After a long and wonderful journey, I am finally at my final destination. In Johannesburg, I stayed with Dane’s uncle and aunt, Kelvin and Lisa, who have a house next door to his grandmother, Gran. They were all delightfully hospitable, even all of the animals, including 4 quails, 2 cats, 1 parrot, and 5 dogs in total (I hope I didn’t forget anyone). Dane’s family treated me as part of their own family and I am very grateful for the airport pickup, home-cooked meal, shared bed (with a kitty to keep me company when I was up from 2 to 5am due to jetlag), filling breakfast, and airport drop off, complete with escort, bush-advice, and a big hug from an experienced bushman who has explored much of southern Africa!
In the morning, I flew to Beira, Mozambique, a run down city that saw more beautiful and prosperous days before the Portuguese were kicked out. Carla, Jon, and their 1 year old son, Kiran, came to the airport to pick me up. Somewhere between Jo’burg and Beira, my suitcase lost a wheel. Good thing it had 3 more! They took me for a brief walk on the beach, which was much dirtier than I had imagined it would be. Apparently, there is a much nicer beach about an hour north where the river (Zambeze?) flows into the Pacific. I may have the opportunity to travel there with them later on. After running a couple of errands in Beira, we drove to Dondo where Carla and Jon are directors of an Iris Ministries base. By then, with jetlag and the extreme heat and humidity, I was ready for a nap. Then I got a tour of the base – Iris has an orphanage with about 19 children, widow’s food distribution every Sunday, a preschool to open on Monday for 45 children, a mango grove with a gazebo for conferences, meetings, or weddings, a church, a Bible school for local pastors, and outreach ministry to demonstrate the love of God. For dinner, Carla honored me with their favorite meal – home-made chicken pot pie. Yum! Afterwards, we played a game of scrabble that I lost, miserably.
The next day, it was extremely hot and humid (like everyday there, apparently), so I just spent the morning in the shade, getting to know the other missionaries and visitors. Then, T arrived from her 2 hour drive, along with K, a new permanent missionary with the organization. We had lunch and headed out on the highway. Along the way, we stopped in several places where people were selling various produce along the road, chasing the cars. Available were mangos, pineapples, cashews, jack fruit, tomatoes, spices, and bananas. The scenery transitioned from flat, flooded rice fields into rolling hills, and somewhere in those hills along the highway, is where we stopped.
The base is split by the highway, with residences on one side, and the clinic, preschool, and the horse pen on the other. There are 4 houses and one dormitory containing 2 private rooms, one dorm for women, and one for men, plus the kitchen, which is shared. Amenities include a washing machine, fully equipped kitchen, patio with tables, grill, and brick oven, several pet dogs, doves, and rabbits, and a lovely view of the hills. There are also several mango trees on the base, which are always dropping ripe fruit, ready to eat! The weather in the hills is much better than in Dondo. Here, it is cooler (75-95F), with breezes from the valley, and being the rainy season, storms roll in and out rather quickly, but tend to cool us off in the heat of the afternoon. Wonderful! The base has clean, potable water from a bore hole, so no need for filters or bottled water! I stay in the dorm with K; she’s set it up so that we both have some privacy. I even have a bookcase and chair to act as a dresser and desk! There are 2 bathrooms to service the women’s dorm, so for now, before visitors come, we each get our own bathroom. The bathroom is pretty impressive – clean tiled shower, great water pressure, cold and HOT water, a toilet that takes toilet paper, not a lot of bugs, a small bench, a small shelf, and several hooks.
On the evening that I arrived, several of the missionaries ate a curried lentil dinner together and then just sat around to chat until about 8pm when we all retired to our rooms. The other missionaries here are quite amazing people! There is a female German nurse (H), a female American Nurse Practitioner (K) who recently finished the Iris Harvest School of Missions, a female South African Program Manager (J1) who has been a missionary to Moz. for 15 years and has 13year old adopted twins, an Irish couple and their early teen daughter (F, U, L) who have been here for 18 years, an American Physician Assistant and organization Director (T) from Bethel Church who has been here for 10 years, a female American educator (J2) also from Bethel church, a male American construction expert who is almost 70 but healthy and strong, lived in New Orleans for a bit after Katrina and met some of the same people as I did including my Bible study professor/advisor and my church’s pastor, spent some time at Morningstar, and periodically is contracted by Samaritan’s Purse, and a male Zimbabwean pastor in charge of the prison ministry (R). Quite a diverse group, but all with one important thing in common – the heart of Jesus! And maybe I can finally gain an ear for distinguishing all the English accents!
The next day, we all went to a British missionary family’s house down the road for church. The husband (A, wife S) teaches various trades to the local men, including car mechanics, welding, etc. They have 2 boys around the ages of 8-10, and have adopted a 2 year old girl who came to the base clinic near death, with both parents dead. During church, she was taken to another local church to visit with her cousins who live in the area. Joining us for church was another missionary (D) who lives in the nearest city, a female in her 20s working for an NGO. D also has recently taken in a beautiful 5 year old girl whose mother died, and was seemingly abandoned, but whose father has recently come around with unclear expectations… She related to us that one of her local friends took her out to lunch to ask something important – How did you fall in love with and acquire this child? The friend related that she needed to know the full story so that she could avoid a similar situation, as she feels very susceptible to falling in love with a child and adopting, but doesn’t really want to.
In the afternoon, I started to work on school work in the heat but the flied were swarming around me, so when J2 and K started to head over to the preschool, I forced them to let me help them get the classrooms ready for the beginning of the new school year, tomorrow. This is J2’s third year as teacher, and now director, and the school has been expanded since she started! They now have 2 teachers, each with an assistant, 2 classrooms, and a new school building for 42 kids. In her curriculum, J2 has included several lessons in public health, including washing hands and keeping nails trimmed. She also plans to start a chicken coop this year to teach the children how to maintain one of their own with their family, which could provide them with extra income, and/or could be source of food. We finished the preparations just in time for the afternoon storm to roll in. So here I am, sitting outside on the porch, listening to the rain and children playing, looking out over the lush, green hills, enjoying the cool breeze, and smelling the freshness of new life, a new season, a new year, all around.
(I have used the first letter of the missionary’s names to maintain confidentiality of their identities.)