Monday, March 5, 2018

Mozambique, Africa

Back in the summer of 2008, my mom and I attended a mission trip with True Vineyard Ministries to Mozambique, Africa. While this was not a recent trip, I figured this was a good place to start with my blog because it’s a trip I will never forget. The purpose of this trip was truly to share the word of God with those that had never heard about Him before.

As I sat down and realized I wanted to write this post, my mom and I decided to go over it together as it's been almost ten years (whoa) since we went. In a way, we could relive the memories and piece together anything that I couldn't remember as clearly. With that said, my mom made the comment that truly sums up this experience;

"They were truly hungry for God. They have little to nothing and God is more than enough for them. We have so many materialistic things here, and sometimes God isn't enough for us. I'd rather have 'nothing' and have God, than to have everything and not have God at all." 

One thing I would like to take a moment to mention here is this: I am a Christian and I stand strong to my beliefs, but I will never force my beliefs on you. I am a firm believer that those who claim to be “Christians” and try to shove their beliefs down your throat are the very reason so many people turn away from God in the first place. If you want to ask me, great – I’d be happy to share what I believe with you, but forcing you to believe something just because I believe it, is something I will absolutely not do. 

Side note: I was going into my second year of high school during this mission trip (already at an awkward stage! Haha.) and we were encouraged to dress a little more colorful (skirts, flower designs, etc.) as a way to respect their culture, so please forgive the sense of fashion (LOL). 

Going back to the trip – let’s start off by saying, what a commute! We flew out of Austin to Washington DC, then we caught our next 17 hour long flight to Johannesburg, South Africa. 
Mike (blue shirt) and Diane, seated at the end of the table, were our two leaders from True Vineyard Ministries.
We stayed at the Dove's Nest Guest House that evening, then woke up the next morning and had breakfast at the hotel then packed up for our next flight. Unfortunately, as we were getting ready, we found out the airline had changed the time of our flight to much earlier than anticipated. We rushed there but did not make it in time and had to reschedule our flight for the next day. 

We were pretty disappointed, but decided to go out for dinner that night and make the best of the situation. The restaurant we went to was actually surrounded by a gambling casino, so we were unsure if I would be able to get in, as I was only 15 years old at the time. Luckily, they allowed me in and we enjoyed a nice dinner and walked around the casino for the rest of the evening.

While we were at dinner, I remember telling everyone that Africa wasn't at all what I had expected. At fifteen, I really didn't know what to expect Africa to be in general, but a city that populated and busy, much like the cities in the US, was not what I had imagined. They quickly reminded me that where we were headed would be nothing like Johannesburg.

Anyway, the next morning we caught our hour long flight to Maputo, Mozambique.
Then after being there for a few hours, we took another hour flight to Inhambane, Mozambique. The airport in Inhambane was very small and unique. My mom so badly wanted to take a picture, but it was not allowed, as you can get arrested for taking a picture of government buildings there! 
Crazy, right?!

Lastly, we had to take a bus ride from Inhambane to Chicuque to arrive at our final destination.
We rode these buses a couple times during our stay, and they are crowded. My mom uses the phrase, "packed like sardines," as a way to describe how full they would get before heading anywhere. Mike, one of our main group leaders, told us that pedestrians do not have the "right away" there. There are so many people walking, and not as many people driving, and the buses go SUPER fast, so it's actually the opposite in comparison to the US. That was something that was super different, but I suppose somewhat understandable considering the difference in culture. 

Few pictures of our bus ride that first day, heading to where we were staying in Chicuque.

As the bus route takes a while, when we needed to travel to and from Inhambane during our stay, we would take a boat instead.

These boats were small and wooden with no motors. And the workers in the boat would carry you to and from shore each time you were getting on or off the boat. This happened several times throughout our trip as we traveled to and from Inhambane many times throughout our stay.

This is the first place we stayed in Chicuque, Mozambique. 
I remember these first few days feeling incredibly homesick (I was an upcoming Freshman and I had to go without my phone for almost three weeks), so my mom found it was a good time to give me something my Youth Group Leader, Mrs. Laura, wrote for me. She had addressed three letters for me to read on certain days throughout my trip and I remember being so happy she did this. They were all full of words of encouragement and verses of scripture to give me comfort.
My best friend at the time had also made me this book before I left for my trip. Definitely one of the sweetest gifts I have ever received. 
 Some of these were incredibly sweet & some were quite humorous - including this myspace one! HAHA. Loved looking back at this.
She had also put bible verses on random pages throughout. With the help of Mrs. Laura's letters and my best friend's gift, I was overwhelmed by their love and it truly made it easier to become more comfortable those first few days. If either of you are ever reading this - THANK YOU!
We had four interpreters/helpers during our stay; Bessie, Orlando, Alfonso, & Nelly. They will be mentioned frequently. I am actually still friends on facebook with Orlando and Alfonso! They seem to be doing quite well for themselves.

Orlando, me, Bessie, & Alfonso

The first morning we spent some time walking around and getting familiar with where we were. We saw plenty of stranded and abandoned boats along the shore.
Just your average Titanic picture. Nailed it.

On a different day, we actually ended up meeting the man that owned the Pedro Mane boat, pictured above with my mom.
Momma Jacobs in front of a hut. 
Seeing huts as homes was something that I knew we'd see, but when I really came face to face with the fact that someone lives there, and that's what they call "home," my heart broke, and I couldn't help but feel overwhelmingly thankful for all that I have back home.

During this first day, we were able to visit a daycare in town. They don't have much, but that doesn't stop them from enjoying each & every day.

Big grin showing off their artwork. Oh man on man, how cute is that smile?! I just want to squeeze his little cheeks.

All the kiddos present that day. They are all so cute. I just wanna hold them all over again.

During our first day while Orlando was showing us around, he also showed us where he lives, which was much nicer than how many people lived in this area (huts), but in comparison to what I call my home, there was still a significant difference in living.
He also showed us his pet monkey! 

That first night we enjoyed some quality time with our group and had some fun, African dancing.

The next day we visited the library of Chicuque, where they actually teach English classes!
Definitely different than classrooms and libraries back home.

Here's Orlando holding some of the stuff we planned to give out that day. Orlando was one of our main translators there, and he was incredible to get to know. 
Fun fact about Orlando: He speaks NINE languages. His official first language is Portuguese, and speaks English, French, & Italian as International languages, and additionally speaks Guitonga, Xitsua, Changana, Chope, & Ronga known as "mother tongues" spoken in the South and center of Mozambique. 
I spoke with him recently and he said he is currently learning Spanish and hopes to one day learn Chinese!
During our second visit to the daycare we gave them soccer balls from our Vacation Bible School back home. 
Oh, how they loved it. What a joy seeing them so happy and playful, even for the littlest of things.
Regularly, we saw many women carrying buckets and long pieces of wood on top of their heads as they were walking. Michelle did it with the backpack just to test it out. This is honestly so difficult and if furthered the respect we have for those women who would carry very heavy things for long periods of time. It's crazy to think about the things we take for granted.

This was the second place we stayed, for the remainder of our trip, in Maxixe, Mozambique. You can find it under "Campismo Maxixe" on google maps. As this was ten years ago, and considering how young I was, it was hard to piece certain things together, but when I found this on google maps, I was so happy!
Anyway, it had nice accommodations, including a restaurant on the property. To be honest, all I remember from that restaurant was ordering orange fantas, haha.
Had to have mosquito netting, in addition to using heavy duty mosquito repellent.
This is Bessie and Alfonso helping wash our clothes. There are so many things we have on a daily basis at our convenience like washers and dryers, that we don't even think twice about most of the time. It is a luxury that we should be so incredibly thankful for.

I believe these were taken the day we decided to relax and go to the beach, but we did this every morning. We enjoyed having breakfast together as a group to talk about what we were going to do that day.

One of the days we were there, we spent some time at their local hospital. This truly was one of the most eye opening experiences for me. To see what medical services and supplies they have in comparison to the U.S. was truly heartbreaking.
We were allowed to talk to the patients to hear their stories and take their pictures if they wished.
This little girl was all bandaged up because of a fire that had started in her home (a small hut), where her little brother did not make it. She had already been there healing for several months, but despite everything she had been through, she was still so strong and was able to bring a smile to everyone's face.
I remember this lady especially well.  She had been attacked by an elephant where it had put a hole in her stomach with his tusks. This lady and her husband walked roughly 80 miles to this hospital. It was the closest hospital from where the incident occurred. They had no transportation, so walking was their only option. I can't begin to imagine going through something so horrific, and then having no choice but to walk 80 miles to be treated.

This was taken outside of the hospital. Nelly (to the right of me), was another one of our translators during our stay, and she guided us throughout the hospital that day, and helped us talk to patients to hear their stories. 

We also attended a local church while we were there, and although it was much different than church back home, it was incredible to come together with the people of this culture and celebrate God's love together.
This was where the kids have Sunday school. This spoke volumes to me. They don't have much, but that doesn't stop them from being thankful for what they have and continuing to learn more about the Lord.
Back home, we have deacons to pass out the offering bowl, but in their culture, you walk up to the offering bowl to give what you can.
What a crowd!

One of the days we were there, we spent some time walking around and we went to shopping in this market for souvenirs.
I forget what I bought from this guy at the market, but we decided to take a picture!

After that we went to a restaurant, which served fresh, raw, squid. This is considered a delicacy there. We all tried it, but I can't say we all liked it, haha.
What a picture perfect moment.. real cute, real cute

Momma snapped this on our way back from the restaurant. (Eeeek! I was a youngin')

Also, during our stay we visited an orphanage in the area.
The picture below is one of the kiddos outside where some of them stay.
Without a doubt, this was my absolute favorite day. Going to the orphanage was undeniably heartbreaking, but it was easily my favorite experience during my time in Africa. 
This is a picture of their bunk beds at the orphanage. 
This is a cross that had been made the previous year when Mike gave them stickers from the Austin Police Dept. Love that it was still there.

Also, handed out stickers to them - they absolutely loved it!
Showing off his sticker. Melts my heart.
You could tell how hungry these children were for love. And we were all so happy to give it.
This little boy was such a cuddle bug, probably the hardest one for all of us to say goodbye to.
He loved to be held! Which worked out because we didn't want to put him down!
They had hardly any toys to play with. This little kiddo was dragging around a ball on a string that looks like it was made out of paper or bags. It breaks my heart, but it shows exactly how little they have.
I didn't want to leave the orphanage. I wanted to take them all home with me. Seeing how little they have and no one to just love them was so incredibly heartbreaking. It was definitely the hardest and most difficult part of the trip for me, but also the most rewarding to spend time with them, play with them, and just shower them with hugs and all the love I could possibly give.

On another note, while we were at the orphanage, they were grinding corn!
So we were able to see the process of that, as well as try it out for ourselves if we wanted to. I didn't but my mom did!
Not as easy as they make it look, but definitely a cool experience for my mom.

We spent most of our days walking around different areas, offering little booklets that talk about who Christ is to us. Then we would invite them to join us in prayer and praise & worship on a few of the nights while we were there.
This was another absolute favorite for me. Praise & worship is my favorite way to feel God's presence, and it was nice to have so many people show up hungry for God's word.
Many came forward to Jesus and that was one of the most rewarding feelings, and reassured me I was right where God needed me to be. 

Closer to our last days there, we went to see this lady and her family that Diane from True Vineyard Ministries had known from previous trips (see them embracing below). We traveled some really rough terrain to get there and then after a while you couldn't even drive, and we had to walk the rest of the way.
This is a photo of her and her family. Sadly, many of her other children had died and we visited the grave site while we were there.

This hut is where they all sleep. This is their home.
This was considered their kitchen. No walls. No stove. No fridge. This is what they have and what they use. We as an American society are so easy to want more materialistic things, and often don't realize, and forget, or simply don't care about how less fortunate others are in this world. This among many other aspects of our trip, was eye opening. It shed a light to be grateful for what we have and to never take those things for granted.
While we were there, they wanted to serve us some food. Despite how little they have, this was their first instinct. I learned right before that it is tradition for them to wash your hands, definitely something I wasn't used to, but very interesting to learn about their culture. 
They served us tangerines that they grow right there. My mom said it was the best tangerine she ever had!
That was a day I will never forget and was definitely one of the most eye opening experiences throughout our time spent in Africa.

Two of our days there were spent with Bessie, Alfonso, Orlando, Nelly, and a few of their friends at the beach. We all enjoyed the weather and each other's company. A lot of the clothes they wore are donated from the U.S., one of which can be spotted on Bessie's head - an Astros cap! Crazy of all the teams, it was one our family is pretty big on.
The second day we had a beach day, we went to the Barra Lodge Beach Resort located in Inhambane. Very nice resort and great food! 

These pictures are from our last morning there, all saying our goodbyes. This was hard. As eager as I was to go home to my friends and family, I was saying goodbye to the family I made there. Orlando, Bessie, and Alfonso made this the most enjoyable trips for us and I couldn't be more grateful to have met them.
Orlando sent this one of all of us to me recently. I didn't even know this picture existed! I was happy he had one of all of us together.

All in all, this was literally a trip of a lifetime. While I was homesick those first few days, it was nice to really unplug from the world I was use to and let the Lord open my heart to Africa and let His will be done. I still look back in awe that my mom and I were able to take this trip. It was God's will for us to go to Africa, meet the people we did, and be forever touched by our experience there. 

Have any of you been to Africa? Or have you ever been on a mission trip? Tell me about it!

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