Wednesday, August 25, 2010

fare: to turn out, happen, travel

fare: to turn out , happen, travel
farewell: to do any of those well

We are faring well and farewelling. Last Friday night was our “farewell” and a potpourri of cultures: Mozambican, Nigerian, Rwandan, American, Australian, British, Brazilian, Indian, and Portuguese--blended to say “turn out well, happen well, travel well.”

The evening was one of remembering and of food. We were blessed by memories of 17 years from friends. Some memories we had never heard before: first impressions we made on an unsuspecting Quelimane. In an attempt to live simply and reduce the distance with these very poor people, we chose to simplify. We parked our pickup in a shipping container and rode bicycles. I was probably the first woman biker in Quelimane, and I was “great with child.” We heard from a few who observed our attempts and concluded we were “strange.” Surely we were. For sure we are still.

Other memories surfaced: surprise birthday parties, the multi-ethnic Fourth of July meals, the Portuguese school, malaria, that helpless feeling when your child is ill, vehicles rolling, being stranded on the roadside with multiple flat tires, and good things too--friendships that last. We laughed and cried and ate. We have lived our family -life here amidst this people.

And the festa was bordered by the reality of illness. Three little girls of long-time friends were ill, one hospitalized. Peniel, the daughter of Francisco and Carla (who live with us) is three months and had her first case of malaria. Watching the concerned maternal faces reminded me of my own times when fever robbed my peace.

It was a blessing and encouragement to hear words of love sending us on our way, wishing for Zimbabwe the best we have to offer.

With such a precious backdrop of memory and affirmation of our time here, the Lord gave me a word from His Word. I will take this as my sword with which to enter Zimbabwe: Jeremiah 29:7.

But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

a wedding: a milestone

My African landscape has been littered with countless deaths and funerals, but after 19 years in Mozambique, I have just attended my fifth wedding. In a cultural twist which reflects what is truly important: the West promotes marriage to the point of big business, Africa relegates it to "whenever we have the time and the money simultaneously", which is seldom. Besides which, who knows how long this is going to last and there is very little point in spending all the money to feed so many . . .

Funerals cannot be put off, people must be buried very soon after they die. Weddings, on the other hand, are optional and represent a massive outlay of resources. (Funerals also require funds, but their urgency means that there will be contributions.)

So it was with great joy that Phil, Isabel and I attended the wedding of Paulo and Carina, two twenty-somethings, partners for five years, (second partners for both), whom we have been mentoring and encouraging for several years. They attend the church in the bairro (slum) and this was a giant leap for them. Weddings are costly anywhere, and here the couple is expected to feed all comers a full meal. But I get ahead of myself:

At the church, the couple processed out of the pastoral house to the church, walking on clothes spread on the ground before them.
Inside it was darkish and dusty, but the couple stood while Pastor Elias scrutinized his notes. It was Elias' second wedding. and he did well despite his nerves.
The service was exceedingly formal, which meant Elias was reading archaic Portuguese, so he frequently explained in asides so the congregation could follow the event. After a family member of each spouse and a church member all testified that there were no impedimentia to the marriage, things went off without a hitch--well, except for theirs.
Smiles are not standard fare at such serious events as weddings, so it was a relief to see that Carina was happy as well as beautiful. As we drove at a funereal pace from the church to their home, we heard comments about the queen in the car, thanks to Carina's plastic crown complete with faux jewels.
Once at the house, the agenda was to begin with cutting the cake. (Before the meal? Never mind.) It was delayed by rearranging the seating under the 3 shade clothes several times. Finally Paulo and Carina were settled facing the crowd!
Around the edge of the festive arena were palm fronds woven for privacy. But this is a slum and neighbors all want a piece of the action. Small children opened holes to enjoy the show. No amount of shooing would keep them away for long!
After Paulo and Carina had fed each other a sliver of cake and drunk a little orange fanta, it was time for gift-giving. This was a lengthy process with Orlando calling out specified groups: neighbors, Paulo's family, Carina's family, the young people, the women's group, the missionaries, and on and on. As a group was called, various members would sing and prance forward and slap down coins or even a bill now and then. This is called "hitting the table." Quite a heap of small change was amassed this way. Gifts, wrapped and unwrapped, were brought to the table. The chicken was quickly whisked off, lest she deposit on the tablecloth!
After close to an hour of giving accompanied by song, the feasting began: chicken for the seated guests at the table (about 12). Plenty of rice to fill empty bellies, cabbage fried with tomatoes and bean gravy. The young people weren't shy about helping themselves. Cutlery is optional at all events, and here was no exception.
When the guests were sated, the photos began. Here are Paulo and Carina with Pastor Elias, beaming over the milestone they have achieved.
The blended family. Carina's two daughters by her deceased Muslim partner are Ornila and Esperanza, Paulo's son is Eriki. Paulo and Carina have been unable to have children together yet, which is a cause of concern to Carina--she feels it reduces her worth and desirability. Paulo's willingness to marry her despite this shows great faith in God's inscrutable Hand. Pray for their family, that it will be a light in a dark community.
The joy that comes from deciding to make a commitment and follow it through can be seen in their faces. It cost them culturally, economically and stretched them spiritually. They are a few of this generation who are prepared to take a stand and be a visible witness to God's design of a man and woman forsaking all others and becoming one.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

the abiding city

"While living in a world of change, let us seek the abiding city."

In a month we will move to Harare, Zimbabwe. We will study Shona and learn to clap our hands when saying thank you. We will meet new people with an entirely new set of problems, mostly defined by hiv/aids.

We did not seek this. But it has come to us clearly from God's hand. One by one, He closed the other doors. This one is held open by eager hands. For the most part I was overwhelmed by inadequacy and reluctance. But His grace is sufficient, He keeps saying. So grace lurks behind that door when I step through.

Now suddenly, at this late hour, are we asked to reconsider and work elsewhere. Such sudden out-of-the-blue requests disorient me. But the Lord's Hand is in everything that comes. I don't know why the request. All I do know is that the decision to go to Zimbabwe came with prayer, thought, meditation, and fasting.

Oh yes, there is an urgent need elsewhere. More than once at Columbia Professor Kingsmore in his Scots lilt reminded us: "the need doesn't constitute the call." I'm glad he said that. It sounded harsh at the time, but it is bedrock.

"A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways." Lord, keep me single-minded. Secure me by Your Grace as I sail across a stormy sea. Keep me mindful of what You told us in the Light.