Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Pinch me

Yesterday we went into the village. If you were to go, it would change you. It is incredibly eye-opening to see how most of this country lives, and actually these villages near town are "nicer" than most typical African villages. Mud houses, some with metal roofs, so many children, narrow passageways built with bamboo for fencing and privacy, but maze-like in their design. We walk through the rocky maze and find the tidy little home of a family of 5; a mother, grandmother, and three children. I am not sure where the men are in this culture. They come and go. Right now, they are alone. The mother works as a cleaning lady for Iris missionaries. She is animated, funny, loves to laugh and is full of life. Her husband was killed in a car accident. the youngest child doesn't go to school because she cannot afford a uniform and the house leaks during rainy season, the floor completely eroded. Money was raised to help her, and we were there to do the labor. Well, arrange for the labor. So men did show up after all and laid concrete incredibly fast. We all sat around on the rope bed outside and drank Cokes and they belched really loud and I giggled like a child. I love this culture. You can get away with most anything. But I sit on the rope bed and wonder just what is poverty? When I worked in Zimbabwe that summer with Rachel, I thought that was poverty. But looking back, at the time, they were well cared for. Villages had clean water, schools, a clinic, all nearby or within the village. The European farmers went above and beyond for their workers, build huge playgrounds for the children and made sure needs were met. So what is fair here? What is not fair? What needs changing? What is justice? What part is my responsibility? What can I do to help? Do they need my help? What does God want? What stirs His heart? He tells us, "the poor will always be among you". But what kind of poor? And just what is poor? Poorer than me? Too poor to stay dry when it rains? Too poor to eat a meal once a day? That is too poor. That is not right. 

All day long I walk around this city shaking my head at things I see, things that just aren't right. By being born in the United States, I was birthed into a land of opportunity. I bought a nice pretty house on nothing more than good credit, however that is defined. I went to college for free because I lived in a state that offers free tuition to B-average students. I will always have a roof over my head no matter what because I live in a land where there is an economy (though in much distress) that thrives off working and jobs and salaries and my family has those things and houses and they will take me in. I will always have resources, an education that offers me choices and comfort in the cycle of working, making money and obtaining basic needs and some not so basic. That doesn't exist here. There are no McDonald's, free Mavis Beacon teaches typing courses at the local library, no Department of Labor, no Cherokee Town Club in need of an inexperienced server with a winning personality and connections with the club president. I could go on and on, there are no dad's here to teach their sons how to respect their mother's and women. There are many motherless children who are growing up on their own, with no one to show them how to love. They are all here just struggling to survive. It is all just not fair. I don't know what else to call it. Just how poor will the "poor among us" be? This poverty that I see is a robbery and an injustice. Everyone should be fed, have an education, a roof over their heads, access to healthcare and to know love. 

I can't even have a puppy, so I haven't a clue what do with all these Mozambican faces looking back at me. Overwhelming need. I think I was born with this resiliency and adventuresome spirit and am single and jobless for a reason. I think God is amazing at orchestrating all our days. It is all just preparation for our future. When we say, "I am fully thine and Thou art mine", He takes it seriously. He knows well in advance that we are one day going to utter those words as He has, after all, completely set us up. He's good at that. Time and time again, He takes my little selfish escapades, such as a college graduation trip to go on Safari, and reveals something more amazing that we could ever fathom or imagine for ourselves. 

So today I am imagining a life here. I stood in line yesterday at the Bank to get a check cashed for 3 hours. Three. Praise the Lord it was air-conditioned. No matter how I try to fit in, I am the whitest, squeakiest cleanest (despite my real lack of daily showers and frequent swims in the ocean), most blue-eyed person in this city. I stick out. Even most of the other white people I have seen are incredibly brown and they blend. I try to at least dress in the required army green, but cannot do so without hues of pinks and pastels and jewelry.  I am me. This culture could not be more different from mine. We are opposites in funny ways. They wait in line for 3 hours because there is one teller at the Standard Bank. I cannot recall the last time I waited in most any line at all. Self-Service at Kroger, Express Lane at Target…oh wait, the Post Office. But we all stand there and grumble and complain the whole time and blast federal government and get to know each other and it makes the time pass. And it has never been three hours. That would make Channel 2 Action News. "Three Hour Line at United States Postal Service- East Point Branch creates riots, food and water being distributed". When I finally exit the bank that at some point closed while I was still in line, it was raining. People were lined under the overhangs of the smattering of buildings, chattering in Portuguese and Makua, unfazed, waiting on it to pass. I couldn't understand what they were saying but I don't think anyone said, "they didn't say it was going to rain" or "I wonder how long this is going to last, I have a meeting and big plans and I hate getting wet and I cannot stand under this overhang all day". They just stood there with their plastic bags of vegetables and goods and waited as if they were waiting for the 2 o'clock train. The rain woke up all the bits of green grass and the leaves on trees. The dark sky such a huge contrast against the bright blue one hanging over the Indian Ocean. The thought, "How can I ever leave this place?" enters my mind. How can any other life bring me any satisfaction? 

As I trudge up the hill to my house, I meet Manuel. His smile is so big it seems fake, but it is real. He wears earbuds from an MP3 player in one ear, but I don't see the MP3 player or hear music. His English is lovely. He asks me how long I have been here and how long I am staying. He tells me he lives here on base. I look hard at his face. I am forced to see the reality of his situation. He lives here on base. That means he has no parents. That means he has grown up here. He has spent his life, living in a room, with other boys, going to school, playing soccer. It means he has been well fed and cared for and missionaries have come along to love on him, he has a group of young boys just like him and they teach in Bible School and translate and he knows God. He has been blessed to grow up in an environment where he knows Christ, he has been taught the truth. He has been given a great gift. He exudes happiness. He asks me when I am coming back to his country. I hear myself say, "September". He squeals with delight. Guys here do that. Their laughs are so funny. Then he says, "I am so glad I heard God, to tell me to come here so I could see you and I could meet you. I want you to come back and to teach me what you know". The only thing I know is that these children will teach me far more than I could ever teach them. However, I CAN help. I have a few resources and ideas and two degrees and smart friends who would come and help. Where is Manuel going to go in the next year or so? He is at least 16. What skills does he have? Where will he get a job here? I know the Standard Bank needs tellers, so maybe I can find an accountant that would come here and teach a course in accounting. What if we can get certified as an instructional school? What other jobs and needs are out there? I took at taxi home. What if I could get him a loan to buy a pedicab or a motorbike with one of those rear facing passenger things attached? Could he make enough to pay me back in a year?  Then could he make enough to live? But what if he wants to be an electrician? I saw men in bright yellow suits working on poles the other day. Would Mozambique Power come and teach a course to electrical power technicians? The scenarios are endless. Not to mention all the jobs that are out there to help others. We are short-handed in the area of medical outreach. We need nurses to go out into more rural areas and give medicine, weigh babies in trees, dress wounds, give immunizations,  and injections. Why bring them from the West when Manuel is standing right here, big smile, funny laugh, eager. He is not a stranger. He's my brother. 

My sister always pays careful attention to give me what I need. The day before I left, she cooked a delicious vegetarian meal, just for me. In that moment, it was precisely what I wanted and needed, a warm, delicious, made-with-love, American meal. I want to give Manuel what he needs. Why NOT? What do I have to loose? Everything. I am well aware of the adversity and mind-sets and struggles that lay before me. What do I have to gain? Everything. But to lose everything, that's not so bad either. "If you abide in Me and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire and it shall be done for you". Jesus said that. It's in red in my Bible. To die is to gain, to live is to gain. We gain! We win. No matter what. Risk it. So this is what I am thinking about today. I really don't even see this as a risk. It is a choice. He is so endless patient and totally kind. The choice is mine. And it is the former life that propels me. I simply don't want my next 10 years to be like my past 10, all really running together and only highlighted by my vacations I took that year. And I am not choosing Africa. She chose me. Pinch me. I can't believe I get to live this life.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

good night, sleep tight

don't let the bed bugs bite. they did. they devoured my right arm. so my mattress is out in the sun on the steps and i doused it with an aerosol bug spray. the past few days have been hot and eventful. we were going to interview a few of the girls here at the base to get their stories and ask them questions about their future to get an idea and a profile of what these kids interest are and how we could create a curriculum or lending program or vocational school around them and to give the school a voice for those of you back home. real kids. with real needs. but simple solutions. but one problem. they didn't show up. so we will reschedule and perhaps schedule again after that. this is Africa. so we went into town. i was shocked at how the prices had gone up even more since my previous visit. only a few formal "markets" and you can get more in the grocery aisle at Walgreens than you can in these supermercados. all the sites and sounds and colors of shopping and markets in Africa and abroad fascinate me. this excursion was hot and exhausting. the markets have not changed otherwise. same smell in the Supermercado of bathroom cleaner, the lights are out, dusty shelves, plastic overpriced dishes from Hong Kong. canned goods from South Africa. Osman's stunk to high heaven but i think part of the stench was me. you know it is bad when you think, "ugh. yuck. what IS that smell…oh. wait. i think it is me". i had hugged and danced and sat in the floor at church and wore the dress again the next day. now i am fully entrenched. i still look so incredibly American from head to toe, but at least i smell like Africa now. a little like dirt and something burning and sweat. yesterday i had the honor of interviewing one of the Iris nurses about the new hospital the intend to build. it was so beautiful to hear her heart. she becomes all consumed when you ask her and her eyes dance as she talks about her dream coming to life. essentially, at the moment, it appears it will be an advanced clinic. currently, the care for minor wounds and cough and cold and fever, malaria. but they have no diagnostic tools. they can't really test you for malaria, they don't have AIDS medicine, they cannot do X-rays. they want to take some of the burden off the hospital where people often walk for many miles and wait in long lines. she shared with me her heart in all of it and deepest desires and how she came to Iris and when i asked who she needed to staff the hospital, wanting specifics of types of specialities, she just said, "those who are willing and want to come and serve". she then shared with me that if your identity and calling is in your position, you will be disappointed. you simply have to come yielding and willing and God does all the rest. that is a huge leap. she took me to the hospital and we waiting in the long lines. waiting on paperwork for a patient. after two hours, we just took our paperwork back and decided to come again another day. this is Africa. we stopped in town for Refreshcas. i always get Coke. sometimes Fanta Ananas, but usually Coke. it's the Atlanta girl in me. i sipped on that and drank it fast because it gets hot in a hurry. holding the sweaty bottle as we ramble down rough roads in a Land Rover reminds me for a moment of the Gods Must Be Crazy and i can't help but laugh. that is one of my father's favorites and i confess, mine too. we come back to the clinic and i am served rice and beans by a sweet lady in a crisp uniform. i still for the life of me cannot figure out how they stay so tidy. i sweat. i wrinkle. i try. i put make up on in front of the fan, the only time my face is not covered in perspiration. but her pretty face glows and she smiles big. we then all go out to the beach at Maranganha. every month they celebrate the children's birthdays with cake and presents. i spent the night out at Maranganha once in a tent in 2007. it is a lovely piece of land, surrounded my ocean, waves, shells, a constant breeze. this time the waves took my sandals and i had to go home barefooted. i will now spend the rest of the trip in a hideous pair of Birkenstocks. oh well. really hard to complain about much of anything in a place like this. this morning we went to interview the director of education for this Cabo Delgado region. i wore my only skirt that didn't stink and my ugly sandals. but when we arrived we were told she had to attend a "ceremony" and so the meeting never happened. this is Africa. so we stopped for a cold drink, as is evidently custom or maybe just survival. i am leaving in a few minutes to go out to a village where two boys have started their own business. they are having someone make bricks and they sell them and are making a profit. we want to use them as an example as well as see if there are ways we can help the boys market their goods. the opportunities here are endless and it honestly doesn't take much. one next step and obvious thing we have seen is a need for education and training in the area of finances. if we want to raise up a generation to be entrepreneurs and create an economy here, we need to give them training in how to spend and save. so we are looking into that. so many things that need to be done. i was able to meet with leadership and have been extended a very gracious invitation to come. it is enticing. i am open and yielded. but for now, enjoying the moment. we have no idea what the future looks like. but i am looking "right now" in the face and am enjoying it immensely. i feel like i am home and i am with family. it is a far cry from Atlanta and there is no Capital Grille. but we have lobster dinners for 180METS so i hear. determined to find that. so i am just sitting here. barefoot and yielded in front of an oscillating fan that is still. open to most anything because i know God can do it. not really thinking too much about the future because it would take my focus off this very beautiful moment. 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

domingo (sunday)

as i sit upright and Indian-style, taking my malaria pill with warm bottled water and a had full of almonds, sweat beaded on my upper lip, under my mosquito net, stained with tiny remnants of the vile creatures, i don't quite know where to start. in writing, you are supposed to know your audience. i am supposed to see who i am writing to and tell them them story. so here i see, Graham & Teena, my sister, Terra, Christine, Betty and my handful of loyal readers. so if you were here sharing this bottle of Agua de nascente with me, i guess this is what i would tell you: 

the flight here was an incredible blessing. i packed in a daze, methodically packing, as i have done all of this before. not much is required to come to Mozambique, flip flops, a dress that covers the knees, malaria pills, and peanut butter. you can even get that here, but Jif is way better than Black Cat. in the International Terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson i start to dream. about my future you would ask. no, i would say. i dream about the possibility of first class to jo'burg. sleep. lying all the way down. the little silver tray with ice-cream and your choice of toppings. i have been told i am 3rd on the stand-by list. i position myself close to the gate agents but far enough away so i remain unrecognized as the over-eager, annoying, obnoxious standby passenger that i am truly becoming. i want to know! this woman holds my fate in her hands, will i be escorted to a night of deep sleep, full-size pillow bliss or will i be stuck in the back in an upright position, strangers on either side, in misery? she calls my name. seat 11B. first class, baby! 

so i am going to Mozambique to stay on the base at Iris Ministries and help out. one of their founding directors is an African by the name of Supressa Sithole. he is on my flight. i just found it completely ironic, that one of the leaders of the ministry i am going to serve, is on my flight. upon arrival to jo'burg i had two tiny dilemmas: 1. i needed to call cathi who was picking me up. i would be staying with her during my two day layover. 2. i needed to get to the shuttle and fast because our flight was delayed in the ATL and i was running late. at baggage claim Supressa dialed Cathi for me, and even had her number in his phone and then quickly escorted me to the shuttle because he was taking the same one. even though i could have done all of that on my own, it would have been difficult, but i would have found a way, it was so incredibly nice to have an escort. it was also so evident of God and how on He could orchestrate such a random connection.

nelspruit was beautiful and way too quick of a visit. cathi is a missionary at African School of Missions and teaches mission students. it is in the African countryside outside of Nelsprit. i stayed there two nights, and attempted to recover from jetlag. i got to sit in on one of cathi's classes and watch this beautiful woman pour out her life into eager young students and that was an honor.

travel to Pemba took an entire, very exhausting, day. the only excitement was, that upon arrival to Jo'burg i checked my email. i had one telling me i needed $84 cash for my Visa. i didn't have $84 cash and there were no ATM's. i had $65, not $84. i only needed $20 and it would cost more than that in fees to get money out at the airport and i was short on time. i decided to just have peace as God is faithful and good and plus i was too tired to muster up too much stress and anxiety. i boarded. i arrived in Maputo and stood in line to get my Visa, just assured that it would all work out. it is my turn at the counter and i find out i owe $66, not $84, i hand over all my cash, $65. she presses me for the remaining dollar. i turn my wallet upside down. the cute German guy in white capri pants in front of me, who is sorting his Visa back into his bag, realizes my dilemma and pays the extra dollar for me. i grab my Visa, thank him, and board my flight to Pemba.

so now i am here. and everything is more than fine. i have my OWN ROOM right across from my friend Tanya! i thought she would be living on the other base and i would never see her, but she is my neighbor! i went swimming with the dolphins yesterday morning and that was a day i will never forget. we all piled in to a wooden boat with a motor on the back, drove till we saw dolphins and then all plopped over the side and chased them. you could see under water with your mask and see them gracefully turning and circling underneath the water. you could hear their conversations under water. it was incredible. the only thing that would have been more amazing would have been if they stopped and let me grab a fin. i want to go back and do this again. we then went to a little island and snorkeled along the reef. so many fish. in so many colors and patterns and shapes. coral. so many eyes under there, inches away. we drank Coke in a bottle. the panoramic views were breathtaking. it is rainy season so everything is lush and green. words cannot describe. i fear that attempt to upload pictures will only be in vain. but i will try. 

for now, i think i will get dressed and find my french press and make a cup of coffee. it is hot. so coffee honestly doesn't sound so good right now. but instant oatmeal does, so i will make that too.  big plans this week to interview the director of education for this region. excited about that. little girls are clapping and singing outside my window to the left. a hear a giggle. visitors are playing a guitar outside my window to the right. my mosquito net stinks and i reckon i kinda do too. my legs need shaving badly. my face is sunburned. i'm so happy that this is my life. so undone that the State of Georgia released me to go and do, painful but full of peace. great things are coming. more soon.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

White River

I am in a little area outside of Nelspruit called White River. It is incredibly beautiful and reminds me of Zim. I am not far from Kruger and would love to come back to go to the park. I leave in the morning for Jo'burg on the 3.5 hour shuttle and then have a late afternoon flight to Pemba that arrives after midnight. This place is just stunning. My flight was sheer bliss and all is well. I could not really see much of the landscape as it was late last night when I arrived. So I actually am looking forward to the 3.5 hour ride in daylight. Hope to snap some photos in the morning and blog from the coffee shop at the airport as I wait for my flight. Pray my bags and contents follow me. XO

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

grace for the moment

so in that moment, when my boss is telling me that i am being released from my job of ten years, all i could honestly think of  was that i was free. i was instantly free to go and dream and do. in that moment, there was very little sadness or anxiety because i was simply elated that i could join this team in going to africa and helping to start this vocational school. and now, a month later, the time has come. i admit that for a moment recently, i thought perhaps i should not go. perhaps i should stay home and look for jobs and send out resumes and i felt all this pressure to go back to the confines of a 9-5 and be responsible. i still feel that pressure in a way. i feel that our society functions around jobs and careers and being in a season of not having one is harder to adopt that i ever imagined. but i am free. totally free. it is hard to get my head around this little respite of freedom. yes, i have bills to pay and a mortgage and this freedom won't last long. i just got back from a trip, again, feeling guilty for traveling whilst i should be looking for a job. but. i don't even quite know what i want to do or where i want to live, so how can i even begin to seek out a job right now? the question is rhetorical, please don't answer. and the last think i want to do is step into ten more years of obligation and duty and become a slave to a career that is not even what i want do to. so i got away. i went to DC, thanks to airtran and dear friends and a free place to stay and a ministry called prayDC. i spent 5 days in our nations capitol, simply looking, seeking, dreaming and praying. even the prayers seemed tiny and more like, "Lord, help", than much of anything else. i walked Capitol Hill, watched the House debate, skipped up and down Embassy Row, simply observing. i took a good hard look at it all. would i want to move to DC? would i want to work for a Senator? Lobby? i don't think so. i loved Embassy Row. i love anything dealing with international policy. that fascinates me way more than any debate on a national farming bill or constituent services or tax reform. so i walked up and down and watched people and prayed, "Lord, help". i thought about what it would be like to be an ambassador, dreamed about USAID and what foreign service would look like and wondered if it was really as full of bureaucracy and a bunch of do-nothing desk jobs as i have been told. i wondered if i could ever have influence, among leaders, could i really play a role in shaping policy? can i help the poor, be a voice for the voiceless, help eliminate corruption, create good policy, allocate funds, feed the hungry, bring justice, healthcare, education, hope. 

(photo courtesy of michaela potterbaum)
meanwhile, my friends are booking their flights to Africa and are asking when i plan to arrive. i don't have a job. i am walking up and down the streets of DC starring at people and wondering if i can leave next week for a month long trip in Africa. twice a month for ten years, money got dropped into my bank account. not anymore. what do i even know about vocational school administration? or forming a nonprofit? or feeding the hungry? or educating the poor? not much. but i have a tiny loaf and i am willing to sacrifice it. i leave monday. i "bought" a buddy pass for my birthday in August and will be using it to fly to Johannesburg. today i bought a friday flight out to pemba, mozambique. pray for favor and that i get on Mondays flight. i will return April 14th. i wish you could see the massive grin on my face right now. elated. happy. excited. embarrassed at myself for even doubting for a minute that i should not go. i have to go. why NOT go?

if you would like to help in donating toward my trip,you may. Beulah Church has agreed to take in donations for me, so you can donate through a 501c3. make checks payable to Beulah PHC, and mail them to my kind mother:

Jene Davis
7406 Reed Creek Highway 
Hartwell, GA 30643

and know that i covet your prayers. pray that we are able to come up with a curriculum and a plan and strategy for creating a vocational school to educate these young people.  a plan that coincides with their culture and ways of learning, a plan that will equip them, will create jobs, will change the economy in this poor little town and revolutionize it. and pray that i get on the flight and i don't die of cholera (see previous entry). 

so the little blog could get interesting. i will for sure come here and post updates. sadly, mozambique dial-up internet doesn't really allow for uploading pictures, but i will update as frequently as possible and i plan to take my laptop this time. i will fill you in on it all and will also take my lovely Canon t1i and capture sweet faces to upload when i get back. i will be back before you know it, perfecting a resume and applying for jobs. for now, i have to do this. my suitcase is open on the floor as i unpack from DC and repack for Africa. i cannot believe i get to live this life. thank you for reading, your words of encouragement and cheering me on. much love, grace