July 10, 2013



Earlier this year we heard that Eugenio was missing. Five years old, innocent, sheltered, no street smarts. He was gone. He was playing in the sand with some of his friends not farEugenio from his home and then he was gone.

For several years, Eugenio lived here at Zimpeto, first in the Baby House and then in one of the smaller dorms. He was content here with his twin sister and a dorm full of pre-schoolers and he was thriving. But here is never the best place to be amidst the whirlwind of 260 children when there is the possibility of being with family, and Eugenio and his twin sister went to live with their grandma and auntie as soon as circumstances allowed. They were missed here but they were now where they belonged.

Within a few weeks of moving to his new house, Eugenio disappeared. When I heard that he was missing, my mind raced to all the awful possibilities. The most likely scenario was that he was wandering the baffling maze of sandy paths in the community, unable to find his way home. He lived in a house with no phone, behind a gate with no number, on a dirt track with no name. He had not lived there long enough to get to know the area around his house or to be known by the neighbouLittle boy one sockrs.

Or, had he joined the children playing in the huge open sewer pipes running along the main road where several had drowned the year before? Had he roamed onto the road and been hit by a car with the police having no way to find and inform his family?

Had he been taken without anyone noticing? Witchcraft is rife in Mozambique; child trafficking is common and often related to witchcraft. Last time I drove across the border to South Africa, my trunk was searched for children I might be smuggling out of the country to sell. Had Eugenio been taken out of Mozambique?

The family took his photo to the local TV station and, that night, his smiling face was seen in the living rooms of those Mozambicans who have electricity and are wealthy enough to own a television. This garnered no response.

By the time we at Zimpeto had heard of Eugenio’s disappearance, he had been gone for ten days. Ten whole days! He is five years old! Our team immediately began sending messages out across the world asking for prayer. A search party was organised for the next day.

The searchers were looking for a tiny needle in a hugeMOZ Dec 06.1 280, huge haystack. Where to begin? Several cars full of willing volunteers left the Centre early on day eleven. They went first to Eugenio’s home to talk with his family, then to the police station, to the local stores and stalls, and to all the neighbours’ homes. They spread out, covering as much ground as they could. They showed his photo to everybody but he had not been seen.

They prayed. And we prayed. And you prayed. Thank you for praying!

Around lunch time, a neighbour suggested a last-ditch attempt to find him: go to the local government-run orphanage: just possibly, if a kindly stranger had found him wandering the streets, they may not have taken him to the police station but to a children’s home and, just maybe, the children’s centre had not reported it.

Clutching at straws was all that was left to do... and clutching at straws succeeded.

After almost eleven days missing, our lostFriends 2 little boy was found. He was safe, fed, clean, healthy, and desperately happy to see his family.

We all breathed a heavy sigh of relief and, ever since, have been whispering prayers of protection over our 260 kids.

These children have already been lost and found; once in a lifetime is more than enough.

July 4, 2013


Yesterday a new baby arrived in the nurseryGeorgina 2. Georgina is fourteen months old and more toddler than baby. She was dressed in raggedy clothes, her face darkened by spending most of her days in the sun. She needed a thorough wash, a good meal and a new wardrobe.

This morning, her bright eyes shifted from one unfamiliar face to the next as she cried with all the strength her weak little body could muster. I watched her from the other side of the room, not sure whether she was used to white faces or if my appearance would upset her even more.

As I observed, I felt a twinge in my heart. What was that unfamiliar sensation beating dully within me?

I was happy that she was here, another precious little one to care for. Yet, even as I delighted in the surprise Kenssane homeof this new arrival, I felt uneasy. Something was gnawing at my soul – a jaded dullness that whispered almost imperceptibly, “Don’t fall in love again. You’ll have to let her go soon...”

Stunned by my own reaction, I looked at the other five playing on the floor. Kenssane, just home from the hospital after heart surgery; my heart skips a beat when I know I’m going to see her. Nercia, the brave explorer, who’ll chase me unsteadily around the room on her tiny toddler feet so long as she knows I’ll eventually snatch her up and swing her high above my head. Zecarias, dimpled giggler who falls asleep while sitting up and who loves loud, mesSheltonsy raspberries blown on his chubby neck. Aline, calm and gentle with a smile that lights up the world; she cannot crawl yet but can clap by threes. Shelton, confident and playful with those he knows but aloof observer when strangers are in the room.

Be still, my heart! These irresistible little ones have won me over.

On a day when challenges are rife and busyness is consuming, I’ll make a quick detour to the calm quiet of the nursery and catch my breath with pleasure as I walk in the gate. I’ll get down on the floor so they can climb all over me, dribbling andBabies and tias drooling, leaving tracks of runny noses on my clothes, pulling my hair, mussing me up completely and catching their fingers in my earrings. There is no better down-time.

Each and every baby who has passed through the nursery has captured my heart, all twenty-something of them in the two years I’ve worked there. All it takes is a glance to draw me in. I cannot walk past them without a touch or a word. I can’t think of them without smiling. I cannot be near them without running my hand over a head or squeezing a ticklish thigh or kissing a cheek.

I work in the nursery only six days a month and yet it’s a highlight, a pleasure I look forward to and a break from the other jobs I do here. How blessed I am.

As I watch Georgina, I ponder Nursery 14 Feb 013the weariness within me and I think of all who’ve left the nursery. Five have returned to their extended families or been adopted; what a happy ending for them but a little part of my heart goes with them every time. Fragile Raquelina died after only a few months, never quite gaining the strength she needed to survive a desperately rough start to her life; I eased my grief by pouring extra love into her twin, Francisco. Most of our former residents now live in the Baby House: even though it’s right next door, my heart breaks a little everFaustinay time they leave.

Today I am thankful for the chance to stand back and watch. I realise that the repeating pattern of “catch and release” has left me a little weary yet I am at peace. I think of Silvia and Xadraque, of Sheila and Inercio, Kerone and Faustina and all the others who have won my heart so easily.

I know that, by the end of tomorrow, the weariness will have been overcome by a toddler’s need for love and I will have given my heart all over again, irrevocably and completely.