Friday, May 23, 2008

My Husband Victor and His Orphanage in Mozambique

Victor was born in 1978 and grew up in Nampula, Mozambique during the 16-year civil war that devastated the country. His parents were church planters who traveled to some of the most dangerous places during the war. As a child his family was very poor and often struggled to afford food and clothing. Victor once went over a year with only one pair of pants. When there was no way to get food the family would eat boiled cassava leaves or go without eating. Though his parents had eight kids and never enough food, they still welcomed and cared for many others in need, sharing what little they had. Victor taught himself English and was then able to work as a translator. When Victor was 19 he became a serious Christian and dedicated himself to God’s calling in his life. After that he started doing evangelistic work in Nampula – gathering the youth and spreading the gospel. During this time his work as a translator introduced him to Teen Missions, an American missions organization, which invited him to travel to the U.S. as a part of an international evangelistic team. In 2000 Victor traveled to the U.S. He made friends everywhere he went, and the Bryngelson family in South Carolina helped him return a second and third time to take Bible and seminary courses. While in the U.S. Victor had another profound experience where he felt God impressing upon him the need to return to Mozambique and do something more to serve those left in the same poverty that he had once experienced. Victor returned to Mozambique and started visiting children orphaned by war, disease, and other tragedies. His friends in America donated money for food, school supplies, and medicine to pass on to orphans in the villages. During this time it became obvious that there was a great need to build an orphanage so the children would have a safe place to live. In 2004 friends helped Victor purchase the land for the orphanage and it has been growing ever since.


I was born in Los Angeles in 1978 and grew up in Seattle where I attended Latona Elementary School, Hamilton Middle School, Blanchet High School, and Seattle Pacific University. My dad was a pastor, and my mom stayed home with my sister and brother and I. Our parents taught us to love God and show hospitality to others. I became a Christian when I was a young child. When I turned 14 my mom took me to visit a cousin in the Peace Corps in St. Lucia. After that I became very interested in seeing other parts of the world. When I turned 16 I spent the summer with Teen Missions in Guatemala where I also had a profound experience with God. After that I wanted to live right with God and find a life’s work that would serve people. After college I earned my teaching certificate, subbed in most of the middle and high schools in the Seattle School District, and then settled in at Rainier Beach High School teaching history and special ed. math for six years.

In 2003 Victor and I met at my parents’ house in Seattle. Victor was staying with friends in the area for Christmas, and my family had invited them over for dinner. We had a love-at-first-sight attraction to each other. Everything Victor talked about was interesting to me, and I never forgot his stories about working for the census in Mozambique. He had interviewed families who didn’t know their birthdays – asking them about historical events and seasonal crops corresponding with the births of their children. I was inspired by Victor’s love for his people, his faith, and his ambition to serve the children and the poor. When the evening ended we started emailing each other that very night. But Victor’s orphanage in Mozambique and my teaching in Seattle kept us apart and we ended up losing contact for almost two years. In 2006 we began emailing again and in July 2007 I flew to Mozambique and spent two months at Victor’s orphanage. We knew immediately that we wanted to get married. In the fall I returned to Mozambique with my family. Victor and I were married in Nampula on November 10, 2007. Our dads, both pastors, performed our wedding ceremony together, and our moms and siblings were all there too.
Living with Victor in the middle of the orphanage in Mozambique often feels like paradise. The landscape is romantic: lush, tropical, green, and gorgeous. The people are beautiful, gracious, and friendly. The kids are delightful, fun, and filled with character and personality. The weather is hot and sweaty. The tragedies are severe and heart-wrenching. God is everywhere. Victor is passionate and gentle, caring and confident. Besides running the orphanage he is highly involved in the community, neighborhood, local institutions, and churches. He values every relationship and does everything in his power to help the suffering survive. He promotes education and finds ways to get young people into schools and training programs.

Today there are between 50 and 60 children, ages four through twenty, living in the orphanage. Their parents and relatives have died from malaria, AIDS, appendicitis, heart failure, landmines, many other diseases, and many unknown causes. Most Mozambicans live their whole lives suffering under the conditions of severe poverty. Most of the kids were sleeping on dirt floors with no mattresses, blankets, or mosquito nets before they came to the orphanage. Some children arrive at the orphanage suffering from severe malnutrition, worms, and numerous infections, and many children did not attend school but instead worked in the fields. Many girls begin arranged marriages as young teenagers because their families are too poor to feed and clothe all their children. Thanks to generous donations from family, friends, and churches, our kids in the orphanage all sleep in beds with mattresses and mosquito nets. When the funding is right the kids get three meals a day (when there’s not enough money we have to cut out breakfast). Every child is taken to the hospital for treatment when he or she is sick and every child goes to school everyday. After finishing secondary school Victor works to get every student into a training or college program according to interests and strengths. Of the four children who have graduated from the orphanage, two are in a teachers training college, one is now a teacher, and the other is now working as a nurse at a government hospital.Many of the kids in the orphanage have suffered terrible traumas in the past. The orphanage staff is very concerned with the emotional and spiritual well-being of each child. Churches, counselors, friends, and local children’s programs are all heavily involved with the kids in the orphanage. We believe there is great healing through music and have an extensive music program as well. These are just some of the things happening at the orphanage today. If you visit you will be overwhelmed with the level of joy, respect, kindness, passion, generosity, compassion for others, and love for God coming from the kids. I am still deeply impressed by this everyday and I love my life with Victor at our orphanage in Mozambique.