Monday, April 29, 2013

os planos

I bought plane tickets this week! All of this could change yet again, but for now they look like this:

July 24-August 7 (Pemba-Cape Town)
August 7-8 (Joburg- Pemba)
October 7-8 (Pemba-Joburg)
October 8-9 (Joburg-Atlanta)

Since I decided to stay here longer, I have to go to South Africa to renew my visa. I opted to take a little time off and decided to take advantage of being close to one of the most fabulous cities in the world, Cape Town. It will be winter there. I am already making lists of all I want to see and do. Even shopping is secondary to finding delicious, fresh fruit and vegetables, roughage and berries and cheese. I will include you on the culinary tour. I will be staying again at the little Greek style, pale blue house with the ocean views in Simon’s Town. I will leave Cape Town and have a forced overnight stay in Joburg. Boring blah, cold Joburg. Thankfully, I leave early the following morning. Currently, the plan is to be in Mozambique until October 7th, leaving for Atlanta on October 9th. These flights are notoriously full and very hard to successfully fly via standby. Even though I am not a fan of Joburg, there are worse places to be stranded; Dar Es Salaam, the side of the road on the way to Vidagas, in front of Supermercado, Natiti village.  

I am also going to Ibo Island in May. I plan to graduate the students from the English school on May 15th. We’ve been having classes since the first of February. Adele is coming back at the end of May. We can take a short break and resume upon her arrival. I assumed Ibo was a once in a lifetime opportunity, but apparently I get to go twice. I went in 2007 and camped in tents and didn’t sleep. We drove trucks for two days to get to the wooden dhow that took us there and slept in a village after getting permission from the chief. This time I am flying and staying in a hotel. When I was there last, I stood in front of  the Ibo Island Lodge and told her, “I will be back”. And now it is happening! I will not even know what to do with myself. Three balanced meals a day and hot running water will be rare treats. I plan to snorkel, take pictures, long walks and guided tours. 

When I signed up for this gig I had no idea of the blessings, adventure and stays in the  grandest places in all the world would come along with it. Every sacrifice pales in comparison to the intricate provision.
love, grace

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Francisco's Test

This student is in the 11th grade and this is his English test. He brought it to show me his good grade. I'm so proud. A little enamored by the content, yet elated about his accomplishment.

Wednesday Morning


My students loved this movie. I really wanted us to read the book first but that didn't happen. I still want us to read it together soon. I wasn't sure they would get the parallel, so I attempted to pause at times and simply describe the basics of good vs evil. When Aslan rose from the dead, Zito screamed "Jesus" (pronounced Gzay-zeus)!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


my mornings are so incredibly routine. crawl out of bed. turn on kitchen lights per africa rule #2. fill espresso pot. add coffee. turn on gas. light stove. add pot. make oatmeal. turn off gas. cut apple. add to oatmeal. take probiotic, multivitamin and a trio of other necessary medications. this bum shoulder, slow moving parts, this awful abscess that came from who knows what. a variety of intestinal and digestive “issues” that never seem to go away. no water flows from either sink today, and most every morning for almost two months now. my buckets are low today. i take breakfast to the desk in my bedroom, make the bed and sip coffee. with my phone in one hand and the spoon in the other i check emails. nothing. just junk mail from Southern Living Recipes and Runner’s World. i have a voxer audio message from Christine! i listen intently, making mental notes of what to respond to. she fills 6 minutes of my morning with a Southern accent and beautiful, inspiring one way conversation. i don’t reply for fear of waking her. 

i make a guess at the forecast and choose an outfit. today i step outside the norm of baggy linen and choose white jeans. a pair i bought with betty at phipps plaza during a lunch break 9 years ago. and a gap outlet clearance rack nautical stripped tee. Target braided sandals. i have tried to go without makeup. one morning i opted for the extra ten minutes sleep but Beato noticed the second i walked in and asked me what was wrong with my face. his exact words. 
the other morning when i asked one of my newest students how he was doing he told me he was “bright”. he is a smart kid with great vocabulary and a good learner, so i corrected him. i told him how “bright” was not really a state of being, but could be used to describe intelligence. then he said to me, “you are light”. i am sure i looked at him a little confused but smiled and nodded. then he said, “you’re face is a fairy tale”. i am still not exactly sure what he meant by that. but i was flattered. a “fairy tale” is much better than “what’s wrong with your face”. i attribute both to Maybelline under eye concealer and the lack thereof.

in both the morning and afternoon classes we go over non-progressive verbs with prepositions. i don’t emphasize the need to know these terms as much as i simply want them to learn the vocabulary and to practice using these verbs with their correct prepositions. i ask them what they are “accustomed to”, “scared of”, “annoyed by”, “interested in”, etc. both groups have a common theme. out of both groups a majority of students are both “annoyed by” and “scared of” rats. one boy even stands up to show me the hole the rat has eaten in his jeans. their sentences includ, “i am scared of rats biting me in the night” and “i am annoyed by rats eating my food and clothes”. the things they are “disappointed by” are also eye opening, shattered hopes and dreams. this tiny lesson is deeply revealing. their fears and concerns also includ the impossibility of going to university and overall severe lack of money. i had no idea all this would surface. they even reveal dislike of their government, along with the rats and lions.  yes, lions. 

they are all becoming such good friends. i love watching their personalities and learning about their interests. i had a trouble maker from last week apologize to me on Monday morning. i love the way they light up when i recall things about them that i remember. they love being seen. who doesn’t? Anselmo likes to box and lift weights. Stella likes to sing R & B. Jackson wants to be a preacher in Australia. Rofi wants to be a geologist and go to Oxford in England. Trago really wants to go to university to be a doctor but he tells me to pay for university, “it is impossible”. rats are eating their jeans, but here i am telling them they can go to Oxford. 

i recently heard a beautiful made-for-me sermon by Bill Johnson. i put them on before i go to bed. primarily to focus my attention away from the boom of the barraca music and to fill my head with thoughts of the Kingdom as i drift off to sleep. the message was on famine. he told about Isaac planting and getting 100x more than normal out of his crop. i am facing a huge famine and i have to plant a seed. i have to refuse to be intimidated by the power of the famine.he also said that the favor that is upon your life is not for you, but for those over whom you have influence. it resonated with me right away. the favor on me is for them. all this crazy favor and blessing that i have experienced over the past several years, is for these. i want these children to come under these promises and blessings. i want every testimony of how God supernaturally moved me from one world to this one to become theirs. i want to see their dreams fulfilled and God’s favor to hover over their lives. i don’t think i even have to share the testimonies (although i do). i simply need to be here and just be who i am. as i give away myself, the favor goes with it. God put the favor on me, to bring it here to give away. i have been blessed to be a blessing to this world around me. i want to rebuild the way they see themselves. i want to look at the famine of a scrawny kid with rat eaten jeans and see a 100x harvest of a geologist studying in England, Trago the Doctor, Amilcar the Designer, Francisco the Actor. 

this day has exhausted me. i found green grapes at the barraca days ago and i am just now taking the time to enjoy them. $8 but worth every “meticai”.  i have way more questions than i have answers. my vision for my own future grows more and more narrow and yet blurred. for now, i am here. and i will be here, making coffee and oatmeal and planting seeds. 

Monday, April 22, 2013


some of you have asked how to send me things. if i understand correctly, we have sewing supplies donated by Hartwell Service League, arriving via Fran in June. thank you! we have dictionaries being donated by an individual from Singapore, which my parents can bring. and textbooks and other supplies are arriving with Andrea, Adele and Richard.

 so here are my personal, selfish
wants. i was able to prioritize the list. you can also email me and i can tell you a few more things that i need. also if you have items on hand you want to donate, this may be the best opportunity.  email me @

you can have items shipped to:
Fran Colquitt
170 Murray Avenue
Hartwell, GA 30643

many thanks, 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

days without grace

Yesterday, I went to the beach with a group of missionaries to celebrate a birthday. Lying on the sand and looking at the sky (photo below) I am always overwhelmed by the beauty of this place. My week had been a tough one. The great missionary Jeff Reed said, “It’s a good day when nobody dies”. When your good day is based on no one dying, it leaves a lot of room for other bad things to happen. Such beauty and such poverty. This is my world. 

I may have told you this before, but I am often reminded of running into Mallory Stuckey maybe 2 years ago in Morningside, we were getting frozen yogurt. And I had just had dinner at Rosebuds. Ahhh. Food. Berries. As we interviewed each other, catching up, she asked me what I was doing and I told her, “the same”. I had been working at the capitol for 10 years. She asked if I liked it and I shrugged. When asked what I really wanted to do I confessed I wanted to move to Africa. This stirring in my heart was unrelenting and it consumed by thoughts and actions as I was quietly making plans to do so. I expected her to call me crazy or unknowingly belittle my plans (sorry Mal) as most people do when thrown a curve ball like “moving to Africa”. Her reply was shocking, “don’t we all”. I knew then that she too had this desire, as do many of you I have met along the way. You will all get here in one way or another, as God doesn’t leave these seeds unwatered. But I knew then that others had this dream and I was not alone. I have several close friends back home who all would love to be doing this work. They encourage me like no one else. Yet, I think of them on all my really hard days. Mallory, will you come draw water? Mary, my students keep asking me for money. Money for help with life threatening illnesses or for transport to funerals for young people who died tragic deaths. What do I do? Ky, I miss Atlanta, want to switch places next weekend? I want to go to Rosebuds and eat yogurt with berries. 
Most every day that I have been here I have felt total and complete grace for this place and these surroundings. The rat and the snake did rattle me a bit but I survived that. The heat is awful, but we survive. I have this nagging ache in my kidney but it is bearable. I get tired of eating the same things over and over but I have food. There are some days that the grace lifts a tiny bit and you feel every struggle and discomfort without anesthesia and it is painful. I absolutely need His grace to sustain me. 
As I looked at the calendar this week and rearranged plans, the future is completely unknown. There is no 10 year plan. I did that already. I get to see it maybe six months at a time. That drives me crazy. But it makes me ever more dependent on Him and that is the only way. This life has made me fully, completely, totally, utterly dependent on Him. I have to seek His counsel on everything. 
Just this week a student came to me crying, recovering from malaria, weak and sick. His step mother had been to the witch doctor and he believed she had put a curse on him. His brother was doing “very, very bad things” and he says it is from going to the witch doctor too. I can’t listen to and respond to these requests and concerns from a desk. I can’t handle these situations from arms length. I can’t give canned answers. I have to give this child hope and teach him truth and to do so, I have to know it myself! There on the side of the road, I pray for him. A car stops on the side of the road and a man gets out and says that he has many sick people in his family and wanted to know where my church is. During the time it happened I was honestly annoyed. Can I girl not pray for a boy on the side of the road without someone wanting something from me? I see this nation with their hands out wanting. It is hard for me. The statistics are heart wrenching. I’ve never been hungry, I’ve never been desperate. Their desperation shocks me. So this job isn’t easy. For me to meet this boy with the answers that he needs I have to be on my toes. I have to know some truths and have them daily on my tongue. I tell him not to fear and I find scripture coming out of my mouth. I tell him that he is light and all darkness has to flee.
I have to leave him because I have a room full of students waiting and I go to class. More boys eager for me to teach them what I know. We laugh and go over “the continuous” for the umpteenth time. On the scooter rides home I always take in the view of the sea. It never ceases to make me smile inside and out. I have to slow down for a boy pushing a legless man in a wheelchair in the middle of the roundabout. I slow again for the chickens in my driveway. All of these moments change me a little. And it is my prayer that they never cease from changing me. The man in the wheelchair. The barefooted boy. The paraplegic woman who crawls using wooden blocks in her hands. All of these people change me. I do nothing for them, but they change me just by looking at them. I just pray it all sticks and these changes are forever. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

a slow realization

It’s Saturday. We’ve been without water here now for over a month. We can get it from a well and fill buckets and it will come on at random times but consistent water we have not had. I rarely complain about these things but I post way too many pictures of the sea and don’t want you to get the wrong impression. I don't like capturing Mozambique in her poverty and her vulnerability, but it is part of it. And lack of basic resources is a reality.

I awoke Friday morning to the sound of running water, my neighbor filling buckets, so I jumped up and did the same. But the water was filthy. Not much you can do with that. I don’t even want to run that water through the filter to drink. I loaded up a bucket to have water with which to flush the loo. I had woken up earlier in the middle of the night. As per my No. 2 rule in Africa, Always Turn on the Lights, I had turned on the lights to go to the loo. I sleepily took a sip of water from the glass by my bed, the very last of my bottled water, purchased from the barracca by the road. As I picked up the glass I noticed a lizard taking a drink. I had no choice but to take sip and share. It was the only drinkable 8oz in the house.

As I have been looking at the calendar and, an August departure seems so soon. I am still here alone and Andrea is still in England. Adele arrives in May but will leave in August. Andrea will be back but has planned in advance to be gone mid August to mid September. That will leave all our plans and programs and school unattended. Therefore, I feel that I cannot leave. I have slowly come to this realization. Don’t feel too sorry for me. Mom and Dad are coming and I will have to go to South Africa to renew my visa. I have to leave the country by August 2nd. So at the moment I plan to spend my birthday in Cape Town. I will take a rest there. Eat. Bathe. And come back to Pemba until help arrives and I can leave the school, our internships, and other programs in their able hands. It is great that we have plans on the horizon. I expect our internships to start in May. I feel that if I leave, those external programs will fizzle out and the students need to be monitored. And we are making huge progress in the English classes.  I can’t just stop it all so quickly and leave them without someone to continue the work.

I am a little bummed that I won’t be home in August, but Georgia in August is pretty rough, hot, humid, blah. I miss seasons, leaves, cold weather, blue jeans, boots, sweaters. Mozambique in August is actually quite nice. Georgia in October or November, on the other hand is lovely. So that is my solace, a fall wardrobe and pumpkin pie. 

Saturday drive home from the beach

typical vender. usually selling underwear. today it looks like an assortment of socks and baby hats.

crystal clear ocean. drinking water, a little murky.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Good Eats

In the afternoon class on Friday I wanted to show my students a film. For me, it has to be something educational, something to give them more extensive vocabulary, something G-Rated. I decided to show them, "Good Eats", UGA grad, Georgia resident and James Beard Award Winner Alton Brown's television show. Somehow I inherited at least 6 or more Seasons of this show on my hard drive. I alluded to watching it when the you-know what dropped in on me. It is great for them because it is educational, he teaches a little about the science behind the food. And you learn to cook. And it is something that they have not seen before. They were baffled as he walked grocery store aisles. I am on Season 2 and selected one I had not seen either and we nestled around the laptop on Friday. The screen is hard to see because the school is an open building and it is too bright. But the students don't complain and get excited with the opening credits. This particular episode is on pancakes. I don't know if they could imagine the goodness of all those ingredients or it is was me, licking my lips, telling them how UH-MAZING pancakes are, but they were hooked. They wanted to try them. Alton put blueberries in his. We don't have those. I tried my best to describe light, fluffy amazing pancakes to them. M'faume said, "one day you bring-ee we cook". I quickly came up with the next best thing. The Indian restaurant serves something remotely like a pancake.  They even call them "pancakes" on the menu. For them, and for me not to have to cook pancakes for hungry men who had never had them before, I got up at the crack of dawn and treated these sweet young men to breakfast. I picked one student up and discovered he walks really far to come to class every day. I am so so glad I came all those days in the rain. I knew he came from far away but had no idea. It makes me realize even more how much they value this time of learning and how important it is for me to pour in all that I can, while I can. 

Despite having lived in this town for years, none of them had even been down this far down "Beach Road". It is only about 3 miles from our school, but none of them had been here. It is very common for them not to have ever been to a restaurant, but to not have explored the town in where they live kinda blows my mind. They all stood and just stared at the ocean view. They were telling me of when and where they had seen beaches like this before. But I wanted to say, "you live here and can come to this beach any time". I don't understand this. 

They were all giddy with excitement. I had told them they could only speak English and that they had to order in English. They did! I was so proud. They even talked amongst each other in English too. I would not let them order Coca Cola, but told them to order something they had never had before. They ordered Indian Teas. We ordered the pancakes with ice cream and they were thrilled. I told them how to use their knife and fork. (Sorry Americans, the Europeans and even South Americans, know how to use them best- knife in dominate hand, fork upside down in the other). The table got really quiet as we ate. We were there for two hours or more, eating, visiting, talking, laughing. It was a beautiful way to spend my morning.

The General Manager came over to the meet the students and shared with them a little about the hospitality industry. I told the boys how waiting tables led me to where I am today. I've been told by my students that certain jobs are demeaning and they don't want them. But I have tried to tell them that some money is better than no money. The day before had been a huge reality check for me when I found out that none of my students had the 15 mets (28 mets is $1) for the bus to the restaurant, even though they knew I would reimburse them. They had no means to even borrow it for 24 hours. (I am not quite convinced this was the truth as I could not get a direct answer from them one way or the other). 

Most of the time they ask me a lot about America and they like to hear most anything I will talk to them about. I always try to downplay America. "It is really not the greatest place on earth". I try to tell them about the beautiful things I see in their country and their culture. I don't want them to see America as a utopia. But the conversation goes something like this:

Student: Mana Graca, I wanna go America.
What I Say: go TO America. you need to use "to" like the Portuguese "para".  What I think: Me too. My grandmother's birthday is Sunday.
Student: I wanna go TO America.
What I say: No you don't. It really is not all that. We don't have beaches like this and if you did there would be way too many people there to enjoy it. (I don't know how to begin to describe over commercialization). What I think: Florida Panhandle Paradise.
Student: I want to go to New York City or Los Angeles. 
What I say: It costs a lot of money to live there. Most people don't live in those cities but they have to take buses or subways into the towns to work every day. What I think: You and me both. But let's add Napa Valley to that list.
Student: I want to go to America to buy strong things. 
What I say: America has too many things. Too many choices. We Americans waste so much. Living simply is much better. What I think: Decent toilet paper. Thick, beautiful, wonderful toilet paper. Massive retail stores with color and variety and freshly picked things to touch and taste and smell. Flushing toilets. Water. Electricity. Berries. Dairy. Fresh greens from all over the world. Baked Goods. Dark Chocolate. Cashmere. Brand new running shoes. Cars. Leather seats. Sofas. Bath tubs. Coffee shops.
Student: Mana Graca?
What I say: Huh? What I think: Look at the face. What a sweet young man. Look at that ocean. The tide is coming in. This has to be the most beautiful place on earth.
Student: You like Mozambique? 
What I say: You need to use "Do" to form the question. You cannot just raise the intonation of your voice. Remember the words we use to pose questions? What I think: I love my life. 

The boys got pancakes and I got further understanding in their lives. I am so proud of them and want the best of the best for their lives. I know they possess what it takes to succeed. I just wish I could give it to them, spare them pain and disappointment. I am honored to know them. I feel like I have taught them very little, only the joys of knowing pancakes and even those didn't compare. We've only scratched the surface of all I wish I could give them. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

officially official

My parents are coming! They are scheduled to arrive on July 4th. Roy and Vicki Morgan and Emmanuel College student, Haleigh Lewis are coming also, for two weeks. It is honestly Dr. Morgan who really wants to come and began the conversations. I met with them when I was home during Christmas and could feel from across the table his real passion to come and be a part of something as crazy as this. I have tried to tell them, “you have to WANT to come here”. I have had many people want to give and want to help, but few who want to actually get on a plane and come. You can’t just come on a whim, or for the sea or the rice and beans. You have to want to be here. Dr. Morgan clearly wants to come and help and I am honored to be able to give him my space to do so. Carl and Jene are along for the ride. But I am grateful to Dr. Morgan for stirring them. It will mean the world to me to have my parents see this big part of my life. Mozambique has forever shaped who I am and to know me is to know a little about her too. 

The Morgan’s were our neighbors and some of my parents closest friends when we first moved to Hartwell, before I was even born.  Those families in those little houses on Benson Street could have never dreamed this adventure would be in their future. I don’t know quite what God is doing in this, but I am certain He is in it. The Morgan’s and their children and grandchildren (Can you believe your grandparents are coming without you, Cassie and Wyatt? How dare they?) have been supporters of me from the very beginning. It will be fun to get to show them the fruit of our labors, as we are in this together.   Haleigh will get a chance to work in our medical clinic, Mom and Vicki in our sewing school and Dad and Roy can teach in the vocational school. I am counting down the days. It still hasn’t sunk in that they are really coming and that my worlds are merging even more.

The Fish Farm @ 6:30am

the power keeps going on and off as i write this. it goes off without my noticing now. it is when i start to sweat that i notice. the air is still and despite being dressed as minimally as possible, i am dripping. and the weather is actually much cooler than it has been. 

it’s been a good week and exciting things are on the horizon. 
i met with the hotel guy this week and the meeting went well. i don’t know much at this point other than it all went well, he wants to work with us and if things go according to plan it could mean great things for my students and the future of the vocational school.

 i also went to a fish farm out in the bay. a South African company is farming “cob” a high dollar fish sold to high end restaurants. it’s an amazing operation. fish farming could have huge potential in this area and we could benefit by farming our own fish to feed our Center. 

the hotel guy wants me to see a saw mill and i want to see it, so i could be doing that this weekend too. i want to get as educated as possible on all the existing resources we have in this area. it is all a lot of unchartered territory with great opportunity. my dream is to see the locals run with these new opportunities and not be overlooked. there is no surprise that international business are coming in and developing for their own benefit, but i want to see Mozambicans seize these opportunities for themselves. 

it all goes back to Kris Vallotton’s analogy of changing the temperature of the refrigerator with a coffee pot. i have to be able to unplug the fridge and and unplug them from their cycle of poverty, poor education and lies. it’s a tiny drop in a huge sea.  but it is great to be here at a time like this as this nation is growing, adapting and coming out of poverty.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Natiti neighbors

I went to Natiti Village this past week for a ceremony for Cesar's father.

waiting for the ceremony to start, i was forced inside with the women. the men got to sit outside in the breeze. but i got to hold her.

outside Cesar's home

baby with her "baby"

entrepreneurs! (and rat proofing the house)

veronica just walked in and ceremoniously dropped 200 mets into her 1000 met loan envelope. she is way ahead of schedule and will have her loan paid off in no time. i don’t know who is more proud.

this past week, amidst the rats and snake, i was up in the middle of the night. earlier that day zito had asked me for money. he saw that i had made copies of their homework assignments and he wanted copies of his documents. this whole “documents” thing is a constant concern. i just “bought” m’faume’s (the little dutton boy) and now zito is wanting copies of his.  the whole system annoys me and sounds rather oppressive if you ask me. you have to have these documents on your person at all times or else you are thrown in jail. sounds corrupt and like the government is paranoid. i digress. zito wants copies of his documents. i think it is a front for something else. i tell him i had the copies made in town and that they are 1.5 mets.  (28 mets=$1USD). he tells me he doesn’t have it. i believe him. i know he came here to attend our bible school and he lives with family here. i know that just a few years ago the majority of this nation had never even seen currency and that this economy is different than the one i know. i know he depends on family for shelter and for food. his cousin, Paul was one of my students. he now sells cement with a guy from Bangladesh. i know he lives with Paul and Paul shares his rice and beans that he buys from the money he makes. it is the African way, you share. it is one of the many beauty’s of this culture. but i am lying awake thinking, “he doesn’t even have 1 single meticais in his pocket? surely that cannot be”? i’m embarrassed to say how many mets i have on my person at all time. i horde money here because it can be hard to get out of the ATM and i get out the maximum i can each time (at $7 a transaction, thank you very much Bank of America). i hide it from myself all over my room. how does the boy walk around with not one met? it’s not just Zito, it’s everyone. it remains day to day survival here. concepts of savings don’t always work. if Paul has money he is obligated to share with Zito, so Paul can’t save. this is all discussed eloquently in the book African Friends and Money Matters. i recommend it if this sort of thing interests you. digressing again. awake thinking of Zito and his empty pockets and how he must have faith and trust on a bigger level than i can know. wondering how often he goes hungry or does he? wondering what i would do if i didn’t have a freezer to stash my prized possessions, Snickers candy bars. i get nervous when the pantry gets bare. and of course, i never have anything to wear. i could open a small pharmacy with my stash of medicines as well as a cosmetics store. selfish me. poor Zito. “God bless Zito”, i pray as i watch the rat dance along my rafters. 

the following day i march to maintenance, as i have so many times before, and Iuculi knows what i want before i speak. he tells me he already has the cement and to wait. wait, wait, wait. it doesn’t bother me anymore. i am so good at waiting. i stand. i sit. i walk around. i sit. i stand. i dig through my bag. i jot down notes. i stand and sit and walk around some more. a guy arrives and we have a conversation about what needs to be done and within minutes i am riding on Gloria behind a motorcycle, carrying two men, one to drive and one to carry the bucket of cement and the ladder. the powdered cement is flying in the air and getting in my eyes. yet, i don’t mind because we are on a mission. he comes inside and i point to every hole in the ceiling with a bamboo stick, per his suggestion, and he slaps them with wet cement. cement goes everywhere but his assistant goes outside and brings back a flattened cardboard box to catch the debris and i am impressed. they patch holes and i beam. all i can think about is 8 hours uninterrupted sleep. i am so happy. i could hug his neck. but i don’t because that would be really inappropriate. even having him in my home alone is apparently not generally socially acceptable. so a big huge hug might give the wrong impression. i thank him profusely and fall asleep lying on my back and wake up just in time for afternoon class.

when i get there Zito walks in wearing a pretty white shell necklace. it is kinda like those ones surfer guys wear or those you get in those tacky beach shops at Panama City, but different. it is longer, not tight around the neck and the flat shells are all different shapes. it is quite pretty. i compliment him. he removes it and hands it to me and essentially tells me i can borrow it. i know he has a plan. i wear it during class and remove it to return to him when class is over. he triumphantly tells me he made it himself and that it is for sale. well, surprise, surprise. i knew where this was going all along. he made it for me. and it going to sell it to me for a good price. i am so proud of him i can barely contain myself. again, i want to hug his neck. i have lectured on this concept a lot, thinking outside the box and trying to be creative and look at the needs around us and to create a business around that need. he tells me how one of the visitors who had spoken in class the day before was wearing a certain necklace and how they had had a conversation about jewelry and local products. it apparently got Zito thinking about tourism and local products and he went to the beach and collected shells and made something beautiful and made himself 100 mets! i didn’t even bargain with the boy. i gave him what he asked for and applauded him for taking initiative and finding a way to make money. i am again, so so so incredibly proud. 

i wore it on Sunday and my friend Marylou bought it right off my neck. so Zito’s jewelry is already in demand. 

Monday, April 1, 2013


Early last Sunday morning I got a text from a student, Cesar. His father had died over the weekend. Cesar is 18 years old. I’ve told you about him before. His text said, “I am parentless”. Death is all too common here. Women often wait weeks to name their newborn babies, to make sure they are going to live. Living here has made me a little numb. I put up walls.  I am so far away from my own family and the people that I love. I disconnect myself a little. Of course I have love to give, I hug and laugh and share all day but I keep that deep space for a very few and I keep it roped off. I don’t want to get too close to anyone so I put up walls to protect my heart from hurting when it is broken. Cesar is slowing crawling over. I love this boy. I love his heart and his kindness and his insight and discernment and his patience. He is a beautiful person and I am honored God has brought him into my life. I am heart broken that he feels so alone in this world and no longer has an earthly father to advise him. I see my own earthly father as an absolutely genius who knows everything and is the most wise man on earth. Even though I don’t always seek his counsel, I rest in knowing that he is there. I cannot fathom young Cesar’s loss. On Thursday, I see Cesar walking along the side of the road. I know him by his pink jacket he always wears. It is a knock off Adidas girls track suit jacket, polyester. It is, as always, hot as blue blazes and I never have known why he always wears that, but he does. I screeched to a halt and pull over on the side of the road. Cesar runs and falls into my arms. I hold him for a long time. I am immediately aware of the culture mores of physical affection between a man and woman but I cannot push him away. I cannot side hug or shake hands with a grieving boy. We talk a little and he begins to cry again and buries his face on my shoulder. He doesn’t want to cry and is trying to be strong. Other students of mine walk by and ask what is the matter, I tell them and they all, individually, shake hands with Cesar and express their condolences. I love this about their culture. They all know pain and loss and tragedy and they can all empathize with Cesar on a level I cannot. I put my hand on his chest and pray for him. I pray for him as if he were my own son, faced to live life alone. I pray for protection and favor and comfort and strategy and friends and hope. We part awkwardly and I try not to look back. I do and I see a boy in a girl’s jacket, sleeves pushed up to his elbows, walking along the street. I feel so helpless. I feel his uncertainty and fear of the unknown. I’ve let him over the wall and now I don’t know what to do. I put on my helmet and scoot away and pray another prayer. 

I drive to town twice to try to get money from the ATM. But both times the lines are really long. On the third day, I have no choice and I wait in line for an hour or more. I take my wad of cash and stuff it in my wallet. I pull a few small bills for my pockets. I run into two of my students. We greet and stop and talk. They practice their English and I, my Portuguese. We shake hands and nod heads and all three go our separate ways. I go to the sidewalk where men are selling fruit and vegetables. The yell incessantly and offer up all that they have for my inspection. A good missionary would accept this part of their culture and their way of “advertising”. I tell them in the nicest way I know how to please don’t bombard me with their assortments and selections but simply allow me to peruse and if I see something I want or need I will buy it. I know! I am not a good missionary. It is so rude and I am so Western, but I cannot think straight with bananas and mcel credit and plastic scales and sacks of green vegetables and bags of cashews in my face. Let the woman shop. It’s way worse than the department store perfume counter. Relentless, they are. I tame them down a little with my speech of “let a woman shop” and my pseudo polite requests to back off. I leave with a sack of roma-size tomatoes, three huge avocado, limes and two varieties of greens, all for about $8. 

I was invited to go to one of the islands for the weekend but had made three other commitments that I really didn’t want to break. So I stayed home for the weekend. Saturday I went snorkeling and got bitten all over by jellyfish. It happens most every time and each time I forget what the stings feel like and every time I go again and come back with oozing whelps all over my body. I didn’t sleep Saturday night. The whelps and the barraca music kept me up. Even as I write this the barraca is playing really loud Mexican music, guitar strumming. So so so loud. It’ll drive you crazy. I don’t, for the life of me, understand why they have to play it 24/7 and so loudly. Two new barracas have moved in just outside our bedroom windows, one for me, one for Carola. It is not funny. It used to be a joke but now it is a painful reality of our lives. We have even made them a point of prayer. We pray, “bless them Lord. bless them so much that they have to move to a different location” or “bless them so much they get doors and windows”. 

Easter. A Rat. A Snake. Some Chicken Guards. Oh, and the Visitors.

Sunday I was asked to share my story about Eugenio and going to court with a group of local missionaries as part of their Easter service. It was an honor. I loved being home and getting to speak at LifeSprings, Beulah, Cokesbury and Warm Spring during their Sunday services. Getting to share an Easter message was humbling. I shared the story of being robbed, and paying the prisoner’s fines. I did it only because I trusted God. It was not my incredible kindness or heart of great love, but my simple trust in God and knowing Him. I shared my revelation of all that God and His Son have paid for me and how I want to be a good steward of the freedom He gave me by paying a price for me. It is a lifelong lesson for me. Each day, of course, brings a new mercy and a new revelation and I am only beginning to learn just what freedom in Christ means. 

I was exhausted from the sleepless night and came home to take a nap. I woke up groggy and pulled my laptop in bed with me and watched an ancient episode of “Good Eats”. They were filmed in Atlanta and I think he must be at that Disco Kroger in some of them. This episode he was at The Silver Skillet, making biscuits. As I am watching, I also watch a gecko climb the wall in front of me. I watched him for a little while and lost interest and went back to the biscuit making. I heard another faint noise. Since the previous rat infestation and my squirrel encounter, all noises of any kind get my attention, even tiny ones. This noise is so faint it is almost nothing. I looked up just in time to see a snake fall from my rafters onto the floor and then a rat duck back up into the ceiling. I paused in fear. My door was closed and the snake was between me and the door but I wanted to get out and fast. I threw a pillow at him and it worked, sorta. It put an object between him and me and the door and I bolted. Shivers ran down my spine as I leapt out of the room in pretty much a single bound. I found Carola in the kitchen and I announced, “there’s a snake in my room”. Carola the Doctor, takes action. She instantly put on her shoes so I did too. We stood there with our shoes on and she asked me “What should we do?”. I told her to call the guard. We were both speaking a mix of English and Portuguese. “Chamar a guarda”, I said. She ran outside to call the guard and I stood at attention, staring at the floor in my bedroom, not at the snake of course, but at the general area in front of the snake so that I could point out where he is not rather than where he is. The guards arrived with flashlights and Billy clubs. They walked one in front of the other and at the mention of “cobra” they would not even go into my room. They told us that cobras will bite, they will kill you and you will die. I rolled my eyes as I knew where this is going. They were more afraid than I was.  They were hovered together in the kitchen. I joined them. Quick thinking Carola got on the phone and called the other doctor, the South African male one. He came over and so patiently, with not one ounce of fear or concern, walked into my room, moved the pillow, whacked the snake with a Billy club and walked out of the house. The guards followed him with the snake, triumphantly on a bamboo stick. Carola followed them and beat the snake into a pulp, I assume. I stayed inside until the hebejebe’s allowed me to stand back up. I had given up animal proteins, yeast and sugars for the past month or so. There are some things all the Duty Free Vodka one can stash simply cannot fix and for this I needed one thing, chocolate. Carola had a box of cookies in the refrigerator. We broke them out and ate cookies for an hour. We anointed the house with oil and prayed for those dang barracas again, declared our home to be a sanctuary and not a place for pestilence and reptiles and rodents. Of course, we laughed as we did this and we wielded our swords. I read Psalm 91 and fell into a sugar induced sleep. I awoke to a sugar hangover headache this morning. I am home now for lunch and writing this, glaring at the space from whence the rat and the snake entered last night, praying more. After the snake was dead last night,  the guard came back and asked me for mosquito repellent. I gave it to him. Then he told me that that snake was a baby and there would be “many more”. He told me I need to buy some rubber and burn it and that they don’t like the smell and will leave. He told me I can buy this device for $1 (25 mets). I gave him the money and this morning at 5:30am, he showed up with this:

It’s a broom-like device made from rubber and mecuti and bamboo. When he told Carola it was what the witch doctors used, we opted against it. Plus wise Twyla told us it would make the whole house stink to high heaven (my words, not hers). 

The view from Church on Easter Sunday

We had a visiting team teach in the school this week. It was wonderful for me, because I got to just sit and listen and didn’t have to “perform” all day. My students made me proud by being polite and respectful, for the most part. The team taught on “identity” and knowing who you are in Christ. We made English language lessons out of the new vocabulary they gave us, and the teachings were translated. But the students got 3 days of lessons on knowing who you are in Christ. The visitors spent a great deal of time, each telling their own stories of their lives, once feeling very dejected, abused, many becoming addicted, to now living a life of joy because of their relationships with Christ. It was beautiful to see my students listen to and respond to their stories. The team simply spoke loving words over the students and called them, important, valuable, beautiful, incredible. Their countenance changed as did the atmosphere in the room. One of the muslim boys in the room wanted to argue and the team stayed after class to talk to him and answer his questions. It was great for the students to get the individual attention. They eat that stuff up. They spent a lesson simply drawing pictures for one another. A visitor gave a student a picture of a fish and asked if that meant anything to him. He said that good things in his life are hidden and are deep and you have to go deep to find them but they are there. Our daily conversations in class are so surface level. I give them practical language and we learn about grammar. We don’t talk about “vocabulary of the heart” :) and it was beautiful to do so. 

Team of Visitors from Bethel Church, Redding, CA