Pregnant, Packing, and Living Life in the “In between”

I’ve already announced on social media & our prayer letter one part of this title, but the other aspect is new information! Before I get into the novel news, let me back up just for a second and share the first piece on here for our blog-only readers who are discovering this for the first time…

Pregnant 17 wks

Our mourning has turned into dancing! Right before we left the States to return overseas, we found out that we are expecting again! (Would you believe that I actually found out ON my due date—the day we were supposed to be due with our angel baby?! What a gift God gave us on what was supposed to be an incredibly sad and hard day.) Within a few weeks, we were also able to obtain a reassuring ultrasound and hear a strong heartbeat. Again, such a gift from the Lord!

After my miscarriage, I’ve been hesitant to be too optimistic with pregnancy. And a bit fearful. Loss hurts. But, I’m also really thankful for what a miracle it truly is, realizing that I can only do so much and the rest I need to trust God for. So with grateful and humbled hearts, we are excited to share this news publicly (and officially on our blog!) that we have a “rainbow baby” coming late October.

Even in the midst of so much transition right now (will get to that), we trust God’s perfect timing in growing our family this season. Get this: baby Simpson will have spent his/her 1st trimester in the USA, 2nd trimester in Mozambique, 3rd trimester in a brand new country, and 4th trimester in South Africa where we plan to give birth and recover. What a little world traveler already!

Ok, I’ve kept the suspense long enough! Ready? Drum roll please…

We are moving to Lesotho!

Lesotho map 2

Lesotho is a land-locked country inside the country of South Africa. We’ll live in the capital city of Maseru.

 

Lesotho mountains

Lesotho is a very mountainous country making the airplane a vital service for the clinics in the mountains to transfer patients to the city hospital.

After many months of prayer and talking with MAF leadership, a decision was made for our family to join the MAF Lesotho (Leh-soo-too) team this summer. With 90% of operations being medical, there is a greater match of our vision and passion in the “Kingdom in the Sky.” Steve will step down from management for now and is looking forward to “just” being a pilot and mechanic as he learns the ropes in this new country. Both of us will begin six months of language learning with a tutor in July before Steve starts at the hangar.

Lesotho Matt speaking

MAF Pilot Matt is speaking Sesotho with the local nurse. Communicating well is important for relationship building with the Basotho.

The official language in the capital of Lesotho is English, but the Basotho (Bah-soo-too) people in the mountains primarily only speak Sesotho (Seh-soo-too) so it’s important that we learn the heart language of the people we’re going to serve. We plan to move out of Mozambique next week, and join the Lesotho team in South Africa for their annual family conference at the end of this month, before moving to Lesotho on July 4th (how’s that for an American Independence Day celebration activity?!). We will be one of seven families on the team and are looking forward to joining them soon. It is a sad process to leave Mozambique, but we are excited to serve in a place where small airplanes landing on remote airstrips in the mountains are still vital in meeting the medical needs of the community in the name of Christ.

So, as you can see, there is a lot of change on the horizon for the Simpson family! Please pray for us. If you read 2 blog entries down “When Your Heart Has Two Homes,” transition and moving around has been the story of our lives the first half of this year, and it’s been challenging. When I wrote that blog, I did not know that we would be moving to Lesotho. But God knew. And He knew all of these changes before we could even fathom them.

Here’s specifically how you can pray for us:

Logistics of our move: wisdom and safe transport of shipping our stuff on June 19th. Praise God that a house has been found for us! Pray that we can settle in well, and heat it well as it is in the middle of the winter season right now on the Southern hemisphere (Hi’s in the 60’s, Lo’s in the 30’s). Both Nikki & Bekah struggle with asthma in cold climates. Pray that this would be well-controlled.

Our Mozambique team: encouragement & provision. To finish and say goodbye well. We move out of our house onto YWAM’s campus in 2 days, so that we can pack up our house. Then we fly out on June 21st. It is difficult to leave a place and people we love.

Healthy mom & baby: upcoming ultrasound and midwife appointment June 22nd in South Africa. Praise God for a wonderful maternity clinic and nurse-midwives who are flexible with our situation and willing to care for us from a distance (I will be doing my own appointments every other visit—weight, blood pressure, and fetal heart tones.)

In the future, if you’d like to get our news “hot off the press,” sign up for our quarterly prayer letters (delivered straight to your inbox, mailbox, or both! You choose. It’s free and you can cancel anytime.) Click on http://www.maf.org/simpson. Then scroll down towards the bottom of the page where it says “Prayer Letters.” Then click on the “Subscribe” button on the righthand side.

Thanks for keeping up with our news, dear Reader. We pray that our journey encourages you and points you towards Christ.

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A Widow & An Orphan: A Story of God’s Beautiful Provision

Last month, I had the honor of being invited to my first Mozambican wedding. What a cool experience! Being a part of this couple’s special day was probably one of my most favorite days in Mozambique. Their story alone gives me chills and makes me praise God in a whole new way.

Our neighbors at JOCUM (Jovens Com Um Missão)—YWAM (Youth With a Mission) have become dear friends of ours as we’ve done a lot of life together the last 3 years. Bekah’s bus stop is there, so I frequent it twice a day at least. After school, I usually just sit on a bench while the kids play on the playground. But sometimes, I’ll have the opportunity to have conversations with passersby that go a lot like: “How are you? How is your family? How is your garden?” (all in Portuguese, of course).

We also share electricity. So when the power goes out or there is a problem, we are somehow involved with the solution. Right now they are running electrical lines through our property, digging trenches through our yard, and sending workers over each day. We are intimately (and sometimes more than we want to be) connected.

There have also been the times that Lori, the director and my ole’ friend from back in our Teen Missions International days in 2000 (she was my leader for my first mission trip to Nampula, Mozambique: still such a cool thing how life has come full-circle for us and now we are neighbors), will call me over and consult about a health concern of a staff member/ student or do a heartbeat check and teaching with a pregnant mom. My favorite call was at 3am last summer to triage a grandmultip (this mom’s 5th baby) in labor and confirm, “Yep! Time to go to the clinic, she’s 6cm!” Steve has been called a few times too, to meet an aviation need to transport the team to a hard-to-reach, isolated place in northern Mozambique for ministry purposes. There have also been the two tragic occasions that he has been called to transport the bodies of a staff member and a student back to their villages for burial after their unexpected deaths.

Madalena & Mendes

Enter the scene: Madalena. This woman has endured so much pain the last few years. I’ve been inspired by her continued faith and service for God in the midst of so much heartache. Her husband Mendes died suddenly back in February 2016. At the time, the reason for death was unknown, but later the link was found to be tied to a rare genetic blood disorder. A young mom in her twenties became an instant widow with 3 small children, including a baby.

Less than a year before, they had just moved from a city up in the north in order to serve the Lord together full-time as YWAM staff members in Nampula. Mendes was also responsible for maintenance, as well as, often leading the praise songs during team meetings. This was an incredible loss and heartbreak for YWAM, but also our entire community.

Jemusse & Telma

About a year and a half later, Madalena’s brother Jemusse (read James) and his family came to do a DTS (Discipleship Training School) at YWAM. While he and his family were on their outreach in a village, he got malaria and pneumonia which took his life 2 hours after being placed on a bus before he could reach medical help. The body had to be dropped off (along with his pregnant wife & 2 small children) at the nearest city to allow the bus full of people to continue on their journey. You can imagine the shock, trauma, and sadness this family felt in that moment! But God completely provided for them through the local church in a nearby village, to provide for their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs at the time. MAF was able to pick up the body and the family shortly after so that a proper burial and funeral could happen in the family’s hometown.

This was great devastation to Madalena and her family once again. Two breadwinners were lost within such a short amount of time of each other.

Natanael

Enter the scene: Natanael. Natanael started his DTS last year, the same time as Jemusse and his family. Natanael grew up as an orphan who accepted Christ at a Christian orphanage in a city about 250 miles away. His love for God and serving others is evident. His heart for children led him to help start a YWAM children’s ministry for local kids here in Nampula.

It was a whirlwind romance, and one in which God can only take credit as the Sovereign Orchestrator. As Madalena and Natanael got to know each other last year, their hearts grew toward one another and he towards her children. Having the same call in life towards ministry, they decided to pursue marriage. Following a national YWAM conference for all of Mozambique this past month (which so many colleagues, friends, and family had already traveled to Nampula for), they decided on a midweek wedding!

Natanael & Madalena

I had heard of their engagement while we were on furlough, and my heart just leapt for joy. I have walked with Madalena through her journey of suffering, praying with her and offering some grief counseling, none of which ever seemed quite adequate enough compared to all the sorrow she endured. However, believing with her that God is good and being there for her as a praying neighbor, encourager, and loving on her kids as opportunity presented itself were all ways God allowed me to walk this journey with her. So, you could imagine my excitement when I learned that she was engaged to a wonderful, godly man she met through the new DTS class!

Due a very busy season on the center, wedding planning got a bit behind. YWAM staff members were in the middle of preparing their first national conference, which included housing & feeding a few hundred guests for nearly a week. Housing was a bit short, so many families stayed in tents. The center was bustling!

Less than a week before the wedding, I finally saw Madalena after we hadn’t seen each other since I had returned from furlough the month before. It was so wonderful to finally congratulate her in person. She handed me a wedding invitation and I saw that the wedding was in 3 days! Whew! I was so glad I didn’t run in to her any later than that! I had to get busy, including learning all the culturally acceptable things like: what to wear, what to give as a gift, and do I attend the civil ceremony at the courthouse in town AND the church wedding on the center OR just the church wedding? I was so excited. I didn’t care what this was going to require of me that week. I was just so glad I was able to go! I immediately got busy doing my Mozambican wedding homework.

As I gathered cultural tips and asked lots of questions, I started to get reply texts of “I know you’re a busy person, but would you be available to help decorate?” “Do you have any supplies or ideas for decorations?” and “We also may need you as a photographer.” I just had to laugh! I got the invitation only 3 days before the wedding and now they’re asking ME to help organize it! I was actually pretty excited to jump in and help. But it wasn’t very realistic for me to be the official wedding photographer, as I didn’t have much more experience or supplies other than a point-and-shoot camera. I’d also have my preschooler with me the whole time, which wouldn’t make for a very dedicated and focused person to take precious once-in-a-lifetime photos. Thankfully, another photographer was found, and I was off the hook. But I was happy to help decorate! Also I had a whole bin of stuff I could use.

I had a ball leading the team of willing girlfriends and YWAM staff members decorating the wedding hall. I didn’t know what they had in mind, so I showed them how to make tissue paper pom-poms. They loved it and begged me to teach them how to make them! The WHOLE room got decorated in them! All of the years of making high school parade floats and collecting gift tissue paper after many holidays & birthdays really came in handy! I felt kind of bad that I didn’t have a lot of purple and white (the bride’s colors for her wedding), but I also didn’t have the ultimate say in the final product, her madrinha (maid of honor) did. Sorry, Madalena, for the random colors! But it really looked fun and festive, and I think she liked the finished product.

Last year, I threw a baby shower and re-purposed glass jars to hold votive candles for a “twinkle, twinkle” theme. With plenty amount of beautiful purple flowers that grow all over the center, I figured floating flowers in water would be the perfect decoration accents for the reception hall and outside tables. A few hours later, the ladies and I transformed both the conference and lunch room into a beautiful wedding center and reception area. I am so thankful for the opportunity to have been part of putting together this wedding!

Ready 1

Sabina helped me prepare culturally for the wedding, advising me on a gift and how to dress. She was folding some clothes one day and said “Sister, don’t wear this.” Haha! I love her honesty! So I asked her to go into town and pick something out for me. I loved the capulana that she came back with! She knows me well and that I like pink. It was fun to get dressed up by her and match with the girls.

The ceremony was beautiful. The bride and groom entered separately and were accompanied by their family and friends. There was a lot of dancing from both sides! I especially enjoyed the groom’s entrance, as all of his orphanage brothers, sisters, and parents (the directors that essentially raised him) came in wearing the same capulana material. His twin brother and fellow orphanage brothers had incredible voices and harmonized together for a few a capella performances and dances.

Message vows 3

The message was given by Pastor Benedict, a Kenyan missionary pastor, who we’ve known since we moved here 3 years ago. His daughter Tephila is a sweet friend and fellow classmate of Bekah’s. He gave the message about Mary & Martha, and how it’s very important to serve each other, but don’t forget to sit and listen and love each other well too.

The bride & groom sat together in the front, along with the padrinho couple. (The padrinho couple is another married couple who are supposed to guide the newlyweds and give them advice and counsel whenever they need it. They are kind of like the best man and maid of honor, but much more, as they are committed to them for life.)

We sang praise songs. Friends were invited to perform songs and dances. Exchanging of the rings seemed like the biggest deal of all, where both of the rings were each placed in the Bible and prayed over for a while and eventually by the whole congregation. After the vows and the kiss, they shared a dance together.

Then the guests were invited to present their gifts to the new couple, which included going outside and then down the aisle toward the front while dancing to the music being played. I had fun with that! Bekah was too embarrassed to come with me, so she just took pictures of it for me. The whole ceremony lasted about 4 hours! I am so thankful that it was at JOCUM, next door to my house, and had a playground on site. Hannah left so many times to go play! And I could see from the window when Bekah arrived off the school bus. It felt so natural to be there. Steve was bummed to miss it, but that’s what happens when a wedding is on a weekday and the invitation is received 3 days prior!

The reception was lovely. I sat next to Lori and the girls at long tables that lined the whole room in one big U-shape. We each were given a generous plate of roasted chicken, coconut rice, french fries, coleslaw, cookies, and an ice cold bottle of Coke, Sprite, or Fanta. The vanilla cake with fluffy white frosting was delicious, locally made by a Brazilian missionary couple. It felt sort of weird to have so much food served on our plates. I knew that the girls wouldn’t eat it all and I hated to waste it! However, I was quickly reassured there would be no wasting of food, even at a wedding.

I sat across from the brother of one of our guards. He remembered me and gave me a brief update on how baby Steve was doing. (This is a whole other story! Basically, this guy’s brother—one of our guards—and his wife came to one of our employee appreciation events a while back with their newborn. I asked what the baby’s name was. They said they hadn’t named him yet. I jokingly suggested “Steve,” and they later named him that! Later I learned that giving a child your name sort of makes you kind of like his godparent, but thankfully Steve hasn’t been expected to fulfill this responsibility… at least not yet! Oops! Sorry, babe!)

Anyways, back to my reception story. Our guard’s brother’s wife was with him too, but their kids didn’t attend the wedding and were at home with family. I felt guilty as my girls picked at their food, leaving most of their plate full. His wife asked if she could have it. “Yes, by all means, yes!” I excitedly said in so many words. I had to chuckle as she was all ready with her plastic bag she had on hand. She scooped all of the left over food from the girls’ and their own plates (including chicken bones) into the bag to later feed to their kids. This immediately reminded me where I was again. I really do appreciate a culture of no waste, even though I know that it’s mainly rooted in scarcity of resources. But still.

After the meal and the cake, I was exhausted! Then the dancing began! But I knew Steve was on his way home and the girls had their fill of culture and Portuguese for the day, so we gladly walked home. The wedding started at 12pm. We ate around 4pm. I’m pretty sure I heard the music going until about 8 or 9pm. What a celebration!

Outside Group 4

I’m so thankful that I got to share in Madalena and Natanael’s wedding day and see a greater picture of what God had in store them. What a gift to see how God brought it all around, blessing this orphan and widow, making them into a beautiful family unit! Praise be to God, the “father to the fatherless, a defender of widows… and sets the lonely in families.” Psalm 68:5a, 6a. What a day that I will always remember in Mozambique and treasure in my heart forever!

When Your Heart Has 2 Homes

We have been on furlough in the States for the last 4 months. It’s been quite an adventure! We spent the first few months traveling all over the US visiting supporters, family, and friends. We squeezed in some memorable cultural experiences such as exploring the National Mall in Washington DC, attending the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in NYC, and listening to live country music on Honky Tonk Row in Nashville.

Even before we reached US soil, we got creative with the journey from Mozambique. Steve is the master at turning layovers into adventures and getting the most out of our frequent flyer miles. He turned an 8-hr layover in Dubai into a day of snow-skiing in the desert (unique thing to do at the massive local indoor mall) and a routine European layover into a 10-day escapade in Ireland where we road-tripped along the southern border, waited for sheep to cross the windy mountainside roads, visited medieval monasteries and cemeteries, stood at breathtaking cliffs, and even discovered part of my Meehan ancestry while shopping for wool hats. Talk about an exciting adventure!

We pulled into our hometown of Stuart, FL on Christmas Day, exhausted but happy to finally be “home.” We knew that things would be a little different since we moved away 3 ½ years ago. But we didn’t realize how different they would be without having an actual home.

We started planning our furlough months prior to leaving for the States. However, since finding a winter rental house in southern Florida seemed mysteriously difficult (we were so naïve!), we just kept the search going the whole time we were traveling in hopes that something would become available sooner than later.

We tried everything: contacting people we knew, realtors, local churches who might have mission housing, AirBnB websites. Every time we called about a place, it was recently booked. It wasn’t even about price at this point. A few generous people and supporting churches offered to help us pay the seasonal monthly rent (which is DOUBLE during these months—yikes! We had no idea.)

By the beginning of December, we were getting nervous. We knew God would surely provide, right? But when? We needed a place in a matter of a few weeks. We had been on the road for nearly three months, traveled literally all over the world, slept in THIRTY different beds, and just wanted to be settled into ONE. I didn’t think it was too much to ask, huh?!

By the grace of God and in the nick of time (2 weeks, to be exact), 3 houses on Nettles Island (a 55+ retirement community, 1 town northeast of our hometown) opened up for the 3 ½ months that we needed housing. Let me say that again: 3 DIFFERENT houses for 3 DIFFERENT months. What a relief to have FINALLY found housing! But what a bummer that we’d have to move EVERY month 😦 When we found out, I tried to stay positive and thankful that at least we had our own housing. Let’s face it, having your own place to walk around in your jammies, discipline your kids without an audience, and unpack your suitcase into empty drawers is the essence of home, am I right?!

At the end of December, we moved into our first of three houses here on Nettles Island. And then on February 1st, we moved into our second home. I won’t lie… it was tough. Moving out was a bit labor intensive (you accumulate A LOT of stuff celebrating 3 birthdays and 2 big family Christmases, especially when nobody has been able to mail you a package in a few years!). But moving IN to our next home just about put me over the edge.

As I started to unpack the flour and sugar, I cried trying to figure out where on the counter they’d go. Then I went to put away the laundry detergent that I had JUST bought (since we had run out at the previous house). That’s when I saw that there was an over half-full jug of laundry detergent sitting right there. Every item I had bought or item that I had finally found a place for was now different in this new house. I realized that it didn’t even matter when I settled into this new home, because we’d have to do the same thing NEXT MONTH! I just couldn’t even keep going. Crying turned into short pants of breathing and I nearly had an anxiety attack. All I wanted to do was go home, but I didn’t even know WHERE that was. I just wanted MY house, MY space, MY familiarity, MY place that I spent countless hours living in and making it make sense for our family.

Steve, in his wisdom, let me sob on his chest then coached me to slow down and take some deep breaths. He then tossed out our grandiose plans of unpacking that night to go on a fun date night (the girls were with my folks) and get my mind off of our “traumatic move.”

We played shuffle board (remember, it’s a retirement community), ate at the local restaurant (which was surprisingly better than I had imagined), and relaxed in the community jacuzzi with a group of snowbirds from Michigan (you couldn’t have found a friendlier group of people). It was nice. And fun. And most importantly, it got my mind off of the stress of setting up home, yet again.

We unpacked the next morning. I was able to just put stuff where it made sense more or less and let go of all the new quirks of the new house. It’s been a little over a week now, and I would even say I’m starting to enjoy the February house. We’ve made some fun memories as a family here, and I am thankful for that.

In all of this transition and instability, I’ve wondered many times to God “why.” Why all of the moving around? Why couldn’t we just have 1 house for 3 ½ months instead of 3? Why couldn’t it have been closer in town? It’s a good 40-min drive to my parents’ house, our home church, and most of our friends. I know He provided for our needs, but I just thought maybe it could have looked a little different.

What’s actually really unique about this place is that we live just a few streets away from Steve’s grandma who is defying all odds after being placed on Hospice last year. What a gift to be able to spend more time with her. And I should mention this too: the church out here on campus is one of our biggest ministry partners. It has been cool living in community with them. They have such a missions’ heart and have spoke nothing but blessings over us since we got here. You’d think I’d see everything clearly now. Somehow I’ve still gotten stuck in wanting things my way and asking God why, which brought up more emotions about missing what we didn’t have: our February baby who we miscarried in August.

As I talked about in my last post, I should know better than to ask God why, right? I’m only human though. We long for understanding, right away, as if it would bring peace. Maybe it would, but then we’d be on to the next uncomfortable thing in life, trying to make sense of it all. That’s what we do best as humans. If we understand it, we think we can control it. Not being able to understand makes us uncomfortable. This discomfort has made me all the more longing for home. But, where is home?

Since we left Mozambique, I have felt like my heart has two homes: America & Africa. I love being in both. And, at times, both drive me crazy. Both have people I love in them, and both have difficult people in them. As of September, I am licensed to practice midwifery in both! (Woohoo!) We have our house, most of our belongings, and our ministries that we’ve dreamed about for a long time in one. And in the other, we have our family, our childhood memories, and our natural culture. God has called us to one for now. And one day when our time is finished, we’ll move back to the other.

But, ultimately, we were created for our final home: Heaven.

But isn’t that how God made us? With an ultimate longing for home? To long for a perfect place where we are perfectly accepted and belong all of the time? To long for a perfect place free of tears, sorrow, and pain. MAF’s licenced family counselor always reminds us of this whenever we visit headquarters. We long for perfection in our spouse, in our children, and in ourselves. We want perfection in our bodies, in our homes, and in our jobs. We want things to run the way they were intended.

Like in the Garden of Eden. We were created for the Garden of Eden. All of those plans changed when Adam and Eve sinned and were banished out of that perfect place. When sin entered the world, things started falling apart including the worst possibility for humanity: permanent separation from God (hell). But since then, God has been putting together a rescue plan to return us all to that perfect place: Heaven, where we will once again walk with God in perfect relationship.

But, because God is perfect, He cannot walk with us in sin. And due to our heritage, we were unfortunately born into it.

The Bibles says that we have ALL sinned. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23

And what’s even more unfortunate is that the price for our sin is death. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23

How horrible is that? But wait, here’s the good news! God has already provided that payment through sending His Son Jesus who came to the earth as a baby, lived a perfect life (fully God and fully human), and died on the cross to pay for our sins. “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

Yep, He paid the ultimate price for us, and in 3 days He conquered death and rose from the grave. To receive this gift, you must receive it through faith. “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9

The result? A forever relationship of peace with God. “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:1

Reader, this is what we were meant for! A relationship of peace with God in heaven forever. That is our home. Our ULTIMATE home. And that relationship can begin right now in our temporary home on earth. We all long for it and unsuccessfully try filling it with all the comforts and stability that this life tries to offer, but we will always come up short wanting.

The discomforts of this life move us to desire so much more than we can find in this life. And it is good. It is GOOD to desire so much more from this life. God has created us with that longing. And it is good. It is a longing for Him. He is the only thing that can fill that longing. And He wants to. Let Him in. It’s the best decision you will ever make.

“Perspective on your life is hard to have when you are the one living it” (quote from a TV show I recently saw… haha, see I don’t always use the Bible for my quotes!) But it really is true! That’s why it’s good to trust the One who can see it all.

Proverbs 3:5-6 has always been my favorite verse and is a reoccurring theme in my life: “Trust in the Lord with all of heart, lean not on your own understanding. In all of your ways, acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.” My other favorite verse is this: Isaiah 26:3 “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You.” God is the source of our peace, even when our minds can’t fathom the big picture. He knows it all, and we can trust Him beyond what we can see.

I’m not out of the woods with this great perspective. I wish I could say that I always cling to these truths, but I’m still human and struggle. Sometimes it’s daily trust and other times it’s a minute-by-minute trust. But, I’m not alone. And neither are you.

Thanks for reading this novel. In a few months, when I’ve been settled back into my nest, I hope to have some great perspective on all of this. Ha! But I’m pretty sure there will be plenty of other things vying to throw my heart into an anxious loop again. Trust and thank. Trust and thank. Trust and thank. This is my motto. You can’t worry when you are trusting God, and you can’t whine when you are thanking God. So, wherever you are—home or far from what feels like home— I pray that you make God your home because He is the one and only thing that doesn’t change!

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8

 

Miscarrying When Far From Home

Last month, Steve and I went to a local private clinic here in Nampula for an ultrasound. We were so excited to be expecting our 3rd child early next year! We needed to check on the baby’s dating, because my 6 week ultrasound showed a beating heart but the baby measured quite behind. My midwife in the States encouraged me to get another one. I was supposed to be 12 weeks that day. The doctor put the scope on my abdomen. We could all see the baby. But there was no movement or heartbeat. I suggested to him in Portuguese to try another view (trying not to be pushy, and holding off my identity as someone in the healthcare field). 2nd view, 3rd view, 4th view. Nothing. He measured baby: 8 weeks. The baby had passed a month prior.

 

Devastated. Heartbroken. Surprised. The conversation immediately went to “Have you had any bleeding? Have you had a miscarriage before? Here are your options…” Whoa, whoa, whoa. Slow down, buddy! I was trying to hold it together and realize what just happened. Shock makes your brain numb.  All of a sudden, the Spanish accent of our Cuban doctor was thicker than before and I needed a play by play of each sentence. I so wish I had misunderstood him before when I was on the table and that this was all wrong and that there actually was a heartbeat. Steve had to translate everything after that point, because I just wanted to make sure I really understood everything correctly. Unfortunately, I did and nothing could change what had to happen next. We found ourselves waiting to pick up pills at the pharmacy and waited again after that to pay for the visit. Those 30-minute felt like an eternity. I just wanted to run away. What was supposed to be a joyful appointment turned into a gut-wrenching experience. We left the office with an ultrasound photo of our dead baby and pills to pass him/her at home. It was horrible.

 

As soon as I got home, I called my midwife back in the States. It was so nice to have someone I knew and trusted to guide me, even if she was so far away. But that day, I really wished she wasn’t so far away. I even phoned an OBGYN missionary friend of ours to discuss what the doctor said and confirm the next plan of care. It felt so freeing to ask her questions too. But, again, she was countries away, as well. What I went through those next 72 hours was scary. I didn’t know what to expect. And, honestly, I felt bad for not knowing nor understanding. I’m a midwife… why didn’t I know this better? But, it’s because I wasn’t usually on this end of managing care. But, now? Now, I know. What I wanted right then was a midwife to midwife me through this miscarriage. It felt like an unassisted homebirth of death. Steve was right there with me, but he didn’t know what to expect either. As the days went on, I had some needs arise that I was able to go back to the local clinic to take care of. But, being able to talk candidly in my native language wasn’t an option, which felt incredibly isolating. So, in the upcoming weeks, I just didn’t go back. And the way things are done here without follow-up nursing care made me feel like I was kind of on my own for further issues, explanations, and plans of care. I hated feeling like I was my own provider. Despite popular belief, a midwife cannot midwife herself!

 

Journaling was so helpful and healing the next few weeks. Getting words out on my computer screen aloud me to articulate the pain that was in my heart. Sharing my writings with close family and friends provided a bit of relief from my heavy burden. Genuine tears and hugs could be felt through each FaceTime call, despite the 2, 6, and 9-hour time zone differences. One of our family members even offered to fly in from the northern part of the continent to be with us. Ironically, Africa is so large that she is equidistant from us as she is to our family in south Florida. So, basically it would still cost a fortune! We were already scheduled for furlough in 2 months. Home was just around the corner. We even had a situation come up where we considered going to South Africa for medical attention, but after wise counsel and the Holy Spirit’s peace, we stayed. We just wanted to escape Mozambique! We were at the end of our term, and we were already facing some burn out and discouragement. This just added insult to injury. But God wasn’t letting us leave just yet. He provided a beautiful community of friends around us to bring us meals, cry with us, watch our girls, and be supportive listening ears as we walked this path of loss and grief.

 

Reading the book of Job in the Bible has also been a great source of encouragement. Job was a godly man who was wealthy in every form of the word (large family, successful business, grand house, good reputation, health). Satan attributed Job’s faithfulness to God only because of how externally blessed he was. God gave Satan permission to take those things from him, first everything except his health, but then that too. All of his family died except his wife who told Job to curse God and die. But Job didn’t. He stayed faithful to God. He did, however, grow incredibly discouraged and cursed the day he was born. His closest friends insisted he did something wrong. He defended his righteousness to God and had many questions for Him. And then God spoke. He never answered Job’s questions, but He did ask Job about creation and what it was like running it. He asked Job how it was controlling the largest creatures of earth, forming their young in utero, and making the earth supply its food.

 

Job’s WHY’s turned into WOW’s. “I am unworthy– how can I reply to You? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer– twice, but I will say no more.” (Job 40: 4-5 NIV) Sometimes our horrible experiences can make us forget Who God is: sovereign, mighty, holy. He sees the WHOLE picture and controls it all. Thankfully, He is also a loving God Who is not far from us. In fact, not only is He always near, He is well-acquainted with grief. Jesus came to this earth and lived a human life that included loss, shock, betrayal, and trauma. God knows innocent suffering. And because of it, there is grace. Thankfully one day, He’s going to heal this earth of its pain. This hope means more to me now after this experience, as well as after having lived in one of the poorest countries in the world for the last 2 years. But, right now, starvation, corruption, and injustice still happen. But all of these travesties still have to go through Him to happen. And He IS working it into His greater plan for His Kingdom. I don’t want to know WHY my baby died. There’s not a good enough reason I can think of right now. But I know my God. He is Creator of all and He “fits [everything] into a pattern for good, to those who love [God] and are called according to [His] design and purpose.” (Romans 8:28 AMP) He can redeem anything and He does.

 

From this experience, I’ve also learned a great deal of how to best support women going through a miscarriage, close by and from far away.

 

1.) Ask how they are doing TODAY. If you’re around others or it’s not a good time of day, maybe ask in private or ask if they’d like to carve out a better time for them to talk about it. You don’t have to have gone through the experience to be supportive. Maybe even say that. “I’ve never gone through this, but I care about you and am here for you to listen about your experience.” Leave room for pause. Presence is powerful. Read their journals. Share their burden with your time and attention. It might mean all the difference to them, especially if they are feeling far from God and His love. You can be His love to them that day.

 

2.) Ask how can you can help them, BUT BE SPECIFIC. “Let me know if there’s anything I can do for you” is a wonderful sentiment, but someone going through trauma and loss needs to be given choices like a toddler. Their brain is fried. Remember how I said “shock makes your brain go numb”? “Which night can I bring you dinner: Wednesday or Thursday?” “I would love to have your girls over. Does right now work from 12-4 or tomorrow morning from 8-12?” (Also, handing them a frozen meal as they come to pick up their kids is a good way to kill 2 birds with one stone! A frozen meal overseas is the equivalence of a restaurant gift card: use it whenever it’s convenient.) “When you are back in the States, our family wants to provide a special get away for you and your family to look forward to. May we do that for you? If so, does the 3rd week of the January work for you?” The griever doesn’t want to put anyone out. And the giver need not extend beyond what they are able to do. Come up with a plan and offer it to her. It’s a win/win.

 

3.) Check in REGULARLY. Texts or calls don’t have to be made everyday. Initially, everyday texts may be important. But even if the griever doesn’t get back to you, she sees your call or email and is reminded that she’s not alone. She sees that she’s not forgotten. She sees that her baby is not forgotten. Let her lead. If she’s fine, great, be fine together! Laugh, eat ice cream, do something enjoyable. But if she’s not doing well that day, let her not be ok. Let her be messy and wrong and raw. But, do remind her of truth afterwards: the truth of God’s love, the truth of your faithful friendship, the truth that she’s doing the best she can and that she’s not alone. Some people just need to verbally process and figure out how they feel as they talk. Mourn with those who mourn. And, remember, you’re not supposed to cry more than her! But if you do, she’ll love you for your tears for her. This is a journey that doesn’t just take place when she passes the baby or the bleeding stops. Grief will creep up around the corner when she least expects it. Even if she told you last week that she is doing better, ask her next week and next month again. Surprise triggers may be her 3-year-old randomly asking “Mommy, why did the baby die?”  She may start unexpectedly bleeding again within those first 6 weeks and it will bring back the trauma and grief of the miscarriage that happened “a while ago” and tears come up when she thought she was “done.” She’ll see a friend or an announcement on social media that will remind her that she isn’t making that same announcement as she had anticipated. She may open her calendar for one reason, but then be choked up with grief when she sees that this was the week she would have gone for the ultrasound that would have revealed boy or girl.

 

I know that I don’t speak for all women. In fact, you may have gone through a miscarriage and disagree with some of these points. It’s common to not want to talk about it. For some, it’s a very private matter and sharing about it will bring up the trauma all over again. You may not want to be bombarded with the condolences and/or open yourself up to people who may not take care of your raw feelings very well. In this culture already, I’ve been told “Oh, you’ll be ok. You’ll have 10 more babies!” My heart shut down right there. It’s a sweet sentiment, but that doesn’t acknowledge my current loss nor does the thought of 10 more babies comfort my recent pain! People don’t share because of dismissive comments like that. Not saying anything isn’t the best either. So, learn from this and be sensitive. Listen. For me, I needed to talk things out and be heard and cared for well. So, I share my experience with you, because I want to help women going through this kind of loss and also help their loved ones know how to best support them.

 

You see, losing an unborn baby feels like an invisible loss. Most people didn’t even know he or she existed since they were never born (or let’s face it: announced on Facebook!). But the mom and family know. The mom made plans in her mind and already envisioned a nursery. The dad pictured being tummeled by 3 girls in fairy dresses or throwing ball with his first son. They miss what they had (growing pregnant tummy) and what they could of had (a baby in their arms and a new sibling for their children). The best piece of comforting advice I’ve received so far is this: “You’ll NEVER stop missing your baby. You’ll NEVER stop wanting to meet him or her.” Sometimes you will feel the deep longing greatly and other times it will be small. But you’ll never stop. That felt so reassuring. Because there are days that I’m happy. And then I feel a little guilty that I forgot about my sadness. I don’t ever want to forget his or her memory. That’s my baby. Forever. And it feels good to know that I won’t ever forget him or her. And one day, I’ll meet this precious life. And when I do, all of my sadness will be wiped away. All of my why’s will ultimately turned into wow’s as I once and for all meet my Creator. Questioning His plan will be the farthest thing from me. But, for now, I’m reminded of His love and sovereignty through His creation, my loving family and friends, and the hope that He is producing in me through my suffering.

 

“We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our heart through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5 NIV)

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-17 NIV)

 

Happy 1 year to us!

Happy 1 year to us!

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One year ago last month on June 16, 2015, we stepped off that little airplane that brought us to our new home in Nampula, Mozambique. What a RIDE it’s been!

While we’ve had obvious profound challenges as any little family would adjusting to a totally new culture and surroundings in a 3rd world country, I can honestly say that I love being here and I wouldn’t change it for anything. Being where God wants you produces a peace that no amount of difficulties can take away.

So, being that I haven’t updated the blog in almost 8 months (ouch!), I’ll touch on some of the highlights (and lo-lights) of life serving here in Mozambique.

NOVEMBER

Highlight: I made my FIRST turkey for Thanksgiving! It took a few weeks, but I was able to find 2 turkeys to cook, and would you believe they were both from North Carolina? Ha! We had a lovely time with about two dozen Americans and a few adopted Americans 😉 The turkeys turned out pretty good. I was so nervous cooking for so many people!

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Lo-light: My kitchen temperature reached 110 degrees! Remember, seasons here are flipped from the USA. And it being the end of dry season, November and December are the hottest months. Talk about working up a sweat! I had a floor fan going, drank a lot of ice-cold water, and took a few breaks in one of the bedrooms with A/C. Nonetheless, I was dripping-sweat HOT! But, I was determined to cook up a storm for the holidays. (The previous year, I got depressed not celebrating T-day ON the day with all the traditional fixings.) And in the end? Totally worth it.

DECEMBER

Highlight: We went on our first family Ambassador Aviation flight! (MAF in Moz is known as Ambassador Aviation.) Steve had open seating in his airplane to the Niassa reserve (a 2-hr flight up to the high north of Mozambique) where he would stay over 1 night, take a photographer on a few aerial photo-shooting sessions of wildlife, and then take him back to Nampula the following day. The family who runs the reserve is pretty isolated and have 2 young kids. They told Steve a few months prior to bring us (his family) with him next time. So, in a spur of a moment (with only a few days to plan), all 4 of us piled in the 206 and flew up with Pilot Daddy! It was an incredible experience to fly as a family and hear the squeals of excitement from 2 little girls! (Ok, reality moment too: Hannah hated being strapped in and wiggled her way out a few times until she finally gave up and fell asleep on me in the heat of summer… but, other than that, it was a dream come true!)

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We landed on a dirt/grass airstrip and were welcomed by this sweet South African family with a 9-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter. Bekah, Hannah, and the little girl Bea immediately ran off to play, and before long, they were having a tea party on the front porch of the family’s newly built house (they had lived in modified tents for the last several years). But before they ran off to play together, Bea’s mother Sheline warned the girls not go past a certain point as a lion had been spotted there the last few days. In the same breath, Sheline went on to explain that her garden used to be right over there, however an elephant got into it a few months ago and trampled it to pieces! (Seriously, where are we?!) My eyes were SO big! Where in the world did Steve just fly us?! This was SO cool! And nerve-wracking!

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The Niassa Reserve is the largest conservation area in Mozambique and is located in the far north of the country bordering Tanzania. In the 70’s and 80’s, it was badly affected by civil war like the rest of the country and was extensively poached. More recently though, game populations such as elephant, buffalo, zebra, hippo, and lion have slowly started to recover and have become a great interest for wildlife safaris.

This dear couple has dedicated the last 13 years of their life and career to helping conserve wildlife, protect animals from poachers, and see that the reserve continues to grow healthy. Their particular interest right now has been the African elephant. Tens of thousands of elephants are being killed every year for their beautiful ivory tusks that are illegally exported to other countries, particularly in Asia, and carved into ornaments and jewelry. Because of this, some African elephant populations are endangered. After 2 weeks of the ranger Vim and the photographer searching via car for the species, very few elephants were seen… an extremely discouraging find.

As all 2-year-olds do in new places when you are trying to make a good impression, Hannah had a melt down and was beyond consoling. To try to calm her down, Steve took her to a quiet, remote setting: a cliff that overlooked a large bank. With the change of scenery, she looked out and got very quiet. Off in the distance, Steve could see a wild herd of something, but couldn’t tell what it was. He shouted, Vim the ranger rushed over, squinted his eyes, spit his cigarette out, and exclaimed “Elephants!” He ecstatically ran as fast as he could to the Range Rover and yelled for all of us to get in the car (photographer, his family, our family, and another conservationist with a special degree in wild buffalo). We drove off as fast as possible in a  4WD truck through the bumpy trails and onto the riverbank.

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When we got out of the car, it felt like something out of a safari movie. In the distance (maybe only ½ a mile away) we could see a herd of elephants walking together, trumpeting, and bathing in a nearby body of water. Not just 10 or 20, but close to 200! It was so surreal! Tears of joy streamed down Sheline’s face “In all my years here, I’ve never seen THIS MANY elephants!” She was so grateful that their efforts against the poachers and to preserve the wildlife in the Niassa were indeed making a difference. It was incredible to be part of this historical moment for this conservationist family. If they didn’t believe in miracles then, surely God’s glory could be seen now!

That night we “glamped” in one of the wilderness reserve’s tent houses that had 2 queen sized beds, running water, and a toilet. We were served a 3-course meal along with the other safari guests on the veranda overlooking the sunset on the savanna. It was incredible. However… those of you who camp with young kids in the heat of summer, know that camping is not for quietness or sleeping 😉 We felt so bad for our neighboring safari tourists who had to listen to crying kids all night, but we have NOW invested in battery-operated fans to bring with us next time!

So, as if our December wasn’t already exciting enough…

Highlight: Our container arrived! We packed all of our belongings nearly 2 years ago and now we were opening them up like it was Christmas! And it was Christmas! We had bought the girls a few things for their Christmas 2015 and now we could give it to them. AND as clever of parents as we are, we wrapped up a bunch of their old toys and gave it to them as Christmas gifts too! Ha! Bekah remembered a few of her toys, but Hannah? She was rolling in “new” stuffed animals, books, dress up clothes, and dolls. It was a Christmas miracle for all of us!

But my FAVORITE Christmas gift of all was…

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Highlight: Our house! We got the keys to our house on December 14th. The house is a 4 bed/ 2 bathroom house located on MAF’s newly purchased property (from Boa Nova) and is between the properties of YWAM (Youth With a Mission, formerly owned by SIL—Wycliffe Bible Translators) and AIM (Africa Inland Mission). The property has 3 houses, ours being the one in the middle, and is full of big trees, space, and grass (no big cement walls with shard glass and barb wiring!). (Yes, we have security that includes day and night guards and fences with barb wiring, but it’s at a distance from our house and where the girls play.)

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The shade over the house makes it nice and cool. The variety of trees ranges from mango, lemon, cashew, banana, tangerine, and papaya. And get this: MY KITCHEN HAS AN AIR CONDITIONER! I cried as the cold air blew on me as I pretended to stir a boiling pot. This month just could NOT get any better. I was SO ready to SETTLE DOWN in my own home after 2 years of being so transient and living in other peoples’ homes and out of a suitcase.

However…

Lo-light: Several things needed to be fixed before we could move in to our house, and we wanted to make some much needed updates. We were so close to unpacking our container and settling in to our new house for Christmas. But, we decided, it was best to do the necessary repairs, and fix our home the way we wanted it before moving in. Thankfully, we were given the time and resources to do most of the repairs, we had a wonderful baby-sitter who could watch the girls while Steve & I got to fix up our own house, and we found a hard-working, honest tiler to put down floors in our home.

4 weeks later…

JANUARY

Highlight: We got to move in to OUR HOME! My dreams for decorating a house were birthed this month (you can take the midwife out of the birth setting, but you can’t take birth out of the midwife!) From painting a red accent wall to creating wall art with local fabric bought at the market and constructing the frame from re-purposed wood salvaged from an old part of the ceiling, I just loved making our new house a home. Ya’ll, it was awesome.

Lo-light: We had to pack up to leave! Imagine how exciting it was to finally UNPACK after 2 years of being PACKED and then a few weeks have to pack up again and LEAVE?!

But it was because…

FEBRUARY

Highlight: We went on furlough! Only a few months prior to this month, MAF decided to officially change the furlough policy from every 3 ½ years to every 21 months. We were in tears happy to find out that we can go back to the States twice as frequent as we were told when we first joined MAF a few years ago. It was a dream come true!

To be back with family & friends and in the comfort of our home culture for a few months was so life-giving to us. I can’t say enough good things about our time there. We rested, we played, we ate (boy, did we eat), and we just enjoyed being WITH our loved ones. FaceTime and Skype are wonderful, but there’s just NOTHING like a hug!

Lo-light: We got word that our first family dog Abby had to go 😦 She was our guard dog, but we still considered her being a part of our family. Before we moved onto the MAF property, Abby lived with another family who had 2 guard dogs who were “training” her. She was a good dog, obedient with the adult couple, and gentle with the kids. We were puzzled why when she moved on to our property how protective she was of us to the point of growling at anyone who would try to enter our home. We figured that after a few weeks, she would get used to her new surroundings and ease up a bit. Unfortunately, she didn’t. Her aggression grew and the family who was caring for her while we were gone ended up getting bit as she was trying to “protect them.” Thankfully, the bite was very minor, but the decision was made that she had to go. Another expat family who knew her breed (Rhodesian Ridgeback) said that they didn’t mind her “extreme loyalty” and decided to adopt her. They came to pick her up a few days after the incident, and just like that, our dog was gone! We didn’t even get to say good-bye 😦 The girls took it well, overall, when we broke it to them. Steve and I were a bit bummed, but we definitely understood.

MARCH

Highlight: We went on a Caribbean cruise! For the past four years we having been saving a little every month so that we could do something big and fun for our 10-year anniversary. Well, being in the States allowed us to take advantage of the grandparents’ babysitting and the opportunity to do something big! We officially blew our 10-year anniversary fund at 8 years & 9 months of marriage, but it was SO worth it!

APRIL

Highlight: Saying goodbye to loved ones again was HARD, but returning to Mozambique actually felt like we came HOME. Our family and our country will always have our heart, but let’s face it—there’s NOTHING like sleeping in your own bed and being in your own space! What a treat to travel so far and yet we were ecstatic to be returning to this 3rd world land we now call “home.” Totally unexpected. Totally such a blessing.

Highlight: Steve’s buddy from college Shane Beans came from America to BLESS us with 10 days of hard work toward home repairs! Shane and his wife Linda love missionaries and are dedicated to blessing them with a portion of their time and income. Linda is a pilot for Delta and Shane is a part-time avionics technician and a full-time dad to their 2-year-old daughter Kaitlyn (and soon-to-be new baby this month!). So, you can imagine the appreciation and utter blessing this was to us to have him here doing whatever we needed! He did everything from minor projects like installing towel bars, fixing screen holes, and painting chipped areas of the ceiling to helping Steve construct a playset for the girls, installing a door closer, and hammering a hole through a wall to install our dryer hose. The list goes on! At one point he was on top of our roof, cleaning off leaves, so that he could identify the holes that are common with our leak-causing V-shaped roof! It would have taken Steve at least a year to do all that Shane did in a week and a half. Did I mention what a blessing he was to us in loving on our girls, too? He tickled them, read them stories, chased them around the house, and let them be a part of whatever he was doing too. What. A. Blessing.

Highlight: We got to attend MAF’s Annual Africa Manager’s Conference in Cape Town, South Africa! The Program Manager from each MAF program in Africa got to invite one other couple on their team to join them for the conference. The couple perhaps is seen as having potential leadership possibilities. Steve and I were very honored to be chosen! We not only learned about how the other African programs function in Congo and Lesotho, how the MAF budget works, and what kinds of new changes are coming to the organization, but we also got to meet other people from other programs around Africa who have similar struggles and joys. It was encouraging, refreshing, and eye-opening. We are so pleased to be a part of such an incredible organization that loves God, His people, and the world we serve.

Highlight: We had the unique privilege of taking a tour of Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was held prisoner for a few decades before apartheid was finally abolished in 1994. What a sobering sight to witness the remnants of racial cruelties of the past. While we learned so much about this part of history and how far our world has advanced in this arena, it is still quite evident that there is much more to be done for true racial reconciliation in this part of the world. We are very grateful to have been able to see this portion of history and even more grateful that it is in the past!

On a lighter note, we saw wild penguins! Of course, this was the girls’ favorite part 😉 I mean, come on. Who takes their toddler and Kindergartner to a former prison island with wild penguins? This couple! Bekah’s world history and wild animal knowledge is growing by leaps and bounds 😉 Hannah is just so proud of herself for chasing off and almost touching the flightless birds. (Remember, Cape Town is the southern most tip of Africa and is fairly close to Antarctica. Did I mention it was pretty chili there too?)

MAY

Lo-light: Just being honest here and not to complain (because I feel so grateful for everything we have been able to experience thus far), but by May, we were wiped out. I was done traveling for a while. All I wanted to do was stay in my house and sleep in my own bed and not go ANYWHERE. We had moved to our new house in January, but 4 months later, we had literally only lived in it as a family for a few weeks. I was craving routine and order. We were STILL unpacking from our crate and what we re-packed from furlough. Steve was the only licensed pilot at the time and had a big trip down the coast of Moz that eventually landed him in South Africa for over a week to do a necessary and routine maintenance job on the airplane. He was gone 12 out of 17 nights by the 2nd week of May. I was feeling drained from him being gone so much.

And then…

Highlight: Mission flying picked up! Up until this point, a lot of our business was commercial flying. With the restructuring of the flying doctor program and the transition of our hangar and business model, business had been slower than normal. However, due to a recent increase of rebel fighting in the north, traveling along the roads has been deemed unsafe. Ambassador Aviation has been happy to help be a part of the solution for safe travel for the missionaries. We have flown more missionaries in the last 3 months than in the last year. What a blessing!

Then I got to tag along for one of those flights! An open seat came up last minute on a day that I had already arranged a babysitter to watch the girls for different plans that ended up falling through. (Thanks, God!) We flew together to a small village on the coast that is predominantly Muslim. The 1-hour flight to this airstrip would have taken almost 8 hours by car. Steve had to clear the airstrip by doing a low pass to make sure there wasn’t anything that would be dangerous to land on as this airstrip hadn’t been accessed in a while. It was fun to see the whole village come out to welcome the airplane!

 

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On this flight we were picking up a woman that had been encouraging a missionary family who live in a remote village about an hour and a half away from the airstrip. The New Tribes missionaries who we were visiting described their work of translating the Bible into the people’s heart language. They shared that early on after they arrived to begin their translation work, the village elders told them that fourteen years ago, as they were reading the Quran in Arabic without understanding any of it, had prayed that God would bring someone to their village to explain the Scriptures. God used this to bring the truth of the Bible to them in their own language.

Getting to go on this flight with Steve was so good for me. Yes, I was still drained from him being gone so much, however, I got a better glimpse of WHY WE’RE HERE! I felt inspired and part of the greater picture. I needed that. God knew it. I came away from that experience refreshed.

And it was a good thing, because…

Highlight: In May, we had an MAF donor group of 9 people from the U.S. come for a vision trip to see how their donations are being used in ministry. They were able to fly with Steve to 2 different airstrips to hear about the work that other missionaries are doing in partnership with MAF. It was a special honor for us to host everyone in our home for a brunch, including the President & CEO of MAF John Boyd, our Africa Regional Director, and our VP of Ministry Advancement Barb Bowman.

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Highlight: The greatest privilege during their visit was dedicating our new Caravan to God’s service. About 80 people total from the community (locals and expats) came out to celebrate and pray with us.

Well, that brings us up to these months in June & July, and I can honestly say, I’m just happy that we’re not moving anywhere or traveling anywhere anytime soon! Steve’s still working a lot, but I’m more settled and that helps. The weather is incredibly cool and breezy (50-60’s at night, 70-80’s during the day). It’s refreshing! The girls are content and enjoying space to run around in and playing on their playground. I feel thankful for this last year of challenges and blessings. Some of them came one in the same. I look forward to what this coming year holds for us!

Thank you for your interest in our lives, taking the time to read this blog and pray for our family. We so appreciate it!

 

 

Our Mozambique Rhythm

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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.”

 

Early morning

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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!

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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!

 

Mid-morning

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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.)

 

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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.
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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.
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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.

 

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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!

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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!

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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 🙂

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

Noon

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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).

 

Afternoons:

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.

 

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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!

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

Evening:

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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?

 

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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 😉

 

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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!

 

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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!

Our first 3 weeks in Africa

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Overwhelming. Overstimulating. Overjoyous. These are the best 3 words to describe the last 21 days. Adjusting to our new lives here in Nampula has been A LOT. It’s been harder than I expected, more exhausting than I anticipated, but it’s also been more wonderful than I could have ever imagined. Like any major transition, balancing life again takes time. The process cannot be rushed. Giving myself grace is the name of the game. I must enjoy this season for what it is, because soon enough, it will change!
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So, what’s been OVERWHELMING? Safety, water, and health. As teenagers, both Steve and I spent time in southern Africa on month-long mission trips. When I was single, I lived in northern Africa for a fall semester teaching at a small Christian missionary school. However, being here with little kids who we are in charge of is a whole new ballgame! The safety concerns in Nampula are similar of living in a big metropolis city, such as Los Angeles (only this is Africa). Poverty is rampant. Jobs are scarce. Crimes of convenience are the main concern. Having bars line each window of the house is a must, employing a night guard is needed, and owning a few big dogs that roam around the house inside the gate is normal. Purses must be kept zipped tight with an overlapping flap and closeby to avoid pick-pocketting. Nothing of great value should be openly worn or held out (like an iPhone) or left out in the car (like a diaper bag). While driving, windows are rolled up and doors are locked.
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We are using an MAF vehicle, which has manual everything, and there’s even a particular way to lock the passenger side from the outside. Not only do we need to remember to lock our doors each time we climb in and out, but we need to turn around and lock the kids’ doors too. The other day, I came THIS close to locking Hannah IN the car! I did the whole “hold-in-the-handle-while-locking-the-inside-button-then-release-to-shut-the-door” to lock my door, but I forgot to unlock Hannah’s side! I thought she was locked in! Thankfully, Bekah’s door was still open. Phew.
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Water is a little tricky here. From the faucet, one can wash hands and bathe, but after the dishes are washed, they must be dipped in a basin of bleach water to be sanitized (gallon-size basin with a cap full of bleach). All fruits and vegetables must also be soaked in this bleach water mixture for 20 minutes to be santized. If the type of produce is very porous (like lettuce), then it’s better to soak it in a vineager mixture (same amount of water, but with 2 cap fulls of vinegar) for 40 minutes. Drinking water comes from a filter that sits on the counter. Before we can pour water into the filter, it first must be boiled. We cook with, brush our teeth with, and drink filtered water only. Try telling that to a 19-month-old! Every now and then I catch her drinking the bath water. Oh boy.
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From the moment we arrived here, the girls have enjoyed getting dirty. All the other kids run around without shoes, so they want to go barefoot, as well. Cuts and scrapes have to be treated a little more cautiously around here to prevent greater infection. So, after the cut is cleaned with soap and water or alcohol, it needs to be covered with a band-aid until it is mostly healed. Preventing bug bites is also important, because malaria is so prevalent. Screens line every window. Each bed is covered with a mosquito net hanging from the ceiling.  Bug spray must be applied around dusk, when mosquitoes tend to be more prevalent.
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Even with all of those precautionary measures, poor little Hannah has been bitten several times. By our 3rd day here, she had 2 bites on her eyelid that swelled up so much that she could only slightly open her eye. When she woke up from her nap the next day, she was screaming and rubbing her eye (which only made it worse). Concerned that the inflammation was turning into an actual infection, we phoned the MozMed nurse Bart and brought her over as soon as we could to have him and Doctor Nico (who just moved here from the Netherlands the previous day) take a look. Both of them agreed that it still just looked like normal swelling, but they gave us sterile gauze to use as a cold compress to alleviate the swelling. They came by our house the next day to check on her, and, thankfully, the swelling went down. What a scare. And what a blessing to have this medical team here with such quick access.
I woke up that next day in tears. The stress of that situation drained me. There were so many new things all at once. I felt for a moment “undone.” I needed a good cry. I needed to talk to God and tell Him all those feelings: fear, being overwhelmed, relief. I was then reminded of: His promises in His Word, how He has worked in my past, how He has called us here to this land, and that He would always be with us. Peace, hope, and joy settled in. I love how the Holy Spirit works. Steve took the girls outside to play. I had the whole house to myself. I turned on some music and cleaned and organized my kitchen. I bleached those dishes. I filtered that water. I soaked that lettuce in some vinegar water. My new normal had begun. And this was me embracing it at the top of my lungs singing to my familiar American music!

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So, what’s been OVERSTIMULATING? Finally being a part of the Mozambique MAF team in country and experiencing new day-to-day “normals” in a new culture. Who said being overstimulated was a negative thing, per se? It’s been wonderful…sometimes too wonderful. Sometimes, Steve and I have to make ourselves stop talking about the day, because it’s 1am and we need to go to sleep!

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Just 4 days after arriving, our team had our yearly Ministry Plan meeting. It lasted 8 hours. What a fabulous opportunity to learn all about what the MAF program has been doing this last year and what future plans lie ahead. We discussed the program’s strengths, weaknesses, what could be changed, and what we thought should remain. We prayed together as a team that God would give us a vision of what He wants us to do and to stir in us the passion to carry it out. Talk about being overstimulated. Vision and passion came oozing out of our brain cells and hearts that night. What a privilege to have been intentionally invited to this meeting as part of the team! We were honored!

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Last Sunday, we attended our first African church service as a family here. Djembes (traditional African drums), tamborines, triangles, and maracas were dispersed throughout the congregation of nearly 50 adults and 25 children. A choir of 6 adults sang and danced up the aisle in acapela leading the rest of us in praise and worship. The babies who were tied to their mother’s back just bobbled as their mommas praised God in song and dance. Hannah’s hips swayed, Bekah’s feet moved from side to side. One can’t help but clap and dance to the beat. Familiar hymns like “Tudo Entregarei” (“I Surrender All”) were sung with an African twist. We loved it. Children’s church was held on the side of the church under a thatched roof. Two dozen children ages 1-11 sat on a bamboo mat and colored a half-sheet Bible story page. We sang some songs and played a few games. I was impressed with the children’s patience as the whole service lasted 2 ½ hours. When we returned home, we ate a brief lunch and slept the afternoon away.

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So, what have we been OVERJOYED about? Ah, where do I begin?! Being able to speak the language of the locals, being BACK in Nampula and reconnecting with old friends, and watching both Steve and I tap into our dreams come true. How’s that for starters? Ha, I know. A bit of a romanticist view, but just read on. Only God could write this story.

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Both Steve and I have traveled to many countries before and the most difficult aspect of getting around is the inability to communicate. So, what a refreshing feeling to be in such a new and unfamiliar place but be able to: read road signs, food labels, and billboards; understand greetings, musical lyrics, and how much something costs; be able to reply with appropriate responses, tell the grocer what you’re looking for, and surprise a local by asking them how they are doing today. What a difference from arriving to Portugal last year! Yay that even though we transitioned again to a new country, we didn’t have to be lost in the language! Even the double kiss on the cheek is the same! Yippee!

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For me, being back in Nampula felt familiar. For two and a half years, we have been preparing to come here: emailing the team with questions, reading up on Mozambique’s culture/ blogs of people living here, and praying for the people God has called us to move across the world to live in community with. But for me, I WAS RETURNING to Mozambique. Fifteen years ago, I came here on my first short-term mission trip with Teen Missions International to help build a hospital. I told the missionary surgeon who we were helping that I wanted to be a midwife one day and maybe I’d return in the future. His ministry of meeting physical needs and then sharing Christ with them made a great impact on me that summer, leaving me with a lasting call to overseas full-time Christian missionary work. And now, I’m BACK. I’ve got my Master’s in Nursing as a certified nurse-midwife and family nurse practitioner. I’ve got my kids with me. I’ve got my missionary pilot husband with me. I’m all in.

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Guess who else is here? My former Teen Missions leader Lori and her husband Victor and their 4 children. I haven’t seen her since summer of 2000. They just arrived here last month! Lori and her family have been living about 2 hours away from Nampula for the last decade or so and have just relocated for the first time in their family’s life. They are the leaders of Youth With A Mission (YWAM: Christian discipleship training) who just took over the missionary compound here where we were living our first 2 weeks. We are practically neighbors! Is God cool or what? And she’s expecting her 5th baby next month! I think I was in country less than 2 hours before I was already doing Leopold’s maneuvers (common method of determining the baby’s position) on her pregnant belly. After over 2 years of not attending a birth (besides giving birth myself), I am hoping to be a support person for my dear friend’s birth!

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With a growing aviation program and the preparation for half the team to be gone for furlough this fall, Steve is excited about getting back in the air and growing in leadership. Last Saturday, he flew his first airplane since April 2014! He was so excited. With a growing MozMed team (flying doctor service to the unreached parts of northern Mozambique), a Cessna 208 Caravan arriving early next year, and 3 new pilots arriving within the next 12 months, he is overjoyed to be here in this growing and changing season of our program.

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Thank you for sharing in our adventures by reading our blog, praying for us, and cheering us on. With all these new changes, we are so thankful for a God Who has been so faithful to us and doesn’t change. And we are so thankful for our family and friends who have stuck by us all these years, no matter how many miles separate us. Thank you!

Some pictures of our first 3 weeks…

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Our 29-hr journey from Coimbra, Portugal to Nampula, Mozambique. Hannah barely slept. Bekah fell asleep just fine. The rising South African sun was so promising and gorgeous. One of my favorite memories: explaining to Bekah what a squatty-potty was in the Johannesburg airport! That was the first hint we were definitely in Africa.

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Our home on the YWAM base the first 2 weeks, then we moved into our teammates house (about a 7 min drive away) where we’ll stay until our shipment arrives (4-6 months). Finally, we will move one last time (hopefully for a while)!

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The girls make friends wherever they go.

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My cooking endeavors: pumpkin muffins and olive/bacon pizza (ALL from scratch, baby!).

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New way of life… At YWAM, trash is collected in a pit, then burned. Lixo means trash. Laundry is done in a central building, by someone hired to put it in the washer and then hang it on the line. You pay per load and get a book of tickets (about $2 per load– not bad!). It must be dropped off first thing in the morning (7-10a)… about a 6 min walk from our house. Steve learning how to drive on the left side of the road. Would you believe we are BOTH independently driving now?! Praising God for courage!

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In 3 short weeks, we celebrated 4 special dates: Father’s Day (June 21st), our 8th Wedding Anniversary (June 23rd), Mozambique’s Independence Day (June 25th), America’s Independence Day (July 4th).