Wednesday, April 29, 2009

hunger, food, and food for thought

everyday, someone knocks on my door with three simple words,

"i am hungry."

every year, there's a hunger season, but this past year's hunger season was particularly bad; missionaries who live here have been saying that it hasn't been this bad since the 1980s.

much of the reason for this stems from the fires that occurred this past september, fires which ravaged homes and crops, leaving many homeless and hungry. then the rain came late this past year; people bought seeds to grow maize in their mashambas (gardens) and planted them expecting rain to come in october, but it didn't. the seeds died, and the people had to buy seeds again. again, they planted them in a couple of weeks expecting rain to come, but it didn't. rain didn't come until mid-december (just a day after i arrived! which is december 16...). because people lost a lot of seed and didn't have money to purchase more, many weren't able to grow their crops. for the people who were able to, the late rain caused the maize to grow, but people were forced to reap them prematurely before they were even ripe. between october and april, people literally had nothing to eat. reports of deaths in nhamatanda (a community that hands is beginning to reach into) reached us, reports that read, "age 6. died of hunger."

family in front of their destroyed home after fire in september
(photo courtesy of dara and laura)

during this time, hundreds of people from neighboring villages came to maforga everyday asking for food. roy, a missionary who oversees maforga, was able to give out small portions of maize meal to these people. it wasn't since the 1980s that roy and maforga decided to do mass food distributions everyday. shigeida, the missionary community across maforga, also started to give out small portions of maize meal to hundreds of people. tens of people would knock on my door everyday for something to eat.

hundreds of people waiting for food in front of the maforga church building
(photo courtesy of jean aimee)

it was especially tough for rubatano. rubatano lost two of its major donors at the end of 2008, but funds ran dry way before then. even the funds for volunteer incentives, which were promised to the volunteers until the end of the year, ran dry in october. volunteers also struggled to survive. it was heartbreaking to see rubatano's volunteers also waiting in line to receive small portions of mealie meal. we had nothing to give even to our own when the crisis was more real than ever.

witnessing this, dara wrote a letter to family/friends and churches back in the states, one of which included wellspring church. in response to that letter, wellspring fundraised for this crisis, and the response was incredible. in only a couple of months, thousands of dollars were raised for relief, and the donations were wired to hands hub in south africa. after a few challenges with transferring these funds from south africa to mozambique, the support finally arrived in march, right before we headed off to conference in south africa. we were able to give out small food parcels to everyone in rubatano's program -- children, patients, and volunteers -- about a total of 700 households in three communities. every household received one monthly package of maize meal, beans, and oil for two months (march and april).

thank you, wellspring!
thank you, God.

photos from april food distibution in nhembia.

when looking back, i have so much to say. there were and still are so many questions, most of which pertain to the how's and why's. "how is it that an entire country can be suffering so much at once?" "why, God?"

other questions, i found even more personally difficult to digest. people were constantly knocking on my door asking for food, money, clothes. many approached me in a way that did not invite much sympathy, and i found myself easily frustrated by the hunger, by the people.

"why is it so hard for me to love?" "why is it so hard for me to give?"

i still don't know the answer to many of these questions, and i have yet to grow and understand many things. but at the end, i can only say one thing.

God is good, all the time.

especially after seeing the response from the church, i realize more and more that even at times such as these, or rather, especially at times such as these, we are truly together. and we are in this together. when one part of the family is hurting, another part responds and helps, whether or not that family member is thousands of miles away. at a time and place where we thought we were in the desert and felt that God was far away, God was closer to us than ever. He gave us an opportunity to draw nearer to each other and draw nearer to Him. He provided for us abundantly, and He showed us once again that He is God, and He is God of mozambique.

some of the volunteers in nhembia.
starting from top left, clockwise: lazaro, adao, katarina, marcelino.

please remember us in your prayers.

please continue to pray for carlos.

please continue to pray for our volunteers. they are the hands and feet that visit the homes of the children and the sick. even during the hunger season, even when hands announced last year that there would be no more monthly monetary incentives, all of our volunteers wholeheartedly stayed. we are currently trying to implement new ways, new IGAs (income-generating activities), to care for our volunteers. please pray for wisdom, that we would trust and obey God's guidance.

please continue to pray for the children and the sick.

please continue to pray that God would stir up more hearts in the local and international Church, to care for its own body, to care for its own family.

please continue to pray for mozambique.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


this past tuesday night has got to be the freakiest and funniest night in mozambique as of yet.

i live by myself in a quaint and cozy two-bedroom house located in a farm community called maforga. though at times i wish i had company in the house, i've never really felt "by myself"; many visitors visit, and the farm accommodates missionary families and other young volunteers with whom i frequently fellowship. and with the exception of bug situations, i've never really felt scared staying in the house "by myself," either.

that is, until this past tuesday.

it was cloudy and had been raining on and off the entire day. power was also extremely unstable; lights in the house would flicker and suddenly go off every hour or so. i was in my room on my computer at around 8 o' clock at night when i start hearing strange noises outside of my bedroom window. not really audible, but occasional deep whispers. i choose to ignore it. winds were howling, leaves on the trees were rustling, owls were hooting. sounds of nature, sure. i was able to brush off the noise for a good hour or so until at one point, i actually hear an audible voice. not too loud -- a deep murmer in some other language -- but clearly human. then i hear footsteps on my porch just outside my window!

my mind starts to race and my heart starts to pound. it's 9pm at night; by this time, most africans are asleep. the voice sounds like that of a woman -- a deep and husky female voice. what was a woman doing outside on my front porch? if this person were male, i would've assumed him to be a security guard resting on my porch from the rain. it seemed too late to call my 80-year-old-next-door neighbor. my imagination runs wild and takes into account every possibility -- the real, the unreal, and mostly, the absurd. the first thing that actually came to mind was -- is it a witch doctor?? or a witch doctor's assistant?? i've heard stories of witch doctors stealing babies at night, using babies' body parts in their practice. what if this time, this witch doctor needs not a baby, but the body parts of a mazungu (white person)??

the power/electricity situation was making it worse. on and off. off and on. doors were creaking, and whenever the power went out, i was half-expecting somebody to jump out from the dark through my closed bedroom door. absurd and quite ridiculous, i know, now that i think about it. well, even while i was thinking it, i knew it was ridiculous.

but my fear was quite real. i tried to calm myself down from this idea, as the voice actually died down. 'maybe she left,' i thought. i continue to write e-mails on my computer, more intentionally and more furiously than ever, trying to avoid any sort of confrontation or encounter with this mysterious being lingering outside my bedroom window. but after another hour, i hear her voice and footsteps again! dilemma.

maybe it was out of unconscious courage that i spoke up. or maybe it was out of unconscious (or rather, uncontainable) fear that i spoke up. but i found my mouth suddenly blurting out, "who's out there!"


"who is it? hello??" still, no answer. "hello???" i don't even dare to get up from my bed to peak outside my window to see who it is. i try calling out in portuguese. nothing. nothing but silence and nature.

after a few moments, though, i finally hear a groaning/mumbling in some language that doesn't sound like portuguese or even shona. i hear her mumbling and walking closer to the opening of my window. even at this point, though, i'm too scared to draw the curtains to see who it is. she says something indistinct, deep, and slurred, and i can't understand her. through the closed curtains, i try asking her in portuguese what her name is and what she's doing outside my house at this hour. she just mumbles something. i finally draw the curtains. it's a woman all right. i don't recognize her, and she doesn't look at me in the eye when speaking. i ask her these questions again, but she continues to mumble something, and i have no idea what she's saying. she doesn't look harmful. in fact, she looks scared, helpless and confused. so i walk outside of my room, and open the house door. her belongings are outside -- a jacket, a blanket, a plate, and a cup. i wonder if she's from one of the neighboring villages needing a place to stay. she continues to mumble something, but she doesn't look at me in the eye. she's blind.

it finally registers. i've heard of a blind lady who lives in maforga. i've never seen her until now. i call carlos to ask for some help, and he just chuckles, "oh. it must be maria. just take her to the security guards, and they'll take her home."

there are lot of details in between, but to make a long story short, the security guards and i ended up going on an hour-and-a-half-long search for maria around maforga in the middle of the night because... i ended up losing maria on the way. -_- how i lost a blind lady while walking together down the road, i do not know.

anyway, it was pitch-black, misty, cold, and raining, and this adventure was, at some points pretty frustrating, but i think i actually had a lot of fun. the only time i really got startled was when a security guard popped out of the dark while another guard and i were walking down the road. i jumped up and screamed, but we all just ended up laughing, the guards with their ak-47s in their arms, and me, with a dinky flashlight in my hand.

we finally found maria, lying in a ditch on the side of the road that leads away from maforga. i later discovered that maria is also sick and mentally ill.

that explains a lot. -_-

after this little emprise, i came back home wet and stinky.

but most of all, thoroughly amused.

only in africa.

moon and purple sky on one of the brighter mozambican nights.

Friday, April 24, 2009

care package

a very late update yet again................

rubatano and hands at work in mozambique have been hosting many visitors this year, especially since february: a group of hands staff from south africa, potential supporters/donors from canada, jean aimee from the states, levy from south africa, and pastor davies from malawi, etc.

after conference at the end of march, though, i had the opportunity to host a group of visitors from home! ki won, my good friend from college, and alfredo, his friend from med school, spent their spring break on a missions trip with hands, visiting me and some of the projects that hands supports. not exactly from home/home, but like seeing lauren from wellspring at conference -- a sweet taste of home. live care packages!

it was surreal, though, in both instances; two worlds -- my african world and american world -- colliding.

paul (australia), pastor farai (zimbabwe), ki won and alfredo (states)

the two of them only stayed in africa for about 10 days, but we were able to cram in a lot of activities: community stay in masoyi, south africa (+kruger park); gondola hospital visit, baby clinic visit, and home-based care in mozambique; home-based care and worship service/playtime with orphans in zimbabwe. paul, a representative from hands australia, also joined us on our travels, and by God's grace, we didn't face any major challenges and enjoyed our time as we experienced a glimpse of God's heart for His people.

most of the photos above are those from honde valley, zimbabwe, where pastor farai hosted us for 2 days.

this was my second time visiting honde valley and the communities that pastor farai serves. one word immediately comes to mind whenever i think of this place: beautiful. the valley is beautiful. the people are beautiful. God, you are beautiful.

photos from my first visit to honde valley.

landscape of the valley.
can you see the two waterfalls on the left? one of them is supposed to be the tallest waterfall in africa.

Monday, April 13, 2009

africa and international conference

update overload! these updates are long overdue; please excuse and forgive :)

i'm back in mozambique, somewhat settled down from the visitor craze since february and conference craze since mid-march.

most of the following photos are from international conference. they're not that comprehensive in terms of chronicling key events. moreover, the last few photos may be slightly biased and narcissistic in that... most of them capture me with people.

but for memory's sake. :*)
and i figured, this is my blog >B]

[3.17.09] waiting for our 6am bus, which arrived an hour late! we drove 15 hours south to maputo, spent a night in maputo, crossed the border into south africa the next morning, and arrived in nelspruit 3 hours later!
africa conference [3.19.09 - 3.26.09]

haha, major jump from the previous photo to this one. towards the end of the africa conference, hands family and african delegates enjoyed an afternoon with sports, namely soccer and volleyball. to my surprise, a lot of us were interested in playing volleyball over soccer. above: pastor floyd, a dangerously apt volleyball player with a killer serve. rallies between both sides of the net would last forever. i played, but was too intimidated to play.

julia and her daughter, maria :)

they (with the rest of their family) visited mozambique in december. they had planned to stay for a month or so in mozambique, but their trip was quickly shortened to 2 weeks. they both got malaria. -_-

prudence :)

pascoa and her third daughter, jessie! jessie looks exactly like her mom,

and tabitha exactly like her dad :)

voila -- the family (minus nyasha)!

international conference [3.26.09 - 3.29.09]

location: hannah lodge, happily situated in a game park about 2-3 hours from white river/nelspruit.

mornings were a real treat. crisp air and beautiful sunrises.

lauren on the look-out for giraffes! apparently, giraffes would come up to the dining area on the balcony, especially in the early mornings.

and conference begins.

with worship.

with prayer.

and (as pastor farai so articulately puts it, haha) continues with session after session!

quick break from session: game drive!

look at us,

glowing with excitement!

sad to say, though, we didn't see much. or, errr, correction. our group didn't see much, relative to the group that went the day before. our group saw black rhinos, tons of kudu, warthogs (so cute! they could easily be my favorite animal of the year), ostriches, and... aloe vera trees. -_- i just wanted to see a cat. one cat. is that too much to ask for?

but hey, beautiful scenery/landscape was well worth the drive

in this monster of a vehicle!

outdoor worship/praise and dinner afterwards! haha. oh, papa dave.

lauren! dannyboy!

alisha, me, emily, and jessie -- the last intake of "footprinters." miss you guys!

jessie! my previous partner-in-crime. now she might be going to nigeria! :*(

lovely liez! lize-marie theron. haha
time to say our good byes! liez with the zambians.

with erick (from the congo), innocent (from zimbabwe), and stuart (from zimbabwe).
lacey's good bye dinner at papa's after the conference!