Monday, November 30, 2009

So, are they all orphans?

October 2009 025 Many people wonder where our children come from and often ask if they are all "true' orphans.  They are not.  In fact, we prefer to call ourselves a Children's Center rather than an Orphanage.  But the name still conjurs up children with no parents at all. 

The reality is, our center encompasses a wide range of children who would be in the Social Services system in the United States.  But because countries like Mozambique rarely have a foster care system or a very developed adoption system, children most often end up in children's centers.

Our children come to live with us for a large variety of reasons. 

*Full orphans with no known parents or family.

*Parents are deceased or unknown and the extended family can't or won't provide for them.October 2009 035

*One or both parents are known and "in the picture" but can't or won't provide for them.

*One or both parents are "in the picture" but the children have been removed from the home by the police or social welfare.  This can be for as many reasons as you can imagine:  sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect, alcoholism, mental illness, prostitution, abandonment, etc. 

One of the saddest scenarios of how our children arrive is when the mother meets a new man and he doesn't want another man's children.  That can result in the children being kicked out of the house outright or in neglect or abuse until the children leave on their own or someone contacts the authorities and the children are removed.  This is heartbreaking.  Obviously, it is hard to imagine how a mother can allow this but often women feel like they have no choice and often have children with the new partner that they need to care for as well. 

September 2009 009 This scenario also sheds some light on why we have so many more boys than girls, about 3-1.  The girls in Mozambican culture do all of the housework, the cooking, cleaning, carrying water, collecting wood, gardening, etc.  So females are handy to have around.  And, they are not as threatening to a man as another man's sons are.  Also, boys are more likely to leave home to try and make it on their own at a younger age than girls are. 

As I write these things, they seem so stark and harsh.  And they are.  But they are also complex and shaded and have a lot more elements to them than I could hope to communicate here, or even understand. 

So if you are stirred as you read this, take it as motivation to pray with compassion that parents hearts would be returned to their children.  The vast majority of Mozambicans love their children with the same love and commitment as you would find anywhere in the world.  It's simply that the population that we interact with are broken and lost and their children pay the price, just as they do anywhere in the world.

By the way, we have a very aggressive Reintegration Program, June 2009 102 actively trying to find family members who will take responsibility for their children.  We strongly believe that the best place for these kids is with their families, in their communities and their own culture.  Every year, many children are able to be reunited with their families and although it's hard to say goodbye, it's almost always with great joy and rejoicing that they leave!

I will always count my time in Mozambique as one of the greatest privileges of my life.  The opportunity to obey God in trying to live out James 1:27 - "looking after orphans  . . . in their distress" is such an amazing adventure that I wouldn't trade for anything.   

As long as He calls me here, I will continue to trying to love and care for "the least of these" with my whole heart.  Someone once prayed for me that God would use me to be a bridge between what these boys "should" have had (loving parents who provide for all of their needs) and the reality of what they have (abandoned, abused, rejected) and I love trying to live that prayer out.

June 2009 004The good news is that our Lord is the Father to the Fatherless and the Lord also promises He will set the lonely into families.  What wonderful news!  Please pray with me that this scripture will be fulfilled in our ministry!

Thanks for reading this edition of More Information Mondays!  This and other Frequently Asked Questions will be saved on the right margin for new readers of my blog!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Tchau, Zecca!

September 2009 165 Even though I'm in the US of A, life carries on in Mozambique.  Hmm, who decided that?  Anyway, one of my little darlings, Zecca, went home to live with his mom this week.  Although I will miss him - he is a doll! - I am delighted for them both!

Really, it was kind of a mix-up that he came in the first place.  He was brought in with his little sister and his twin nieces, who are only a couple years younger than him.  The twins are definitely malnourished and weren't being cared for properly but when I saw Zecca, I couldn't figure out why he had come to live with us as well because he looked (and was determined to be) very healthy and well taken care of. 

Because he'd already changed schools and all, it was decided to keep him with us until summer holidays which began in the beginning of November.  August 2009 011

So now he will go back to live with his mom.  Who knows the purposes of God in allowing him to come live with us for a few months?  I pray that he has come to know in his heart that God loves him with an amazing Father's heart - so much that he sent his son Jesus to be his Savior and Lord.  As I write this, I am reminded that I first accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior when I was nine, not much older than Zecca is.  So I pray that God has captured Zecca's heart, never to let go! 

Please pray for him with me, for this and for his reintegration into his family life and away from us and our center.  I will sure miss him!

Monday, November 23, 2009

So, are you a teacher?

Nope, I'm not a teacher!  Children's Day June 1 2006I'm a mom. Or, I should say, I try to be a  mom to my boys.  Naturally, with between 26 to 50 boys over the years, it's a little impossible to really be a mom to that many boys.  But that is what God has put on my heart for these darling little boys that He has entrusted to my care. 

Those of you who read this blog who are moms will then be able to identify with me when I say how difficult it is to answer the follow-up question - "So, what do you do all day?"

Here's my attempt to answer that question:

1.  Provide peanut butter and milk powder for Paulo and the other boys with special nutrition needs.

2.  Give Lucas his cup of fortified water - which takes about 20 minutes!  Lots of chatting and cuddles are involved.

DSC_11473.  Read books with Feliciano (and hand out books in the evening  after dinner).

4.  Greet Shondino with a big hug after school (the first of about 100 more hugs thru the day!)

5.  Look at Pedro's schoolwork (and all the other boys thrusting their worksheets into my hands!).

6.  Have a long, involved conversation with Aurelio about where his underwear is (thrown away because of embarrassment due to an accident instead of brought home to clean).  The first of about 35 other conversations about naughty behavior.

7.  Talk with Afonso about why he is angry with Gasper (he took his car) and how he can make other choices besides hitting.

DSC_06978.  Notice Israel is distant and upset again and pray that God will touch his hard and angry heart (one of about 50 other prayers for the boys thru the day).

9.  Choose  Elidio and Armandinho to set up the chairs and tables for the Afternoon Program.

10.  Prepare for the Afternoon program.  Do the Afternoon Program.

11.  Give the skateboard to Zequito with Room 3 playing in the garden.

12.  Put a band aid on Narciso's wound (one of about 10 band aids I will put on thru the day).

13.  Take Shelton to the clinic to check on his skin fungus (one of many trips to the clinic during the week).

14.  Ask Lito to help Armandino learn how to write his name (one of many efforts to help my boys write their names as well as learning to read and write).

Anglina looking at Ivo 15.  Chat with Ivo's mom who has stopped by for a visit.  Pray for the 1000th time that they will be reunited someday.  (one of a few visits by family during the month).

16.  Look for ways to encourage Alfiado, the new boy, to join in with the other boys rather than stay off on the sidelines.

17.  Invite Dioniso in to help me sharpen pencils when he is having trouble regulating his mood with his friends.

18.  Inflate a soccer ball for Salamao (one of at least five a day!).

19.  Have a chat with Estevao about why he cannot A. ask visitors for money, B. take toys from other boys, C. stay out a half hour past shower time or any of another 50 things I routinely have to confront him on.  (By the way, he is delightful as well, just naughty - a lot!).

October 2009 019 20.  Invite Pai in to play with his sister, Fatima (one of several times a week I invite siblings in to play to keep their connections strong).

21.  Call the head educator over to deal with Salamone's out of control behavior, when he doesn't respond to me or any of the Tias.

22.  Tell Jerome he is one of the cutest boys I've ever seen (one of about 100 comments like this I will make thru the day!).

23.  Marvel at God's transformative power in Antonio's life after digging tens and tens of little wormy eggs out of his fingers and toes when he first arrived, malnourished and neglected  (one of about 100 times a day I will marvel at what God is able to do).

IMG_6238 24.  Jump on the trampoline with brothers Daniel and Simois (one of many times thru out the day I will spontaneously join the boys in whatever play they are involved in at the moment).

25.  Ask Joao' not to mess up my "very carefully arranged" ponytail, (one of about 100 times a day I will have to ask HIM to stop that!).

26.  Have a heart to heart with Marcos or Manito or Chico or any of about 50 boys who used to live in the dorm but have moved up but still stop in regularly to touch base.

27.  Throw a party for Zecca to send him off with lots of love and prayer as he is reunited with his family.

28.  Give Joao Macamo the extra food for Lucas and Domingos that they get every lunch and dinner to help put some weight on their tiny bodies.

29.  Cuddle with Domingos, my blind and developmentally delayed boy who loves him some snuggling!

30.  Kiss Jose' goodnight (the last of about 100 kisses thru the day!).

Thrown into the mix:  plan monthly birthday parties, shop for the extra food I give out 3-5 times a week in the dorm, pop some popcorn for the Friday night movie, give out the candy on a birthday, attend Christmas 2008 163staff meetings and church services galore, take kids off the center for a walk to the market or to play in the park, clothes handouts, shoe  handouts, present arranging for Christmas and birthdays, "physical therapy" sorts of interactions for Lucas and Domingos, conversations with Tias about how to handle some situation . . .

The list could go on and on but I think you get the idea - I do Mom stuff!

And that wraps up this week's "More Info Mondays!"

Thursday, November 19, 2009

So, how did you end up over in Mozambique anyway?

me pedro samito fran 2003Ever since I was a teenager, I have been wanting to work "someday" at an orphanage.  I just always had a heart for kids who were  abandoned, abused or neglected.  It certainly seemed a far-off dream.


(me with Francisco, Samito and Pedro my first Christmas in 2003)

Somewhere in the years after I was a teen, I heard a few times that "every Christian should give at least a year of their life to missions."  Whether or not that is true for everyone, it made sense to me and I thought "someday I'd like to spend a year at an orphanage!"

In 2000, I was working at Vanguard University, a Christian university in Southern California.  I spoke with our missions coordinator and shared that I wanted to lead a team of students to an orphanage.  Our school had already gone two years to an orphanage in Mozambique so he suggested I go there or find one of my choosing.  Mozambique was fine with me, it wasn't the where - it was the WHO!

So in June of 2000, I led a team of 16 college students to Mozambique.  From the moment I arrived, my heart was captured!  I fell in love with the kids and knew I wanted to return someday.  I knew that the time was near when God would be taking me away from all that was comfortable and familiar to being a new adventure of faith. 

That "someday" arrived in 2003 when I left my job and apartment, family and friends for "a year!"  Well, it's been almost seven years now and my heart is more captured than ever!

Well, this is where I end the first installment of a new feature called "More Info Mondays" where I answer Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) which I will save to the right margin for when new readers discover my blog.  I know, it's not Monday, but I haven't had internet access!

What dream of yours might God want to fulfill if you trust him enough to allow him???  Just some food for thought!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Isn't She Lovely?

France in the Fall! 028It's been so nice to have a visit with my mom and she is looking fantastic!  She's doing quite well too, after a brief stay in the hospital last week which gave me a scare.  She had a temperature so they admitted her to keep an eye on it.  They never did determine the exact cause but she didn't have the flu or pneumonia so we were grateful for that.

Since being released, she hasn't felt quite her normal self but a doctor's visit confirmed our suspicion that it was the extra meds as well as the flu shot that was to blame.  Since stopping the meds, she has felt fine again. 

One new troubling concern is she has felt quite wobbly this week, as well as having what she calls "brain pain", different from a headache, which she's had for months now.  An MRI has ruled out any spread of the cancer and so they have referred her to a neurologist to see about neuropathy, a possible side-effect of the chemo.  

So, in spite of all those things, I think she is doing fantastic!  Please France in the Fall! 030 keep her in your prayers thru this winter.  The cold and flu season is no good for her lowered immune system and the gloomy weather just makes it harder to get out and about.  The winter can be long and boring for her. 

Good thing she'll have me to pester her with daily phone calls til December at least! 

Love you so much Mom!  Thanks for being my biggest cheerleader!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Black Bean Soup - yum!

October 2009 001 Almost every time I talk with someone about food, I tell them about my yummy Black Bean soup!  I haven't tried any other recipes, there might well be others even better but I love the one I make.  If I make a big batch, I eat it every day 'til it's gone and never get tired of it! 

It can be served hot with lots of cilantro and sour cream or it can be served cold with some yogurt and a dash of cumin, perfect for hot weather days - I can still get my soup fix!

Since I've told so many people about it - and often promised to provide the recipe but then forget - I thought I'd write it out here.  Try it sometime, it's so easy and so yummy!

It comes from a fantastic little book I found at a thrift shop for a buck and am so glad I did.  It's called "More Home Cooking" by Laurie Colwin.  (I guess there must be a "Home Cooking" then which I would love to find!")  It's not really a cookbook, it's a book of essays about food with lots of tips and recipes thrown in.  I love it!  I've made several things from it and never been disappointed!  It's just a pleasure to read if you like food!

I'm going to write it as she has!

October 2009 002Black Bean Soup

For Black Bean Soup, however, beef broth from a can is fine.  Soak 2 cups of dried beans in cold water to cover for one hour and drain them.  Combine them in a large pot with two 12 ounce cans of beef broth and one 28 ounce can of peeled tomatoes.  People in a hurry often open up the can, drain the juice into the pot, and then slice up the tomatoes with a knife while they are still in the can.  I would never let anyone catch me doing this but I do it all the time.  Add one cup of water, two big cloves of garlic, chopped up fine, one minced onion and two or three smallish potatoes, cut into pieces.  Cover the pot, put it on a flame tamer over very low heat and get lost.  (I am on record in my belief that the flame tamer, a widely available metal disk that reduces a flame's intensity, can be the source of much domestic tranquility, but it is a somewhat controversial piece of equipment, because many people would never dream of leaving the house with the stove on. I, however, do it all the time.)

On a flame tamer, a good black bean soup takes at least five hours to cook, hours in which you could be writing a novel, composing a brief, arguing with your dry cleaner or playing catch with your child and her friends.  You might yak on the telephone, balance your checkbook, or go thru piles of work.  You might even go shopping for yourself, remembering to stop afterward to buy some bread and cheese.  But whatever you do, while your soup is cooking, you are not!

Once the five hours are up, stir in the juice of one lime.  Then you can decide what texture you want your soup to have.  You can puree' part if it or the whole thing or leave it as is.

I have a flame tamer myself and also leave the house with the stove on.  My flame tamer resembles the old Jiffy Pop popcorn thing and I love it.  I usually puree' most of mine with a hand immersion blender.

Let me know if you give this soup a try.  Bon Appetite!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

A Visit from Albano

October 2009 022 "Hmm, who's that boy walking in the door, with his hoodie up and backlit from the light of the door?"  I turn to Tia Marta beside me and ask in near slow motion - "Is that Albano???"  He takes down his hood and we all erupt in cheers of delight to see our little buddy Albano again! 

Farewell Albano Sept 024 This is the first time he has visited since he left two years ago, in September 2007.  He said he just felt like coming so he and his little friend hopped in a chapa and came for the day. 

We loaded them up with good food, two changes of clothes (theirs had seen better days to put it mildly), toothpaste and brushes and lots of hugs and love.  They sure enjoyed the trampoline and scooter and Albano was a bit of a star around the center seeing all his old friends.

April 2009 125 I had seen Albano once while driving through Matola, where he lives, which I wrote about here, but this was the first time getting to spend some time with him.  He's finishing fourth grade right now, is looking well-fed but hasn't grown too much, he's still our little Albano.   

Please keep him in your prayers, he has a lot of potential but also a bit of a rascal streak!!  We love him dearly and hope he visits again soon!