We’ve been here in Nampula, Mozambique for 5 months now. Every time I’ve wanted to update our blog, I feel a bit overwhelmed with how to convey it all. Life is so different here!
Many aspects are more difficult than what we’re used to, like culture, reliable electricity, and driving. And then other aspects are simpler, like finding community, greeting strangers, and fruit/vegetable availability. Some of the hard stuff is becoming easier as we’ve figured out ways to manage, like I now know how to turn on the generator without Steve home. But still other challenges are still very challenging, like witnessing the daily poverty and social injustice. I’m thankful for the aspects of life that have become smoother and sometimes I’m surprised at the aspects of life that I see as “normal” now, like a pedestrian carrying a tall stack of 20 dozen eggs on his head!
Life has been full here, nonetheless, and we’ve persevered to make it our own. God has been faithful in giving us what we need and then some. Of course, there are still things we are trusting Him for. Here is a taste of our daily lives here. We call it “Our Mozambique Rhythm.”
First alarm of the day goes off at 5:30 am. It’s mine. Yes, I know that I’m the stay-at-home-mom without a time clock to punch, but managing a home well here means that you’ve got to be ahead of the game… and ahead of the afternoon heat. The sun rises at 4:30, which is when our neighboring rooster first crows. Earplugs are helpful 😉 Most Mozambicans get up at that time and the streets are bustling with all ages by 6. So, culturally, 5:30 is sleeping in!
After a quiet time with the Lord, I get myself ready for the day. Steve is up by 6 and gets ready for his day. Dogs are fed, clothe diapers are in the wash (each load takes a little less than 2 hours, and with several loads to do that day, I need to get an early start since I don’t know how long I’ll have working electricity!), windows are opened to allow in the “cool” morning breeze, ice water bottles are made for each family member to stay hydrated and beat the heat, ice trays and water pitchers (including one in the bathroom for brushing teeth) are filled, big water jug starts getting refilled with filtered water (takes about 45 min for 5 gallons, lasts 1-2 days), Bekah’s snack (usually an apple, homemade granola bar, or crackers) is packed, Steve’s sack lunch is packed (usually peanut butter and jelly), and sometimes Steve and I even have a quick coffee together on the front screened patio that houses our oven and dining table. (2 mornings a week, I run a few miles with a friend or two at 6am. Any later and it’d be too hot.) The kitchen temperature gauge usually shows that the outside temp is in the upper 70’s/ early 80’s while inside reads about 85 F. This is the coolest it will be all day, so we enjoy it. There is only air-conditioning in the bedrooms and back living room. The kitchen gets quite hot over the course of the day. Girls are up by 7 and we start getting them ready for the day. Steve leaves for the hangar about 7:45 and drops off Bekah at her ½ day American kindergarten at YWAM (Youth With A Mission; discipleship training center) which is only a 7-minute drive away.
We are very thankful for our new Toyota Land Cruiser that just arrived! Since we got here in June, we’ve been using the MAF program vehicle. It’s had some oil leak problems that have left us stranded in town at one point. Steve fixed it on 3 different occasions using parts of another vehicle (think junkyard). It’s helpful to be a mechanic when you’re living overseas!
Thank you for all of you who gave financially towards it and prayed for its provision. This vehicle is well-equipped with 4-wheel drive and can plow through the bumpy, uneven African roads. Hannah often cries “wee” and “whoa” as we drive these roads.
One morning when the program vehicle was leaking oil and unusable, Bekah got a lift with our teammate Dave to Kindergarten. Such an excited little girl on her first motorcycle ride!
Steve works at the hangar each weekday from 8am – 5pm with a few weekend and/or overnight flights each month. The program has been going through a lot of transition as the government has required us to become a Part 135 air charter operator due to the commercial flying that we do to subsidize our mission flying. This has also required us to register as a Mozambican business. The official Mozambique name is Ambassador Aviation Limitada (AAL). (It is still MAF, but only known as AAL here in Moz.)
With these changes and the addition of a new Cessna Caravan in the near future (larger, 10-seat turbine aircraft), more expansion has occurred. They’ve been in the process of moving to a bigger hangar at the airport that has had many construction needs. Steve’s been putting in new false ceilings, doing roof repairs, running electrical and internet wiring, installing the light fixtures, repairing the plumbing, pressure washing and painting the interior/exterior walls, and setting up the office IT system. He also helped bring in two new part-time national workers to help out with some of the general tasks. It’s funny, a few months ago, he was the new guy who walked off the plane as #4 in the program. Now, with 2 of the guys gone on furlough, he’s 2nd in command, and often when Dave the program manager is swamped doing the books and managerial-type stuff, Steve’s in charge of hangar projects. He enjoys it but it’s been a lot. Thankfully, God has gifted him with great leadership and organizational skills. He’s even pretty good in his Portuguese communication as he coordinates projects with the Mozambican workers. But there’s nothing that can prepare you for the culture shock that hits you when you least expect it.
The guys we hired to help do some of the work live in pretty basic homes and have a completely different set of standards when it comes to construction. These are the nicest ceilings they most likely have ever seen. Installing the ceilings requires math precision and careful attention to detail. So what if the new ceilings for the hangar offices are not exactly straight and have smudge marks on them from the painted walls? This drives Steve nuts, but he’s learning how to understand culture, communicate expectations, and figure out who is teachable enough to keep on the job. This past month, we had an American couple (Joe & Natalya Brown) join us here for 3 weeks to help with these tasks. Ironically, Joe is a floor business owner. However, installing ceilings is somewhat similar and then at times the exact opposite! They were a great help in getting the ceilings finished, windowpanes installed, and our new logo painted on the front side of the hangar.
Several weeks ago, Steve was the pilot for a community development flight. Community development sometimes means flying people for vacation and leisure. They pay the bigger cost, so we can fly the missionaries and humanitarian workers for less. This also gives our pilots an opportunity to be a first-person witness of the Gospel in the cockpit with those who look at his white skin and say, “What are you and your family doing here in Mozambique?”
His clients arrived a little late from South Africa which delayed their departure time up to the Niassa Reserve. The Reserve is an area set aside by the government to protect the species in that area (think Yosemite but with hippos, zebras and elephants). Steve landed at a short, dirt airstrip and began unloading his passengers and their bags. Because they had departed Nampula later than expected, Steve wasn’t able to return with enough reserve time before sunset and decided to stay overnight. The guides had mentioned that evening that they were having a problem with a certain lion prowling their campsite in the middle of the night. They were hoping to get a picture of the lion so they set up some motion-activated cameras and a slab of meat to attract it. Sure enough, at 3:30am Steve heard an enormously loud roar about 20 yards from his tent. Apparently, lions roar after they eat. It’s a little disconcerting to hear that loud roar when all you have is screen mesh tent between you and a hungry lion! Steve didn’t sleep the rest of the night and was happy to takeoff the next morning and head home.
Those flights are fine for Steve, but his heart beats for mission flying. Just this past week, Steve had the opportunity to fly a team into a remote village to share the Gospel. The opportunity came from another ministry needing an experienced pilot that has flown in Mozambique and knows how to navigate the airspace and radio procedures. Their main pilot is in the hospital back in the US and the replacement pilot had never flown in Africa. Steve agreed to fly with their pilot on the trip and spend the night with their team. They arrived mid-aftenoon and set up an outreach project on the property of a local Mozambican church. The team was able to show the Jesus film, share the Gospel (translated into Swahili and Portuguese for the diverse crowd), pass out solar-powered lights and solar-powered audio Bibles, and accompany the local Mozambican church members going door to door in a village to share Christ and invite them to their church. What a blessing to be a part of helping share the Gospel and train a new missionary pilot!
Bekah is loving going to school. She attends the Kindergarten at the YWAM center which is a part of Rapale International Christian School. Her teacher is Miss Dancy who is from Pennsylvania and has been teaching for 48 years (23 in Mozambique!). She is well-known and well-loved in the mission community. Bekah has 13 other classmates, only 4 of which are American. The others are from different parts of Africa (South Africa, Zimbabwe), but mostly from Mozambique. Kindergarten is taught in English, so everyone has to learn it if they don’t already. Bekah has quite the advantage and told me that she loves her school because it’s all in English! Sweet girl… what a challenging (but rewarding) year at Portuguese school last year. She remembers a lot of her Portuguese and likes to practice it with her Mozambican friends at school.
My morning rhythm consists of managing our home and caring for Hannah. One morning a week I attend an English-speaking Bible study. The fellowship and teaching is life for my soul, and at the end of each month it becomes a social “Ladies Tea.” So, I get to have extra girly fellowhsip once a month too, which is quite lovely.
But, normally during the week, I do all the normal things that most stay-at-home moms do: food shop, food prep, dishes, laundry, cleaning, organizing, changing diapers, reading and playing with Hannah, loving on her, correcting her, feeding her, cleaning up after her, etc.. I thought this would be doable all on my own until I got a few weeks in and realized… I’m not in Kansas anymore, Todo!
Living here in Mozambique is uniquely more challenging, especially with the transition of me becoming the full-time home keeper while Steve is working throughout the week with the occasional overnight trip thrown in as well. Without a dishwasher, dryer, faucet drinking water, sanitary produce (everything must be sanitized with a bleach or vinegar soak before consuming), many ready-to-eat foods or decent snacks for purchase at the store, parks, playgrounds, fastfood drive-thrus, a 2nd vehicle to use to get around, or paved roads with streets signs for easy navigation, my job is much more challenging. And let’s face it, not having my mom or any family around to help makes it difficult too.
The electricity goes out nearly every day, sometimes for a minute, an hour, and other times for a whole day or several days. We have a generator, but it cannot run 24/7. And when it is on, only 1-2 things can run at a time (depending on the amount of power it takes to run, you pick 1-2 of your choice: an A/C, washing machine, water heater, 1 burner on the stove, the oven). If you turn on more, the power is shot! And the generator may or may not turn back on. How exhausting to deal with a power outage in the middle of a much-needed productive morning! Many times, we try to go without until absolutely necessary. Here, Bekah is cracking eggs to make a cake one evening. We waited a while to let the electricity turn back on, but then decided to just finally turn the generator on in order to bake the cake.
It’s funny to think of the things you take for granted until they are gone. NOW I understand the term “that’s the best thing since sliced bread.” By the 5th week here, I had a melt down because I couldn’t find loaf bread at the store for a 3rd attempt of an outing (which alone takes a lot of time and energy). I was so tired of making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on white crackers! And besides produce, there weren’t any good snacks in the house either. (Both Steve and I lost about 5-10 lbs just because we were SO HUNGRY!) I would do the dishes in the morning, but by the evening, I was too wiped out to get to them. Each session of dishes took 1-2 hours. The heat, the energy caring for the kids, the dishes, while adjusting to language, culture, and safety issues, I was DONE! I never even got to the whole laundry thing or clean the house thing. The kids were often neglected, as I had to try to get stuff done just so that we could EAT. I was harsh with them, because I was just so exhausted. I wasn’t sure I could hack this stay-at-home-mom thing here. I was stressed, overwhelmed, hot, and feeling defeated. Did I mention lonely? I was feeling trapped by the walls, the locks, the shards of glass on top of the walls to “protect me” from the very people I actually needed. Then, I was encouraged by a helpful friend here to try hiring somone to help out around the house. I said “maybe” at first. I was scared. I never “hired” anyone before. Could I trust them? How weird is that to have a stranger in your home? Those are my dirty dishes and underwear… I should be the one cleaning them. I’m the woman. Isn’t that my job? Blah, blah, blah…
But then I realized if I want to NOT JUST SURVIVE here, but THRIVE, I NEED help. So what if others can do it, but I’m struggling? My family is suffering here and I can do something about it. I just needed to get over myself. It’s extremely affordable, jobs are very difficult for locals to find here, and our teammate had a reliable and good helper that was looking to increase her hours. So… that’s when I met Sabina.
At first, I told her this would be a trial-basis to make sure we were a good fit for each other (or so I tried to say in my best Portuguese, as she doesn’t speak much English). I told her that it would be for 2 half-days each week and I mainly needed help with dishes and cleaning (dirt and dust pile up here quickly; a constant red dirt residue is found on most surfaces regularly; how was I supposed to do this with a toddler running around or clinging to my leg constantly?). So, she started. Dishes were done twice a week and my floors were cleaned once a week. I felt like I could finally breathe and play with my kids a little. So I asked her if she could come a little more often…
I taught her how to make muffins, granola bars, cereal, and yogurt. She showed me how she roasts peanuts, shaves a coconut (seen above; done sitting on a stool that has a sharp blade connected to it; called a “relador”), and makes tortillas, known here as “apas.” I taught her some English phrases. She taught me some Mozambican customs. She laughed at me when I didn’t know enough Portuguese to explain myself so I just explained it all in English also and used my hands to help me “talk.” I laughed back at her when she responded with a big “Yes!” at my charades and foreign tongue. She got me and my need to verbally process 🙂
I hired her for the full week, half day each day. This became her 2nd part-time job that she was looking for to support her large family of 5 kids and extended family.
I may have given her the job she needed to sustain a livable income for her and her family, but I’m pretty sure she has given me what I needed to sustain living here well. She has given me margin to enjoy time home with my kids while managing the home well. She has also given me friendship… especially for those lonely days when I don’t leave the house. I’m amazed at her and how she cares for her family and “does it all” with 5 kids. She says “I have family that help me. I couldn’t do it without them.” I nearly teared up when she told me that. Sabina has become that person to me. She helps me “do it” in a foreign land where my family is millions of miles away. No shame in that. It’s a partnership. We are thankful for eachother. She’s such a gift to me. And vica-versa.
One day I handed her a carseat while I went to get something real quick. Assuming she’d put it down, I came back to her with it on her head! Cultural differences can be quite funny at times. Everything goes on the head around here 🙂
Another morning a week, Hannah and I venture out into the neighborhood and play in the sand piles on the street and make friends. When Bekah doesn’t have school, she comes with us. This has given us a chance to reinforce acquaintances with kids and adults who we’ve met at the neighborhood church and various neighbors we see regularly that wave at us and shout the famous English phrase “How are you?” One neighbor has brought me his English homework to help him with. Learning English may help him get a job one day.
We’ve also gotten to know a few of our Muslim neighbors who attend the neighborhood mosque. Some women are covered from head to toe in beautiful black fabric where only their eyes show. It’s given me a great opportunity to explain to Bekah what Islam is and how we can love our neighbors well here. We often hear the faint call to prayer several times a day, which reminds us to pray for our neighbors.
Another morning a week, I watch a 2-year-old girl named Thirza from Holland while her mom teaches at Rapale. She and Hannah have become good little buddies and are learning how to play together and share. Thirza is teaching Hannah Dutch: “nay” is no and “spane” is pacifier.
The favor is returned to me on Fridays so that I can work on midwifery stuff (organize paperwork to become licensed in Mozambique, complete midwifery continuing education, make phone calls, and meet with local people in the health care community to formulate ministry opportunities and ideas). I’ve had a few opportunities to use my fetal heart Doppler to allow women in the mission community to hear their babies’ heartbeats, usually for the first time! It’s been so satisfying for me.
This is the part of the day when life begins to wind down a bit and the heat intensifies, especially inside the house where the heat gets trapped indoors with little chance of breeze (the kitchen gauge starts to creep into the mid-90’s at this point). Bekah comes home from school (gets a ride with the LePoidevins, Annie has become her best bud here). I make lunch for us (usually PB&J’s on bread when I can find it or make it, scrambled eggs, or grilled cheese; carrots; fruit).
My favorite part of the day happens here: I put on all the bedroom air-conditioners and we all take a rest, while Hannah naps. Bekah usually gets to watch a show and I get caught up on e-mails. My guilty pleasure is lighting a Yankee candle in my dark, cold bedroom while drinking an ice cold Coke-a-cola from a glass bottle. I never drank soda much in the States, but here it’s the one thing besides ice water that will quench that dry thirst.
After some down time, Bekah and I read books together (required 15 minutes a day for school) and we catch up on Bekah and mommy time (games, tea party, etc…). This would not be possible if I had a mountain of dishes waiting for me. Again, I am so thankful for Sabina. This is especially an important time of the day to rest and escape the heat. We have to work hard to hydrate and stay cool. Dehydration and overheating are a real thing! Our afternoons are a reprieve!
One afternoon a week, the YWAM center has an open “library time.” Miss Dancy, Bekah’s teacher, is the librarian and allows parents and kids to check out books for a minimal “maintenance fee” ($7 for every 100 books) between 3-5pm. With over 80,000 children’s books and 100 or so DVDs on hand, this is a mom and kid’s dream come true! Then afterwards, we play at the YWAM center and I get to chat with the other parents who come for this weekly event.
This past week, we had a little informal birthday party for Hannah during library time at the pavillion at YWAM. I read Curious George books to her and her friends, she passed out banana muffins to all of the kids, and she ran and played her heart out. YWAM is our happy place.
This is also one of my favorite parts of the day. The heat starts to subside a bit, the girls are bathed (or at least their feets get washed in the bidet, which also doubles as a toddler’s sink… perfect height!), and Daddy comes home. As soon as the girls hear the automatic gate roll open and the noisy engine from the truck start to back into the carport, they run out of the house screaming “Daddy!” and greet him with a big hug. Steve and I catch up on our days, set the table in the living room with the A/C on, and I finish cooking dinner in the 95 degree kitchen/ patio area (which takes 30 min or less since Sabina and I did all the prep work in the morning; smart, eh?).
And what do we eat, you may ask?
Sometimes, Sabina will make us a traditional Mozambican dish called matapa served over rice. It’s made from kale, crushed peanuts, garlic, and coconuts. Delicious, hardy, and healthy! I love it, Steve likes it, and the girls are learning to like it 😉
Our favorite meal here that I make is steak fajitas and yellow rice. It sounds easy enough, but there is a lot of prep work that goes into it! The tortillas and sour cream are home-made, the yellow rice has about 6 spices that are measured and mixed into it (turmeric gives it the yellow color), the cheese is hand-grated, and the peppers have to be bleached before being cut up and sauteed. After that, the steak is cut-up, marinated, seasoned, and fried with the peppers and onions. We get excellent beef here. Some of the best-tasting we’ve ever had. Who would have thought? What a blessing!
My other favorite meals and traditions we’ve started here are Friday pizza-movie nights and Sunday popcorn-smoothie nights! (This makes my cooking schedule a bit less complicated.) We found a little pizza shop that makes pretty good pizza (even stuff-crust) for a reasonable price. It would be bonus if they delivered, but I’m not going to push it! The first few weeks here I was making pizza from scratch… yummy, but too much work and too many dirty dishes… ruined the whole end of the week relaxing meal purpose! On Sundays, we try to rest and eat left-overs (again, break from dishes, cooking, and the hot kitchen). In the mornings, we attend our local Mozambican church. In the evenings, we attend an English-speaking fellowship. When we get home, we want an easy meal. So Steve makes popcorn on the stove, and I use left over fruit and yogurt from the week to make smoothies in the blender. Then we watch a VeggieTales movie together that I get from the YWAM library earlier that week. It’s easy and a treat for us all!
So, that pretty much sums up our week and daily rhythm here in Mozambique. Thanks for reading, praying, and being interested in our lives and ministry. Comment below with any further questions or recipe requests. I’d be glad to share!