Thursday, April 27, 2006

Swaziland etc.

Here we are at the end of April. It's hard to believe how fast the months fly by. The next three months will probably go even faster as we try to get things set up and as sustainable as possible before coming home end of July/August/September.
Here are some interesting things we've seen and done lately:

* A woman walking along the road with a watermelon on her head! Try that sometime.

* We saw Swaziland for the first time. It is beautiful, with many mountains. Some have called it the Switzerland of Africa. We thought it looked like the mountains of TN/KY. The nice part was that most everyone speaks English. We didn’t know that the Swazi monetary unit was identical to the SA rand. We did go shopping and find that some things are cheaper and others are more expensive, so you have to watch.

* How about a package of 7 chicken heads and 14 feet at the grocery store? Or tripe?

* There are 59 speed bumps between the border and the first city in Swazi (about 2 hrs). They usually come in groups of 5 and there is not always a warning.

* We saw a sign on the road in Swazi that said "Cyclists and pedestrians beware of lions and elephants." The road runs next to a small park for wildlife. I think I'll stay in the car, thank you.

* Steve and Pieter had a meeting/discussion while they each had a couch to lay on at Pieter's house. They decided more meetings should be held in that position.

* I, Rachel saw lots of people stranded on the roads last Tuesday because of a chapa strike. It affected me also as I was counting on a ride back to the city after training (Steve had gone to Chokwe.) Five of us started walking and joking about it until we realized there really were no rides anywhere and then we called a friend to please come pick us up. Many people do not have friends with vehicles and walked for hours to get to their jobs. Thankfully it was only a 1-day strike.

* We saw more small pickups than usual with 20+ people piled into the back because of the strike. Steve saw two guys hanging on to a pickup roof as it went down the road.

* Rachel saw pastors who said their heads hurt after a lesson on finances. I also saw them laughing and having a good time over a toss-the-rock-in-a-bucket game during a lesson on setting objectives.

* We heard from one of our students about a group marriage ceremony that will take place at their church. This is for couples who live together and have never made it official, partly because of the huge expectations and costs associated with a traditional wedding. It is good to see some churches beginning to take initiative in this area and bucking the cultural expectations. We’ve been invited to our first traditional wedding this Saturday.

* Steve saw 700 km of road in two days between Chokwe and Xai-Xai and also Bilene where he went to talk with AIDS program supervisors about the chicken project.

Tomorrow is the last day of training and we are looking forward to giving these new trainers their certificates. It is always a rewarding time for us and for them.

Take care,

Rachel and Steve

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Easter week and week end

It has been an interesting and different week for us with a new training of trainers from the OMS pastors and a 4 day weekend. Rachel and I started a training series with 16 OMS Mozambican pastors who are becoming facilitators for the MAI microenterprise course we teach for WR volunteers. It meets Tuesday, Thursday mornings and all day Saturday. This week we both did Tuesday and Saturday, with Rachel doing Thursday all by herself. It was interesting to watch her teach with a real sense of purpose and enjoyment about what she was doing. We talked about it later and she said that she is really feeling comfortable in these trainings and it is something she is having fun doing. Generally she doesn’t like standing up in front of people and speaking, but sitting down and sharing is much easier for her to do.

I went out to Chokwe and the chicken raising communities to provide the necessities and assistance to the various groups and persons working with the small businesses. I am really starting to want to find someone who can take over the details of helping coordinate the groups, the various supply issues and payment schedules. We are looking to build in one more community, but need to find some way to transport materials as the trailer we used last time is fully occupied until mid May. There is a bigger truck that could be made available, but we would have to hire a driver as you need a different license to drive each kind of vehicle here.

We had Friday off of office work, but I had to go to Manhica as we were starting the second house there and I wanted to deliver some feed and check out the technical guy, letting him do the training and I would observe. Well the chicks never did arrive as I left at 11 am to get back to Maputo by noon. It seems the chick delivery guy is not into communication and if he does communicate he is not wanting to tell you how late he is really going to be in arriving at your location, so everybody loses a lot of time waiting around for him to arrive.

The reason I was trying to get back to Maputo was to try to get an 8 year-old orphan out of the dump where he has lived all his life. One of the people we know helps with an orphanage and said they would be willing to talk to the child and see what they could do. When I finally got ahold of him, he said he couldn’t come out to the dump just then as he had to deal with a personal situation regarding his house. It seems the landlord had promised his flat to someone else and he had to get out at the end of the month. Something I guess you can do here if you want to get a renter out.

We got up at 5 am on Sunday morning to go to an Easter sunrise service. It was nice to meet people there and the sermon was good, plus we did get to see the sun rise. Afterwards, we went home and had some breakfast and Rachel started cooking for a guest at lunch. Sarah Welch is here from Cedar Springs Church in Knoxville and we wanted to make sure she didn’t spend Easter lunch alone. Well, I took a walk down to the corner store to get some eggs for the banana cake and coming back in I smelled plastic burning in the stairway. Hope it isn’t our kitchen I thought. After I arrived in the appt Rachel said, “hey why isn’t the stove getting hot? Why do the lights go out when I start the toaster?” HMM! Not a good sign! After messing around with the circuit breakers a few times, we gave up and stuck everything in the fridge and went to church.

Since we couldn’t cook at home, and had been invited out to meet a couple that is working in Tete, we took Sarah with us and went to a new restaurant. Rachel and I got a dish for two and we brought some extra home. The trouble was there was still no power. Rachel took some perishables down to the neighbors just below (the Neilson’s) and we got Hans involved trying to troubleshoot our electrical system. He ended up knowing that there was another panel that you could open and find some fuses that were in-line before two other boxes and the electric meter. When we looked there we found the problem. Someone before us had just jumpered the fuse system with #12 copper wires. One of these wires had started to burn on one end and with the heat had started to melt the plastic. It was pretty well fried, but for now we could only clean the wire, re-jump it and go get some real fuses tomorrow. No hot water or stove until I get that fixed. At least we have light and computer. Somehow I thought I should be able to get away from home repairs by being a renter. No such luck in Mozambique.

Speaking of computers, it seems that our Net Cabo network has changed systems without telling the users and we have had no internet since Tuesday. If you get this you will know we can communicate with the rest of the world again. Vonage has not been working the last two weeks as well. Just when you thought it might be working, think again. Sorry, we had hoped to call on Easter and hear some of your voices.

To end on a more positive note, we watched a great video from Crag Hill on leadership this week. It really is appropriate for where leadership issues are at WR right now and helped explain potential direction for the future. There is a possibility we can help bring the Family Foundations ministries here to Mozambique. Please pray with us for wisdom, discernment and implementation of this possibility.

Well, Rachel thinks I am writing an epistle, so I guess it is time to stop. Love you all,

Steve and Rachel

Monday, April 10, 2006

Palm Sunday

Bom dia a todos,  


We are having a lazy Sunday afternoon.  This morning I taught SS for the first time and had a good time with five 8-10 yr. olds.  They had fun acting out the story and were generally well behaved so it was a good start.  At our church we teach once a month which is not ideal for the kids but works for the teachers who travel so much.  Our pastors have been in the U.S. for 3 months and it was great to have them back.  The church is going through a slump and needs leadership that is united and working together.  Steve has been asked to be an elder (again) and is considering meeting with them until we go to the U.S. in Aug and then seeing where we go from there when we return.  We may not be living in Maputo then, which would make it difficult to be in leadership. 

Last Thur. we said good-bye to Joanna which was not as much fun as saying hello to her.  We really enjoyed having her here and she says she will be back so that’s good.  Last weekend we were in Maxixe and enjoyed a wonderful day at the Tofo beach.  We jumped the waves, explored tide pools and walked the beach.  The tide pools were incredible with live shells, crabs, a sea slug, small fish and more.  There are a lot of fascinating critters in the sea! 

We met a very interesting Italian man who has been traveling the world for the last year and a half and has visited 54 countries.  He is an architect who now lives off the rental of his house.  He hitchhikes as much as possible, camps or sleeps in very low-price places, etc.  He wasn’t very impressed with the U.S. because of the lack of public transportation and other high costs, although he did like the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone.  He is working his way up through Africa back to Italy and then plans to move to northern Peru by Ecuador.  He’s decided it’s the ideal place to live and raise a family.  

The main reason we traveled to Maxixe was to visit a coconut oil plant.  I, Steve, had gotten a name of a South African farmer who had a micro press that was developed by the Australian group that David Hagen worked with and was producing some of the oil we bought.  I pretty much knew what we were going to see from the research I had been doing, but it was very enlightening to hear about some of the detail of oil production and challenges he had faced in starting the press.  We also looked at some land that WR has gotten permission to develop and are considering what to do with that option. 

Overall, it looks like we will do something with coconut oil and byproducts next year starting in October.  The next steps are working on the business models, financial plans and details of starting something like a real business in Mozambique.  It would have to be different than the chicken process as there we just let them run every aspect of the activity except for the supplies and finances.  With oil production, there are lots of different aspects to consider and management of the quality, marketing, etc.   

Yesterday we had a mini-adventure as we celebrated our anniversary on Catembe, which we can see across the bay from Maputo.  We took a short ride on the ferry and then drove around a bit.  It is a fairly rural area and there is not a lot to see.  But we satisfied our curiosity and had a good meal overlooking the bay at a nice hotel/restaurant.  I don’t think they get much business as the beach is not so clean there and there’s not much to do.  Their prices are way over what the locals can afford so they are dependent on outsiders.  While we waited for the ferry in Maputo we visited the newly opened “Park of Love,” had some ice cream and observed a bridal party having pictures taken.  It was fun to see a bride and groom and realize that’s where we were 28 yrs ago. 

Between the fun times we’ve had work and challenges as well.  Whoever said that at times missionaries are challenged most by other missionaries was right.  Pray that we will have grace and right attitudes as we work together.  We also got pulled over by a policeman again for turning right where we were not supposed to.  I think they are just looking for ways to make money and harass vehicles with SA plates.  We are ready for a different vehicle as this one has gotten us pulled over nearly too many times to count.   

This next week we will start another Train the Trainer series in Zimpeto, just out of Maputo.  We will meet three times a week for three weeks and Steve will only be there as he has time between chicken runs.  These training times are fun as the participants start teaching the lessons themselves and learn by doing with some coaching by us.  We are working with OMS, a mission agency that has asked us to do training and is setting everything up.  It’s nice to only be responsible for the actual training and not all the other logistics.


Enough for now, we love you all,


Steve and Rachel