Coming back down

Well I've come back and hit the ground running so I haven't had much time (and the internet has been most uncooperative) lately to upload pics and give you a report on my adventures North to Chimoio.  I'm taking a few moments now, though.....so, here goes.....

First, why I went:
A few months ago I think I wrote that God's been really placing to work more closely with the community on my heart.  I've been praying about and dreaming about what that would look like and opportunities to do so.  I've contacted a few other mission agencies and smaller projects to see what they are doing medically in Moz and see if it's something He would have me be a part of.  I've already explored a community close by here (45 minutes away allowing me to remain at Iris and just start a new project within our ministry) that is in desperate need of medical help, but after really praying and seeking His will, I felt like (along with another missionary) that it would be an unsustainable project at the present, that we don't have the man power, and that our help actually (in the long run) might be a hindrance, rather than a step up for the community.  Also, during this time, I feel like God has given me a pretty clear vision on what He wants me to be a part of and how I'm to fit into it, and honestly, that wasn't it.  So, through a random series of God-incidences I came in contact (for 2 minutes) with a nurse who previously worked here at Iris in Zimpeto and is now working 18 hrs north of Maputo way out in a small tiny town called Chimoio.  To be honest, I didn't really know what to expect or even much information about the project.  In the end, the information I did have, was outdated and wasn't even valid by the time I got there.  But God had place it in my heart to go there and visit and pray and then he provided the way, coverage here on the base, and the money for the plane ticket.  So I went.

The team there:
I was BLESSED....see my last post about provisions if you haven't read it already.  I had so much fun and was truly encouraged by some very bold, wise, and experienced, single missionary women.  The 3 women that have been at the project the longest have been living and working in Moz as missionaries for over 10 years EACH.  There's another family (who was away on furlough but due back soon) who has 5 children, all who were born (except 1) and raised in Moz for the last 17 years.  Talk about wisdom and encouragement and experience.  Amazing.  There are 3 other missionary girls helping out and living with them all around my age and in Moz each for less than 2 years.  They all live on a very small compound with 2-3 guards (of which at least 2 are armed) at all times and 4 dogs (that make VERY good watch dogs and friendly companions too).  The guards are all pastors in bush churches as well as amazingly friendly, hardworking, kind, and generous.  There's also a grounds keeper that helps with watering things, cutting the grass, weeding, ect.  Then they have a Mozambican that works 5 days a week preparing 2-3 meals per day for all the staff, visitors, and missionaries.  They all eat together for at least 1 meal a day as a family.  Everyone at the same table.  They have room to have 16 visitors, but they are rarely full and it is usually always teams of people the staff personally know.

The area:
Chimoio is a 1.5 hr plane ride from Maputo (capital city where I live) and about an 18 hr drive north.  It's 2 hrs West of the 3rd largest city (Beira)  in Moz.  It's also 1.5 hrs East of the Zimbabwe border.  It's pretty rural.  The airport has one gate.  There's one shoprite (western grocery store from SA).  There's one government run pharmacy and one private pharmacy.  There's one private clinic in town, one small government run clinic and a small hospital.  There's 2 main roads that have shops on it, one post office, and one bank.  There's just a handful of restaurants to chose from.  They live 30 km (19 miles) outside of Chimoio, right across from their baby clinic.  The live off the main road that is the corridor from Beira to Zimbabwe.   The area surrounding where they live is pretty much the bush.

The project I went to see and help at:
There is a Physician assistant that is the director of the entire project (called Africa 180).  She's essentially the encourager, pioneer, and the person that gets things off the ground and running.  She's the dream assister.  Everyone else are the dreamers that just need help getting their vision off the ground.  Once you establish what God has placed in your heart to do, she'll help you, but you're in charge of the fundraising, support team, manpower, ect.  So everyone there is working on different projects independently of each other, but not really fighting for resources or finances, ect.  They are able to pray for and encourage each other in what the Lord is doing in and through them.  All of them work on a project outside of the compound where they live, directly dealing with the community and helping it somehow.

The baby clinic:

They just opened this particularly new clinic about 6 wks ago (though they have been doing the project for much longer).  At the moment, the building isn't completed yet and they are without water, electricity, or air-conditioning (to keep the medications at a stable temperature for storage).  They deal with what they have.  

The clinic is primarily focused on babies and toddlers.  It's a nutrition program aimed at health and education.  They have anywhere from 500-600 registered children that they see weekly or every other week depending on where they are in the program and what their health status is at the present.  The clinic is open only 3 days a week at the present.  There are 2-3 nurses that staff the clinic and 2-3 Mozambican women that they have trained to simply assist them with simple tasks and help do administrative things.  The children come from 60-100 km (37-62 miles) away in every direction around the clinic. 

The mother/father/grandmother (or whoever the caregiver might be-distant relative, neighbor, church member) has to get the child there in whatever way they can afford or logistically do.  They only occasionally have enough money to help with transport.  Some of the women start walking at midnight the night before to get there the next day.  Most all of the children have or had HIV positive mothers, but occasionally the child is sick and not thriving for any number of reasons and is admitted to the program.  All the children have to be registered with and seen by social services before they are admitted to the program.  Once admitted, the nurses check them out physically, educate the caregiver on nutrition, medical information, disease processes, simple health matters, and monitor the child's progress weekly or every other week.  They encourage and recommend the caregivers to get the child HIV and tuberculosis tested when necessary.  The caregivers are expected to go to the doctor when the child is sick and produce papers and prescriptions at their next appt.  They have to show documentation of the parent's and child's HIV status, ect and must be registered with the HIV clinic or TB clinic and show that they are keeping the consults and taking their medications.  The caregiver's health and wt are also monitored.  They provide health care to any family member of the child admitted to the program.  They encourage breastfeeding, good nutrition, and healthy habits.  They dispel witchcraft, ancestor worship, and any other kinds of traditional medicine.  They explain why certain beliefs are lies and inaccurate, encourage the care givers to make healthy decisions and then wait and pray for the child to get better, thus disproving the cultural lies that have been passed down.  They pray with and for their patients and caregivers.  They mourn with the caregivers for the loses or in times of desperation, and they celebrate the milestones and successes like testing HIV negative or gaining wt!  If the child ends up HIV positive, they keep the child until they are 5 years old, getting them through the time that they are most vulnerable (16.8% of all Mozambican children will not live to see their 5th birthday).  If the child is NOT HIV positive, they keep the child until they are 2ish years old, depending on their health and wt at the time.  Once the child is taking formula or supplemental foods, they help by giving them enough milk, sugar and/or oil (for the really malnourished), and poridge mix to make their breakfast cereal.  Sometimes they are even able to help out by giving them ground up peanuts or beans to add to the cereal for extra protein.  They keep bread and bananas or other fruit in the clinic for the sickest or those that came the furtherest to help out just a little bit extra.  

The care givers wait HOURS to be seen, faithfully return week after week, their children showing improvement, themselves gaining confidence in caring for their sick child, and showing more and more initiative in seeking out medical help and care when needed.

The future:

They have previously had, are praying and dreaming about, having once again a step-down intermediate care nutrition ward for 6-8 babies and their caregivers to stay for a few weeks to months after they are discharged from hospital but aren't quite well enough to go back out to the bush where there is not any medical care for miles and miles.  There the caregiver and the child would stay, be taught how to take care of the child, feed them, help them gain wt, and then watch them medically. 

I had the privilege of helping them for 3 days while I was there.  It was such a great experience and the team was wonderful to me.  I'm now praying to see if this is something God would have me join in the future. I appreciate any prayers you send up on my behalf!  :)


God is so good.  Do you ever have those days when you cognitively realize and give thanks for just HOW good He is....I know, myself included, that most of the time it's easier to not even think about it.  For me, He shows up in BIG ways in the small details.  The things that NO other human could orchestrate.  The perfect timings.  The little things that just make you smile and know that YOUR creator is thinking of you and loves you.  We all need those reminders from time to time.  These moments are the times when I remember and give thanks for His provisions and how He truly cares for us.

2 weeks ago, one of our dear children, Dino, went home to be with his Heavenly Father for all of eternity.  And while we are all very happy for him, it kinda rocked our world down here and we all miss him terribly!  Sometimes the grief is easier to deal with than others, sometimes impossible.  But God, in His infinite wisdom, mercy, and compassion already knew the exact time He was going to call Dino home to Him.  He also knew exactly where I'd be and what the news would mean/do to me.  He had it all worked out. 

2 months earlier He prompted a friend of mine to bake some yummy homemade Christmas desserts for me, wrap them up, put them in a package and send them to me.  Now, the logic of this, isn't all that good.....packages take 6-8 weeks to get to me.  It's summer here and all over Africa.  Air-conditioning rarely exists and it is HOT!  It doesn't even take 30 minutes for chocolate to melt outside of my fridge.  I'm not kidding.  Also, the mail people aren't exactly NICE to my packages.  Usually food items are broken and crushed by the time they reach me.  Plus, who likes to eat homemade goodies after 8 wks of sitting in a box.....well I do! I miss Christmas candy and cookies and all the yummy things that come with the season.  Just 2 days after Dino's funeral, another missionary arrived back on the center with the package for me (I didn't even know it was coming).  NOT A SINGLE bit of it was melted, crushed, or broken and EVERYTHING had chocolate on it!  Now that was God.  AND it's not stale or gross or moldy....I'm STILL eating it.  ;)
Also 3 Christmas cards and another package arrived for me at the same time.  The other package had yummy flavored coffee in it (which is my favorite and I haven't had in about 2 years!)  Mail is a BIG thing here....especially since 80% of mine never makes it here!

6 weeks ago, God prompted me to email a contact I had met for 2 minutes and ask to come visit their project in Chimoio for 5 days.  Within 2 weeks all the arrangements were made and tickets bought.  So just 3 days after his funeral, less than a week after his death, I boarded a plane, with a  heavy heart, and made my way to Chimoio to stay with people I had NEVER met for almost a week.  They knew nothing of what had gone on with Dino.  They decided instead of putting me in the girl's dorm, they would put me in a house all to myself.  WITH AIR-CONDITIONING!  There were no kids running around, no noise, just silence, and peace, and beautiful surroundings, new friends, encouragement, and time with God.  It was such a blessing.  I instantaneously attached to all the missionary girls working up there and they with me.  I helped them in the baby nutrition clinic for 3 days, we ran errands for 1 day, and then helped them with a sick Mozambican staff member that needed 24 hr nursing care.  I went there spent, emotional, exhausted, fed up, and depleted.  I came home refreshed, rejuvenated, encouraged, and blessed even though I worked almost the entire time I was there.  Now only THAT is God.

Wanna know what else?.....in His perfect timing, He knew that a Mozambican girl named Rebecca would become very seriously ill with cerebral malaria.  She spent 10 days in an intensive care unit in a private, more western clinic, continuously vomiting, losing IV access constantly, and seizing uncontrollably even with medications.  She would become so weak, she couldn't even be able to sit without major support.  The missionaries at Chimoio work with her and are very close to her.  They were tired and worn out and taking home someone that was seizing frequently, who couldn't even sit up or walk to the bathroom alone, requiring 24 hr nursing care.  ADDED to their other responsibilities.  I arrived just 2 days before she was released and was able to help them and give them some relief.

2 weeks ago, the Lord prompted another missionary here to invite myself and another one of the nurses involved in the care of Dino, to her uncle's house (the US ambassador) to spend Saturday and Sunday there.  Of course, I said yes.  This meant 24 more hours of rest, food provided for me, and air-conditioning (no little thing here).  It extended my time off the base to a full week.  It had been 6 wks since my last break, and I honestly just needed the time, relaxation, and rest even BEFORE Dino's death, but especially after.  It was such a blessing and provision to go stay with her family who are an amazing Christian family with such warmth and wisdom.

Each time, I was really hit by HOW GOOD He is!  How He provides for us and loves us even before we know we need it!  The song below has been in my heart the last few weeks....some lines are harder to sing than others, but it is ALL true and who I need God to be. especially the verses about hoping, dreaming, watching & waiting, and then laughing, weeping, hurting, & healing.  It's just where I am right now.  Good thing He is IN everything and MY everything!

God in my living
There in my breathing
God in my waking
God in my sleeping

God in my resting
There in my working
God in my thinking
God in my speaking

Be my everything
Be my everything
Be my everything
Be my everything

God in my hoping
There in my dreaming
God in my watching
God in my waiting

God in my laughing
There in my weeping
God in my hurting
God in my healing

Be my everything
Be my everything
Be my everything
Be my everything

Christ in me
Christ in me
Christ in me the hope of glory
You are everything

Christ in me
Christ in me
Christ in me the hope of glory
Be my everything
-Tim Hughes



I'm off first thing in the AM (5:30 am-a VERY unGodly hour if you ask me) to a small town in the middle part of Mozambique called Chimoio (which is not pronounced key-moo like a dolphin's name like my friend Jackie affectionately calls it, but instead, shi-moiy-yo) for the next 5 days.  It's at least an 18 hr drive from here so I'll be flying.  I will be out of internet contact till next Saturday.  It's a much needed break as well as a chance to network with some amazing Christian women that are living and working in a small rural community area.  I'm excited and open to see what the Lord's going to show me while I'm there.  It could not have come at a better time considering this last week! 
If you think about it....send up a prayer for me during the week.  This past week has definitely been one of the biggest challenges I've had since coming to Moz and most definitely the saddest.  Some moments are easier than others and some moments are just overwhelming sadness, but I know My God is a comforter and it will get easier.  I'm not angry or depressed or any of the other stages of grief....just sad cause I miss the sweet little tot.  Ultimately I'm excited for him and happy to know that he's resting in Our Father's arms, being LOVED with the perfect love that he was never able to experience on earth, and he is once again whole and healthy and pain/sickness free.  And I KNOW he's dancing and smiling and laughing and making fishy faces.  He's probably even taking care of the littler angels....cause that's who Dino was on this earth...the LIGHT of the Lord shined through that 3 year old.  You would have never guessed where he came from and from what....completely abandoned, no family, near death.....he had the courage to love other and us more than I think we could have ever loved him.  The other kids in the BH miss him too and are adjusting.  They often say "and not Dino...he's not here" when it's time to take medicines or in the quiet moments, they remind me in their cute little toddler voices that Dino is with Jesus now.  Now THAT can melt anyone's heart.  He was such a personality and will be remembered for a long time! There's definitely a big hole to fill!  Until next week.....


Dino's homecoming

Pictures added and new update 4pm 13.1.10.....scroll to the bottom of post.

Update 10pm 12.1.10....scroll to the bottom of post.

It's with a heavy heart that I have to share news that one of our children, Dino from the baby house died suddenly this morning in the hospital's version of a pediatric intensive care unit.  He started with a really high fever on Saturday and we started him on antibiotics that afternoon.  Sunday he started vomiting.  His malaria test was negative and he was taking mistura (a rehydration juice mixture), and continued with fevers.  Monday morning he started vomiting constantly and couldn't keep anything down-even sips of water or mistura and started having severe problems breathing-became agitated, confused, and at times couldn't speak properly.  He went to hospital that morning and sat in their emergency triage bay for 5 hrs before they decided to give him oxygen.  He was then finally admitted to the icu on an oxygen mask.  Apparently last night the tia with him kept telling the medical staff that he was doing worse and worse but no one did anything or called a docotr until when the doctors made rounds in the am.  His condition was unchanged at 7 am and by 9:30 am he had died.

Dino was almost 3 1/2 years old and one of our HIV + children.  He came to live with us 23 months ago after being abandoned by his parents in the hospital.  We don't even know a last name or birth date for him....just a first name and about how old he is.  He was severely malnourished and had untreated tuberculosis and HIV when he came to us.  He could barely sit on his own, yet alone crawl at the age of 17 months.  God really did a miracle with him because, when I arrived (just 3 months after he was admitted), he was over the most serious parts of malnourishment, showing improvement with his tuberculosis and HIV.  All the other children in the baby house would call him Mister Dino, because he was so full of life, so animated and happy all the time, dancing, and making fishy faces (or at least trying to) at me.  He had such a sweet, caring spirit about him, always helping out the younger ones and giving kisses. He's been pretty healthy the entire 19 months I've been here with just a few ups and down.  However, the last 3 months or so he started becoming sick every 2-3 weeks, with recurrent infections.  That being sad, his death was very unexpected!  We even had a emergency room doc here as a visitor who assessed him and went to the hospital when he was admitted on Monday.  Today she was in shock by the news, as she wouldn't have even categorized him as critical yesterday afternoon when they left the hospital.  I would like to think that Dino was prepared and ready to leave this earth.  Yesterday when he was at his worst before going to the hospital he kept saying "I want to go to sleep" over and over again.  For anyone that knows Dino, even when his fever is 104 and he is very very ill, you can hardly keep him from running around and playing.  He would cry would you would have to tell him he needed to rest or stay inside and play while the others went outside.  He hated being sick and always wanted to run and play no matter how bad he was feeling.  I've never heard him say he wanted to sleep no matter how sick or tired he was.  During the day yesterday, for the 6 hours our missionaries were with him waiting for him to be admitted, he kept repeating over and over "I want to go to sleep."  Somehow kids have a 6th sense about these things and often know when their time is near.  This is usually one of the ways, however simplistic, they let us know that they are ready. Please pray for all our tias that care for these children as well as the nurses and missionaries that work in these areas.  The pastors are currently making funeral plans.  Thanks for all the prayers I know you'll send up.  We are all very sad, but know that he is ultimately with Jesus and free from sickness and HIV.  I feel blessed and privileged, as each of you should be, for getting the opportunity to love, pray, hold, and care for him as parents would, when his own family abandoned him.  He will be truly missed, but I'm glad he was able to at least have the chance to feel that love and nurturing for almost 2 years here with us.

I'm going to try to upload pictures to my blog sometime tonight in honor of his life, so check back later!   Thanks again for all the prayers.

Pictures in chronological order from the month I first arrived until last month at Christmas.  Dino I will miss you...especially all those silly fishy faces that you finally learned how to make, you joy and laughter and your  innocence too.  Some of them are not my own, but from other missionaries during the time I have been here that I borrowed.

UPDATE 12/1:  We told the children in the Baby House that Dino was very sick when he went to the hospital but that he didn't get better.  And that he wouldn't be coming home to live with us anymore but instead went to live with Jesus.  We know that most of them won't understand what this really means, but many of them understand that some of the kids have other houses that they go visit and come back....and that some of the children get to go home forever and live with family and never come back....so we felt this was a valid way to explain to them that Dino wouldn't be with us any longer but that we were happy that he is with Jesus now.  The first thing little Nemias (4 yrs old) said to me when he saw me tonight was:  "Mana Erin, Dino is living with Jesus now (wearing a big grin on his face)!  It was hard to not just burst into tears at that moment.  He was such a joy and will be missed a lot.

Our plans are to have his funeral Thursday morning at 10am...but with all things African....this is tentative.  Please continue to be in prayer for the tias and our staff.

UPDATE 13/1:  The funeral has been changed to Friday morning at 10 am.


Pray for Dino

Sorry for being so lax on the blogging.....I've been sick for 9 days.  on the mend now.
Please pray with me tonight for a little boy by the name of Dino.  He's 3 years old and very very sick.  He is in mozambique's version of the pediatric intensive care tonight on oxygen and not looking really good.  Can't tell you much more than that, but just pray for him to stop vomiting, for him to breath easier, and for whatever infection this is to go away (or for the docs to figure out what it is and give him the correct meds).  For my medically minded readers....his malaria tests were negative so it's not that.  We think maybe a pneumonia, but his respiratory distress is pretty atypical for him.  Whatever the cause, he's not oxygenating properly and was agitated, confused, and slurring words at one point in the day.  Of course in true African fashion, despite the fact that they were "very concerned" about him the moment he walked in the hospital it took them 5 hours to put him on oxygen.  So anyway, pray for Dino, pray for the doctors and nurses taking care of him in the hospital, pray for wisdom, pray for the treatments to work, and pray for the tia staying with him in the hospital and looking after him.  Thanks for standing with us!
I'll try to keep you updated!


Home is where....

Where is my home?  What do I call home?  I get asked these questions a lot when I meet people.  I's always a hard one to answer.  I was born in Baton Rouge, LA; raised in Clemson, SC; went away to Auburn University in Alabama for college, then proceeded to live (for 3 months or more) in Birmingham, New Orleans, Nashville, & Phoenix over the next 5 years.  I've been living in Maputo, Mozambique for the last 18 months.  I have all my worldly possessions (mostly) in a storage unit in Nashville and when I'm in the States, I travel all around, spending the most time with my parents in Clemson.  So as the new year approached and we've entered 2010, I've been looking at what HOME really means.

If you type the word "HOME" into your web browser you will most likely come up with these words to help describe it's meaning: 

Refuge; Residence; Comfort; Dwelling; Place of origin; Valued place; Rest; Place where it belongs; Where one's roots are; Place where one likes to be; To the center or heart of the matter; Habitat; A source; Place offering security and happiness; Destination or goal.

Is my physical home all these things to me?  Is my earthly home these things to me?  Should they be?  Is my Heavenly Father, whom I've given my heart to, these things for me?  Do I let Him be or did I replace Him with worldly things?  Do the kids I love and care for have a place they can and do call home ?  Is this place we are providing them a refuge, restful, full of comfort, where their roots are, where they like to be, secure, and happy?  

What does the Bible say about "home"?

"I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you....If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him."  -John 14:18, 23

"Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world-the desires of the flesh, and the desires of the eyes, and pride in possessions-is not from the Father, but from the world.  And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever."  -1 John 2:15-17

"...You are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world…"  - John  15:19

How often do our lives actually REFLECT this?  Are we still clinging to our earthly home or resting securely in our Father's arms?  Do our definitions of home really equate to HIM being where our roots are; where we like to be; the center/heart of the matter; our source; a place of security and happiness; a place where we DWELL; a place where we seek refuge and comfort; our destination/goal??  I mean, I know I'm not of this world and it's not my home.  Almost everyday I am thankful of this.  But if I'm being really honest with myself....I can't say this is true for me all the time.  But the truth is....if He is our Lord and Savior and has made his HOME in OUR heart....then this IS the picture we (and others) should see and the picture of home we should strive for!  This next year, I'm really focusing on making certain that He is my one and only HOME!