St Pauls United Church-Mozambique 2008

From OfWindsor

Revision as of 03:49, 10 December 2014 by Ricks Clicks (Talk | contribs)
(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
Jump to: navigation, search
Homebutton01.jpg. Welcome to St. Paul's United Church

Mozambique 2008

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 204

27 December 2008

A time to be born, and a time to die... - Ecclesiastes 3.2

Sometimes we are asked what Christmas is like in Zambezia. In this letter we'll try to give you at least some glimpses.

You could spend many Decembers here, go faithfully to church, yet never hear read the Christmas stories told in Luke 2 and Matthew 2. You may never hear a Christmas carol sung (this year, we heard Noite de Paz–Silent Night–once). You may not see any Christmas decorations–no ornamented trees, no store windows, bows or gifts.

There are reasons for this. Zambezia is the 2nd-poorest province of the world's 7th-poorest country; no-one has money for presents or decorations. Also, a quarter of the people of our city is Moslem, and almost all the stores are Moslem-owned. More than half the population is animist, and even in those families overtly Moslem or Christian the animist beliefs in intervention of spirits for good or ill persist. As well, there's less seasonal resonance; Christmas was set by northern hemisphere folk in late December to coincide with their winter solstice, and Christmas at the start of summer holidays just isn't the same. Neither is the food. Those who can afford it do put on a special dinner with cake and usually chicken. We ourselves ate chima (corn porridge) with delicious peanut sauce and some chunks of chicken, and pineapple cobbler for dessert.

This year the passage from Ecclesiastes 3 was the text for the Christmas sermon. A time to be born–yes; but at Christmas we don't usually think of the time to die. Living in a country with so much early death means the subject is never far from people's minds. There's a time to plant now–but who knows if floods this year will pluck up what is planted? So people see Christmas through the lens of Ecclesiastes–good and evil always present, mourning and dance, sobs and laughter. It's better that way: Christmas joy fortifies you for the pain that will come.

Most churches in Zambezia use Christmas Day to baptize. As you celebrate the birth of Christ, each baptized one too is born anew. In the church we usually go to, they baptize in the Bons Sinais River, which on that day they call the Jordan. At Quelimane it's tidal salt water–safe from crocodiles. This year they used the immersion tank at the church of the Seventh Day Adventists, one of the strongest non-Catholic congregations of our city, the whole congregation singing non-stop as every one of the five young people was immersed, wealthier relatives and friends snapping cell-phone photos, then dancing outside, then singing non-stop parading through the bairros as in a website photo

204 christmas baptism1230584094.jpg
204 christmas baptism parade.jpg

the baptized ones in white, the women with a head-scarf cowl–picking routes without flooded roads, or at least with palm-trunks spread across as makeshift bridges, to their own church for another impromptu dance, and Christmas communion. People ran out of houses to greet us, and share the Christmas cheer.

Ecclesiastes is always right. 2009 won't be all chuckles and prosperity. But we live in hope that joy and love this Christmas season will spread through the coming problematic year, and strengthen and bless you, and bring you new life.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 203

12 December 2008

To you, O God of my ancestors, I give thanks and praise, for you have given me wisdom and power.... - Daniel 2.23

Daniel is praying to give thanks, before he goes before the Persian king to teach him the meaning of his dream. He's grateful because he has the wisdom to interpret, and the power that comes with credibility in the court, where he has grown up and where he and his young friends have so impressed the king with their understanding, and can have such an influence. On December 5, twelve of the total of 90 bursary girls of the PEDRA program at the Christian Council graduated from their three-year course at the Nicoadala Teacher Training Institute. In conversations after the ceremonies, they all individually gave thanks for the program. As one of them, Olivia, said, "Of all the girls of my age in my village, only three of us continued in school. Thanks to my bursary, I'm one of them."

It hasn't been easy. Only about 1 in 5 rural Mozambican women is literate, and girls who reach this level have countered the prevailing rural culture of marrying early and devoting their short lives to bearing and rearing children. Throughout their course they've only been home twice a year, in January and July. None of their parents could afford to pay school fees, and none could afford bus-fare to attend the graduation. But CCM was there, and everything possible was done to make it a special event. Over their crisp school uniforms they wore green banners with ‘graduado' in italicized white letters. Each carrying an unlit candle, all 207 soon-to-be-graduates lined the long lane leading to the Centre, waiting in 40-degree heat for the provincial governor's representative, the district administrator, and other dignitaries to arrive. Then everyone moved in procession into the assembly hall, a round concrete high-ceiling building with windows at roof-level for ventilation against the heat.

They sang the national anthem, and the school song which praises the virtues of education. Then

each graduate came individually to receive her or his diploma, and a red or yellow rose, which each held aloft–one in each hand–to the crowd's applause. When each one had been presented, everyone in unison lit their candles, and recited the teachers' creed, and sang the teachers's song.

There was celebrating outside after, as you see in the photos

203 bolseiras grad nic dez5008 036r.jpg
203 bolseiras grad nic dez5008 046r.jpg

A local women's dance group performed, and a band of 5 men playing wooden marimbas and home-made shakers. A group of 6 students including Locadia, one of our bursary girls, sang a song they had written about education, with one of them accompanying on guitar.

All the PEDRA graduates have jobs in Zambezia province schools for the new school year, which begins at the start of February. The college administrator–a woman–announced that more than half the graduates this year were women, which means female teachers, female voices, female role models, in many small rural primary schools across Zambezia. Come February, if not for the CCM bursary program, these twelve young women with their youthful wisdom and power would not be among them, transmitting their PEDRA values of girls' empowerment to the next generation.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 202

5 December 2008

"...But get me a musician." And then while the musician was playing, the power of the Lord came on him. And he said, "Thus says the Lord, ‘I will make this wadi full of pools.'"

  • - 2 Kings 3.15-16

Elisha wouldn't think of performing his miracle without music. It inspires and entrances and empowers him, makes his work possible. The next day, water flowed until the country was filled. In our experience in Mozambique, music accompanies the most important activities. In times of celebration, or mourning, in confronting fears and challenges, music makes people feel stronger. It makes life more intense, more fully alive.

That's the way it's been this past week leading to World AIDS Day on 1 December. On Saturday the 29th, the CCM Youth held the public launching of a CD of theirs, called M'Mone Afrika–which means Pay Attention to Africa, in Chuabo the local language). It's 25 songs recorded by young choirs in Quelimane and 4 rural districts, with accompanying DVD of 7 music videos–4 from rural districts, 3 from Quelimane–all shot in the field and produced in CCM's video and music studio. The work was funded by Church World Service, OneWorld Africa, and the United Church of Canada.

The songs are all about HIV/AIDS and related themes like unplanned pregnancy, family breakdown, loyalty to infected friends, and the helping power of the Spirit. They're one more weapon in the vast war against this scourge that has infected almost one in five teens and adults in our province, and one in three in our city. In one photo

202 launch 29novr.jpg

You see part of the CCM choir performing for the crowd–mostly young people, plus officials representing the provincial governor, the city president, and supportive ministries such as those for Culture, Youth, and Sport–who had gathered at the provincial Cultural Centre to hear music, watch videos, and celebrate the launching.

On Monday 1 December was the annual AIDS parade–hundreds of marchers from dozens of organizations–neighbourhood activists, the Youth Parliament, uniformed staff from the hospital and the HIV testing centres, activist employee groups from businesses like M-Cel (the biggest cellular phone service provider) and the Quelimane airport, NGOs like the Red Cross, Save the Children and World Vision.

About 20 CCM Youth were there, in their yellow T-shirts from the M'Mone Afrika launching, carrying their hand-painted banners that proclaimed, in Portuguese, "IN EVERY 100 ZAMBEZIANS, 19 HAVE SIDA. STOP AND THINK" and "HAVING HIV DOESN'T MEAN DEATH". Over 40 girls of PEDRA marched in their green and yellow PEDRA t-shirts with the red AIDS loop emblem, some carrying their embroidered banners, as you see in the photo,

202 aids day pedra stage r1229121109.jpg

and singing their HIV/AIDS songs, and which they sang on the elevated stage at the rally afterward to an audience of several hundreds–another of the photos.

202 aids day pedra banners r.jpg Photos come without sound. But you can imagine. Or get their music dvd from London Conference.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique

Letter 201 18 November 2008

There was much weeping among them all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, grieving especially because of what he had said, that they would not see him again. - Acts 20.37-38

The Bible, like life, is full of. In the book of Acts, where Paul and other disciples journey from one new church to the next, departures happen in chapter after chapter. Paul being Paul– cantankerous, inflexible–some people sometimes are glad to see him go. But often, as in this scene at Miletus, people will miss one another. Phases of a life come and end, yet we meet again, or remain in one another's loving memories and hearts–in touch, one way or another.

In Mozambique the school year is just ending, and the classrooms are empty till January next year. The PEDRA staff has been doing their year-end analysis of how the year went for the 484 girls aged 10 to 15 who started 2008 in PEDRA. The figures give you typical snapshots of girls' lives here. This year, two girls left to get married. Seven got pregnant. Five left the program when their families moved away in search of other opportunities. Some had scheduling changes at school that left them unable to attend. Some had to withdraw to help with home responsibilities– working the fields, gathering wood or water, care of infant siblings. Some, of course, just grew up– or at least felt they had outgrown PEDRA.

Four girls died. One suffered a seizure, fell in a well, and drowned. One died apparently of cerebral malaria. No-one knows the causes of the sudden deaths of two others; rural health centres haven't the facilities, staff, equipment or training to diagnose–let alone treat–many endemic conditions or diseases. These were all girls in their early teens. Early death happens a lot, here in Zambezia, and you never get used to it.

Many girls are looking ahead already to the next school year. All of the girls in the bursary program passed their school exams and were promoted. The twelve girls in the Nicoadala Teacher Training Centre will be teachers next year–role-models to every young girl in their classes. Five bursary girls will begin their last two years of high school here in the capital Quelimane, joining the first girl, Aida, who started to study here this year. In Molumbo where PEDRA girls live in a residence, there is much anticipation: two more dormitory rooms are being built, and in the website photo

201molumbo construction.jpg

You see the girls unloading lumber for rafters. Once it's built, there'll be just a short time before next term to arrange bunk-beds, mattresses and sheets. There'll be scores of new girls joining PEDRA.

As for what PEDRA overall achieved this year, the director of the school in Mucisse for example says the PEDRA girls set a strong example for everyone. In rural Zambezia, girls at puberty go away for a week or so of secluded initiation rites, where basically each is taught that her life role will be to please a man. They return mute, subdued, submissive –shrunken posture, eyes downcast– and may remain that way for the rest of their lives. But the girls of PEDRA are vigorous, verbal, alert. They volunteer questions and answers in class, and influence their peers.

We celebrate their successes. And we miss the girls who one way or another have departed.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique

Letter 200 7 November 2008

Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of God. -Psalm 34.11

Everything important, you learn best if you start to learn as a child–at home, in your community, and crucially too at school. Rural Mozambican girls often do not go to school until they are 7 or 8 because of the long distances to the school, or because of parents who do not think that girls need formal education, but should get married at age 11 or 12. As the girls get older, many struggle with being propositioned by the teachers for sex in order to pass. The government, and many parent councils are fighting these traditions. The mandate of the PEDRA program is to keep girls in school, and convince the parents and community that this is important.

PEDRA is working. Right now the PEDRA program has 420 girls aged 10 and older who are in the program, which means also still in school. In the next school year starting in January there will be 82 girls in grade 6 and 7, and 101 bursary girls in grade 8 and above. The parents and community are now very supportive of staying in school and of the girls postponing marriage until they finish school. They says these girls are their future leaders and they want strong, educated women in their villages. We at the Christian Council feel proud of our PEDRA girls and Bursary girls and want to do all we can to help them continue their education.

We'd like to introduce you briefly to three of the bursary girls, whose photos you can see here:

Fenezia Lucas Maquiringa1225363617.jpg

Fenezia Lucas is 14, and from the rural community of Maquiringa. She is in grade 7. She has 7 brothers and sisters. It would be difficult for her parents to send her to the district capital of Namarroi to live in the school residence and so she is very thankful for the bursary program. She enjoys science and does well in this subject . She would like to be a teacher.

Jacinta Monteiro Maquiringa1225363799.jpg

Jacinta Monteiro is 15 years old, and also from Maquiringa. She has no mother any more and lives with her father who is a peasant farmer. She has 5 older siblings who do not live at home any more and one younger brother still at home who is 10. She also would like to be a teacher.

Zainete Mussa Mucisse1225363830.jpg

Zainete Mussa, from a rural community called Mucisse, has been a bursary girl in Namarroi town for 3 years. She is 18 and has a mom but her dad has died recently. She has 6 other siblings. Zainete has been an active leader in both the PEDRA program and the Bursary program. She was made head of the dormitory for the last 2 years; this is a lot of responsibility and she assumed it well. In January she will be coming to Quelimane city to start grade 11 at the Pre-university High School. Students with grade 12 from this school can go to a college or university.

Zainete enjoys mathematics and chemistry and has good grades in these subjects. She wants to be a nurse. The nursing college provides free dormitory living and tuition, so once she is accepted there her bursary costs will be much reduced.

Life is not easy for anyone in Mozambique, especially rural girls. But these PEDRA bursary grls and others like them are success stories. We're proud of them all and pray that they will continue in school and do well.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 199

22 October 2008

See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. - Luke 10.19

In Christ's address to the seventy disciples, snakes and scorpions stand for all that is hideous and dangerous to humans, and the promise of protection from these is a very great blessing indeed. They do much harm in Mozambique, but nowhere near as much as malarial mosquitoes. Like the three insect plagues of lice, flies and locusts in Biblical Egypt, these insects decimate Mozambique every year. Mozambique's malaria mortality rate iss the seventh-worst rate of any country in the world.

In Mozambique, more adults and children die of malaria than of any other cause, including HIV/AIDS (though they're hard to separate, since many with AIDS die of malaria because of their reduced resistance). One child in four does not live to his or her fifth birthday, and more than half of those deaths are from malaria. In any given year, between 40,000 and 50,000 Mozambican children die of malaria. That's 109 to 136 child deaths every day. Four or five every hour.

These are preventable deaths. Mosquito nets, treated with insecticide and properly used, save lives. A simple, inexpensive, life-saving solution. It's hard to think of a better investment in Mozambican health-care. But two-thirds of Mozambique's population are subsistence farmers who can't afford even one net per family. Only one Mozambican child in ten sleeps under a mosquito net.

That's why the Christian Council, like other organizations like the Red Cross and UNICEF, is involved wherever it can in distributing mosquito nets, and instructing recipients in their proper use.

They distribute to the bursary girls in their PEDRA program for girls' education, to hang above their dormitory beds.

They distribute to displaced and resettled victims of floods in the districts of Mopeia and Morrumbala in the Zambezi river valley.

Nets from CCM are given all women in maternity wards in the town of Mopeia, and nets hang above every bed. Pregnant women are more at risk from malaria than other adults.

Here in Quelimane, in the lowest reaches of the Zambezia river delta, CCM youth distribute nets to mothers and young children in the swampiest outlying bairros. Malaria is a horrible disease. We know from personal experience. Fever, uncontrollable shivers and trembling, joints and muscles that feel like lead. In the web-site photos taken by CCM youth in a low-lying bairro called Manhaua, you see a mother holding her child and her new net,

199 jccm redes manhaua ag08.jpg
199 jccm redes manhaua ag08 21224793179.jpg

and another little girl clutching hers:

precious people whose lives will be safer and maybe saved, and whose suffering will be much less, because of a simple mosquito net.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique

Letter 198

7 October 2008

While he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. - Luke 15.20

The parable of the prodigal son. One of the hundreds of profoundly moving stories in the Bible. But we've never felt so moved by the tale as when we watched it performed as theatre by prisoners in the jailyard in the Mozambican district of Gurue.

We were there with ten United Church visitors from Ontario. CCM in our Zambezia province has a mission to prisoners in three districts, managed by our colleague Pastor Coutino who managed permission for us to enter this severely restricted facility. (We wrote about this mission in Letter 189.) We sat on straw mats in a shaded corner of the high-walled compound, next to over a hundred prisoners, and the cast of their play. The stage was just the dusty ground.

The prison program teaches literacy, Bible study, life-skills, but most of all hope. Hope in each man (almost all were young men) that their life in future can be better than the error-ridden life that led them to prison. Before the play, the CCM teacher drew on the blackboard a road, a fork, a narrow road leading upward, a broad road leading down, and at the fork a person trying to decide. The easy broad road is a trap he said, and drew with his chalk an analogy that all of these rural young men would understand: A hunter uses food to lure a wild boar into his trap; the Devil dangles what look like goodies but lead to perdition.

Then, the play. The cast: the prodigal son, his mother and father, the dissolute companions who lead him astray, girls of ill repute (played to uproars of laughter by men) that the hapless hero squanders his money on. Others played the pigs he tended–crawling, snorting, provoking yet more laughter. The parable with its hopeful message, that reform and forgiveness is possible no matter what wrong you've done, resonates with prisoners, especially as performed by their jailyard peers. In the play he comes home despairing, broke, barefoot, in ragged shorts and t-shirt--and his parents run to embrace him. This, the play says, has been and can be your life. The love of God and family is waiting, if you truly do repent.

It's rare that a foreign visitor, let alone a dozen at once, are let into a Mozambican prison. Security regulations didn't allow us to take photos. You'll have to imagine their drama, its zany unsubtle style and potentially life-changing impact, played out in that hot dusty yard in the mountains of central Zambezia. That we were given this opportunity shows the high regard for CCM and its program to help rebuild prisoners' lives. The prison director told us that as far as he knows no-one who has completed the CCM program, and then his sentence, has never returned to crime and to prison. Apparently, the young man in their parable didn't either.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique

Letter 197

20 September 2008

Those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them–do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others...? - Luke 13.4

Jesus goes on to answer his own question, and the answer is No. Jesus saw so clearly so much suffering, so often, of so many people who surely did not deserve it. Undeserved calamities continuye. We do not know how or why a loving and all-powerful God would permit what seems like such injustice. It is beyond our understanding. But we are called to believe that God suffers too with all those who suffer.

On Monday 26 August, when ten United Church of Canada members were travelling with us in Zambezia province of Mozambique, we visited Enesse Mulambe at her parents' home in the mountainous district of Milange. We were introduced by our colleague Pastor Manteiga, the head of the Christian Council's project of community gardens there for medicinal plants against HIV/AIDS. Enesse is one of sixty HIV+ people his project has been helping. Enesse then was in an advanced state of AIDS, thin and weak and hopeless, not speaking, and lying propped on a straw mat and blanket in the shade under the wide overhanging thatched eaves. She was nineteen, with two small children, whose father had left them on learning that Ines was HIV+.

Not long ago, the first HIV testing centre opened in Milange, and then a government clinic that administers anti-retroviral drugs to those whose CD4 white-blood-cell count has fallen below the threshold. But all this comes too late for Ines, and for thousands of Mozambicans like her. By then she was too sick already to travel to the clinic, forty minutes' drive away on a bumpy dirt road, and her parents too poor in any case to afford the minibus taxi. CCM and Pastor Manteiga are negotiating with the district Health administration to give him authority to administer ARVs at the health post in Molumbo, much closer for those who live in the north of the district.

Earlier that same day we'd visited Julia and Albuquerque, at their farm, a 20-minute hike from the farthest that a vehicle can go on the dirt track leading from the main district road. Both are HIV+. Fortunately they went for testing when their viral load proved to be still relatively light. Their other good fortune is access to the natural medicines that Manteiga now can provide, produced from the CCM medicinal gardens. With other aids like good nutrition, a person with HIV can live for years before ARVs become necessary. Their farm is thriving, they have chickens and pigs and a mount of sorghum in the wicker elevated granary. See them and their decorated farmhouse in the website photos:

197 julia.jpg
197 al.jpg
197 house.jpg

On that day we prayed with and for Enesse. There wasn't much else anyone could do, only this comfort. In the end, says Ecclesiastes (12.7), the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the breath returns to God who gave it. The end of earthly life for Enesse came on Friday 12 September. Her parents came to inform the Christian Council, to thank CCM for their help in the last few weeks of their daughter's unjustly short life, and to say they knew that it had been too late for anyone to save her. It's too late for thousands of others who will unavoidably die soon of AIDS. But with CCM medicinal gardens in Milange and other districts, it won't be too late for other more-fortunate HIV+ people and their families. There'll be hundreds more like Albuquerque and Julia.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique

Letter 196

5 September 2008

Just then some men came, carrying a paralyzed man on a bed. - Luke 5.18

We don't know how far those men had to lug the paralytic to where Jesus was. Then they had to lift the bed to the roof, and lower it through the tiles. Probably the bed was something like what most rural Mozambicans have to use to get their sick to the nearest clinic: a cloth or a web of banana leaves fastened to two poles, that four men carry. Since those Biblical men carried, didn't push it, certainly it had no wheels. And nowhere in the Bible do we find the word ‘ambulance'.

In the district of Mopeia, along the Zambezi river, 92,800 people live in an area of 7500 square km. Mopeia has 1 district hospital, 6 health posts, 1 doctor and just 1 ambulance, which can't reach most communities because they haven't access roads, only tracks through savanna. So the Christian Council has been providing bicycle ambulances–bicycles pulling a stretcher on wheels. In one of the web-site photos

Ambulances loaded.jpg

You see a dozen of them loaded on a truck for delivery. They're made in a workshop here in Quelimane. The basic design comes from the World Health Organization; CCM added a shade cover to protect the sufferer from intense tropical sunlight.

About 200 people turned up recently for the ceremony when CCM handed over a dozen more ambulances to the District Health Directorate, at the health post in a rural Mopeia community called 8 March (which is Mozambican Women's Day–appropriately, since many of the ambulance users are and will be pregnant women, about to give birth and facing complications). There were musicians with drums and rattles, dancers, government officials, the local chief or rainha (queen), and a Mozambican TV crew. In the other web-site photos you see the celebrating dancers (though you can't hear the rattles, drums, and ululations),

196 ambulancedancers r.jpg

and the District Director of Health–the only doctor–taking one for a demo ride before the cheering throng.

196ambulance testdrive r.jpg

CCM works with the District Health Directorate to decide where each ambulance will be positioned, according to local needs and distances from clinics, and to organize and train a local ambulance committee. These usually include a local midwife and health-care community volunteers, responsible for its storage and maintenance, and for making sure it's always on call to be pedalled away in response to an emergency.

By making it possible for people in need to get to the nearest clinic, and get there sooner, every ambulance saves lives, every week. If there'd been ambulances like these in Palestine in Jesus' time, more sick believers would have gotten to Him, and He would have been even busier at curing. From what we've seen of these vehicles, we're believers.

In mission and service,

Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 195 20 August 2008

It was reported, "This is Bathsheba daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite." So David sent messengers to get her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. - 2 Samuel 3,4

As King, David has rights to multiple wives and concubines, but not to Uriah's wife, and had no right to arrange Uriah's death. It's one of the most-remembered stories of David; God was not pleased. In the Bible as in literature and human life through all the ages, few themes loom larger or more frequent than sexual faithfulness or infidelity. Now in the age of HIV-AIDS, here in a city with more than 1 in 3 adults infected, the issue has never been more urgent.

In Shakespeare's play ‘Measure for Measure' Angelo is regent of Vienna, a lewd, licentious city, temporarily ruling for the Duke. He determines to enforce a harsh law: anyone found to be having sex while unmarried must die. Much like the HIV penalty–death for unprotected sex. Claudio and Julia are caught and imprisoned, and Claudio is sentenced. But Angelo lusts for Claudio's sister Isabella, a chaste novice nun, and offers her brother's life in trade for sex. This is what sociologists call cross-generation transactional sex. It's rampant in Mozambique between older men with economic power, and younger girls; a big part of the PEDRA program is building girls' defenses against it.

The play resonates in Mozambique in the age of AIDS more perhaps than any other in Shakespeare's canon. So the Montes Namuli Dance and Music Company that works with Shakespeare Link Canada and CCM created their adaptation, ‘Medida por Medida', telling the story in music, dance, mime and Portuguese text. The poster on the website

Medida por medida cartaz r2.jpg

gives you the flavour. The other photo shows some of the band, in rehearsal. Drums, rattles, marimba, harmonica–their music was continuous and intricate.

Medida por medida banda.jpg

The costumes, dances, dialogue and mime were vivid and spectacular–a colourful, non-gloomy, sometimes-comic ‘Measure for Measure' for a change.

By Shakespearean folktale trickery, Angelo is duped into having sex with Mariana his own fiancee–disguised as Isabella–and is publicly exposed as a lecher and hypocrite. Turns out the Duke has been monitoring affairs, disguised as a friar. He restores order, and the play that started out bleak with sexual transaction and corruption, sexual coercion of women, ends like comedy: lessons learned, vice chastened–and three married couples, since Isabella accepts the hand of the Duke, opting for married chastity rather than virginity. Angelo learns, as King David did at great cost, that authority demands responsibility. The people of the once-lurid city learn that they must follow the examples of these three couples, and practise fidelity to one loved partner.

The urgent hope is that some of the at-risk population who see ‘Medida por Medida' here in infected Quelimane–like those of Shakespeare's fictional Vienna; like King David confronted by the prophet Nathan–might take the message to heart. Art can change–even save–human lives.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique

Letter 194, 6 August 2008

The very works that I am doing testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me. - John 5.36

It's a very simple logic: one who does marvellous work is by definition a gift from God, the Giver of all marvels and miracles. For the last three weeks the girls of PEDRA have been working with three women–Dana, Caterina, and Janice–involved with a theatre group called Shakespeare Link Canada. What's the common ground between Canadian specialists in Shakespeare and yoga, and a hundred Mozambican girls? Well, PEDRA's role is to develop girls with strong voices, disciplined, poised, confident in their endeavours and relations, and able to say no to situations that might put them at risk of HIV. Theatre too is about strong voices and poise in front of audiences. A good fit, especially for people who truly enjoy working with someone from another race and culture. You see a sampling of them at work in the website photo:

194 yoga.jpg

They did clapping games in circles, repeating complicated patterns, working on attention span, memory and coordination.

Mirroring games, working in pairs, each duplicating exactly the expressions and gestures of the partner facing her.

Eye-contact games, expressing intent without word or gesture.

Listening games–like trying to find someone when both of you are blindfolded and the space is silent except for breathing, bare feet stepping, and the circle of watchers determined not to giggle.

Yoga to teach physical and mental calm, flexibility and discipline. Yoga instantly became a regular feature of every PEDRA program day.

Songs in several different languages including English, Danish, Zulu and nonsense-words.

They practised group story-telling with words, gestures, and facial expression–stories about a time when they helped someone, a special friend, and how they felt, and how the other felt.

Visualizing your future, imagining in concrete images what each girl dreams of being–doctor, lawyer, teacher, nurse, prime minister–drawing it on paper with crayons, and telling it to a partner, who has to listen intently and repeat it back in detail.

Four PEDRA centres took part–in the PEDRA headquarter building in Quelimane, in the Chuabo Dembe peri-urban bairro, and the rural PEDRA centre of Licuare. The overall theme that drove these sessions was that each girl can develop both a voice, and a dream to give life shape and inspiration. The very works they did proved that the PEDRA girls and the three Canadian women were sent into each other's lives by God.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 193 21 July 2008

A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink." - John 4.7

Here in Mozambique two-thirds of the population don't have access to safe water within a kilometer of where they live. Almost two in five Mozambican children die by age five; almost half of these from drinking contaminated water (most of the rest die of malaria). We last wrote about CCM's well-building projects in Letter 171 of last August, with a Biblical text about Rebekah who arrives at a well to draw water–a woman obviously efficient, industrious and lovely–and soon is proposed as Isaac's wife. Besides a life necessity, a well is a meeting place, for Jesus and for anyone. In any society without pipes and pumps to take water to people from a central source, people must go to water–a river, spring, or well. So that is where people, especially women and girls who traditionally are bearers of water, gather, as you see in the web-site photos of the well at Braz:

Well braz.jpg
Well braz 2 meninas.jpg

Women in line to fill their 20-liter jars have time for conversation about the elemental things that matter most–weather, crops, family health, children's schooling.

In a few fortunate communities, like those served by CCM and other organizations, wells are lined to keep the water clean, and topped with hand-pumps. After our last-August letter the well-building continued, but stopped abruptly when horrendous flooding inundated lowlands along the Zambezi river and displaced over 80,000 families. Even now in July it's still often raining–an unprecedented phenomenon; usually the rains here stop in April–and it's taken this long for the soils to dry enough that communities have started digging wells again, lining them with locally baked brick, and waiting for installation of their hand-pump. So this week we were down in the river-valley district of Mopeia with a CCM team checking on last year's functioning new wells, and wells in progress, and planning with communities chosen for wells this year. As set out in the government's district strategic plan for development, communities are chosen based on need–how many families lack a water sources within a standard distance–and on community capacity to take part in building and managing this precious infrastructure.

One such community is Mutangurine (moo-tan-goo-ree-nay), where the local organizers that the photo shows took us to see their current water hole, even now in a fairly damp season just an unprotected puddle in mud, as the other web-site photo shows:

Organizers jul008.jpg
Lualua jul008.jpg

In dry times the water disappears. In the rainy season it's fouled by human-waste contamination. This week they've starting digging. Their new well and pump will be like the one in Braz. In another community, Lua-lua, whose pump has just been mounted, we confirmed plans for official hand-over to the local well-management committee later this month, always a joyous ceremony. Work on other wells is now under way, in Zambezi communities like Vundo, Bajone and Assiate.

Canada has more fresh water per population than any other country on the planet. Canadians are also the most-wasteful of this precious resource. The United Church view is that water is a sacred resource that God intends for all, not a commodity to be taken for granted, or bought and sold for private gain. Every time you drink, or bathe, or water your garden, gratefully acknowledge your blessing, and dedicate at least a prayer for those without water, in Mozambique or anywhere.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique

Letter 192

5 July 2008

They broke bread from house to house and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day God added to their number those who were being saved. - Acts 2.46-7

These verses from the start of the book of Acts show Christians (though they weren't yet known by that name) in the earliest days, before what we would call a church existed, in the sense of a designated building, hierarchical administrative structure, and established dogma. Ever since then, that's always what has best made churches grow: glad and generous hearts praising God and building goodwill.

The church where we worship on Sundays, when we're not called to some other ecumenical program, is a congregation of the Evangelical Church of Christ in Mozambique; in Portuguese, IECM. We last wrote about it in Letter 102, back in February 2004. Swiss and Scotch missionaries founded IECM over 90 years ago, in the interior highlands of Zambezia province. It's closest in governance, doctrine and worship practice to the Methodist and Presbyterian churches in Mozambique. All its leaders now are Mozambican, and have been for two generations.

When Mozambique's civil war ended in 1993, the IECM was worshipping with the Presbyterians, Anglicans and Methodists in the abandoned 18th-century Roman Catholic cathedral on the Quelimane waterfront. Gradually each of these built its own modest stick-and-mortar church in bairros farther from the city centre. The handful of IECM folk started up on their own in a storefront which they borrowed on Sundays, on its long narrow front veranda–the same building where we still worship now, on Julius Nyerere Avenue near the CCM office. Most were refugees from central Zambezia and other Mozambican provinces.

The veranda is about 2 meters wide, a dozen meters long, and seats about 50 on its wooden benches. You see one end of it in the website photo

192 pedra banana leaf landscapes oct 2004.jpg

in those simpler early book-of-Acts days of 2004–the veranda's total width, the pulpit with the cross-and-crown IECM emblem, the stacked benches, the PEDRA girls at the communion table which they've turned and moved forward, cutting and pasting Biblical landscapes from dried banana leaves. Now that's communion.

The congregation didn't have, still don't have, a pastor of their own. Lay members take turn preaching, reading the Psalm, announcing, leading the liturgy, organizing work-bees and visits to the sick, attending monthly meetings of the synod. Just before the service a small and varying group meets–various elders, women, men and youth–to sort out who'll do what that day. (Try preaching on 10 minutes notice. In Portuguese.) About ten children aged 4 to 14 come to Sunday school at 8 AM (worship starts at 9), and sing at most Sunday services. About twice that many youth aged 16 to 24 turn up each Saturday afternoon for choir rehearsal, and always sing on Sunday. Almost always it's one of the youth who leads the service; they make up about half the congregation.

Fifteen years ago as postwar resettlement continued, many IECM members and others displaced from rural districts moved into rapidly expanding Quelimane suburbs. In the next few years the tiny original group at Julius Nyerere Avenue planted and tended 3 congregations in 3 different suburbs, all of which still are thriving, and all of which now are much larger than the mother congregation. We ourselves first came to worship here because we were invited, and stayed because of that inspired volunteer goodwill, the glad and generous hearts, and because they invited the PEDRA program in, and it stayed for 2 years on that narrow veranda till it got its own building. Today there's an IECM minister for Quelimane, and currently a student minister too. They've kept up contact with the Scots and especially the Swiss, who visit periodically.

They'd like to build a church in the yard in front of the veranda. They've started up a litle building fund, and started collecting sand and stone, and making hand-built cement blocks which they stockpile in a growing mound outside the veranda grates. But it's going to be a modest affair. No-one in the congregation has much money, just stubborn faith and energy, and their priority has always been the spiritual health of new congregations. They've just started up another congregation in a nearby district–inaugurated last Sunday–among people they've been ministering to who have been displaced permanently to unfamiliar uplands from low Zambezi river islands in this year's disastrous flooding.

We feel blessed to be living among people who live as if at the start of the book of Acts. We are witnessing first-hand the way the church began. Maybe the church is healthiest that way, closest to the ways of Jesus Christ as Mark of the earliest Gospel describes, before Saul became Paul and invented Christianity, and congregations moved to expensive buildings, and bishops and bureaucracies took over and made the church an Institution.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique

Letter 191

25 June 2008

She makes herself coverings....she supplies the merchant with sashes. - Proverbs 31.22, 24

This letter is a sequel to Letter 185, back in March, also looking to the last section of the book of Proverbs, which told in part about the PEDRA girls making bi-coloured woven bracelets on order from Church World Service in the USA, one of the PEDRA program's sponsors. A total of 227 girls in seven of the PEDRA centres–in Quelimane, and in 6 rural communities–learned to make the bracelets, and by the deadline of June 30 produced 7285 bracelets, 6200 of which are now in Maputo on their way to New York. Everyone was astonished that such a project could happen so successfully in so short a time–everyone except the industrious girls themselves.

We asked some girls why they took to bracelets so readily. Their answers are verbal snapshots of their lives.

Flavia aged 14, who made 95 bracelets, said, "People admired the bracelets and my ability to make them."

Eva (13) and Lucia (12), who made 50 and 150 bracelets respectively, both said, "I like to learn new skills."

Graciela (14) who made 85 bracelets said, "We learned to make a beautiful thing."

Joaquina (12) made 40, and said, "It gave me an activity. At home I have nothing to do when I'm not working." Almost all the girls said this. They don't have leisure objects–no dolls, toys, computers, TVs, music players, sports equipment–all the goods that clog the bedrooms, recreation rooms, and homes of most Canadian girls their age.

Though no-one said they'd done it for the money, all the girls said they were indeed happy to earn some; young people their age here have no opportunities for paying part-time jobs. Each girl received 10 meticais, about 40 cents, for each bracelet of acceptable quality. We asked what they would buy. Their answers were very different from typical pre-teen and early-teen girls in Canada buying makeup and music. The PEDRA girls will be buying basics:

Like a striking number of other girls, Mira (13) said she'll buy shoes.

Ana (11) was typical of many who said they'll buy school supplies.

Still others like Helena (11) said they'll give most of their earnings to their mothers, to help buy clothes and food for the family.

Flavia gave some to her father to help pay for a zinc sheet for the roof of their house, and gave some to her church.

They're hoping for another project just like it–to learn a skill, beautify the world, earn a little income, and feel good about themselves and their abilities to face life and challenge, and succeed. PEDRA is primarily a program against HIV-AIDS, and girls like these are in the best position to make the necessary disciplined, positive life choices that will keep them from infection. Girls with money in their pocket are less at risk from men who offer shoes or school-fees for sex.

In the website photos

191 pulseiras.jpg
191 pulseiras closeup.jpg

you see one of these young artisans at work. In the end, together they produced 1085 bracelets above what Church World Service ordered. Young business people that they are, they're looking for markets for their products.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique

Letter 190

6 June 2008

Better is a neighbour nearby than kindred who are far away . - Proverbs 27.10

Aida Chico is 17 years old. She grew up in Molumbo, in the far north of Zambezia province, in an isolated zone where the local school ends at Grade 5, though few students, especially girls, make it that far. But Aida did (you pronounce her name like ‘Ida' in English), and then moved away to the nearest village three hours' walk away, to live in the lar or residence run by AMER (a local Association of Women for Rural Education) and by the Christian Council. Aida persisted. The Molumbo village school went to Grade 8, and then she moved to the district capital, the town of Namarroi, which went to Grade 10. So now she's in Grade 11, in the lar of a high-school here in the provincial capital, Quelimane. We're proud of Aida. She's the first of the PEDRA program's bursary girls to have reached Grade 11, and the first to come to Quelimane. (Currently there are 48 bursary girls. Thirteen are in second year of a district Teacher Training College course a half-hour outside of Quelimane, a course equivalent to grades 9 and 10).

Aida's parents are subsistence farmers who do not understand school's value and are not in a position to help with her education. She does not see them much anymore. During school holidays she lives with one of her two aunts in the districts of Ile and Gurue, each an hour's long drive from her birthplace. She knows no-one else at school in Quelimane from her district. Though her kindred are far away, Aida does not feel alone. She has made new friends here, students from other districts of Zambezia– Pebane, Namacurra, Morrumbala– who speak other languages.

And PEDRA is a neighbour nearby, a ten-minute walk. Aida comes by every week. "I like to come to PEDRA to learn," she says. "To draw, embroider, make bracelets." Aida is always welcome. Seventeen in Grade 11, she's a good role-model for all the girls of PEDRA, who are mostly aged 10 to 14 and study in Grades 4 to 9. You see Aida's picture

Aida chico.jpg

a still from the 13-minute documentary video that CCM made about the PEDRA bursary girls.

Till she came here to school in January, Aida had never been to a city. The lar is different from the one she lived in in Namarroi town. "It has a refectory with chairs," she says, "and a study room with chairs."

"My life is better in the city," Aida says. Why? "It has Grade 11." That's Aida's priority. She's studying much the same curriculum as in Namarroi–Portuguese, biology, English, chemistry, mathematics, physics, and physical education. Her favourites are biology and Portuguese. She studies hard and so far is doing well, though finding mathematics, chemistry and English more difficult and with higher standards than in Namarroi. In her spare time she likes to play soccer. She's in good health and good spirits, has new friends, has PEDRA Quelimane for support. When she finishes school, Aida wants to be a nurse. The bursary program will continue to help Aida and girls like her to succeed.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique

Letter 189

24 May 2008

But God was with Joseph and...gave him favour in the sight of the chief jailer. The chief jailer committed to Joseph's care all the prisoners... - Genesis 39.21-22

Joseph was in prison for more than two years, falsely accused by Potiphar's wife. Finally the Pharaoh's cupbearer whose dream Joseph interpreted in prison is freed, he remembers Joseph, intercedes with the Pharaoh, and Joseph too gains his freedom. Joseph has prisoner friends on the inside whom he has helped, an enlightened chief jailer supports him, and Joseph takes the opportunity given him to care for other prisoners. Among other missions he appears to have set up a dream interpretation program. The Bible's earliest prison ministry.

Here in Quelimane we live next door to the main provincial jail, and a bedroom window of ours overlooks the jailyard. We see prisoners' hard daily life. Almost none get visitors. Some almost never leave their small hot cells. The food is greens in corn porridge. Many sleep in the yard and suffer at night from malarial mosquitoes. The jails offer no organized programs of counselling or recreation.

The Christian Council here in Zambezia has a ministry in this jail and in three other district jails as well. It's a program that combines Bible study, counselling and life-skills training, for a total of 405 prisoners (14 of these are women). Six volunteer teachers offer 6 two-hour classes per month to an average class size of 7 prisoners each. They encourage prisoners to change behaviour, go back to school, choose a better life path, find guidance and hope from Christian faith.

The prison directors allocate space within the prison for these classes. Mozambican prison policy mandates contributions by civil society organizations to take an active part in the penal system, offering prisoners social and psychological assistance, training, recreation, and guidance on re-entry into mainstream society. The prison directors all say that since the program began in 2005 no prisoner who participated ever ended up back to jail after his or her release. Many do go back to school. Many are baptized in a church of their choice; when they leave they're given a certificate which helps them be accepted by a pastor, or employer. It's a popular program, entirely voluntary. In the Ile district prison, currently every one of the 50 prisoners participates. In Gurue and Mocuba districts, more than half do. While still in jail the prisoners of the program counsel and evangelize others, in cells where the teachers can't go.

Last week the activist group with the prison mission distributed their materials for this year. Each participating prisoner got a pencil and notebook, each group of 7 got a Bible, and each teacher received a box of chalk, a Bible and an ecumenical catechism. One of the website photos

Avodemo quel apr08r.jpg

shows the program leader Rev. Avelino Coutino with the team unpacking materials on arrival in Quelimane, another shows him leading distribution in the Gurue jail yard:

Cadeia gurue211.jpg

and in the third he teaches a typical class:

Cadeia gurue21.jpg

No doubt the Genesis Joseph, like the Josephs of CCM's prison mission, won the gratitude of many fellow prisoners, made prison lives less bleak, and hopes for future freedom time brighter.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 188

  • 12 May 2008

Take a brick and set it before you. On it portray a city, Jerusalem....Then take an iron plate and place it as an iron wall between you and the city....This is a sign for the house of Israel.

  • - Ezekiel 4.1-3

Take a sun-dried Babylonian brick, and on it carve a relief drawing of Jerusalem, then put an iron pan to show the wall of weaponry confronting the besieged and doomed city. A practical teaching aid for the prophet Ezekiel, to get his point across to the errant Israelites. It's a physical analogue to the oral parables of Christ as the great New Testament teacher. God needs for his teachers the best tools and pedagogical techniques, so that others can best learn God's ways.

Here in Mozambique, many teachers haven't a blackboard, and not so much as a mud brick and pan by way of teaching aids, though some cleverly make do with what local found objects they've got. Hundreds of thousands of children don't go to school, and many who do must study beneath a tree, or in a rickety stick classroom with sun beating in through the ragged thatch. They haven't textbooks, notebooks, pencils.

In Quelimane city and the district of Namarroi, CCM has a program of giving school supplies to the neediest children. Last week for instance CCM distributed school kits to 20 AIDS orphans in the sandy outer-city neighbourhood of 17 September who are living in the homes of families of the congregation. As we told in our last letter, the church has just had to stop feeding them because of higher prices for food, and that burden will fall on their already impoverished foster families, which makes them even less able to pay for ‘extras' like education. School is free up to grade 5, but families must pay for school supplies.

Pastor Isaias the head of CCM's AIDS programs called their names, and one by one they came to the front of the Nazarene church to receive their notebooks, pens, pencils, sharpener, eraser and notebooks, and the purple school backpacks. You can see the big eyes and smiles in the photos on the website:

188 school kits 1.jpg
188 school kits 2.jpg
188 school kits.jpg

It's not just presents, it's the chance to learn at school.

Thirty-eight PEDRA girls accompanied the distribrution, singing songs about education and children's rights throughout, and helping adjust the buckles on the backpack straps to the size of each little orphan. Then Mae Isabel from the CCM Women's Society measured each one for a uniform. In the city, though not in country districts, students must wear uniforms to school. This is yet another expense many families can't afford, but the government requires it, saying a uniform makes the students stand out–a walking advertisement for education. So Mae Isabel will sew one uniform for each.

Soon, in Namarroi district, CCM will distribute kits to another 400 children who otherwise would not go to school this year, or would go and not be able to learn, for lack of instruments.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique

  • Letter 187 2 May 2008

They will hunger no more...for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd....

  • - Revelations 7.16-17

The price you pay at the pump for fuel for your cars has risen a lot, with the rises in the world price of oil to record levels. Probably the price will keep on rising. Commuters and others who drive long distances feel especially pinched. High fuel prices mean higher transportation costs, and so the prices of virtually everything that has to be transported will rise. Worse still, for various global reasons–rising demand from a multiplying world population, poor harvests, climate change, degraded soil, urbanization covering once-fertile soils, usurping of land to cultivate non-food crops for ethanol–the prices of staple foods in the last months have also risen steeply. You may notice you're paying a few dollars more at the supermarket checkout.

For you it's irksome. Many people in Canada feel stretched. But in Mozambique, it's disastrous. Fuel costs $1.60 a litre. That hits organizations like CCM with so many rural projects. And the prices of essential food staples–rice, corn, wheat? A sack of rice that a month ago cost 330 meticais now costs 550–about $30.Your income is only $70 a month, the current minimum wage. If you buy a sack of rice you'll have just spent almost half your month's income on food. But then how could you afford other essentials--clothing, your children's school supplies, transportation, medicines, blankets? People are desperate.

Even if you're a farmer, like almost 3/4 of Mozambicans, and normally can grow enough at least to feed the family, with such erratic weather–floods, drought, cyclones–your crops are reduced or wiped out.

In a poor part of Quelimane called 17 September the Church of the Nazarene, where the PEDRA program operates, has a feeding program for 80 neighbourhood orphans that families of the congregation have taken in. The families are poor, one extra small mouth is a burden, and so the church helped with a healthy lunch of rice or corn, fish or beans cooked and served to the orphans each day in the churchyard, their best and sometimes only meal that day.

Or rather, they had a program. As of last month, they don't run it any more. There's no pot of rice or corn porridge simmering over charcoal, no plates heaped and steaming for the 80 orphans. The church can't afford it anymore. In the photos

17set feeding 1.jpg
17set feeding.jpg

You see the children in happier days, with fuller stomachs. Pastor Adisse looks at their drawn faces and explains. Charcoal that cost 50 meticais a sack in Quelimane last year now costs 90, because of transport costs to bring it from the outlying forests where it's cut and processed. People in the city can hardly afford to cook. The President of Mozambique declared last week that because of these rising prices for food and fuel the country is in crisis. The signs are that in parts of Mozambique we will have famine.

There in fertile Canada, a breadbasket to the world, please think of and pray for the millions of people worldwide like those 80 AIDS orphans at 17 September. Hunger is not what God intends, not for the white-robed ones of Revelations nor for anyone. But to feed this world the Lamb at the center of the throne needs the help of every generous loving one of us. It's not a matter just of handouts, but efficient and sustainable stewardship of our planet's crop-growing land, and a juster system of distribution.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique

Letter 186

27 April 2008

Then the king commanded his palace master Ashpenaz to bring some of the Israelite children ... endowed with knowledge and insight, and competent to serve in the king's palace ... to be taught the literature and language of the Chaldeans. - Daniel 1.3-4

Ashpenaz chose well: among those trained in the Persian court were Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego–role models to this day. In any society, one of the most critical resources is young people, above all those who in future will become its leaders. Recently the youth of the Christian Council of Mozambique came to Bill and asked for courses in fields that would help them do their mission better. To start, they chose Project Administration, Computer Use, and Video Production. In the photo

Aula informatica abr008 kv.jpg

you see a typical classroom scene.

The Music and Video studio and program room is not finished so they are using the PEDRA classroom on the two days the girls are not there, and after PEDRA hours. Sometimes a group comes in while the PEDRA girls are also there, and quietly work on the computer. The other day a group on the veranda rehearsed a mini-drama for a music video, another had a project-planning meeting at a PEDRAtable, while three more groups worked on video editing. A busy place.

In Administration they're learning things like defining a mission statement, setting objectives, budgeting, leadership, delegation of roles, communication, decision-making, group dynamics, conflict/crisis management, and management of resources human, financial and material. They're divided into 5 work-groups of 3, each preparing their own mini-project proposal with a $500 mini-budget which the CCM Youth will implement, in the fields of AIDS, malaria, prisoners, orphans, and the physically handicapped.

Video production covers matters like writing and acting for video, lighting, sound recording, camera operation, video editing, and audio and visual effects. The students chose their own areas of special interest. Three groups of three are building their own music video, each using a different song about AIDS recorded by the CCM Youth Choir, and video footage recorded by the students interested in camera work, lighting and so on. Mozambican national television will broadcast the results if the clips are good enough–which, given these students' talent and motivation, for sure they will be.

These days CCM is deep in emergency relief work to aid people starving after losing all their crops to floods. Caring for absolutely destitute subsistence farmers is urgent and important. But it's also important to help young people blessed with the opportunity, ability and motivation for higher education in professions and technical specialties. Like Daniel and those others at the Persian court, through these courses Regina, Leleta, Dorival, Belmiro and the rest are opening their minds and the doors to their future–and their country's.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique

  • Letter 185 27 March 2008

She perceives that her merchandise is profitable....Give her a share in the fruit of her hands....

  • - Proverbs 31.18, 31

The lengthy praise of a practical, talented, financially savvy woman which concludes the book of Proverbs gives a picture of what it looks like the girls of PEDRA could be on the way to becoming. Last week two girls from each of the 5 rural PEDRA centres in the district of Namarroi travelled by truck–singing and laughing in the back all the way–on a weekend exchange trip to the 50 PEDRA bursary girls in Molumbo. It's an hour's drive away. Almost none of the girls had never been so far from home.

The Molumbo girls taught the girls from Namarroi how to make knotted thread bracelets which they themselves had learned to make by lessons and practice over the preceding two weeks. A donor of PEDRA, Church World Service in the USA, has asked for as many as the girls can produce, to help raise awareness of American donors. The girls learn a fine-motor skill, develop high work standards (you can't market a shoddy product), beautify the world for themselves and someone far away, gain confidence in their ability to contribute–and earn 10 meticais (about 40 cents) per bracelet. After their weekend exchange, the Namarroi girls returned to teach their peers. Two photos show them at work ---

185 bracelets.jpg
185 bracelet closeup.jpg

( So far they've made 1000 bracelets, in their spare time away from schoolwork, PEDRA programs, and helping out at home.

They've also gotten into baking. When we had asked the rural PEDRA girls and their women educators what they'd like as an income-generating project, they came up with starting a canteen at their community schools to sell buns and biscuits. So each centre built an oven of local brick as you see in the photo,

185 oven.jpg

And went into business. The women learned to bake and then taught the girls–mix the ingredients, knead, roll it into balls once risen, cut the crack in the middle. Each dough-ball must be of uniform size (a bun too big cuts into profit margins; a bun too small won't sell), and the girls take turns to tend the oven; feed and stir the fire; control the temperature during baking, mount and remove the corrugated metal sheet that serves as the oven door; take out the tray when they're done (10 minutes; palm leaves for oven-mitts; 250 buns per session).

185 baking.jpg

Each centre's girls also got a seminar in small-business management. Gathered around a flip-chart they learned about analysis of cost for materials, time, and labour; sustainability; pricing to make a profit but stay within the customers' means; quality control (as with the bracelets); transport; and marketing. Each centre got a start-up investment of a big steel cooking-tray, a plastic bin for transporting the final product, and start-up yeast and flour. Now they're on their own, sending out their bread on the waters, or rather on the schoolyards, a business venture that Ecclesiastes says will bring returns.

When we brought the girls back to Namarroi on Sunday afternoon, their parents were waiting at the roadside, eager to hear what the girls had learned from their weekend of shared experience and learning. We and their parents pray they'll become adults like the wise and practical woman of Proverbs, who farms, trades, sews, spins, sells and her family prospers. That they'll stay in school, and make constructive life alternatives to premature pregnancy and HIV/AIDS.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 184 13 March 2008

Where then does wisdom come from? ... The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom. - Job 28.20, 28

This was the theme and the main scripture passage for the March 7 service of the World Day of Prayer. In our city of Quelimane, province of Zambezia, country of Mozambique in southern Africa, the service was the same as anywhere else all over the world. Only the language changed; our service was in Portuguese.

Without wisdom, an individual like Job, a family, a community, a country won't cope with their suffering nor the multiple conflicts that cause it. The prayer of intercession prayed for parents, children, immigrants, in the midst of domestic violence, drug abuse, poverty, unemployment, terrorism, misgovernment, crime, injustice, HIV-AIDS and other diseases. All of these except perhaps terrorism directly afflict Mozambique. They also all in their ways affect Canada.

Job gets wisdom in the end when God comes to intervene directly and speaks for four long chapters (39-42) enumerating in marvellous poetry wonders of the world that God has created. The more we know about our world, the more we admire its Creator. This may not be fear in the sense that we fear, say, a violent uncontrolled criminal, but in the sense that we acknowledge our relative weakness and dependence before our world's Creator. Most of us will not get four chapters of poetry directly spoken by God about God's world, but one critical way is through education–curiosity about our world, eagerness to learn what we can about it, and conduct our lives accordingly. The world is God's chapters. That's true in Mozambique, Canada or anywhere.

That's the premise of PEDRA, the Christian Council of Mozambique's Program for Girls' Education. To keep girls learning, loving learning, confident in their ability to learn, to develop the wisdom to make wise choices about HIV-AIDS, self-respect, staying in school, and service to community. Twenty-four girls of PEDRA sang at the World Day of Prayer service in Quelimane. They arrived at CCM PEDRA by 7:15 AM to dress in their PEDRA T-shirts and capulanas (cloth wraps), and in two pick-up-truck rides they were all at the Church of the Nazarene.

In her remarks at the service Karen shared that Joyce MacKinnon the national president-elect of United Church Women, who had spoken at an ecumenical women's service here last August, was preaching in Canada at this same World Day of Prayer, and had sent by email loving ecumenical greetings to all the friends she had met in Quelimane, reminding us that we all share the same world, and the same Creator God.

The PEDRA girls danced up the church aisle, sang four songs.and danced back down --

Pedra recessional mar7008.jpg

They sang of praise to God with music. Of listening for God's voice everywhere. Of God's marvellous love, and their urge to walk always with God.

In the end Flavia Laquimane, age thirteen -- Flavia and rabia mar7008.jpg .

see her photo, with her friend Rabia), stood up tall and spoke on behalf of PEDRA. She said how happy the girls were to participate. And Greetings to you all in Christ, she said. So that's our message of wisdom to all of you.

In mission and service,

Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique

Letter 183

  • 3 March 2008

If you...satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness. - Isaiah 58.10

Over a month ago in the community of Pinda, along the Chire river flowing from Malawi into the Zambezi, more than 1200 families fled suddenly inundated islands. They'd lost their fields of corn, sorghum, millet and sweet potato. They'd lost their goats and chickens. Two-thirds had lost their houses and the rest have houses badly damaged. They've joined families who re-settled in Pinda after the floods of last year. Pinda is one of dozens of affected communities. They received and still receive emergency food aid from the World Food Program, distributed at first by CCM.

Esmenia Benedito is a member of the CCM team in Pinda who went house to house with the mpfumos or local chiefs to register the refugee beneficiaries, to make sure that no needy family was left out–and no-one would receive goods twice. She has just finished her Grade 12. Her team is living in a campsite by CCM's temporary brick warehouse, several kilometres from resettlement sites. "We've travelled by bicycle to the people but now thank God we have one motorbike." She'd never worked in emergency conditions before, and was dismayed at first. "These people have nothing." But now she now has adapted; they're a team and each has his or her role. "We all were trained together in Morrumbala"–the district capital town.

On February 28 CCM began to distribute domestic household kits. Each family arrived at the announced distribution site in the shade of a large tree in the locality of Gera, each clutching their all-important yellow registration card. The team set up a table and called the 200 families one by one. Each family head came forward, most of them women, many carrying infants in cloth slings. Many are single heads of families - with an average family size of 6 persons according to the registration data. Each presented the card and ‘signed' with an inked fingerprint to certify having taken part:

Fingerprint r.jpg

Then in groups of ten they filed down the dusty road fifty metres to the orange ten-ton CCM truck loaded with kits in white sacks under the next tree.

There each presented her or his card again for signing,

Queuing r.jpg

And advanced to the truck where the CCM worker from above handed down one precious kit. Each hoisted the kit to her head and strode away back down the dusty road (photo ‘heading home')

Heading home r.jpg

To the grass shelters where they'll continue to live till the process of resettlement begins. A twenty-litre pail, 2 cooking pots, 4 cups, 4 spoons, 4 plates, 2 blankets, a bar of soap, 2 mosquito nets and 15 square metres of plastic sheeting to roof s new house once they have one:

Kit r.jpg

They'd been living for weeks with none of these basic household items.

Before the distribution started, one beneficiary, Anabela Alexandre, strode forward spontaneously and addressed the assembled crowd:

Anabela r.jpg

"We're getting support here," she told them, nursing her baby. "My children can go to school here. Even if my husband wants to go back to the islands, I‘m not going back." Many people applauded.

Distribution of seeds to replant fields started the next day: corn, beans, tomato, cabbage, okra, watermelon, pumpkin. Some of the funding came from the United Church of Canada, via ACT International–Action by Churches Together–monitored by CCM's partner Christian Aid.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique

Letter 182 26 February 2008

Go your way, and rest; you shall rise for your reward at the end of the days. - Daniel 12.13

Gina worked at the PEDRA centre in a poor bairro of our city of Quelimane, in her Church of the Nazarene. She was 25 years old.

Gina nov2007.jpg

The pastor Rev. Adisse chose her for PEDRA as one of the most active women of the congregation, and one of the best-educated; she had already completed Grade 11. In PEDRA she taught Bible studies, embroidery, music, nutrition, lessons on AIDS.

Gina and her husband had one child, a year and a half old now. When Gina went to give birth, the hospital maternity staff tested them both for HIV. Both tested positive, and the hospital staff referred her to the Hospital Dia where people go for AIDS counselling and medication. But Gina didn't go. She didn't tell her husband or anyone about her HIV status. She kept it secret.

She kept on doing her valuable work with the girls in PEDRA, helping to keep them safe from AIDS, till earlier this month Gina fell sick. Lesions developed and spread inside of her mouth and throat. Because of the lesions she couldn't eat, chew or swallow well. She lost weight and grew quite feeble. One day she collapsed on the street. Pastor Adisse called CCM, and the PEDRA truck took her back to hospital. But she signed herself out, went back home and took to her bed. It was only then that her husband finally learned that Gina and their child had AIDS.

Their child got sick. Her husband took the child to a neighbour to care for since Gina was no longer able.

Yesterday pastor Adisse was shocked by Gina's deterioration. He asked for the PEDRA truck to take her again to the hospital for intravenous feeding. The truck was out of town. Gina's husband decided to wait a day till the truck came back to take her to hospital. The next day, pastor Adisse called Gina's colleagues at PEDRA to come quickly. A truck can only penetrate so far in those flooded nearly streetless bairros. Karen and Adelia had to leave the truck where the road stopped at a muddy flood-water lagoon, and wade a hundred meters through water a foot deep to reach the house.

Gina lived in a one-room stick-walled house. Inside are a plastic basin, a bed with a straw mat and no mattress, three chairs, a sack of corn, a neatly swept mud floor. Gina lay on the mat on her back, her mouth open, wheezing in a kind of hoarse panic, gasping for breath. Her aunt was kneeling at the bedside, and her 10-year-old sister. Pastor Adisse began to pray. He knew the signs, has been to scores of bedsides like Gina's. Gina's sister ran to call the husband, who arrived just as Gina breathed for the last time. Karen and Adelia were with her when she died.

There are 60,000 HIV-positive people in our district, of a total population of about 300,000. 36% of adults are HIV-positive, the highest rate in Mozambique. Thousands of times Gina's story has happened and will happen. Many people don't go for HIV testing, and many who do go and test positive don't go back for counselling and treatment. They're afraid of AIDS, afraid of the treatments, afraid the treatments won't work, afraid of being stigmatized, afraid of the reactions of neighbours, friends, family, loves and spouses. If dedicated, educated people like Gina choose this way, people with family support for the asking, imagine what trauma HIV must mean for those less well-equipped to face it.

Among women in Mozambique, the most common age for dying of AIDS is 25. Gina's age. Like Daniel, she has gone her way, is at rest. We pray that Gina will have her reward, for the goodness that she did at PEDRA in that last confused year of life, when she couldn't save herself from AIDS but fought to save others. Karen and Adelia had brought Gina's honourarium for January and February. Some of that money paid for her funeral.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique

Letter 181 1 February 2008

The flood sweeps over me…. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God. – Psalm 69:2-4

For the second year in a row, we've arrived back from time in Canada to erratic weather that comes from rapid climate change: severe flooding in the Zambezi river basin where we live. In the districts where the Christian Council works, in 13 emergency camps there are 54,000 people who have fled from the waters, their crops all flooded and lost, 2/3 of the homes destroyed, the rest severely damaged. A quarter of these people are women who are sole heads of families.

Government records say it's the worst Zambezi flood since 1976, and the rains are still falling, and people still fleeing:

Fleeing floods morrumbala feb2008r.jpg

Old people can't remember from ever before two consecutive flood-years. Even worse, these floods began a month earlier than the time of normal heaviest rainfall, and destroyed many more crops than would normally be the case, because normally people could harvest at least a part of their corn, millet and sweet potato crops before the heaviest rains descend.

Since no-one expected flooding after last year's floods, some people were unprepared. Many fled saving nothing but their lives and canoes, losing household goods, fishing nets, poultry and everything. In the camps they built tiny shelters of grass,

Building shelter morrumbala jan008r.jpg

But these can't keep out rain or mosquitoes. Some have gone five days without food. They aren't idle. Men and boys cut forked sticks to make slingshots for hunting rabbits, borrowing a machete from anyone who salvaged one from their abandoned home. But life-threatening problems abound. The water is polluted; there is diarrhea and a risk of cholera. There is malaria. Crocodiles are disoriented, carried far from their normal riverbank sites by the surges of water, and terrorizing the camps' inhabitants.

Like the psalmist, they are indeed waiting, and their hopes if not their eyes are dimming. If God is coming, it's in the form of emergency helpers. Where CCM is working there are no other aid organizations. CCM's first priority is food and plastic sheets, mosquito nets, and after, replacement seeds and fishing nets. In some of these camps, CCM had already dug wells, to serve the people who settled there after last year's floods. Now there are new refugees, and more need for clean water. Some of the wells are dug and lined but still without the hand-pumps mounted; the early rains caught the builders with work unfinished. As soon as water levels go down and let trucks pass, an urgent need will be to send in pumps and mount them, so the people can have clean water.

So much remained undone since last year's floods. While waiting for their harvests—the harvests now destroyed—the people had been eating subsistence food rations supplied by CCM through the World Food Program, by a food-for-work plan. Men and women with hoes—the women with babies on their backs—

Gathering house material morrumbala jan008r.jpg

have been building access roads to the new post-flood communities. Those roads not now flooded are the route for emergency relief.

In Mozambique, the seventh-poorest country in the world, development is a long hard process. Flood emergencies mean steps backwards for any steps forward. God is helping, but can only do that through faithful hard-working people—those clobbered by the floods, and those like the CCM workers called to help them.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt Admin | © St. Pauls United Church 2014

Ricks Clicks Photography
You may direct your questions and comments about his page to Rick's Clicks
Use Rick's online contact form HERE.

St Paul 02.gif . St. Paul's United Church

st. pauls - St. Paul's - saint pauls - Saint Paul's - United Church - stpa - st pa st pau st paulls st pls -

Personal tools
Project URLs