February 21, 2009


It has taken me by surprise, the ease with which I have transitioned back into this hot, dusty land and this very different life. I realise now that my heart was here all along, in a place where I must keep things simple and live just one day and one hour at a time. Here, I must resist the temptation to hurry through each day. Neither the heat nor the Mozambican pace allow for rushing.

My western tendencies to list-make and race through each job were thoroughly reinforced In Australia as I tried to get everything done before my return to Mozambique. Post-trip, it has taken a month of regular frustration to remember that rarely does anything happen fast here. Once I accepted that fact, what a relief it was.

The babies I left last June are no longer babies but toddlers wobbling around and singing and dancing. Even in Mozambique, the Wiggles are tops. This past week has seen the temperature remain relentlessly in the mid 40s so yesterday the tias in the Baby House had a creative idea. Flood the play area. Yes, indoors. Fill the concrete-floored play area with several inches of water, strip the kids to their undies and let them loose.

Big plastic tubs overflowing with water and several toddlers squeezed into each, laughing and splashing and squeeling together. Three-year-olds belly-flopping on the flooded floor and splashing each other with all their might. Carmina, who cannot walk, rolling back and forth, smiling wider than I have ever seen and, of course, wanting me to roll with her. Bigger kids gently holding babies up as their feet kicked at the water. Four-years-olds competing for the biggest splash as they landed hard on their bottoms.

And a hose. Did I mention the hose?

These moments capture the essence of why I am here in Mozambique, one member of a disparate band of international interlopers from a dozen nations, all wanting to “do something”, to “make a difference”, to “serve the one…”

Cliches aside, yesterday I was reminded that our 300 kids are free. Free from starvation, free from the terrors of being orphaned and alone and living on the streets. Free from leaking, falling-down homes ruled by poverty, neglect or abuse. Free from the fear of what tomorrow may bring.

For now, our kids are free to be kids.

It is not ideal, this community living. 300 children in one “home” does not always work as we would like. We need more workers in this overripe harvest field, and more funds and more ideas and more grace and more strength and more breakthroughs.

But it is what it is. And each day is a new day. And God is good and He is faithful. And yesterday I watched 30 kids play in the water, screaming with delight, without a care in the world. That is the miracle I witness every day here in a land groaning for help but not sure how to receive it. Just a few of Mozambique’s children are free, and saved, and sleeping in clean beds tonight under mosquito nets that literally save their lives.

Our kids will wake up tomorrow knowing that they will get three meals in the day. They will receive some education tomorrow. Their attention will be drawn at some point in the day to their Creator, the One who saves and heals and gives hope. And they will be loved and protected and taught about life.

When the lists in my day seem overwhelming, when more people are asking for my help than I can possibly manage, when my body begins to betray me once again by refusing to go one more step through the sand in the stifling heat, I remember where I am and how far God has brought me.

I watch the toddlers, some who were malnourished almost to death when brought to us, who are now walking and laughing and calling “Mana… Mana… “ and singing “If you’re happy and you know it…” with gusto. I watch Lena and Enoch learning to walk, and twins Francisco and Lorenzo racing towards me for a cuddle. I see Nemais, this time last year in a coma in the hospital, now kissing chubby, gorgeous little Louisa on the cheek, and Antonio proudly balancing his shoe on his head. I watch Alirio trying to push Minda off the slippery dip and Vasco tying a doll to Lucia’s back, Mozambican-style.

Our kids are free to be kids. How much better can it get?

Then I hear of an unnamed girl, about three years old, who was to come and live with us here. That was the plan. She was in the orphanage down the road which provided desperately inappropriate care to its children for many years. The orphanage has a new director now, a wise man who quickly recognised the deficiencies, humbled himself and asked for our help, passing 16 children to us almost overnight.

The previous director, on leaving, took a few children with him including the little girl who was to live at Zimpeto. It was illegal. It was akin to kidnapping. It was evil.

She died last week. I do not know how she died, or of what. I know that she was meant to be with us. I know that she should have spent yesterday playing in the water and squealing with delight among her new friends. I know that she was a defenseless child with no power to fight for herself. I know that she may have died anyway. Or not.

It is our job to defend the weak, to help the afflicted, to speak for those who have no voice.

But she was taken away, right on the edge of being saved. And she died.

I see life and joy and hope and it is good. I also see death and suffering and tragedy. I see evil and the pain it inflicts on the weakest and youngest of this society. And it breaks my heart again and again. I watch our babies grow and our toddlers walk and our preschoolers learn to write their names. I cry for the ones who got away from us and occasionally I point my finger heavenward and demand to know why this has to happen.

For now, our kids are free. Who knows what the future holds for them but here, for now, they are fed and sheltered and loved and carefree, as it should always be for children. Pray for our kids and for the many we have not yet met. Pray for the weak and helpless of Mozambique, both young and old. Pray for the workers here, that God’s strength and grace and creativity would lead us.

Pray for God’s will to be done and His Kingdom come here, in this corner of the world, as it is in Heaven.