Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Good things come in threes!

Well, what happens around here when one goes away for three days?  Apparently one returns home to three new boys, one for each day!  Although, in truth, two brothers arrived the same day!

September 2009 080 While in South Africa last week for my dental implant (which I will have to return for this Monday as the screw fell out.  No jokes here about me having a screw loose please!), I got an email from Ros saying that a new little one had arrived, a small six year old named Shelton.  His sister had arrived in the girls' dorm as well.

He is slightly malnourished so would I be able to give him the same morning porridge that I give Lucas and Domingos, a vitamin-fortified cereal?  Of course, so I threw several more bags of it into my trolley at the grocery store where I stock up.  Everything is cheaper in South Africa!

September 2009 011  Barely had I processed that when I got an email the next day saying two brothers had arrived!  Alfiado is 9, as of July 1, and his little brother, Narciso, will turn 7 on October 17!  They look exactly alike, these two cuties!

Alfiado in particular has little scars all over his body from what looks like chicken pox gone very wrong.  He has a fungal condition all over his head that is quite bad.  But, although they seem neglected, they seem to be in fairly good health.  They'll have an in-depth check-up this week and we'll see how they are.

September 2009 138I arrived back from South Africa on Friday night and met them for the first time.  Shelton, the cutest thing ever, hasn't made a peep the whole time he's been here, and barely acknowledges me.  But the brothers, after watching from the sidelines as I hugged and kissed the boys hello, shyly worked their way close to me and received my kisses and hugs with silly grins.  They have warmed up completely and are delightful!

Please pray that these precious boys will quickly feel at home here, that we can help them get healthy and fill them with love and care, straight from the Father's heart!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Faithfulness of Domingos' Father

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(The Courtship of Domingos' Father went thru my mind as a title, for all you old people like me, but I thought it might give the wrong impression!)

One of my precious little pumpkins is Domingos!  He's been living with us for two years now!  (Wow, can I insert here "where has the time gone?!?")

I've written about Domingos before but just a reminder, he came to us from another center where he wasn't really being cared for properly.  He is blind from birth, actually has no eyes, and also is developmentally delayed.  When he arrived, at nine years old, he weighed about 27 pounds!  His poor eating habits had him losing most of his food out of his nose or vomiting it up and the remainder, he would regurgitate for hours on end.  I have a theory that at the other center, he wasn't fed, he just stuck his face in his plate and ate as fast as he could before other kids could steal his food. 

Well since being with us, he still has lots of challenges but he has put on quite a bit of weight, he never vomits or has food out of his nose and he rarely regurgitates!  He's about a quarter of the way to feeding himself but needs lots of help with it. 

Although Domingos can walk, he doesn't walk by himself.  Except about once a month or so, he'll get a bee in his bonnet and suddenly stand up and walk across the room, but that's usually the extent of it!  I am hopeful though that we can help him gain some independence in walking and eating. 

The photos above are from when Domingos' father visited last week.  Domingos' mother abandoned the family before he was one year old, forcing the father to put him in a children's center because he could not provide the 24 hour care he needed and work as well.  So, his son has been in a center for ten years now!  And yet, this man still often visits Domingos.  He is, in fact, one of our most frequent family visitors.  His faithfulness is so touching to me, made all the more so by the fact that Domingos doesn't seem to know him and can't really give him much love or attention in return.  He loves a big cuddle but other than that, he gives no feedback or attention to his father who visits him so often.

It  is a precious thing to me. 

In this land of too-absent fathers and so many unwanted children, tossed to the side and seemingly easily forgotten, here is a man who loves his son, just as he is.  Who hasn't forgotten him.  He simply can't care for him in his home.

Domingos' dad cried on his last visit when he was telling me more about when Domingos was born and the difficult time he had when his mother left.  And when he said "I don't know why my son was born this way."  His pain was evident and that again is a rare thing where people stoically bear their many burdens and tears are a rare luxury, reserved for the most horrible of circumstances of death and loss. 

I was proud of Domingos' dad in that moment, as I have been many times.  Proud, but hurting for him at the same time.  How I wish I could make everything better for both of them!

In the meantime, I do what I can to care for his son, providing a safe, loving, healthy home for Domingos to grow and thrive in.  And welcoming his father whenever he wants to come and visit!May 2009 007

Monday, September 21, 2009

I'm always shutting the door in someone's face.

DSC_0725 Always.  With 29 boys, no matter how many of the boys I invite into my home (unless it was all 29, not likely!), there is another little hopeful face, wishing I would invite them in too. 

You see my home is part of the dorm, one of the four rooms off of the main room.  And most of the time, my door is indeed shut or it would be chaos from morning til night and I try to do all I can do to minimize the chaos in my chaotic life!

Shortly after moving into the dorm, over five years ago!, I felt the Lord give me the idea of having around four kids in at a time for various activities.  For example, Sun-Tues evenings after dinner, the boys either read books, color or play.  Well, I used to try and sit in the main room and color or read with them.  Remember, I have only 29 Bilene Aug 2007 005 now but have had up to 50 over the years!  Anyway, after about 3 1/2 minutes of incessant "Mana Laura, Mana Laura, Mana Laura, look at this, look at this, look at this" I had had enough and would escape to my house, annoyed with them and annoyed with myself for being  annoyed with them.

March 2009 071That's when I first had the idea to invite four or so in at a time and read or color with them.  Ah, thank you Lord for that wonderful idea.  It soon turned into inviting a few boys in at a time throughout the day, to do things together or for them just to play if I am otherwise occupied.  

September 2007 004They absolutely love it!  And I have a list of their names that I put a checkmark next to so I don't invite the same boys over and over.  And, they know if they ASK me to come in, I will invite someone else. That has put an end to 29 boys asking all day every day if they can come in!  

June 2009 097But you know what?  No matter how many or how often I have boys in, there is still someone standing on the other side, wishing I had chosen him as I close the door as gently as I can in their sweet little faces. 

And it breaks my heart. 

After all these years. 

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Mercy Air - a respite of peace!

People sometimes ask why I enjoy going to South Africa so much.  There are a number of reasons but the first one that always springs to mine is ANONYMITY!!!  With 30 little people around, not to mention the whole rest of the center, I really enjoy some time on my own to just be me without all the expectations. 

A close second would be PEACE  and QUIET!  And that's what I find in abundance at Mercy Air!  It's an aviation ministry located on a large, working farm.  One aspect of their ministry is to provide a peaceful respite for missionaries and that they do VERY well!!


Here I am upon arrival in my favorite suite, The Eagle's Nest!  It's upstairs in the main house and just feels like a hideaway.

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My favorite part of my favorite place is, of course, the bathtub!!!  With enough candles to read by and Harry Connick, Jr. providing the soundtrack, it's bliss!


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I sleep in the big bed! And I love the African decor!

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I take my breakfast here on the porch.

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A daytime view of the bath and kitchenette.

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Upon arrival . . .

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Springtime in September!

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A shot of a couple of their planes.

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See the little doggie?  He so wanted me to follow him down that path!

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The pool is a fantastic perk in the heat!

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The place is full of friendly dogs! 

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And it's so lush, I just love all the greenery.

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Another Springtime shot.

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And to leave you with, one of the local monkeys!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Making Cookies!

It's so fun to do things with the boys just one or two at a time.  During one of Pedro's visits, we made oatmeal-cranberry cookies for the dorm!  He loves learning how to cook new things!

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Just this week I had a Jose' grande' and Salamao in to make spaghetti sauce too which they loved.  Their favorite part was the sizzle of the mince as it hit the pan!  I decided to risk letting them use the can opener for the chopped tomatoes.  With only one mishap (big splatter all over the counter and wall!) which we had a good laugh about, all went well and they were delighted.

"Anema!"  they declared!  Which means something like "Yummy!"

But, I forgot to take photos!  Oops!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Um, seriously? Someone stole my WINDSHIELD???

IMG_5466Yes indeed, they certainly did.  Here's the funny thing - Tuesday evening I bought 10 chairs while I was in the city.  As I was loading them in my car, which has no trunk, I thought "I wonder if these plastic chairs will be worth someone breaking into my car?"  (Well, they cost about $120 so in fact, they really might be worth it to someone!)   I was spending the night at my friend Sarah's (whose roommate's name is also Sarah!) so there wasn't much I could do. 

So, Wednesday morning, when one of the Sarah's left for work, I raised my sleepy head off the couch and said goodbye.  Moments later, she was back.  "Uh, Laura?  I'm sorry to have to tell you this but someone has stolen your windshield."  "What?!?!" "Are you serious?"    Sadly, she was quite serious. 

IMG_5462I threw on normal clothes and ran downstairs and sure enough, this was what I saw.  What a shocker!  You can tell when a theft is out of the norm when all the people passing by do a double take and stare!  That was kinda entertaining to watch actually!

But you wanna know what is amazing???  They didn't take one single thing from the car!  They didn't even enter the car!  And the doors were still locked!  What amazes me is that not only did the windshield thieves not steal anything inside but after the fact, no one else did either.  Perhaps they thought I'd had enough for one day?

IMG_5463I had an ashtray full of money, a pair of shoes on the passenger floor, an unopened parcel (with who knows what treasures inside?!), a couple cans of Coke Light (I might have been tempted by those!), my IPOD adapter even!  Not to mention the CHAIRS!  They weren't stolen!!  So even though I'd had that thought, that's not what they broke into my car to steal!  So bizarre.  I'm actually REALLY glad they didn't steal anything inside.  They cold have taken all the things we're required to have like a jack, cables, reflective triangles, reflective vest, etc., not to mention the flashlights, umbrellas, etc.  All that sure would have added up to replace.  I really am amazed and so grateful nothing else was taken.

I'm also very fortunate they didn't take that black rubber seal you see hanging out the window.  My mechanic couldn't find another one!  Which is a bit of a bummer because the way they cut mine, it would be better to replace rather than have to glue it as he will have to do.  But, at least I have it!

IMG_5464Another little bummer is, the tax payment proof is on the windshield.  So now I will have to deal with getting that anew.  I really have no idea if I will have to pay again or if my receipt will be proof enough.  That's just an inconvenience. 

As it is, it will cost about $250 to replace it, as well as fix some rust spots around the windshield while he's at it.  That's a bummer. 

But, it wasn't my car that was stolen!  And it wasn't anything in it.  So I am counting my blessings!  And having a good laugh at such a bizarre event!

IMG_5469I'm also laughing as I remember driving the 40 minutes home without a windshield - it was quite amusing to people passing by!  Thank God it didn't rain as it looked like it could open up and pour at any minute! I made it home without even one policeman on the road looking my way, so I didn't have to stop and explain myself.  Yay! 

Now, my cute little Venture is in the trusty hands of my mechanic and I will soon be the proud owner of a brand new baby windshield!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Salada! In abundance!

In my July birthday post, I mentioned sticker shock in an American grocery store when I wanted to buy salad for my birthday dinner.  A small bunch of red leaf lettuce was $2.99!  A head of iceburg wasn't much better at about $2.50!!  I didn't end up buying the lettuce in the end, I just couldn't pay that much when I know the price of salad here, at least part of the year.  I think you'll understand why when you see the photos below!

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It's the height of lettuce and tomato season so right now, I can buy lettuce, tomato and onion enough for 35 people (that's 35!!!) for 40 mets, which is about $1.50!!!!  And not just a little salad either.  Take a look at these photos and you'll see, we all ate salada in abundance!

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Mind you, that's not the price all year round but while it is, we're eating it like it's going out of style!

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Yep, I pretty much chickened out.

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I was driving home this morning and just as I came to a part of the road that had a bit of an incline, I saw a man in a wheelchair laboring to get up the road.  It's not very steep but it is uphill and the "sidewalk" is practically non-existent, crumbling away to sand and rubble in many places.  He was moving forward using kind of a wheelie movement that looked kinda awkward and very difficult.  (Photo #1, the good part of the sidewalk.)

March 2009 154As I passed him, I was filled with compassion for him.  Life in a wheelchair anywhere I can only imagine is, to say the least, tricky, but here in Mozambique?  I cannot even imagine.  As my eyes filled with tears I thought, "I will never complain again."  Which I did stick with until at least four hours later by the way!  But then I remembered how seeing him had made me realize how little I have to complain about really and gave myself a quick attitude adjustment.  (Photo #2, a strip in the middle of the sidewalk gone and a roadside stand just barely visible to the left.)

After I passed the man, a minute or so ahead, there was a car parked up on the "sidewalk!"  And then another!  It's a busy, narrow road and I thought, "what will he do?"  I wanted to stop and help but as I said, it's narrow and busy.  (Photo #3, the sidewalk disappears and only sand is left against the curb.)

March 2009 155As I turned the corner onto the next road I decided, "Right, I'm going to stop and go back and see if I can help.  I can offer a push or a ride."  Then I thought this scary thought:  "Or I could pray for him."

Uh, what kind of prayer?  The "Lord bless this man" prayer or the "Get out of your wheelchair and walk" kind of prayer.  After all, that is how Jesus often healed people.  And I do believe he still heals today.  And he promises us we will do greater things in his name than he did.  But I have to confess, that made me quite nervous. 

So as I was walking back to him (it would have taken me ages in the traffic to get my car turned around and back to him) I said "Lord, I don't really know what I'm doing here, please show me!"  I was willing, or thought I was, to pray for him even.

When I got to him, he was nearly at the top of the incline.  I asked where he was going, was it far, and could I help and he said he was going to church which was just up ahead on the other side of the traffic signal.  He thanked me for the offer of a push but had reached the level part by then and didn't need it.    

Well folks, perhaps I would have chickened out of praying for him anyway but something about him going to church just stopped me in my tracks.  For some reason it made it harder to offer to pray for him rather than easier. 

So, I chickened out.  I said "God bless you" and "have a good day" and walked back to my car.  I will pray for him now instead of with him.  I'm not proud of that.  And I'm not sure what made it more intimidating because he was on his way to church.  I can assume he would have welcomed prayer.  It's giving me something to think about. 

And pray about:  Lord Jesus, make me more like you!

(It just occurred to me that many readers might find it strange that I would offer to help a disabled stranger on the street, perhaps offensive.  But here in this culture, strangers do help each other with things all the time.  It's one of the most beautiful parts of this culture and one I am still learning to incorporate into my life.)

(Another paranthetical thought: these photos are of the actual street, the flat part of it, but were taken some time ago.  So they just serve to give a small idea, not the whole picture!)

Friday, September 04, 2009

There's still enough winter weather lingering around here for a cat nap!

August 2009 001This is one of my cats, Puss Puss, whom I didn't name by the way.  I always give that disclaimer.  I even tried to start calling her CousCous but I've never managed to get in the habit!

It's quite warm here during the day usually but still chilly at night so I've got these throw blankets on my bed.  I left them rumpled today because I didn't want to disturb my kitty from her cat naps!  I did however want to join her.  Sadly, I wasn't able to.  Another day perhaps!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

And then there were 29!


2009-09-02 September 2009 Remember little Jose' whom I just wrote about a few days ago?  Well, sad for me but happy for him, he is going to live in another dorm on the center today. 

He is only four years old which makes him too old for the Baby House but too young for my house.  September 2009 003

Vella's house was established with kids like him in mind, but she's also taken some special needs kids so we all thought she had a full plate.  She came to me this week and asked if I knew why he was with me and not her and I said I didn't except September 2009 002perhaps everyone thinks she's full.  Well, the upshot is, he is going to live with her!  It's wonderful really because there are now 7 boys total, instead of my 30, and he'll get lots more one-on-one attention and care.  I think he will just blossom there!

We will miss him though, especially Feliciano who he plays with every morning.  But, he's only about 50 yards away so we'll still see plenty of him!


Here he is with his new little September 2009 007brothers!  They are very excited to have him, want to know when his birthday is and make sure Vella tells the kitchen that they need more food now!  Such practical things on little boys' minds!


Please pray for little Jose' that he will thrive there, physically and emotionally!

(Ps: Just practicing with the photo collage at the top!)

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

I love Soup!

On a blog I read, the writer asked "what's your favorite part of your kitchen?"  And although my kitchen is nothing to brag about, I love it, even though it's tiny, tiny!  But I replied that my favorite part must be my CrockPot, perhaps because it took three years to get permission to have it!

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Here's my kitchen in all it's glory, just a little section of the wall in the main room.  I'm standing in my bedroom taking the photo.  Behind the door is the sink, that's all you don't see.  There is a round table just out of the photo to the left.  See the spot between my trusty crock-pot and the blue cutting board in the dish drainer?  That's my counter space!  In this photo, there's a loaf of bread filling the space!

Anyhoo, back to my love of soup!  Soups are one of my favorite things to eat so therefore, the CrockPot (or slow-cooker if you prefer) is one of my favorite things to cook with!  It's still winter-enough around here that I can eat soup with abandon!

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This was last nights soup:

Zucchini Soup with Oven Croutons

(rumored to be Katherine Hepburn's favorite recipe!)

I had to show off my CrockPot in the photo too!

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I did add a dollop of sour cream but it sank right into the soup, leaving only a teensy bit of cilantro for garnish.  I knew I didn't have enough zucchini and I guess that's why it turned out a bit thin but still spicy and delicious!

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Because I love my CrockPot so much, you might guess I have a fav cookbook to go with it.  Here it is:

"Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Recipes For Two"

What really caught my eye was the line on the back that says "showcases fresh, wholesome ingredients rather than relying on packaged, convenience foods." Oh good!  Because we don't have too many packaged, convenience foods here so I thought I might actually be able to make most of the recipes.  And indeed I have!

And, because it's for two, I always have just enough for some leftovers or to invite over a friend!

The soup for tonight?

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Cauliflower Soup!

"Served with French bread (which unfortunately I don't have!), this is French peasant food at it's most elemental!"  I love that description!

On the menu for tomorrow night?

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Yep, without the tortillas!

(Many thanks to my trusty immersion blender without which none of these soups would be possible!)