Sunday, October 19, 2014

"Thank you for being a part of our community"

After an incredible time settling into life at the Zimpeto Children's Centre, we are on the road again. We are presently attending Harvest School 21, a missions training school that Iris Global (our missions organization) runs twice a year. Over 30 nations are represented here and it is an honour to be a part of such a diverse group that lives for intimacy with Jesus and serving the poorest of the poor. 

Usually Harvest School takes place in Pemba, a city in Northern Mozambique. Due to various complications, this year's school starts in Johanesburg and Nelspruit (South Africa) and later finishes in Pemba. Initially when location changes were made to our training school, I was disappointed. I love Mozambique and I especially love being at the Zimpeto Children's Centre. I knew if would be hard to leave our girls and our Mozambican family even if only for a short time. Despite what seemed to be an angel that spoke to me vividly in a dream within a dream saying, "Do not be surprised if you end up going to South Africa," I struggled with the idea of coming here. Ironically, I feared that South Africa wouldn't be rustic enough and that I would simply be surrounded by the wealth of a developed nation (despite conditions of extreme poverty, South Africa is often considered to be among the developed nations). We are called to serve the poor and as such I wasn't overly excited to have our training school moved to one of the wealthier African nations. (I should probably note that Evan was a lot more easy going about all these changes and was quite open about going just about anywhere.)

Disappointed about our location and sadly saying goodbye to the Zimpeto Children's Centre, we boarded a greyhound bus headed towards Johanesburg. After a twelve hour bus ride, walking across the border by foot, and a private taxi ride in the dark with a driver who didn't know where we were going, we finally arrived at the Iris Children's Centre just outside of Johanesburg.

Somehow over our journey to get here, I started to feel more at peace about being in South Africa. Perhaps it was driving by the slums and seeing some of the hopeless sights of poverty which don't usually jump to ones mind as they think of South Africa. Perhaps it was seeing the tents, cabins, outhouses and bucket showers where we would be staying that gave me a rustic sense of home. Perhaps it was the warm welcome of the staff and fellow students who had journeyed from all four corners of the earth for this harvest school. Either way, somehow along the journey I was filled with peace and a sensation that I certainly would not be disappointed with my time here...

Our time in Johanesburg has been filled with amazing classes, speakers, outreaches and the opportunity to explore the differences between this children's centre and our Zimpeto Children's Centre. The past two weeks we have visited a large slum in South Africa on outreach. As we walked through the slum, I was awestruck by the extreme differences of living conditions from the wealthier suburbs to the slums. It was mind blowing how much financial disparity could cover one small region. 

As we walked through the slums, we chatted with the locals, played with children and prayed. At first when we arrived I started spending time with a small group of children. "Why are you here?" they asked, "don't you know it's very dangerous here." We played games, gave lots of hugs, passed out food, and I took some time to write down each child's name in funky calligraphy along with a few adjectives that described their character. Another team mate prayed for a little boy who was limping slowly due to his broken leg. God healed his leg on the spot and he went running home to tell his mother. As we played and sang songs with the children, an older man came walking by and pulled Evan aside saying, "thank you for being a part of our community." 
It truly has been such an honour and privilege to join their community and spread joy and love even if only for a short period of time. As such, we can't thank you enough back home in Canada for being a part of our community through your prayers, financial support, emails and encouragement. Here at Harvest School 21, we are learning, growing and being challenged. We look forward to the next part of the school in Nelspruit, followed by a short time in Pemba- but more than anything, we can't wait to get back to see our girls.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Living the Dream (& the Chicory Trickery)

Two years ago when I came to the Zimpeto Children’s Centre, I fell in love with the girls dorm, those 63 (now 65) smiling faces melted my heart. For the past two years, I have day-dreamed, envisioned and dreamed about being here. I had everything mapped out in my mind and I often would wonder what it would be like, what my roles would be like and what my day to day tasks would be like.
Now that we’ve finally arrived and started to get into the swing of things, I feel like ours dreams are becoming a reality. To use a phrase that my dear friend Vanessa coined, we feel like we are living the dream.

Many live for the American Dream meaning “national ethos of the United States, a set of ideals in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, and an upward social mobility achieved through hard work” according to the reliable and trustworthy source of Wikipedia. In other words and more simply put: hot car, huge house, and high salary. Our simple Mozambican dream couldn’t be more different.

On a practical level our dream looks like waking up every morning to a dorm full of beautiful girls. I have the pleasure and privilege of being a dorm parent. In a nutshell, we get to do a lot of things a parent would do back home in Canada. I spend time with the youngest girls working on basic literacy, numeracy and life skills. Then I tutor one of the oldest girls grade 10 mathematics. I make crafts with the girls after school, I run a homework club, I lead discipleship groups with Fiona, I prepare snacks, I help dress the girls and I help with shower time. I clean wounds, I stick on bandaids, I hug, I kiss and I laugh until I cry.

It’s simple. It’s complicated. And it’s beautiful.

For Evan, living out our Mozambican dream looks like filling in the holes and serving a variety of different needs at the base. Evan spends his days running between the library where he is working on a new database system and improving literacy skills, helping run a sports program, sorting through donations, running a literacy program for the girls dorm, fixing sound problems for the worship team, and keeping his wife sane.

Sometimes I wake up, forgetting where I am and wondering if yesterday was all a dream. As I come to, I am pleasantly reminded, this life is no longer just a dream, it is our living and breathing reality.

A small side note that might amuse any coffee drinkers-The Chicory Trickery
As you can see, we’ve had a great time settling in to life here in Mozambique with one small exception-Evan was feeling particularly tired. At first, we figured it was just Jet Lag. But Jet Lag only lasts for so long. After a week or two when he was still feeling more tired than usual, we wrote it off as being cultural adjustments and acclimatization. We figured it must be the long days in the sun that were making Evan overly tired. This all seemed rather strange because I was still my usual perky, loud, energetic and obnoxious self when waking up in the morning (for anyone who has never been around me the in the morning, my previous roommates described me as an unmatchable energy level that shouldn’t be approached with until one has had a full glass of caffeine). Despite all the recent changes in our lives over the past month, things still weren’t lining up. Then we discovered the secret ingredient of tiredness. Despite having encouraged Evan to bring some coffee from home, he figured he could just pick some up here in Mozambique. Upon arriving, Evan bought a jar of coffee (or so he thought) and has been drinking his usual cup of coffee each day. As it turns out, a lot of Mozambican “coffee” is full of something called chicory, which lacks the usual quantities of caffeine North Americans are accustomed to. So if Canada withdrawal wasn’t tiring enough, caffeine withdrawal certainly has been for Evan! As a non-coffee drinker, I simply can not understand the full impact of a month without coffee but I have to assume that some of you out there can sympathize with the poor guy. If anyone plans on visiting us in the near future, Evan would love a nice pot of coffee—Starbucks, Bridgehead, Tim Hortons, Folders, President’s Choice…anything that is not full of chicory!