February 23, 2008


"Let the children alone,

and do not hinder them from coming to Me;

for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."

Matt 19:14

Tonight I met Pedrito. Eleven years old. Wearing blue jeans and a bright yellow t-shirt. He carried a basket of peanuts and a little plastic container to scoop them into the hands of his customers. He had a sweet smile that drew my attention and kind eyes, alert and sad all at once.

Pedrito was wandering the streets of downtown Maputo at 8pm. He was all alone. He silently edged up to our group of four– three women from America, Botswana and Australia and a young man from England.

When he joined us, Pedrito offered us peanuts for sale. We smiled and refused him gently. He then moved closer to our young English friend, the only male in the group, and made the offer again, standing nearer to him.

I watched as Dan bantered with Pedrito, one speaking English and the other Portuguese and still managing to share a joke.

Pedrito looked like any normal, healthy eleven year old boy. He smiled. He laughed. He was quietly friendly. He stood patiently near Dan even after we refused to purchase any nuts from him.

It was Katie who worked it out first. Katie, who works with girls from the streets, helping these young women find a way to live that does not require that they sell their bodies to strangers. Katie watched and listened and put two and two together.

The girls working the streets often carry a basket of peanuts as a covert sign of availability.

Pedrito’s goal for the evening was not to sell peanuts. Under Katie’s gentle questioning, he freely admitted that he was offering himself for sale tonight. That he was selling his body for money. That his name was not really Pedrito. That he wasn’t selling nuts. That his mother was waiting for him at home.

We do not know if Pedrito chose this work to make some money for himself or his family, or if he is being forced to work the streets of Maputo. We don’t know where Pedrito lives. Katie gave him some money and told him to go straight home. We prayed that this money would be enough to get him off the streets for one night. He wanted no more help from us than a pocketful of change.

We do know that, tonight, God put us in the same place at the same time as this precious boy. This was a divine encounter of the highest order. We prayed that the Presence of Jesus would go with him, that he would be touched by the love given to him in a brief encounter with us and that the gift from some strangers of a night off the streets would make him think. We prayed that the Holy Spirit would whisper love to him and lead him to freedom.

A few minutes later and a few blocks away, we saw him again. We watched from a distance as Pedrito crossed the road. A man in a parked car nearby called to him. I held my breath. Pedrito went up to the car window, they talked for a moment, and then he turned away. He walked up the street and noticed us watching him. He smiled and laughed. He was going home.

For this one night, he was safe. What will tomorrow bring for Pedrito and his friends?

February 22, 2008


I’ve been asked several times this week, “What is the hardest thing about living in Mozambique?” I had to think for a few minutes. The transition from my life in Australia to living here in Maputo has been quite smooth and uneventful thus far, aside from a day or two of rioting at our front gates. This had nothing whatsoever to do with us here at Zimpeto. Honestly.

The uninvited guests in my room haven’t troubled me particularly – two geckoes, one large frog, a myriad of cockroaches (may they rest in peace) and, last night, a mouse brazenly chewing on a cardboard box in the corner. I have become quite unexpectedly blasé about such visitors and suspect that they’re more bothered by me than I am by them.

The food is fine – so long as it’s thoroughly washed due to a high prevalence of cholera in the area at the moment. The weather is hot and humid and unseasonably blustery but quite manageable. The noise of 350 children playing after school, many of them choosing the sand just beyond my front window as their ideal play area, generally delights me and occasionally forces me to reach for my headphones and some loud music.

All in all, there is a rhythm developing to my days here at Zimpeto that is beginning to feel like the start of something wonderful.

Even as I say this, though, I feel a sadness rise as I think of home today. This is the first day since I moved here a month ago that I wish I were there.

My big brother gets married today. It will be a wonderful celebration and my family will all be together. And as I, here in Mozambique, think of not being there to witness this special event, I’m sad. I’d like to give my brother and his wonderful bride my love in person, to hug them and wish them well. They know my thoughts and my love are with them even if I’m not.

It will be a joyous and special day. Whether together in one place or separated by distance, family is family and nothing changes that. I am blessed to have a family like mine, parents and brothers and sister who love and support me, nieces and nephews and the start of another generation on the way.

At Zimpeto, I get to give to children the love that’s been given to me. I was raised in a family and now I have the opportunity to give from the fullness of this blessing to children who have no family of their own.

To be here today, missing such an important family event, is a small price to pay for the blessing of being able to pour out what has been poured so abundantly into my life. I know my family understands this and blesses my choice to be here today. The children of Zimpeto are the family I share my heart with during this season of my life.

What better way to spend a family day.

February 8, 2008


8 Things I Learned This Week…

1/ Where I live, in the city of Maputo, there is electricity and running water. This I knew.
2/ When the city shuts down due to rioting, the electricity shuts down too.
3/ When there’s no electricity, our big back-up generator kicks in.
4/ When there’s rioting in the city, there is no diesel to run the big generator.
5/ When the big generator runs out of diesel, the little generator kicks in.
6/ The little generator runs on diesel too.
7/ At least there’s plenty of hot water because it’s heated by gas.

8/ The hot water, although heated by gas, runs on electricity and, when there’s a riot in the city…

What else did I learn yesterday?

* That the average income of a Mozambican is less than $1 a day.
* That many Mozambicans cannot afford to catch a chapa (minibus) but must walk everywhere they go.

* That many of those who can afford to take a chapa, spend much of their meagre income on this, the only form of transport available to them.
* That chapa drivers are finding it difficult to make a living by driving their chapas due to rising gas prices.
* That poverty is a complicated issue about which we cannot make sweeping generalisations.

How to meet the needs of the chapa drivers and the people who use them? I don’t know but God has a plan.

* Let's pray for change that is long-term and brings health to the economy and, thus, better quality of life for the people.

* Let's pray for wisdom, courage and integrity for the Government of Mozambique and for President Guebuza.

* Let's pray for God to make the way ahead for this nation as it struggles to overcome years of devastating poverty.

* Let's pray for change that will return dignity to the lives of the 21 million people who live here.

February 5, 2008


Rioting broke out early today in Maputo, spreading from one end of the city to the other. All main roads out of the city were blocked and at least two deaths have been reported.

Here at Zimpeto, we watched throughout the morning as rioters taunted police along the roadway at the front of the property. Our gates were locked, our guards vigilant, school cancelled for the day and all our children out of sight in the hall. They seem used to such upheaval and were excited at the chance to watch a DVD rather than sit in a hot school room all morning.

Zimpeto is on the outskirts of the city, located on the main road north from Maputo. Out on the road, tyres have been set on fire and cars overturned. Police and soldiers have been using tear gas and rubber bullets to quell the dissent. We have heard that the situation in the city is even worse. A pall of thick, black smoke hangs in the sky to the south.

The people are demonstrating against the doubling of chapa fares. Chapas, or minibuses, are the only form of transport for most people here in Maputo but the fare rise will make chapas unaffordable for many.

It is difficult to comprehend how a bus fare doubling to 70 cents could bring such a strong reaction. Imagine, if you possibly can, carrying a heavy sack of dull, dry corn through the dust and heat of Maputo to sell at the markets. You wrestle the sack onto the already-overloaded roof of a chapa and and then you squeeze in, bending low for the hour-long trip. If you can make some money on the corn, you will be able to buy bread and rice to feed your family this week. If the bus fare costs more than you can make on your produce, you will not be able to buy food.

I had hoped that living here for a year would bring perspective to my sheltered world view. I don’t know, though, how to process all that I see. Two weeks here and I am reeling from the stretching my soul feels as I try to make sense of the lives most Mozambicans live. Perhaps “making sense” is not possible. How does one rationalise such poverty and suffering?

I feel my heart’s not big enough to deal with all I see around me. And so, some days I switch off and refuse to notice. Other days, I fall into the refuge of the Father’s Heart and pour my confusion and frustration onto Him in prayer. And then there are days when the pure, guileless love to be found in the Baby House is my refuge. By pouring out affection on these precious babes, I am filled and refreshed over and over, and this is the economy of God.

As I watch from my door, the streets seem calmer now. We hear no more yelling or guns or army vehicles rumbling down the road. The children have been released from their confine, too late for any lessons today. Staff make their way to offices and classrooms at Zimpeto. Nobody will be driving anywhere until tomorrow. And I am sure that I can hear the Baby House calling…

February 1, 2008


I've arrived in Mozambique and have had two weeks to settle in. Como esta? Nao comprehende? I've dived straight in and started Portuguese lessons in town each day.

I'm living in a two bedroom flat in a building just off the main play area (see photo on right). It's noisy much of the time and in amidst all the action. My Brazilian flatmate threw a barbeque on Saturday night and I was able to make some new friends.

On the same day that I arrived, the Centre took in a 2 week old baby, deserte
d at the hospital after birth. She's been named Eliana and is doing well. She's my new "special friend" in the Baby House and always in need of some extra attention.

We have regular blackouts here - about 5 in the past week - and a generator that usually kicks in after a few minutes. Last night we were sitting around the kitchen table when the lights went out and the conversation didn't miss a beat. We just kept talking until the lights came on again.

As I sit here in my room, I hear the noise of this busy place all around me and know there's nowhere else I'd rather be. God has made the way ahead of me and I'm so excited to be here. Settling in and adjusting to the huge changes will take some time and that's OK. This is a year of transition for so many of us - transition isn't easy but life on the other side is beyond your wildest dreams. Imagine how big God is - and dream accordingly. Then see what He does!

Oh... and to the Aussies - Happy Australia Day for the 26th. I had vegemite toast in honour of the day. Monday is "Heroes Day" in Mozambique so a public holiday. The Centre of course keeps functioning as normal. When I find out who the heroes are, I'll let you know.