Travelling the World

Well, I'm on my way back around the world via many airports and a week long refueling stop in Portugal.  I'm excited to be home but of course there's a million mixed emotions cause leaving and closing a chapter of your life is always hard.  I know I'll be back here on this continent of Africa and back in Mozambique...it's where my heart is.....I just need this time at home too.
All this week I've been deferring the goodbyes and talking about it.  It's my personality.  I'm not good with it.  And actually, I think it's because I've had so much going on for so long these last few months leading up to it that I hadn't had time to even begin processing it.  When I did.....I was in the last 5 days of being here and then I couldn't handle all the emotion.  So, I put on my invisible armor shieldy protective suity thing that let everything just roll or bounce off me.  And you weren't allowed to talk about leaving or goodbyes.  I kept telling everyone they could cry after I left.  Even this morning, I had people talk to me in code.....like they'd give me a hug and try to say goodbye and I'd say...."so you're hugging me to celebrate how good the eggs were this morning huh?  I hear the yogurt's good too.  You should try it."  A few weren't happy with me, but I can't process it and spend the next 3 flights crying after all the emotions overwhelm me.  The person next to me would NOT be happy.  I'm currently sitting in the Johannesburg airport.  I've got 2 more flights till I arrive in Lisbon and then a short bus ride to the first town we're staying in.  This coming refueling stop is meant to be a week long distraction for me.  It'll be a good time to adjust to 3rd world versus 1st world culture shock without having to face five million people asking the same questions over and over again as well.  I'm excited and blessed for this week. 
Pray with me for all smooth travelling.  I hate airplanes and I'm going to be in a lot of them.  Also re the ash cloud and the British Airways strike that are still looming to cancel or change my flights from Lisbon to London to Boston to Charlotte.  Pray for smooth adjustment back to life in America.  For good support and friends/community to surround me.  For God to work out all the details of my future plans. Well, for now, I'm signing off (probably for the next week) and recharging......and I'm going to go find a airport cafĂ© with some good coffee!
Thanks again for participating in this journey with me!  Ya'll have been, are, and will continue being a blessing to me.  Let me know if you'd like me to speak to any of your groups.....starting in July and after!
oh and side story so you can laugh at me.  Last night, in a very tiny elevator that are typical of all countries outside of the United States, 8 of us that were crammed (literally) in there got stuck for SEVEN minutes between floors.  Now, if you know me well, I do NOT do well in tiny places....especially when that tiny space is packed with people that are touching me and breathing my air and the container I'm in is NOT moving.  I'm mostly ok if it's moving.  I start panicking and hyperventilating and well....it's NOT good.  I wasn't even fearful that the elevator would drop me to my death or anything.....no I was afraid the tiny space was going to get even tinier and I'd literally suffocate to death as the space closed in on me.......so while everyone else was freaking out and screaming about the obvious danger of a failing elevator in a third world country and praying out loud.  I turned into the corner, put my head down, closed my eyes and kept repeating.  "This elevator is huge, there's lots of space, I'm in a big field.  No one is touching me.  I'm ok.  This elevator is huge."  It only partially worked.  7 minutes later I was shoving people out of the door after maintenance pried it open.  Thankfully they weren't on a 2 hour tea break cause I'd have been passed out on the floor by that time.  After that I either took the stairs or wouldn't take the elevator with more than 4 people in it....and even THAT was pushing it a bit.  So prayers for no more tiny elevators (lifts) that get stuck with me in them or other weird travel blunders. 


The last days

Hundreds of laughs, kisses, and hugs.  A bazillion emotions.  How do you say goodbye to family?  How do you say goodbye to all the tots that have loved me so well, so unconditionally over these last 2 years?  I will miss them all.  But I know I will be back; on the continent of Africa; in Mozambique.  And I will visit them and delight in how much they have grown and changed; in what the Lord has done in their lives.  For now, it is time for rest and Sabbath and lots of learning for me.  I'm excited and scared and sad and expectant and 29 bazillion other things for the closing of this season and the coming of the next.  3.5 days left.  My room is packed away, lots has been donated and given away, and my bags are ready to go.  Now, all that is left is to play!!!!

In case you are wondering....that picture I'm holding up is SO precious.  They got all the Baby House tots (and half the tias) to ink each and every precious tiny finger and press it to the page to form a rainbow (the symbol for Arco Iris which is what the Mozambicans call Iris Ministries in Portuguese and it means rainbow). Their names are all written below their fingerprint contribution to the rainbow.  Isn't that so cool?  I'm amazed. What a wonderful way to remember them all!  Man it's going to be hard saying goodbye to all those adorable little fingers that reach out for me constantly, hug me, tickle me, give me high 5's, pinch my nose, pull my hair, grab my leg, don't wanna let go.  So sweet.  Just gotta remember that they too are in His hands, and I am blessed for the time I got to share with them and love them.  Now it's up to Him to make this leaving thing ok for them and for me.  I know He will carry me!

**A special thanks especially to Nancy, Chris, and others who have been amazing in helping me photo document these last few weeks.  I am forever grateful.**


9 days left

That's right.  Nine.  Till I'm leaving on a jet plane and headed across the big Atlantic ocean towards the States.  I haven't started packing.  There's 9 billion emotions floating around my head and my heart.  I'm putting off processing it all.  Seems easier.

About a month ago, I told the Mozambican nurses and tias I work with that I was leaving.  It was really hard for me, because it made leaving so final.  My Mozambican nurse, that I trained and have been working with for the last 20 months now, responded something like this....."but Mana Erin....what am I supposed to do without my spiritual mother?" and...."I'm going to be sad and sick and alone like baby Dionisio when  he was left here in the beginning days when you leave.  What am I going to do without you?"  I have seen such a growth in this wonderful woman...spiritually, intellectually, as a nurse, as a woman, and as a  nurse working with pediatric patients.  It makes me proud and excited.  It also makes me very sad to leave a lot of relationships with tias and babies that I have.  Dionisio always senses something's up before I  leave and has been a bit more clingy lately....then one of the tias said to him one day (not meaning it to be mean)...."What are you going to do when Erin leaves for forever....you are going to be so sad and  miss her every day."  He didn't take well to this and now has started screaming when I can't pick him up or play, throwing tantrums frequently, and just demanding to stay by my side.  He had been doing  so well, so sure of himself, so bonded to the tias, and confident in the last 6 weeks, that I was excited to think he'd be better than ok after I left.  So these last few weeks have been hard and heart  breaking to deal with.  I know I will miss this place-missionaries, tots, tias....friends.  but it IS time and I am ready.  And God has ordered my next steps and He will take care of all of these things.   

After a lot of prayer, I've officially decided (aka God told me) to spend a little "me time" over the next 7 months back in the States.  While I'm calling it "me time," it's really going to be me taking  graduate school classes full time for one semester, while trying to work a bit on the side, travelling around to visit supporters and friends/family, as well as finding some time to rest, reflect, process,  refresh, switch gears, grow, and allow myself to be ministered to.  These last 2 years have been absolutely amazing, but draining and emotional all at the same time.  I've loved and cared for many children  (around 75) as if they were my own-diapered, fed, prayed over and for, read stories, gave baths, tickled, laughed with, cried with, said bedtime prayers and given goodnight kisses, disciplined, and hugged.   That's just the mommy, nonmedical, side of my job here.  I've watched as some of them have been reintegrated to family which is exciting, but some have suffered immensely and either been healed or taken home to be with our Heavenly Father.  The losses of these children have affected me greatly and on the field there is little time to deal with the grief, much less heal from it.  Just yesterday as I sent another  child to the hospital (whom I had known for all of 1 hr as the child had just arrived in the center), I broke down in complete uncontrollable tears and couldn't shake the fear.  I know God is going to use this time for big things.  It's going to be a time of preparation.  I have decided to pursue 2 different graduate  certificates through colleges of public health in the focus areas of Global Health (cross-culturally working in resource limited environments, with the diseases that tend to affect and kill most often in 3rd world countries, as well as how to develop programs to help the people help themselves) and Maternal-Child health (focusing on pre-pregnancy, pregnancy, and the post-partum period for the woman of child bearing age as well as children from birth to 5 years and the diseases that affect this vulnerable population and often kill in 3rd  world countries, along with programming that will benefit these population groups).  Both of these will require 4-5 3 hr graduate level classes.  All will be online.  I'm hoping to get half of this out of the way, so when I return to Mozambique in January 2011, I can continue 1 class a semester.  I'm excited to study again because these classes are completely perfect for what I'm doing here in Africa, and will continue preparing me for what the Lord has for me in my future, serving His children.

I don't know all the details at the present, as the Lord is still working them out.  I will spend the first month in SC with my family, resting, and then I will be living with a close friend (Courtney) in Nashville, TN and working as a nurse in a local hospital (tbd) whenever I can pick up shifts as my class and travel schedule allows.  It's funny to be leaving here in 10 days and STILL not have a super clear idea of what my life is about to look like....but the thing the Lord has taught me well while I've been here in Mozambique is: He is good; He is in control; His ways are best and good; His timing is ALWAYS perfect; He will provide my every need; and resting in THAT assurance of good things to come is even better!  So that's what I'm doing....I'm not even the least bit nervous that it won't all work out.  I'll keep giving you all information as I get it.  
Prayers are appreciated.  I believe strongly in the power of prayer and even more so since being here, when quite frequently, it's ALL myself or the people I have been serving have had.  And I have seen 
God show up in big and unexpected ways that have stretched my faith and taught me to be in more consistently constant prayer over every thing no matter how tiny, trivial, or life changing it may be.  It is now one of the FIRST things I do in EVERY situation instead of running to Him only when I need bailed out or need something(as I feel we often do in the West).  I choose prayer over medicine any day....especially when we have a lack of it.  I've seen miracles happen before my eyes.  It tends to change your world view a bit.

Please continuing praying with me over each leg of my travels and my next steps as they are unfolding.  I leave Maputo May 29th and will meet a friend in Lisbon, Portugal (via Johannesburg, South Africa 
and Frankfurt, Germany) for 6 days of rest and refueling (for me).  Then I'll be on my way back to the States (via London, England) and will land in Boston June 5th, overnight, then fly to Charlotte, NC on the 6th where a close friend has kindly offered to pick me up from the airport, let me stay at her house the night, and bring me to my parent's home in Clemson, SC the next day!  Two of my flights home are on British Airways which has scheduled on again/off again to be on strike during those times.  At the moment it looks as if my flights will still operate, but I won't know for sure till I take off or they call it off.  Because I've 
already travelled the first leg of my ticket (back in October) I can't get a refund or rebook unless the flights are actually cancelled....so I'm playing the waiting game and hoping to not be literally STUCK in 
Lisbon, Portugal (although truthfully, I might not complain).  Also, please keep the ash cloud over Europe (from the Icelandic volcano) that is still delaying and closing some airports which changes daily, in 
your prayers.  I'll be flying into Lisbon, Portugal; Frankfurt, Germany; and London, England on my flights home.

I would love to share about my last 2 years here in Mozambique; the joys, adventures, deep sadness, and amazing transformations through the Spirit as well as the physical; the things God has taught me; where 
He's leading me and what my life is about to look like.  I love this culture, country, and their amazing spirit and faith.  Please contact me if you would like me to speak/share with your Bible Study, 
discipleship group, Sunday School class, Youth Group, or Church.  Since it looks like I'll be in the States for almost 7 months, I'll be making my usual rounds to the New Orleans, Birmingham, Atlanta, Charlotte, 
Nashville, and Clemson areas, with some new places added in (Ohio).  I also really want to visit all those supporters that I usually can't get around to because of limited time and long distances!  So contact me 
and we'll start getting something set up.


Exciting opportunity to join me

I'm excited to announce a cool opportunity for you to support me in fundraising, my ministry in Mozambique, as well as spread God's love to friends and family.  I have a friend, Jaclyn, that I have met only in our many email conversations, blog comments, facebook/skype chats, and in our prayers for each other.  She is a wonderful Christian woman living in Malaysia.  She stumbled upon my blog many many months ago, began praying for me, encouraging me, and really pouring into my life.  Through the amazing technology we have today, we have become friends.  By training she is a graphic designer and has a wonderful servant heart.  One day a few months ago, she emailed me and said that the Lord had laid it upon her heart to use her giftings to partner with me and my ministry and help serve God's people.  She wanted to create Christian focused greeting cards that you could order online, download the pdf, and print from the comfort of your own home as many times as you wanted on any kind of material.  Some of them can even be personalized.  And she wanted to do this in order to DONATE 60% OF EACH AND EVERY SALE to my ministry!  She wanted to know if this would be ok!  What do you think I said???  Of course.  God and His provisions for our lives are amazing.  He is always faithful and good. 
So today, I have the privilege of announcing her website where you can do just that:  pick a design, personalize it if you wish, download the design, and print it on whatever type of card you choose as many times as you'd like all from the comfort of your own home while simultaneously SUPPORTING my ministry, serving God's precious children, and spreading the good news of God's love to those you love!  Please pass this link on to anyone and everyone you know who might use it.  The more the word gets out, the more money we can raise!  I will create a link to the website and put it in my sidebar to right so you will always have easy access.
**NOTE:  All of the proceeds I receive will go directly back into caring for the children I am serving in very tangible ways including buying food, clothes, life saving medicines, extra nutrition for our malnourished kids, medical supplies, cleaning supplies for our baby house medical clinic, and special cereals to thicken the feeds of 2 of our children that have difficulties with aspiration/reflux creating horrible chest infections.  When I begin home assignment back in the States June 2010 I will start saving the proceeds until I begin my next project in Mozambique Jan 2011....details are currently being worked out.  Thanks for all of your support!


Happy Mother's Day

So much love.  I am so blessed.
They have
meu coracao.


Working through the grief

Somedays are hard.  Others are harder.  There are moments that are good.  Filled with laughter and smiles.  These are the moments that make it easier.  That make what I am doing here worthwhile and meaningful....not that the deaths aren't full of that as well.  Each and everyone one of them.  I've been closed to only 6 people in my life (all 28b years of it) that have died.  4 have been in the last 2 years while in Africa.  One was 3.5 years old.  The other 3 hadn't even completed a full year of life.  2 were younger than 4 months.  The sadness and devestating effects of HIV, Tuberculosis, malnutrition, and even simple diseases that we erradicated YEARS ago in the States is overwhelming at times.  The nonexistent medical system that is at best 50 years behind us in knowledge and equipment (maybe more) and the lack of supplies and medicine is outraging.  The poverty is heartbreaking.  The apathy over life and how precious it is is apalling and absolutely nauseating.  

I am NOT ok.  It is NOT right.  Not even a tiny itsty bit.  And all I know, is that my God's heart is breaking EVEN MORE.  His outrage and frustration and pain is even greater.  What I'm experiencing over His fallen world is only a fraction of what He's experiencing.  I can not even imagine.  And He created me to love them and serve them.  To somehow make it a bit better.  To somehow make it a bit more right.  To pour out the blessings He has poured into my life.  But it is ten times more the blessing for me.  

The moments below are all within the last month, most in the last 2 weeks.  Good God given moments.
new admit Manuel
milk program momma with her twins
Dionisio and Lucia-both Bercario graduates who struggled and fought for life-kissing and hugging today-celebrating the life they've been given.
Bercario tias and tots the day after Graca died
Nanda-a crawling miracle-all smiles and giggles and FAT!
some of my favorite tots
admitting a new momma and baby onto the milk program
missionary girls for a saturday outting
beautiful miracle-so far in such a short time-blowing kisses
new admits (twins):  Eugenio and Marta
Pray for them as they grow, catchup, and get nourished.  They are a bit underweight and short for their age at 2.5 years old and 23 lbs.  Marta's just learning to walk.
Pray for new admit Manuel who has quickly settled in since arrival yesterday, but has a LONG way to go in the malnourishment department.  He's 7.1 kg (15.5 lbs) and almost 2.5 years old.  He's wearing 6-9 month old clothing.
Dionisio is 3 weeks younger than Manuel
The height difference is staggering and due to long-term malnutrition.  Manuel can't stand on his own, but crawls and talks.  Pray as we do testing and start giving him lots and lots of healthy food!

I pray for broken hearts....for eyes to see the needs of those around us....to hear the prompting of the Lord for when and how we should meet those needs.....for a soft heart that is obedient to His prompting and a soul that is STIRRED into ACTION.  As my college minister used to continuously say (and for a very good reason).....We are blessed to be a blessing.  Be a blessing.

"Your grace has found me just as I am; 
Forever I am CHANGED by your love, 
In the presence of your majesty."
-lyrics by Delirious