Friday, December 31, 2010

Merry Christmas!

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What a fun day we had here in Zimpeto, Mozambique!  Everything went so smoothly and I am really grateful for that as I was still trying to get my head around it, ten days after returning from the US! 

35 outfits, 35 presents, 35 drinks, one big bicycle, one tricycle, three soccer balls, three dvds, a tonka truck and a reindeer headband = a successful, joyful Christmas!  It's hard to tell whether the presents or the massive chicken dinner that follows is the most popular part of the day!  You can look at the photos and try and decide!

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The world over, kids love video games!

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Neto is all smiles in a sea of boys and their presents!

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Jerome and the rest of the boys love the chips and sweets!

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Shelton is enjoying one of the dolphin toys I found at a thrift store in the US for .25 cents each!  Score!

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Room Three Pumpkins, the youngest bunch!  They LOVE that there are skateboards on their new clothes!

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No one would blame you if you started humming, "All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth" when you see this! Click on it to see a larger photo with Pai, in black in the center, missing his teeth.

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Silly boys, tricks are for kids!

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That's a lot of chicken!!!

(Obviously, that's for the whole center, not just my boys!)

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Sam is doing his best to eat all of his!

I hope you all have enjoyed a Christmas as lovely as mine has been (although much cooler I hope!), giving away love and blessings to those who appreciate it so much!

A special Thank You to Rock Harbor Church in Costa Mesa, California for helping sponsor our Christmas celebration this year!  We appreciate all of you who give sacrificially to help provide for these precious boys.  May God bless you richly in return!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Home in Zimpeto

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"Ma-na Lau-ra! Ma-na Lau-ra!"  The shouts may have been heard as far away as the city!  I arrived in the center Monday afternoon as a passenger in Mana Tracey's car.  Several of my boys who were playing near the driveway paused their play to see who was coming up the drive.  When they saw me, they began shouting my name and then ran behind the car all the way to the middle of the center, their little feet pounding like elephant's hooves the whole way.  Wow, such a wonderful welcome.  I could barely squeeze out of the car to begin all the hugs and kisses and listen to all the goings-on since I was last there.  "Mana Laura, our new "baby" (he's 3 1/2)!"  "Mana Laura, I passed my class!"  "Mana Laura, I'll be starting Grade Two!"  "Mana Laura, our new boy, Edson, he stole two little cars from your house!"  "Mana Laura, I've missed you!"

They are so love-ly and to love-ing and I am richly blessed to be here serving them!

I am adjusting slowly and would describe my emotional state as somewhat fragile, a bit of an unknown for me.  But there are a lot of little reasons that keep me pressing ahead.  And I try to cling to the promise, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!"

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Wednesday, December 08, 2010

He won't be there to meet me when I return . . .

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"God is always working to make His children aware of a dream that remains alive beneath the rubble of every shattered dream, a new dream that when realized will release a new song, sung with tears, till God wipes them away and we sing with nothing but joy in our hearts."  Larry Crabb

I'm still singing songs sung with tears but am comforted in knowing that there is a new dream God has planted "beneath the rubble of my shattered dream."  I'm not sure what that dream is yet, and sometimes I am not interested to be honest, but mostly my faith knows that God is going before me and he has my hand and is leading the way.

Meanwhile, tomorrow I fly back to Mozambique, although it will take me a few days to get there.  I would appreciate your prayers as I am feeling rather anxious about the transition back, primarily because it will require facing the reality that my little-y son Pedro won't be there to meet me when I arrive.     I miss him. 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

One month later . . .

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(My precious Pedro in 2004, his heart already full of love for Jesus and for people and for me.)

I have avoided sitting down to write this post for over a month now. Every time I think to write, I can't figure out how to begin, let alone what to put in the title line.  I am connected to so many people via Facebook that it has been easier to be on the receiving end of messages this month rather than writing them.  But it's time to write this horrible blog post.

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On September 20th, my darling boy Pedro died in a drowning accident.  He was 14 years old.  He was playing with some friends in a pond near his home.  He had swam there the day before without incident.  I have for the moment accepted the fact that I won't ever know exactly what happened to him.  Some believe he may have been bit by a snake.  Others point out the more likely reason, that there is an underground stream in that pond, creating a current which in turn creates a whirlpool in the deeper end. It took three agonizing days for his precious body to surface.  But they don't do autopsies in Mozambique so we won't ever know if there were snake bite marks or anything else that would give us a clue.  What I know is that he drowned, he is dead and my heart is broken and my life feels in shambles.


I was in the United States when it happened, in California, having taken my mom there to visit family and friends.  My passport was in New Jersey so it took quite a while for me to be able to fly home to Mozambique.  I arrived Friday night at 9 and his funeral was Saturday morning at 9.  I am very grateful I made it home in time for that.  I  needed to grieve with people who were grieving him alongside me.  But I feel like I buried my heart with that coffin.


I was in Mozambique for 12 days and then returned to my mom's in New Jersey.  I will return to Mozambique as planned around the first week of December.

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Some of you may have been reading my blog for a long time, others not, and may remember that Pedro is the boy I wanted to adopt.  When we began that process, we found his family so I was unable to.  But he is the son of my heart and he calls me mom (in May, I bought him a phone for his birthday and he put his phone number in my cell phone under "My Son Pedro") and if anything, our bond has grown stronger since we found his family.  He is the love of my life and was my future.  I don't know what I'm going to do without him.


If you'd like to learn more about this precious boy who was always full of life, joy, spark, love and kindness and see some photos of him, you can go to the top left corner of this blog and do a search for "pedro."  That will bring up the blogs that mention him.  I will also be posting more photos of him shortly, especially as I find older ones that aren't on this computer.

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(One of my favorite recent photos of Pedro, taken in April.  We had a big joke about his gold "bling!"  What a handsome young man.)

Speaking of photos, if any readers are previous visitors to Iris Zimpetpo, I would love if you'd look through your photos and if you have any photos of Pedro, would really appreciate it if you'd share them with me. 

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(The last photo I took of my my Pedro, full of life and joy!)

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(The last photo taken of my darling boy, in September, by friends who saw him while I was in the US. He looks a little timid.) 

And beautiful

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

My Broken Heart

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My darling son Pedro died this morning, September 20, 2010.

He was 14 years old.

Sometime, I will be able to write him a more fitting memorial to try and convey who he was - the love of my life.

For now, an earlier post will have to do.

Tchau my littl-y son.

You are so precious to me.

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A Visit With Pedro

April 2010 033 Oh, how I love having my little boy visit for the weekend. Oh, how deflated I feel on the drive home after I've dropped him off at his house. Oh, how empty my house feels.

So many things I want to teach him, I'm just brimming with ideas! A country a day. Devotionals for teens. Multiplication tables. How to bake a cake from scratch (and not out of a box as we did this weekend). English sayings like "hold your horses" and "don't let the cat out of the bag" (wait, do I know where that one came from??). Cribbage. How to talk to God about anything, at any time. How to forgive. How to apologize - and really mean it. How to spell in English. How to make chili. How to eat with chopsticks.

April 2010 005 The list could go on and on - oh, it did. But you get my point. It's tricky to pack all that learning and living into a weekend and not make it feel like cramming for the SATs. My desire to bless him and teach him and raise him - all condensed into the occasional weekend, leaves me feeling agitated sometimes, like I haven't done enough. But I don't want him to feel like he's a student - he's my son. I so wish all that teaching and learning could just flow naturally out of every day life.

But, I am oh-so-grateful for every moment I do have with him. So we just enjoy our time together although we both feel it isn't really enough.

Here's the highlights of this visit: (with his little friend Fauso in blue)

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-Making blueberry muffins (NOT from a box, from a packet!)

-Practicing with chopsticks at the Chinese restaurant

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-Multiplication practice during Yahtzee

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-What does Easter mean to me personally discussion

-A short note added to my mom with some English spelling practice.

I love this little boy, well, young man, so much my heart sometimes wants to burst! It almost did when I left him at home, pictured below with the little neighborhood children, on Sunday evening. My world isn't quite the same when he isn't tangibly in it.

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Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Riots in Mozambique - please pray!

Hello from New Jersey in the United States!  Although I am far from my home in Mozambique, my heart is still there, especially at a time like this.  Since I'm not there to tell my firsthand account, I've stolen this post from my friend Meghann's blog:

 

I'd love to ask for your prayers. Maputo, Mozambique has experienced riots today. Something quite similar happened in 2008. But this morning we awoke to mobs on the streets looting shops and burning tires.They overturned a bus in front of our center and burned it. These riots are in response to the increase in food, fuel, water, and electricity costs.

Here is the information we received from the directors of our base...
Today is September 1 and we are in the midst of riots in Maputo. In July this year the price of passports rose 600%, visitor visas 500% and our annual permanent resident documents went from $80 to $700 each.
Today September 1 the price of a bus ride doubled, bread rose by 30% and the price of a 50kg bag of rice is more than half a months salary for an average Mozambican (if he is one of the 18% of people that has a job).
So today the people rioted -upturned buses and burned them right outside our base, looted shops, burnt tires, petrol stations and threw rocks and bricks. The city was closed down as were schools and the airport and the official figure is 6 dead. The police and army are controlling the rioters and streets with tear gas. It is now 4pm and it is quiet. We will wait and see what happens tonight and again in the morning. We are all safe and sound in our compound here -except for runny eyes from tear gas. No workers here today but the missionaries, educators and children prayed and played together.
This is Mozambique -still the 6th poorest country in the world and living in such difficult circumstances. Please pray with us for a miraculous breakthrough.

(The gate of our center is barely visible along the right side of this photo.)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Great Opportunities . . .


I'm writing today to share some exciting things that God is leading me in these next few months.  No, I'm not moving back to the US but I will be visiting for an extended time, about five months actually!


Loved Ones
My primary reason is to spend some extended time with my mom while her health is pretty good and she's feeling fairly strong.  Since her diagnosis with cancer in 2004, I have often felt that I wanted some more time with her and yet haven't felt ready to leave Mozambique permanently.  So I spoke with my directors about taking an extended leave so that I could spend several months with my mom, helping her travel to California to see her home and family, helping her visit other family on the east coast, helping with projects around her house, etc.  I'd also like to give Larry, her partner, a bit of a "break" so that he can rest or tend to other things while I take her to doctor's appointments, etc.  The majority of her time dealing with cancer, she has been quite well but two years ago began a 15 month "down" time.  Her recovery from that is what has prompted me to want to spend a few dedicated months with her now while she's feeling well enough to do some things she hadn't been able to do recently. 
Although I feel a strong responsibility to the well-being of my boys, I also want to honor my mother and bless her during this time in her life.  Again, since I don't feel it's time to move back to the US yet, I feel very peaceful about this compromise!  (and as much as I'm looking forward to some time with her in the US, I am also excited to know that my time here with my boys isn't over yet!).


Dreams
In the meantime, recently, my longstanding desire to go to graduate school was reawakened.  I applied to and was accepted at Azusa Pacific University in southern California for their Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership.  The specific program I will be attending is called Global Leadership and was created 30 years ago with missionaries in mind.  The courses are a combination of online (not my favorite, I'll admit) and "intensives" where you travel to a location to participate in a week's class with professor and students and then continue the studies independently.  In addition to being flexible, the fees are drastically lower for missionaries living out of country.  They are about 1/3 of the price you would normally pay!
I am very excited about the courses I am taking as they are applicable both to my work here in Mozambique as well as a possible future in returning to Student Development someday.  Courses like Servant Leadership, Mentoring and Developing Leaders for the Future, Leading Across Cultures, etc., get me excited about the opportunity to be trained to be more effective working here in Mozambique with my national and missionary staff! 
So I will travel thru London on my way home to the US and will begin the work for my first four courses (Mentoring, Servant Leadership, Vocation and Organizational Behavior) while there.

Financial Matters

I don't intend for the money for my studies to come out of my regular support that is dedicated to my boys and ministry here in Mozambique.  I have some of it covered and am trusting to God to provide for the remainder, as any student does!

Timing
The courses begin in London on June 21.  I will then head directly to my mom's in New Jersey in July.  I will be with her until late October when I will go to the West Coast for my "normal" visit which entails visiting churches, friends and supporters.  Oh, and family!  I will return to Mozambique - and my precious boys who will be dearly missed - after Thanksgiving!

Prayer Requests:

For my boys to have stability and security during this time I am away.  Rebecca, who has been working with them for almost a year will be here until August when she returns to the US.  A woman named Natalie will be coming in July (so a month overlap with Rebecca) to live in my home and work with the boys.  Please pray for her as well as it can be very overwhelming!

For Pedro who doesn't know what he'll do without me for six months and is nervous about family conflict during that time.  And I don't know what I'll do without him!

For Lucas who is very attached to me (and me to him) who doesn't tend to do very well when I am away.  His health is poor right now already and I am nervous about being away from him that long. 

For the Tias, to work "as unto the Lord and not to man" so they will do their job well, with love and care, no matter who is here supervising. 

For financial provision for me, schooling, and the dorm. 

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It's a big thing to be leaving for almost six months.  I will miss these little guys something fierce.  Some boys will move home while I am away, others will move dorms, new boys will come . . . there is always transition.  I'm sad to think what I will miss out on. 

If you ask me if I'm excited to go, right now the answer is "no" - it is too hard to leave.  And yet, I have His peace and I am grateful for that!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Getting ready for Children's Day

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"Mana Laura!" he whispered on the way to church this morning.  "Yes, honey?"  I replied to my little newly seven year old sweet pea.  "Is it Um de Junho yet???" he whispered again.  "No, honey, another week."  "Okay!" he practically shouted and skipped off to church! 

Um de Junho is the First of June and it is Children's Day!  We celebrate it here much like Christmas day, a new outfit in the morning, a gift bag full of pressies and a big chicken meal for lunch.  The kids love it and start asking about it at least a month ahead of time. 

The photo above I took today while I was arranging the new outfits for Room two, the biggest boys.  The other two rooms will have the exact matching outfit (which are in the bags on the floor) but for Room Two, I had accumulated several mis-matched new shirts that I want to use.  So their shirts won't match but their cord trousers will. 

At the time I stopped to take this photo, I also paused to thank God for his amazing provision for me and for my boys.  His heart is SO big and he has shared that heart with the amazing people who help make it possible for my boys to be so blessed.   Thank you!

Stay tuned for a report on the actual day when you'll see little people wearing those cute clothes!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Newbies!

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Four precious little pumpkins have joined us this week - whew!  Wait just a second while I go try and take a nap to regain my strength . . .

Ok, I'm back!

The poor little things look a little shell-shocked don't they?  They came from another children's center that is over crowded and they are all said to be six although they don't look it and none of them have been to school.  We have no official documents so it's hard to say for sure.

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After an initial honeymoon period of, oh, about 28 minutes, we've discovered that these four might be a handful!  I don't think the other center has quite as much structure as we do.  Perhaps at that center, they allow the boys to throw their new sandals down the latrine???  But we don't so we'll have to work on that!  Or perhaps at that other center, they are allowed to ask for a toy and when they don't get it, cross their arms across their chest, declare "I am mad at you" and turn their whole little 2 1/2 feet of themselves around so their back is to you in a huff?

But they are sweet and love hugs and kisses like the rest of my boys.  And we will endeavor to find out as much as we possibly can about them and perhaps even one day be able to find family to reunite them with.  

In the meantime, we will love them like our own and thank God for the joy of serving "the least of these." 

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Day at the Movies - I mean, A Day IN the Movies!

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It all started with some simple photos! Well, about 80 simple photos, of our kids ages 7-14, by my new buddy Dino, above. That's Dionisio he's taking a photo of, who, incidentally was one of the first chosen. Can you blame them, with that smile?

But I'm a bit ahead of myself. There is a film being shot here in Maputo, our capital city, and they need a ton of kids to be in it because it's called "Children's Republic." That's the working title anyway. And besides eighty or so of our little darlings, guess who else is going to be in it??? DANNY GLOVER

Yes, I said, DANNY GLOVER - this man right here:

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That's Danny Glover folks, kicking it on the streets of Maputo watching our kids do their scene:

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Over and over and over. Watching them do their scene over and over and over I mean. Have you ever heard an actor say acting isn't exciting, it can be quite boring and lots of sitting around? Well, believe them when they say it!

I found the whole process completely fascinating and quite boring, both at the same time. It is amazing how many times they will shoot the same ten seconds of scene. It was a lot of fun though and basically our kids got to play all day. Oh, and eat a yummy lunch.

Here's some of our stars in the making:

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Pedrito and Moises thought they were supposed to FIGHT over the tricycle for their part in the movie, that took a lot of sorting out. In fact, I still don't think they're clear on it. But they are cute, huh?

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Silly boys, trying to be entertained during long breaks!

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Rui the traffic cop! He had a big role directing all those bicycles and fish sellers walk around!

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Hey, how'd that white lady get in there? I just wanted a shot with the real action going on behind me! They were filming right that minute!

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The yummy lunch we had with chicken, chips, rice and salad, yum! And the man eating lunch with us . . .

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That's right folks, Danny Glover, just in case you forgot! So, keep your eye out for The Children's Republic!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Have I told you about Ralph?

 Birthdays 031-1 Well, if you're thinking Ralph is a strange name for a Mozambican boy, you'd be right.  But he's not a boy, he's a tortoise!!!

And I am inordinately fond of him.  It's ridiculous really, how fond I am of Ralph. 

When I walk in his garden, my delighted shout of "Ralphie!!!"  can be heard across the center.

Ralph lives in the house "across the street" which is really just across the sand.  Many residents of that house have came and went but Ralph remains constant.  In fact, for a time, during the missionary business meeting, we referred to it as "Ralph's House" since no one could keep track of who was living there when.

But occasionally I am blessed to be able to housesit there and that's when me and Ralph get to hang out.  I absolutely love it when he comes toddling in the door and up the middle of the living room floor.

Now I know that after the following confession, you will have proof that I am nuts!  But I'll tell you anyway.  One time, I brought Ralph up onto my lap to try and snuggle!!!  Have you ever tried to snuggle with a 25 pound tortoise?  Whose arms and legs are just flailing away but gripping nothing but air?  Oh, let me tell you, it's hilarious!  As is my ridiculousness!

So even though I didn't get a good snuggle, I got a good laugh and a great memory!

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Ralphie!!!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Superman!

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Also known as . . . Feliciano!  He is such a good sport, up for anything!  So when we were given this costume in donations, I knew the perfect boy to model it for us.

He loved it!  And the whole dorm thought it was hilarious too!

It's so easy here to have a good time with the boys and bring some fun and pleasure into their lives.  I love that.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Tia Laura has a heart of gold

January 2009 009I have the privilege of working with some amazing women here in my dorm.  They are the Mozambican ladies, whom we call Tias (see explanation below) whose job it is to look after our little lovelies.

While it's true that sometimes they can be a source of frustration to me (see this post), they can also be amazing!

 

 

 

May 2009 010 Tia Laura is one of my favorites.  She is so special to me.  This woman has been thru an amazing amount of difficulties in her life yet remains constant in her faith and joy.  Once, when I was going home to the States, she gave me a gift of a capulana (a traditional piece of cloth woman use for skirts and other uses, one sign of womens wealth) to give to my mom.  I was so touched! 

Tia Laura has a lot of wisdom, love and compassion for our boys.  She loves them like her own.  One boy in particular she takes home with her during holidays and breaks.  He has no known family so she has become his mom.  Sadly, on one visit, he stole her son's cell phone (which they quickly recovered).  I thought that would be the end of the visits home with her.  But she said, "No, Mana Laura, he is my son.  I don't just get rid of him when he does something wrong.  I teach him and love him and pray for him."  I loved her even more!

September 2009 118Recently, this Tia has had more than her share of trials.  In addition to frequent, severe asthma attacks and challenges at home, she has suffered a horrific tragedy in her family.  Her cousin was married with three children and his wife was expecting their fourth.  A neighbor suspected the wife of stealing her cell phone.  She accused the wife but the wife denied it.  So the neighbor went to the local witch doctor who consulted the spirits, who told her that indeed, this pregnant woman, wife of my Tia's cousin, had stolen the phone.  So the neighbor, in retribution for a cell phone, chained the door to their reed house in the middle of the night and set it on fire.  The husband, wife, unborn baby and three children were all burned to death in their home.  They were spirits all right - evil spirits. 

I don't know how Tia Laura has coped with that as gracefully as she has.

But the story I wanted to share about her today is a lovely story!

While precious Naftal was in the hospital, he shared a room with two other young patients.  One was little guy, only about two years old.  The father was with him because the mother had gotten malaria and had to return home which was quite far away and travel back and forth was expensive.  They had no family or friends here in Maputo since they weren't from here.

Upon the babies release, a few weeks after Naftal's death, the father had no means to pay for getting back home, which would cost about $10.  He remembered Tia Laura and her kindness while in the hospital.  Out of desperation, he called her and asked for her help.  To make a long story short, she took him and the baby into her home that night, then gave him the money to make it back home.  When they arrived, the mother called Tia Laura and thru her tears, thanked her over and over again for her kindness to her family.

Last week, the baby had a checkup so they had to come all the way back to Maputo.  The mother insisted on coming with the father, even though this meant more money, because she wanted to meet Tia Laura in person to thank her.  So once again, she brought them into her home to spend the night, brought the mother and baby into her bed with her while the father slept on the floor with her son.  At first, the mother refused saying the baby will "make xi-xi" (which means pee) in the bed.  Tia Laura simply replied, "then we will wash the sheets in the morning."

Are you struck by what I am struck by?  This woman has a house with one small room for cooking and sitting and at night her son uses it to sleep on the floor.  She has one more small room with one bed where she sleeps.  Yet she offers hospitality to virtual strangers, not only to share her humble home but even her bed. 

Now I realize that might freak some Western readers out, it is a different culture where sharing a bed wouldn't be as uncommon as it would be for Americans.  But even in this culture, it is extraordinary.

And I, who have everything and more than I could ever want or need, am often so stingy and think "hey, I'm not rich, I don't have the money to help that person."  How much more than a one-room cement block house, a bed and a mat do we need in order to help someone??]

I am humbled by this woman, my friend, Tia Laura.  I am her namesake, her shara,  although it certainly wasn't planned.  And although she's only a few years older than me, I want to be like her when I grow up!

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Most of you may know that "Tia" means "Auntie" in Spanish and Portuguese as well.  It's also a term of politeness, or that's not exactly it, but respect for both strangers and people we know.  So, if we are driving and stop to ask for directions, we usually start our question with "Tia, onde esta . . .?"  (I'll just mention here that "Tio" means "Uncle" as well!) 

Our Mozambican staff who work with the kids in the dorms are usually referred to as Tia or Tio.  They are also referred to as Mana or Mano, another terms of respect.  I am called by Mana Laura. 

So in my posts, you often hear me saying, "my Tia did this" or something like that.  I'm not actually talking about MY aunt (whom I call Auntie by the way) but about the ladies who work with me in the dorm.

Whew, that felt like a BIG explanation for a LITTLE idea!