Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Interesting People

A couple of weeks ago I, Rachel,  was walking to work and praying.  I said, "Lord, bring some people into my life that I can share with."  Not more than two minutes later a young woman walked up.  (We had met her two days earlier when we were out for a walk and she was looking for a place.  Apparently she had seen us at church so she started talking to us.)  Now she was bored so she walked with me for awhile and we talked.  Then one day she said she needed to come and talk.  She told me all about herself and wanted to set the record straight because most of the things she had told me before were not true.  She is South African and is here illegally.  She was promised a job so she came, only to find out that what the boss really wanted was a girlfriend (he is married).  She quit that and was desperate to find another job.  She didn't have money to go home and the situation there is not the best anyhow.  She was feeling confused and felt like God was far away.  We prayed and she came along to a Bible study where we are reading When God Doesn't Make Sense by Dr. Dobson.  This is an appropriate subject for her right now!  A couple of days later she was so excited and called me to say she got a temporary job.  That is one answer to prayer and we will continue to relate to her.


At church I met a Cuban doctor.  She had worked in Mozambique and Angola for six years previously.  She is retired now, but a woman from here contacted her and asked if she would come for two months with promises of room and board, ticket costs and $500/month.  This sounded really good because in Cuba she has a $7/mo. pension.  She sold most of her things in her house to buy the ticket and came.  Now there has been no money, very little work and Maria despairs of even getting reimbursed for her ticket.  The woman she works/lives with is into witchcraft, control and fits of rage.  Maria is desperate to leave, but determined to get her money first so is waiting it out, although she says she doesn't know if she can make it another 50 days.


Maria has a Brazilian friend, who is in a similar bind.  He is a massage therapist from Brazil and was promised big bucks, etc. for a short stay in Maputo.  He had work in Brazil but thought it would be nice to make more money fast so he could buy a house.  Now the job fell through, his living situation is not good and he missed his flight home because he had not received any money for the tickets.  He used his sister's credit line for a loan and refuses to go home before he can pay that debt.


We spent Sunday with both of them and they were thankful for a day off from their living situations.  It is interesting that God has brought me into contact with three very different people who have similar situations.  They are all desperate and looking for answers and someone to care for them. 


On another note, our co-worker shared today that there have been more deaths in his family.  He lost a brother to AIDS last May.  Now that brother's wife died and another half-brother also died a few days apart.  The orphaned 3-year old will either go to live with his grandparents or his mother's family.  Our co-worker is not able to attend the funerals in Zimbabwe but will spend most of his leave in December visiting the families.  It is true that attending funerals in Africa is becoming a major part of people's lives.  Where will it end? 


On a more cheerful note, we are doing well.  We had a good week with Dennis from Malawi who stayed with us.  God is bringing some very interesting people into our lives and He is giving us the grace to receive them and the gifts they bring.


Take care.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

A Shell "Angel"


This past week we held an Ancient Paths seminar here in Matola.  A team came from South Africa to lead the seminar and we hosted two of the men.  The first night they stayed with us we were in their vehicle and directed them to our apartment.  The second night we headed separate ways and Steve made them a detailed map to get from the guesthouse (where they had supper) to our place.  Around 9 p.m. I started wondering where they were.  At 9:30 I made a phone call to the guesthouse and found out they had left an hour earlier.  Now what?  They didn't have a cell phone that worked, and we didn’t have a vehicle so all we could do was pray.  Then Steve decided he would go out and see if he could find them.


He stood under a light at a Shell station close to our house where there is a roundabout.  In the meantime, these two guys got a little turned around but eventually found the road they were to be on.  They were in our neighborhood but got it into their heads that we lived in a 10-story building (we had told them we were in Apt. 10).  So, even though they had the map, they thought it must be wrong and started looking for 10-story buildings.  They went around and around, even going the wrong way down a 1-way street.  Of course there were 3 traffic cops right there ready for him.  The police asked them for some whiskey (note they did not ask for money!) but since they didn't have any, settled on some Rands.  They decided to go around the roundabout one more time and then they saw Steve, their angel!  They were so happy to see him and get to our house.


The one guy is a pastor (he reminds us of Don Cripe) so I told him he had the makings of a good sermon illustration.  Well, he's turning it into his whole sermon.  When we don't have proper perspectives and let deception creep in, we go around in circles, waste time and pay unnecessary fines even when we have a “map” right in front of us.


So we had a good seminar and the people who participated are excited about continuing to be involved.  It looks like Steve and I will also be more involved and eventually become coordinators for the Maputo area.  This will involve more training in S Africa in the coming months.  We met a very good couple from Cameroon who have been missionaries in Moz for 5 years.  They are Genesis and Yolanda and Genesis really had a touch from God, a new beginning.


It was funny to hear the South African's reaction to the heat.  It was in the 80's one day and you would have thought it was 100!  Where they live it is quite cool and not humid.  Thankfully the next couple of days it was cool and rainy.  I'm loving the weather, it's just right for me!  We hope you’re enjoying life where you are too.


This week we found out that the government can call a holiday from one day to the next.  The funny thing was that we didn’t even know it was a holiday until the end of the day because we were at the seminar. Steve went to the office in the afternoon and everything was all locked up with no one around.  Then he found an e-mail announcing “Samora Machel Day,” a 20th anniversary of the death of the first leader after independence (his plane was shot down just across the SA border).  We don’t know if this will be an annual holiday or not.  One just never knows what a day will bring in Moz!






















Monday, October 16, 2006

Utility capers

We have been back in Mozambique for two weeks now and in some ways it feels like we never left.  Indiana feels like a long way away and a long time ago, even if we just spent two months there with family and friends.  It was truly an amazing time that God set up for us, both restful and occupied with enough to keep us focused.  Coming back we feel like we are to get more involved with the local church and in Maputo with relationships and ministries. 


Hope the title catches your eye since paying utility bills in Mozambique is quite a challenge.  Normally we just get the bill, put together the money and take it to our landlord’s house so she can have her house worker go stand in line to pay it.  However, this time the payment was due that day or a fine would be applied. 


The utility payment offices close at 2:30 so I was sure the clerks/tellers worked through lunch.  After all they get off early!  Being it was the last payment day of the month, I decided to wait till 2 and once I was in the doors, they would keep things going until they finished all the clients who were there before the doors closed.  That was the case, but I did not foresee several things.


First, they installed a “state of the art” number system where you select the type of service you want and out comes a number for that line.  You then choose any chair in the room and don’t have to play musical chairs to keep in line every time a new customer is served at a clerk.  It used to be quite a sight.  You can even go out and do something else if you want and get back before the doors are locked or your number is called.  So I took a number 718. 


It took me awhile to get oriented to what number they were now serving.  The sign said 0568 01.  Was it 0568?01 (i.e. was it missing a number?) or was it 056801, or was it 568 and who knew what the 01 was for?  Part of the problem was that the “01” stood for the register number that was serving the current client. There were 5 registers, but only two were currently occupied and only one was handling any clients.  Everybody else was either MIA or out to lunch!  That meant I was 150 numbers from being served.  It also meant they had helped less than 100 clients per hour in the first 6.5 hours of being open, even with more clerks.  Why didn’t I bring that book? 


Since I had a half hour before they locked the door, I decided that I would check out the water company situation next door.  Not a chance, they had the same situation there so I was ready to just walk out, mostly because they don’t fine you for a late bill.  We will get it next month.  However, since I had the time, I started looking at the bill for the months we were gone and noticed we had charges in the second level of water usage where you have to pay if you exceeded 10 m3 per month.  We (or guests) used 4 one month and 1 the other.  So I asked, why the charges.  The answer came back in English so I did not misunderstand it.  If the billing cycle is not exactly 30 days, you are charged a portion of your water at the higher rate whether you use that much water or not.  It is not if the month has 30 days, it is the number of days between the days they read you meter.  So you pay extra no matter what.  As the Malawian’s would say, shame!


Well, you can believe I was back inside the electric company office before the doors locked at 2:30.  The number being served was #620.  Somehow they had managed to serve about 40 people in the last half hour.  Suddenly things began to happen.  A new teller appeared.  Then the “guard” made an announcement that if you had the exact change, you could be served first and the vocal protests began.  People who came in late might be served before those who came in earlier.  Maybe they could pull off the “exact change” stunt at the beginning of the day when no tellers had change (a normal business practice), but not at the end of it.  It took a second employee to intervene and correct the guard to calm everyone down. 


It took another 50 minutes to get through the next 100 numbers before I was served, and it went “so fast” because about half of the people had given up and left or gotten locked out.  The next time you pay your utility bill at the bank, on-line or through the mail consider yourself blessed that you don’t have to wait 1-3 hours to do it and you are not charged for services you don’t use.


I, Rachel, taught the 8-11 yr old Sunday School today.  We were having an interesting conversation and somehow got to whether animals have eternal souls or not.  One boy said, “Well, when animals die they go to the animal kingdom.”  So there you have it, it’s clear in his mind!





Tuesday, October 03, 2006

We've arrived back in Moz

Just a short note to say we have arrived safe and well in Maputo (only one hour late) and have found it sunny, windy and about 80 degrees. The long flight is starting to get familiar and doesn’t seem quite so long anymore. We had good connections with only 2-3 hour layovers that really helped. For those of you interested, as of September 30, Delta and South African Air no longer have a code share agreement. That means we will have to use our Delta miles on Delta and we came back just in time to get the return miles on SAA credited to Delta. (We found out by reading the small print in the back of the SAA monthly magazine, so maybe it was a long flight!)

In some ways it seems like we haven’t been gone and in other ways it feels like we have been gone a long time. The rooster crowing in the neighborhood sounds normal, yet strange. We are definitely living in the “city” again, blaring radios and all.

At the airport the man that picked us up said there were a couple of Malawians staying at our place. When we arrived we didn’t see anyone or any suitcases and when we called WR they said, “Oh, we didn’t want to put someone in your apt when you were just coming back.” But a little later there was a knock at our door and there was another WR employee with suitcase in hand saying he had been told to stay here for some nights. So, welcome to the guesthouse. If there is an empty bed, you are welcome to sleep in it!

Rachel commented that this last stint at home may be the last time we live with any of our kids for an extended period of time. Joanna was with us for the two months, but is now moving toward Indy. Janelle is now officially engaged to David Phillips, and they are talking about a summer wedding. We are excited about having David in the family.

We want to say a huge thank you to all the people who made our time special back in the US by being supportive in fellowship, travel to and participation in reunions and our open house, and hosting us in your homes or sometimes favorite restaurants. It was a special joy to get caught up on the events in your lives. Even though it may seem pretty everyday to you, we want/need to hear about it to stay connected.