Saturday, June 26, 2010

Home, finally.

So, we finally left for Mozambique last Saturday after several delays that held us up in South Africa. We were up early on Saturday morning packing, and once we had everything nicely loaded into the plane, we were ready to go! Thinking nothing much could delay us now.

At least that was what I thought while I watched Dwight and John trying to get the Cessna 182's engine started. The battery had been a little flat from sitting and having work done, so it needed a bit of persuasion to get going. How do you persuade a small plane's engine to start? You do that by manually cranking the prop (the blades out front that spin around to "propel" the plane).

After several nonproductive prop turns and a fair bit of coughing and sputtering, I noticed a thin stream of smoke rise from the engine. "Oh, oh! This can't be good..." I thought. Scenes of unpacking the plane and thumbing a ride to Mozambique flashed through my mind. Not seriously, of course. We had a lot stuff, both our own plus donated items, so I'm not sure who would have stopped for us anyway.

Quick as a flash, the guys were on the scene with fire extinguishers and the situation was under control.

So what do you do after you see smoke rising from an engine that you depend on to get you and a bunch of stuff home? You put your travel plans on hold, once again, and open the engine up and inspect it. Turns out it was just a bit of fuel overflow from the carburator that had ignited, but the fire was snuffed out quite quickly from the continued turning of the prop. If you need more detail than that, ask a pro. But that explanation was all I needed to hear, especially from someone as meticulous as John. No damage done. We were good to go.

John (aircraft engineer at Mercy Air) and Dwight checking things out after the incident.

Obviously if things had not been okay to leave, we would have unpacked our things and delayed yet a bit more. But what a relief to get the green light to carry on with our plans to leave. Home, Jones!

Departure from Mercy Air's grass strip. Pls note important instructions on sign: Ground traffic, keep left. Air traffic, keep right.

From here, we stopped at Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport to clear customs and immigration before proceeding. That was where I left my camera in the rental car and a kind man rescued it and returned it to me. Oh dear.

Somewhere over beautiful Africa.

One of my assigned tasks during the flight home was to get a photo of the instrument panel since a few new instruments have been installed. Good thing I had that camera back. So can you tell which are the new instruments? (Yeah, right.)

Vilanculos Airport, currently undergoing expansion.

And we wonder why there are potholes on the main highway?

We were VERY happy when we finally arrived at Chimoio airport and could go home and sleep in our own beds, in our own room, in our own house, in the Moz bush again. Home sweet home!

We've had to intersperse unpacking and getting resettled with playing catch up with all that's happening on the ground. And there's a lot happening here right now! I've accompanied the Prairie team on a few home visits, most of them being so heart warming.

Left: Jeff. Right: a young man of 20 or so, who struggles with physical challenges each and every day. He had unusable crutches (they were much too long for him) that Jeff is in the process of refashioning.

One of our stops was at Bero's place. Funds have come in for him to proceed with surgery on his other arm. He was very excited to hear that and is ready for it!

This is the bush road to the mission's primary school. What a beautiful place.

A mobile immunization team from a nearby government hospital came to the school last week, so the nursing team assisted by interacting with the mommies and babies, by weighing the babies, and

by helping fill out paperwork.

Between the items we brought home and items the teams brought with them, my little office was bursting at the seams with boxes of donated medical supplies, children's clothing, etc. Yesterday, the nursing team was kind enough to haul it all out onto the veranda, sort through it, label it, then restack it.

What chaos, but it didn't last long. They did an amazing job and it's now all ready to be used either right here or sent to needy areas further afield where it will be a huge blessing as well.

I better run for now. Did I mention how good it feels to be home?

Friday, June 18, 2010


You know how sometimes your ups and downs can have ups and downs? Well, sometimes, delays can have delays. So here we are, delayed yet another day on our already delayed departure to return to Mozambique. We were slated to leave yesterday, and permissions etc. were all in place, when the avionics place doing some work on the plane called to say there had been a glitch with some of the instrument installation and they'd had to order a new part. Problem was, it would only be arriving the following day. So, our departure date had to be pushed forward one day. So goes life at times.

This living out of a suitcase is sure getting old!

Can't say I mind them making sure the flight instruments are all working though. Don't mind that at all.

In the meantime, we've kept busy with work that seems to always be with us regardless of where we are. One of my tasks has been to rework some portions of the English health manual in order to make it more relevant to health teaching needs in places other than Mozambique.

Although the health manual was primarily written for pastors in rural Mozambique, it seems there may be some interest in using it in neighboring English speaking countries. I'll be happy if the English copy can be used since a fair bit of time and effort has certainly gone into its making already.

I have had, and really appreciate, input from other people as we tailor the manual to a different context. But one truth has once again become very apparent: the work of editing knows no end!

Our delay means that we weren't able to be in Beira to welcome the second Prairie team when they arrived on Sunday, however other mission staff on the ground were and it seems they're off to a good start.

Today, we picked up the plane so it's now here at Mercy Air just waiting for take-off to Mozambique in the morning. We have now repacked our suitcases and bags, so all that's left to do is pack the plane, sleep tonight, then get up and leave in the morning. All going well, that is. And if no further unforseen delays come our way.

We can't wait to get home, get unpacked, and put those suitcases where they belong--in a storage place collecting dust!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Soccer World Cup, Vuvuzelas, and Religion

The fifa soccer world cup is being held in South Africa right now, just in case you didn't know. This is very important, especially for South Africans and soccer enthusiasts everywhere, because it is a fairly all-consuming thing. It's the type of event around which all other events are planned. Billions of $'s are spent, new structures go up, cities are decorated, and even national holidays proclaimed so people can watch their nation compete. The young man who sat beside us on the plane put it quite plainly, "Soccer is my religion."

This isn't entirely true for everyone of course, and it was not likely so even for him. But still...

Meanwhile, we arrived back in South Africa a few days ago,

and while soccer awareness had barely entered our busy mindset a last week, we're slowly catching the wave. Here's the soccer fan paraphernalia table at a nearby grocery store. Those horns are called "vuvuzelas". They're very, very noisy.

Soccer is far from being our religion. But this is the world cup, after all, so a bit of cheering for our teams is in order. I spent the majority of my formative years in there's no big mystery as to who I support when the competition gets tough.

But, Africa is also in my heart.

Dwight has the same dilemma, just the other way around since he's South Africa born and raised. But he also has a soft spot for Brazil. If the two go head to head in a game, things could get interesting.

Over the next week or so, there are many teams and many games to play, so while they battle it out on the field, we'll work at getting back home and into the swing of things again.

Our plan was to arrive here and then proceed right away to Mozambique. However, there are a few unexpected delays. It turns out that security measures have been tightened during the World Cup and international pilots have to go through a screening process before private flights are OKayed. Also, the mission's Cessna is having some work done and there have been delays there as well.

So we've been held up a bit, stuck in a World-Cup-Soccer-land donned in soccer jerseys and blowing its noisy vuvuzelas.

Meanwhile, back on the mission, the second team of nursing students is due to arrive this weekend.
The arrival of fresh recruits can be quite a noisy affair too, albeit with squealing at bugs rather than honking of vuvuzelas. Personally, I rather prefer to hear the squealing. It's much more entertaining.

One of the nice things about short term teams is that they come not to watch a sport, but to take an active part in caring for and loving people. Part of that is working with people with needs, such as widows and orphans. And that sounds like a much better description of "religion" to me. (James 1:27)

Having said that, you can bet that if Brazil or South Africa make it to the play offs, we'll be donning our team colors and blowing our own vuvuzelas right along with the best of them.


PS: Photo credit to Heather for the last two photos.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010


This week, we celebrate achievement in several ways. Primarily, and this is why we are back home at this time, because both our kids graduate from university. (Bear with me here, I’m a proud mom ☺)

Getting this far has been quite the challenge, especially since we homeschooled in the African bush for a good 8 years. I am no teacher, and we had no library, no science lab and few reference materials or resource people. There were days when I wondered if we would manage to get our kids successfully through school and “university-ready”. And so we did a lot of question asking and preparing and planning. And when that was all done, we tackled the work that was set out before us.

(Bush living provided science lessons of its own. Here, the kids admire a "stick bug".)

When the kids were 18 and 16, we returned to Canada with the plan that they would remain here to finish school and pursue their careers.

Russell had decided to take engineering so he had his work cut out for him from the get-go. Part of the process of applying for engineering involved an interview with one of the program counselors, I guess to help prepare the student for the hard work that was to come. During this interview, and in order to make his point, the counselor said, “If you’re sure this is the program for you, then you better draw a picture of the sun and of your parents now because once you get started, your head will be in the books so much you won’t see either for a very long time.”

When I heard about that afterwards, I was rather terrified for him. Would he be able to hold up under the pressure? When we asked him how he felt about that, he replied with, “Well, I’m a bit afraid. But I’m also excited about it.” That was five years ago.

At about the same time, Amanda had Grade 12 yet to finish. We decided that since schools were accessible for the first time in many years, she would finish her education at nearby school. She also had to go for an “interview”, with us, to see just where she would fit into the system.

At the time of the interview, she had already missed a valuable month of class time, but the vice principal thought she should register for classes immediately anyway and suggested something along these lines: “There’s no need to sit at home waiting for next semester. If you set your mind to it, you can catch up. Your classmates are ahead of you right now, so you will ‘eat dust’ initially. But if you work hard at it, you can do it.”

Again, I was a bit terrified. Amanda, on the other hand, was game for the task. Within a few months, not only had she caught up, she made the honor roll. That was 5 years ago.

Today, Amanda graduated with a B.Sc. Specialization in Biochemistry.

Tomorrow, Russell will graduate with a B.Sc. in Engineering. Both graduated with distinction. I guarantee you there was much ‘dust to eat’ with all that studying, but much was gained as well.

Well done, kids. Congratulations to you both!

Quick update:

Last week we (SAM Ministries) held a few days of strategic planning meetings. It was a great chance to review what has been achieved thus far and also to set goals for the coming years.

The team of student nurses from Prairie is currently in Mozambique and keeping very busy with a number of activities like community visits and health teaching. (Thanks for the photos, Keren.)

Click here to see more photos of the team's activities and to read about their experiences in Mozambique.

For now, I will close :) It's been a terribly busy time for us these past few weeks, and in a few short days we leave to go back to our home in Africa. We're sad to say goodbye again to our family, but at the same time, anxious for what is set before us.