Thursday, May 29, 2008


Time moves on and we need to record what has happened. Steve and I and Anastase (the new WR church development director) headed out to the village of Chinhangane about 5 hours from Maputo for three days in mid-May. We joined a group of people from Calvary Church in Grand Rapids who are WR church partners.

Along the way we experienced God's protection as we came within inches of being hit in the truck. We were traveling in a very remote area. Every now and then one sees a mud hut, there are hardly any people and there is no cell phone service. So we were driving along and we saw a pickup with some guys in the back on the other side waiting to come onto the road. He seemed to motion to Anastase (who was driving) to go on by. However, as we got close, he came onto the road and proceeded to drive into our lane and our path! Anastase saw him coming and kept pressing the horn, but the guy just kept on coming. Anastase had to go off the road to miss hitting him. Finally after we passed him within inches he stopped. As I looked back I saw him put his hands together out the window in a gesture of prayer. I think he was trying to say he was sorry.

When we arrived at Chinhangane the first sight we saw was many women knitting. The Calvary women taught them how to knit and they were all making a simple shawl. It was amazing to see. The group and the women from the U.S. went for a walk once and the Chinhangane women took their knitting along and asked them to slow down because they were knitting! The only time I saw them put their work down was when they were listening to a teaching or during a meal. Now the challenge is to make this a self-sustainable project as it is very difficult to get good yarn for a good price in Mozambique and it is not sustainable for Calvary to bring in all the yarn from the U.S. I even tried my hand at knitting for awhile, but decided to revert to what I do better - crochet.

Here's Sybil doing some starter games for youth club.

Several of the men from the U.S. set up a solar electrical system to power the guesthouse that they had built. Here they are along with Steve putting it in place.

The team also did trainings for pastors, children and WR women and taught them to make woven rag placemats on small looms. I'm impressed with the creativity of the teams that come.

One of the tear-jerking moments was a visit we made to a family with a sick baby. He is 2 but outside of a miracle he won't make it to his 3rd birthday. He is very frail and just sits on his mother's lap and whimpers. He was in the hospital for awhile and had an HIV test, but the results have not been released to the parents. The mother was also tested, but she doesn't know the results. I'm afraid this is a common thing, especially with those who are positive.

Chinhangane and many villages like it are in a desperate situation due to the drought. Their crops all failed and what few crops they have been able to irrigate have been destroyed by the elephants. There is a wildlife park across the river, but when the river is down it is easy for them to cross over to find food. In order to have money to eat, the people have been traveling further into the bush to find trees to cut down and make charcoal to sell. In a few years there will be no more trees and their situation will be more desperate.

This past weekend we had an Ancient Paths seminar in Portuguese in the next town. Friday night especially, there was a real spirit of repentance as God showed them the dishonor in their lives. The rest of the seminar there was also a lot of repentance as they saw the consequences and curses attached to immorality. There was one man in our group who sobbed out that he was a prodigal son coming home to the Father. Many burdens were lifted and we may not know all the work God did until eternity.

One man wrote, “I am grateful to God because before the seminar I lived a life of dishonor toward my parents and I felt I was at the bottom of a hole and didn’t know how to get out. But on the first day of ministry I heard the word of God, I opened my heart and God worked in my life. I feel peace and joy and my sins were forgiven and the doors of dishonor were closed. Today I have peace with those who were my enemies. The weight on my soul was lifted.”

Saturday morning we start a process group with a few of the participants for the next 8 weeks. We thought we would do this after we return from the U.S., but they don't want to wait, so others will lead the last sessions. It's exciting to see their hunger and what God is doing.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Coconut Bread Instead

The week after Rachel did her trip out to the village, we were blessed by a visit from a food scientist from the US. Last fall while I was thinking about the high quality coconut press cake that we produce alongside our coconut oil (and the fact that the local bakery people had basically ignored us after we gave them a big sample to experiment with) I realized we needed to connect with some real food science people to help create higher value uses for the product.

In pursuit of someone, I thought first about our partner churches in the US who have a large number of professional people and diversity of skills that might surely yield one or two good hearted souls who might have an interest to help. So I wrote our staff in Baltimore asking what they thought about the idea. One of them, Sharla, said, “my husband Tim is a food scientist, grew up in Sri Lanka and loves coconut. Could he help?” Who would have guessed such a close connection?

We traveled to Maxixe one morning and saw the mill, with its oil production, and by-products of mature coconut water and press cake. The cake smells and tastes like coconut, is white in color and only needs grinding to make a good nutritional flour with lots of protein, fiber and some residual oil. Everyone who talked about it said how excellent it was and all the things you could do with it, but the local people were only feeding it to chickens.

The next morning, we visited a small bakery and talked to them about possibly using it in their bread making process. The main point of interest for them was that it was a lower cost ingredient. We got their recipe for the standard flour, yeast and water mix and went to our manager Romeu’s kitchen to see what Tim could figure out to do with a combination of the coconut flour and their recipe. When the first batch of bread came out of the oven around 5 PM, one of the 25% coconut flour buns broke apart because it stuck to the bottom of a well-used pan. After our first nibble, we could not stop eating from it. Even the niece, Epiphany, came back for more.

We had promised to come back to the bakery at 7 the next day to show them our results. When we arrived, they were not baking anything. After explaining to them about 3 times and letting them nibble on the samples, they got it and said,
“Where is some flour so we can make our own?”
“You mean now?”
“Yes, right now before you go back to Maputo.”
So, we helped them do the math and made a 1/5th batch in the commercial mixer. We had to pinch ourselves (and take photos) while they were cutting and rolling the balls for individual buns. It really exceeded our expectations.

We left the bakery to let the bread rise and get some breakfast, (eating some of our own creations from the night before). When we got back, they had a tray full of bread out on the counter they were sharing with their customers. I bought a bag to bring back to evaluate and share it at the office. It was quite a hit as it made for a great story and interested eaters who said they really liked it (almost 24 hours after baking). Usually this style of bread gets stale and crusty as it has no oil or fiber to retain the moisture (or preservatives). It was still good Saturday, and even Monday it was still soft to the touch.

Now for the ultimate test—seeing if those who sampled it in Maxixe come back to ask for more and if we can sell it to the bakery on a regular basis.

Monday, May 12, 2008

In the Village

This past week Rachel spent a few days in a village with a team from Akron, OH. It was great to get out of the city for awhile and experience village life. It is really quite different. First we stopped in Chokwe and I was able to see many people whom I´m sad to say I haven´t seen in about 6 months or longer. After traveling to Chokwe for a few days every week, not being there for a long period of time has been very different. I miss the people, especially our ¨kids¨ that we spent a lot of time with at the beginning. They all seem to be doing well and are working and ministering in different areas, some with WR, some with Samaritan´s Purse. Atalia (in picture) is one of these.

The team worked with teaching pastors and women´s groups, one guy taught welding, there were kids clubs and an eye doctor who did examinations and handed out Lions Club glasses. I joined them for a couple of half days and learned a lot about eyes in the process. The driver and I even figured out what kind of reading glasses a woman needed, put them on her, and she could read! (The Dr. was busy blowing up gloves like balloons and giving them to the kids.)
This is his second trip and on the first trip he learned that many people have had cataract surgery but have not had lenses replaced, which means they can’t see very well at all. This time he brought special glasses that had been donated from older people as they are no longer made or needed in the U.S. He brought 31 pairs and gave away at least 25. Many of these people would walk in hunched over and looking dejected. When they discovered they could see they walked straight with a spring in their step and huge smiles on their faces!

He also examined an albino and as he rarely sees albinos, he was trying to remember the distinctive characteristics about their eyesight. And then the guy pulls his prescription out of his pocket. Now before the Dr. left the U.S. a friend of his gave him two pairs of glasses of his dad’s who had just passed away. They were a very specific prescription with a special correction for astigmatism and the Dr. didn’t think he would find anyone that could use them. Lo and behold, the prescription the man handed to him was the exact one that he had the glasses for! Unfortunately he could only find one pair of sunglasses at the time, which he gave to him. On a different day, Doc found the other pair in his luggage but didn’t think he’d ever see the man again. We left the village and on our way back to Maputo we stopped at a Bible school for their graduation. One of the team members saw our friend walking in to the ceremony. So Doc quickly climbed up on top of the Land Cruiser, got to his luggage and pulled out the other pair of glasses. He handed it to the man and the guy was very excited. Hopefully by now he knows that God really loves him to arrange all those details so he could have two pairs of special glasses!

I found out that it’s a lot of work to stay two steps ahead of a team, but I had plenty of help. I don’t normally do this, but the woman who does needed to go to the U.S. so I took her place. It was a great bunch of people and it was a privilege to serve them.

Steve is currently spending time with a food scientist who is volunteering his time to research uses for coconut meal (what is left after the oil is extracted). It is high in protein and fiber, gluten free and supposedly becoming popular (and expensive) in the West. They are also experimenting with vinegar and fruit juices using the coconut water. Who knows what will come of it all--we’ll keep you posted.