Monday, October 31, 2016

What My Mom and Dad Taught Me: We Can All Do Something

Since moving to Africa a little over two years ago, our definition of "normal" has changed dramatically. Scenarios, foods, challenges, smells, sights and encounters that we used to find strange have become an everyday part of life. Somedays I feel as though the more we invest ourselves here, the more the West and it's luxuries seem like a distant past. The initial shock of living in a developing nation wears off to an extent. Bugs in your food and toads in your bedroom become a mild laugh instead of a cry.

Having visitors from North America suddenly reminds you of how different our worlds are. As visitors process our Mozambican surroundings we are reminded of how the very things that have become a part of our norm are not so normal at all. 

A month ago we were so thrilled to have my (Natasha's) parents come for a visit. Their time here once again reminded us that the life we live here is anything but normal. A few days after they had arrived I wanted to take my parents to the local garbage dump where men and women spend day after day scouring through the garbage looking for sellable pieces of rubbish and separating the trash into recyclable products to earn a scarcely small amount of money to fill their grumbling stomachs and soothe their baby's crying lips. In smoltering heat, these men and women sort through the trash in humiliating and disgusting conditions of burning garbage all around them.

I wanted to bring my parents to run a children's program with me at the church our ministry started right beside the garbage dump. Each week the small african hut church is packed with boys and girls eager to learn more about Jesus and receive a small snack to ease their hunger pains. My mother had joined us last year on her visit to Mozambique (read more about her visit: and planned to join me again. Minutes before we were set to leave she came to me sobbing, the visions of the children and men and women she had met the previous year at the dump were forever haunting her mind and she couldn't face it again. She stayed behind to play with some of the toddlers and shower them with extra hugs and kisses. 

Leaving her behind, my dad and I boarded an old mini-van towards the dump, my dad all the more apprehensive having seen how hard the previous year had impacted my mother. When we arrived at the dump, nothing could have prepared my father for the sights, the smells and devastation. Through the smell of burning garbage, ash and soot, we led games and ran a children's program full of hope and life. The children were captivated by my dad's hairy arms rubbing them up an down like he was some sort of animal. 

When it was time to leave, he was speechless. We returned to the centre and headed for our living quarters. My dad wanted to take a shower and quickly was frustrated by the lack of hot water. He went outside and started tinkering around with the gas tank and hot water contraption. My father is one of the most brilliant men I have ever met, truly a jack of all trades and has the ability to fix just about everything (with the exception of a computer, afterall he's still learning how to use gmail). At first I was a little annoyed with him. After everything he had just seen and the extreme poverty, how could he possibly be so fixated on a hot shower! Besides, it was hot outside, who in their right mind would even want a warm shower that bad!

....But then it dawned on me. It had nothing to do with the hot shower or lack there of. My father had just seen one of the world's darkest places that makes you question everything about humanity and the West, and he was helpless. My dad loves to fix things and he had just been to a place, an assault to all senses, where there was nothing he could do to fix it. He couldn't fix the brokeness, he couldn't solve the poverty, he couldn't fill every empty belly. And so when we arrived back at the centre, he started looking for something he could fix. He started looking for some small thing he could tinker with to improve. He started trying to make a difference from his vantage point. And the first thing he found was our hot water tank. Our hot water tank was but one of the many things my dad fixed during his stay with us. 

His stay reminded us more than ever that we can't fix everything. We can't dry every tear or heal every heart or feed every stomach. But we can do something. My dad is a handyman and used his skills to fix up things around the centre to bless us and our kids. My mom's love for children is undeniable. The morning she decided not to go to the dump, she headed to the baby house. She knew she could do something there. My dad used his creativity to build and design kites with the girls in our dorm. My mom used her loving touch with every one of our sick little girls. We can't fix everything, but we can all do something. And together, our little somethings partnered with a our big God, can make a big difference.

And so I can't help but ask, what's your something?

(Inside the church at the dump)

(Our new little friend at the dump)
(My dad with one of our girls)
(My mom with our ladies)

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