April 29, 2008


" 'Lord, when did we see You as a stranger and welcomed You in,
or naked and clothed You?'
And the King will reply to them,
' Insofar as you did it for one of the least
of these, you did it for Me.' " Matt 25: 38

Rosinha. Thirteen years old. Found wandering aimlessly, naked, down the middle of the main road outside the Centre, late at night. She said she’d been walking forever. She said she’d been thrown out of home by her father. She was scared.

Rosinha was obviously traumatised. She was not in her right mind. She would not sit down and she could not stand still. She prowled back and forth endlessly like a trapped animal. She talked on and on without making sense. She did not know where she was. She could not tell us where she lived or what had happened to her.

Rosinha, to me, is the personification of the darker depths of this nation and a reminder of the hidden suffering of so many children still out of our reach. I cannot imagine what she had been through. She is just a child.

We could not take her in to the Girls’ Dorm overnight. We would not risk the safety of our resident children. Rosinha was offered warm clothes and a place to rest, protected in the guards’ hut at the front gate. She would be safe until morning when some decisions could be made.

But she did not stay. Rosinha came within our reach for just a few hours but, by morning, she was gone. Later in the day, we heard reports of her being seen many miles down the road.

Nothing here is simple. Western assumptions of civilisation and safety do not apply. The rules we play by in this developing nation are different and oftentimes unfathomable to us.

And so, this night, one desperate, damaged, broken-hearted little girl walked back out into the night, alone.

When I found out that she was gone, a chill ran through me. I cannot yet think of her without feeling gut-wrenchingly guilty. Perhaps we did not serve the one in front of us as we are called here to do. Perhaps we missed an opportunity. Perhaps we could have done more.

Or, perhaps we had to confront and acknowledge the fact that sometimes we can do nothing in the moment when up against such a dark and giant foe. And that perhaps the big picture is what we must focus on.

This explanation does not satisfy me or ease my soul one bit. Nothing is simple here, or straightforward, or predictable. But how does one deal with the fact that a child in desperate need was within our grasp then lost once more to the streets from which she came?

I pray that these feelings of culpability and discomfort stay with me as a reminder for as long as I can picture a thirteen-year-old girl drifting, all alone, through the Mozambican night.

April 20, 2008


How to teach a teacher to manage a class of 69 twelve year olds and to teach well at the same time? This is just one of the questions I confronted during three mornings of seminars last week. My job was to inspire, encourage and envision 24 Mozambican primary school teachers.

With classes of up to 70 students, very little room and few resources, the children do little but sit shoulder-to-shoulder on their wooden benches, hour after hour, repeating new learning parrot-fashion and copying from the board. The teachers have their routine down pat: “Sit. Stay. Be quiet” while banging a rod on the desk. The occasional ear-tugging is the back-up strategy. [One of the Year 1 classes, above, has only 36 students which is small by Mozambican standards. Their teacher is Professor Jossefa.]

I dare not judge. The largest class I’ve ever taught is 28. Back home in Australia, my classrooms had running water, air conditioning and glass in the windows. The students always had coloured pencils, paints, story books to read and room to move. Most had at least one parent or caregiver willing to read with them each evening. The teachers I worked with had finished high school and been to university.

Life in a developing nation is just that – developing. I can judge by the standards I have learned to work to in the prosperous “developed nation” from which I come. Or, I can lay aside all that is familiar and allow God to renew my thinking about such topics as education.

Education is all about finding the level of skill or knowledge in one’s students in a particular area and raising it, one small step at a time. My role here is to do the same with the teachers. And my first goal? To raise the bar of expectations the teachers have about their own jobs, and to stir up some joy. To give the teachers permission to enjoy their work and their students, as they begin to believe that a nation can be changed by quality education. And to encourage them to dream.

The teachers were given opportunity to review the basics of teaching strategies and behaviour management. I used dried beans as rewards for hard work and thoughtful input until one participant pointed out that many of them could not afford to give away even a few beans a day. Strike 1. I referred to the teachers “getting out of bed to come to work each day”, only to realise later that some of the teachers do not own a bed. Strike 2. I gave them name tags to wear only to discover that many of them did not know how to peel off the back or where to stick them. Strike 3. Ah, the great cultural divide!

The teachers are not the only ones learning slowly, one step at a time.

They were also taught to throw a frisbee and to do jigsaw puzzles. Some learned that envelopes need licking to stick, that a biro has to be pushed on the end to work and that blu tac is used to attach things to walls.

With time and thought and much prayer, I must translate my knowledge not only into a new language, but also into a form that is relevant to teachers who have only chalk and a blackboard to teach with each day and, on the whole, very limited education themselves.

Next holidays, there will be more seminars. And more games and resources and theory and strategising about how to teach 69 students all at once. Please pray for the teachers here and for their students. Developing nations, to develop, need good education. Good education comes only with great teachers. And this is my dream for them.

April 4, 2008


Meet Dionisio [photo second from top]. A few weeks ago, Dionisio was so sick, he was rushed to the hospital for the third time in two months. Today, he is a healthy, though underweight, 2 1/2 months old and putting on weight daily. Does this little guy love to drink!

Until he is stronger, he will be kept away from the Baby House, where many children have
been sick in past weeks. So, it falls to the missionaries to look after him in the meantime. Nobody is complaining and everybody wants him!

Two new babies have arrived this week - Lucia [top] via the police and Ilirio [bottom] from the hospital. Both are wonderfully healthy, which is unusual for new babies brought in. Lucia, 10 months, is set to become the life of the Baby House, with a delightful personality and an infectious laugh. The Baby House is now full - 40 children - so please pray for God's strategies for the next steps.

It is estimated that there will one million orphans in Mozambique by 2010. We are blessed to have 350 of these precious children in our care, 40 of whom are under five. Our primary school attracts another 600 children to our Centre each day. We serve just one at a time as God brings them to us and trust Him to expand the work in His perfect will and timing.

This is the noisiest, most active and exciting place to be. There are children everywhere! Living in the midst of them is, on some days, incredibly fulfilling and, on other days, a huge challenge. Of course living with 350 children would hold its challenges! And I would choose to be nowhere else. I am daily thankful and amazed that God has led me here and asked me stay. I am blessed beyond measure and thankful for each moment.