May 29, 2008


Four months. That’s all the time it’s taken. I have been lost and I’ve been found in just a few short months. I have been lost to the old world I inhabited for most of my life. And I have been found, discovering the depths of God’s goodness and His resources hidden deep within me as I have shifted and adjusted my stance to find my balance in this dusty brown land.

I am torn between two lives and I am shaken to the core by all that I have seen and experienced. I will never look at the world or myself, or at God, in the same way again. The shift has been colossal for heart and for mind, and I know I am not yet through this inner renovation.

In a week I will travel back, just briefly, to the home I left in January. Already I am disconcerted by the culture shock setting in, even before I’ve thought about dragging the suitcase from under the bed.

I know that everything will look different from now on. It is unsettling, to say the least. Viewing the world from here in Mozambique, I have discovered a thousand colours I never knew existed and now all the world has taken on the hue of this fresh palette. Some of it is to my liking and some does not suit my tastes at all. Everything is different and bears little resemblance to the world from which I came. This is the point at which the fiery testing and the rich adventure of new exploits collide.

I look back and realise that the Egypt I left behind seems dull and unexciting, holding no challenge for me now when measured against the tests I’ve faced here. I cannot go back.

I cannot stay where I am – transition is all about getting somewhere. Settling down to inhabit the place of transition is a dangerous plan because, in transition, everything is out of balance and nothing is clear.

I look ahead and see mountains so huge that they will be impassable with anything less than superhuman effort and the miracle of God’s perfect leading.

And so I move forward one small step at a time, refusing to glance back at the comfort and ease of the land I have left, and forcing myself not to panic as I look ahead to a land I do not yet recognise.

The old world is lost to me forever. The new land beckons but is not yet clear. I take one step and then another, trusting in the leading of the Creator, over whom time and distance hold no sway.

My life is no longer my own and so I follow the One who goes before me. To where, I know not, except that He is ahead of me, shining a light to guide me. As I journey into the unknown, I follow His lead and I trust.

He is the beginning and the end. That’s all I need to know.

May 18, 2008


Last week, a friend asked me a question:

“Been thinking about you. Does it feel like you have slipped through into a different world that actually bears far more relation to the majority of humanity than the rarefied life we enjoy here in Australia?? (Just a thought …)”

My response (copied below with some edits) surprised me. I tend to err on the light side when it comes to describing regular Mozambican life. It’s hard to know what people want to hear and how much of “the whole truth” a hugely varied audience can cope with, without disturbance.

Quite possibly, though, this is the height of arrogance, thinking it my role to control the flow of information about a nation bent low by so many years of unutterable suffering. Perhaps disturbance is why I’m here. To challenge the status quo. To speak up for those who have no voice by telling the truth plainly, without embellishment.

The truth I confront every day in this nation needs no embellishment.

Perhaps this is the most important job I have ever had – describing what I see. And perhaps those who read will be stirred – to give, to go, to pray, to send. To allow the plain truth to sink so deeply that their hearts are torn in two, the way God’s heart breaks each minute of every day for the people of Mozambique.

Following is my response to my friend’s question:

“Interesting question. I think I'm in some denial because life for most people here is just so unimaginably hard. I can't process it within the framework I have for understanding what a ‘good’ life is. I hear of someone I know, or know of, dying every week. Many of the kids in the school live in canesu huts - straw walls and, if they're lucky, a tin roof held down with rocks, usually leaking. I work with kids in the school who don't know they live in Mozambique and who go home into the community at the end of the day to find rats roaming through the puddles on the floor of a one room hut. I teach teachers who've never seen a jigsaw puzzle or a map of the world.

“We received a one-year-old a few weeks ago who had been cared for each day for months by her siblings - three and five years old - while the teenage sister went to school. She was literally dying of starvation. No idea how to process that, so I think I just don't.

“Some of our babies have big scars on their bellies where a witch doctor has cut them as part of some ritual.

“One of our babies, Lucia, was here for a couple of months when her mother suddenly showed up. She told us that her family had stolen Lucia and given her away as retribution for something the mother had done. How do I process living in a culture where this happens?

“No matter where I go, even here at the Centre behind barbed wire with guards on duty 24 hours a day, I can't put my keys or other belongings down because they will vanish instantly.

“There seem to be no rules to live by and no law that can be enforced. The police pull you over and demand bribes to let you go. Men swap women like cars and children seem to be viewed as dispensable and of little value. How to process all of this, to live here, to love and bless and stay full of hope? How to offer dignity to a people so beaten down by years of starvation - physical, emotional, spiritual - that they've lost the ability to value themselves and each other?

“And how to feel anything other than powerless in the face of all this?

“I'm thankful every day that I'm here, living in the midst of it, albeit in my cushy apartment with running hot water, tiled floor, electricity and a screen door. I LOVE my screen door! And I know that, without some comforts and ease to my lifestyle here, I’m not sure I’d last the long haul. Sad but true. I wish it weren't.”

The Bible says that to whom much is given, much is required. I have been given much. This year, this challenge, this time away from all that is familiar and comfortable and predictable – this is one of the most precious gifts I’ve ever received. The question for me now is, “What do I do with this gift?” How do I respond?

All I know to do right now is walk carefully through each day, one step at a time, and every time an opportunity presents itself, grasp it violently and with both hands and refuse to let go until I’ve given love away, the very best way I know how.

May 9, 2008


Mozambican mice are so smart that they feasted on the cardboard mouse bait box, leaving the bait behind.

Mozambican mice are so bold that one of them, in broad daylight, ran straight through my legs to escape my clutches.

Mozambican mice have great taste. They loved eating my favourite purple sweater.

Mozambican mice are so brazen that they built a nest in Sarah's favourite shoes.

Mozambican mice are so ingenious that they found the paracetamol tablets in the plastic blister pack, in the cardboard box, in the pocket of my handbag in the top drawer, then chewed on a pain killer. Perhaps to ease the pain caused by eating purple wool.

I have declared war on mice. I and my comrades stood in our kitchen and declared war. Out loud and with great passion. When did mice get so smart? They can have the cornflakes. They can have the popcorn and the noodles and the teabags and the nuts. But they will not – ever – get to my sweaters again.

I will not surrender!

My purple sweater now has a three-inch hole eaten into the front. Could they have eaten the back? Could they have chosen the boring black number on top? No. These mice have taste as well as street smarts.

So, as winter approaches and I discover that Mozambique actually does get chilly for a few months of the year, I mourn this loss and search for unique and creative ways to get rid of mice. Perhaps my fancy new $10 “Electonik Insekt Fanger” will work. This is a dodgy piece of equipment that looks like a tennis racquet but is battery-powered and live-wired instead of strung. You can actually hear the “zap” as you swat the malaria-ridden mosquitoes. Very exciting! And extremely satisfying.

Now to find that pesky mouse…