Sunday, February 20, 2011

I wish it were a story I'd heard

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Today marks five months since Pedro died.  I'm not exactly sure why I pay particular attention to the months because every day holds it's moments of sadness or tears or reflection - or even joyful memories.  I suppose it's just natural to mark the passing of time.

Sometimes, when a memory strikes me especially and I stop in my tracks and, I feel more like a character in a story than myself.  It's part of the disbelief.  I simply can't believe that he is really gone and I am really having these experiences.  Surely this only happens in the books I read or the movies I watch.  At the very least, only to other people who's loss I sympathize with but cannot imagine. 

Tonight, of all things, I was using a pressure cooker for the first time, and had been told in no uncertain terms, that there must be at least 1 1/4" of space from the water to the rim.  My pot looked awfully full so I grabbed the ruler that always sits in the shelf in order to measure the space.

As I looked at it, I read the message you can hopefully read in the photo above.  "Mana Laura heart's God and Pedro"  Except he ran out of room for the "o" so it really says, "Mana Laura heart's God and Pedr." 

Oh, my dear sweet boy.  How true.  How very true. 

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Grandmother's Care, A Grandmother's Suffering

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"In the past, uncared-for orphans were rare in Africa.  Traditionally, children were an unquestioned blessing.  Everyone had many fathers and mothers and families were always happy to bring another child into the home.  When the AIDS catastrophe started, many Africans proudly said that the traditional African family would take care of the children left behind.  It was a nice idea, but was it realistic to expect even the broadest-reaching family to embrace the numbers of children orphaned by AIDS?  The communal family system has come under intense pressure.  In urban areas, it is impossible to expand living space and costs like food and school fees to extra children.  Richer relatives send money to poor cousins, but now there are tales that a few years ago would have been shocking.  Impoverished families are turning away the children of their relatives.  The extended family, Africa's great heritage, it's strongest mechanism for human survival, is under severe stress.   

Grandmothers have brought up the first generation of AIDS orphans.  Those who would expect to be cared for in old age have become the main carers again.  Magnificently, they are bearing the brunt of the AIDS crisis, caring for those who should have cared for them.  But what will happen in the future?  As this generation of parents dies young, many families will have no grandmothers."  From Richard Dowden's, "Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles."

(An important definition of "AIDS orphan" - it does not mean an orphan who has AIDS, it means a child who has become an orphan because one or both parents has died due to AIDS or an AIDS related illness.)

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I would add to the author's comments that because of the pressure the AIDS crisis is putting on extended families, they are less able to care for children who are orphaned by other means as well.  It is so sad to see extended families, already stretched beyond their limits, who cannot embrace the children of their relatives.

We have seen it ourselves, over and over again, an elderly grandmother is caring for three, five, eight grandchildren because her children have passed away.  Some of our children have come to us because a loving grandmother cannot care for all the children in her care and the youngest or most vulnerable are accepted into our care. 

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Perhaps the most common family visitor I have here in my dorm is a grandmother.  Many of them come at great cost to themselves, whether it's the small (to us!) price of a chapa to get to the center or the physical pain they endure to travel to visit their grandchild.

Shelton's grandmother visits every month at least but once didn't come for three months.  When she came again, she told us she had broken her leg.  Even after three months, you could see she was in pain.  As I sat and visited with her, Shelton playing at her side, she showed me a photo of some of her children.  They had that awful "x" mark on them that many people here use to indicate someone has died.  I just cried with her at the loss in her life.  I have started the process to find out where she lives so that sometimes I can take Shelton to visit her instead of her needing to come all the way to the center.  February 2011 008

These precious women are heroes.  What some of them endure or have endured in their lives is astounding to me.  They carry on, doing the best they have, with the little they have.  But - usually - with a lot of love. 

Please pray for the families of Mozambique. 

The children

The grandmothers

The mothers and fathers. 

God in His wisdom designed families from the beginning of time.  

Thursday, February 10, 2011


February 2011 001 I think it's been around a year since I last broke out the puzzles for my boys.  Here's how I figured that:  I've been back for two months, I was gone for six months, and it was likely several months before that since we'd used the puzzles!  Voila'!  About a year!

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(oops, I chopped off the top of Edson's head!)!

Which means that some of the boys who live with me now have never done a puzzle, never even seen one!  Some don't realize that you only use the colored side of the pieces.  Nor do they know that the "straight" lines (these are kiddie puzzles) go on the outside.  

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(Chico, r, loves to make funny faces when having his photo taken!)

It is so fun to explain to them to look for the same color or the face of the piggie or Santa's beard and see them make the connection.  It takes a few times helping but it suddenly clicks and most of them figure out the clues on their own.  They are so proud and so am I!February 2011 013

If anyone has any other good ideas for stimulating creative thinking or good old-fashioned brain development, please feel free to share.  Especially things that are inexpensive or use household items.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

The door is always open!

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I love it when boys who used to live here come back for a visit!  These two brothers, Narciso above and Alfiado below, came to church today with their mom and I was so happy to see them!  You see, they were reintegrated while I was on my extended stay in the US so I wasn't here to say goodbye or anything.

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But I was thrilled they had moved home with their mom.  We only agreed to take them for a short while after their father died and the family relocated down to this area (as they weren't allowed to stay in the father's family home!).  So I was glad it worked out that they were fairly quickly able to return to their mother, whom they love. 

I had just this week written a list of those "big things" that I was wanting to get done, things that are outside of the norm and don't exactly fit on a to-do list.  "Alfiado" was one of those items on the list, meaning visit Alfiado and Narciso!  It requires one of the Reintegration tias who know where his house is to take me, etc., so although I'd been wanting to visit since I came back in December, it just was never seeming to get done.

I was so glad I could tell him - and show him - his name on my list so he knew I was thinking about him and wanting to visit.  I still do!

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I was happy to see them looking well-fed and well cared for, happy and easy-going.  And that they remembered their trampoline skills! My heart feels lighter for having seen them.


This photo was taken over a year ago when the boys were new and their mom, on the left, their aunt and their cousin visited.  Sadly, the aunt has since died and their mom is looking after their cousin as well.  And yes, in case you are noticing, they are albinos, very common here in Mozambique!

Thursday, February 03, 2011

The hardest day of every year . . .

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I hate this day every year.  I know it's coming, far in advance.  My head knows but my heart doesn't want to believe it.

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This is the day when my oldest boys, Room Two, move up to the next dorm.  Our dorms are determined by age so it's time for this oldest group to move up.  Ridiculous when they are such teeny tiny pumpkins!


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Most of them were excited, they love being able to play outside after dinner, which my boys aren't allowed to do - we keep them in after they've showered, eaten and then it's dark.  So these boys feel so grown up that they get to play outside at night!  I feel they are babies who should be locked inside until they are 18!!!

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All packed up with their new traveling bags, and ready to go.  This is when I start holding back the tears and plaster a smile on my face.  January 2010 061

Hugs all around from their little brothers who follow in their footsteps someday.  More sniffling and blinking.  "Mana Laura, are you crying?"  "Nope, nope, not me!"

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Big hugs goodbye and off to the new dorm . . .

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Isn't it fitting that the only photo I took in their new dorm is blurry?  Perhaps it was because my vision was blurred with my tears?

I know they will be ok - they are not even a football field away.  But it's hard to let them go - when they are eight! - when you've invested so many years into them. 

The sweet news?  Two of them were already back at my dorm playing before I even arrived!  Precious pumpkins!