Saturday, August 27, 2011

About struggle, and car snorkels

I was watching Raimundo spread a layer of manure on my flowerbeds a few weeks back. I wondered (out loud) if he was laying it on a bit thick, but he figured the amount was just right. We both kept a curious eye on those flowerbeds over the next few weeks as he watered them faithfully, and turns out he was right. The previously scraggly and anemic looking plants are turning lush and healthy.

It reminded me again how even seemingly useless things can work for good. They say that about struggle, too. Apparently struggle is good. Funny how that works.

So in that light, something good will result from the struggles we faced this past week. Struggles like some people close to our hearts having serious health issues, team members having a car accident, and us having major hassles with our internet. I'm currently on a rather pokey little cellphone modem.

Thankfully, those with health issues seem to be on the mend and the vehicle seems to be the only “one” in the accident that sustained physical damage. (And that can be fixed.) Our internet problem, however, is being stubborn. Let’s hope that if we’re patient and keep working to sort it out, good will come of that too.

Anyway, on to the photos.

Rick Cogbill and Todd Green wrapped up their time here this week being their usual productive selves. Rick focused and made good progress on construction of the automotive workshop.

Huge crater dug with the backhoe that will be filled with rock. This is where the workshop drains will empty into.

Peter busy building the work pit (?term) so mechanics can stand beneath vehicles while they work on them.

So they can avoid this type of scenario...

(Todd and gang resurrect the Isuzu, again.)

Washing the minibus.
I bet it's a nice break for the guys from all that theory they learned earlier in the day!

I learned some interesting details in the last mechanics session about how/why vehicle engines don’t like being plunged into deep water. I guess they, like me, don’t like gulping water through their air intake system. If a vehicle MUST ford a deep river, you may want to make sure it has a snorkel first. A “car snorkel” is just funny, no matter how you think of it.☺

As the guys packed their bags to head for home, I organized some of the school kids’ artwork to send back with them for sponsors. Organizing school-child art is the highlight of any day.

Pretty sure I see a snorkel on that vehicle :)

3 school girls taking home new Walt Disney character toothbrushes.
Makes toothbrushing all the more fun!

This gentleman, who sadly lost his wife recently, walked several hours to the clinic to get milk for his baby. The lady on the right is his adult daughter who is helping him with child care. We trust for health for this little one.

For this time, I'd better close. Could take awhile to upload this.

"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God..." Romans 8:28

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Say Cheese...

Updating annual school photos on over 300 children is a bit like a wedding photo shoot, except no one is dressed in white. Thankfully...rural Mozambique is far too dusty to wear white! It also takes us weeks to get photos of all the children.

That's because although the majority of these children attend the mission's school (Grades 1-5), many are sponsored to attend external schools in larger communities so they can pursue higher grades. So there's a fair bit of tripping around to be done by Matthew (field office administrator, below) to get everyone's photo.

I can almost hear Matthew saying that to this cute preschooler.

Besides taking, uploading, labeling and resizing a gazillion photos, details like "grade, age, health notes, etc." are also updated. Oh, and the children write letters or draw pictures for their sponsors. The writing and translation of these letters is another big task, but one that can be quite entertaining and rewarding for us as we witness these children growing and developing the skills they will need for life.

This young man is one of our external students.
He's been in our program since he was small and is currently participating in the mechanics course at the mission. (below)

It's been a busy week for me, so I'm a bit sad that I missed out on interpreting. But I'm sure Joao (above, right) enjoyed it!

"Say cheeeeese, little donkey."

Last week, Dwight and I took a day to go pick up a ram (male sheep) in the Serra Choa which is about a 2 hour drive northwest of us. The purpose in getting the ram is to improve the "beefiness" of the mission's current sheep herd.

Dirt road to Serra Choa

Good to see a sign pointing to the local health center.

Loading the ram. He wasn't too impressed with this concept.

Thankfully he was a good passenger and didn't "ram" any windows out.
Helps that Dwight had a pen prepared for him to ride in.

At his new home.

I am including photos of some of our small burn victims receiving their warm, fuzzy blankets at the health post this week. I couldn't be there for the handing out and photo taking, but Celestino (one of the health workers) did a great job!

Beautiful smile, happy mom

Without the participation of everyone involved, both here and abroad, there would be a lot fewer smiles on the ground here.

Thank you, everyone!

Bye for now.

(PS: If you would like more information or if you're interested in school child sponsorship, please email us at

Sunday, August 14, 2011

It’s Complicated

Many parallels can be drawn between a motor and the human body. For one thing, they're pretty complex. For another, they both need some fixing from time to time. This can be greatly reduced if things are maintained on a regular basis though. Turns out preventive medicine works for cars as well as people.

I hoped this parallel would come in handy again this week since I offered to help interpret for the mechanics’ course. I know terms like “gear, oil, and bearing” in Portuguese. How much more complicated could things get, right? And if they did, I could always resort to some detailed descriptions, hand motioning, and diagram drawing.

Todd Green, Ed Hyslip, and the mechanics' class

English to Portuguese is one thing, but to Portuguese that is understood in the local context is sometimes a big step further. The labeling of one diagram that snagged us for a while was this:

“Ok guys, the top diagram is of a Plain (“simples”, in Portuguese) Bearing. The second one...(realizing I knew no Portuguese word for "flange"), well, is more complicated.” I was kind of serious, kind of joking. They blinked, shuffled their feet, and waited for me to continue. So I took a deep breath and carried on. It took a fair bit of describing, motioning with the hands, and explaining, but in the end we came up with a term that made sense to them.

This was another fun concept...

All in all things went quite well.

Then there was the practical component.

We always lots of "practical components" because we depend on so many machines daily to get our work done, like our power generator, grinding mill, truck, vehicles, backhoe, etc. And it seems that with machines, if it's working, it's breaking. That's just the nature of machines.

The mission's maize grinding mill.
Situated where it is, this machine saves women from walking countless miles just
to grind their maize so they can cook it each day.

One of the big projects of the week for the mechanics was our old generator. It is fairly spent and is now used as back-up to a newer one. The plan was to rebuild it.

First, we had to get it out of its shed. That took a bit of maneuvering with the backhoe, some chains, and some tension. :)

Once it was safely in the open car port, the guys got to work pulling it apart.

Stripped to the core.

Now that it's in hundreds of pieces, the verdict is that it's so worn that the remainder of its days should pretty much be committed to rest. Prevention has its place but in time, wear and tear take their toll don't they? It's the nature of things. Now we need to think of a Plan B back-up.

A few quick shots of the week:

Ed had a chance to visit the mission school to say a quick hello and goodbye before wrapping up his time up here.

I came across this while marking exams from the health course this week. It made me smile. It seems the exam's structure was a bit complicated and needs to be simplified. (Btw, I love that this guy was unwilling to settle and just circle whatever). I want to give him points for this.

Blankets we picked up this week for the young burn victims who’ve been coming to the clinic for dressing changes. (They were burned while sleeping too close to the fire on these cold winter nights). Looking forward to seeing the smiles these blankets will bring!

And last of all, the tail of a Rough Scaled Plated Lizard seeking refuge from passers-by.

The End

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Warming Up

Winters in this part of Mozambique are cold, and this winter has been especially cold. Some guests from colder climates sort of smile when we say this. I suppose once you've tented in -10C, +10C doesn't exactly rate. But this week, it didn't look like anyone minded standing in the sunny spot for morning devotions after a long Mozambique-cold night.

At 7 a.m. the sun's rays are still rather weak, and only come in at a slant, so sunny spots are scarce. But when you're really cold you find those spots. I do anyway, and it looks like these guys do too.

You know how some days take a weird twist? Well, I seldom take my camera to morning devotions to take pictures. I'm not sure why I snapped this one below either, and I had no idea at the time (neither did they) what was hanging in the tree right behind them.

Until Heather, who was beside me, pointed and whispered, "Is that a SNAKE hanging from that tree?!"
Yep. A twig (bird, or vine) snake.
Cleverly disguised and swaying ever so gently even though there was no breeze.
Probably he was cold too and this was the only unoccupied sunny spot he could find!

It was sure hard to stay focused on devotions.

Dwight later lifted him onto the branch so we could see him better. I think he's stunning.

There's been an increase in snake-track sightings this week (by me, anyway), and thankfully our days have been warming up. So I guess the +40's are on their way.

Big fat snake track.

Little, skinny (juvenile?) snake track.

Unfortunately, the cold winter has meant we've seen an increase in then number of burn victims at the health posts too. Mostly it's children sleeping too close to hut fires to stay warm at night and the blanket or their clothes catch alight. In one particularly sad case, a young boy sustained extensive 3rd degree burns to his chest, back and one upper arm. We couldn't get to his home by vehicle so had to walk there to get him and take him to hospital.

The men carry the boy the 20 minute walk, on a grass mat, to where our vehicle is. Concerned women family members follow.

(This happened during seminar last week. Several monitors who were visiting a local bush church came across this home and helped out by calling us then gave money to help with related costs. I was moved by their kindness.)

Because the burns were so extensive, and because the child had other special needs, he was taken to Vanduzi Hospital.

We are thankful that the others can be treated at the health posts and for donations toward blankets that have come in for them.

Moving along here... Besides being a cold week, last week was a busy one too with people coming and going.

We welcomed Rick Cogbill, Todd Green and Ed Hyslip who are here to teach a mechanics course, fix vehicles, and contribute in a number of other ways. We also said goodbye to Tony and Leila, and Urs as well.

(Urs, straight above. Willing servant...everyone misses you already.)

It was great to have Tony and Leila here participating in the seminar...

And Leila's Brazilian Portuguese came in very handy for interpreting for a few days for the mechanic's course.

Todd Green teaching a session while Leila interprets.

Some of the donated materials for which we are very thankful!
To see more photos of their activities, check Rick's latest blog post.

Otherwise, there was the usual hum of building activities.

Here, trusses go up for our car port. (The previous one dangerously collapsed during rainy season.)

Andy making progress on his carport/room he hopes to move into soon.

This water tank was purchased largely by a donation from Brazilian partners. It will be used to provide running water for the mission's primary school and health post.
Running water is a good thing :)

Work carries on at the training center. We're so thankful for this machine that helps speed the job along!

We're also thankful it actually got up to +29C one day this week. Even if it means snakes are out and about more. And even if it means we'll soon to into the intolerable +40'sC. Somehow it's always nice when things warm up a bit.