Sunday, March 28, 2010

When We All Work Together

How happy we’ll be!

That may sound a bit simplistic, but the truth is: working together does make us feel happier and it certainly lightens our load. And we experienced some of that this week.

We’ve had good working relationships with local, district, and even provincial authorities for years now and have certainly enjoyed their friendship and facilitation of many aspects of the mission’s work. But as is customary here, government department heads get transferred to new posts on a rotating basis every 4 years or so. This past year happened to be the year for that, and we were sad to see old, familiar faces leave and their new replacements arrive. Now is the time for new working relationships.

First, the new Administrator and her entourage of 50 including the new District Health Director, Social Services Director, and others paid us a visit. This happened while we were in South Africa with Bero, but our team reported that she was very pleased with the various mission projects.

Then, we went to meet with the new District Health Director. Cooperation between the government health department and us is crucial and we needed his “ok” before we could continue planning some upcoming health activities. Sometimes, there is a huge stack of legal paperwork to fill out and submit which then goes for a stamp of approval before things can go forward. Other times, you get their blessing without much ado at all. I like those times better! Thankfully, this meeting was one of the latter. After spending quite awhile chatting with him about cooperative activities past, present and proposed future, he smiled warmly and essentially said, “Not only “may” you go ahead with your plan, you are invited to do so!”

Our next visitor was from Social Services. He was interested to know more about our program for helping orphans, widows and the handicapped. A group of ladies who were in the office doing crafts with Alta at the time, moved out onto the lawn so we could meet inside. After briefing him on the program, he commended the mission with, (again in essence because I’m not good at verbatim), “All the approaches that we advocate as ‘best practices’ that work best for healthier individuals, families, and communities, you are already doing. We are very impressed with your programs. And empowering these women too, that’s wonderful!” Then he went on to explain how government programs could benefit the families we help as well. I told him that if wheelchairs are available, I have a few people in mind already!

(Women's group monitors learn crafts which they will then teach to other women.)

Dan Jones, with Mercy Air U.S.A., visits an orphan home and captures a few local scenes.
And a few little onlookers as well.

Apparently, the families we help now also have the attention of Mozambique's First Lady. She has sent someone to build traditional but “energy saver” stoves in their homes.

These clay stoves help conserve heat and therefore use less firewood or charcoal. Less work for the people who use them and less stress on environmental resources too. ☺ Apparently the First Lady is slated to pop in here for a visit next week too!

Other news:

Last week, Rick Neufeld and short termers Chris and Corissa transported maize for hunger relief in a remote community across the Zambezi river. First, they drove it 5 hours north,

then loaded it onto a boat,

which took several hours to deliver the supplies. They escaped crocodile and hippo encounters on the river just fine, but on the way home they had vehicle trouble. Ah well, it’s all part of the experience!
Some of the mission’s sponsored students attend higher grades at schools in surrounding communities. Here are some photos taken this week of kids at the nearby Pina Community School.

These girls attended the mission school until Grade 5 and are now in Pina for Grade 6. We’re very proud of these girls who stay in school!

A group of Mercy Air South Africa and Mercy Air U.S.A. visitors are here for a few days visit as well.

I see I’m not the only one with a fascination for photographing kids making funny faces.

More news:

FINALLY, finally!—the Portuguese copy of our health manual has been sent off for final revision and translation of remaining portions. I am so thankful for Keren’s hard work helping me with input and to pull it all together to meet our deadline (to the best of our ability). While the Portuguese copy receives its finishing touches and the English copy is being edited, Keren, who can draw wonderfully, is busy producing the needed illustrations. Those who use the manual for years to come will be grateful I didn’t have to use my cave-man drawings in it. :P

Also, I got a “real” fridge this week.

Look, even Mushu was excited!

After 14 years (Maputo experience not included), of bush living starting with no refrigeration, then to occasionally having a cooler with ice, then to a propane fridge (that worked more or less and made smoke and had no light) to improvising with a small chest freezer, to this.

It stands upright, it has a light, it gets cold, no dragging propane tanks around, no more fumes and no more “surprise” defrosts when the gas runs out.

What a splendid gift. We are so very thankful!

I better close for now. We have last minute work that needs attention and bags that need to be packed for our trip home. We’ll be gone for about 7 weeks, primarily to attend university graduation ceremonies for both our kids, but also to take in a conference and attend meetings with those overseas who work together with us and who are vital to the work here.

(Corissa tests the waters in a local canoe.)
So long.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Right Where We're At

I read a story this week about a guy who had been in a very sorry state for so many years that he had pretty much given up all hope. Then a stranger who--unbeknownst to the suffering man was a Very Important Man--came along and asked this man if he wanted help. In the version in my head, I like to imagine that “the hopeless one” was mid sentence in his long tale of woe, having paused briefly to draw his breath, when the Very Important Man interjected and spoke life to him. And in that instant, the hopeless man’s life was completely and entirely transformed.

Later, when some people noticed that “the hopeless one’s” sad and sorry state was gone forever and asked who had helped him, he replied (my words here), “I have NO CLUE!” I love that. This guy received a gracious and life-changing gift, which he did not expect, from someone he did not even know. That’s God’s grace, and that is what God does.

He meets us right where we're at. (My paraphrase of the story: The Healing at the Pool, first part of John 5)

We were privileged last week to witness and partner with others in a similar type of scenario, albeit in a different era and in different circumstances.

Because we had very scant rainfall this summer, right when it was needed for everyone's maize to grow, there has been widespread crop failure and hunger. Areas north of us have been especially affected. Then February came, and with it, rain and more rain. Although those who wanted to replant appreciated the extra moisture, it resulted in engorged rivers and flooding of many low-lying areas.
The beautiful Zambezi river

Zambezi River and flooded areas

Requests for help with food started to come in and as we shared of the need with others, resources were given to help meet that need.

What follows is just the nutshell/photo version of the guys’ trip north to deliver food and meet with remote communities to address the often repeated cycle of food shortages. (Photos compliments of Rick)

Matthias and local pastors unload maize.

A local church service: the Women's section

Thatched village huts

Pastor Ricardo, Rick and local pastors catch a bit of shade in the heat.

Dwight greeting local pastors and community leaders (check his update)

One of my favorite kinds of photo

Kids leaning into a church service.

Two days later, the guys returned and landed right on the mission farm.

Next morning, it was time for the chopper to load up and take off again to return to Mercy Air, South Africa. Keren's family were able to get in on a chopper ride to Beira. From there they caught their flight to return home (Canada).

I rather like the bits of flying grass in this photo :)

Otherwise this week:

Malaria has been bad this season. So bad in fact that it's tough keeping enough antimalarials stocked in the clinic. Here, Andy is spraying insecticide to try to keep mosquito populations down.

This week we were able to meet with the District Health Director to discuss a few things like progress on Chitundo Health post and plans to expand the Mucombeze Health Post to a larger Health Centre which would provide better services to the community. It was a good meeting and we rejoice that there's a good spirit of cooperation between the mission and the Mozambican health authorities.

Also this week, a group photo shoot of the mission staff right after devotions. Dwight and I are working on promotion materials for a quick trip to Canada in April & May, so updating photos for brochures is one of the things we need to focus on right now.

And with one last photo, I will close.

"Please wake me for meals"

Although it's cool to get unexpected gifts from someone you do not even know, I do advise that you make sure you know your pilot :)


Saturday, March 13, 2010

What’s going on?

All kinds of stuff actually, but it was Friday before I realized I had no photos of any of it.

I had spent most of the week between a few home visits and (mostly) buried under mounds of paperwork, from assignments and health manual editing to writing up schedules, sundry guidelines and emails. Suddenly, it was Friday. And I hadn’t taken a solitary photo all week to post here! So I turned my back on my little worktable, grabbed my camera, and headed out the door for a quick photo shoot.

I discovered all kinds of productivity and progress as I sprinted from site to site:

At the main office, short termers, Chris and Corissa, were hard at work on the mission school's database.

Then I popped over to the Mercy Air site. The garage there is serving many purposes, one of them being a vehicle-fixing-garage. Need something fixed? Get in line :)

The guys have sure enjoyed learning from Rick during his time here.

The right hand side of the fix-it garage is Ron Wayner's carpentry shop. And, I'm very pleased to say, the cupboard on the table is one Ron's been working on for my kitchen. And cupboards in my kitchen are greatly needed! Did I mention how pleased I was?

Preparing for pouring the slab at the Mercy Air house. This back-fill dirt is dug out and loaded on the truck, by the shovel full, then unloaded also by the shovel full, then with hoes, rakes and what-have-you, pulled to where it needs to be. Then it get tamped down, by hand. Building out here is quite the process!

The deepest part has yet to be filled.

Moving along here, I popped by the woodshed. Here's Marcos, Gabriel and Andy busy working on their respective tasks.

Marcos shows off the shudders and doors that will be put in the Chitundo Health Post. Beautiful!

At some point, the roof was put up on the extension off the woodshop. Pretty sure I saw photos of Chris and Carissa working on this in the hot sun.

Then it was over to the camp kitchen. Here, holes have been dug for pillars to put up a thatched camp dining area. (Machesa, as they're called here.)

Peter and Casseni work on iron structures for the pillars.

From the camp site, and happy I had at least a few photos, I headed home to keep plugging away at the mound that I was pretty sure awaited my return.

Today, I made a point of remembering to take my camera along when I headed to Bero’s home to do a dressing change. Rick came along on the home visit and took, here I am:

Bero with his brother, his wife and child, and the guys' sister (far left).

While I change his dressing, we talk about life and usually at some point, I quiz him on his math. I'm sure he just loves that :P

Here is some of the week's action that Laura and Rick captured.

Laura spent hours cleaning and sorting used clothing, then distributing them to the staff. New work clothes are always welcome.

Keren and Laura have been busy preparing for health class and girl's club at the school. Here are their hand-made teaching aides.

And last but not least, this is the Chitundo orphan home that got painted this week by Chris and Corissa. Lookin' good! (thanks for the photo Heather)

And with that, I shall say goodbye for now. I've got some supper to put on, company to enjoy, and I know that mound of stuff is still waiting for me too.