Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Widows and Orphans and Jesus

In my American past...
Widows were old ladies from church. When we lost Dad in 1987 mom became one of the rare young widows. I honestly didn't know others her age who had lost a husband. Orphans were also fairly rare. These were few children who'd lost both parents through some freaky accident or horrible diseases. Rarely would a child be abandoned to an orphanage, but would be cared for by relatives. Orphanages were from fairy tales where kids were treated badly and they managed to creatively escape their dismal circumstance through fantastic feats of brave defiance.

In my current world...
Widows are my team-mates and neighbors. They are between the ages of 25 and 50. They live with their kids if they have them... or the children are relocated with the husbands' family who is responsible for them. Women officially have the right to keep their children, but tradition often overrules law. Many opt to keep the peace by not bucking the system too often and resign themselves to a fate of losing husband and rights to raise children and live in the house they built together. "No man's land" is a place of not belonging to anyone (I really mean that in the odd way that belonging gives one a voice in this culture), but also not being independent. Sad things happen here... very sad things.

Orphans are given their status as any child who has lost a parent. He may have loving grandparents to care for him. He may have a mother or father who will keep him fed and clothed and educated. He gets this label and gets some pity and also some privileges: foreigners sponsor orphans... so even those without needs are put on the list and called in at school to receive notebooks and pencils or a chance at breakfast. They are sometimes offered a chance to live at a children's home (though having help at their own home might be preferred) where they are herded through school with other unfortunates and visited by happy foreigners who want to help orphans and bring cake and toys and smiles and selfies.

People aren't all that likely to donate to orphans who live with their mothers or grandmothers... I know ministries that work for this; they are amazing! Both the widows and the orphans are getting needed help and staying together!

In Jesus' world...
Which of our pictures of widows matches Jesus' teaching?
Which picture of orphans is more likely like orphans in Jesus' time?

Next time you read about widows and orphans think about this. She may be perfectly able to care for her kids if she were allowed to keep her house and work. If she had education and a supportive community around her. Jesus asked us to come alongside her and be that community. Same with the orphans. Don't ignore them on the street or dump them in the institution, but support them through a caring community in the church. Foster care is an example of how we can do this in "our world", but I've even seen a FEW people in my world here who have taken that on and are such a blessing!

One of our Little Zebra Books is about the "Persistent Widow" which I thought really odd for a children's book! But they totally get it... they all are too familiar with the real injustice towards widows. Even six-year-olds really feel how the woman is in danger of losing so much if the community doesn't help her out.

This week a new widow walks beside us. Her husband fell ill and the treatment wasn't enough in time. She's not yet 40. Her children are teen age through 3 years. They have a good house. He had a good job. The wife was a modern Mozambican with a real bachelors degree, but not yet a job. She volunteers to help ladies read and children to find joy in books. Their children are studying well and full of promise. We await news of the burial times as I write. In the next week or so her future will be determined by relatives and traditions and laws all mixed up in a complicated jumble that I won't ever really understand.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Missionaries on vacation...

Leaving for vacation...

Tete Commutes

Missionaries like us generally live in out-of-the-way places with little on offer in the area of leisure activities. While a Swede is happy to live for a month without running water and electricity at the lake in the summertime, most of us don't find this "mysig" (cozy and quaint) after years with power-cuts and dry spells. Considering that the hills surrounding our residence in Mozambique were littered with land mines during the war, we have been wary of hiking off the beaten track. It is safe now, but our routines were formed during the not-so-safe years after the ceasefire. We don't wander much.

Where to go?

This is often determined by the next scheduled mission meeting or mandatory travel to and from schools or courses. When we were expected to visit northern Mozambique once a year, we planned on a few extra days to visit our favorite beach spot. When the kids needed to be taken to boarding school, we scheduled a few extra days in Johannesburg where there are malls and movies and restaurants. This time there was a mandatory meeting in Cape Town right before our kids return to boarding school... so we planned 6 days of family time at an AirBnB near a beach at the foot of a lovely mountain on the peninsula. We don't complain! We visit AWESOME places! But we really don't choose where to go based on our interests and dreams. We DO find dreamy spots and become interested in each place we visit though!

When to go?

SIL Southern Africa meetings
Little Zebra Books meetings
As I've mentioned above... we go when it is convenient. Tagged on to other travel so we don't have added expense. The week after Easter isn't a real holiday time in South Africa, but that is our holiday time. We've just had 3 intense months of visits and travel and consultancy events. We've almost ignored our kids for weeks. NOW is the time for vacation! We are so thankful that we CAN schedule time with all three kids in Cape Town this year. In the past, only our youngest has come with us. Since our future assignment might be based here in this tip of Africa, we NEED to have time to check it out as a family. God has been so good to provide the opportunity!

Cool Runnings Bobsled in Cape Town
What to do?

Usually we look for cheap options. Just getting somewhere from where we live is expensive. So spending money on activities is minimal. At the beach, we are all easily entertained :). In South Africa, we have the 3 luxuries of civilization: McDonalds, Movies, Malls! Plus beaches in the Cape this time around! Then there are the necessary missionary vacation activities: buying underwear and shoes, scheduling dentists, haircuts, eye doctor visits, vaccinations...

So what did a day look like in this missionary vacation?

Breakfast in a sunny corner of the 1920's cottage garden across the railroad track from the beach.
Writing documents giving permission for travel or minors and having them notarized at the police station.
Making sure we have internet access on our cell phones so we don't get lost again without our Google Maps
Visiting the Penguins at Boulder Beach in Simon's Town
Visiting the Little Zebra office
Getting haircuts for two girls in desperate need of professional help
Scheduling surf lessons for boys who long for waves

Visits with dear old friends! 
Visiting the office where all our books pass through.

Surf lessons!

Find the kids... find the penguins...
Heading back to Mozambique 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

All in love

A few weeks ago I had a lovely chat with a friend who loves and supports Little Zebra Books and our community reading programs. Hilda even uses Little Zebra Books in a Sunday School program at her church here in Tete.

Our conversation turned, as often happens these days, to our impending exit from Tete. "Are you really going? What will happen to the programs without you? We need you here."

"Yes," I replied, "we are going to leave. It is for the best. It has always been planned this way. Others are already running things. There are a few things I can help with from a distance if needed, but I trust my teams."

"But it isn't the same. You do everything with love!"

I got teary, as often happens this last year in Tete. "Hilda, so do you! You show such love to the kids. So does Veronica! You all do! You can love them even better than me, because you know them better."

There is a reason that I'm not in all those pictures. Mine is not the face of Little Zebra Books to any of the kids or their parents in Tete. The love they see comes from Jesus shining through Hilda. Veronica. Isaura. Cesária, Ilda. Jona. Nico. Matilde. James. The list keeps growing!

"We need you," she said.

I answered with an analogy this time: "For now, they do need me for some things. But remember that when you carry your baby on your back in the capulana, you will not carry her forever. You must put her down and hold her hand. She will start to walk with you. She will fall and you will help her. But if you don't put her down, she will be very big, and she won't learn to walk, and it will be strange! It would not be good for your daughter and not good for you!"

I am so glad to have carried them for a time. I am even more excited to see them walking on their own. My role changes. I can keep the books coming! For now, our groups cannot develop the
materials or afford to publish or ship it on their own. I will do what I can to teach them to be as independent as possible. I will hold their hands on that part. I hope many of you reading this will reach out to help with what you have. We do make a great team stretched around the world like this!