Monday, December 19, 2011

Africa to Canada-adjusting to change

Finally last week we departed the African world and left behind its blazing hot sunshine, tropical thunderstorms, and beautiful people. The Cessna stayed behind too at Mercy Air, and in our absence it will undergo its annual maintenance check.

From Mercy Air, Dwight, Andy Kuret and I left by vehicle for the Johannesburg Airport. Andy was headed to Switzerland on a short 6 week furlough, while Dwight and I headed for Canada.

Here we are lined up in Joburg, more or less ready for the next 35 hours of non-stop transit between worlds. We had 3 flights: London, Toronto, Edmonton, with hours-long layovers in between.

With a schedule like that, we were clearly smiling at the thought of arriving at our destination! Especially considering we were facing the usual sardined-together-trying-to-sleep-sitting-up-experience, made much worse for me by the fact that I came down with some nasty flu just as we were leaving. All I could think about as I sat on plane and airport chairs was a bed...but it was the farthest thing from me.

In Edmonton, we were welcomed warmly by loved ones and friends at the airport, and at home, by a bed! And now begins the process of settling (more or less) and getting ourselves organized for 6 months of travel--most of it by road. The settling-in process is going to involve a bit of adjusting to "climate change" though.

From this:
To this:

There will be a bit of adjustment to "space change" too since we've done the usual and moved in with our kids who share an already small suite in my in-laws' basement. It's not that we're new to this, but it is an adjustment nonetheless.

Running an office from the dining room table wasn't very do-able, so we picked up a little desk and chair for Dwight at Walmart and put it in our bedroom. Our bedroom is a curtained off section of the living room. Jokes about us closing the curtain "for some peace and quiet" abound.

Dwight working on the presentation we'll be using during furlough.

And now, it's hard to believe Christmas is just around the corner. For the first time in about 6 years, we will get to spend it with family. That's a change too, but the adjustment is an enjoyable one with family fun and the rekindling of ties as we celebrate the birth of Jesus: the One who came to bring us life-giving change.

So for now, goodbye and Merry Christmas everyone!

Be sure to check Heather's blog for a write-up about the orphan Christmas party that took place last week in Mozambique.

Saturday, December 10, 2011


(Stuff and the chaos of leaving.)

We've been in the process of leaving Mozambique for several weeks now to go on a 6 month furlough in Canada and the US.

Preparing for one's absence in one place so work can carry on as smoothly as possible while preparing for one's arrival in another makes for some very busy times. There have been many meetings, email writing, job description detailing, photo/video taking/editing, schedule/transport planning, govt/legal paper work wrapping up (as much as possible) on a number of fronts, and so on.

Generally, just organizing stuff. Lots and lots of stuff. And so it seemed like the logical time to do my spring cleaning and organize my entire house too, including medical supplies(!).

The bottles of medicine are for treating microscopic bugs.
The can of DOOM, for treating bigger bugs.

Which leads me to tell you how I dealt with last week's discovery of a big, thick spider web in some stored linen (see previous post).

First, I ignored it for a few days. I was either procrastinating or just too busy with other stuff. I kind of figured Spidey wasn't going anywhere far with such a plush home anyway.

But when all my other work was done, I had to deal with him. I (smartly and) off-handedly mentioned the situation to my husband who dutifully headed straight into the storage room and pulled Spidey's newly claimed (aka OUR) bedding onto the wide open floor and opened it up. At that, Spidey started jumping and scurrying about wildly like I thought he would. But I had my mini-vacuum ready in hand and, um, "air lifted" him to the safety of the outdoors. And that was the end of that saga.

It is not logical to take on mini-construction projects while preparing to leave on a big trip, but we decided to do that too. Tiling needed to be done around the kitchen sink and newly placed curtain rods needed to be secured. Oh, and curtains for the mission office needed to be cut and made ready for hemming too. With all that taking place in my kitchen over several days, finding an appropriate spot to put the dish rack became quite an adventure.

In the end, it all came together and we said our farewells.

Last missionary staff meeting before leaving: left to right
Dwight, me, Joao, Leila, Tony, Heather, Rick, Alta, Francois, Ron,
Allan (Mercy Air SA director)
Front: Tendai and Barb

Our leaving coincided with a long-time staff member having to go for emergency surgery.
Seems like a bad time to leave, but I know he's in good hands.
(thanks for the photo, Heather.)

Before we knew it, we were off flying south.

Odd photo taken from the cockpit with my cellphone.
I assume the black lines must be the prop?

We were on a tight schedule on our way down (because we always are, but this time because of weather), but got delayed at Vilankulo Airport. They were having power troubles and we had to wait for their electricity to be reconnected so we could fuel up.

We weren't sure how long our delay would be, but either way, we had a bit of time to kill at the brand spanking new airport. Air conditioned with white, shiny marble floors and restaurant inside instead of outside in the hot wind. Wow.

Here's what it used to look like:

What we feared may be an overnight stay turned into just a 2 hour delay, so we got to leave shortly after lunch. Here we are, wind-swept on the tarmac. We look a tad excited. :) That's because we'll be seeing our kids and family soon.

We're now in South Africa, still in the process of leaving, but enjoying our last bit of summer before we hit the land of cold, snow, and ice.

We will be traveling the width and breadth of north America sharing about the the needs and wonderful things happening in Mozambique between January and July. If you want to get together with us at some point, please email us at

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Choices, and Hope.

Personally, I don't like too many choices. When there are too many good things to choose from, it's hard to decide on just one. Which is why I had to smile when I saw the first-ever food menu posted at the intensive seminar this week. Now that's a good menu! Straightforward. I also liked that someone was considerate, creative about the content, and went to the effort to write it up.

Translation: SBF (Faith Bible Seminary): Menu/Notice Board

Lunch (but actually means "Breakfast", in Mozambique terminology)

*Pina Bread, Large (baked with firewood in a clay oven in Pina, a neighboring community).
*Sri Lanka Tea (not from a neighboring community. Not even from a neighboring country!)

Big Lunch ( Mozambique terminology for "Lunch")
*Pemba Beans (Not a neighboring community, just further north in Moz.)
*Baue Rice (also from further north)
*Quelimane Orange Juice (large city further north in Moz)

As you can see, there's not many choices. But in rural Mozambique, where hunger is rife...especially now as rains are just arriving and crops still being planted--people are just happy for whatever food is available at all.

So, the dust has been flying (figuratively speaking, since it's currently raining) here this week with the busyness of seminar plus us trying to organize the many, many last minute things we need to get done before we leave on Thursday.

Dwight sharing in the general session in the NEW general sessions room.

Attentive listeners.

After a week of intensive class time and learning,
certificates are handed out to those completing their course(s).

Today, these leaders all head back to their homes. For some, this means a 2 day ride in very cramped, overloaded vans. Many of them are from rural areas where living conditions difficult, and there is hunger. As they study however, they become better equipped to address these issues and help bring hope to their churches and communities. Hope is a wonderful thing to share!

And speaking of which, I need to share another thing that made me (all of us) smile this week. One of our partnering churches (Fort McMurray Gospel Assembly, in Canada) found a very creative way to celebrate this Christmas and share hope with people in Mozambique.

For donations made toward Unique Christmas Gifts,
cards with those gift items were hung on beautifully lit Christmas trees in the church lobby.

This gets my vote for "Most beautiful Christmas Tree, 2011".

Before I end this post, I need to share one more item on the "choices" topic. I was busy organizing my little medications/camp bedding store room here in our house yesterday and when went to fling a pillow on the top of an already very high pile, something strange caught my eye. So I got up on a chair and to my dismay, at the very top I discovered this extensive and craftily spun spider web. It even has an entry tunnel and all. Ni-i-ice. I shudder to think of the size/shape/look of that spider. I dislike spiders more than I dislike too many choices.

So right now especially, I don't like my choices. Do I get rid of him with a:

*High-powered vacuum?
*Can of Baygon?
Shoe clobbering session?

Just too many "good" choices there...

May you have hope, and only good things to choose from this holiday season.

But mostly, Hope.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Bare Necessities

Walls and floors full of bugs aren't my idea of life's bare necessities, but well, it rained and so they're here. So I'll just start this post off with them.

Two days ago, after a few weeks of sweltering heat, we finally got the blitzing thunderstorm. We were expecting it because rain usually follows intense heat at this time of year. In fact, when it's real hot (like into the 40's Celsius), the local people say "It's cooking up some rain."

I would like to add one other predictor of rain: ants. They emerge by the millions just before heavy rains and take over our world in their panicked search for food. They form wide swaths and go anywhere they want--be it inside or outside your house. They march across floors, into garbage cans, pet dishes, the shower, you name it. Outside, they're any place you step, look, or sit. And they'll crawl all over you too if you're in the way. (Which you always are because they're everywhere.)

So to sum it up and move on to more important things, this is how our rain cycle goes. Intense heat + billions of pesky ants > a storm (which should be measurable on the Richter scale) > cooling off + the emergence of a whole host of bugs that the rain unleashes > intense heat again.

Bugs on the veranda the morning after rain.
Where's my broom? Now that's a bare necessity!

With another pastors/monitors intensive seminar upon us, we've been flat out busy ensuring the training center had the bare necessities needed to host the event. So for the first time ever, it will be hosted at the new training center. Right where it should be.

If things still looks under construction, well, they are. But certain parts are finished enough to use. It beats the more rustic conditions everyone has had to put up with over the years while this has been in the planning and initial stages of development. Another major perk is that it's right here on mission property rather than a 30 minute bumpy drive away. So for all concerned, this definitely is a thumbs up.

Here's the latest tour:

Just last week, permanent white metal support beams replaced temporary wooden ones.

This section has had the most finishing touches since it will be used to conduct classes.
Window frames are freshly painted and glass panes are in place.

Primer was even painted on some of the cement trim crosses on the outside,
just in time for the seminar.
(Don't worry, this isn't the permanent color scheme.That will come later.)

A classroom, ready to be used, temporary light fixtures and homemade blackboard in place.

One of the bigger rooms with mattresses that will be used for sleeping.
It's not luxurious but it beats a grass mat on a tent floor!

Oh, and as a side note, I'd like to point out that oval, white table. For probably the first time ever, it is fulfilling a more important function than being my one and only dining room table for the past 18 years. We're temporarily using a "real" wooden one that's on loaner from Ron and Barb. Nice change :)

Tables and chairs to be set up in the classrooms.

Here are some of the temporary structures to cover the bare necessities:

Kitchen and dining area.
We plan to build a nice multipurpose kitchen and dining hall one day,
but for now, this simple structure will do.

Two monitors with program coordinator Pastor Ricardo (light blue shirt), Pastor Tome (the cook, in navy blue t-shirt), and 2 of the older sponsored students on each side of him.
(Left: Mateu P. Right: Bero).

Since it's school holidays, these students do volunteer work during the week of seminar.

Pile of lenha (firewood) for open fire cooking.

Temporary (to become permanent) tap brings fresh water from the storage tank to a central spot for easy access for cooking and bathing. Bucket style bathing, of course.

Bathing area.
Although our future bathing stalls will be made of brick and concrete,
these are the norm in rural Mozambique.

Inside a similar looking structure, are the latrines.

And no, they're not the sitting type. Yet.
But these are also common in these parts.

Tents for surpervisors to stay in.
Water tank in background.

Yes, there is still quite a bit of work to be done. But compared to where we were about a year ago, this multipurpose facility/training center has come a long way!

Oct/Nov 2010

Which brings us to another one of our current building projects: a home for Rick and Heather Neufeld. Good progress! Be encouraged, little Neufeld family.

Last few photos:

Welcome dinner to celebrate Ron & Barb, and Tony & Leila's arrival.
Thanksgiving, really.

We were pleased to spot this cute pair of Broadbilled Rollers
nesting in a dead tree right beside the Neufeld's busy construction site.

I hope they eat ants.

PS: It's that time of year again (Christmas), so if you're interested in helping provide needy people with a bare necessity or two, please consider giving a Unique Christmas Gift. Although our website is a bit broken and undergoing a revamp, you can still download the gift brochure. Click here.

Bye for now.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


Although sometimes instructions seem redundant, or untimely, they are always important. That's because following them can save you lots of good things like time, effort, and even valuable points on a test. Thankfully, I wasn't the one writing a test this week. But these youngsters were.

This is the group of 5th graders who recently "graduated" from the mission school's Grade 5 and who want to go on to Grade 6 next year at an external school. This will be necessary until we are granted permission to add higher grades to our school.

One of the steps in the process is that students undergo a simple evaluation of the 3 "R's" (reading, writing and arithmetic). In the above photo, they're getting a quick orientation to the process as well as an introduction to staff members who will be monitoring them during the test.

Then, they split off into groups of 6-10 for their evaluations. Joao and I took one group on our veranda.

Hmm, serious stuff.

Once I was done helping with the reading evaluations, I took a few moments to pop my head in on the other groups.

This group sat in the "internet office" under Celestino's watchful eye (he's quite the stickler for discipline and detail). For the brief moment I was there, I heard him reminding the youngsters to "...observe the instructions at the top of the math page. It says to 'Calculate'. I want to remind you that when it says 'calculate', it means show all your work, fully, in proper form. Don't just give the answer. You'll be docked points for not showing your work."

I gulped hard for the kids, snapped this photo, silently wished them all the best, then backed out so they could concentrate.

Below is Matthew's little flock in the main office. They looked like they were pretty much done other than each still taking his/her turn outside to read their assigned piece of literature.

The two guys in the doorway are two of the school's teachers who accompanied the students. They were pacing back and forth, like worried parents, offering words of encouragement here and there.

And here's Prosper's group in the shade of the big tree in the front yard of the office. I see one boy looking up at the birds. Not tooooo much stress here.

All in all the process didn't take more than about an hour and then the students were off to their homes to enjoy the summer break. Celestino brought me their papers afterwards to quickly go over the results and pointed out that some of the students lost points for not having paid attention to the instruction "calculate" on the math page. "Calculate," he informed me, "doesn't mean to just write the answer. It means you have to show all your work, and your work has to be in order. 10's in the 10's place, 1's in the 1's place, and so on. Otherwise you make mistakes."

I sat straight and said, "Wow, Celestino. Sometimes I miss reading instructions too and just jump into the work
. Good thing I didn't have to write this test...I may have flunked it entirely!" I was half joking, half serious. Half joking because the way they do long division here was mind bogglingly different to me. I recall learning a rather upside-down method in Brazil long ago, but I think this is even different to that!

Anyway, I'd meant to post this photo last week but I think it got left out by mistake. This is us, Francois and Joao (far right) with some of the school's first students when "school" was held under the trees. They are now adults and either settling down and starting their families or pursuing a vocation.

Below is oldest photo of the school I have on my laptop. By this point, we had transformed an old dilapidated farm laborers' dorm into a large one-room school house by covering it with a big thatched roof, extending the building's width, and putting blackboards on the walls. On Sundays, it was used as a church.

To wrap things up for this time, here are a few shots of a home visit Celestino and I made to a young mother who suffered a puff adder (viper) bite a few weeks ago. Thankfully the wound is healing up well and she is able to walk. After a few visits, we decided the family was ready to take over her dressing changes on their own, so we left supplies and all the instructions needed.

Celestino was the one who demonstrated and gave the instructions, of course. Concisely, and with attention to detail, as always :)

At the end, when we asked if the instructions were clear, the young lady nodded her head without hesitation. And so did this entire line of cute little onlookers as well.

That's good. Learn it now, kids. Be that attentive to instructions always and you'll do better, in general, on just about any of life's tests!