Tuesday, December 30, 2008

It’s a Jungle Out There

Officially, we don’t live in the jungle. But this week it certainly felt like we did. Yesterday morning at 5:30 I woke to the sound of my new guinea fowl squawking loudly in our yard. Like I've said before, I love the sound of guinea fowl. To me they are (in a strange way) the song bird of Africa. It was the 5:30 a.m. part I didn't care for so much.

She was standing on a mound of dirt on the boundary between our and Rick and Heather’s yard doing the call that is characteristic of guinea fowl hens: “Buckwheat! Buckwheat!”

Pardon the poor quality, but here’s a close-up of her making noise.

I was worried that she’d get a little more than just buckwheat if she kept up the racket, so I went out on the veranda and shooed her away then went back to bed for a few more winks. About 10 minutes later, Mushu chimes in with his high-pitched barking. *Groan* I got up once again to shoo “Buckwheat” away, assuming she was the reason Mushu was barking. When I opened the door I realized that the branches of the trees in our backyard were swaying and alive with pesky monkeys!

This is the kind of mess monkeys leave after feasting on fallen mangoes.

I decided that the only fix for this unruly gang was for me to venture right out into the yard and show them that I was serious about wanting some peace and quiet. They responded as expected to my small display of power (strutting toward them in my pj's in the wet grass) by scurrying off into the green, leafy bush. I felt quite triumphant to have peace at last, but by then I was too warm from the exertion in the muggy heat to sleep. So I guess the animals won that one in the end.

A few other guinea fowl, besides my own, have come to spend a few days with us while they await distribution to orphan homes. They are Unique Christmas Gifts that people have donated toward and are sure appreciated by those who receive them! Here’s sort of a play-by-play of last week’s guinea fowl delivery:

First, Dwight had to catch them in the cage

Next, we tied their feet so they couldn't get away.


Then, we loaded them in the van but apparently hadn’t tied their legs together properly (guinea-fowl nubes that we are) so they just wandered all over under the van seats while we drove to their destination. Oh well, they were quiet so we were happy.

Finally, birds meet happy, new owners. Happy, new owners, meet birds. Hope they're used to getting up at 5:30 every morning!

It’s been raining lately--a lot. And in the bush, rain always ushers forth both weird and wonderful sights. Yes, this is the bug part of this post. But I make up for it with a pretty flower at the end.

One of the weird sights recently was flying ants.

They’re termites, to be exact, and every year after the first few rains they come out in droves and are drawn to lights after dark. They beat around and around ‘til their wings fall off and then they find a mate and walk away. Now--many of us wouldn’t dream of eating these things, but for the people here they’re a real treat! In fact, when the ants swarm under streetlights and in front of vehicle head lights (cars even park along the highway with their headlights on for this very purpose) people gather with containers to pick them up as they fall so they can have a tasty snack later on.
I found this photo of someone frying flying ants, but from what I understand this isn’t quite how it’s done. I was always told—in the unlikely event I actually decide to do this--that you pluck off and fry only the abdomen. Yum. *Cough*

Another weird and unpopular insect that we see during the rainy season is this stinging centipede.

Usually the odd few of these finds its way into our house during the rainy season. That’s bad enough. But this year for some reason, we’ve had two per night—at least. One night, we had about 8! These insects pack a nasty sting so whenever we see one it’s a mad scramble for a shoe or whatever, then the frenzied smacking begins.

This more pleasant fellow was in our house last night. I like how his wings make him look like a man with a Fu Manchu moustache. (For a look at more strange insects, click here.)

Some of the wonderful things that come out when it rains are what Dwight and I have dubbed “Flat Plants”. Very original, I know. Likely they have a scientific name which means just that too.

And last but not least, I found this gem in Francois and Alta’s yard the other day when I went to empty the rain meter. Isn’t it beautiful?

Well, now that the jungle tour is over, I better run. 

And oh, just so you know, we managed to coax "Buckwheat" back into the pen where she has some company. Our yard is now blissfully quiet again every day at 5:30 a.m. She's happy, we're happy. Now if only I had a solution for those nasty stinging centipedes.

PS: This blog was done with Penny in mind since she did a Mozambique post awhile back. She’s a homeschooling mom and has a passion for missions. If you’re interested, you can check out her blog (specifically the post on Mozambique) by clicking here.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


I’ve been thinking a lot about gifts lately. We all have, of course.

Getting gifts is definitely the highlight of Christmas for children. I remember one of my favourite Christmas gifts as a child was a “play” medical bag complete with plastic stethoscope, a huge plastic syringe, pill bottles full of candies and an assortment of other fun items I used to treat my family’s feigned ailments with. I loved that gift. But the gifts under the tree weren’t the only gifts I received. I remember participating in the nativity play at church, looking at the lights and decorations on our tree, and making snow angels in the wet B.C. snow. Those were gifts too, they just weren’t wrapped in shiny paper.

Yesterday, I received an early Christmas gift from Rick and Heather: a guinea fowl.
(This isn't mine, but one of Kruger Park's Guinea Fowls...it was hard to get a good photo through chicken wire...)

She’s beautiful, especially when she makes that squawking noise which, to the untrained ear, is horrid. (Their call is akin to that of pheasants, only worse.) I’ve lived with the sounds of the African bush for over 10 years now, and the late afternoon call of the guinea fowl--to roost, I imagine--has become music to my ears. I also think they’re beautiful even though they look, to some, like their heads were dipped in a paint bucket. Yes, she’s a nice gift. But there have been others too.

This week, we held the orphan’s Christmas party and I think we adults enjoyed the event about as much as the kids. First, there was the wrapping of gifts. That’s definitely one of the fun parts (Heather and Alta at work here).

We started the day off by taking the orphans and their caregivers out for lunch to “Lamimo’s”, our nearest restaurant which is about 30 km from here. We took 3 vehicles and picked families up near their homes.

Group photo: orphans with caregivers and 3 mission staff members (Joao & Domingo, far right. Jorge, far left).

For most, this was the first time they’d ever been to a restaurant and all the dishes, cutlery, indoor washrooms with running water, etc. were quite the experience! We had chicken, rice and salad, and I don’t recall seeing any leftovers being cleared off the tables.

Following the meal, they were told the Christmas story by Rick and Joao.

Then it was games time. And if this doesn’t look like Chrismtas activities to you, then you live on the completely wrong continent!

The caregivers sat in the shade to watch, cheer, laugh and gasp. 

When the games were done, we headed to the mission farm for refreshments and a movie. I’m quite certain that was another first for these kids!

This was followed by the passing out of gifts. The wrapped ones, that is.

The grannies at the back were so happy they wooted and ululated and added a whole lot more excitement to the whole occasion!

This is Cremildo and Fole. Cremildo, on the left, is the one who suffered a burn a few months back. Since I provided his emergency care and some of the follow-up, I’m not exactly his #1 most favourite person. He barely wanted to look at me when we called them over to receive their gifts the other day but I managed to capture one quick glimpse. (He's munching on those cocoa pops Kim left behind. I'm sure they're delicious!)

Other recent “unwrapped” gifts:

Rain has finally come and everyone is busy replanting their crops.

People, bags of maize meal, and laughter. Since hearing of the hunger here, people have generously given donations toward the purchase of food. Yesterday, after a long day with several challenges along the way, we were able to finally transport the food to our storage shelter. (click here for an update on food/seed distribution on Dwight's blog).
Twelve staff members stayed after a long day’s work, through the rain, hungry because their suppertime was delayed, and still they managed to laugh joyfully while unloading the truck. There I was feeling bad for them but they clearly were not dwelling on how miserable they felt at all.

Yes, people and laughter are wonderful gifts too. They are among those without the shiny gift wrap.

Merry Christmas, and enjoy your gifts. All of them.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

How do you make a difference? Chew gum, slouch and give.

One evening last week while Kim, Dwight and I we were watching Spiderman 3, a line in the movie caught my attention. A comment is made by a man (apparently Stan Lee, Spider-Man comics writer himself) walking through Times Square. As he walks past Peter Parker he pats him on the shoulder and says, “You know, I guess one person really can make a difference…” Yes, one person can. But when you get more than one person trying to make a difference, the results can be amazing!

I have a true story for you:

In October, I got an email regarding Christmas. I know, I know. Christmas starts earlier every year! Can’t say I mind that at all since I love Christmas, but back to the story.

The email was from a friend, Kelly Maxwell, who teaches 2nd Grade at Thorsby Elementary School. She said that her school wanted to be involved in a project like fundraising for desks for the mission school (the fundraiser was later named Dollars for Desks). Last Christmas, people had donated toward this project, but we still needed more desks.

Mucombeze Interior Primary School

I told her we could use about 20 more desks, and she said that the school felt they could fundraise for about two of those. Were they in for a big surprise!

During the first month, things went better than expected.

Oct 29
“Hi Lynn,
We just had our first assembly with the students to share with them the idea of raising money to buy desks for your school. I found pictures on your blog (they especially liked the animal pictures) and hopefully will be inspired to do more for others this season. I'll let you know how things go. The final total will be made on Dec 12.”

Nov 25
“Well, the message that I was able to get across has been received very well! There are at least 4 classes that are challenging themselves to raise enough for one desk each!”

Then, things got real crazy…and amazing:

Dec 12
“…I work at the best school anywhere! The kids, staff, parents and community really got behind this project and blew all of our expectations out of the water. These pictures are showing what the kids did to raise money from wearing their hoodie, chewing gum
to sitting with a friend in class, slouching in their seat, selling used toys and books,

buying popcorn, collecting recycling

doing chores at home and donating what they are paid, and just plain generous giving.

There is also a picture of the bulletin board display that was right by the office that everyone came and looked at.

I made a scroll and put a picture on for each desk that we raised money for. The kids counted and counted and as the number got bigger they got louder. The final total was 21 desks!!!!

We have never seen anything like this before! The final amount collected was $3747.50!!

SAM Ministries' vice-President, Bill Green (far left) holds his end of the scroll.

SAM Ministries' President, Arthur Lagore (Dwight's dad), receives the donation at the school. 

What a wonderful Christmas story! I liked the part where the kids paid to do fun stuff in class. I wished I’d had such open-minded teachers like that when I was growing up! But mostly I liked the fact that the kids did what they could: they got involved and they gave.

Thorsby Elementary School

This event even made its way into the local newspaper. You can read the article by clicking here.

Some highlights of the week:

Yesterday the mission held its annual orphan children’s Christmas dinner/party, which was great fun. I’ll blog about it next week.

Kim completed her 5 month term as a volunteer here last week, so we got together for her farewell meal before taking her to Beira to jet back to the North Pole (aka Canada) in time for Christmas. Thanks for coming Kim.

Some things that didn’t happen last week:

My tree didn’t get put up and my Christmas baking didn’t get done. I have a sneaking suspicion that the line, “one person really can make a difference” applies here too, and that one person is me. I don't think chewing gum and slouching will cut it either, so I'd better get cracking. Christmas time's coming!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

“Life is good”

The first thing that caught my eye about the Portuguese statement in this photo is that it contains a fairly obvious grammatical flaw. The “bom” should be “boa” because it has to agree with the noun “vida”, which is feminine.

What gets me about this photo is the irony. Besides the poor grammar, the t-shirt is dirty and belongs to someone who likely barely eeks out a living. And yet it boldly states “Life is good”. There is an important truth at work here: amid all the dirt and flaws in life, life is good.

I love seeing good things happen in the lives of people who have endured hardship. Let me give you a few examples. This is Swero.

He is a kind-hearted gentleman who has had leprosy for many years which has left him with mere stumps for hands and feet, as well as dependent on others to help provide for his basic needs. He was evicted from his home and ostracized by his family due to fear of the disease.

(We went to visit him in August when Steve and Karen were here. It was a LONG walk into his remote region of the bush.)

When we learned about him, the mission partnered with one of its church plants to provide food and to help him with his activities of daily living. Last year, Swero received some goats as a December 2007 Unique Christmas Gift, and was he happy! This year, he gets a new home that is situated close to the mission where help and medical attention are readily available.

Here, one of the mission staff receives a new plow, also a December 2007 Unique Christmas Gift, on behalf of his father. A few months ago, this family lost a home and a granary that contained their year’s food supply. What a welcome tool this plow will be.

Other news:

This week I celebrated the completion of the first draft of the Health Manual for Church and Small Group Leaders that I have been working on for quite awhile. The first 15 or so chapters will be translated from Portuguese into Chitewe this month so Alta can include the information, along with what she has also prepared, in the next women’s groups study booklet. I hope to have the entire manual ready for printing in the next few months.

(My work station. I need  bigger one!)

I’m closing this post with some Christmas colours though they’re not on a wreath or Poinsettias. This is a pineapple plant, photographed from above. 

I posted this on facebook and got enough positive feedback about it that I decided to post it on JPGmag too. One lady on there listed it as one of her favourites and left me a comment which ended with “Water your pineapple Brenda” It took me a few takes to figure out that she was giving me some advice, then signing off with her name. Obviously, my pineapple looks like it’s calling for water! That’s not news. Everything here needs water these days what with all our dry weather. 

We may not have received much in the way of rain this past week, but we have been showered with some substantial gifts toward the purchase of grain for the hungry. And that is good. God is good. A vida é bom ☺

P.S. I did not take the “A vida é bom” pictures and merely made an assumption as to the shirt’s ownership, but I believe the message remains the same since I have witnessed people in difficult situations enjoying life every bit as much as people who “have it all”. And sometimes, if I’m not mistaken, they even seem to enjoy it just a little bit more.