Sunday, December 30, 2007

Challenges of 'The Simple Life'

The past week has been pretty much committed to spending time with our kids since they’re here such a short time. We drove 6 hours to pick them up in Vilanculos then turned around and drove another 6 hours back home. Needless to say, after a bedtime cup of tea we hit the hay! We were sure tired, and the kids were jetlagged on top of it. Amanda was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed the very next day and anxious to do some baking, so we decided on gingerbreads.

On their 2nd day here we figured we’d venture into town for a few groceries and to pop in on a few friends. Well, our poor old road had started to develop another boggy spot and wouldn’t you know it, as we drove through, it decided to give way under the car. So there we sat in our finest, up to the bumpers in mud. 4X4 and diff lock were of no use to us because we were high centered. The tires on the side that had sunk into the mud simply spun like beaters in cake batter! Hours of digging and ingenious ideas to try to extricate ourselves only resulted in sinking deeper! The guys finally resorted to winching us out with a rope and chain. Thankfully there was a strong enough tree nearby. I guess this was re-baptism by fire for our kids—“Welcome back to the bush guys.” They took everything in stride, but that night we nursed sunburns.

Same mud hole 2 days later.
Yet another very squishy, soft mud hole in our entry road. It's getting more and more difficult to find terra firma to drive on around here!

Otherwise, it’s been a great time with lots of talking and visiting old friends. We dropped in on Fred who worked for us for 10 years and is now retired. He was happy to see the kids, but was especially awestruck with Russell’s size. He kept looking at him, head to one side saying, “This is Russell? ....Ayeee *click* ayeeee...he is big now. . .Ayeeeee. He is a man.”
But even the arrival of our kids couldn’t coax the sun out of hiding for more than a few hours before heavy rain clouds would move in and deliver their quota of yet more rain. We had a dandy of a thunderstorm one night. Bolts of lightning struck alarmingly closeby and the crash of thunder made us cringe. In fact, we were eating supper on the veranda with friends and the rain was so loud on the tin roof that we couldn’t hear each other talk. We shouted, gestured with our hands, exchanged shocked expressions and laughed. We unplugged any electrical appliances to protect them and we already don’t have cell phone coverage. While the rest of the world rushed forward at its usual hectic pace, we out here in the bush sat fairly cut off from it all, engulfed by rain, eating our supper and laughing. The challenges of bush life have sent many running back to civilization, but it is simple in its own way. (The rain water drainage from the highway forms a small river as it crosses our entry road...women actually come here to do their laundry.) Good news: Our internet modem was hand delivered last week and is now hooked up so we’re online again! Yay! Or shall I put it into local dialect and say...‘Ayeee, *click* ayeee.....ulululuululu’!

Less good news: It’s still raining ALOT! Weather forecasters on Radio Mocambique say it’s going to keep raining like this until March and we can expect cyclones too. Wow. I’m starting to wonder if our little home will get washed away by the raging river tide! Water now completely covers what used to be the mission garden.

In fact, it rained so hard the night of the thunderstorm that the water rose several feet and nearly ripped our river pump off its perch high on the rock. If we in the higher altitudes are feeling rained-out and flooded, I hate to imagine what Beira is like right now since the city is downstream from us and is below sea level. No, this is not a good time to visit Beira. It may also not be a good time to drive the low-lying highway through Mozambique to take our kids to Jo’burg to catch their flight home! We may have to take the Zimbabwe route, regardless of the chaos in that country. I know one thing for sure, our kids may like ‘the simple life’ here in the bush, but they don’t really want to miss those flights back to the frozen North!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I think it's going to be a muddy Christmas!

Just a little update. In a nut shell I should just say it's the same old same old since my last blog post! On Saturday we got stuck here on our way out to town to hook up to internet and get some groceries. That night it rained 69 mm and turned that bad patch into something that resembled a river bed!
Here the ground is either giving way or Dwight is testing its 'unsoundness'! Watch out Dwight, you don't want to get stuck in that!
We cancelled our Sunday plans (to phone our kids to see how last minute packing/studying was going). We really didn't want to get hopelessly stuck! On Monday it was all hands on deck as our staff worked flat out to dig ditches to redirect the continual water flow down the road. We resorted to laying heavy boards along the tire tracks so at least our pick up could make it out, but the truck was simply too heavy. It got stuck just trying to haul the wood and broken bricks to help fill huge eroded gaps in the road. It was one dirty, smelly mess let me tell you!
On the cleaner and brighter side, this is one of the sponsored students who recently received a gift from guess where?? Canada! He was so pleased to receive his care package, he just smiled and smiled. This is his dad beside him, also smiling!
Internet Modem update: Well, it seems to still be in transit somewhere between the UK and Africa... A modem did arrive at the Harare DHL and they thought it was ours. But it wasn't. So we're still waiting and trying to be patient.
Rain update: We can't believe it's STILL raining as heavily as it is. Our rainy season is about as short as Canada's summer and we dont usually get torrential rains so early. We've already had last year's entire rainfall and the season heavy part of the season (Jan and Feb) are yet to come. The local people are concerned that if this keeps up they won't be able to get in and weed their crops which could mean a dismal production year. So we're praying that the Lord will help the clouds contain themselves just a bit :).
As I write this our kids are in the Toronto airport. Their Edmonton flight left just after midnight after a day of exam writing. I'm sure THAT felt like cruel and unusual punishment! That schedule wasn't intentional, just an oversight. It's a good thing they're young, not sure I could handle it. We are on pins and needles awaiting their arrival here in about 48 hours.
In case I'm not online before Christmas, let me wish you all a VERY Merry Christmas! Please enjoy the snow for us, and we'll 'enjoy' the mud for you :)!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Did I mention it's been raining alot?

It’s still raining, believe it or not. We’ve got mushrooms popping up everywhere and our entry road has become a swamp! If it weren’t for 4 wheel drive and diff lock I’m afraid we’d be cut off from civilization. (Late note: even that gave up the ghost this morning on our way out to town...we got royally stuck!)
Our river just keeps filling and filling and the sound of the river cascading over the 6 meter drop is quite impressive. I was reading today from the book of Ezekiel and he described God’s voice to be ‘like the roar of rushing waters’. This is about the only stretch of the Mucombeze River that has such a drop, so we count ourselves blessed to be able to sit on our veranda at night and listen to the thundering waterfall. God’s voice. No wonder it’s so peaceful.
All this rain means lots of bugs EVERYWHERE (the ones in with the candle are not meant as a display). And frogs are out in a big way too. My neighbour caught a huge one in our old pool, he must have been about a pound in weight! I rather prefer this little guy who I found on our veranda. This is for Amanda :).

We’re also still rather behind the times since our new internet modem is still making its way here from Harare. Maybe, just maybe, it’ll be here before next weekend! In the meantime I’m learning how to work the internet cafe computers a bit better. I wish they were closer, but twice a week will have to do for now. They may not be real fast or reliable, but any system sure beats what we had 10 years ago all to bits. Beats what we’ve got right now too!

Last week the 5th grade graduation ceremony was held at our school. 17 out of 20 kids passed, and 10 of those have sponsorship which means there’s a good chance they can carry on to grade 6. (I think I mentioned already that over 80% of our grade 5's passed the national exams compared to 57% of the nearby community's grade 5 class.) Not all the sponsored kids attended the ceremony because the river was so high that it was treacherous to come across, but these ones were there. Once prizes were given out we called them all up to ask them if they’d in fact like to carry on to grade 6. (It’s important to ask certain questions in life.) As each one was asked, “So, would YOU like to carry on with your education??” The answer was be a shy “Yes.” When we got to the last guy in the line we asked the question everyone had memorized by then, “So, would YOU like to carry on with your education?” Instead of the pat answer though,he replied enthusiastically with, “Oh yes! I really would! WITH ALL MY HEART I want to keep on studying!!” We were all pleasantly surprised by his animated response and it drew several chuckles and comments from the parents in the audience.
Here they are... the 2007 5th grade class from Mucombeze Primary School--ready to take on the world!
Hey, grade 6 at a boarding school IS taking on the world. All of them passed and impressed their teachers.

We’re just finishing up harvesting the last of the litchi’s. It’s been a challenge for the guys to just get in and pick with all the rain of late, but it tastes just as wonderful as ever! Every time I walk past the trees I can’t help but take a little detour to pick a few as a treat. Much to our dismay, we’ve noticed that the fruit bats can’t resist that urge either. We find pips and skins strewn in piles like this almost everywhere in the surrounding bush! They must be having an absolute feast every night. We don’t even want to think of how many kg’s they make away with. No wonder they’ve been quieter lately, they’re mouths are too full of litchis to screech! It seemed fitting to call this picture, “Bat Scraps”!

Well, less than a week until our kids arrive! We have our staff christmas dinner this week plus the routine busyness...and I've got to bet busy baking too! Signing off for this time.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Left Behind in the Rain

We've felt a bit left behind and rained on too of late just like this little teddy bear! As you likely know we've had a few technical hiccups in the past few months what with a burnt generator, a back up unit not working, the 3rd back up burned its capacitor after several weeks and things rather snowballed from there! We had to borrow a neighbour's generator which meant 3 hours of driving every day to pick it up and drop it off, but we were sure thankful for the electricity! Unfortunately, in all this our internet modem also got fried...hence the silent blog. So yes, left behind in terms of all that needs to be done and all that is happening online. (I'm currently at an internet cafe in town--nearly an hour's drive from home, so not the most conventient way to do things.)
We've also been rained on royally in the past month, especially in the last few days. We held a pastor's intensive seminar last week and though we weren't sure how we'd cope with all our power troubles (which also means possible water shortages), we managed and things went very well in fact! Here is a picture of the certificate ceremony with orphans performing in dance and song.

Right now we've had a group of youth leaders...65 in all...for a 3 day retreat. We don't usually accommodate so many, and on such short notice, but there was some miscommunication and they REALLY needed a place to stay. So we agreed. Maybe we shouldn't have since they had no sooner arrived and moved into the tents when the skies unleashed a mighty thunderstorm and torrential rains that lasted a good 8 hours! It was one wild storm and it dumped 200 mm of rain over night. Then last night it did about the same thing, just with a little less rain, but still the cumulative effect on our river has been impressive!Exciting news:
-2 of our staff have completed their training as 'Health Care Worker's' at the provincial hospital which means that finally each health post will have its own full staff member plus a spare for vacation leave! Yay!
-Sponsored school kids helped a man with leprosy (with no use of his hands) to plant his field with corn for this year. This is the first time in a long time that he has a crop in the ground and he is SO happy! It's great when people work together.
-Christmas time is coming! I love Christmas, and this year is extra-special because our kids are coming to spend it with us! We are counting down the days and know that though our time will be short together, the moments will be packed with all the talking and whatever else we can fit into them.

Just a little green here to add to your Christmas :) TTYL (hopefully from a repaired internet modem)

Saturday, December 01, 2007


We are experiencing many technical difficulties:

This is Lynn's son here. Lynn called today with an update on the happenings in Mozambique. Though the generator part arrived and the generator is up and running, the modem for their satellite internet has died.

How long it will take to resolve this problem remains unknown.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

It never rains, it pours

After extending our stay in South Africa by over a week so we could attend to all the business items that needed to get done, we finally left to come home on Monday. The plane was packed as usual with not much weight leeway to spare. With air travel, weight is more an issue than space. But that’s not news since we all know how commercial flights cram passengers in like sardines, right?
(Above: Fuel check and taking off at Kruger Int'l Airport)

After an uneventful trip we landed in Chimoio at around 3:30 pm. The van was in the hangar collecting dust and mice while it patiently awaited our return. Unfortunately, the battery was dead as a door nail, so we had to remove the plane’s battery to give it a boost. After much hoisting, heaving and sweating, the plane was inside the hangar, the bags and boxes of goods transferred from the plane to the van, and the heavy hangar doors drawn shut and locked. We then ventured into Chimoio to pick up a few things. Since it had been a long day, and it was supper time by the time we were finished, we decided to grab supper there instead of arrive home to the mammoth task of unpacking AND cooking. We went to our used-to-be-favourite restaurant, “Mario’s”. It used to be a great place because they had good beef which is a rarity around here. And they cooked it to perfection...comparatively speaking. Things recently seem to have taken a downward slide, but we decided to try the place out again for lack of any better place to eat.

When we arrived, we were the only ones there. That's NOT a good sign. The waiter was very friendly and seated us in our favourite spot. When he brought the menu, we asked him what on the menu was or was not available.
“Oh, we have no fish and no prawns.” He said appologetically.
“So, you have beef then?” We asked.
“Yes, we have beef and chicken.”

Goodie! We didn’t have to think twice about ordering our usual Pepper Steak. He took our menus and quickly disappeared with our order. In about 3 minutes however, he returned.
“I’m sorry, but we have no beef. We have chicken. Roast chicken or Zambezian chicken.” That was the information we expected after our first question. We ordered the Zambezian chicken because it sounds more exotic, but in my estimation they are the same dish.
(Mozambique coastline near Vilanculos)

Arriving back home in the bush is always an interesting event. This time, because our generator was still ‘en route’ from South Africa somewhere, we had no electricity for light to unpack the vehicle by or for starting up our little freezer (We had brought a 2 month supply of frozen meat--remember--we have no decent beef here + Christmas time is comin’!). We have a little putt-putt of a generator for our lights and battery chargers, but our fuel was all gone since it gets used for other mission work as well. So while I started to unpack in semi-darkness, Dwight went to borrow fuel from our co-workers, Francois and Alta. Thankfully they had some that they willingly parted with to help us over the first-night-back hump.

The following day was chaos as we tried to get caught up on all that had happened and was currently happening. We learned that there had been a heavy downpour in our absence and the little dam in our river had experienced a flash flood. This is not good since during the very dry time, we had to move the irrigation pump further into the river to reach the dwindling water reserve. When the torrential downpour came, the dam filled so quickly and unexpectedly that there was no time to retrieve the pump before it was submerged completely under water. It was a lengthy rescue ordeal, but they managed to release it from its base, pull it out, then open it up and dry it out. (Landing at Chimoio Airport)

Joao, one of our sponsored students and a very willing volunteer, had also just arrived from Maputo to spend his summer break working with the mission. He had been sick in Maputo for the past month or so and looked very thin, but he was at devotions in the morning looking spry. We both had work to attend to immediately, but agreed that at 10 a.m. he would come by for me to see him. In the meantime I scrambled to finish unpacking and got busy cleaning the cobwebs that tend to form overnight. In this case they’d had over 2 weeks to form! At 10:00ish when Joao arrived he listed his symptoms. It took me about 1 minute to identify that he had a raging pneumonia! Fever, chest pain, the whole bit AND he had been on a two day bus trip AND out working like that. The 2 courses of antibiotics he was given in Maputo hadn't touched it, so I knew I needed to get some of the better antibiotics in town.

Dwight returned from his morning ‘rounds’ at about lunch time and announced that we really needed to go back to town for fuel for the little generator so we could do some work. The alternator for the main generator wasn’t expected to arrive for a good week yet, so we'd have to make do. I needed to buy medicine for Joao anyway, and in less than 5 minutes we had a list of at least 6 items we needed to tend to on this trip! So I dropped my housework and off we went to town. It was a productive trip thankfully. I actually managed to find the recommended antibiotics, the pump we took in to have checked apparently was fine and not damaged by its very wet ordeal, we got fuel AND even were given a box of apricots for free by a farmer! That was God’s hug to us that day. On the way home we stopped to see our Mayor as we’d heard that the Governor wanted to pay us a visit. I just hoped that the visit wasn’t for the very next day! Turns out it wasn’t. Phew. A Governor’s visit means feeding and touring about 20 people around since there is always an extensive entourage wherever he goes.

Today, it’s not pouring--literally or figuratively. And I’m glad. We need to catch our breath before the next downpour.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

November Tradition

The mission’s Cessna 182 has its annual inspection each year in November. This is when the plane gets stripped of just about everything that renders it dignified. Every nook, cranny, crevice, dial, lever, etc. is microscopically inspected to detect recent cracks, corrosion or malfunction of any kind. Since the Cessna is Canadian registered, a Canadian aircraft mechanic needs to inspect it. For the past 8 years or so, Gary Hillman from Red Deer has been willing and available to come do this service. It takes about a week to complete, so by the time he’s nearly recovered from jet lag and the 9 hour time difference, it’s time to head back! On Gary’s first trip out, we took him to Kruger National Park ( for a day to see some of Africa’s fabulous wildlife. Since then, making this scenic day trip into the park has become tradition…much like eating turkey on Christmas day.

On the very odd occasion, Gary hasn’t been able to make the trip. This year was one of those, so Dan Thomas (and his wife, Mavis), currently serving the aviation program at Prairie Bible College, were able to come instead. (Pictured above left to right: John Herbert of Mercy Air, Dan Thomas, and Dwight!)
They have a passion for missions and their first stop was in Botswana for 2 weeks to serve Flying Mission. They then came to us for their last week before returning home. The guys worked feverishly on the plane while the ladies spent the week doing other activities like visiting a rural clinic, cooking and…shopping! When the work was complete, there was a little time left for sightseeing so we headed out on our traditional visit-to-Kruger-Park-with-the-aircraft-engineer. This time, I had a lady friend along too! We saw some amazing sights, the kind you never get tired of seeing.
This one was a little sad though. This very young baby elephant was lost without its mom or the herd. This is highly unusual since elephants are very protective of their young, travel in large matriarchal herds, and have no predators to fear when they are together. But some how this little guy got stranded and wandered onto one of the roads in the park. In very short order there was a sizeable snarl of traffic since we were all drawn like magnets to this lost, lonely little soul. I’m sure we all just wanted to hop out, scoop him up and take him home, but the thought of a very large angry tusked mother cautioned otherwise. We knew that if she should suddenly appear, we would likely be reduced to scrap metal and flat people! After about 10 minutes of ‘awww’ing’, shaking our heads and scanning the surrounding bush for the large, angry mother, we managed to extricate both our emotions and the vehicle from the spot. We’re not sure what happened to this little orphan, but I believe the park’s rules are generally to let nature take its course. In this particular case, I wasn’t very happy with Mother Nature.

Yesterday, Dan and Mavis left since their week was up. The plane is now pretty much back to it’s dignified self again and we should be ready to return home within a few days. The generator should soon be back to its old dignified self again too! We’ve received some much appreciated help from wonderful people in purchasing a new unit here in South Africa and shipping it to Mozambique. It should arrive there about the same time we do. So Dwight will have some Humpty Dumpty work on his hands right away—putting it back together again!

It’s hard to believe that it’s already that time of year. The month before Christmas! This is usually the trip when we do our Christmas shopping here in South Africa where there is more available. You know, nice little gifts, a turkey, cranberry sauce, mosquito repellent, antimalarials, any needed animal vaccines/medicine, farm tools, etc. You know, all one needs for keeping with tradition!

Friday, November 02, 2007

The Red Baron from Germany

That song “Snoopy and the Red Baron” from way back in the 50’s or 60’s stubbornly went around and around in my mind yesterday. We made our usual stop in Vilanculos, Mozambique, to clear customs before leaving the country in the Cessna 182 yesterday. The stop is usually a busy-ish one since our objective really is rather to be en route so we can reach our destination before dark or before thunder storms hit. So while Dwight had the plane fueled up, I ran inside to get a fried egg sandwich for his lunch. Then it was downstairs to the dispatch office to fill out paperwork and pay fees. While we were there, a friendly gentleman came in and struck up a conversation with us.
“Are you flying the Canadian registered aircraft?” he asked in a German accent.
“Yes, we are. Are you in the German registered one?” Dwight responded (Canadian accent of course).
“Yes...where are you headed now?”
“Oh, me too. Do you want to fly ‘in formation’?”
“Sure, we can fly together. Are you ready?”
“Let’s go!”

With that we headed out, with the Red Baron from Germany behind us! He and Dwight talked back and forth for most of the flight and got to know each other. His business is flying and his son is also an airline pilot with Emirates. He tailed us the whole way and occasionally came up on one side or the other. Here’s a shot of one of those times. When we got to Nelspruit, we parted ways but exchanged details.

For the next week now, our mission’s plane will be stripped for its annual inspection. We’re expecting a Canadian mechanic (and his wife) to arrive next Monday to do the work and sign it off. The job will take several days…it’s lots of work checking all those cables, wires, etc. That’s okay…take your time and check that stuff well!

It was like a step into the past last week as we tried to cope without our big generator. We do have a little putt-putt that is capable enough to run lights, the TV and a little freezer, but it can’t quite drive our Speed Queen washing machine. Soooo, I ‘got to’ bring my old Hitachi twin-tub up to the house to use. We’ve had this little jewel for about 14 years or so. Before that, it belonged to Dwight’s folks. And they had it for at least 10 years. So this machine is rather ancient. It held together very well for a long time, but now it’s spinning tub is broken and the pump doesn’t really know which way to pump anymore.
It’s kind of sad. I guess we’re all growing old. Anyway, I stood and surveyed the machine for awhile to decide if I thought it was worth the effort. Finally I decided that at least it had an agitator that still worked, so that would save me scrubbing the clothes one by one. I filled it with soapy water, then I filled a separate tub with rinse water and hunkered down to the ½ day job of pulling clothes in and out of water, wringing them, and hanging them. I’ve never minded this job much, somehow. But it used to be more fun when the spin tub worked! I wonder how much more mileage we’ll get out of her? …the Hitachi, that is.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

It's the Small Things...

...that dictate the success (or lack thereof) of larger things. For example, this past week a rather small ball bearing in our (Lister) generator-that-we-depend-on-for-everything apparently was having ‘trouble’. It was a new bearing, so it shouldn't have. It should have been fine. It was making a new noise when it ran so we did the routine checks plus a few extras. We couldn’t see where the problem was so we were faced with having to find a mechanic, somewhere, somehow, who could give us some kind of advice. That’s not so easy way out here. The closest Lister agent is a 2 day drive away.

While we were contemplating what to do, and in very short order, the troubled bearing bade a final and destructive farewell . We knew there was trouble when the lights went off at 7 pm instead of 9 pm. We grabbed our flashlights and headed up the path toward the generator shed. We met the guard half way there. “There’s a big problem! The generator started squealing loudly, then shut itself off...I wasn’t even there...I didn’t even shut it off...It just made a loud noise and...”he managed between breaths. He’s rather excitable and when he has adrenaline surges he talks very fast. He was talking very fast then! We arrived at the shed to find columns of smoke rising from the machine and the ‘excessive speed’ warning light lit. Hmmm. This can’t be good!
(see the metal pieces at the bottom of the ring? Yeah, that's NOT good.)

The following day we spent half the day pulling the alternator off of the diesel engine. This is no small task. The thing likely weighs a couple hundred pounds since it essentially consists of a thick metal casing and bundles upon bundles of tightly wound wire inside. Think: lead. With the help of a block and tackle, 2 tire irons, assorted tools, some serious pushing, pulling and grunting AND, let me not forget, my handy 'this-is-serious-business-leather gloves, we got it apart! One small bearing having ‘trouble’ led to many small copper wires being torched, which brought a large powerful unit to a screeching halt. Now that it’s apart, we’re faced with the same old challenge as always...getting it somewhere to someone who can do something with it! And our trusty old back-up generator isn’t performing at the moment either. *sigh* For now, our nights are just a little darker.

On a more positive note, this week a tetanus vaccination campaign was held at both the mission-run health posts. Ernesto is given the duty of administering the shots as well as the campaign staff from Chimoio. One lady who was a little aprehensive about the whole affair asked, “Is it going to hurt?” One of the campaign staff replied with, “Not’s just a small needle.” In this case, small may hurt but it helps too. For me, the event was rather exciting to witness. This is what makes the bumps in life worthwhile. Helping people.

Several days ago, I decided it was high time I go check on the progress of a widow/orphan’s house whose hut burned to the ground a few months back. I was impressed with what I saw. A job that somehow I figured would take months took a mere week. Her family will help her put a roof on it now and voila! She and her family are very happy with the new house.

We popped in on the school one day last week to take pictures for a thank-you to the care-a-thon (Heimdal) that takes place each June. This event helps to keep feeding these children a great lunch each day! School visits are always a rewarding event because the kids willingly share their beautiful smiles and love hamming it up for pictures. We’ve known most of these kids and their families for about 10 years now, so we feel very much a part of their lives. And they are a special part of our lives as well. And last but not least, there has been some progress on our house. Believe it or not, these are just the foundation walls. We’re building on quite a slope. This front corner still needs a few more layers of bricks, and that’s just for the FLOOR of the veranda. Wow. You could practically sky-dive off of there! We’ve decided that rather than try to fill the huge cavity inside with dirt, we’ll do the Canadian thing and build a basement! It’ll be more of a crawl space, but boy will it ever come in handy. We can store all kinds of stuff in there: garden tools, bikes, broken generators...

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Still Standing

This is a recent picture of a big old fig tree that I originally photographed (below) about 2 months ago after a fire swept through the mission farm. I had been out the previous night trying to put out grass fires along a path I had been instructed to follow. Dwight had headed in a different direction. It was new territory to me and the path was not a well used one. All I had for light was a dim LED Dot-IT. As I stumbled along the winding path putting out little fires here and there, I came upon a strange sight. There stood a massive tree with sparks and fire shooting out of the long vertical cavity in its trunk. It was quite ominous. Downright threatening in the dark that night since I was alone in new territory--close to the revered ancestral graveyard I might add-- armed with only a dim little Dot-IT for light and a scrubby branch for self-protection. Neither of those would have been much help if I had come across something truly sinister! Nor were they of much comfort as I stood looking at the big tree, ablaze, and possibly about to crash to the ground! A pit formed in my stomach when I realized that the foot path I was following led straight UNDER the tree. I contemplated veering off the path, but knowing there are numerous poisonous snakes lurking about in the bush, and not wanting to get lost (remember Hansel and Gretel?), I decided the ‘under the tree’ option was my best bet. I studied the flaming scene for awhile. If I did it quickly, and with a prayer, I’d likely be fine. Not necessarily in that order though!

Since I’m now writing about this event, it’s obvious I survived it! Things are scarier in the dark, you know. I was determined the next day to retrace my steps to find that tree. I was sure it would be lying on the ground somewhere, a massive heap of charred wood and ashes. But when I got to the spot, there it was still standing, stark and bare against the late afternoon sky. I took a picture of it.
That tree had survived many fires in its lifetime, but I was pretty sure it would not remain standing much longer now. So I’ve kept my eye on it over the weeks.

Spring-time is now upon us and trees are busy putting their new green leaves proudly on display. The old fig tree, believe it or not, is still standing. Not only that, but it has put on a leafy display as well! Many of its branches are still bare, but I was amazed to see any sign of life at all! It’s sort of a miracle of nature. Although this tree faced the fierce trial of that in fact gutted it and left a gaping hollow in its still stands.
AND it appears to still be fruitful. There’s a lesson here, but I won’t state the obvious.
We witnessed another miracle recently too. A few posts back I mentioned about our residence permits and how we had missed the national ‘foreigner’s census’. Usually such things carry hefty fines and much legal red tape. We (and others) prayed, then we braced ourselves for the inevitable last week as we went in to the immigration department in Chimoio. Dwight has built relationships with the staff and directors of just about every government office in town since mission work requires extensive legal paperwork. When we walked in to the Immigration Dept. Director’s office, we were greeted with a warm smile, a hand shake and “Hey, how are things?” After some small talk, we explained that our annual permit renewal time was up, but that somehow we had missed the census. The director flipped through our permits then said, “It’s simple. We’ll just do the census at the same time as the renewal. No problem.” Our relief was guarded though, since the process still lay before us. But we thanked the Lord just the same.
To cut a lengthy story short, after filling out a variety of forms, photocopying passports, etc. in triplicate, meeting with the Director of Religious Affairs and making repeated trips to town to first see this official, then that one, we finally got our permits renewed AND we got the shiny little sticker that proves we’ve completed the census. That tiny sticker that we didn’t have a few weeks ago and that brought our long trip to South Africa to a premature and grinding hault. Yes, THAT sticker. That sticker tells the story not only of our most recent trial, but of older, bigger trials we’ve come through as well! It tells of stories with a common happy ending...we’re still standing!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

October Heat

This is spring time in Mozambique, and it’s our hottest season. Thankfully the heat is drier right now until the rains come, so that makes it just a bit more tolerable. But just a bit. I took a few pictures of our outdoor thermometer. The shot below was taken on the most pleasant (cool) day last week. That was the day we had a break from the heat! But before that pleasant day, it had been hot as an oven. Well, not quite. But 40 and above for several days in a row. It felt like an oven. When it gets that hot, the local people say, “It’s cooking rain”. That’s the intense heat that comes before rain. We did in fact get a small spatter of rain one night which is why it then cooled down into the mere 30’s. In the next month or so, we should get more and more rain, as long as this isn’t a drought year. The thing about this season that ceases to amaze me is that at the hottest, driest time of the year, the brown leafless trees somehow manage to find enough water deep in the ground that they become flush with bright green leaves. We revel in their shade as you can well imagine!
This is also the beginning of ‘creature season’. This is a Cicada and the is their time to wake from dormancy and sing, “Zzzweeeeeeeeeeee” to their heart’s content. Generally speaking they only do this during the daytime, but sometimes they seem to get disoriented and ‘zweee’ at night too. There are thousands of them and they’re in every tree, so the sound can seem nearly deafening. They have an interesting life cycle. It’s a great topic for homeschooled kids to research (read: google)! It stands to reason that with the advent of bug season, the frogs come out to play. Here is a little guy who seems to like our front door step (pictured here beside the broom handle). When I come back home from hooking up to email at the office in the evenings, he’s often sitting there to greet me. We seem to have had a spate of fairly sick people and emergencies this past week or so...bicycle accidents (common here), snake bites (sorry for mentioning it again, Heather), an asthma attack, and so on. This 10 year old boy’s mom (see previous posts) is a widow who does odd jobs to help feed her 2 kids. A few weeks ago she got very sick with pneumonia which I treated her for. She improved but her recovery has been slow and the food supply at home is dwindling. This little guy walked for hours in the heat to bring the message that they need help at home. Here he is with a bag in hand with medicine for mommy, infant formula for baby brother and cookies for himself. We sent further food supplies to help them over this hump. Children learn responsibility and face life’s hardships at a much younger age out here! Thanksgiving. Yes, apparently it came and went recently. Thanksgiving is not celebrated out here so we usually forget it exists until family from home ask us, “So what are you doing for thanksgiving?” Oh...hmm. As it turned out, this year we were able to attend an English church service nearby then had potluck afterwards of cold cuts and salads. The heat that day was brutal. So instead of hot turkey on a cold day, we had cold chicken on a hot day. Maybe the only true similarity was the reminder to be thankful for our blessings, and to share with those around us. I guess that’s really the most important part!