August 14, 2015


The children were laughing out loud as they strolled along the beach, their worn-out flip-flops dragging through the sand. It was obvious who was in charge, the big sister’s eyes glancing now and then at her two younger sisters as they walked. Their clothes were clean though worn, their hair black and braided, their eyes bright. These children had a mama at home and had money for food, though not for new clothes.

Unlike most of the other children in this area, they showed no interest in the bunch of white people walking past them and for this I was grateful. “These kids still have some healthy boundaries,” I thought, “despite their town being overrun by well-meaning westerners. They’re not being overly familiar. They’re not eyeing us off to see if we’ll give them something.” I was surprised that there were any children left in this area who didn’t beg from us aggressively: “Mana, por favour, eu estou fome. Please, I am hungry. You give me food."

The oldest girl, perhaps 11 or 12, was holding a magnificent yellow flower in her open palm, one finger running gently along the edge of its fluted petals as they walked.

I breathed more easily, knowing they would pass us without begging from us, without flicking me on the arm or putting up a hand for a hi-five from a total stranger.

Then I sensed a movement next to me. One of our group changed his course suddenly and walked across my path, towards the children. My heart sank. Perhaps my view is too extreme, perhaps I expect too much of westerners outside of familiar territory. I see the kids of this area learning from us that it’s ok to talk to strangers – any strangers – if they’re white, and that those white strangers will give them things if they beg loud enough and often enough. We’re perpetuating behaviour that is, at the least, unhealthy and, at the worst, terribly dangerous.

The man from our group didn’t say a word. He walked directly up to the oldest girl and reached into her hand. He lifted the flower, took it from her and turned away. He made no eye contact, said not a word, did not acknowledge her existence or the fact that he was taking what was hers.

She watched him intently, confused and powerless.

He did not see her. He was blind.

As she observed, he came to us and told us all about this stunning blossom – he even knew its scientific name. In any other context this degree of knowledge would perhaps be interesting, but a little girl was staring helplessly at his back, wanting her property from the foreigner who had stolen it out of her hand.

Quietly, in disbelief, I said, “That belongs to her. You just took it away.” He didn’t hear me.

He finished his lesson then turned and placed the bloom back into her hand. He kept talking to us as he walked away, yet still he made no eye contact with this bewildered child. He didn’t acknowledge her or thank her or apologise.

He did not see her.

She was invisible to him. She did not exist.

I stood, frozen to the spot, wanting to fix it but having no idea how to reel back all that I’d just seen. This is the worst of all we bring to this country and I am beyond mortified that I am regularly a part of such scenes.

I have heard the stories of the insensitivities of foreigner-tourists and I have seen the fruit of it again and again in the world in which I live. I’ve wished often for a hole to swallow me up when a visitor to Mozambique says or does one more tactless thing while out of their comfort zone. I’m sure I’ve done it too and been so blind I did not realise. I have wondered how Christians who are learning to love can be so unloving, so monumentally rude, with no idea they’re doing irrevocable damage to hearts and to relationships.

We are the visitors. We do not belong here. We get to stay only by invitation and we wonder why many of “the locals” don’t like having us around.

We are here to serve but to serve, we must see. To see, we must see beyond ourselves.

I said to the person next to me, “He didn’t see her – he took the flower right out of her hand and he didn’t even see her.”

I was furious. I was raging and ready to scream. So why did I not? Why did I allow this moment to pass so quietly? Why did I not defend a child in need of defence? Why was I so polite when impoliteness would have been justified and, dare I say, necessary?

I am tired of being polite, and silent. I am tired of being blind.

“You didn’t see her. She was beautiful and innocent and aware.  She was scared. How could you not see her?”

We come here to serve, to bless, to give. There are hundreds of us, marching across this beautiful land like a band of locusts, all wanting to change the world for the better but, in so many ways, leaving a denuded landscape behind us wherever we go. Unless we learn to see – to really see - nothing else matters.

All our work is worthless, our sacrifice counts for nothing, the cost is irrelevant, until we can see with eyes of love the hearts of those whom we serve.

The cry of my heart these past months has been, “God, I’ve become blind. I want to see. I have to see!” Yesterday I saw - and it shook me to the core of my being. She was a child, confused, afraid, and abused by the kindness of strangers.

God help me. Open my eyes.  If I am to love, I must see. Without sight, I am blind, and without love, I am nothing.

* Some details have been changed for reasons of privacy.

October 20, 2014


Valda is three months old. Her skin is light, her cry weak and her limbs stick-thin. She weighs 1.5kg. Valda is fighting for her life.

If you know anything at all about babies – had one, held one, heard one – you’ll know that a weak cry is a bad sign, stick-thin limbs, worse, and that to weigh 1.5 kg three months after birth is life-threateningly underweight.
And yet, Valda continues day after day to fight. Her round black eyes open wide and she watches the faces of the many people who come to the nursery to pray, to love, to will some of their strength to her as they hold her. Her skeletal frame is growing but she has no flesh on those bones to pad out her wizened features. “Wizened” – a term used for old people fading gently away after a long and active life. Valda, who has only just begun her adventure. Valda, who has been placed upon the earth for such a time as this. Valda, called, chosen, with a destiny to fulfil.
It’s the worst of all we see here, when babies suffer the effects of being born in a nation that has been poor for way too long.
We will continue to pray and believe. We’ve seen it so often, the miracle of life taking hold when death tries to rob the world of a gift such as Valda. I’m sure I can see it in those beautiful eyes as they watch me watch her. I hold her close, almost weightless in my hands as I press my cheek to hers and sing, “You will live and tell of His wonders...” Over and over I repeat the words, a sing-song declaration that she is not alone and that she will get through.
I gaze into her eyes, truly the window to the soul. Beyond the limp little body, the sunken cheeks and the mouth too weak to smile, there’s a spark of resolve and, for as long as her heart is beating, the stubborn determination to fight for her life.
Yes! Valda, you’re not alone and we, your cheer squad, will continue to pray and love and fight for you with all we’ve got. You will live and tell of His wonders.

October 4, 2014


How many times have I heard this in my life? When I was running through the house as a child... running beside the swimming pool... running in church... running near the road...
“Walk, don’t run!”
I was a fast runner. I ran everywhere. I remember “running an errand” for a teacher in primary school. While everybody else was in class, I had a clear route, sprinting from one side of school to the other. I pushed my legs to pump faster, willing my toes to skim the ground lightly as I bounded, unencumbered by weight or gravity. I felt like I was flying.
Now my running is more earth-bound but I’m still wired to do things fast. I type fast, talk fast, listen fast, feel fast. I think so fast that I lose track of the many topics I’m processing all at once and have to make a list.
I am a list-maker and the more rapidly I can move through my day’s lists, the sooner I can switch into a lower gear and slow down. When my list is done, I can stop and chat; I can spend some time, hang out and give you my undivided attention. When everything is done...
No one ever taught me this – there was no lesson in school or talk from my parents or text book to guide me - but somewhere along the way I learned that personal interaction came last, that only once I have finished all my jobs for the day can I then sit down, relax, and relate. Relationships came at the end of the list but, in reality, the list never ends.
I’d like to be able to tell you that connecting with you is more important than getting things done and that, when you’re with me, I will give you my undivided attention. But I can’t promise this because, honestly, it’s not always and I won’t every time.
I quietly confess, just between you and me, that getting things done has very often been more important than you. For that, I’m sorry.
Now I live in a culture different from the one in which I was raised. Here in Mozambique, relating comes first. At the top of the list of things to do is “to be”. Be present, be open, be available. Just be.
Just be? Me? A list-making, flow-charting, organising, planning westerner, just being? I’d have to make a list to work out where to start.
Weddings here go on for days. Church goes on for hours. Invited for lunch? There’s no rushing off to get things done – it’s all about celebrating together and it will probably turn into dinner. There’ll be none of this “I’ll just pop in for an hour but then I’ll leave” nonsense. You’re there for the long haul, you’re engaged, you’re accessible. Or you’re not there at all.
At the supermarket checkout, there’s a fluid conversation that transfers itself like a game of verbal tag from one customer to the next as the line moves forward; the scanner and the packer are included and will stop scanning and packing to take part in the conversation or to laugh at a joke. I’m sure the joke has been on me when I’ve been tapping my can of tomatoes on the bench, frustrated that everybody’s chatting while I’m waiting to be served. How excruciatingly inappropriate I have been culturally.
It’s all about people: listening, connecting, knowing one another. How often I’ve run past an opportunity that would have made me a richer person.
Walk, don’t run!
In reality, running through my days may get more done in a practical sense but at what cost? How many rich moments of relating to another person have I missed by running? How much wealthier would I be in relationships if I had learned years ago to walk, not run?
My Mozambican brothers and sisters have taught me much about walking through each day, keeping the main thing the main thing. Surely the main thing is each other. The lists can wait. The jobs will get done eventually.
The world will keep turning.
I am still learning to slow down, to breathe deeply and deliberately when I sense the tension between my desire to walk and my compulsion to run. I can’t say that walking comes naturally to me yet. I am still adjusting to the rhythm of life here. But I’m taking more time than I used to, to be, and that is a good thing.
At the end of the day, I now ask myself, “Did you run or did you walk?”
Today, did you look deeply into someone’s eyes and really, truly listen to their response when you asked how they were? Did you lay an encouraging hand on a child’s shoulder as they told you about their day at school? Did you make a new friend, encourage an old one? Did you share a few silent moments where words weren’t needed and a relationship grew out of effortless companionship?
Did you spend some of your doing time today, just being?
I am learning to walk gently through my days and hope that, when you see me, you’ll stroll along beside me for just a little while.

January 9, 2014


Party time


Happy New Year!

There is no better way to usher in the new year than here in the sand with 170 excited children who call Zimpeto home.

It was busy, it was hot, it was noisy. We painted faces, we made hats and masks, we iced biscuits, we dressed up and we tried to make noise blowers with straws but... oh well, we’ll practise the noiseSElfie blowers for next year.

We did the Macarena and the Chicken Dance and the Hokey Pokey. We even played the Mummy Relay Game where four unsuspecting tios and tias (our child carers) got wrapped up in toilet paper by their dorm kids. Who won? Who cares!

We laughed till we had no more laugh left in us. We danced till our feet hurt. We worked up an appetite for the sausage sizzle that kept most of us going until the midnight fireworks. A few didn’t make it, dropping off to sleep on the benches iToilet paper gamen the prayer hut then carried gently off to bed.

Right on midnight, the soccer field was set alight with the magical shapes and colours of fireworks and it felt like the whole city was celebrating with us: the Centre was surrounded on all sides by crackers and car horns and cheering as Maputo welcomed  2014

Feliz ano novo

to all from Zimpeto!

Noise makers helpers

October 8, 2013


This morning I wondered whether to writMilton 7.2kge today about one of Zimpeto’s kids... or about me.

Should I tell you about Milton, our newest nursery resident with his smiling eyes and gummy grin, or perhaps update you on the remarkable recoveries of Lucia and Judite after months of life-threatening illness? I could tell you about the seven-year-olds who’ve learned to somersault wildly from the top of the climbing frame into the sand. Or about Kessane – everybody wants more news on our pin-up girl who’s now learning to walk.Tiago and playground 287

Or, will I write about myself, Mozambique resident for more than five years now. Five years! I could write about the weddings I’ve attended, or the challenges I’ve faced, or the trips I’ve taken. The friends I’ve lost and the friends I’ve gained. Or about the latest life lessons I’m learning, of which there are so many...

And then I see it, and I am even more grateful for the years and the lessons.

The stories of Zimpeto’s children have became so inextricably woven now with the story of my own life’s journey that I can no MOZ Dec 06.Wendy Dion etc_edited-1longer write about “them” and about “me”. I have lost sight of whose story belongs to whom and I am, beyond words, grateful that our stories have merged to brighten the colours of my life. I have been adopted into a family and am an apprentice learning through the suffering and the victories of those with whom I have the privilege to walk through these years.

I shine brighter because of them, less troubled by the minutiae of each day, living more in that place wheMama 2re the little things count for little and the big things like life and death, happiness and grief, hunger , disease and healing are more sharply in focus, better informing my use of time and energy each day.

I look back on past blog posts and remember the lessons. I rejoiced during Raquelina’s short life even as I learned to keep my soul’s balance when mourning her death. As I wrote the narrative of Pedrito’s nights spent walking Maputo’s streets, I discovered cold depths of bitter, condemning Racquelina FBunforgiveness in myself for the adults stalking him through the dark. When Milagrosa and Inacio then Rejoice and others left us to join their newly adoptive families, I grieved for my own loss and discovered that, at the same time, I could rejoice with all my heart at their gain.

The stories I tell here are stories running the gamut of the soul’s possibilities: the heights of joy and the depths of grief, wounds of the past eased by future hope; lives miraculously saved and, more often than I could ever have Porta de embarqueimagined, lives tragically lost.

As I tell the stories of Zimpeto’s children, I am thankful that I am here and that my story is enriched by being a part of theirs. My story has become inextricably woven with theirs and produced a life I could never have imagined for myself.

I came here to change the world and have discovered that, instead, the world is changing me.

October 6, 2013



This is a repost of an article from 2008. Enjoy! (New posts coming when I sort out Blogger issues, I promise.)MOZ Dec 06.1 140


Yesterday the world was spinning faster than I had experienced for a long time. I am learning to say “espera por favor” with a smile. “Please wait…”

Needs to be met. Issues to be faced. Problems to be solved. Questions to which I must respond… now! Phones to be answered, again and again and again. There are days when I juggle three phones at once. I have learned to hold two conversations at the same time; after all, I have two ears and two hands.

Yesterday there were plans to be finalised, messages to be delivered, money to be sorted, accommodation to be organised, directions to be given, vehicles to be coordinated, transport to the airport for 37 people all at once… hugs, thanks, goodbyes… oh no, I forgot to find the lost suitcase! As the day progressed and the world turned faster and faster, my head began to spin with it. I wondered how to do everything that needed to be done without dropping theFrancisco and Lorenzo ball, my bundle or the many papers I was carrying around to reassure me that I was on top of everything.

I headed for the Baby House to deliver a message. The plan was to be in and out in a moment. No time for distractions or play or loving on babies today.

Within seconds, I’d delivered my message but Lourenço had spotted me. I began to back out the door. He ran towards me, gathering momentum even as his feet tripped over each other. He leaned forward precariously as I began to turn away, his arms wide and face beaming even as I thought, “I don’t have time for you today.” As he reached me, he fell into my arms and I instinctively swung him into the air. Somehow my day was hijacked by the smile of a precious babe.

To think, I almost missed it.

As I held him, he placed one tiny hand on each of my shoulders and turned his head, leaning his Lourencocheek firmly against mine. I felt his little body relax as he leaned against me. His breathing began to slow and deepen.

My day’s agenda faded as I held him close. I began to sing quietly to him, “Yes, Jesus loves you…” as his arms loosened and his hands dropped from my shoulders. The echoing noise of thirty children playing within the concrete walls of the Baby House faded as I focused on this one beautiful boy wanting a few moments of my attention.

Lourenço has no mother to rock him to sleep at night, no father to swing him high in the air and catch him as he squeals with delight. He has spent the first two years of his life without a family to remind him that he is loved and he is special and that there is Wendy Freddie Lourencohope for him to be all that he wants to be in his life.

Yesterday, for a few moments he had me. It is not enough but it is something. Somehow my heart was captured, just for awhile, by a toddler innocent enough despite his losses to still believe that a hug is enough. He stirred an instinct in me so viscerally powerful that it took my breath away. To hold an orphan seeking love is worship of the highest order.

And so I surrendered, my heart taken captive by the guileless trust of a child. Somehow he knew that, as he ran and toppled in my direction, my arms would catch him and lift him high. This babe who has no earthly reason to trust, trusted me. It is why we are here: to catch them before they fall and lift them as high as we possibly can, holding them there until they can soar on their own.

For a few moments yesterday, the world stopped spinning, my heart stopped racing and rest took me over. I breathed out the busyness of the day as I sang over him.  He was being filled and refreshed by love, Wendy Lourencoeven as his tiny body relaxing lightly in my arms was refreshing me.

I swayed gently and continued to sing as he leaned his head back and his eyes gazed at my lips singing life over him. My back found the wall and I slowly slipped down and onto the cool concrete floor, babe in arms. His eyes drooped and closed and he fell asleep. All the riotous noise of thirty children faded into the background as I gazed at his sleeping face and thanked God for reminding me why I am here – to stop for the one.

“The one” in this moment was a toddler needing a cuddle. Perhaps the one tomorrow will be a Mozambican tia needing a smile or a staff member a word of encouragement for all the work he does. Perhaps it is, as today, one of the 60 or so visitors wandering the Centre, their hearts being stirred for a harvest field so ripe that they can smell the richness of the crop as they walk through the MOZ Dec 06.1 359sand, praying and laughing and loving on our children.

Today, Lourenço’s soul needed refueling, as did mine. He reminded me to slow down, to breathe, and to stop for awhile. As he slept in my arms, I poured love into him with my touch and my words and my prayers. I quietly thanked God for these moments, for using the outstretched arms of a toddler to draw me aside from the busyness of my day, reminding me that He leads me beside still waters and He restores my soul. I could so easily have missed it. Even on the busiest of days, He is my Restorer - and Lourenço’s.

Half an hour later and the world was no longer spinning, my heart no longer racing and my head now thinking more clearly about the next steps to take in this day full of challenges. I whispered my thanks to this little boy for giving me more than I could possibly give back to him. I handed him carefully to a tia and slipped away, walking more gently now, back into a day filled with opportunities to serve, one person at a time, wiLourencoth a smile.

“…ask where the good way is and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” Jer 26:16


Oct 2013 update: Lourenço is now a healthy, mischievous six-year-old. When he thinks none of his friends are watching, he runs up to me for a hug in the playground but is way too cool for this when all his mates are around. A glimpse of this sweet smile always lifts my heart and brightens my day.

July 10, 2013



Earlier this year we heard that Eugenio was missing. Five years old, innocent, sheltered, no street smarts. He was gone. He was playing in the sand with some of his friends not farEugenio from his home and then he was gone.

For several years, Eugenio lived here at Zimpeto, first in the Baby House and then in one of the smaller dorms. He was content here with his twin sister and a dorm full of pre-schoolers and he was thriving. But here is never the best place to be amidst the whirlwind of 260 children when there is the possibility of being with family, and Eugenio and his twin sister went to live with their grandma and auntie as soon as circumstances allowed. They were missed here but they were now where they belonged.

Within a few weeks of moving to his new house, Eugenio disappeared. When I heard that he was missing, my mind raced to all the awful possibilities. The most likely scenario was that he was wandering the baffling maze of sandy paths in the community, unable to find his way home. He lived in a house with no phone, behind a gate with no number, on a dirt track with no name. He had not lived there long enough to get to know the area around his house or to be known by the neighbouLittle boy one sockrs.

Or, had he joined the children playing in the huge open sewer pipes running along the main road where several had drowned the year before? Had he roamed onto the road and been hit by a car with the police having no way to find and inform his family?

Had he been taken without anyone noticing? Witchcraft is rife in Mozambique; child trafficking is common and often related to witchcraft. Last time I drove across the border to South Africa, my trunk was searched for children I might be smuggling out of the country to sell. Had Eugenio been taken out of Mozambique?

The family took his photo to the local TV station and, that night, his smiling face was seen in the living rooms of those Mozambicans who have electricity and are wealthy enough to own a television. This garnered no response.

By the time we at Zimpeto had heard of Eugenio’s disappearance, he had been gone for ten days. Ten whole days! He is five years old! Our team immediately began sending messages out across the world asking for prayer. A search party was organised for the next day.

The searchers were looking for a tiny needle in a hugeMOZ Dec 06.1 280, huge haystack. Where to begin? Several cars full of willing volunteers left the Centre early on day eleven. They went first to Eugenio’s home to talk with his family, then to the police station, to the local stores and stalls, and to all the neighbours’ homes. They spread out, covering as much ground as they could. They showed his photo to everybody but he had not been seen.

They prayed. And we prayed. And you prayed. Thank you for praying!

Around lunch time, a neighbour suggested a last-ditch attempt to find him: go to the local government-run orphanage: just possibly, if a kindly stranger had found him wandering the streets, they may not have taken him to the police station but to a children’s home and, just maybe, the children’s centre had not reported it.

Clutching at straws was all that was left to do... and clutching at straws succeeded.

After almost eleven days missing, our lostFriends 2 little boy was found. He was safe, fed, clean, healthy, and desperately happy to see his family.

We all breathed a heavy sigh of relief and, ever since, have been whispering prayers of protection over our 260 kids.

These children have already been lost and found; once in a lifetime is more than enough.