Sunday, October 31, 2010

Thank you!

A couple simple words that, most of the time, seem so inadequate to express how we feel are pretty much the only thing we have. And even if we embellish them with a number of other words, they still feel rather limited. So a few weeks back Lynn and I mobilized over 200 children who attend the mission grade school to help us thank some important people for helping to provide food for them. The pictures are at the end of this post and really were an attempt to apply the term “Actions speak louder than words.” Words that a new friend Bernie reminded us of with a project his daughter is doing to raise resources for missions.

The Global Care-a-thon is an expression of a group of good people from a very small community just North of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, called Heimdal. They are joined by many other good people from surrounding communities and are sponsored by a number of churches across the province so that they can give 100% of what they raise to feeding children. Besides supporting a few other organizations, they support SAM Ministries and their faithful help is what keeps little tummies full and little minds and bodies functioning in Mozambique. And this is so incredibly important! On the eve of their thank you evening I prepared a video to thank them that did not turn out so well due to software problems and no quick fixes out here in the bush. But I feel it is important to get the word out about the big difference these people make because they work together doing something fairly simple...asking for sponsorship from friends and walking.

This year their walk resulted in well over $100,000 being raised and $31,000 of it was given for our feeding programs. This provides the base support which helps us buy in food for the year ahead. Here is the script from the video I prepared along with a few pictures...

“Greetings on this special occasion; It is an honour to have this opportunity to bring you greetings from SAM Ministries here in Mozambique.

Peter Singer is a professor of bioethics at Princeton University but he is also a self-confessed atheist. He writes in his second edition of practical ethics the following example…

“The path from the library at my university to the Humanities lecture theatre passes a shallow ornamental pond. Suppose that on my way to give a lecture I noticed that a small child has fallen in and is in danger of drowning. Would anyone deny that I ought to wade in and pull the child out? This will mean getting my clothes muddy, and either canceling my lecture or delaying it until I can find something dry to change into; but compared with the avoidable death of a child this is insignificant. A plausible principle that would support the judgement that I ought to pull the child out is this: if it is in our power to prevent something very bad from happening, without thereby sacrificing anything of comparable moral significance, we ought to do it. This principle seems uncontroversial.”

George Bernard Shaw says, “The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them; that’s the essence of inhumanity.”

It is a challenge when one is distant from a crisis to stay aware of the needs without becoming indifferent and to respond, even though it means going out of our way or getting dirty, or missing another maybe more exciting appointment. But you guys keep doing this year after year and your willingness to persist is a powerful expression of compassion.

This year again, your walk enabled us to continue feeding hundreds of children, thousands of meals. And you are joined by others who graciously share in the challenges we face to feed hungry people. This past year the global care-a-thon contributed 72% of our annual feeding budget, so you can imagine the important part you all play in this effort

Besides the mom’s or grannies left with malnourished babies that receive life-saving milk, are the various feeding programs.

This year our match to multiply program saw another 100 orphans added to our Amor orphan program run by groups of pastors who receive leadership training from us, and are challenged to mobilize others to address the critical needs in their communities. There are now more than 800 orphans enrolled in the program and the food you help to provide, and stimulate others to provide, multiplies your effort and is saving lives.

“Whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me,” said Jesus (Matt 18:5).The word “welcomes” is translated “receives” in some translations and means among other things… “to take with the hand or, to receive into one’s family to bring up or educate, to embrace, to make one’s own.”

In every way you translate it, the word “welcomes” certainly includes the critical importance of addressing the nutritional needs of children.

Richard Stearns in his book “The Hole in our Gospel” says “One out of four children in developing countries is underweight, and some 350 to 400 million children are hungry. Worse, it is estimated that a child dies every five seconds from hunger-related causes.” He goes on to write “Malnutrition in children stunts brain development and can leave children mentally impaired for life, producing a whole generation of adults with compromised mental abilities.”

This is why we started a feeding program for our rural school here in Mozambique and why food is such a critical component in everything else we do for the children under our care. We started with an egg a couple times a week and then with a glass of milk due to the terribly malnourished state of the children. Then global care-a-thon found out about our situation and since the start of your participation we have been able to provide a full meal a day for over 240 children along with a de-worming program.

Food storage is critical since we can only access food at cost-effective rates when it becomes available. This is the reason we are now mobilizing food security storage facilities in other communities where we have orphan feeding programs operating. Food stocks have already been secured in a number of rural communities and it will be an ongoing priority for us to establish more of these in the years to come and work with our associations of pastors to stock them and manage them sustainably.

Growing vegetables and fruit to provide a rounded diet is critical in our context since purchasing these is impossible, or would simply be too costly and too distant to transport. This year your help again has enabled us to grow tons of supplies of vegetables and fruit. Our banana plants have taken off and are now producing significant quantities which the kids just love.

An African saying expresses it well… “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try spending the night in a closed room with a mosquito.”

We will let some of the many children you feed thank you personally!”

This last picture is of myself and the team of guys working on the new Health Post at the school. We just finished putting on the roof in the roasting heat. Thank you to the dear family who donated to make this a reality!

Monday, October 4, 2010

"I killed many men there"

Chiriza is a place not many foreigners have visited. In fact I guess the total would be three (including Rick Neufeld, Matthias Reuter the helicopter pilot, and I) after landing there in Mercy Air’s helicopter earlier this year. Rick then made a trip there on the back of a motor-cycle to hold a children’s ministry training time with our extension school, and then I made it right to the spot in our vehicle…supposedly a “first since the foundation of the earth” according to Pastor Pires.

Pastor Pires celebrating our arrival in Chiriza to a packed church

Our goal (as expatriates on the team) is to try to visit each of our leadership extension schools at least once per year and more often if possible. Our coordinator and supervisors of the program visit much more often, but those studying still count it a high honor when one of us foreigners visit and provide encouragement. As I headed out in late August on a tour of as many schools as possible along the Zambezi, one of these schools was going to be Chiriza. The only problem was that there was no way I would be able to take the time to walk, bike or motorcycle in this time, so we organized the meeting at a place called Nyakamanzi where the pastors and leaders would meet us for a seminar. Although this was still a two hour drive from the town of Doa and the little rustic room I rent to sleep in on the way through, it was doable.

As we arrived in Nyakamanzi a miracle awaited us. I say miracle because that is what the local people called it and in this out of the way forsaken place, I am not sure what else you can call it “if you have eyes to see”. At Nyakamanzi there is a river that cuts off any further passage to Chirize and only at the driest times and only in some years is it actually passable. We pulled up to the rivers’ edge only to find a stone bridge! A bridge that was constructed in less than 15 days by a Chinese mining company that apparently was given rights to a mine discovered during the Portuguese era. We think it is a gold-mine but nobody is saying. In any case, the pastors had been praying and hoping for the seminar in Chiriza and when they saw the Chinese building the bridge another miracle happened. They all “as one man” got their hoes and axes and built a further 15 km of road and two small bridges to ensure we could get all the way to their village. The scene was rather festive as we pulled up and our time of teaching and encouraging was soaked up in rapt attention.

While sharing with our monitor and other key pastors over a lunch of beans and rice, they thanked us again for intervening during the hungry time and assured us that all those who received help are participating in making bricks for a food storage facility to help with these kinds of crisis in the future. They then shared a little of the history of the area with us. It was here, said Pastor Wairosse that RENAMO had their main camp and many thousands of soldiers gathered. The reason for this is that because of its remote location and because it is so difficult to get here, the resistance soldiers felt that FRELIMO, the then Marxist government forces would never find them. It was between these two groups that the civil war raged in Mozambique from soon after 1975 until 1992 and totally devastated the country. In places like Chirize it is the conflict and death that can be remembered since nothing much else can be found here.

On Saturday this past week my travels took me to Tete, a city now a little more than 3 hours to the North of us. Here we shared with a group of leaders from 4 different extension schools. Pastor Pires from our Region 3, ( see the link) met us there and shared in part of the time. Although he focused on a number key administrative issues, he then shared the story of Chirize and the miracle we experienced there a few weeks back. As soon as he sat down one of the pastors jumped to his feet and very emotionally began to share his joy with us. “I can hardly believe what I am hearing here this morning,” he said, “but I am so thankful to hear the gospel has arrived in Chiriza and pastors are being trained.” “This (Chiriza) was a very hard place and during the war I killed many men there…many people died in this place. And now I am hearing that God is working miracles there!”

Pastor Bulaunde and me

Later after our time of training together I sat with Pastor Bulaunde and he shared a little of his story with me. Like all men his age who stayed in the country (many millions fled as refugees to surrounding countries), he had been force drafted into the FRELIMO forces and fought the war against the resistant movement in many out of the way places. The war was very much a guerrilla war with RENAMO destroying infrastructure and hiding out in remote areas. FRELIMO controlled the cities and tried to govern their recently liberated country. But with significantly different ideologies and personalities involved, along with a poor country flush with Communist era military hardware, there were no victors and the country slid to the world’s poorest.

But now pastor Bulaunde, along with thousands of others are engaged in another war. And this one is for the hearts and minds of people who now have a chance to experience personal salvation and transformation as they give their lives to a God who can build beauty out of ashes. These men and women need our help and encouragement as they exercise their faith and express that through the hard work of not only teaching and preaching, but also loving and working hard to bring development to their people and communities.

Leaders having a chance to catch up

I am honored to work alongside them.