Monday, September 17, 2012

Giving and recieving in Pemba

So much happens in a week, it's hard to put it into organized places in my thoughts in order to share. I feel like Im always neglecting incredible experiences when I share these little bits. But here are some, and that is the best I can give or today. 

Wednesday I had a very real moment that  I’m thankful for, though it is a bit hard for ones heart to hear it, I find it really amazing because it’s real life and I had an opportunity to love practically as well as remember one of the reasons Im here.
Memuna, A little girl can be a rascal around the base sometimes, invited me to her house and seemed really excited for me to say yes. She doesn’t live in the children’s center here, but she is one of the children from the village who almost seems like she does because she spends most of her time here as well as goes to school and eats at the daily childrens feeding that happens in our church (adjacent to my office, so I hear the singing, shouting and screaming of these sometimes 200 little guys that are usually only eating this one meal for the day). I love that she took a special interest in being my friend, because I think she is overlooked a nd maybe not even liked very often, and Im so happy to love her.
We walked to her house and she didn’t speak very much the whole time. Which is sometimes her personality, but she also just seemed tired that day. I asked her what was wrong, and she said she was hungry.
We got to her house. I know her mom because she used to be in our jewelry class, but moved into the gardening group before I returned this year. She also is one of the women that I truly love but can at times…well for lack of a better way to say it, she can be manipulative. But I truly love her, and it was wonderful to see her home. She has 7 children, and a very sick father living there. She has no husband; this is the all too normal situation of our wonderful ladies here.
Usually when I visit friends int heir homes I can see that they have needs, but we still have a wonderful time together, talking, laughing and enjoying each others company, but this bunch was incredibly somber. Every one of them, even the little ones, were frowning and looked weary, as if they were incredibly tired. I soon found out that it was because…simply put, they were hungry. It was such an eye-opening moment for me. It was one of those moments when you realize that somehow youve found yourself sitting on the inside of a story sometimes told by people in first world countries in a theoretical, sad way about people “starving in Africa”.I know Im around hungry people all of the time, but somehow it isn’t the focus for me most of the time; I’m usually focusing on bigger picture , how to get them skills and jobs to change their entire lives, as well as realize their own dreams, desires, potential  and extreme value that God sees in them different to the rest of the world. But in this moment, it was simple.
These people were hungry, and I asked them the details; they had run out of the food that Iris gives them almost a week earlier than the food is supposed to last. Probably because of the amount of kids she has, and feeding her father as well, and to be honest she probably solds part of it to buy other things. They actually have to pay for water, which they were also almost out of. I asked them if they had eaten anything today, and none of them had. Apparrently Memuna brings some of her food from the children’s feeding home and shares it, but she hadn’t that day because she was waiting for my visit. But that was basically, as far as they told me, all they had been eating since the Sunday before.
.So, I gave them some money. It wasn’t a lot, but it was what I had in my wallet. About 40 mets, which is about 2 dollars. But that can buy some beans, xima, and water. This is going to sound backwards, but it is important for me to be cautious about giving money here. The point of what we’re doing in Iris is to encourage Mozambicans, give them dignity, and opportunity to take care of themselves without dependency on us. As someone a part of the widows ministry, it’s extra important for me because it can be really unfair for me to have special friends within the group. But when God says give, I give. This was definitely a situation to break any “rules” and basically, feed some very hungry friends. I’m also going to check into seeing if she can be signed up for more food because of how many kids she has.
I’ll always remember that somber heaviness in the air over their hut; it was as if the unspoken words were just hanging in the air:“We’re hungry and don’t have food”.  I am soso thankful that I have money and food to share with friends. I’ve never been truly hungry like that in my life. And somehow I was born with the ability to only be that hungry by choice.
God, I don’t understand why I was born with that privelage, but I  thank you for it. And I thank you for the opportunity to feed the hungry. Thank you for Iris giving food and opportunity for life. Thank you for the Jewelry class that will provide money and food for these women.

I’ve had a few exciting gifts these last two weeks. My friend Emilda has sent her two oldest sons, Jaime, and Alberto, to my house to bring me sugar cane, Mandioca root, and a strange bean (or I guess it isn’t actually a bean but it looks like one?) two times. For no reason! They were jut waiting outside of my house a couple of times over these last two weeks bearing gifts! I can’t tell you how this touched me. Of course I want to refuse gifts like this from a momma who literally has no one providing for her but Iris. But, she wants to give it to me and it even hurts her for me to refuse. I even offered some to the boys to share, and they refused.
Of course I sent the boys back home with some little gifts as well. This is what we do around here: back and forth sharing and loving. The poorest of poor sharing their little with me, Of course I’m going to share out of my (by comparison) wealth and abundance!
These are the kinds of experiences that aren’t easy to put into words and share with others. What this kind of experience does inside of your heart is truly a piece of the Kingdom of God. It speaks of the truths that exist in heaven, where life is MORE THAN FOOD or what we OWN. I think this is a lesson you simply can’t grasp until you get the blessing of seeing true LACK and seeing generosity and joy inside of it. 

Small group with village girls:
Ive started a small group that’s consisting of about 5 girls from the surrounding villages who come to church but have no one pouring into them, no place to share questions, thoughts, ideas or problems in their lives.
Im really really excited about it. So far we have talked about the possibilities of their lives, abilities to dream, and their value. We have also talked about Jesus being  REAL, real enough to know that He is with us at all times, we can talk to Him, sit beside Him, He has thoughts about us, had plans for us when He made us. Ive shared a lot of my testimony, regarding how I became a Christian when I didn’t really know what that meant, and got to a point of learning for myself in an incredibly real way that God was more than an idea and a concept like a lot of the church sees Him as. And I talked about how I wondered bouth this thing of “hearing God” for so long and wanted it to be real, but never saw proof of Himreally being able to speak of us. And how I now hear Him all of the time. What a joy. I realiyed how amaying Jesus was when we were talking. Especially when reading psalm 139 and hearing about how God truly loves us and took great care in the way He made us.
The girls have been so excited about it. WE have been doing some fun things like making bracelettes and playing games as well and Ive been giving them opportunity to share about any problems during the week. So far they have proved to be shy abot themselves to some extent. I know it will take tim for them to truly feel safe to share things they feel. And to be honest they probabl don’t think much about how they feel, because they are used to not being allowed to….jsut managing through lifes difficulties. Im so excited to get to become like sisters with these precious girls.
Update on me:
Ive had some things shaken these last couple of weeks. Normal problems within the minstry in communicating as a team have seemed bigger than they should be have and affected me and at times made me feel doubts about my strength and abilities. But Im having to remember that Ive been here over two months and Im starting to feel tired! I have to remember to not neglect my tim with God that recharges me physically, emotionally, and mentally. Ive started fasting this week for the first tim in so long. I can already see it "working"...amaying how it always does. 
Again, this week is an important one. jane, the visitor from England is leaving and we are evaluating what to add into our prorgam from what she has taught and what to exclude or change from what we have been doing. Please pray for us as w make big decisions.

prayer requests:
_ I wont give into lies that stem from tiredness or basic warfare from being on the "frontlines" so to speak, here.
- Unity in our team and in our vision for the program
- Grace for myself to be God's daughter and nothing else

Thank you all! love you!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Living and loving ( from 3 weeks ago!)

This is a blog I wrote about three weeke ago that i never got to put up!! Thanks for reading.

Had a visit from two of my favorite women here in pemba. I cooked them a special spaghetti meal, and we had a wonderful time together!

This morning it rained. It doesnt rain this time of year often at all. Its beautiful, consistent heavy rain when it does and my tin roof amplifies the sound well. But the difference between my reaction to rain here and at home is that All i can think when it rains here is,"oh God please dont let any of our ladies' rooves cave in." That is a sad reality for a lot of the women in our program. We have a roofing ministry, but its very expensive, takes a lot of volunteers and time. But im so thankful that we are working at literally putting roofs over heads.

Sad cultural realizations:
Last week i was in the city running errands with Chafim. He was buying soap for our babies (ladies, and invalids in the program), I was buying cookies for the women in the ktchen (it was graduation day of the harvest schhol and i knew the ladies would have been working since 4 am to make food for the harvest schhoolers. The are usually sweets, but last year they were only for the harvest schoolers and my friends who had worked so hard, probably ready to keel over, didnt get any sweet treats. So this year God gave me the idea to get them a sweet treat and tell them how much theyre appreciated). As I got back in the car and was waiting for Chafim I noticed 3 little children staring at me. This is common; children either stare in amazement if they dont see many white people, or theyre more used to you and they run up and touch you, or theyre used to you at the base nd they pummel you with hugs and ask you for anything they can see ln your person. These were the first category. I thought at first they were looking at my candy wanting some, and to be honest,that made me feel slightly...tired. When you have people ask you for things all day, sometimes just thinking about it makes you emotionally tired. But i thought, "thats stupid!" got out of the car to give them some candy,  and they started making awful scared sounds and backed away like I had just hurt them. I tried again and the same thing happened and they actually hid behind some men all  standing around and the older had her protective arm around the two little ones. 
I thought they were just scared of white skin, but Chafim explained that some kids are taught that white people are going to kidnap them and sell them. I had no idea. Ive never encountered that before. It broke my heart. And to think I thought they were going to beg for candy. Sobering realities of the past. Thats why makua creates such a breakthrough for connecting to  people. portuguese is the white mans language and me trying to speak makua shows I want to honor them and understand them! I love it so much. God, i wont stop until I see barriers broken down!!

The all too real reality of death in Pemba:
On saturday I had two wonderful friends over for breakfast who were here for the Harvest School: Brittany Harrison, and Lauren Brown. Sandi, my sweet rommate and I were eating with them and having a conversation that was giving us all chills. We were talking about faith for miracles. We were sharing stories of people that had been raised from the dead, had been dead for hours, and either through a wuick prayer or 3 hours of prayer they woke up. One of those stories involved a boy whose head had been crushed  by a truck, his brains had been...more or less splattered on the road. When he was healed 13 hours later, his head somehow regrew, and he had no brain damage. We were so encouraged thinking about how the key to miracles is persistence regardless of what you see. Just keep trying - pray for the impossible things every time. 

Our conversation was interrupted by the sudden sound of sobbing and wailing outside of my house. As we are always ready to try and love those around us and as appaling things seems to happen on a somewhat regular basis here, we jumped to our feet to comfort whoever was wailing. We found a group of woman just a couple of houses away - literally right outside of my home - crying because an 18 year old boy, Alex, had just died. Right at that moment, they had recieved the news. All 3 of us were faced with the immediate reality of our exciting conversations in that moment. Wow. Such is life in Pemba. 

Brittany and I started timidly talking to each other..."I want to pray"..."we've got to pray". Why else would we have just had such a conversation if not to build our faith and prepare for this situation that landed on our laps?? W could have chosen a  illion other topics of discussion. Not a coincidence. Yet, this is the problem, and I guess this is why it helps To not be super emotional or worried about offending like David Hogan, there were weeping women and family members all around us, and we didnt know the boy!! It felt so offensive and rude to think of trying to pray for him. What if he didnt get up? I guess this is what everyone deals with in the face of praying for...a dead person. 

Brittany and I kept asking the lord - "what should I do?" because in the end, my job is just to be personally obedient - not paying attention to what everyone else has chosen to do. As a community who believes in raising the dead, youd think this wouldnt be a difficult request. But in the face of it, it is truly difficult to go there. But Brittany and I were as bold as we had guts to be. We asked. And they said no, that theyd already prayed. Then, we walked up to the door where the family was sitting, which felt rude, but we did it anyway. W kneeled at the doorway, trying to figure out what to do. 
Then they carried the body out, inches away from us wrapped in a sheet. Jesus. Can you imagine? A fresh wave of sobs and wails let out all around us. Tears were streaming down Brittany's face as she so wanted to pray for him. Finally, I said, " brittany, lets continue praying at my house. Remember the centurion in the Bible who said to Jesus, "all you have to do is say the word and my servant will be healed."' our faith was strong. We went and interceded for over 3 hours.  I felt as if a lot of things broke and happened in the spiritual realm. Sandi had had a dream the night before in which someone was holding a hand over Heidi baker's mouth, and we all felt it had to do with this situation....she is on a speakingtour right now, and we felt that this death was a discouragement meant to hold back her words. We prayed against that.

But he didnt wake up. Why? I dont know. But it doesnt shake my faith.  It says in the Bible that all we have to do is believe, and by the mesure we believe, it will be done. But that doesnt explain why they dont get up sometimes. Im not God. But I still believe what He says to be true. Im must keep trying and having radical faith. Im still believing for a complete healing of Victoria. David Hogan spoke her a couple of weeks ago and reminded us that he has seen 30 people,personally, when he prayed, get up after haing been dead. He reminded us that its hard when they dont...but that you have to keep trying. It helps to believe What God says regardless, and not to feel "failure", which,as Csey Long says, doesnt exist in the Kingdom. 

So. This is my life in Pemba. Very real things. Very real opportunities to test what you claim to believe. It was a hard day, but an amazing day, in which I learned what its like to live on this fallen earth - I wont stop until I see heaven's realities come here.

Life and ministry is going very very well. God was right when He told me not to fear and to go where He was sending me. Im already seeing the differences in ME this time - all that He has done to prepare me, and all that He wants to do through me. I see there is a lot of importance in me being here in this timing, and Im anticipating big growth in the ladies and the program over these months. 
Nathalia, my coworker in the Jewelry making class, and I are overhauling the program right now. She has given me the freedom do make almost any changes I think are necessary to make the program what God has planned for it be and put dreams in my heart for it to be. Im waiting to see if we will get to start paying the ladies per project (up to this point, making jewelry is a once a week job in which they recieve two weeks worth amount of food for them and their whole family.) 

God has been speaking to me a lot about giving them the chance to make choices, be adults, be respected, and be like artisans rather than...workers. In abut two weeks we are going to have a group discussion day where all the ladies, nathalia, Filomena (the woman who is on salary to help lead the class) and I talk through the reason we are doing this class/business together, what our dreams are for it, and give them opportunity to share their dreams, thoughts and concerns. I want them to realize that this is an opportunity to learn skills that can change their lives, if they take advantage of the training we are offering.Then we are going to give them opportunity to vote on which technique of jewelry making theyd like to sepcialize in: wire work, simple beading, bedweaving, crochet, coconut, and kapulana hand-sewing projects. They will then be broken into specific skill groups in which they specialize, and I will be working very hard to train these groups well, with a leader for each group. Im so excited to see this become more of THEIR project in which they are making choices, and are doing things that they enjoy (because theyl have chosen which technique they like the best!)
 I also am making plans to do painting with a small group soon. I dont know if anyone has the skills or desire to do it, but I cant wait to find out. God had so many specific words about painting, i cant wait to see how it goes. 

This week I have been very busy: Im organizing all of these changes starting wiht taking all thenJewelry we have been making and making it better qualitt and more durable. Then designign new pieces. Ive designed probably about 10 new pieces. But i also needed to have master example pieces of things we have been making, so Ive been making lots of jewelry. Its a bit time consuming! The  Ive been taking pictures of each piece and using a program on the Ipad to make inventory lists, supply info, and instruction sheets for each piece which im going to translate into portuguese. Ill also add some makua phrases. Then we will print These out for when we have visitors that want to help. This also all aids in them being able to work without me. Ivalso been reorganizing our supplies in bead sizes and trying to phase put any supplies that we dont use alot. I want to makeit somthat we have consistent materials coing drom specific places so that we can have consistent pieces of jewelry! 

Anyway, Im doing well. Spending good time with friends, mozambican and non-mozambican alike. Its normal to have incredible ministry opportunities daily by loving people around me- theres so much opportunity for ministry just walking a foot outside of my house. Everywhere I go there are hurting people that I see and i love seeing them light up with a smile or one Makua phrase constantly walking in the opposite spirit of the white peoples colonialism in the past.