March 30, 2010


As I read back over my Mozambique blogs, I realise that I talk like it is easy to live here, as though I roll with the difficulties effortlessly and that it is all one big adventure. Perhaps I have misled you into thinking that I am on top of it all, that as I seek to keep my attitude right and my mind focused and positive, I can handle anything. Possibly I have given the wrong impression by allowing you to think that this amazing adventure is an easy journey to negotiate and that I am a successful negotiator of its many twists and turns.

Please trust me when I say that I have not intentionally misled.

As I read, I realise that I have not been entirely honest. The positive thinker in me, the faith-filled believer in the God who is always good, has determined to believe all things, hope all things, endure all things... [1Cor13:6] Preceding those verses, though, is a challenge to love, and this is where the adventurer in me gets a little shaky.

It is true that I have decided to live my life with eternity beating loudly in my heart, so that every decision I make in each day is informed by this. How grand that sounds! How godly and shiny and unflappable I must be to live this way each day. How very glossy life is when expressed in terms that resound throughout eternity!

Did I mention the six toilets I scrubbed one Saturday morning not long ago? I would like to say that eternity was resounding strongly in my heart as I did it. I would like to say that I prayed over each of those toilets, so that every person who found themselves in a sparkling cubicle that afternoon would sense the eternal weight of their calling as they benefitted from my hard labour.

I wish. It was a stinky, sweaty, messy job and my attitude stunk to match.

I would like to say that moving house is a breeze – I have lived in a different place on average every three months in my time here in Mozambique. But I recognise now that moving throws my soul off balance every time and, just when I am beginning to find my balance again, I move again. Often it is my new housemates who suffer as I take time to gain my equilibrium in a new place.

I pray for a home, a real home where I can settle for awhile, but that is unlikely.

Faith says to believe but sometimes I find it hard. There, I said it.

I would like to say that I negotiate community living well, with grace, patience and selflessness. This I call my “Attitude Wars” where, each day, there are incoming bullets that need to be dodged. The bullets are not shot purposely and often shot without the shooter even realising the gun was loaded. I confess that sometimes I am the shooter and, occasionally and to my utter shame, it is totally premeditated. My attitude wars, when I am on the defensive, lead my actions and, when my attitude stinks, my actions - my words and expressions and body language especially – follow.

I am not good at living selflessly, at putting others’ needs before my own and sacrificing for those with whom I share this wonderful, difficult, crazy environment. Ironically, the more people around me, the lonelier I feel and I wonder how this is possible.

The big picture is that I have sold all and moved to one of the poorest nations on earth to serve. I have been told I am brave and selfless and I have been tempted to believe it all. But those attitude wars keep my feet firmly on the ground. God is concerned as much with the macro-focus of how I love as He is with the big picture.

When I get to Heaven, He will not ask, “Did you sell all you have?... Did you have the faith to go?... Did you speak My word?... “

He will ask one thing and one thing only: “Did you love?”

It has become easy now for me to stop in the middle of a busy day for the toddler in the sand wanting my attention. I like now to give my “down time” on a Sunday to pray with the old vovos sitting outside church waiting for lunch. I look forward now to going to the Tuesday prayer meeting where I will be the only woman and the only non-Portuguese speaker. When I can call it “Ministry”, it happens now without too much internal fuss. But when it is “life” happening amongst the brothers and sisters with whom I live each day, it is different and it should not be.

I am called to love, no matter who is standing in front of me. I have written before about stopping for the one. Why is “the one” out in the sand, crying for a hug, easier to stop for than the one in my own home? Where did I learn that Big-M “Ministry” starts when I step out the front door each day? What about the small-m ministry that begins over coffee in the morning?

I live in community with many others from all walks of life and from all parts of the world. It will not ever be easy and I think that is just how God wants it. We are “grace-growers” for one another. If I can win my attitude wars here in my own home then, surely, I have more chance of winning the war beyond my front door as I walk out to face each day.

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful... Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

March 12, 2010


It is Friday morning, 4.45am. I wake to the gentle scraping of sand being raked into neat submission as one of the younger boys begins his daily chore near my window. He does not have to work at 4.45am but I guess he is a very early riser. Not owning a watch, he gets out of bed when he wakes, gathers his equipment and walks alone across the sand in the pre-dawn stillness.

At this time of year it is not yet cool in the early morning but bearably warm. As he works, he waits for the sun to light up the ordered rows of rake-marks that will be scuffed away in just an hour or two. 300 pairs of feet do a lot of scuffing in the sand.

This is the most peaceful time of the day here at Zimpeto, before all those feet carry their sleepy owners out of their dorms and onto the playground, hungrily awaiting their breakfast of bread and tea in the refertorio. It is at this time of day that faith rises in me, everything looks clearer and I know that anything is possible. The stresses of yesterday were laid to rest before sleep last night and today’s busyness has not yet stirred me into action. The knocking at the door will begin at 6.00 with the younger boys wanting balls pumped up and bandaids for their grazes. So I figure I have about an hour to sip my coffee, get quiet on the inside and listen – just listen.

Around here, listening to the still small voice within is hard to do because there is always noise. I live with 300 kids so of course there is always noise, except when they are eating or when they’re asleep. You know that dinnertime hush that falls on a family as they dig in to their meal together after a long, active day? Here, at 7am and at 12 and again at 5pm, I physically feel the hush descend for just a few minutes and my whole body sighs from the inside out.

First comes the siren, the loud, intrusive and very successful means of getting 300 kids to the table at once. Then some yelling or singing, clapping and all those voices yelling “Ahhh-men” in unison.

And then... nothing. No sound at all. Silence. Breathe out. Be still. Get quiet on the inside and listen. And rest for just a moment as the hush settles like a thick, cool fog that you hope will last forever.

The fog only lasts for 15 minutes though and then it is gone, blown away by the whirlwind of 600 feet and 300 voices and the babies in the sand and the boys on the slide and the band practising with the sound turned up high and the banging at the door as Aurelio brings his ball full of holes back to be pumped up for the third time today. Sigh, focus, get to work.

All the children go into their dorms at 9pm when silence descends once again but, by that time, I am just-about ready for bed myself. Refer above to the raking under the window at 4.45am.

So my quiet time, my thinking time, my praying and processing and just-being-still time has to be early. It is my favourite time of the day. It is my time to ponder the big questions of life as well as the little soul-issues scratching at my heart until I dig a bit deeper and find resolution. If not resolution, then I settle for acceptance, for peace with the status quo for today. Perhaps tomorrow morning, in the stillness of the dark pre-dawn hours, I will come to resolution. How good it is to know that there is tomorrow, and tomorrow and tomorrow.

This is why the gentle sound of sand being raked before dawn each day is not a disturbance but a gift I look forward to as I fall asleep at night. I sometimes wonder who it is giving me such a gift and if I could ever explain in a way that he would understand. I am so thankful that, every morning, he crawls out of bed in the darkness, finds his rake as he rubs the sleep from his eyes and goes to work on the sand under my window.

Who would have thought that a little boy tidying the sand before dawn would change me every day. So, thank you to my little friend for a gift you do not know you are giving and for which you ask nothing in return. It is a free gift indeed.

Catch you tomorrow, same time, same place.