdom with Israel. You can imagine it's hard to deal with that in the midst of 30 other boys' issues!

I've just starting reading Raising Great Kids by Drs. Cloud and Townsend and during today's tantrum I kept thinking "justice and mercy, Laura, justice and mercy!"

The top is Salomone, the bottom is Israel.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

No one to kiss them good night

Perhaps the title is a bit melodramatic but that's what's making me cry tonight. Tomorrow, 13 of my boys, Room 2, the oldest ones, will be moving on to the next dorm. This happens every year in January, all the dorms switch to stay relatively age-appropriate. My age range this year has been 4-11 with one 14 year old whom we thought was younger until we found out his birthdate! I've always felt that was too big a spread and I'm totally in support of my boys moving up.

But it doesn't make it any easier to say good bye, after 3 1/2 years for me, and 7 or 8 years for some of them. Nor good night for the last time tonight. I just went and kissed or hugged them, said Boa Noite or Sweet Dreams or See You Tomorrow. But no one will be doing that for them from now on. The next dorm has one male educator at a time and the lovely missionary couple who work with the dorm don't live in it so they aren't able to just pop out at bedtime to say a quick round of good nights.

I had to quickly leave the room to cry my tears alone in my room so as to not upset them. This doesn't bode well for tomorrow's goodbye - uh oh! I've known for months and months they were going and thought I was prepared but I guess prepared and unemotional are not exactly the same thing.

This is the sort of time when I'm so aware that as much as I love what we're able to do here at Iris, this was never God's design for families. Transitions are hard for me it seems. But I pray for their future just the same and if you are praying for Adilson or Nandino, Paito or Agostino, Rafin or David, Selso or Abelo, Nelson or Inacio, Manito or Nelinho or Joshua - please continue to pray for them, every day that the the Lord brings them to mind, to become the men of God he has plans for them to be.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Bicycle Love

These boys love their bike. It's what they want to do all day, just ride up and down our small strip of concrete, about 30 feet long. They also like to fiddle with the bike, which has resulted in some damage already after only one week of use. With so many kids using it, it's hard to find specific culprits which is frustrating. But anyway, they enjoy it so much and I'm glad we have it.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Boas Entradas, 2008

Happy New Year Everyone!

Rooms 1 and 2, the bigger boys, got to watch a movie in the church with the BIG kids and they were very excited. Room 3, the Littlies, stayed home and watched one in our dorm.

About 10 pm, there were grilled sausages in the church and even the Littlies went for that, as evidenced by this photo of my littlest, Simois, whose bread and sausage is as big as his torso!

Then at midnight exactly, we had a grand fireworks show on the futball field. About half the kids ran and hid behind the school, but eventually, most of them came out and joined in the fun, usually hiding behind an adult.

New Year's Day is very important here in Mozambique, we think bigger than Christmas even. So we decided to throw a little party for my dorm. We started with wheelbarrow races, followed by crab races. Then there was parachute play, always a hit! We had a special lunch of hot dogs, apples, yogurt and a whole packet of biscuits each! I can't forget the soda either.

The fun wasn't quite over - we had a great water balloon fight in the garden and topped the whole afternoon off with a present of a small jar of peanut butter each! That was a gift from a new friend named Susan and her family. They learned about my boys through my friend Justin Fox (link in the margin) and wanted to do something to bless the boys. They gave money for peanut butter for Christmas but I wasn't able to buy it beforehand so I decided to make it a special New Year's gift instead. (They also sent three movies and there was enough money leftover after the PB to buy a VCR for the dorm as well, for Christmas! Thanks SO much guys!)

I'm excited about the New Year ahead and all that God has in store for us. I'm praying that both my life and the lives of my boys will be transformed this year by the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives!