Thursday, May 25, 2006



In Dec we were asked to host a Malawian accountant who was coming to fill in at WR.  At first I thought it would be 2 weeks (it turned out to be longer).  Introvert that I am, I struggled with the thought.


But God seemed to be nudging me and it became a point of obedience.  So I said “yes” and he came.  He is a very gentle man, thanking us profusely for allowing him to stay with us.  We slowly got to know him and I discovered a kindred spirit.  We have a lot in common since he is also a third culture kid, having grown up in the U.S. and Canada and then returning to Malawi.  One of his favorite phrases is “that’s Africa for you” with a shake of his head.  He struggles with some of the cultural issues just like we do.


He washed the dishes every night, caused very little extra work and became our friend.  We talked about work a lot, joked, talked about life and had a great time.  He told us he felt very at home with us, like he was with family.


This was a lesson to me to welcome strangers into our home, for who knows, they may become our good friends or they may even be angels!


In Reaching Out by Henri Nouwen he says:  “… if there is any concept worth restoring to its original depth and evocative potential, it is the concept of hospitality.  It is one of the richest biblical terms that can deepen and broaden our insight in our relationships to our fellow human beings.  Old and New Testament stories not only show how serious our obligation is to welcome the stranger in our home, but they also tell us that guests are carrying precious gifts with them, which they are eager to reveal to a receptive host.  When Abraham received three strangers at Mamre and offered them water, bread and a fine tender calf, they revealed themselves to him as the Lord announcing that Sarah his wife would give birth to a son.   When the widow of Zarephath offered food and shelter to Elijah, he revealed himself as a man of God offering her an abundance of oil and meal and raising her son from the dead.  When the two travelers to Emmaus invited the stranger, who had joined them on the road to stay with them for the night, he made himself known in the breaking of the bread as their Lord and Savior.  When hostility is converted into hospitality then fearful strangers can become guests revealing to their hosts the promise they are carrying with them.  The biblical stories help us to realize not just that hospitality is an important virtue, but even more that in the context of hospitality guest and host can reveal their most precious gifts and bring new life to each other.”




Monday, May 15, 2006

No water

I just heard a story from our co-worker, Joseph, that I thought I'd share with you.  Joseph bought a car in November.  When one buys a car, the Mozambican government is to produce a "libreto".  He has never received this, he only got stamped papers.  He has been stopped several times but usually the stamped papers and payment of a fine do the trick.  This time, as he was going to Zimbabwe, they told him he could not continue driving the car.  He would need to return to Maputo and leave the car there.  He would also have to pay a daily fine as long as the car was parked there.  He refused to go along with that plan and spent 30 hours waiting for a resolution (they fined him for that parking time as well).  Fortunately his wife was talking with her co-worker who is a friend of the commander in Beira.  She placed a phone call and Joseph was able to leave with his car.  He still doesn't have a libreto and this could happen again until the government gets it to him.  People here have lived with this kind of thing for so long that they just take it in stride, but it is one of those cultural adjustments for us.
We've been without consistent running water for a week.  Apparently a transformer broke and they say it could be months before it is repaired and the supply level is back to normal.  WR has water, and most people in this neighborhood have underground tanks that fill up when the water comes on intermittently.  Apartments are different, and if the water comes on for a bit, it is quickly used up by all the tenants below us.  So Steve is getting muscles hauling water in a 20-liter container up to the 5th story.  We're perfecting the art of the bucket bath and using lots less water.  Today I had the thought, "We're becoming more like Jesus.  He didn't have running water either!"  It's interesting that there is no outcry from the general public.  Mozambicans have been through so much that a few months without running water is no big deal.  During the war they didn't have running water or electricity.  Trying to negotiate slippery stairs in the dark in the highrises was apparently quite a struggle.  We won't take water or electricity for granted again.
Friday a.m. I, Steve, took an early morning bucket bath before a trip to SA and Rachel stayed home.  Sometime during the day she heard a gurgling in the pump system as some water began to enter the apartment. She got excited and started opening the tap and sure enough brown water started pouring out.  Brown or not it is water we wonÂ’t have to carry up the stairs.  Like the widow with the oil jar, she starts filling every container in the house including wastebaskets, chicken waterers, empty 2 liter pop bottles, the washing machine, and the tub.  When I got home we still had water.  What I wonder is how I am going to take a shower in a tub full of water?  No problem Rachel said, just pull the plug and let it drain.  No way, we might not see this kind of water again for a week!

Sure enough, the next morning, again there is no water.  Never fear she says, we can take baths!  But, but, BUT, the water is cold I say.  So you guessed it, we have to heat water in the hot pot to warm the tub water to take a bath in water that now has the iron settled out of it.  Well all I can say it is that it was a bit better that Lake Michigan in August, but not long and luxurious for sure.  Do you think we drained it then? Nope, not on your life.  We are saving it to flush the stool you see. I am sure this saga will continue. 

Monday, May 08, 2006

Weddings in Mozambique


 We celebrated May Day or Day of the Worker on May 1.  And just like many Labor Days in Ind. this one was chilly with rain.  Folks are saying it will be a colder "winter" this year because we've had a lot of rain.  It will probably stop raining soon as the cold season is also the dry season.  So far it's been very pleasant and hasn't been very cold.

This week in Chokwe we saw some very excited kids in front of the WR office.  The reason they were excited was because there were lots of grasshoppers and crickets there next to a light that is left on at night.  They were busy catching as many as possible and stuffing them into bottles and jars for a yummy snack later in the day.  (They like them fried.)  Hmmm, I guess I'd rather eat that than a caterpillar.  Their fun quickly came to an end when a nearby store-owner chased them away with a stick.

The last few days Steve has been busy trying to get supplies purchased and delivered to Matola, a bedroom city to Maputo. He just called and said he was shoveling sand.  So the job description has plenty of variety, as you know.  This is the last community we will build chicken houses in for a while.

I've been reading a book that I would recommend to anyone, not just missionaries.  It is titled "On Being a Missionary" by Thomas Hale, a doctor who has worked with United Mission to Nepal over 20 years.  It is very thought-provoking, he writes about some basic issues of human nature that we all deal with and has some great stories.  Maybe I'm finding it especially helpful because it has to do with some of the very issues we've been experiencing lately (resolving interpersonal conflict, dying to self, relating to nationals, cross-cultural issues etc.).  Thank God for books.  It seems we have done more reading than ever since we've been here.  We've read most everything we wanted to read out of Evangeline's collection and now we are discovering other friends' books.  Reading for pleasure is a rare thing in Mozambique.  Libraries are very scarce and when they exist, they are to read there.  One is not allowed to take the books home.  Even the church library requires a $10 deposit to take a book out.


We’ve experienced our first wedding in Mozambique.  The groom had been in our training and invited us.  In Mozambique one goes to the “wedding palace” first for the civil ceremony, then the church ceremony, then a reception usually at their home.  The wedding palace is downtown Maputo and weddings take place every 20 minutes day in and day out.  Theirs was scheduled for 8:45 a.m.  But, wouldn’t you know, one of the vehicles with participants wouldn’t start so they arrived late.  Then they had to wait to be fit in somewhere in the schedule.  The church ceremony was to start at 11 a.m.  We arrived, but only a few people were in sight.  We were told they were behind schedule so we just waited and they eventually arrived at 1 p.m.  It was basically the same as a Western ceremony with a few differences.  The wedding party lined up on either side of the aisle (singing all the time) and the groom came down the aisle to walk in with the bride.  The whole wedding party sat on the platform facing the audience and the parents sat right next to the couple.  One thing that really struck me was how little the bride or groom smiled.  Apparently they are not supposed to because this is a serious commitment.  But to me they almost looked sad!  After the wedding everyone goes to the home, eats a big meal and then gifts are presented with dancing and singing.  And speeches, don’t forget the speeches.  It all makes for a very full day and hopefully worth the expense—usually a year’s wages.


Today we just learned that a friend from home, soccer coach to our kids and dad of some of their very good friends, Jim Van Elk, passed away yesterday of a massive heart attack as he was jogging.  Their family always has an open home where kids love to hang out.   It is a shocking thing to realize that someone fairly young and healthy is gone.  We are still trying to process it.  Pray for their family and the Concord community as he had a lot of influence and his loss will be greatly felt by all.    He was not afraid to tell anyone that he loved Jesus and his life demonstrated it.


God bless,


Rachel (and Steve)