Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Little Party for About 70 boys!

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Yes, it did cross my mind that I’m a little bit crazy.  But I’ve also gotten better at asking for help in my old age so I didn’t do everything myself.  Here’s the scoop:

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To celebrate being here ten years, I decided to invite all the kids who have lived here (those that are still living on the center) over for a little party, which here means food!  I had originally hoped to try and invite all the boys who’ve ever lived here, even those who have moved, but that just wasn’t feasible.  I meant to do it Saturday, my actual anniversary, but everything I bought for the party was stolen out of my car. Sad smile 

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So I thought I would have it Tuesday instead, tonight, but last night it sounded a bit much so I decided to skip it.  Today on my weekly grocery trip, a friend asked if I was going to have the party and there and then I decided sure, why not!  The above photo shows the state of the kitchen during preparations. 

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On the menu were some of the items I’ve served consistently over the years for parties or snacks, so it would be like comfort food (hopefully!) for the boys:  spaghetti with meat sauce, hard boiled egg, popcorn, choice of soda or milk (about 1/4 chose milk In case you’re wondering), a biscuit spread with peanut butter and smiley face raisins for dessert (I don’t do cakes, much to my boys’ chagrin) and a piece of gum as they walked out the gate!

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Good grief, where did these men come from?  Some of my “darling boys” are all grown up!!  At  almost 4pm I had the idea to make photo collages for the walls of old photos over the years.  It was the hit of the party!  They loved looking for photos of themselves as well as old friends who no longer live here.  And the younguns loved seeing photos of the older boys when they were little!

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I kept saying, to myself and anyone who would listen, “aren’t they gorgeous?  aren’t they darling?  look at all of them, how wonderful!”  If I wasn’t running around so much, I would have been very gushy.

I spoke for just three minutes or so, saying how much I’ve enjoyed being in the dorm, how they know me and know I’m not perfect and sometimes I yell and sometimes I hug and sometimes I play and sometimes I scold them, but always I try and love them and feel loved by them1

I had lots of help from Ben, Rachel, Alta, Charlotte and Sue, I couldn’t have done it without them.  And the tias blessed me by doing all the washing up of the plates and cups before I could even get to say goodbye to all the  boys!  Thankful for that I can tell ya!

Thank you Lord for an adventurous ten years, full of amazing boys.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Ten Years. TEN YEARS?!?!

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Unbelievable. I only came for one you know, maybe two. Well, these darling boys have captured my heart and I haven’t been able to leave them. And God hasn’t told me it’s time . So, here I still am, a few more years than I’d planned, loving life, loving God, loving my darling boys.

Ten “Take-Aways” from Ten Years

Knowing Pedro

June 2009 004Unlike a mom who looks at her newborn child moments after birth, I didn’t kn ow the moment I saw Pedro that he would change my life and heart so dramatically. He was one of many, many precious boys in our center who clamored for my attention, calling out “Mana Laura!” whenever he saw me and running up to take my hand and be content to just walk with me. He was six years old. He was gorgeous. And although I didn’t know it that moment, it didn’t take me long to realize he had stolen my heart and he became my constant companion. I could write books about Pedro but suffice to say that although I could never adopt him, he was the son of my heart, God placed him there just as surely as he places a baby in a mother’s womb. My love for him is deeper than I have ever loved anyone else. I am so grateful for the gift of Pedro in my life – he is the child I came here to Mozambique to find.

Losing Pedro

Zimpeto 497Eight years later, in September 2010, I lost my darling Pedro in a drowning accident. He was 14 years old. It was excruciating and I feel his loss every day, keenly. My heart has never hurt like that before or since. But God, in his mercy, reminded me that while my heart might be broken, it is not dead. And I can trust him to repair it in a way that, while it may be forever marked by my grief over losing Pedro, it is still capable of being vibrant and full and loving.

God is responsible for the results, not me.

DSC_0003About a year or so after Pedro’s death, I had what I have since called a mini-breakdown. One night, while carrying a bowl of apples out to the dining room to the boys (about 35 of them), it all became too much. I turned around (with the bowl of apples still in my arms) and went back into my room and broke down. I ranted and raved at God as I have never done before or since. I poured out my heart full of grief over Pedro, full of frustration over too many boys and too little of me, over my inability to fix them, and really isn’t that God’s job after all? After about 30 minutes of that, I decided to go walk on the soccer field to try and calm down. I did apologize to God for being so disrespectful but in a calmer manner, told him everything I had said – shouted actually – was true and exactly how I felt and what in the world could we – He actually – do about it? He reminded me that indeed it is his job to “fix them” so to speak and my job is simply to obey him. I cannot be everything they need. But I needed more than that. I asked God, “what exactly is my legacy here, what AM I giving these boys?” He was so gracious in his response – “these boys know that they are loved by you . . . and that is no small thing.” I’m so glad in my imperfect, not-enough-of-me way, I can love these boys and leave the results up to God.

Thabo

Precious Thabo is the first boy I met personally with such visible suffering. The effects of abuse and neglect were obvious on his precious little body, so thin at 8 years old and weighing 23 pounds. But what a champion spirit he had! What a love for life and for people, what curiosity and love he contained in that frail little body. Ultimately, in spite of our efforts and his determination, his body could not recover and he passed away. He was the first person I knew so well to suffer from the terrible disease of HIV/AIDS. It was no longer a statistic or an idea or something happening to someone else, it was a disease stealing the life away from someone I loved. I am so grateful to be here in Mozambique loving on all my boys, sick and healthy, thin and chubby, neglected and loved. But what a unique and rare privilege to be one of the people chosen by God to love and care for Thabo in the way he should have been by his family.

God’s provision

IMG_5442In my ten years here in Mozambique, I have never ceased to be amazed at God’s amazing provision for me (and my boys!) through the generosity of people: friends, family and strangers as well. I have been the recipient of some amazing “big gifts” – like $1500 from someone I didn’t even know! But I’ve also been blessed by many, many small gifts that all add up to regular provision. One precious woman started out supporting me with $2 a month! She told me she has on her fridge that she is trusting God to give me $5000 but she didn’t hesitate to start small. (she’s up to $16 a month now!) It has taught me to trust God to bless people with “big gifts,” even sacrificially, but also that no gift is ever too small.

I’m courageous!

IMG_0082I never knew I was courageous, I never thought of myself that way. Not too long after I moved here to Mozambique, a friend was telling me what she saw in me and one of the first things she said was that I was courageous (thank you Kelly O’Delly!). I was so surprised. Reflecting upon that, I realized if you had asked me to list ten positive qualities about myself, courageous wouldn’t even have made the list. And yet, I realized, it’s true, I am courageous. Moving to Mozambique isn’t the first courageous choice I’ve made and it won’t be the last. It may though be the biggest. But then again, maybe it won’t! You never know what is in store with the Lord!

I’m made of clay and I break, sometimes easily.

Windows Live Photo Gallery WallpaperSo although I’ve discovered I am courageous, I have equally discovered that I am God’s chosen vessel, but made of clay, meaning I can break. And will break. And crack. And chip. I am weak and it is only in God’s strength that I am made capable to serve him and serve others. So I trust God and I take risks and I move forward and learn and grow. But I also get angry and sad and lack faith and run and try and hide. I offend others and get offended. I am in no way perfect. And God knew that when he sent me to Mozambique. And he chose me to go anyway. How lovely.

If you want to help people in need, it is messy, not neat and tidy, nor smooth and easy.

IMG_0341One day I was lamenting how hard it is to help people. How confusing it can be to make the right choices. How frustrating when you try and help people and they don’t want to change. How flat-out annoying it can be to give of yourself and have people treat your offering like it’s nothing, or worse, like it’s never enough. I was driving home from the city in traffic mulling this over and I heard God very clearly speak to me, saying, Laura, if you want to help people in genuine need, it will always be messy. People whose lives are neat and tidy don’t need your help. So, you need to decide, either you want to help people and therefore, you’re willing to get messy, or you can choose to stay neat and tidy and the easy road – but you’re not going to help very many people that way. I am so grateful God challenged me in this. I still sometimes long for things to be easy and tidy but more than that, I long to help people who need it.

I used to know so much more than I do now!

6cnmxq23I recall a conversation I had with a couple other missionaries a couple years ago. One was newer and said “I realize you have to be here a year or two to understand the culture.” The other gal and I, who had each been here several more years, looked at each other then turned and replied to her, “you have to be here a couple years to understand that you understand NOTHING about the culture!” Now it’s not as cut and dried as all that, learning happens along the journey, it’s an ongoing process. But each of us found the idea of it true – that it takes a long time in a new culture to realize how little you actually know because things are so different that you cannot grasp all that you have not grasped! Similarly, in areas beyond the new culture of Mozambique, I have discovered that I have far more questions than answers at this age than I ever used to. I am still opinionated, still a thinker and like to analyze and critique. I hope that never changes actually. But I am much less certain of my conclusions than I ever was. I have began the discovery of just how much I don’t actually know. And I’m learning to be ok with that.

My Darling Boys

IMG_5306Lots of them! In fact, lots of them at one time! I haven’t been able to figure out how many darling little boys have passed through my dorm in the last nine years I’ve worked in it. I know it’s been a lot though. And each one is unique and lovely and deserving of so much love and personal attention. Deserving of more than I have been able to give them and yet, it has been my privilege to try. I have to trust that God has multiplied my efforts and filled in the missing spaces for each one of these precious boys’ lives. As much as I have loved them, it’s so cool to remember that God loves them so much more and is ever at work in their lives. My Darling Boys are His Darling Boys as well!

Monday, February 11, 2013

A è para Aviao!

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The lovely Susanna blessed us by HAND DRAWING a Portuguese language alphabet poster for us!! Isn’t it beautiful?  Hand drawn and colored in, now the boys will see A is for aviao instead of apple, which starts with an M here!

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Susanna was such a blessing to me and my boys, I really enjoyed having her here.  She’s gone back to England now but  we won’t soon forget her, especially when I get my poster laminated and up on the wall!

Who else wants to come and be a blessing and have some fun?

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Puzzling!

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These boys are getting really good at puzzles!  Adilson, above, who is  one of the youngest, got his done lickity split as he seems to have finally gotten the hang of trying to match colors or patterns.

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Paulito, who had very little color variation in his, still worked his out in only a few minutes!  Yay!

And, in case you’re wondering if I  make amazing homemade bread from that cookbook in the background, the answer would be “not a one!”  But I did get in for $1 at an expat yard sale here so it was a nice find and who knows, maybe this winter! I’m sure not heating up the house that much this time of year!

Friday, February 01, 2013

Brothers!

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For new readers, or those of you who’ve read my blog for awhile but not memorized all of it, a quick recap:

Several years ago I had quite an age range of boys and the older ones were hitting and fighting with the younger ones.  God gave me an idea out of the blue while driving one day – “brothers.  put them in brothers.”  So I invited them to choose little brothers and the problems in the dorm decreased by about 80%, it was amazing!

IMG_5571It has become a tradition that the boys enjoy and every year after the changing of the dorms, the new oldest boys select  new brothers.  They love it!

IMG_5575This year, the way the numbers worked out, there are eight older brothers with two younger brothers each.  A couple boys aren’t pictured.  Wait –is Spiderman a brother too??

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I was trying for a unique spot for each photo so was getting a little desperate with this one but they liked it!  The third brother, Latifo, will arrive tomorrow from the transition house. 

I always wanted a brother!  Someone should have just assigned me one!