Saturday, 25 November 2017

My plans, His purposes

I came back to Mozambique in October 2016 with a desire to start a nutrition program. The idea I had was to teach a group of moms whose children were 0-2 years old, the importance of giving their children nutritious foods to eat and as well as teaching them when to start giving their children food. I did not have a clear idea of what this would look like or how to start it. I wanted the program to give the moms knowledge but in a way that they could also have the ability to carry out what was being taught. I did not want to give them theory that they would not be able to use in their daily life. I also wanted it to be something that was collaborative. I wanted them to share knowledge with each other rather than myself being the only teacher. I wanted them to be able to share what they were learning and possibly share that knowledge with other moms in their communities. I did some reading on and off throughout this year and found some research and teaching on mother to mother support groups. The purpose of these groups is exactly what I was envisioning, it is mothers volunteering their time to teach other mothers the importance of nutrition and caring for your child well. The struggle I have with this is finding the moms. Living on the centre does not avail itself to know where and how moms normally gather in the community. I wanted this group to have a home feel, so having the moms come to the centre was not an option.

One of the programs I am already involved in is the milk program. The purpose is to provide formula to babies of moms who are not able to breastfeed for reasons of illness. Working with this program opened my eyes to the need of teaching moms nutrition for their babies. Myself and the Mozambican nurses who work with the moms noticed that once the babies reached 6 months old their weight gain would slow down. When the nurses would ask the moms what they were feeding their babies the response they would get was “milk” ie formula. The moms were only feeding their babies formula rather than starting baby on complementary foods. Either from lack of education or resources, the moms thought that formula was enough for their children after 6 months of age. The Mozambican nurses would then educate the moms that they needed to feed their baby food but it was not always acted upon by the mom.

One of the babies in particular, was not gaining well. The mom was asked how often and what types of foods she was feeding her child. She gave the right answers but based on how the child was presenting it was obvious to us that the child was not being fed well. Working with the Mozambican staff we were able to speak with the mom and make a plan with her that the child would come live on the centre for a short period of time for nutritional rehabilitation.

My goal was to work with the mom in the weeks leading up to her child’s return home to teach her strategies on how to feed, how often, and what types of food so that the progress the child had made here could continue at home.

This was one way that I thought I could support a mom and the nutrition of her child. It was not an official program or a large number but I was content to start small. One mom and one baby at a time.

Our reintegration team (similar to social workers in the west) began making arrangements with the family to ensure that the child would be returning to a safe home and family situation. The grandparents have now become involved with the mom to care for the child and social welfare is also involved to look after the nutritional needs of the child.

It is not what I pictured but it is what God has arranged and it is way better than what I could have ever done. The family has been strengthened by coming to work together and the local resources have been utilized to ensure this child is well looked after. I could not be more pleased. This situation reminds me that God's ways are always better than our ways and I am so thankful to see His work. 

He has utilized the Mozambican systems.

He has lessened the dependence on outside help.

He has strengthened the Mozambican systems and empowered the Mozambicans to care for themselves rather than relying on others to care for them.

He has arranged for this precious girl to return to a loving supportive environment with resources to care for her needs - her physical and emotional needs will be looked after.

Looking back I can see that His purpose was for her to come to the centre for a short period of time. It gave her the boost she needed to receive nutrition and it gave our reintegration team  the  time to find a long-term solution for her health needs.

It provided a way for both her and her family to receive rehabilitation.

I am thankful that I was able to be a part of this child's healing and restoration in her body and that in-directly her family was strengthened. She received the nutrition she needed and her family has come together.

I love seeing God at work and that He works with us.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Gloria Limited

I thought I would give you an honest look into a frustration that I face while working in a developing nation. This frustration is called "limited".

Here is an example of when it rears its ugly head:
We have a teenager on the centre with a terminal brain mass. This mass also causes excess fluid to form in the brain requiring it to be drained. He has two internal drains that do this. Unfortunately the drains occasionally malfunction, blocking the fluid from draining. This then causes the teen to vomit, have a fever, and become unresponsive. I know that if he were in a country such as Canada he would be able to receive treatment for this issue from knowledgeable and caring healthcare professionals. It is heartbreaking to see the injustice that can occur just by being born in a country that does not have the resources or knowledge to provide the care that he needs. I have to reconcile with myself that I am providing the best care available to this teen by keeping him on the centre where he will receive love and care from his overseeing missionary and the Mozambican staff. I come to peace knowing that his dignity will be maintained and that when he dies it will be in peace surrounded by those who love him. Thankfully the drains are working properly again and he has recovered back to his baseline.

I am limited and I hate it. I want to have a solution and the ability to apply it for every situation I encounter. I want to do it all flawlessly and with confidence. I want to know how to handle every solution perfectly and not be insecure and faltering. I hate feeling trapped in a corner with every eye on me waiting for me to have the perfect answer and solution to the problem they just presented to me. I hate being weak. I hate feeling trapped. I hate that I respond out of anger and with a harsh tone of voice and an eye-roll. I hate feeling stupid and insecure. I hate managing people. I hate weakness and dependency and victim-mentality. I hate powerlessness. It’s so easy to hate all these tendencies in other people and blame them for making me feel the same but the real reason I hate the weaknesses in others is because they reside in me. I hate having weaknesses and feeling insecure. I hate being human. I don’t want to be a victim or powerless. Yet I am. I see problems all around me and think, what can I do, I can’t do anything, it’s hopeless. I want to feel powerful. I want to have a solution. I don’t want to be constrained. Why can’t I just fix everything and have it permanently be resolved? I want to apply a solution and have it solve the problem forever. I don’t want the problem to come back next week and the week after that. I want to tell you to do this treatment, or to take this medicine, and the problem will be solved. I want it checked off my list and never have to think about it again. But life here and I guess everywhere is not like that. Problems are not solved by one magic solution. I don't know what the answer is to my frustrations but I wanted to let you in on what I feel sometimes while working here.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

A Golden Perspective

There are many bright spots to living here in Mozambique. Some of them are obvious, others take some digging to find, and still others only God can show you the gold of the moment. 

Obvious gold:

1. A toddler running up to me excitedly, "Mana Gloria! I'm going home!" (He was going to visit his dad over the Christmas holidays)

2. A first grader showing me his leg after the cast was removed. He was so happy he could now walk and play with his friends.

3. A preschooler driving a stationary play car. I asked where we were going, to which he replied, "South Africa, to visit Mana __________!" The missionary who oversees his dorm was in South Africa for a break. I guess he missed her and wanted to visit.

4. Lost in translation. The children having been watching the movie, Frozen. One Saturday morning as I was getting ready, I heard out my window, "Where'd it go, where'd it go?" Their understanding to the lyrics, "Let it go, let it go!" It brought a smile to my face.

5. Watching the toddlers open their Christmas presents. Each child receives a new outfit complete with underwear. One 3 year old was so excited to see that he had not one, but two new pairs of underwear. The joy on his face was contagious.

6. Meeting with fellow missionaries this past Wednesday evening for our weekly small-group meeting and sharing bible verses that have been meaningful to us in our lives. I loved seeing glimpses into the lives of those I live with and to know what encourages them to keep going or what has helped them in certain seasons of their lives.

7. Being able to communicate with a store employee to ask if they sold batteries. Sure I used the wrong word for battery but I was able to get my point across.

Digging for gold:

1. Learning the gifts and abilities that I have and gaining confidence in myself by overseeing a clinic and the health needs of 250 children in a country where I do not speak the language.

2. We have had a few babies come to us at 2-4 weeks of age severely malnourished or on their way to being there. Thankfully by their parents or grandmothers bringing them to the milk program their health and weight have improved with being given formula.

Gold only God can see:

1. I received a call from a fellow missionary saying that a child had been brought to the centre, dead. He was the son of one of our workers. The mom was working that day and received a call from her sister who was looking after him saying her son was not doing well. It being holiday season, traffic was bad so it was thought best to bring him to the centre clinic and be assessed there instead of her going home and then bringing him to hospital. Within the time it took to come to the centre, he died. He was still warm to touch and looked to be sleeping but vital signs were absent. We wrapped him in a blanket and made arrangements for him to go to the hospital mortuary. 

God's gold of this moment - "you did well, receive My peace", through the counsel and prayer of a trusted friend.

2. At the end of a busy and frustrating day, feeling that I did not measure up to my standards, that I disappointed people, that I did not fix the problems presented to me, that children are still sick and we don't have answers for them. 

God's gold - "you did so well today, I am proud of you." 

These are the words that I hold on to and encourage me to keep going forward. His words are what matter and are gold to me always and forever.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Dads and Daughters

One of my roles here is being involved in the milk program. Here, babies are brought in from the community by a concerned family member, often the mother, looking for assistance with feeding their child. For either medical or social reasons, the mother is not able to breastfeed. I work with the Mozambican nurses to determine the nutritional needs of the baby. In most cases it is the mother who brings in her baby. At times it is an aunt, grandmother, or female neighbour. On the rare occasion a father or uncle will bring in their baby. You can read one such story of a concerned uncle here. A few weeks ago we had one of these rare moments. A concerned father brought his newly born two week old daughter. She was tiny and had not eaten for almost 24 hours. Her mother was in hospital severely ill. You could see the concern this father had for his daughter. Her weight which had been healthy two weeks earlier at her birth, was already beginning to show the signs of nutritional neglect. Our numbers on the program were already at the max but we could not turn this little one away. We gladly accepted her and she and her father have since been coming consistently. Even though it has only been a few weeks, you can already see the improvement in her weight as it steadily climbs upward. You can see the tenderness that this father has for his daughter. In a culture that does not value women as equal, it is heartwarming to see that to some fathers, daughters are treasures.

My own Dad treasures the three daughters that he has. We have a picture of my dad with us three girls when we were young, wrapped in his arms after a Sunday afternoon hike. Then there is the picture of me, at two years old, assisting my dad in building the backyard shed. Not to mention the countless times he has taken us on canoe adventures, remained calm teaching us how to drive (which also includes how to drive out of the ditch), or the little things like bringing us home a surprise gift at the end of his busy work day or his sparkling eyes when we come home for a visit. All these things speak to the love which he has for us, his daughters.

I am also reminded of stories from the bible that show the value and esteem of women. Like the story where the five daughters of an Israelite man are given the same right as the Israelite men to own land so that their father's name is not forgotten (Numbers 27). Or how in Nehemiah it includes in the list of workers the father and his daughters who helped to build the wall (Nehemiah 3:12). And then there is Jesus, who affirmed women and taught them, who gave his life for them along with their male counterparts, who was sent by the Father who loves His daughters, in order to be reconciled to them. They are included in the gift of salvation. They are included, they are not less than. They are treasures to their Father. They are loved. They are valued. They are chosen.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Sabe meu nome? (Do you know my name?)

One of the things that touches my heart since returning to Zimpeto, is having children come up to me and greet me by name. I especially love the times when those who I didn't think would remember me will come up to me and timidly say, "Olá Mana Gloria". It's great to be remembered.

The other week I was walking to Thursday night children's church and a boy came up to me and asked in Portuguese, "Sabe meu nome (do you know my name)?". There was a pause on my end because I didn't fully hear his question. I repeated back "sua nome (your name)?" to which he nodded. "Si, sua nome é _____*" (Yes, your name is _____). He nodded. I continued, "Você tem irmãos, _____, _____, e _____ (You have brothers, and I listed them). He nodded again and I smiled. Proud of myself for remembering but also touched that it mattered to him that I knew his name. I think it matters to all of us to know that we are known and remembered. I'm glad he knows I remembered him and I'm glad he also remembered me. Most of all I pray that he knows God knows him and that he knows God.

Monday, 10 October 2016

I have arrived!

I arrived back to Zimpeto's Children Centre this past Thursday afternoon, exhausted after travel but happy to be back. I had enough energy to attend children's church in the evening and these two girls were especially happy to see me back.

Monday, 29 August 2016

My mistakes and His faithfulness

I applied for my Mozambican visa a couple weeks ago. I read through the requirements but did not include a return self-addressed pre-paid envelope. I was nervous bringing all the papers and my passport to the fedex desk, hoping that I had everything and that it would all work out smoothly. I sensed God say to me as the employee arranged the proper envelope and forms, that He had this. This process was in His hands. The following Monday, I woke up wondering about the fact that I had not included a return envelope with my application. I messaged a fellow missionary and asked what she had done that when she applied for her visa. Her response, "yes you need to include an envelope, that's how they return your passport and visa to you". Then it dawned on me with an intense fear that I had messed up and that my passport could be lost. I was furious at myself for not following the instructions. I was also afraid because I did not know how to fix my mistake. I had heard of other stories from other missionaries on the base of them trying to reach the embassy when visas were not coming through or being yelled at on the phone when speaking to the embassy. I was afraid that there was no solution. I went back to the embassy website and saw their email address and phone number. I emailed immediately asking how to fix my mistake. I saw also that the phone number was only available from 3-5pm. So I had to wait. 3pm came and I called the numbers listed. No answer so voicemail messages were left. Once that was done I got the thought from God to call back again at 4pm. I called the numbers again when that time came. Before this I had asked God that I would have favor with the embassy and that it would be a kind person on the other end of the line. On the third call, as the ringing continued, I prayed again, "please God let me talk to a person, let them be kind, let me not be yelled at". A lady answered as soon as I finished my prayer. I explained my situation to her asking how to resolve my mistake. She kindly stated, "just email an envelope to the same address". I was shocked. That's it? That simple? I was so happy. I clarified that was all I needed to do to which she said yes. I was amazed. I thanked her and hung up. God is so good. He is so kind to answer my prayers and fix the mistakes I make. I am so thankful for His kindness and goodness to me especially in situations like this.