Saturday, October 31, 2009

Terrible Incident that Happened at the Orphanage

These last two weeks have been very very difficult for us here at the orphanage because something very terrible happened. A little over a week ago our little pet dog Simba disappeared. He was gone for three days and we thought that we would never see him again. Then last Thursday morning (Oct. 22) after leaving for school, Isaque came back into the orphanage with his hands and arms mangled and bleeding. He said that he was walking down a little path in another part of our neighborhood when Simba suddenly jumped out of the bushes and viciously attacked him. He said that at least one other person passing by had also been attacked. Victor and Sara (an 11th grader who wants to go into medicine) immediately put gloves on and washed Isaque’s wounds with soap and water and then Silva took him to the hospital. Then Victor and three of the older boys had to go find Simba. When they got to the place where Isaque had been attacked there were other neighbors there saying that nobody could walk down that path because Simba was there and he was “like a lion.” When they finally found Simba they said that he was not like the Simba we knew at all but was completely ferocious. Victor and the boys had to put Simba down and then the government veterinary authority flew his remains to Maputo for an autopsy.

Yesterday the veterinary authority called to report that Simba’s autopsy test came back positive for rabies. We were SHOCKED to hear this because Simba had his rabies shot last December and the next one was not due until over a month from now. We were also extremely shaken up over this because of our kids who were bitten. Simba bit Mauricio a few days earlier when he accidentally put his chair on Simba’s leg, which caused Simba to cry and bite him in self defense (one small bite that did not bleed but was still a bite). We all loved Simba and played with him constantly but do not think anyone else was infected by him, though the whole thing is so creepy and horrible to think about (for me at least).

Today Isaque, Mauricio, and a neighbor lady all began receiving anti-rabies treatment from the veterinary authority – they all got the first in a series of five injections. Please pray for them and please pray for the whole orphanage concerning this matter. Please pray that the ones bitten will be completely healed with no further complications. And please pray that no other person was somehow infected without us knowing. This has been a very traumatic experience for all of us. Simba is the first and only pet anyone at the orphanage has ever had. He was a great little dog until Thursday when he turned into a monster. It seems like all the kids (including the ones bitten) are doing okay and it seems like the veterinary authority here has experience handling this type of situation, as rabies is much more common here than in the U.S. Please just keep us all in your prayers and ask God to continue protecting and watching over all of us (and our neighbors), especially concerning this scary matter.

Isaque, age 15, was viciously attacked and had huge bite wounds all over his hands and arms. He is a fantastic kid, always looks out for younger children, is always willing to help others, and loved playing with Simba before this happened. He seems like he’s doing okay and continues hanging out and talking with his friends. Please pray that the anti-rabies treatment works perfectly on him and that he is healed without any further problems.

Mauricio, age 12, was bitten one time on the back when he accidentally put his chair on Simba’s leg. He is also a great kid – quiet, kind, and dearly loved by all the boys his age AND everyone thinks he looks like the president of Mozambique. He seems to be doing okay and is still playing with his friends. Please pray that the anti-rabies treatment also works perfectly on him and that he is healed without any further problems.

Other Very Sad Story - Jackson

Besides the Simba incident we had several other very very difficult things that we had to deal with this week. One that we would like to share is the death of a young man in our church named Jackson who sang in the youth choir and was good friends with all the kids in the orphanage. About two months ago Jackson felt very sick and thought he might have malaria. He went to the hospital and they could see that there was clearly something wrong but found that it was not malaria or any other illness they are familiar with here. Jackson stayed in the hospital from then on and got worse and worse. According to everyone from church who visited him and said they saw this, Jackson then began vomiting up bones, even though he had never eaten anything with bones in it. To me this sounds impossible but everyone here says it is “witchcraft.”

In Mozambique people have been practicing animism/witchcraft for hundreds of years. This includes praying and sacrificing to ancestor spirits, concocting potions and spells to try to make something happen, and lots of other very bad stuff that ends up harming people very very badly physically and spiritually. As Jackson got worse he started asking friends to clean out his baracca (little stand that people sell stuff from) and they found a lot of witchcraft items in there. He also kept telling people to take the bones he had been throwing up and give them to Victor. Since Victor is a pastor I think he imagined that Victor would do something with the bones to undo the witchcraft or something. But Victor reprimanded the people who were bringing the bones and told them he didn’t even want to see them and that as Christians we don’t need to and should not have anything to do with stuff like that.

Victor and other pastors here constantly preach and counsel people to separate themselves completely from all witchcraft practices. But it is very very difficult for many to give up a belief system that has been practiced in their families for endless generations. It is very normal to find Christians in church who have little witchcraft charms tied around their waists under their clothes – they are too frightened to give that up as they believe it is protecting them. When a family here has a serious illness or other problem and they don’t think God is taking care of it, they often revert to witchcraft, even if they are Protestant, Catholic, Muslim, or any other religion.

So a few days ago Jackson died in the hospital. The doctors never figured out what was wrong with him. We believe that he was a Christian but had been struggling to free himself from witchcraft for a long time and was finally discarding all the items involved during the last days before his death. I’ve never heard of someone “throwing up bones” before but nobody here is skeptical or surprised to hear about it.

Victor did Jackson’s funeral on Thursday and it went really well. A lot of people in the neighborhood who are not in the church community were there and seemed very interested in the message. Victor talked about how we would all honor Jackson by remembering the good things about him even though he, like all of us, had both strengths and weaknesses. Victor talked about the importance of living a life in Christ and nothing else and what it means to be a Christian. We hope that Jackson's family and friends who knew how he was trying to rid himself from the bad things in his last days will not wait until they think they are going to die to do the same. Jackson still had things he wanted to do before he passed away and he didn’t get that chance. Jackson’s death was very sad. We hope that somehow whatever happened, though still very mysterious, will help others get rid of any bad things they are holding onto and truly follow God.

And One Good Story from this Week – Visado’s Wedding

This morning Visado and Flora were officially married at Union Baptist Church and had their wedding reception here at the orphanage. This is a really big deal because weddings are pretty rare in Mozambique. When the Portuguese first came here traditional African marriage customs were replaced with the European style wedding ceremony. Hardly anyone here can afford to put on a European style wedding, so weddings stopped happening in most families. Today the majority of couples end up talking to their family and then starting a life together without ever having any kind of official ceremony before the community. This is so common that even the government census recognizes the couple as being "married." Visado and Flora have been considered "married" by their family for many years and have three children of their own but never actually had a wedding.

Since Visado began working at the orphanage a few months ago Victor has been mentoring him on the importance of family and having some kind of wedding ceremony before the church and community. We wanted to help him have his wedding in the church, which finally happened today. Visado’s parents died when he was young but Flora’s family is nearby and sent a goat over for the meal. Last night Victor and the kids slaughtered and marinated it and then everyone was up early this morning cooking the wedding feast. It was a cloudy day with everyone cooking over an open fire and reminded me of the coziness of camping. The kids made goat, beef, chicken, rice and beans, french fries, and hundreds of Christmas cookies (Jenni style, their choice). After the wedding the whole church came to the orphanage (in many singing truck loads). Visado and Flora are both in the Tcharuwani Choir so there was tons of amazing live music from lots of people, including our kids, at the reception. Everyone had a great time and we hope that this wedding will encourage more young people to look for a way to get married in front of their families, church, and whole community.

Visado and Flora were married at Union Baptist Church and then had their reception at the orphanage. Everyone had a good time.

One More Piece of Good News - Dionisio

The last good thing that we are able to report is that Dionisio has recovered from the measles and no other child was infected. He really went through a horrible month alone in his tent in isolation but is now back outside, happy, and playing with the rest of the kids. We thank God that he recovered from this.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Construction on Boys' Dorm Finally Resumes!

Thanks to some more generous donations construction has finally resumed on the boys’ dorm!!!

We were able to purchase enough cement to fill up the orphanage truck. The cement was then unloaded into the store room in the cooking house.

Then tons of wall plastering began.

Smoothing out the walls.

Meanwhile back to one of the soon-to-be most beautiful bathrooms in all of Mozambique . . .

Sink-Installer comes with drill.

Sinks are now in!

Window-Bar-Maker comes with measuring tape.

Then he makes bars to go in the bathroom window (there will be good ventilation here).

Meanwhile Janete has successfully planted a little garden of couve behind her house. For the last two years I have been more than confused about what couve actually is. It’s the main thing that the kids always try to plant here and then cook in some of their meals. But what is couve in English? Finally today I looked it up in Portuguese Wikipedia and then translated it into English. I still have no idea what it really is but found that couve is “Brassica oleracea, or Wild Mustard” (?!?!) and is in the same family as kale, collard greens, Chinese broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts, and kohlrabi. Doesn’t that make it sound tasty? Anyway – it’s very healthy, has lots of Vitamin C, and grows well in this region.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Today's Event Watched By All

What was today’s big event, watched for several hours by the whole orphanage and much of the neighborhood?

A very old looking container has been sitting right behind Victor’s and my house (in the MIDDLE of the orphanage) for many many years now and today it was moved to the FRONT of the orphanage.

I know that a container being moved a few hundred feet doesn’t sound like something you would want to spend hours watching, but ANYTHING could happen so there was a huge crowd. The thing that made the whole thing highly worth watching to me was that every single job involved in moving the container (driver of giant tractor thing, driver of transporter truck, chain-hooker-upper, digger and scraper, and manual placement of container in truck bed) was done by one guy!!! It was like a crazy one-man circus but with a purpose!

Man driving tractor thing (Seattle people please notice it’s a Volvo tractor) and making it pick up container.

After leaping out of tractor and running around behind the big box, man suddenly appears on top of it, directing helper on how to hook it up. (That is the back of Victor’s and my house behind the container.)

Man runs between tractor and container-carrying-truck every few seconds as he maneuvers the container using the tractor and the truck almost at the same time. Here he is just having leaped out of the truck and about to run back to the tractor.

After driving both vehicles to the front of the orphanage he again resumes racing back and forth between them (here he is running from the truck back to the tractor).

After finally driving the truck out from under the container for the last time, he sprints back to the tractor where he will guide the container to it’s final sitting place.

And this is our new front of the orphanage landscape.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Bye Mano TJ!

Tuesday was a huge day of sadness at the orfanato because Mano TJ left us after being here three whole months. I don’t even know where to begin in telling all the things that TJ did while he was here, but some of his roles included water engineer, fixer of anything, tutor of every subject in a language he had never even heard three months ago, driver to places most people would never even attempt going in a car or gigantic truck, hole digger, emergency latrine construction supervisor, Whinnie the Pooh reader, explainer of things like how satellites work and how to ventilate libraries, photographer, translator, English teacher, band electrician, host and tour guide to visitors from all over the world, water hauler, cook, meal server, preacher, African youth choir member, mentor, impossible internet homework assignment assistant, preventer of kids making explosives for homework, guard, explorer, Bible study leader, Michael Jackson expert, and tons of other amazing and helpful stuff that I don’t even know about.

All the kids came home from school to gather under the tree and say goodbye. Everyone was VERY sad and many were shedding tears.

Each kid gave TJ a final hug before he departed the orfanato for the last time. I tried my best to capture TJ shedding a tear but he was able to hold off all his sobbing until he got on the plane.

Thanks for everything TJ! Now everyone here is either waiting to hear when you’re coming back or waiting to just see you walk back through the gate with all your stuff.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Prayer Request for Dionisio

Please pray for Dionisio who is one of the boys in the orphanage. About a month ago he got sick with an unknown illness and after several trips to the hospital we found out he had measles. We do not know how he got it but the health officials have told us that he has to be completely isolated so that it does not spread to anyone else. Kids in Mozambique normally get vaccines when government health officials visit neighborhoods and villages and we are not sure if Dionisio ever had one for measles or not. We are thankful that nobody else has been infected but Dionisio has been alone in his tent for many weeks and he still has it. Please pray that Dionisio will recover quickly and for his emotional and spiritual well-being while he is sick and alone in his tent for such a long time. Thank you.