Week 1

Monday May 20, 2013

Today was the day. In the fashion of Miley Cyrus I hopped on the plane at BNA with my dream & my Kavu bag (and my backpacking backpack and my duffle bag and my 50 lb trunk). I said goodbye to everyone and went through security. The plane ride was short and getting to our bags was easy. We met up with everyone and then headed to meet our shuttle. Our shuttle arrived 30 minutes late. We paid extra to have a private bus – it wasn’t. We were told it was big enough for all our stuff – it wasn’t. Half our stuff was in the back, half in our laps as we pulled out of Newark & headed for the streets of New York City with 6 interns, 18 bags, a small non-English speaking Asian family stuffed in the back row, and our driver, a young gentleman named Cashmere, “like the sweater” (though I may have trusted a sweater more). From the moment we left to the moment we arrived in Queens, I am confident dear Cashmere was auditioning for a role in Fast and Furious 7. After several close calls with death, excessive littering, all of the dashboard lights came on, an unexplained and strange disappearance in a hotel, a phone call from “brotha,” that took place because he “wasn’t doing anything. ” Alas, we finally arrived at the Days Inn Jamaica, which had little resemblance to Jamaica. We got checked in after some minor difficulties & got some free cookies as well. We all bonded in the room over pizza and Lion King, & headed off to bed – awaiting the beginning of our journey to Africa.

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Wednesday May 22, 2013

After re-packing everything we got on a shuttle (a safer shuttle) and headed to JFK for our 11:30 flight to South Africa. Soon after takeoff I discovered that water was leaking from the overhead and onto the people in front of me. Then reality struck. At the request of the flight attendant I crawled over the lady next to me & took the walk of shame down the aisle to retrieve my leaking water bottle from my backpack. The next 15 hours passed slowly & without sleep. This was certainly not true for the lady next to me, who slept soundly most of the flight and watched the Maltese Falcon (twice), Ice Age, & the Ant Bully, all while consuming seemingly endless quantities of Fritos. My envy for her shameless and glorious mouth-wide-open slumber consumed me. We landed in South Africa successfully & sat on the cool floor of our gate, awaiting our final flight. “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” This is the proverb plastered across the giant African mural in the terminal & I try to take it to heart, praying that my team will be of one heart & mind, and that when we aren’t I am granted patience, wisdom, selflessness, joy, & a closed mouth. After a restful 3 hour flight, we landed at the Pemba “airport.” We walked out of our tiny plane & onto to tarmac & into a tent where customs took place. After a semi-intimidating passport control & baggage check experience, I lugged my stuff out of the tent where Alan & Chad (the missionaries) were waiting. After getting through security we packed our stuff in their trucks and began the 2 hour drive to Montepuez. We drove paved roads past villages & bush lands, getting increasingly excited about the next 6 weeks. We unloaded our stuff at Chad’s house, where we met his wife Amy and their daughters, Maggie and Jane. After playing for a while we loaded up again and headed to Alan’s house where we met his wife, Rachel; their daughters: Abbie, Ellie, & Katie; and the 2 teachers: Kara & Bekah. We had a great first team meeting over chicken & dumplings, cookie bars, & stories of faith. I can’t wait to embrace this new life and seize what God has set before me in Montepuez.

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Thursday May 23, 2013

Last night I slept like a rock. I woke up under my mosquito net & took my first Mozambican shower. Due to the lack of water recently, I had an authentic missionary experience. I stood in a bucket in a bathtub & used the minimum amount if water to bathe. It was a bit chilly. Next time I won’t use as much soap.
After we got ready, we hit the road (sand) and took a short tour of the town. Everything about Montepuez is interesting – much is beautiful, much is ugly, all is in desperate need of Christ’s presence. We talked about the economic, health, educational, social, & spiritual struggles of the average Mozambican – & they are certainly up against a lot.
We went back to Chad’s house to meet our language teacher, Raqman, who I can’t wait to begin classes with. Next we had rice & beans, made by Amy’s precious worker, Anna.
A little after lunch Rachel picked us up and took us to a weekly women’s bible study in a village. The Makua singing is absolutely incredible. Their joy in God is evident. Their Bible study is based on an easy to read Bible story booklet that teaches the life of Christ & basic reading skills.
After a bumpy ride back to Chad’s, we hung out with Amy and made dinner with her. I could tell she was encouraged by us because I was deeply encouraged by her. Us cramming in the kitchen, laughing & cooking & covered in food, was just like a big family getting together for a special meal. We ate some delicious stew with the family, put the girls to bed, then played Dixit with Chad & Amy, which is a board game I believe was made by a deeply unstable French woman. After they went to bed we continued with language practice, journal writing, & talking. God is so great.
I am ashamed of my dirty feet. I am ashamed of how I smell. I am ashamed of wearing the same outfit for 3 days (sorry mom). I am ashamed of my unkempt hair. But I am not ashamed of the gospel for which I am willing to bear this physical shame, because it is the story of a man who washes feet, touches lepers, forgives again & again, and took on all the unkemptness of the world so that our joy may be complete in glorifying the Father.

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Friday May 24, 2013
Dear Makers of Wet Ones,
The fact that someone is buying your product implies that they will likely need more than 15. Therefore, your 15-pack is a joke.
Sincerely,
One of the filthiest customers you’ve ever had

Today we woke up early to unidentified animals outside the window & children in the hallway. We went to an all- day women’s bible study in a village. Cara & I sat in the back with some women who became our on-site Makua instructors. While Makua mostly remains a mystery I now know greetings, body parts, livestock, & nose ring (chipini). We stopped at a different village on the way to witness a baptism. While I sometimes wonder if we too hastily baptize people in America, the Mozambicans have gone to the different end of the spectrum, borderline interrogating people during their confession in order to ensure that they are baptizing true disciples. From there we walked with some of the other women to our final destination. They continued to teach us basic vocabulary as they led us to the Bible study.
Our hostess had an outrageous peanut harvest, so as soon as we sat down out laps were filled with peanuts (ntessa). After a lot of fellowship under the thatch roof we attempted to sing more beautiful songs & begin the Bible study. Rachel teaches out of the Makua Bible story booklet that gradually advances in depth of content and grammatical structure to teach the women to read as they grow in faith.
As I sit under the shade of a hut in the presence of these beautiful women & a beautiful God, I still can’t believe I’m here. I can’t believe I’m so far from home. I can’t believe I’m in this place I’ve heard so much about. I can’t believe I’m learning a tribal language, bathing in buckets, playing obscure board games, & sitting in a hut in the shadow of a mountain listening to the Makua women praise God. This life, this constant experiment of the human condition, is so surreal.
We were then served rice, beans, & ixima, which we scooped into our mouths until we couldn’t eat any more. We played with the kids for a while, taking pictures & expanding our vocabularies.
Then it happened. I had to pee. This began my first experience with an African latrine. Nothing like a latrine to make you realize how Western you are. This latrine was a bamboo structure. I was invited inside by a naked woman showering. I proceeded past the section usually reserved for peeing & into the “private” section, which was a hole. I waved at my friends (because I was completely visible through the bamboo), & began my first successful experience with the latrine.
After my toilet triumph we loaded 22 people into the truck & began our village trek as we dropped everyone off at their homes. It was such a blessing to ride with these women, listening to them sing, laugh, & talk (& mock my complete ignorance of Makua language & culture).
We finally got back to Chad’s, then I realized how much I already missed cooking with Amy & playing with the girls. We soon got back to pulling chicken off the bones & laughing when the power would go out. We sat down to a delicious dinner, had a short worship time, & put the girls to bed. We stayed up late with Chad & Amy, talking about Mozambique, Harding, & milk preferences over the delicious cookies Amy made for us.
Today Chad quoted a nearby missionary (with a classic Texan vernacular) who had said something to Ben & Bailey regarding their decision to come to Mozambique. “I’m glad you got off your blessed assurance this summer & got to spreading the word of God.” Perhaps it was just an off-color comment, but there may be more to it. We must get off our blessed assurance – our security & comfort zone – because God is infinitely greater than anything we can confine him to. But we must also cling to the blessed assurance that through Christ Jesus there is perfect life eternal and the world is in desperate need of him.

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Saturday May 25, 2013
My duck ringtone has been replaced by live, wailing chickens. I got up to take another shower, which isn’t getting any easier. Once we were ready we rode to the Howells’ house for our first language class. After our class we proceeded to the small village market to practice our skills. Each of us received marriage proposals, but Alan told the suitors they’d have to fly to America to get our fathers’ approval. Apparently we weren’t that attractive, so I’m still single. We bought some bajias (like a hush puppy made of beans), and they were delicious.
We then headed to Urrerihana (which means blessed/beautiful/good), which is a project run by the Makua team that enables women to make a living by making jewelry and bags. Most of these women I had met in the village the day before & watching them work was like watching a bunch of old people at church get together to send out newsletters.
We drove around town for a while before getting back to the Westerholms’ for a delicious curry chicken salad lunch. While the other girls napped I stayed up to talk to Bekah & string beans with Amy. Around 3:00 we walked back to the Howells’ to meet the wood carver & have our first weekly intern meeting.
We got back in time to help finish the stir fry, which was almost as good as the curry. After another beautiful bilingual devo we spent some quality time together as we tried to catch up on journaling.
Mozambique is oddly accurate with everything I imagined it would be. The stories and pictures – they’re real. The huts are here, the markets are here, the kids chasing after the car are here. And God is here, but he is in the most unexpected way. He’s not calling thousands at a time to be baptized, possessing people to prophesy, & people committing to lifetimes of faithfulness who maintain their promise. He is here in the hearts of hard working Christians who constantly worship & encourage despite polio; missionaries who sacrifice for the sake of souls; Bible translators who dedicate decades to developing a clear linguistic system; and in the souls that are being touched, molded, & transformed by the Holy Spirit.
Also, in Mozambican culture, if you poop in front of a house you plan to rob, you will be successful.

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Go to Week 2!

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