Heirs to the kingdom...

Raising up Princes and Princesses
I wanted to share a little bit tonight about what's been on my heart for the past 2 weeks. I don't have answers, just lots of questions, and heartache, and I don't know what to do about it. Here's a little background about the culture I am living and the problems we encounter with a story. I'm just going to cut/paste part of the email I received from the director's wife, Ross yesterday to illustrate:

"...last week a few youth were caught stealing whatever they could from the transport area, mainly petty theft but these boys have quite a history of theft so along with our Mozambican leaders we decided to put one young man who was caught in prison (this probably saved his life).
Nikko informed us yesterday that the brother of the young man who was imprisoned was found stoned and beaten to death by community members in a field near his house, he had been dead for 4 days. Unfortunately this young man was found in his house with stolen goods, as happens sometimes in the community he was found guilty by the public and beaten to death. This is not an isolated situation, community people often find no retribution through the judicial system and take things into their own hands.
This is a shocking and sad way for a young man to end his life but it is common knowledge that this is how you will be treated if you continue to steal. Social mores like this are more easily learnt as children live in the community and hear the stories that happen to people around them.
Unfortunately the centre shields our younger and more impressionable children from these happenings which means they do not learn how to behave in the community. The perpetual acceptance of petty theft in the centre does nothing to teach the children the social consequences of theft from your neighbours."

Over the past month, we have received quite a few stories of youth like this that have truly struggled after they have left the center, but while with us were the role models, helped out as leaders, ect. When they left though, they returned to the complete and utter poverty and despair that burdens this country and while we help provide some of the things they need, including shelter, after they leave, it is not the same as when they were on base. They find drugs, alcohol, sex, and theft as means to escape the hopelessness of what they can only see their future holds. Some of you may be outraged at the story above. I'm sorry. It is truth. The rest of the world doesn't live so "civilized." Perhaps it's barbaric or even a throw back to semi biblical times, but it is how a community survives when there is no justice. Do NOT read this as me condoning these actions. Please understand, that God has given me a blessing since I have been here. I have not once questioned why this culture lives as they do, or why they would do such a thing, why they could litterally abandon a baby without food, shelter, or attention just in fear that it might have aids because the mother died of it; or even compared them to the society in which I was raised, as this is often our tendency. I am trying really hard to only see them where they are, understand it, and work in it. Love in it. Now, believe me there are some stigmas and things I pray can change slowly...like religion and poverty and the aids stigma/crisis.

These past 2 weeks I have been critical of HOW much the kids in our center are blessed. We have over 1000 short term visitors come through here. All that see a need and a hurt and willingly come over here to serve and love on our kids and the community we are in. I am thankful for that. But in that process, our kids are spoiled beyond measure. They do not know what it's like to go hungry, or be cold, or have no bed, or no shelter, or no running water, or no electricity while here. They have and then some. There are constant giftings and giving of food and items, most of the kids of Mozambique would never even dream of. I even see it in the baby house. I see the manipulation starting in the older tots. I have been praying for insight on how to change them, how to help mold them, and mentor them at such a young age when they have NO family environment. Do we shelter them too much? Do we give them too much? Now I know that if you came over here and saw the conditions, you might not agree with me...but walk out into the villages, take a drive even further out of the city. Perhaps the immediate blessing isn't that much of a blessing in the long run. So how do you bless and love on them without shielding them so much?

So the biggest problem I've been shown is with the tiniest tots in the babyhouse. The ones that come to us at 1 and younger...the ones that will literally be raised in and by this center until they return to the streets and villages. If we shelter them so, how will they learn to survive? A few would say the nurse in me should stop being angry when I come into the baby house for the 4th day in a row and the kids have candy in their mouths....again....I want to scream...bless them with protein or veggies or fruit but not the teeth-rotting non-nutritous pure sugar lard you just gave them.

I've been praying about how I can bless them and mentor them. I have started taking the youngest tots out of their cribs for the last hour before their bedtime bottle and playing soft music, reading stories, and just simply playing/loving on them for a few nights a week. The door to their room is shut and it's just me and 5 toddlers and perhaps two 6 month olds. They absolutely LOVE it! They all try to crawl into my lap at the same time just to sit. The tias think I'm crazy, but it's the only time they get that's truly quiet and they get semi one-on-one attention (yes, i know 7-1 is not 1-on-1...it's a better ratio then 10-1 with 23 other kids screaming around them) Myself and Rachel, another missionary helping in the baby house will be starting on monday taking 4-5 kids out at a time back to our place for snack time...quiet snack time where we will play and eat NUTRITOUS snacks two times a week! I so desire for them to be blessed with the experience of a family life....if they cannot have this, I want to at least let them share their individual personalities with me and get some undivided attention once in a blue moon. I want to help raise up Godly men and women that will be used to help transform Mozambique and Africa! Here's a few pics of the little princes and princesses...

Ryan riding bikes outside

Francisco playing bells during music time before bed

Me and Dionisio having a little bedtime cuddle time

Martinha Um (#1) playing with a bottle and sand on the playground

Dino playing before bed

Raquel swinging

L to R: Sam, Joao, me (Erin dois), Martinha um, and Nilton

Daniel and Martinha dois (#2) up top; Sina and Sam below; Arsina coming up in the back


In my flip flops

So more than a few of you are wondering what I'm doing here...beyond the obvious which could better be explained as why I'm doing it: because my Heavenly Father told me to and I'll be here serving the poor, orphaned, hungry, and lost in Mozambique until He tells me otherwise....but beyond that, WHAT do I do? Yes, yes, I'm the nurse/medical director for the baby house and toddler house (and soon to be nursery)...but what does that look like? Every day is different and challenging, and mostly my schedule gets thrown out the window and physical time means nothing. So I thought I'd give you "a day in my flip flops" kind of synopsis:

(precursor: I was really sick all this weekend and was barely out of bed all weekend long for more than 6 hours...Tues I was up at 7am and in the baby house all day or in Portuguese lessons. Wed. I was up at 4am to make a run to the border of South Africa and back before my full day started since I have to leave the country every 30 days)

@6am Rolled out of bed, brushed my teeth, dressed, stuffed a breakfast bar in my mouth, gathered everything i needed for the day, and ran out the door to leave for consults with the other Erin and 2 tots under the age of 2 by 6:30am. It takes about an hour to drive into town where the hospital is and the specialists's clinics and it's pouring down rain. Today we are going to see the ear doctor for our two little guys that we just can't get rid of ear infections for. We have to be there soon after the doors open (at 7am) to put our card (consult card with the kids name on it and medical record number for the hospital system) into a giant pile with the rest of the people trying to get a consult today. There is no such thing as appointment time here-it's first come, first serve...always. A nice gentlemen gave me his seat on the crowded bench since I was holding a very squirmy 14 month old (Thanks and God bless!). We wait for about 3 hours total. Thanks to the other Erin's planning we had bolaches (crackers), sumo (juice), pao (bread) com peanut butter, and leite (milk for antonio); 2 toy cars, 2 books, and diapers. It's a good thing too because apparently the tias got confused and didn't feed Antonio his 6am bottle plus he usually has papino (a breakfast cereal kind of poradge) @ 7:30am....he tore into the pb bread and juice like he hadn't seen food in ages, then he got cranky cause he hadn't had his bottle still but we were saving the only 1 we have for his 10am one. Then he got tired...and he can throw a mega fit when he wants to. Blessings, he let me rock him to sleep after about an hour of being fidgety cause if 2 white girls with 2 mozambicans babies in a room full isn't enough of a spectacle...add in hissy fits with screaming kids sprawled out on the floor....finally we saw the doctor...Praise God they were competent today (well at least for Antonio) and ordered every test we wanted...then off the the lab to schedule a time to come back for tomorrow for Antonio's test.

@11am we're back at the center....just in time for me to catch my last hour of Portuguese Lessons.

@12:00 I stop by Jannie's room (another nurse on the base who used to be the babyhouse nurse but now is starting a community home health program but helps give out meds in the babyhouse a few times a week for me) to catch up on how the tot's where in the am...bad news....

@12:30 I'm in the baby house giving out 1p meds, eyeing over a few kids and discussing results of consults, changes we need to make this week in dietary for a few kids, room changes, and other house keeping issues with the babyhouse director (like how one of the tia's cut the entire top of all the nipples to the bottles and it might as well be a cup we are feeding them with...not good for the 3 month old twins, and my other 2 6 month olds)

@1pm I'm in my kitchen trying to heat up food....Jannnie stops back by while I'm eating and we discuss a few of the chronic tots and therapy suggestions (I'm uploading videos of a few of them to 2 friends back in the states who are pediatric physical therapists to get recommendations on exercises to help them)

@2pm I head back to my room wanting to take a shower and a quick nap before 3 when I need to take 2 of the kids over to the clinic to see the md, instead I answer a few emails and by 2:30 the other Erin comes by to say that the md's here and waiting.

@3pm I'm waiting in the clinic with 2 of my kids to see the doctor(thank goodness it's the one NOT trained in Mozambique, he speaks English, has a lot of experience with pediatrics, and is studying to be an anesthesiologist)...15 min later I take them in, discuss a new ear infection with Alfredo (who's microcephalic and has an under developed brain) who seems uncomfortable and usually NEVER complains (we have a pediatrician consult at the hospital to get a neurology consult next week...thank God for small miracles since he's been growing more and more uncomfortable and having frequent spasms of all his muscles, problems swallowing his saliva, ect). Then on to Ryan who was bit yesterday on his cheek, his face swelled up on one side and got hard (he has a history of this happening without the next symptom), but now it's gone and he started wheezing...but he also has a snotty nose and cough along with the rest of my tots...is it an allergic reaction, or a respiratory issue?? Then I get his opinion on my 6 month old that I suspect might have a cardiac defect and how to go about getting a consult at the heart institute in town.

@4pm I'm back in the baby house trying start a nebulizer treatment on Ryan to give him a little relief before the rest of his new medications kick in, but he's screaming in sheer terror (totally helping his respiratory effort) because the machine makes a really loud noise and my Portuguese isn't good enough to reassure a 3 yr old that it's ok...my "medical pretend play" that is supposed to be a universal language did nothing for me either.

@4:20 I'm done and double checking the 6 new prescriptions I have for 3 of my kids today since the mds aren't usually right and I'm not familiar with these meds....hooray they weren't too far off...I just had to change them around a little. So I mix up their new meds for my evening doses and start making all 35 meds I'll be giving at 7:30am tomorrow morning. Next, on to cleaning up the baby clinic, checking back in on Ryan

@6p I start handing out the candy (I mean medicine)....We have too many on antibiotics right now and too many that aren't loving taking their medicine...one that just got started on ARV's for HIV and hates the taste, plus they make his throw up....

@6:15 I check back in on Ryan, clean a few gross ears from ear infections, and wash all the syringes, put them back in the sterilization solution and clean up again

@6:30 the other Erin comes by to help me catheterize Antonio (14 months) cause we're supposed to bring back a urine specimen in the AM and we are out of urine specimen collection bags and unfortunately he is neither potty trained (HAHA!) or taught to pee on demand....yeah right...it's didn't work...but I have to admit he was very patient with us. We finally gave up and said they would have to deal with it and we'll have to go get some more bags tomorrow.

@6:50 I help the other Erin get everything ready to bring Antonio back to the hospital tomorrow for xrays and labs in the early AM

@7pm I'm about to head out the baby house door when I eye Sina (who had a major unexplained seizure for 1 hour despite medications and then on and off for the next 5 hrs last Thurs and just came home from the hospital on Monday) who's looking a little odd at the moment, walk over and she feels hot; I whip up some paracetamol (their version of tylenol) to give to her just in case despite the fact that my thermometer reads normal...meanwhile the other Erin goes to talk to Tracey (the babyhouse director) to see if she doesn't mind taking her for the night so that someone can eye her periodically just in case since she just doesn't seem right; we make the decision that she'll pick her up after church and bunk for the night...call me if any problems

@7:15pm I finally head back to the kitchen (praying the entire time that nothing happens to Sina tonight cause I'm too exhausted to cope) to make a little dinner. I grab it and head to my room to check email (while I eat) for the first time today and I'm exhausted. I've got to be up by 7am tomorrow to give out meds again and find all the nipples that have been cut by the Tia and replace them, then make 16 bottles for the twins since they are on a special formula involving weighing sugar, oil, and formula to help boost their calories (the girls from the clinic that usually make the 50 some odd bottles most every morning can't figure this one out) before they eat at 9am; and weigh 10 babies before their 10am naptime.

@7:30p I decide that I'm too exhausted to go to church tonight (we have one just for all the kids on the center every thursday night) and I still need a shower and want to get in bed at a descent hour, plus I'm in need of some good God time.

Plans for tomorrow (besides the above mentioned before 10am): make meds for the afternoon rounds and evening rounds, give 1pm meds, make a grocery list, go with visitors to shoprite(grocery store) from 2-4p so i can have a ride and get food (it's been over 2 weeks and I have nothing of nutritional value); try to figure out which of the 14 tots missing immunization records for bcg's (to prevent TB....i know. i didn't know there was a vaccine either...go figure) have actually had them (it leaves a pretty nasty scar on their arm most of the time) and plan how to make a mass immunization clinic run asap to get everyone caught up; update my records on weights from the last 2 weeks, make medicine changes and print out new medicine records for the next week; See if Dionisio has many any progress in the weight department and assess for a murmur (after treating him as if he had anemia (low blood count that carries the much needed oxygen) for 2 weeks and hoping that helped with the murmur and wt and NOT a real heart issue) before heading back to the clinic in the afternoon to get a consult for the cardiac institute if he's had no change; and try to get some more laundry done since it's rained for the last 2 days and clothes don't dry outside on the line if it's raining (and it's too damp inside to ever dry clothes)...yikes....off to shower, have God time, and get a little shut eye before the morning! Hope everyone else's day/week was so crazy!


Feeling slightly better

Tonight I’m tired and still feeling pretty darn yucky, but praise God, much better than the previous 55 hours.  Of these, I have spent over 30 hours sleeping and only 5-6 hours out of my physical bed.  Thanks to some Oral Rehydration Salts from the clinic (thanks Janie for bringing them to me), strict adherence to the BRAT diet (all my peds nurses would know what I’m talking about), and some good ole imodium, I am keeping water and food down now….ok, well toast, some noodles, and a banana, but we all have to start somewhere.  And this is where I am now.  So now that I am pretty close to be rehydrated, the fever is gone, and I’ve actually eaten something, I have a little more energy and am going stir crazy.  I’ll probably lay pretty low tomorrow as well, but I think it was just something nasty and viral I picked up from the little ankle biters….thanks a lot children.


Anyway, I wanted to share a few thoughts from my quiet time at Macaneta last weekend, where it was actually quiet and restful.  Most of the time it’s so noisy here I can’t hear myself think, much less completely focus on what God’s telling me.  While most of my transitioning here is starting to not be as noticeable to me (I’m comfortable in the job part, I’m learning the language slowly but getting by, culture shock isn’t too bad, I’ve settled into my physical home, and the community), but the hardest part is going from a community it took 4 years to build to being here and learning to build it all over again.  I think I just forgot how hard it was and how much I thrive out of community the tight knit kind where I’m truly sharing my life and walk with others that are praying for me, walking it with me, and lifting me up.  It takes time to get to that place, but I need it here more than anything and the support of friends and family 8500 miles away has been amazing and has meant a lot to me.  Without it, this would be impossible, but it doesn’t replace what I need here.  And I see it.  It’s starting to form, it’s just slow, and hard, and I’m being impatient.  I know that our Heavenly Father is with me and can and is giving me the strength I need daily.  He is my wisdom and provider and my stronghold.  He speaks mostly to me in song lyrics, quotes, and scripture.  These 2 I’ve been coming back to:



I will not take my love away

When praises cease and seasons change

While the whole world turns the other way

I will not take my love away


I will not leave you all alone

When striving leads you far from home

And there’s no yield for what you’ve sown

I will not leave you all alone


I will give you what you need

In plenty or in poverty

Forever, always, look to me

And I will give you what you need

I will not take my love away.

-lyrics by Matt Wertz


“For the Lord your God has blessed you in ALL the work of your hands.  He knows your going through this great wilderness. These forty years the Lord your God HAS been with you. You have lacked nothing.”  -Deut 1:7


Updated pictures and videos

This week has been really long.  I’ve come back from my few days rest at the beach; Senator Frist came to visit; Sina, one of my 2 year olds had a medical emergency and I had to rush her to the hospital (she’s do to come home Monday), and I am now sick.  But I’ve managed to update pictures in almost all the albums for my online photo journal…click on the right to view.  I’ve also added a few short videos and there will be more to come.  Check my video site out on the right as well under Contact Info.  At least this is my weekend off in the baby house (thanks Janie) and I’ve pretty much been in bed since 6pm Friday night.  I think I just have whatever weird virus is going around in the baby house.  It is no fun.  But I’ll live.  I’ll blog more about this week’s events and post pics here, but for now the online journals will have to suffice as I am too tired and weak to stay on my computer any longer.  Back to sleep for me!  Thanks for all the prayers in the last few days!  Ya’ll are amazing.


Rest and Relaxation and wierd events

I’m in need of some rest. Really good quiet, peaceful, restful, rest. I’m tired and starting to feel sick. That’s not really a good combination. Luckily, I’m going to Macaneta in Mozambique for a few days respite with two other missionaries working with me, Celia from Brazil and Fiona from England. We’re leaving Thursday after I give AM meds in the Baby House and check in that everyone’s healthy and happy for the moment and we’re not coming back till late Saturday. I’m also excited that the travel time is only around an hour depending on the ferry availability. Yes, I said ferry. Macaneta is on a peninsula right across from part of Maputo. Basically, it’s Maputo, then a river that dumps into the ocean, then the peninsula, then the Indian Ocean. It’s supposed to be amazing and beautiful and absolutely quiet. We’ll be right on the beach and apparently all you hear is crashing waves when you fall asleep or wake up. I cannot wait! We’re thinking about travelling to the very tip of the peninsula so you can see water on all 3 sides of you and look across to see the Maputo skyscape. It makes me very happy that we have relationships with quite a few places in the city, near us, and in South Africa so we are able to go for respites for a really discounted price. The lady who owns this particular property actually is thankful that Celia found it and has been bringing her lots of business. Her regular tenants are vacationers from SA and not many know about it. So when one of us wants to rent it, as long it’s not booked, she only charges us what it would be if the entire house was being rented by 6 people and you were splitting it, even if there is only 1 or 2 of you going. Amazingly gracious. We’re going to cook fabulous dinners, play games, take lots of pictures, sleep in, read, and just exist without 300 kids calling your name or tugging on your shirt every five minutes. I cannot wait.

I do have to say as an accomplishment…I finally saw (for the very first time since I purchased it and took it out of the packaging when I first arrived) the bottom of my laundry basket. Now that in itself is worth celebrating. It’s hard to do this because I share a super tiny front load washing machine with 13 people. Getting to the machine first is amazing enough, or when it’s empty, but doing so when there’s still enough daylight to actually dry your clothes on the line (by 1pm) is a whole other matter entirely. And, thus I’m proud to say…6 wks later…I finally did it. Hooray, hooray. I always feel like I’m never making headway, but constantly washing clothes.

Also, really random fact/event. Bill Frist, Tennessee senator, is coming to visit Iris for a few hours (with a camera crew and entourage) this next Tuesday. Our directors told us yesterday that some US senator (they are from Australia) was coming with Samaritan’s Purse and wanted to tour, see some patients with our Mozambican doctor that works in the clinic, and shoot a little footage (for publicity purposes). Today he emailed us telling us who it was and I immediately thought how odd and funny that Senator Frist is coming. He was born and raised in Nashville, TN and was a practicing md for several years, working at Vanderbilt for a time as a cardiac-thoracic surgeon and starting their heart/lung transplant program while there. Funny since I most recently lived in Nashville and worked at Vanderbilt for the last 3.5 years…and now a random connection is coming to Mozambique to Iris Ministries on the base that I’m working. Weird? Ok, pray that the next time you’ll hear from me, I’m super rested up and recharged after having some amazing God time with a few encouraging friends on a beautiful beach and that I’ve posted some pics so you can enjoy…also that I’m feeling back to 100%!

"Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today....The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still."

-Exodus 14:13-14


Far from home

Today I've been missing home alot....ok, maybe all this week. But for some reason, especially today. When I finally decided to say yes to God and the plans He laid before me 2 years ago, I laid everything in His hands and worked hard for these days where I'd be here and serving the poor and orphans in Mozambique. After answered prayers and bonds released, I found it easy to leave a city I loved, a job that I enjoyed, friends that walked with me whom I loved more than anything, family that has supported me, and the modern conveniences of living in a first world, very affluent country. Until today. The things that make it hard are not the jumping spiders I find in my room, or 3 minute hot-before-it-turns-freezing-cold-showers, or the sometimes 33 kids in the casa dos bebes joining together in a chorus of screams and tears, or the constant sand in my bed, on my floor, in my clothes, and on my feet. It's not even the lack of sushi, or the very unreliable cell phone network, super slow internet, nonexistence of coffee shops, or no heat or air conditioning. No, it's one thing: Missing out on the moments with friends and family that you can never get back.

In the last 4 weeks, I have celebrated with my new community: 2 deaths of beloved children under the age of 9 with endstage AIDs that are now dancing with Our Father, 1 pregnancy of a missionary couple serving here, 2 birthdays of other missionaries, 4 of my tot's birthdays (with one giant cake, candles, singing and dancing, and a giant mess), and an engagement of another missionary couple. I am truly happy for each of these events and celebrated as well, but with the passing of each of these, it reminds me of each of the events that I'm missing at home.

During the same 4 weeks, I have missed out on several birthdays of dear friends, an engaged couple friend due to get married in September celebrating the closing on their first house, Father's day, and my best friend for the last 15 years getting engaged (I have still not seen pictures of your ring...you should get on that). I will be missing out on 2 of my closest friends weddings this summer (one this month) and all the time leading up to them. The hard part isn't that I'm missing out on the festivities and fun. It is the moments you can't get back, the things I want to say in person that I won't get to say except over skype, the hugs, encouraging words, prayers in person, ect that I cannot give during some of the most important moments in my close friends' lives. This is what makes me sad.

When I had these days in Nashville, I used to grab a big quilt, a good book, my Bible, a journal, my mp3 player, and starbucks. Then I'd head to Centennial Park and lay in the warmth of the sun in the middle of the city and just exist...it was calming. When I had these nights at work, I'd go into my baby's room, shut the sliding glass door, turn the lights down low, play some soothing music, kick back in the recliner, and just listen to the sound of the rhythmic ventilator and whirls of the ivs and drips while I prayed and processed things. Somehow even that was soothing. I haven't found that thing or place yet here. I need that safe place. I need to find my sanctuary.

So tonight I finally got around to watching the video clip my grandmother had sent me (thanks so much). I've actually seen this talk by Louie Giglio on laminin in person, but forgot about it until I watched this (click here to view part of his talk: Louie Giglio - Laminin). I needed the encouragement and to be reminded how I am held in His hand and EVERYTHING is connected together for his purpose, interwoven on even a molecular level....a masterpiece that only He could orchestrate. The work I'm doing here is eternal. It does not come without sacrifices and sacrifices wouldn't mean anything if they didn't require something of you or if they weren't hard. Some things are just harder to give up than others. So if you are on this list above, know that I am praying for you, thinking about you, and really wish I could hug you in person right now and speak words of wisdom into your life....perhaps there will be lots of emails coming your way very soon! I miss everyone!