Sunday, January 25, 2015

The battlefield of the mind, my shortcomings and failures

Learning how to care for seventy-three girls, I constantly find my mind wandering and battling the debates of parenthood over the simplest of matters...

Yesterday I needed to go to the bakery to buy forty loaves of bread which I would later cut in half and use to serve hotdogs. The bakery is a fifteen minute walk away from our centre. I knew I wouldn't be able to carry all the loaves on my own and I asked one of our girls to join me. Which one should I choose? Who hasn't gone off base lately? Who needs some extra one-on-one time? Who needs a little extra attention? Who can I take without all the girls seeing and wanting to come? Juggling all these questions in my mind, I prayed quickly and asked God to help highlight one of them. Cali. Perfect, I'll bring her.

We started walking down towards the centre gates hand-in-hand. Her smile beamed from ear to ear, excited that she had been chosen. Who knows the last time she got to leave the centre for a little while. As we walked through the gates, her confident strut turned timid. Outside the walls of her home, our centre, her demeanor changed. We talked as we walked. Then came time to cross the road. There are no pedestrian crossings anywhere in sight, so we simply wait by the side of the road for an opening in the four lanes of busy traffic. Its a great time for a little lesson in road safety. Crossing roads with children in Canada is frightening enough as it is, crossing roads in unpredictable crazy traffic here is petrifying to say the least.

Finally we made it to the bakery. As they packaged the forty loaves of bread, I could help but notice Cali eying the delicious looking bakery treats. In the two minutes it took for them to bag the bread, my mind wrestled in debate... Perfect time for a treat, I'll let her pick one out—they look delicious. Wait no, I can't. It wouldn't be fair. What if she goes back and tells all the other girls. But then again, what is 'fair' anyways. Fair isn't always equal and equal isn't always fair. The trauma and tragedy that Cali has experienced in her short life certainly isn't fair or equal. I would love to buy a special little cake for her, it would be a special little moment for just the two of us to share. She's not asking for a treat, what a beautiful moment for a surprise treat. But wait, if I do it this time, will I create a culture of expectation. Next time I have an errand to run, will all the girls want to come in the hope and expectation of receiving a treat. I don't want the girls to only help because they think they'll get a reward. I want them to come with me on errands for the sake of helping and spending quality time together. Quality time, that's one of the the five love languages in the book by Gary Chapman. Children need all five love languages, not just quality time but also gifts, acts of services, words of affirmation and physical touch. I have to buy one. No-what about development? Is this a treat a local could afford? If I buy this one small treat worth only $1 CAN, will I perpetuate the stereotype of rich foreigners spending frivolously and elevating the standard of living that is unsustainable when children return one day to their community. For many Mozambicans, this single treat is the equivalent of an entire day's salary. But how can I resist. What about all those special moments when my parents treated me growing up and blessed me with little surprises or extra treats on trips to the grocery store? What if Cali will remember this special moment that we shared together forever. Many she won't remember it at all. Maybe this small little moment wont have the dramatic ripple effect on development that I fear. Maybe this decision really isn't that complicated and I'm making a huge deal out of nothing. Am I loosing all parental sanity over a baked good?

Sometimes I feel like the the weight of international development and parenthood weighs heavily on my shoulders down to the silliest of decisions. It's times like these when I wish I hadn't studied international development, when I wish I hadn't been raised with all the luxuries, expectations, and treats of the western world. It's times like this when I wish it was really just as simple as buying a piece of cake. When I am constantly reminded I will always fall short of the excellence with which my parents raised our family as I care for seventy-three girls. But then again, isn't this the point of it all? His yoke is easy and his burden is light. That our shortcomings and failures would create the space, desire and longing for Jesus. That in our weakness He would be our strength. That in our shortcomings, he would fill the gap and beyond. That even in our failures, He would be glorified and magnified. That He would be the centre of all our decisions, even the small ones.

And so, lost in the battlefield of my mind and a never ending internal debate, I echoed a quick prayer for wisdom and discernment allowing God to lead and decide. It's times like this I am so glad that God cares about even the littlest of things such as buying a piece of cake. Because there are always exceptions to the rules.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Happy New Years!

Happy New Years! This past New Years Eve celebrations were certainly ones I won’t forget. Full of fun, laughter and joy.

New Years Eve is a huge celebration in Mozambique. Usually if children have any extended family or relatives they can visit over the holidays; they leave the centre for a few days. Then the much more numerous group children who truly don’t have anywhere to go are left behind. As such, we try to make it as special as possible celebrating our larger family here at Zimpeto. Our staff dressed up in costumes and wigs in light of the celebrations. I managed to find a leopard costume—possibly the most scandalous thing I have worn in months in their conservatively dressed culture! As children arrived for the party I may have accidentally scared a few of our youngest girls as I hissed jokingly at them in my costume.

My friend and I organized the party for the 180-some children who were at the centre for New Years with us. We planned 13 different activity stations such as cookie decorating, bracelet making, Twister, crafts, ring toss, bean bag toss, face painting, and more. Fun and chaos filled the air as we rotated the kids through different centres. Of all the activities we planned, I think my two favourites were piñatas and straw in the hair. I had made 14 piñatas before the party and I left Evan in charge of that station in a small area with lots of traffic with a bat, blindfold and 15 kids per activity at a time. Fortunately, I am pleased to report that no children were injured during piñata time despite the recipe for disaster! As for straw in the hair, I originally thought it was a joke when someone suggested the idea—apparently it’s a tradition here! Essentially you give each child a handful of straws and see how many straws they can stick in their hair. It definitely made for some good photos and lots of laughs.

After the activities were done we watched a slideshow of pictures from Christmas and ate hotdogs. Then came movie time! We gobbled down chips and sweets to try to stay awake until midnight. I couldn’t help but chuckle when one of our youngest girls had an accident during the movie and peed on the floor. Never a dull moment when you are surrounded by 70 young ladies! Many of our little ones fell asleep during the movie as it was far past their bed time. But we woke them up just before midnight to go and see the fireworks.

The fireworks here were amazing. Most of the children and youth loved them, although a few of our younger girls who were petrified by the loud noises and explosives buried themselves in our arms during the light show.

Tired and exhausted, we all stumbled off to bed. What a fun way to celebrate the New Year. We so look forward to everything that 2015 hold for us here in Mozambique and with our girls.