Wednesday, March 11, 2009


So the last week or so has been relatively uneventful, and I’ve spent the majority of the time reading various books. The highlight of the week was the Sunday service of the Nazarene church in town. It was very participatory. I had to introduce myself at the beginning in front of about 200 people in Portuguese, and different age groups lead worship songs, first the women, then the older youth, then the children, then the men. The pastor preached on the first 4 verses of Ephesians chapter 6, and was very balanced on telling kids to be good kids and parents to be good parents, and not leave their kids behind on Sundays to guard the house or watch the goats. 

So two reflections I had today. The first came after talking to an American peace corps volunteer. She had expressed that she could never do what some Christian missionaries/development workers do: dedicating their entire lives to a neglected community. I’m not one myself but I wished I had thought about it enough beforehand to explain to her some of what I understand their motivations to be. First, he or she does this because her eternal joy and sense of purpose and perspective overwhelm any sense of sacrifice now. They trust the promises of God and understand that their position fits into God’s personal plan of showing love to this world. It is based on the love of the Living Creator, and it would be difficult to do out of a goodhearted sense that the West’s random historical privilege must be shared.

Also I have also realized that the world when it is fully restored (often called heaven) will be populated by the poor, the oppressed, the prisoners, and the hungry (don’t believe me, read in the scriptures Luke 4:18-19 and 6:20-24). The stories of this present and future will not be forgotten. In fact, even Jesus is still known as the slain Lamb in these restored times. (Revelation 7:9-11) Similarly, the sufferings of the poor and persecuted will be over then but not forgotten. Since I’m going to be chillin with these folks in heaven, I should stop simply seeing the least of these as the Jesus I serve(see Matthew 25:31-46), but also see them as the community that will give me a better sense of heaven.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Amazing Marula

So I got to visit another even more remote village and observe a leadership and TB training there. The chief and the whole village was there and it was a big ordeal. I learned a lot. One of the practices that is most harmful and difficult to change, at least in this part of Mozambique is a cleansing practice that occurs after a husband dies, leaving a widow. The husband's brother or another relative from the community must have sex with the widow daily for a period of time set by the local witch doctor. If this is not done properly, the declining health of the woman (who may have been infected with HIV by her husband, who in turn might have contracted it when working far away for months in the South African mines) is blamed on negligence of this cleaning ritual (sperm apparently has a cleansing power).  Actually, any subsequent case of TB in the village can be blamed on improper completion. The result of this is that HIV continues it's slow steady climb in Mozambique (not as common as in neighboring but still at a devastating 15% of adults). Since people living with HIV more easily catch TB, one result is that TB goes up as well, making communities more desperate to do anything to prevent it (such as completing the cleaning ritual, and so the vicious circle continues).  There is hope, however, as this community meeting shows. The chief of the village was an excellent leader, if all the leaders in Mozambique were as committed as he, the US would soon be coming to Mozambique to ask for economic aid.

So that was a great experience, but most of my time has been spent making a solar fruit dryer (I'll put up a picture when it is done) and preparing for and selling Marula products at local festivals in South Africa. The Marula tree drops hundreds of ripe marula fruits on the ground from December to March.  It's like a small plum with a thick skin. It has excellent flavor, 4 times as much vitamin C as oranges, and the large, incredibly hard pit hides two small nuts that have extremely high quality protein and oil that is nutritious as well as great for your skin. It could become the new health craze in the US, move over acai berry. It also makes great beer and a fantastic creme liqueur that is becoming wildly popular in South Africa and England. I even met an guy from Israel who said they are having good success growing it there.

I also got to drive through Kruger Park, one of the best game parks in the world. check out elephants, lions, rhinos, and more at my facebook photo album

tis all for now

Friday, February 20, 2009


So I got to visit one of the villages that world relief reaches out to this week. Everything that has happened there is extraordinarily interesting. It all started back in the mid-90s when World Relief, a christian international development organization asked all of the village chiefs in the region to recommend one volunteer for each group of 20 families to be trained how to teach basic health practices. The chiefs said their villages were already split into groups of 10 families, so World Relief took one volunteer for every ten families. Volunteers were placed in groups of 10, called care groups. Therefore each care group consists of 10 volunteers and 100 families.  Each care group would receive an entire day of training once every 2 weeks by an animator, a local individual trained and paid by World Relief. Each animator would train 8 care groups every 2 weeks (4 days of training per week). There were 26 animators initially that each taught 8 care groups, and so they were over 800 families (100 families per care group). 26 x 800 is 20800 families, and with 6 people in the average family that works out to 124,800 individuals. This organizational structure proved to be incredibly successful in improving health behaviors and decreasing child malnutrition and disease. Subsequently, many other types of programs were instituted along this highly stable and organic organizational backbone. Specific examples include TB recognition and treatment and agricultural development. 

And all that is to say I traveled to a village about 50 km from what could be called a very small town and 100 km from the town where I am staying. This village had been chosen for a pilot agricultural development program that first utilized only the volunteers from the health education program and then was opened up to any volunteers from the community. The agricultural program involves the group of individuals actively paying for the diesel water pump and and microdrip irrigation that was initially provided with funds from World Relief and a church in the US that partnered specifically with that community. Effectively, the individuals each own the land that they are working as well as the technology employed to improve the crop output. And it is working, despite the rumor mill and backstabbing that happens in any organization/business, despite the fact that the program is comprised of a wide cross-section of the community, not just one religious group, and it is going to get some serious recognition tomorrow for it. The First Lady of the country (the president's wife) is going to visit the village for a couple days and they will be on national television. With thousands of villages in the country, this is a huge honor. 

Unfortunately, I won't be able to go, she is there to see Mozambicans, not a foreign, doesn't even know what he wanna-be like me. But it's still pretty cool to kind of be a part of it. It's been tough though to be excited about all this, cuz my hours of studying portuguese have proven relatively unhelpful. Even though a large percentage of the people in th area speak some portuguese, all the day-to-day everything is done in tsonga and i know about 10 words of it. so i can speak to people one-on-one whenever i get the rare chance but i have no idea what's going on when i'm "part of a conversation".  All that to say i'll appreciate any personal contact from anyone who has the chance.

peace  and love