Joy and Despair

Joy and despair married together.

These pictures from the Bocaria flooded through my inbox this week reminding me of the faces I haven't been able to remove from my mind since I returned. I'm praying for a respite time between now and when I leave. I need renewal and peace; a quiet that I haven't found outside of Mozambique. I've had a hard time since returning because my heart is not here in Nashville anymore and waiting to be reunited has produced some of the hardest moments in my life. I think I need grace in this time. I'm finding it hard to serve where He has me for these last few months. I never thought I would say it, but I'm ready to leave Nashville. I'm unclear which of the two realities is the more difficult one.

Setting my eyes on His kingdom...

The Lord has promised good to me

His word my hope secures

He will my shield and portion be

As long as life endures

My chains are gone

I've been set free

My God, my Savior has ransomed me

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow

The sun forbear to shine

But God, Who called me here below

Will be forever mine

-"Amazing Grace" by Chris Tomlin


Video Update

Ok, so this is my last posting for awhile. I think I've finished telling about most of my time there. I thought I'd finish it with a few videos from around Zimpeto.

**If you've just started looking at my updates from this trip....they start on 9/19 so you'll have to click on SEPT in the right hand column toward the bottom and work your way back. I compressed my journaling into a few days at a time and points of interest plus a few pics. I hope you enjoy. My prayer requests and major updates surrounding the trip are on the post titled Back Home on 10/4. You may have to click on OCT. in the right hand column to see all the Oct. blogs since only a few at a time are shown on the main page. Again thanks to everyone who has been supporting me this last year. Ya'll are amazing and I have been truly blessed by each of you!**

Worship: here's a small taste of what worship was like at Iris. This was the community service on Sunday mornings.

Sounds from Iris: this was the soundtrack we heard most nights because the girls compound was right next to the visitor's compound...(video taken by my roomie Rachel)


Baby Prayers: The babies were oh too precious. They prayed and sang songs before every meal! Here's 2 video's from one of my roommates Rachel:



10/1/07 Monday

Saturday I spent the afternoon and evening with the girls. They are given daily chores and responsibilities so they can be self-sufficient and have skills for when it comes time to leave the center. The older girls are expected to help take care of the younger ones, there is raking, and sweeping, and cleaning to do. Once a week the girls cook their own meal for the whole girl's compound. From start to finish...grinding the miaze, cutting the veggies, shredding the coconut, cooking, serving, washing the dishes, ect. Apparently I walked in at the right moment because I was immediately grabbed, shoved towards a seat, greens placed in my hand. I was told to sit...do this...and left to figure out what the heck I was supposed to be doing....all the girls, including the little ones were going at it, peeling the greens....and LAUGHING at me in Portuguese. So now I can say I've officially helped cook a traditional Mozambican meal and even eaten it with my fingers just like them!
Yesterday was our last worship service before going home. Every Sunday they have a time of blessing for all the short-termers or any missionaries that it is their last Sunday. You sit on the edge of the stage and then all the little kids run up, wrap a capalana around you, lay tiny hands on you and pray for you. I cannot really explain those emotions. First it is amazing enough to just hear all these little kids feverently praying over you . Then all the hands pressing on you....it was just too precious! An amazing blessing, even if I couldn't understand all they were saying. I again made my way to the baby house section and worshiped with them. Something that has been a theme for the week is how we each are CHILDREN of God. We should have faith like them; dance, sing and worship before Him as though we are. He is our Father and begs for us to come crawl into and rest in His love! How often do I take this message to heart? I am being taught this daily by the people of Mozambique by their utter dependence on Him for everything from their provisions to their joy. I was reminded by a small 3 yr old who grabbed both my hands during worship and started teaching me a dance she was making up at the exact same time. She was too cute. I don't think I've had that much fun in a really long time.

Today I spent the day doing the last ofs....last staff worship service...last time with the beautiful girls in the girls dorm...last moments in the baby house....last bowl of rice with some yummy topping....last youth worship service in the city. It was really hard as I am not ready to leave here in the morning. I can hardly wait to come back. This evening at the youth service I watched a room full of young men and wome come to the front so hungry for you....dedicating their lives, arms stretched out to you, tears streaming down their face. You can see His life in their eyes, the earnestness, the passion. In each of these moments I feel as though I'm watching Isaiah 58 being fulfilled right before my eyes. You are doing something so amazing with these people and through this ministry!


9/28/2007 Friday

We were blessed to get a chance to go on safari for a day to Kruger National Park in South Africa. Our guide was an Iris missionary couple helping to start a base there in SA. They do no recieve financial support, but instead work FT jobs and work for Iris. Lynne, works doing Safaris. They drove 3 hrs each way to pick us up from the Zimpeto base and then welcomed us into their home for 2 nights. We had an amazing time and it was such a needed respite, before returning back to Mozambique. The most striking thing about the experience was crossing the border into and out of SA. I wish i could have stood on the border line and taken a picture to display the scene. One side completely 3rd world (except we like to think of it as 3.5) and then the other was 1st world...that close, just feet away from each other. It was crazy how different the countries were.

Upon returning to Zimpeto, I had a lengthy conversation with 2 of the short-termers that were there at the same time as we were. We discovered something truly amazing. Last Sunday at worship, one of the team members from SA shared a phrophetic word and a vision she had...a message she felt God was leading her to give to the Mozambicans as encouragement. As she was reading and describing her dream. I was brought to tears, because it mimiced a promise God gave me almost exactly a yr ago to that date. As I was deciding to come to Africa and spending much time in prayer and scripture reading I was given a passage that has become my word, my promise from Him that speaks about His work in Mozambique and where He wanted me to join Him. The first was more for me, the 2nd part speaks more to them.

"Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yhourself from your own flesh? Then shall yhour light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the gory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, 'Here I am.' If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in."

-Isaiah 58:6-12

I did not share what passage it was just made mention of it and what it said. The couple shared with me that they too had been given verses on monday confirming what she had given during worship. He was to share with the rest of the group later that night. When we all got together he started sharing the passage and it was exactly the same verses I had been given. It was such a powerful thing to know that 3 of us had recieved the same promises about Mozambique and what He is doing through Iris here....all from 3 different continents and at different times, and then brought us all together for a short week in Maputo.

Further confirming this anytime I was asked to pray with someone, I felt led by the Spirit to pray that He raise up generations, an army for Him and His purpose that they might have a hunger for Him, longing and growing deeper and intimately more in love with Him; that they would become lights (out of the bocaria, out of Iris, out of downtown) and shine brightly, spreading like wildfire to Maputo, then Mozambique, and on. When talking with these children and the ministers at the bible school Iris taught on base, it was their desire to BE the missionaries and go out to the world and spread the gospel. They envisioned the time that they would no longer need missionaries to come to Mozambique, but they would be sent out. They have such a precious spirit! I wish I could describe their genuine enthusiasm and love for the Lord better.

9/26/07 Wednesday

Monday we had a staff worship service. Pastor Jose is such a joyous man, filled with laughter and praises for our Lord. He insisted that ALL of us needed to ask for more joy from the Lord and that we needed to dance in praise, along with the Mozambicans.....so we danced, traditional mozambican style. I have sense begun referring to it as mozambican aerobics, because that's what it feels like...we could hardly keep up....and they enjoyed laughing at us. That night I went into the city for the youth worship service that one of the smaller Iris bases hosts. Zimpeto brings a huge flatbed truck filled with the older kids from the center that want to attend. It was so encouraging to see the room filled with so many youth giving their lives tot he Lord, singing and praying. Most of these kids aren't from the center and haven't grown up with constant preaching and teaching, so it was refreshing to see how Iris is really moving through the community.

Tuesday was Mozambique's Independence Day so none of the kids were in school. I spent most of the day with the girls in their quarters watching movies, laughing, and allowing them to play with my hair (which they LOVE to do). They help me learn more portuguese and I help them learn more English....it's so cute they go around acting like parrots and repeating everything you say!

Today I spent the morning where my heart is the most....in the baby house. They have about 40 children 3 and under that live here. They are too precious! The toddlers hardly speak any English so it's always fun trying to understand what they are jabbering about and what they want you to do. The littlest are my most favorite....crawling around and just learning to walk. They quickly find their favorite visitor and latch on, all fighting for attention and love. With their being quite a few mouths to feed, I love going in when it's time for bottles or lunch/dinner time to help feed the tykes. They are so resiliant. They have pictures up of alot of the children from when they were brought to the center and to see them now is amazing. Today another baby was brought in. He was 18months old, but weighed about 8 lbs and looked like a 3-5 month old. He was abandoned by his mom because he has a disability and his grandmother who loves him so much is way to sick herself to care for him. She had been coming in weekly to the base to the milk program they run out of the clinic here. They had been following his progress and she finally tearfully decided it was time to hand him over. He hardly responds to anything, rarely cries, doesn't make or keep any form of eye contact, and barely moves his arms and legs (so they are all contracted and stiff), plus he is really malnourished. Today helped me realize how much I want to be here and help these sweet babies and their families!

This afternoon a team from South Africa brought bead supplies, so we all sat and made bracelets and necklaces. The kids really enjoyed it and went for 2 hrs making as many as they could. It was a neat treat for them!


9/23/07 Sunday

Yesterday I helped paint one of the girls dorm rooms. It has been a challenge for me the last few days. The kids here have so much and yet so little compared to western standards. I have had to continually remind myself that I am in a 3rd world country. The poverty here is so overwhelming that there is such a stark contrast between outside and inside the walls of Zimpeto. It's hard to see the handful of outfits the children have, or the mattresses with holes in them, or few old toy the children in the baby house have to play with. You want to scream, this is a children's center filled with orphans, shouldn't they have more. Then I walk out the gate of the center and am struck in the face again by where I am. These children are given so much more than any other mozambicans have. They have 3 huge (by comparison) meals a deal-bread and sometimes butter for breakfast, and rice with various different toppings for lunch and dinner. They have warm beds with clean linens, and clothes, and shoes. They have running water (very cold water, but water all the same) and electicity 95% of the time. They are safe and loved and taught the word of God. They are given a good education and are given opportunities most Mozambicans can never dream of. But it's still hard to see when you compare it to what we have here in America. They are taught to depend on God for their provisions and needs since that is what they will need when leaving the center. And this they do, so wonderfully, it makes me ashamed of my own faith!

Today we went to church. Despite the language barrier it was amazing. We danced and sang! All the children love to dance and hardly dance the same way outside the church walls (unless they are singing praise songs). After the message, they called for anyone to come to the front if they wanted to recieve more of His love and abundance, to sit at His banqueting table. About 100 came foward-children, staff, community members...there were the youngest of children to the oldest grannies who only spoke the local tribal language. They came and knelt, laid down, cried, and worshiped Him. I prayed and wept with them. The site that broke me the most was 2 young boys, around 9 years old, sitting on the floor at the front with their heads bowed, tears streaming down their faces, praying with each other outloud in portuguese...knees bent, toe to toe, they were holding tightly to each other's hands, just praying so feverently for about 30 minutes. Whenever you ask them what they want to pray for they always say for more of the Lord, to know Him more, for more joy in the Lord, for more of the Holy Spirit. Occasionally you will hear pleads for a job because they so desire to work, or for healing, or strength during their sickness; but you never get requests for objects or money or food. Such faith!

I went to the hospital today and prayed over some of the children in the pediatrics ward. Most were precious little ones, covered in burns. Because there is little utilities, water is boiled for everything, for drinking, for cooking, for laundry, ect. The water is warmed either on the gas stove or over a fire, but usually it is easily accessible for these little ones to pull it ontop of them, fall in, or reach into the scalding water. Most that we saw were under 7 years old. The care given in the hospital made me cringe!

Mozambiqe Information

So, it occured to me in talking to a few people, that perhaps before I go any further in my blogging, I should inform you about the state of the country. For many reasons including legal and safety we weren't allowed to take pictures outside of the gates of Zimpeto, so unfortunately I can't even let pictures explain their situation, not that they could do it justice, but it would probably be better than me trying to write about it. Either way, here goes:

Mozambique is located in the SE corner of Africa right next to South Africa. It's about twice the size of California. They gained independence from Portugal (explaining why their official language is Portuguese) in 1975 and has been a peaceful country after a long civil war ending in 1995. Around 21 million people call it home. It has topped the world's poorest country list for years. We were in their capital city of Maputo. About 1/4-1/3 of the population had a very small hand built brick houses with tin held on by rocks or tires for a roof. The remaining housing structures were fashioned out of bundles of twigs in a small square and a tin roof held on with rocks. Let me reinforce that this is the capital city where 2 million live-about 3,000 live on the trash dump alone. Running water and electricity are valuable commodities and few and far between. There is a 90% unemployment rate in the city of Maputo. The main income source is agriculture, but cycles of floods and droughts along with leftover landmines from the civil war leave little farmable land. The literacy rate is 48%. Primary school up until 7th grade is mandatory, but most do not attend because their family situation requires them to take care of the younger children at home or help the family earn income. Also, education costs to attend, and food takes precedence. There were many boys in the center who where 18-22 years old and still had several more years left to finish before graduating high school. 44% of the population is under 14 with only 3% over 65. Life expectancy is 37 years and the HIV/AIDS rate is 12% alothough after being there, access to healthcare is very little, so this number strikes me as probably very low. 58% of those were women, in a culture where women provide all the cooking, cleaning, and childcare, this is devestational. The infant mortality rate is 11%. They have one of the lowest doctor and nurse per person ratios in the world. There were 1.6 million orphans in Mozambique in 2006. Religion: 24% Catholic, 18% Muslim, 18% Zionist (African version of Christianity), 11% non-catholic Christian, and the remaining claim no religion or an african non-christian religion.

Iris Ministries has planted over 5000 churches and is caring for around 3000 children, since starting in Mozambique in 1995. Most of their care is in Mozambique, following with South Africa and spreading to 25 countries. Most of the centers are filled with boys because this culture uses girls in the home for all the child-rearing, cooking, cleaning, ect. If at all possible the girls are kept. Also, according to cultural tradition, if a man remarries, any male children the new wife has are kicked out of the home (no matter the age) and into the streets.

Despite all the obstacles they face, the Mozambicans remain a resiliant, loving people who are currently experiencing a revival of sorts led by the work done through Iris.


9/21/07 Friday

Thursday we arrived in Zimpeto. Over 50% of the children speak only Portuguese and the local tribal language of Shangaan. This means communication is interesting. Some of the kids speak English very well and are even taking English classes on base here. Some speak just a few words or understand more than they can speak. They are cute trying to ask you how to say something or just acting like parrots, repeating everything over and over, laughing at the sounds. Thank goodness more and more spanish is coming back to me, cause its allowing me to at least pick up on some of what they are saying and guess at what words I can try to use since Portuguese and Spanish are similar.

I have been blessed with a room full of amazing girls. We had worship tonight for just all the kids, staff, and missionaries at the center. The children are amazing and all dance around, filled with joy and love for our God. Their joy despite their circumstances or the past they have been saved from is unimaginable.

Today we went to the Bocaria-the city garbage dump. About 3,000 people call it home and live with absolutely nothing-no roof, clean water, any utilities, ect. Many more come here during the day, scouring through the trash to find anything they can use in their home or can sell. There are also hundreds of homes within the walls of the bocaria that live daily with the smells as well as smoke and heat from the fires that spontaneously errupt everyone on the trash heaps. Everywhere you looked there were people bent over digging through the trash, from the oldest women to tiny children with ratty clothes on. We began and ended our time there at the church that Iris has started at the bottom of the bocaria. It was filled with children singing, dancing, laughing, and joy. So we danced. Even the tiny tots who could barely walk danced, clapped, and raised their hands, smiles spread across their faces. We danced in the middle of a trash heap and poured our hearts and eyes out to the Lord. I was surrounded with girls about 5 years old that had babies strapped to their back....some were so small that the baby they were carrying practically touched the ground. Yet there they were dancing around and singing. My heart was filled with such heaviness as I sat down listening to the pastor in portuguese with 3 tiny kids in my lap and about 2 more hanging on. I was completely struck by what I saw-beyond their situation, it was their response that hit me hardest. In the middle of the dump children were so in love with God that they did nothing more than worship Him with a joy I can say I have never seen in any church back in the states.

We went up onto the dump and walked for about an hour, asking whoever we met, if we could pray with them. One lady we met said she had never heard of Jesus and through translators we shared the gospel and prayed with her. At the end of our time, we went back to the bocaria church and asked the children if they had anything they needed prayer for. I turned around to a room where 75% of the kids held tiny hands in the air. We went around and prayed over them, some with tears streaming down their face, hugging or holding hands with the child next to them. I couldn't even communicate with them so I prayed as I felt the Holy Spirit led me. For most of the kids I prayed that God would raise up a generation of His warriors, using these children, His precious children, to turn this earth around, starting smack in the middle of the bocaria, then stretching to the small huts boardering it, then Maputo, then Mozambique, and across Africa.

After the prayer time, we handed out loaves of bread as the children left. Some of the children immediately gobbled it up faster than you could blink, the rest of them grabbed the bread with both hands, pulled it to their heart and then hid it underneath their shirts near their heart, running towards home with their prize to share with the rest of their family.

"Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heir of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?"-James 2:5

"The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has annointed me to bring good news to the ppor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted..."-Isaiah 61:1

Back Home

Well, I'm safe back in the states and attempting to recover from some serious jet lag. We were blessed-all our bags made it safe and sound both to and from Mozambique and neither of us had trouble with jetlag after arriving at Zimpeto. I am so thankful for all of you that continued praying for us while we were away. We could both feel the effects of everything you lifted up. While I was there I spoke with the Assistant Directors about my desire to come on long-term with Iris. I have to wait 30 days before applying. They use this with all their applicants as a cooling off period to be spent in prayer. After applying, they will give me a timeline of when I can expect to hear back from them. They pray over applicants and wait till they here God speak. I was informed that they always need nurses so hopefully it won't take too long. I would love to know before Christmas as my lease ends 2 days after. The only other things that could delay me going would be when they would have housing openings ON base and obtaining all my pledges to cover my financial needs. At this time, they require a 1 year committment, which I am prepared to make after making my visit there.

Prayer requests in the meantime:
-I will have a stillness and peace, a time to recharge in these next 30 days
-Financial support will continue to come in (praise-my first trip was completely covered by gifts and pledges and i have 1/4 of my monthly support goal met with pledges).

Since I had no access to internet or phones while there, I'm posting some of my journal entries and pictures now.