November 29, 2012


There are days when it’s hard to be here, when life is Just Plain Tough; when the noise of 300 kids feels too much to bear, when another worship band practice strikes up in the church at full ear-splitting volume, when someone in a house nearby starts drumming and goes on for hours, when the visitors are playing “Soccer fieldSpoons” at midnight. Again.

There are days when the heat saps my strength and my head spins from dehydration because, once more, I forgot to drink water. On a hot day, drinking is a full-time occupation.

There are days when the sand thrashes my face like hot pins in the wind and all I want to do is go into lockdown behind closed doors. Even then, somehow, the sand finds me, covering everything indoors with a layer of dirt: plates, pillows, books, the lot. At the end of a windy day, even my bed needs to be brushed down before I climb in.

There are days when there is no running water because the bore has run dry and, once more, I’ve forgotten to refill the five litre spare bottle I keep stashed away. There are days when the electricity goes on and off again and again, which means the fan goes on and off. I’m happy to live without electricity except when my fan is plugged in.

Last week I had one of those days. I felt sorry for myself and did not want to be here. I cried. I hid myself away. I threw myself a massive pity party and I whinged and whined to God. He didn’t correct me, or discipline me, or tell me to just get over it. Neither did He pander. He heard and He answered, by gBoys playgroundiving me just what I needed: perspective, revealed in the form of two tiny lives.

Late in the week we heard of a baby out in the community who was desperately ill, whose family could not care for her. They had reached the end of their ability to cope and had nowhere else to turn. The team that investigates potential new admissions visited the home, met the family, saw the baby, and knew she needed to be here.

Then, somehow, red tape wrapped itself around the process and her arrival was delayed.

She died over the weekend.

I was angry. I was devastated. I sobbed out the sorrow and the fury at such injustice. I raged at Heaven and at the God who let this happen. Just a few more days; she needed just a few more days...

I really can’t say if she would have lived, had she come to us sooner. I didn’t meet her; I don’t know her name, her age, the colour of her eyes. All I know is that, for one brief moment, we were receiving a new baby into our care and she had hope. Then she died.

I found no peace, heard no gentle words of comfort. My heart was shattered and I felt more helpless than I have in a very long time.

Then we heard of another baby needing help. All wenNercia Day 1t smoothly, no red tape tangle this time and she arrived yesterday, four months old and 4.6kg. She is small and malnourished but otherwise healthy. Her name is Nercia. She is here and she is beautiful. She is alive. And her eyes are bright, sparkling, deep dark brown.

God heard my cry – my whining about the discomforts and the inconveniences of life here – and He answered by bringing perspective to my week. We fight many battles and some we lose. The only way to keep going is to keep perspective, rejoicing in the battles we win and quickly releasing the ones that defeat us.

So, now, when I am tempted to throw myself a pity party, I think of Nercia and of other battles won for the lives of Zimpeto’s children. I think of Sina who was close to death as a newborn and is now a healthy, confident, opinionated seven-year-old ready to lead the world. Yuran, labelled a hopeless case by another children’s centre in Maputo, now chatting to anyone who’ll listen and walking with only a slight limp after five years of therapy.Wendy Yuran cropped

There are also many success stories among the young adults who spent their growing-up years here. I think of beautiful Valene and her fiancé, Binario, who both grew up at Zimpeto and are now planning their wedding. Ramito, humorous and intelligent, now studying in the US. Mpedge who saved up through many years of working for pocket money in the Centre’s gardens: he paid his own way through driving school and has just received his licence, his doorway to potential employment.

And, every day, I think of Milagrosa: her name means “Great Miracle”. She was found a year ago in a rubbish skip in the city. Yes, she was thrown away with the garbage. God saw her and He saved her. She was found by a passer-by who heard her crying and brought her to Zimpeto where she thrived in the nursery. She grew strong, ate fussily, giggled often and began to walk. Just a month ago, a visiting family fell in love with her at first sight and adopted her. Now that’s what I call a great miracle!

Every one of Zimpeto’s kids, whether babies or all grown up, is a miracle, a success story beyond our understanding. God is raising the poor of this nation from the dust and is giving them, one life at a time, a future and a hope.

So, on days like this when the wind whips the saAll children 3nd into a blinding cloud and the water stops flowing through the taps, when the fan goes off and I feel like one more drum beat will rob me of my sanity, I think of Milagrosa and Nercia and of all the lives we have been privileged to love.

We don’t win every battle but we’re winning more with each year that passes. I am so thankful that I get to be a part of this extraordinary adventure in a place where miracles happen and dreams, so very often, really do come true.

November 8, 2012


A shapa stop from the air
Last week I drove around the city trying to get some keys cut. I was unsuccessful - three times - but that is a story for another day. As I drove, I thought: “When I’m back in Sydney, I’ll have to remember to stay in my own lane when I’m driving.” Yes, I did actually think this, word for word.

Then I thought, “How is it that I am able, when in Australia, to trust other drivers to obey the road rules and, in Maputo, equally at peace assuming no one will obey the road rules? Are there road rules in Mozambique?”

In Sydney, when I am driving on a four-lane road I know that, aside from a blown tyre, earthquake or heart attack, the cars flowing predictably in the same direction as me will continue to do so unless they tell me otherwise with plenty of warning. It is peaceful and unsurprising. Last time I was there, I found it just a little humdrum.

MOZ Dec 06.1 272
Shapas waiting for passengers
In Sydney, it does not occur to me that the car in the right lane will suddenly cut across in front of me to pull in on the left to pick up a passenger. No indicator, no warning, missed my vehicle by inches and only because I slammed my foot on the brakes. In Maputo when this happens, I hardly blink. In fact, it has made me laugh often.

Welcome to traffic school, Mozambique-style.

Once, I nearly lost a side mirror when I was stuck in a two-lane traffic jam. All was well until a shapa (a public minibus) swept between the two official lanes, creating a new lane all for himself and missing my mirror by millimetres. I watched while, as if in slow motion, his side mirror came within a whisker of mine. He did not slow down and I didn’t gasp. I didn’t honk the horn, I didn’t panic. I just watched, more interested than concerned, as his mirror whispered past mine, close enough for me to give it a bit of a spit and polish.

Repairing my side mirror during a border run

Now the floodgate had opened and more shapas used this newly-created lane: more vehicles squeezed through a gap I could not see until a family sedan got half-way, became alarmed and stopped, the passenger’s big brown eyes just inches from mine.

Shapa drivers are renowned in Mozambique as the revheads1 of the road. Their vehicles often lean precariously to one side, are rusting away, thumping out loud music, and regularly displaying silhouette-stickers of semi-clad women on the back. Shapas often have no window-glass, handy when someone needs to stick their bottom out the window to make room for one more person on the bus.

Personal space is an oxymoron when it comes to shapa travel. Be prepared to get close, then closer, then closer still. Plan ahead so you will not need to scratch your nose or look at your watch. In fact, don’t wear a watch – it may not be there when you disembark.

At shapa stops, groups of hawkers run wildly alongside moving vehicles, selling water, peanuts and bread sticks to the passengers within. They hand an item through the window then run, run, run to keep up as the buyer within tries to wrestle change from his pocket, hand it over three rows of heads and out the window. There must be unwritten shapa etiquette that allows for theSolemn Assembly 003 honest exchange of money on the move. There must also be protocols for who gets on first and last, who sits on whose lap (seriously) and how many people is just enough.

The city of Maputo owns about a hundred full-size buses that run mostly in town. For everybody else, shapas and utes (small, flat-bed trucks) are it. For me in a squeeze (pun intended) I’d choose standing with thirty other people on the back of a truck over a shapa ride any day. At least I can see the sky and know that, if worst comes to worst, I can do the sheep-in-a-pen thing and go up and over the heads of other people to get off. The unwritten rule is that everybody on the outside links arms and holds on to each other, forming one big, secure square, so nobody falls off. Ingenious, really. Until you’re standing in the glaring sun hugging someone you’ve never met before, it’s 45 degrees celcius, there’s metal under your feet and the traffic is at a standstill.

Taking a shapa is neither easy nor quick. Yes, shapas could be safer, more roadworthy, and a whole lot bMen on uteetter organised. For now, though, shapas and trucks are all that the people of this developing nation have to get to and from work each day: there is no other option.

I have never been the hard-core missionary-type and shapas are just a little beyond the capacity of this mildly adventurous spirit to conquer. Being the wuss3 that I am when it comes to enclosed spaces, I’m grateful that where I work is where I live, so my daily commute is just a short, pleasant walk through the sand.

1Revhead: Australian colloquialism for a hoon2.
2 Hoon: Australian colloquialism for someone, generally young and male, who drives recklessly, dangerously. Not a wuss3.
3 Wuss: Australian colloquialism for a person who is overly careful and unadventurous.

October 24, 2012


I am thankful for the little home I have here at Zimpeto. It’s about 23 square feet, a room with a bathroom and an extra little study area in the back. When people walk in, their usual comments are “It’s so peaceful”, “It’s calming”, “It’s whitnov 12 278e”, “It’s so ... you”.

My home has a terracotta-tiled floor, white walls, a high roof (with several leaks but I’m working on that), a cane wardrobe and drawers and the most gorgeous, floaty white mosquito net in existence. I love walking in past the purple aggies near the front door and breathing an “Ah, I’m home” sigh after I’ve been away.

There is plenty of room for my things and me and, if the chairs are strategically arranged, there is also space for three people to sit and chat if one person sits on the bed. Once, I managed to squeeze in a table for a three-person dinner party: flowers, candles, tablecloth, the lot. We had to shift the table as each person sat down and one person couldn’t get to the bathroom all evening, but it was worth it. For one night my bedroom/living room/lounge room/store room became a dining room.

I’m thankful for my little home (the open door on the right, below) and yet, this week, I’m ever so thankful that I’m staying in a “house”. It’s a real house, a house with a kitchen and spare P1190892rooms and a fence and a back yard and a laundry. It is a house whose gates I can lock at the end of the day and know nobody will come knocking on the door at 11pm because “I saw your light on...” This is a house I can wander around rather than step across; a house with a kitchen that I can walk to without needing an umbrella in the wet season.

The kitchen in this house (yes, “in” this house in the literal sense) has hot water steaming through the tap: the only hot water in my kitchen is water we boil on the stove. This kitchen has cupboards and a griller and a fridge big enough for my food. It even has matching crockery – oh my!

The upside to sharing a kitchen with nine people is the variety of companions and conversations on offer at all hours, day and night. It is impossible to be lonely in my kitchen. Every decade from teens to 60s is represented; male, female, married, single, divorced, dating. Each of us has different jobs and timetables, histories, personalities, expectations, dreams for the future. It is a miracle in the making as so many disparate individuals become one pliable, unique, often hilarious, occasionally P1190905messy band.

I am thankful for my kitchen which is grand by Mozambican standards with two fridges, two ovens and two ceiling fans. I’m also thankful for a respite for a week from the constrictions. I am fully expecting the kitchen will split at its concrete block seams and collapse if we try to squeeze in one more chair or plate or fork.

For this one week I have an oven in which I can cook whenever I choose. There is a washing machine all to myself, in a real laundry with a real laundry tub. Even the laundry has hot running water. Again I say, “Oh my!” I don’t have to get up at dawn to dump my clothes in the line-up of piles across the kitchen as we take turns to use the machine. My clothes have never been cleaner than this week: I feel the need to do a load at around 10am every day just because I can.

For about two hours now I have been sitting out the back, enjoying the cool breeze and rumbling clouds as a storm approaches from the south, and not one person has walked past. I’m sure I’ll Mangoes at my doorbegin to crave conversation again in a day or two but, for now, I’m completely at peace with the lack of interaction.

There is so much to be thankful for and, today, I am thankful for my beautiful little home as well as for a house to which I can withdraw for a few days’ rest from the hustle and bustle of regular life.

This week I am thankful for a house and for a home. And I am thankful that a change truly is as good as a holiday.

September 8, 2012


Nursery 6 March-13


Babies Raquelina and Francisco were the tiniest of tiny babes brought to us by a desperate mother too sick to feed her newborn twins. [See “Hope For Today” below, Feb 2012.]

They lived in the nursery for a couple of months; he quickly thrived but she struggled, never quite able to win the battle over her many health issues. She was eventually admitted to Hospital Central, the main hospital in Maputo.

A tia was employed to stay with her day and night. We visited, we prayed. The children prayed, the pastors and staff prayed. The church prayed, friends all over the world prayed. We have seen miracles in the lives of our babies so often and, frF&R 3om these testimonies of healing, we gained hope.

Precious, fragile, tiny Raquelina never gained ground physically and she died within two weeks of being admitted to the hospital.

Her twin Francisco continues to grow strong and healthy. He’s full of life and laughter, smiles and mischief as he achieves all his milestones ahead of time. He’s the youngest of seven babies currently in the nursery, he notices everything, learns from watching the older babies and he already walks with assistance and holds his own bottle.

There are no words to describe the loss of Raquelina. I hold Francisco close at bedtime as he snuggles in for one last cuddle, thumb in mouth, cheek buried into my neck, before I put him into his Francisco orange ringcot for the night.

Francisco spent the first two months of his life in the same crib as his twin and now he sleeps alone. Words fail me.

I am a twin. My twin brother is one of my greatest supporters, a solid rock to me as I live this crazy African adventure that has become my life. He is a vocal member of the cheer squad that keeps me going. It is hard to describe “twinness” to non-twins in a way that captures the bond and expresses the heart at the centre of having shared so much from the very beginning. I am rich with family and being a twin makes me even richer.

I Raquelinawatch Francisco sleep and my heart breaks for him. I think of Raquelina but my thoughts go no further. I do not know what, or how, to think. One babe lives and will have a full and active life. Yet, his sister is no longer sleeping next to him.

Words truly fail me.

Rest in peace, Baby Raquelina, no longer suffering but held in your Heavenly Papa’s arms forever.

August 11, 2012


Four years. I have lived in Mozambique for four years!

2008: PACKING UPBridge Opera House 2

Who’d have thought way back in 2008 when I gave away half my belongings and packed the rest into a storage unit in Sydney, farewelled my family and friends and dragged two overweight suitcases onto the luggage belt at Sydney Airport, that I would still be here four years later.

For the first year or two, Sydney remained “home” and every year I would leave Maputo to return "home" for a couple of months. Over the years, though, a shift has occurred. I cannot pinpoint exactly when or how but now I come home to Mozambique while Sydney is the place I pop back to occasionally, just to visit.

This is home now. It is no longer the place I visit, far away: it is where I come back to from other places.


In 2009, after a year away, I went to my rented storage unit in north-west Sydney and longingly gazed at my sofa, stood up on its end, surrounded by chairs, table, fridge, garden furniture and the detritus of years of living in one place. I thought of the people I work with in Mozambique, friends who live in one-room shacks with no electricity or running water, who eat two meals a day if they’re lucky, and who are full of joy and hope. I decided that, next year when I’m back, I’ll sell it all.

The mind shift was huge and still not fully jelled but it had begun. Before I left Sydney, I sold my car.

From then on, when people asked me when I would be leaving Sydney, I’d stumble over my words. “I’m going... ahm... home... ahm... I mean... back to Mozambique... in a month.” The internal shift was, well, shifting, and it was gaining momentum. I even heard Dad say it once then correct himself: “So, when you go home... I mean, back to Mozambique...” It was a tough distance to traverse for others also.

By the end of the month my time in Sydney had become, in my mind, just a visit because home was elsewhere and I could now boldly say, “I’m going home next week.”Sideboard photos

What defines “home”? Is it time spent in a place? Is it a physical building? Family? Or familiarity perhaps? Sydney will always be a home of sorts because it is so familiar to me. I can still drive from one end to the other without a map and can find a mall in just-about any part of the city with one dampened “mall meter” finger raised to the breeze. North three kilometres I’m sensing there’s a department store with a Country Road outlet on the second floor, to the left off the elevator, right next to Sportscraft... My Sydney mall-meter never lies.


In 2010, as soon as I landed in Sydney, I began planning for the garage sale to end all garage sales. Weeks of preparation, emptying out the storage unit, pricing furniture and white goods... oh-how-wonderful it felt! I no longer wanted to be weighed down with possessions that were serving no purpose for me or anyone else. To sell them would free them up for others to have and also lower my storage bill each year. I could feel the load lightening as friends and family helped me to move everything except some boxes and bits‘n’ pieces to my brother’s front yard for the big sell-off.Garage sale kids

In the end, the garage sale was a huge flop and I sold very little. By the end of the day, I left all my worldly goods in the rain beside the curb, knowing that 1) I did not want to spend another day owning things I no longer needed and 2) it would all be gone by morning.

And it was.

I was taken aback that, once there was nothing left, I grieved the loss of these items. I spent much of the next week feeling quite bereft, thinking longingly of my old home in Sydney and of its warmth and comfort. I felt off-balance; the weight of an adulthood spent collecting belongings had now shifted and I was a little lopsided for a time.


I look back to that week and realise that I had given away far more than some furniture - I had begun, seriously and with intent, to give away my sense of home as I knew it. I had given up the possibility of retrieving everything from storage and setting up house once more in this familiar place where I had spent most of my life.

Without realising what I was doing, I had drawn a line in the sand of my life and, only now, can I see what a clearly defined line it was. I had given away my back-up plan and, after a week of wrestling and regret, I was able to embrace the buoyancy of owning little and began to step more lightly. What a relief it was. I returned to Mozambique with a lighter load and a smaller storage bMoz mapill, hooray!

By 2011, I knew I was here to stay... perhaps not “here” exactly – who knows what tomorrow will call me to – but here in this particular region of the globe. I continue to walk more lightly now, knowing I can shift direction in a heartbeat as I allow the needs before me to lead me through each month and each year.


In 2012 I applied for permanent residency in Mozambique. It took four years and much thought, some tears and quite some wrestling within myself, to get through this particular shift. “I Still Call Australia Home” rang stridently in my head every time I thought of transferring loyalties. All those gorgeous little Qantas kids on TV, smiling brightly, standing on the edges of cliffs and the tops of mountains, with kangaroos bounding and gum trees swaying as they sing, “No matter how far or how wide I roam, I still caaall Austraaa-lia home...” Talk about tugging at the homeland heartstrings.

I knew, though, beyond the love I have for my first country/home that, to serve my second, I had to commit fully. Applying for permanent residency was the means to this end.

My DIRE was signed, stamped, sealed and collected a few months ago and, for the first time at Maputo Airport last week as I flew back from the UK, I queued in the Permanent Residents line at customs. When a security guard eyed me suspiciously then marched over and demanded to know why I was in the wrong line, I proudly waved my card and said, “Eu estou um residente permanente de Moçambique! Eu mora aqui!” “I live here!”


A few weeks ago I tried to enter an online Qantas competition to win free travel to some amazing place in the world, then I read the fine print. “Only permanent residents of Australia may enter.” I had fully accepted that, with a Mozambican DIRE, I am now a permanent resident of Mozambique. It had not occurred to me though that, in the gaining, I was laying something down. I am no longer a resident of Australia. There, I said it... deep sigh. Another shift to navigate.Sofa

And so, today, I think of my old sofa. The sofa is now in my brother’s living room being enjoyed by the myriad of teenagers who hang out there, socialising and eating, flirting, playing guitar. The dog has taken up residence on the top of the lounge’s plump back cushions, from where she can see the front door and bark at arriving visitors. I am happy for my sofa, that it has found a new home, even as I am making a new home without it.

I exhale once more, struggling with the shift. I do not yet own a sofa in Mozambique and, for some reason, that big, soft, comfy blue sofa represents the home I gave away to live here. It reminds me of peaceful afternoons sipping coffee with friends as we enjoyed the last of the low winter sun glowing through the glass doors. I think of weekends spent report-writing with Saturday’s cooking shows playing on TV in the background, of dozing in summer after a morning in the garden, of collapsing as I kick my shoes off after a busy day at work...

I am making new memories now. I am making a new home, it is time. The past and the future meet briefly in these moments as I type.

I am so grateful for the life I am living here and have no regrets, not a one. Well, perhaps just one... that I was not able to fit thaWendy guitar Yurant one cosy blue sofa onto a plane and bring it with me as a tangible reminder of the wonderful past I have left to shift into an even brighter future

I may still be occasionally wobbly in this shift but, after four years, my balance is getting better every day.

February 18, 2012


Yesterday I looked into the eyes of hopelessness. I was not prepared for what I saw and I certainly wasn’t prepared for how it left me feeling.
Milagrosa week 2
Milagrosa being weighed- yes, she's gaining!

Late in the morning as the six babies in the nursery were being fed and changed, I carried Milagrosa in my arms and paced the room, calming her as she whimpered gently.

Milagrosa, who has been here for only a few weeks, has beautiful big black eyes which are often crossed, making it difficult for her to focus. Perhaps this is the reason she was left, abandoned, in a pile of garbage in the city. She loves to be cuddled, to be held close and tight. Milagrosa (Great Miracle, how apt) is putting on weight every week. In the nursery we celebrate the small victories and, when the babies are gaining weight, we know we are winning.

As I rocked her and quietly sang into her ear, I heard a weak call from outside the front door. “ ‘Cença” (short for “com licença”, literally “with licence”) is the equivalent of an Aussie “ ‘Scuse me...” and gains entry through a doorway, clears a path in a crowd, allows reaching across another person, interrupts a conversation politely. I have heard it thousands of times and have said it often myself. Today, as I moved to the door, a feebly spoken “ ‘cença” drew me outside where I would look into depths of hopelessness that are beyond my soul’s ability to fully comprehend.
F&R 5
Twins Francisco and Raquelina settling into the nursery

As I walked outside, I saw a woman sitting on the bench. She looked worn out. She was sweating, her arms hung limp by her sides as her hands rested upturned on the bench. Her face was drawn, her shoulders slumped from exhaustion. It took a moment to notice the bundle on her back. She was carrying a baby so tiny I could hardly make out his shape under the capulana that held him securely to his mama. Sitting next to her on the bench was a boy, about thirteen, carrying another baby in his arms. This baby, too, was tiny. I pulled back the blanket to see her face, so fragile, so frail.

The mother of these tiny, hungry, underweight twins looked me in the eyes. Her voice was so quiet I had to lean in to hear her. “I’m very sick. I can’t feed my babies. I was told to come here and you would look after them. Please, you have to take my babies.”

I was glad to have a moment to catch my thoughts as I slowly translated the Portuguese in my head once more to be sure I had understood. The look in her eyes had already told me the outline of her story and her words now filled in the details.

So matter-of-fact. So very calm and quiet. So desperate. This mother had come to the undeniable conclusion that her babies would die if they stayed with her.
F&R 8
Francisco and Raquelina

I do not deal with admissions so made a few calls then sent the mother to the person she needed to talk to, wondering if these tiny babies would be sleeping in the nursery with our other six that night.

Later in the day I tried to process what I had seen and heard, while my heart still ached from the memory of the look in this pleading mama’s eyes.  I considered the fact that the same history applies to many, many of our 260 children here at Zimpeto. I know them as healthy and strong but so many of them were starving and close to death when they arrived. How quickly we forget! The fact is that we take in only the poorest of the poor, the ones who will most probably die without the care they can receive here at Zimpeto.

This is not melodramatic exaggeration nor is it poetic licence. It is a fact. It is why we are here.

Zimpeto’s children are safe. They are well-fed, they are clothed and educated and they have a home. Here, they have a hope and a future towards which they can reach as they grow up.
Raquelina settled and sleeping

Many are eventually reintegrated – returned to their home and family – once the family’s circumstances have changed. A father eventually finds a job that pays enough for him to feed his family. The mother’s second “husband”, or third or fourth, who was abusing his stepchildren, moves out. An aunt appears seemingly out of nowhere and takes her orphaned niece home. A grandmother receives the gift of a new home and monthly food packages from the ministry so that she can care for her grandchildren herself. There are many good news stories here!

So, as I remember the look in the eyes of the twins’ mama, I think not only of the hopelessness and grief I see there but also of the hope her babies have because she brought them here. Such a situation is by no means fair or just but it is what it is, for now. The heart of this ministry is to keep families together in a home in the community whenever possible but, in the most desperate of situations, this is not feasible.

Yesterday the reintegration team who investigates the potential admissions of children took over and I did not see the mother again. Today she was taken to the hospital and is receiving treatment. The twins are here, in the nursery. They are six weeks old, Raquelina weighing 2kg and Francisco 2.5kg. They will live in the nursery for as long as it takes for them to become strong and healthy and for their mother to get well. They will stay at the Centre beyond this time if their mother does not improve and no adult relatives can be found.

One day at a time is all we can deal with here. A few weeks ago we had six strapping, active toddlers well-settled in the nursery. Today we have eight underweight, malnourished babies, all unexpected and each one a gift. They need a total of close to 70 feeds a day. Imagine the nappies! God bless our tias who will be getting very little sleep for the next few months.

Out of the grim darkness of a hopeless, heart-breaking situation, two babies have found the light of life. They will be fed and clothed and loved on and cuddled and carried and prayed over with words of health and hope. Their future is secure despite the hopelessness of their beginning. There are no words to describe the tragedy of this beginning for their mother, but I choose to look forward on behalf of her babies and to speak life and joy into their little lives.

God brought two starving babies through our gates just in time to be rescued and, in this, I find reason for hope in what so very often looks like a hopeless world
6 babies
Last year's nursery residents now live in the Baby House

All babies 4
Our new-look and much younger nursery family of eight

January 22, 2012


Zimpeto’s nursery is small. It is plain and simple and would be considered sparse if it were not such a tiny space in which seven babies and two tias live. Shaded windows, a ceiling fan clicking rhythmically overhead, cool tiled floors and a colour scheme of muted blues and pinks: such a calming contrast to the burning brightness of the Mozambican sun and the orange earth outside its walls. Beyond the grassed postage stamp-sized front yard, the caneçu fences keep the hustle and bustle of the rest of the Centre and its 250 children away from this sanctuary.

I call the nursery the happiest place on earth.  Here, miracles happen every day. Each time I walk in, peace soaks gently into my soul, my heart stops racing and my mind stills. One moment at a time is all we can deal with here. Priorities shift. Time slows. Nothing exists beyond these walls and these moments. 

It is not possible to be anything but full of joy in this place. Yes, there are struggles and darker days. We have not won every battle. Most of our babies are loved to life and health; some we have loved into the arms of Jesus. Each day is a new day and each baby a miracle waiting to happen. So we continue to believe that God is enough and that, in our frail humanity, He is all we and these precious babes need.
Last week, God brought us five new bundles of gorgeousness, all within days. Five babies under one, all underweight, all hungry.
Stick-thin and fragile, Faustina nestles in, too weak to move. At eight months and 3.5kg, she is our most vulnerable right now. I am helpless apart from prayer.
Days pass, one heartbeat at a time. Nappies, bottles, sing-song Shangaana lullabies, sleep. Sighs of relief at the end of each long night when Faustina wakes and begins to bleat weakly for food.
One week goes by...
Today Faustina smiles and giggles. She has gained weight and a little strength. She whines when her bottle empties before she is full. The miracle of life has taken hold and she will come through!
To care for the most desperate of all humanity, babies in need, feels to me in my helplessness like a gift - the purest, simplest service of all – humbling me daily as I confront my own frailties and inabilities. I have nothing to offer but love, and prayer, and trust in the Creator of all life.
My own humanity is shaken to the core as I consider the fate that awaited these babies had they not been brought to Zimpeto. One was found in a pile of rubbish in the city; one was deserted at the Mozambique-South Africa border; one was brought by her desperate mother after the hospital discharged the baby as a hopeless cause; another two came from a childcare centre nearby where the director freely acknowledges the extraordinary “success rate” of Zimpeto’s babies.
The nursery's four oldest, Silvia, Casilda, Jeremias and Gloria, have now “graduated” happily to the Baby House after several months of visits in preparation for this day.
And so may I introduce you to our five newest miracles? Milagrosa’s name means, literally, “Great Miracle”. We also have Rejoice and Inercio, Joseldo and, of course, Faustina who is now world-famous thanks to Facebook and the many prayer requests that have gone out to the nations of the world on her behalf.
These five join Xadreque and Shayla who were once as fragile and sick as our newest Zimpeto family members but are now healthy and strong. Day-by-day, heartbeat-by-heartbeat, God heals and restores.

Welcome, precious babes, to the happiest place on earth where miracles happen and dreams really do come true.