Thursday, October 25, 2012


Not this Sunday or the next but the next I will be sleeping in my big bed, soaking in a tub of hot water, and waking to coffee with Mom and Dad! Departing for Georgia on November 9th, arriving in the ATL November 11th.

I told the kids this week about my departure. Sweet Cesar buried his face in his hands and said over and over, "I cannot believe this". I assured him I would be back. It is nice to know that I will be missed. I will miss him too and all his friends, more than they will know.

mozambican sky. rooftop. chocolate. friends. 

mana grace

My little family of students and I are becoming close now that it is just us. I’m a single mom now. I am very protective of them and am adamant about spending our time in the classroom wisely. They walk very far to be there and I want to teach them something valuable while they are with me. Occasionally we have visitors come to volunteer. I very much want visitors there as they are vital to what we do. But I find that we Westerners often don’t have a clue. Last week I had three guests in the classroom and earlier had felt so threatened and judged by them. They came in asking tons of questions on how I do things and what types of books do I use and what curriculum and what types of programs do I do and even offered suggestions. They had been there 30 minutes and were trying to tell me what to do. They came in using all their English words and phrases and my students just looked at them all wide-eyed. They could not understand them. 

Now I am certain it was never the intent of the visitors to attack the work that I am doing and perhaps they thought I wanted their constructive criticism, but they haven’t a clue how things work around here and how none of their ideas even apply to this culture. Our most recent technology is a dry erase board. So I am sitting in my plastic chair trying to love and work that out all in my heart and see where they are coming from and trying to understand Westerners in spite of being one. I instruct them all to sit in a circle so that the visitors can hear from the students and listen to their English and try to understand each other. I am so, so protective of these kids. The westerners start telling the kids how “they” do things. My kids are already insecure in so many ways, I don’t want them to feel different or inferior by pointing out all the ways they are different. I work hard to try to tell them that we are the same. A visitor finally compliments them on their English after some pretty decent back and forth conversation. She asks where they learned to speak like that. Then Cesar, precious, adorable Cesar doesn’t miss a beat and says, “Of course, I learned my English from Mana Grace”. I was radiating. That’s my boy! The visitors walked away impressed and gave me a nod of approval. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Here and there

Summer sun and Fall leaves.
Breakfast on the Beach. A first.
While I am there, Laura is here in Kentucky. Fall leaves and Baby Feet. I love this!
my student brought rubies to school to sell to me. i didn't buy them. should i?

the boy on the left wants to be a doctor. they were putting together this small wooden puzzle. it took them awhile but they figured it out. i love watching them learn. 

ongoing grace

The other day during the second half of class we  were in our circle of plastic chairs, conversing. I try not to do all of the talking and just ask them questions in various tenses and we practice the vocabulary we are learning. On this day I ask the boys to give me a subject, my little evangelist, Chawale says, “Jesus”. So I wonder how in the world we are going to use our vocabulary about “directions”, “city centers”, “fruits and vegetables”, “the bakery”, and “the butcher” to include Jesus. But I just go with it. It sparks a good conversation as I try to convey to the boys how Jesus is my everything. I tell them a tiny bit about how Jesus arranged to bring me here with them and how much I love my new career. I want them to tell me about how Jesus has worked in their lives. I try to show them how to trust God in all things and want to know how He takes care of them. I am quite certain there are Muslim boys around the circle too. All of a sudden I remember that Chawale had told me he had a friend in prison and I feel compelled to ask him about him. He laughs and points to Jackson and says, “It was him”. I had been in Zambia when all this first happened and never put it all together that Chawale’s friend was one of my students! Our students come and go and it is not unusual for some to be missing for weeks at time and reappear. Jackson stands up and begins his story. He laughs a lot throughout the whole story and tells bits of it in three different languages but here is what I got:

He went to school to take a test and didn’t finish the test but was hungry so he went home and they tell him he could finish the test the next day (I still have no idea why he told this part). He was at home and apparently his neighbor came over and was angry and violent and accused him of stealing some flip-flops and two cell phones and some other things. Then Jackson fought him. Apparently the police come and Jackson goes to jail. During that time Chawale goes to see him in jail and brings him food. He tells me that the prison food is horrible. And for him to say that, it must be. These guys eat pretty much anything and never complain. It is not really in their vocabulary to “like” or “not like” a food. Food is sustenance. He says he is in jail for 20 days. He says it is awful and he is very afraid. He demonstrates what he does as he gets down on his knees, raises his hands to heaven and says, “Jesus, help me. Get me out of here”. That night he has a dream where a “white angel” walks up to him and says in English, “You will leave here tomorrow”. The following morning Jackson is called before Tribunal Court. (The same court I went to and before the same judge). He tells the judge that he is innocent and that he didn’t steal. Jackson says his fines total over 7,000 mets. That’s over $250. Most people make about 100-200 mets a day. This is a lot of money. The judge asks him, “Where do you go to school?”. Jackson tells him he goes to the Iris Vocational School. Then the judge says, “This is the first time I have seen you here and I want it to be the last. Go to the Vocational School and stay out of trouble”. He then waives Jacksons fines and lets him go. Jackson got set free! He was found not guilty. The judge set him free. He says he again dropped to his knees and thanked God right there in front of everyone. He told us that that judge knows God too. 

My mouth was wide open during the whole telling of this story. I am trying to listen as he goes from Portuguese to Makua to English and I am processing the words that he said and the story begins to translate. The judge let him go. I can’t know for sure but this same judge I stood before let my student go. I know the judge knows what I do and where I work. He sent his clerk to my office door to give me my summons. He let Jackson go! He had mercy on him. The judge had mercy on my innocent little Jackson. I will never know if my actions a few months ago impacted this judge, but all I know is Jackson had an encounter and was given grace in the same room where I gave what little I had and it’s changed him. I remain just blown away by this majestic God we serve. He takes care of his children. He sets the captives free. He restores justice. He is good. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

my anniversary

I celebrated my one year anniversary this weekend. I have been living in Mozambique for one year. I went to back to Georgia for 7 weeks and had that little respite just a few weeks ago, but other than that, I have been here. I celebrated a day early by packing a bag on Saturday morning and taking my iPod and orange juice to the beach. It was the perfect way to spend a big part of the day. There are only a handful of public places that exist here and obviously I never go completely alone anymore, because I promised Mother. So now I just go and sit beside strangers. I went and sat and soaked in one of the most beautiful views on Earth. The tide was way out. The little Mozambican girls were there gathering food in their little tin pots. They stare and I wave. It seems so out of place, as if they are looking through time, only their plastic flip flops reveal the decade, and the woman in the “Obama Girl” t-shirt. 

I drank in the sun and the sea as I often feel that even if I live here another year or ten, 365 or 3,650 it is not enough time to look at this view. I am rarely here as it is. Monday through Friday the view is quite different. There is work to do, classes and running around. But it is the weekend and the morning and early afternoon are all mine. 

By 4:00 I was washing lettuce and tomatoes from a bucket of water and preparing salad. Rodrigo is leaving. It was his farewell party. The boys were making pizza from our brick oven. Nick had prepared 40 balls of dough. The boys had prepped by cutting up vegetables and hauling water and started the fire. It was dark and hard to see. We finally found light and borrowed headlamps and the boys created an assembly line. With focused determination Jackson and Tinente added roasted chicken and cheese and vegetables and the boys outside master the brick oven after only two slightly burned mistakes. They come out beautifully and the missionaries raved and the boys beamed.  It was a lot of work. But the plan is to continue training the boys until they can run the business on their own, with as little monitoring as possible. It is fun to look back at the big picture and see how just a little instruction and a little  education can go such a long way in giving someone a skill that can literally be life-changing. I love this model and being able to play a part in this. It is a lot about just waking up the dreamers. It is not about awakening a passion of making pizza but opening their eyes to the awareness that they can do, create, make, build and equip themselves with what they need. 

My students are becoming my best audience. They absolutely love an animated, goofy sense of humor. Who knew? They laugh when I act out words and explain words and phrases with dramatic overemphasis. Mr. Bean is popular here. I am learning that goofy wit in the classroom works. The kids sit on the edge of their seats when I explain “slang” and popular phrases. They listen to Western music and a few weeks ago one asked me, “Mana Grace, what does ‘welcome to my ‘hood’” mean? I am always a little wary of just what they will ask me next. They bring out their memorized lyrics and I try to explain the meaning of these songs. They bring phrases from television and more and more I catch them mimicking me in saying, “Wow! Good job. Very nice.” to one other. After Monday’s lesson Amilcar said, “Mana Grace, you are my favorite English teacher”. Granted I am his only English teacher and his only teacher at that since he dropped out of school. But it made my year. He will never know what that meant. Thanks Amilcar. Thanks for welcoming me to your ‘hood. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

brick oven pizza

a holiday

It is a holiday in Mozambique and my brother-in-law’s birthday. October 4th. According to my students we are celebrating a day of peace. We had a holiday last week too. I love Mozambican holidays. I think they have more than the State of Georgia and that’s a lot. 
I am on my way to my tennis friend’s house on the sea for a day of R&R. I have stopped at a little local backpacker lodge to sit and write and for a change of scenery. 

Something about being here makes me crave the creative. I devour anything beautiful, artistic, unique. I daydream about maybe becoming a designer or writer and moving back to America to work for Ann Mashburn (Atlanta clothing designer) and just create beautiful things.  I wanted to be surrounded my color and linen, Egyptian cotton, Dupioni, gingham and seersucker. I am shocked at how badly I miss the South. Of course I miss my family and my friends on a level I could never truly explain but I miss the South in a way I never knew. I didn’t realize how closely I was attached to her. I never knew how Southern I really am. I miss all the flavors at her table. I miss her voice and her hospitality. When I was just in Cape Town a guy asked me about where I was from and 30 minutes later, when I had finished my monologue said, “Wow. I didn’t realize Georgia was that amazing. You should write about all that”.  It is hard to write about it when you are not there, so I escape when I can via a Southern Living magazine. I only have 6 and I have read 3 and am saving the others for the next national holiday or Sunday afternoon on the beach. 

I asked my kids the other day about the whole Congress thing. About how they spent the reported $4 million dollars on a conference. I got blank stares back at me. I asked if they agreed with this decision. I got silence. Then I got a head nod, yes and a head nod, no and asked them to explain but they just cocked their heads at me with looks of confusion on their faces. Maybe it was my broken, rubbish Portuguese or maybe they don’t know that they can have an opinion. Or maybe they don’t know how poor they really are. They don’t know their schools are bad and their hospitals decrepit. 

So I have absolutely no plans to return to the Western world and work in a job to make someone else's dream come true. I am living right in the middle of my own. My students need me and I need them. I take pleasure in teaching them about my world as they teach me about theirs. Every day they make me appreciate every blessing. In just one year they have made me different. I hope they can say the same. 

a communist democracy and Canadian doubles

It is Sunday. I am waiting on the power to shut off and hoping it doesn’t. We have been having the 10th Congress here and the power was left on last weekend. Apparently it is a meeting of national leaders primarily from the ruling political party and a few invited guests, prime ministers from other countries. I only read one article online so I am still confused as to just exactly what they were doing. But having worked in politics for ten years, I have a general idea. The flood of 4000 people into this city was noticed as was the fact that they fixed all the potholes in the road for the event and put police with real guns and on real motorcycles at the end of every street. They built an entire compound with housing and meeting facilities to host this event. It cost millions. You’re the 11th poorest country in the whole wide world and you spend a reported $4 million, or maybe it was 8, on a conference. My students come to class hungry. Your health care and education system are pitiful. $4 million could do a lot here and 8 would do more. But once again I am reminded to love no matter what. Despite my opinions of leadership, I came here to love. Poverty is incredibly unfair. Corruption is too. I will enjoy the newly patched roads and keep doing what I do. 

Rodrigo is leaving in two weeks with no plans to return in the immediate future. He met a girl. Andrea is arriving from England in four. She is coming to help take over while I am gone. I will have one week to train her. I am ecstatic that she is coming. Just as with Rodrigo, I feel that she is hand-picked for this job and I am elated that she is coming to join our team. 

Hopefully this week some of our kids will be joining the older women in our Iris sewing school. And in the near future making handmade items for us to sell. In a few weeks, Baptista, our young farmer will return from his training program. And this weekend John left for Kenya to attend a month long training in organic farming that will offer funding for him to return and develop farms in rural areas. Great things are happening, even though they never happen as fast or quite like I had planned. The Mozambicans are teaching me. You all played a part in these triumphs and I am grateful. 

I am trying this “relaxing” thing and it seems to be working. It sure beats working myself into a tizzy and putting undue pressure on myself. Our classroom numbers seem to be dwindling again and I put pressure on myself to perform and give them what they want so that they will keep coming. I want to return with a product to show you. I want you to know you are investing in worthwhile projects by investing in me. But this business of changing a culture is not easy. 500 years of captivity. I can’t change it in a day or in a two year commitment. Our director talks a lot about “going low and slow”. It doesn’t sound one bit productive but it really is the only way here. It works. I am learning how. 

I am learning that creating plans and programs and businesses is all in vain without the foundation of true relationship. I am simply being sent here to love. I have been sent to be a safe place and to do my very best to point these children into the direction of hope, joy, peace and all the things relationship with Christ brings. I want to plug them into my source, my hope, my joy and my peace. I am here to show them how I walk out my faith and to share my experience of the unfailing, ever constant love of God in my life. It seems like a very tall order for a girl like me. Relationship means deep friendship. It means family and commitment and the “trough” is messy. (Proverbs 14:4) It is not easy to love these kids through their lying and stealing. It is not always easy to love my most trustworthy neighbor. I am not always good at it. As a matter of fact I am kinda bad at it most of the time. But these kids don’t point out my weaknesses but take me as I am. 

I have recently been invited into the little expat group of tennis players. Now for one hour, three days a week I am no longer Mana Graca the missionary teacher. I get to shed my dress below the knee and put on shorts (once I get there of course) and play tennis. I’ve promised Mother I will not walk or run alone so this sport is an answer to prayer. We gather our pale worn out balls and flip for the court that doesn’t have grass growing through the cracks. Language teachers, a veterinarian, oil worker wives and me. The hour is up before I know it and I wrap my capalana around my waist and walk with a short stride back to the scooter and pray each and every time that she cranks so I won’t be embarrassed. 

Nick, another missionary, is working with some of our boys making brick oven pizza. A long time ago other missionaries built the oven on the base. Nick has decided to put it to work. The plan is to sell them to the 300 students who come here for our ten week mission school twice a year. Their coming provides lot of opportunities for us to create small entrepreneurial based training programs. This little business will teach our students about money management, marketing, customer service and how to make pizza. I have invested some of our funding to help get the business up and running and will be helping as we make and sell twice a week. A few of our students are also involved in this business. I love working alongside our kids in ways like this, having fun and creating something together and teaching one another.