St Pauls United Church-Mozambique 2009

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Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique 2009

Letter 228 7 December 2009

The angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people" – Luke 2.10

Working in Mozambique we sense strongly that the angel's message in this famous verse of holy scripture is indeed for all people. It's the same Advent in Mozambique as it is in Canada and everywhere, and the same Child will be born. In rural Mozambique without books or television, theater has always been the most important and popular way to tell the stories that matter to the people. Girls of all the rural PEDRA centres have been devising and performing their Christmas plays.

All in their PEDRA t-shirts they enact the familiar scenes. The Annunciation—the angel and Mary amazed. The journey to Bethlehem—Mary on the back of two hunched-over girls covered in a capulana to represent the donkey. The angel's appearance to startled shepherds and a flock of girls crawling and baaing as sheep. Then the angels leads the shepherds to the manger and they kneel in worship—that's the angels on the right in the photo

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with a capulana draped from her shoulder like wings.

PEDRA has been working with an organization called Right to Play, which originated in Canada and is now in many countries, which uses games as a springboard to education. Using interactive games followed always by group discussion where each girl puts forth her thoughts, the PEDRA girls have learned about care for the environment, personal hygiene, best ways of farming, protection from malaria, and much much more.

One popular Right To Play game is all about making friends and developing friendship. You mill around singing and when the song says, you choose a nearby friend-partner by the nose and hand, as the other photo shows—

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with, you can imagine, much laughter—and bonded like that you start dancing. The games build solidarity and teamwork, and the discussion develops girls' voices and understanding.

Surely Christ played as a child, and famously his ministry included children, and the message that we all in fact must become as children. So this Right To Play game too expresses in its way the Christmas message. There's a saying in Mozambique, "When a child plays, the whole world wins". In like manner at Christmas: When the Christ child comes, the whole world wins.

In mission and service,

Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique

Letter 227 21 November 2009

The people complained against Moses, saying, "What shall we drink?" He cried out to God, and God showed him a piece of wood; he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. – Exodus 15.24,25

The passage shows us that God intends that all God's creatures have access to water; it is absolutely necessary for the life of every organism on earth. In rural Mozambique where less than half the people have access to clean water, the Christian Council like many other organizations has an ongoing program of constructing wells.

The process becomes more complex than throwing a stick into bitter water as Moses did that time, and it's more than just digging. CCM selects the communities by consulting with the district government, to find ones most in need. Then with help from the community and a hydrologist a site is chosen, and the well is dug, with shovels and with pails on ropes to haul up dirt, and the people help make wide cement rings to line the shaft to protect the water from contamination, and build a raised cement slab with drainage, where they mount the hand-pump, and the community elects four members of their water management committee (two women, two men) who train for a week, and finally once the pump has been working and water has been flowing and the community has been functioning for a probationary time there comes the official signing-over from CCM and the managing engineer, to the community.

Last week this happened in three isolated communities in the Zambezi River valley called Bajone, Catal and Morais where the wells had been operating for some months but the committees had only recently been trained, as they waited for a time between the busy-ness of harvest and marketing of crops and preparing the land, and next sowing. We wrote about these three wells in Letter 214, last May. That was rainy season, and now the land is dusty, dry, and hot. It's the hottest time of summer now, and one of the community leaders told us that the temperature has been often lately in the forties. The women said how glad they are that the wells have not gone dry, and that they are not hauling water in pails on their heads from the distant river in such heat.

The signing over is more than a bureaucratic process of signatures on paper, important as that is for the local government and Ministry of Rural Development. It's the solemn moment when the well passes into the community's care and possession. From then on it's their responsibility. The committee demonstrate their competence, as you see in the photo

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where Manuela Alberto intently wields her wrench to tighten up a linkage. Assembled community members ceremonially dip hands into flowing water. It's a joyous time. Exuberant children crowd together and splash and laugh, as you see in the other photo.

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Witnessing the blessed event we felt sure that this is exactly what a gracious God intends for God's people in Bajone, Catal and Morais.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique

Letter 226 7 November 2009

The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind.... -Genesis 1.12

Scientists say that around 400,000 plant species are known to exist on our planet–and that many more probably still wait to be discovered. About a quarter of these are at risk of extinction from effects of human invasion and climate change, and may disappear before their nature, properties, and possible value to humans become known. Since pre-history, humans have used plants for food, shelter, clothing, and healing. In the district of Molumbo, in the mountainous interior of Zambezia province, the Christian Council has a program of gardens of medicinal plants, which we last wrote about six months ago in Letter 218.

The project began with one garden and about two dozen species of medicinal plants in cultivation, to treat a wide range of conditions associated with HIV-AIDS. Then the number grew to three gardens–one in each of the communities where the project began. From seeds and cuttings from these gardens, another 31 gardens started up, each under the responsibility of a volunteer community activist trained in the cultivation, preparation, and medical use of each.

Now there are 209 gardens, each in the care of a trained five-person team, a mixture of people with infected HIV and those affected, spread across about a 50-kilometer span and a population of over 60,000. The photo

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shows one of these newest teams in their field prepared for planting, about to show vegetable seeds for the dietary supplements that are part of the medi-plants strategy. After first harvest and preparation of the medicines, they treat an increasing array of patients and conditions–from burns to hypertension to diarrheas to pulmonary infections–working with the Ministry of Health, pastors and local healers. CCM is the only organization in Molumbo in ministry with HIV+ patients.

The project has expanded to treat patients whose white blood-cell count has sunk so low they need to start ARV (anti-retro-viral) treatment. For this the patients must discontinue medicinal plant treatments, and need to be monitored every two months (monthly in the beginning) at the hospital in the city of Gurue, a two-hour ride away. The medi-plants team arranges the truck transport and goes with them (see the other photo of patients boarding, just after dawn).

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It also gives them food supplements in the first month of treatment, necessary so that their bodies can withstand the initial shock of ARV. Patients who don't receive supplements often abandon ARV treatment, and soon die.

Medi-plantas is getting well known. Recently Pastor Manteiga who leads it was invited to go on television in the capital city Maputo, exhibiting his plants and medicines. Some folks from the US Embassy saw the show, contacted CCM, and the upshot was that in December this year a Peace Corps volunteer arrives for a two-year stint in Molumbo. She'll be working with Medi-Plantas, as well as the CCM residence there in Molumbo for the 60 bursary girls.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique

Letter 225 October 21 2009

I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet....

  • Revelations 1.10

We did hear exactly this, one Saturday this month, from a choral group of young people called Sounds of the Trumpet, who make and sing their own powerful religious songs which we recorded in the Christian Council studio, and then shot them dancing for their video clip at sites of their choosing along the river and in a glade on the way to the ocean, as you see in one of the web-site photos:

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A large part of our work is with musicians. Though none has shown up yet with trumpets, we've heard and recorded homemade guitars, goatskin drums, keyboard, wooden marimba, a harmonica, even accordion. We're working with a 10-member choir who call themselves Adorai, and who finished first in a two-month every-Sunday-afternoon Gospel Show festival in Quelimane organized by the CCM Youth, where 14 choirs took part, the winners chosen by audience vote and a 3-member jury. We've just put an Adorai song on the soundtrack of a scene in a television drama we've been editing these days, which also includes music of five different young women singers–3 soloists and a duo–and choirs from the cities of Milange and Gurue.

Last week we came back from the mountain village of Molumbo, a 6-hour drive from Quelimane, where we recorded 13 original songs by a group called Melody Musse–Musse being the name of a nearby river where we shot footage for one of their videos, immersion baptism of three group members. Melody Musse has songs to tell the stories of Adam and Eve in the Garden, Jesus with Satan in the Wilderness, the journey of the Magi, Zaqueus in the fig tree, and many more, all written by our young friend Atanasio, a health technician at Molumbo's clinic. After splashing about with cameras in the River Musse we climbed the mountain that overlooks Molumbo, to make video on the highest rock outcroppings, as you see in the other web-site photo,

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the group spontaneously singing as we made our way back down the mountain. At dusk we used the last useful light of a long film-day to shoot a simulated wedding in the Roman Catholic Church, for their song called Christian Marriage.

The Bible is full of music–voices of humans, voices of angels, musical instruments like flute, harp, and tambourine–from Genesis and Exodus to Psalms and the Gospels where disciples sing a hymn (Mark 14.26), and on to Revelations. So are our lives in Mozambique. In a week we hear more live music than we might in months in Canada. To express themselves at their most intense–in joy or in sadness–people sing. To feeling they put not just words but melody and rhythm and sometimes instruments, which might be as simple as a shaken gourd full of seeds or pebbles. And not just feeling: their songs put into song serious thought on matters happy or painful that most impact their lives–poverty, AIDS, violence, love sacred and/or romantic, faithfulness or bad faith, praise and thanks to God.

Heaven must have music. We know because the Bible's angels sing. When our young musical friends get there to join them, they'll make the place rock for the rest of eternity.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique

Letter 224 October 7 2009

She put the child in the basket and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river. His sister stood at a distance, to see what would happen to him. - Exodus 2.3-4

Moses survived, thanks to the love and resourcefulness of his mother who made the wicker-and-tar basket, put him in it and launched it in the reeds–and of Miriam his sister, who stayed there to work some clever persuasion on the Pharaoh's daughter–and who later became one of the most notable Israelite prophets. Miriam at that time must have been at most in her early teens, since she had an infant brother. But she had the wits and courage to hold her own with the princess of the empire of her people's oppressors, and con her into taking in baby Moses–with his own mother as nursemaid. She must have had remarkable presence, self-assurance and self-presentation. If not for Miriam, there'd have been no Moses to grow up and become leader of the Exodus–no promised land, no Hebrew Testament.

We've used this story of Miriam's as the Biblical text for another one of our letters, back in January of this year. But no apologies for that–it's a central text for the Christian Council's PEDRA bolseira (bursary-girl) program, which aims to turn out Miriams. Last week, in the company of Terri and Priscilla, two women of the Unitarian Universalist church in the USA which co-sponsors the bolseira program, we visited the schools where the bursary girls are studying, and three of the rural PEDRA centres which develop and nurture the girls who become bolseiras once they've passed through grade 5, which is far as their rural schools can take them.

We saw and took part in the PEDRA activities that have stimulated and developed them–their art, dance, music, Bible studies, cooking.

We saw the bolseiras' activist theatre that they put on for their peers and communities about the topics most urgent in their lives–HIV-AIDS, family violence, first-aid, staying in school–which show their urge not just for knowledge but for using it to improve their lives and those of others. The web-site photo

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shows a scene from one of their AIDS plays with dolls, performed in Molumbo for us and their peers and parents. They present faithful and non-faithful couples; and couples who use condoms and those who die because they don't.

We visited the rural school in Mangessa where one of those newly graduated bolseiras, Helena, is teaching–and met some of its 720 students, sitting on their log benches or the dirt floor, taught by a staff of only 4 overworked and dedicated educators.

We met with bolseiras' parents, who said they had never in their lives imagined that their daughters from those isolated rural villages could have the opportunity to stay in school as long as they are able. A dozen of these daughters now have graduated and have jobs as teachers. With their salaries they can help out their families, and be role models for girls in their classes and communities. It's a well-established principle of international development that the ripple effect from money spent on girls' education is the best investment of all. The PEDRA bolseiras show that this is true.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique

Letter 223

September 21 2009

David said to Mephibosheth, "Do not be afraid, I will show you kindness for the sake of your father." - 2 Samuel 9.7

Mephibosheth, son of David's dead friend Jonathan, is lame, the result of an injury when his nurse dropped him while fleeing from the violence during those years when King Saul was trying to kill David. David can't cure him–he's a king, warrior and musician, not a miracle healer or physician. But he takes Mephibosheth into his household, honours him and treats the injured one kindly. Within his limits, it's the best he can do.

Of 179 countries on the 2008 United Nations Human Development Index, Mozambique ranked 175th. It spends only $9 US per person per year on health-care–medicines, salaries, buildings, everything. There's one doctor per 50,000 people, and one general hospital per 1,500,000. Even in urban areas, access, diagnosis, and effective treatment are hard to come by. Last year, two rural PEDRA girls and one of their educators died because they lived so far from necessary treatment.

Curandeiros, traditional healers with local herbal medicines, help a great deal. So do families and community volunteers who pitch in as they can when someone's ill or injured, often carrying the stricken one on makeshift palm- or banana-leaf stretchers to the nearest health-post.

Judite Raul used to manage all six rural PEDRA centres in the mountains of central Zambezia, riding the dirt roads, or in rainy season mud roads, by motorcycle to train and monitor the work of almost 300 girls in centres a half-hour, hour, or hour-and-a-half from Namarroi town where she lived. Last December she got sick, with pain and immobility in one leg. The provincial hospital in Quelimane couldn't say what the problem was. She went to traditional healers, who also were stymied. She got a bit better, then worse. Now she is paralyzed on the whole right side of her body. Stroke? Nerve damage? No-one knows. No diagnosis, no treatment, no physiotherapy.

When Karen visited Judite in the Quelimane hospital last week there were six patients for the room's four beds. Staff had moved the beds to make room for two on the floor, which meant that the mosquito nets no longer hung above them. Judite has now been sent back home. The photo on the web site

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shows the PEDRA girls cleaning up a wheel-chair that CCM donated for Judite. Jack the PEDRA driver pumped its tires, and we loaded it in the PEDRA truck to deliver to Judite's house. The other photo shows Judite in her new chair, smiling, while her husband Lucas pushes.

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Without use of both arms Judite can't propel the chair herself, but at least she can be wheeled about.

To the PEDRA girls, though Judite stopped working on the PEDRA staff long before this latest sickness, Judite still is family–the way David felt about Mephibosheth. When people like the PEDRA girls who have so little do what little they can to help someone else who is suffering, we call that love, and that's worth more than $9 per girl per year.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 222 September 7 2009

...infants and babies faint in the streets... - Lamentations 2.11

Young children under threat of death are a grim dark thread throughout the Bible's fabric, from Isaac at his father's sacrifice, to children dying in the verse above at the fall of Jerusalem, to Herod's slaughter of the innocents. In the Bible or anywhere, the suffering and death of children appalls because they have so much life ahead, yet often can't protect themselves and depend on others for their safety. They are innocent and do not deserve the harms that come to them.

In Mozambique about a quarter of children die before age five, from a grim array of causes–malaria, diarrheas from bad water, AIDS transmitted from HIV-infected mothers, drowning in uncovered wells, burned or scalded to death falling into fires, electrocuted touching exposed live wires, struck by cars or trucks, bitten by crocodiles or snakes or rabid dogs, blown up by land mines and other munitions left untended. The dreadful list goes on. We know many families whose small children met such fates, young lives lost so early.

Through education, most of these mishaps could be prevented. In Canada, schools and parents and other bodies like the Red Cross teach safety to children and care-givers, and we do our best to child-proof environments frequented by children. In Mozambique where the system of education in schools and media is so much less developed, many people are not informed, and not attuned to teaching and prevention.

So the video studio of the Christian Council of Mozambique here in Zambezia recently teamed with a partner organization called TIOS, in the neighbouring province of Manica, with the mission to make an educational video on children's safety.

Most of the performers were children aged four to eight, acting scenes to simulate children perishing from avoidable dangers.

Luis played a boy who climbed a tree to pick a mango, was startled and bitten by a tree-snake, and fell to his death.

Manuela drank contaminated river water.

Cleide drank from a pop bottle on the kitchen table–kerosene, left accessible, opened and unlabelled.

Amelia wading in a river was killed by a crocodile.

Marlene stepped on a land-mine hidden and abandoned on a soccer field where she and friends were playing.

And so on, a dozen grim little tales.

After each accident scene comes a scene of grieving care-givers, and then a demonstration by a wise and compassionate elder on how to avoid each peril in future.

The photos

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show Cleide acting out her death throes after drinking poison, and the cast celebrating with Saimon, one of their teachers, after the video wrap.

TIOS is distributing the video through schools, churches, other NGOs like CCM PEDRA, and in its own classrooms. If the video saves even one child's life, it was time well spent.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique

Letter 221

  • 24 August 2009

"I saw a Philistine woman at Timnah; now get her for me as my wife." - Judges 14.2

Samson had his problems with women. Marrying the woman from Timnah provoked brawls where many Philistines died–and this was just the first wife. Part of the problem is, he fell for women not of his tribe. Stories of doomed forbidden loves are as old as the Bible, and still with us, resonant in any culture. Romeo and Juliet is another durable and famous example, star-cross'd lovers from opposing families known in cultures around the world.

Which is one reason why a version of the play was just put on last week here in Quelimane, a collaboration of the Montes Namuli song-and-dance company and the Shakespeare Link company from Canada, plus the eight Humber College students mentioned in our last letter, and the girls from the PEDRA program who made 36 masks for the dancers in the ball scene. As always in these collaborative projects, the context is AIDS and discrimination. The Capulets shun the Montagus because some–including Romeo, and later Juliet–are HIV-infected.

It's been a hectic two weeks: rehearsals with no spoken language in common but lots of gesture and guesswork; creating and fitting-in songs and dances; a tailor huddled in a corner for days with his foot-treadle machine and bolts of fabric sewing costumes; PEDRA girls' exuberant mask-decoration with foam, coloured markers, stickers and sparkles; scrounging miscellaneous additional seating for the audience– plastic chairs, straight-backed wooden or wicker chairs, stoools, school-desks, benches, even an upholstered sofa for the VIPs–including the Canadian High Commissioner to Mozambique, Philip Baker, whose embassy provided funding (your tax dollars truly well spent) and who came enthusiastically to both the opening and closing performances, and the post-show party. In the web-site photo

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some actors are rehearsing Quelimane's version of the balcony scene, Juliet on other actors' shoulders since the playing-space had no useful upper level.

Then too, two weeks of the non-artistic logistic hoops and hurdles of the care, the feeding (local cocoanut, shrimp, hot-peppers, sweet potatoes and tangerines), the cultural interpreting, and the shepherding securely of seven young and conspicuously white Canadian women and one young man in a strange foreign city, who in the end suffered not worse than indigestion bouts, bug-bites, sore pummelled feet and one lost passport (much thanks to and God's blessing on the High Commissioner who blessedly was on the spot to help with that, among other things).

To the book of Judges, Samson's death is part of God's plan for helping the Israelites against their enemies. In Romeo and Juliet, the lovers' death seems the only way to bring reconciliation between the warring families, and to bring at our play's end a vow to end discrimination against those who are HIV-positive.

In Samson's Gaza if so many diverse people had worked so creatively together instead of feuding, that story might not have ended in such tragedy, with Samson literally bringing down the house. Here, they brought down the house with applause.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique

Letter 220

August 9 2009

"Now wash and anoint yourself, and put on your best clothes and go down to the threshing floor...." - Ruth 3.3

A Moabite woman and a refugee in Judah, Ruth depends on her Israelite mother-in-law Naomi to guide her in the ways of this country that's so new to her. Some of these customs might have seemed strange–glean in the field of Naomi's cousin Boaz, lie down and sleep at his feet in the granary–but the story ends with cultural differences surmounted and blended, an inter-ethnic marriage, and two generations later the birth of the boy who becomes King David.

Cultural bridging. On both sides it takes among other things constant alertness, faith in one another, and flexibility, to achieve this meeting and marrying of minds. Right now we have with us eight recent graduates of the Theatre Performance program at Humber College in Toronto, three other Canadian theatre professionals, and another from England. Besides another project of theirs in Quelimane they're here to work with the girls of PEDRA–2 dozen girls each morning and another 2 dozen in the afternoons–teaching and learning songs, skits, games, dances–life, really–of each other's cultures.

What does this have to do with a program to protect young girls against HIV?

Well, for all these activities you need to concentrate, observe, process new information.

You need to coordinate gesture and voice and body activities.

You need to work precisely as a team.

You need to plan and strategize.

You need to make decisions on short notice.

These are challenges for everyone involved, especially when working with no common spoken language, and so a song or game or dance well done makes everyone who takes part feel good about themselves and all the others she is working with. Each girl feels strong and supported–and a girl with more such strength and support is better able to observe, process, and make life choices for herself, that will keep her free from the HIV.

The two contrasting photos

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show well enough the mixture of affection and orderly rambunctiousness that the week has been. The Spirit that unites us all in love has truly been at work.

By the way, when you go on-line, at the United Church of Canada's site on Flickr you can also see the now-former moderator of the United Church of Canada preaching at the General Council meeting in Kelowna, wearing one of the now-famous PEDRA friendship bracelets, hand-made here in Mozambique by the girls themselves–

[1]

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When Ruth put on her best clothes to go to the threshing floor, probably she too wore at least one beautiful bracelet. If a friendship bracelet, so much the more appropriate, since she and Boaz straight off became fast friends and more.

In mission and service,

Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique

Letter 219 9 July 2009

  • ...then the lame shall leap like a deer.... - Isaiah 35.6

This comes in that magnificent chapter prophesying Zion made new–desert blooming, eyes of the blind restored. In the gospels, Jesus makes healing of the lame a sort of career sub-specialty, a tradition continued by apostles in the book of Acts. In rural Mozambique, far from orthopaedic health-care–where daily work of survival means travel with heavy burdens from house to farm field and sources of firewood and water–to be lame, unable to walk, is a life's disaster, as it must have been too in those pre-wheelchair Biblical times.

Felizarda is a girl in the rural PEDRA centre called Regone. We wrote about her way back in Letter 158 in May 2006. She's 17 now, in grade 7, and since childhood polio has had no use of her legs. For years, to get to school she crawled 2.5 kilometers each way through the dry-season dust and rain-season mud, until district Health authorities heard of her and arranged a wheelchair. ‘Felizarda' means fortunate and happy. Despite her disability, she has the good fortune of courage, grit, and persistently cheerful disposition.

Three years of travel on the dirt tracks of rural Regone have taken a toll on that first wheelchair. It's sturdy but wearing out. So the Christian Council arranged another one, the latest Quelimane model, as part of an ongoing program with a craftsman in Quelimane named Matias who builds them (as well as the produce carts and ambulance stretchers which CCM also distributes).

The PEDRA truck making the delivery happened to meet Felizarda wheeling down the road towards home. When she saw the gleaming red chair in the back of the pickup truck she let out whoops of joy–if not her legs, her voice and apparently her heart leapt like a deer.

As soon as Jack the PEDRA driver had unloaded, Felizarda squirmed her way from the old to the new chair, wheeled off up the road on a test spin, did a tight deft quick turn, to applause from her mother and two of her friends standing by, and sped back beaming, as you see in the photo,

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one of many that Karen snapped, through tears. Behind Felizarda that's her mother, with a basin on her head, leaning on Felizarda's battered old chair. You see Felizarda's legs, thin and limp, caked with the dirt she sits or crawls in whenever she's not in the wheelchair–but you also see the smile, which lights her face daily.

This past week Bill was responsible for the Monday morning worship at CCM. Some girls of PEDRA taught the staff to sing Jesus Bids Us Shine, with modernized Portuguese lyrics. The worship theme was each person's light. Sometimes here in Mozambique it's hard not to get discouraged by so much widespread and chronic poverty, suffering, ignorance, corruption, lack of capacity, bureaucratic inertia. But people like Felizarda are a blessing and encouragement, reminding us that some small lights do shine, and can make a large long-term effect in other lives they reach. Felizarda has an inner and outer smile that lights up the lives she touches, including ours. She can't herself leap, but sure can make you feel like leaping.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique

Letter 218, 27 June 2009

You do not sow the body that is to be, but a bare seed.... But God gives it a body as God has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. - 1 Corinthians 15:37-38

Every farmer or gardener knows this wonder, that when you plant a seed, it grows to a mature plant with unique characteristics, worth and function according to its species. The workers in the Christian Council's Medi-Plantas project have been more aware than ever of this truth, because this is the time of training of the gardeners in the preparation and use of each plant that have matured in each of the project's total of 32 gardens.

These are one-week seminars, all day every day, closely coordinated with the distict Ministry of Health. The students are community activists, traditional healers, and local leaders, many of them HIV-positive, all of them active in Medi-Plantas. It's not just lectures: enthusiastically they teach each other, as you see in the website photo:

File:218 mediplantas seminar.jpg

bringing plants from their gardens to demonstrate, because each already has experienced the varieties of seed of each grown body of a medicinal plant, and the healing benefits each plant can bring when correctly prepared and administered.

The CCM pharmacy/office in the village of Molumbo filled up with displays of plants, easel-size charts and lists and sketches taped to fill all the walls, and participants on chairs and benches with notebooks learning the relevant properties of each plant, and how to diagnose a patients' conditions that the medicine from each is designed to heal or cure.

Outside in the office yard, the lessons turned to how to process each of the array of plants 218 medicine preparation.jpg

into its respective medication–chopping fresh or sun-dried leaves or roots, or pounding them to powder in a mortar-and-pestle, weighing portions and proportions of various mixed plant products, boiling and straining solutions or syrups in pots over wood fires, testing for consistency, packing final products into boxes, envelopes or bottles.

Each farmer/apothecary, back home in one of the 30 neighbourhoods where these gardens grow, armed with a kit of the various paraphenelia, sieves and stirring-spoons and pots and jars, will go to the continuing harvest, preparation of medicines as they have learned, and distribution to their neighbour patients.

After the two more seminars in the next two weeks, there'll be three trained gardener/therapists working in each of the thirty fields, like the three you see in the third website photo.

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The gardens once planted and the workers once trained, the project continues, sustainably run by the medi-gardener volunteers. Patients pay them what they can, usually in produce–beans or corn or sometimes a chicken–for a life-saving service that grows, literally, from each community's roots.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique

Letter 217, 18 June 2009

An intelligent mind acquires knowledge.... - Proverbs 18.15

June in Mozambique is often school graduation month, as it is in Canada. Our city of Quelimane has 3 universities, 5 secondary schools, and several institutes that offer high-school-equivalent programs in vocational fields. Recently we attended graduation ceremonies for graduates of the Universidade Pedagogica, from its various faculties like Public Administration, Social Science, Philosophy, and Chemistry. Seven graduates were friends and colleagues–Adelia, Bene, Isaias, Chambule, Falso, Sabao and Yolanda. These include two pastors, the artistic director of the Montes Namuli dance troupe that we work with, and two CCM employees–CCM values education and has a program of bursaries for selected qualified staff.

It all took place in Benfica, the largest stadium in town, whose bleachers seat more than 2500, plus, in this case, the 528 graduates plus college officials and VIPs seated on chairs on the floor. The place was at capacity; the marshals turned many away. As each graduate's name was called, she or he came forward, in traditional academic black gowns, mortarboard hats with braided rope and tassel, and coloured trim or ribbons depending on one's faculty, to receive their diploma wrapped in blue, and a plastic-wrapped bouquet. Then each bowed to the dais where the rector was seated, and strode back to their seats with arms flung high in triumph, to uninhibited congratulatory shouts, leaps, clapping and ululation from family, friends and fellow students. A university photographer snapped a picture of each gaduate, and each class assembled for group pictures on a section of the concrete bleachers.

The university choir sang, with traditional drums and acoustic guitar. A singer sang a rock number that had graduates and faculty and even the rector up and dancing on the open floor in front of the VIP dais, black gowns and mortarboard tassels swinging, while others kept the beat waving their bouquets and diplomas. The Montes Namuli dance troupe performed, with great applause for our friend Falso, its graduating artistic director, who came springing singing from his seat to dance and leap about with his dance-mates in his academic gown, as you see in the website photo:

217 falso dances.jpg

So much pomp and celebration, because higher education is a big deal in Mozambique: Where only about half of school-age children actually go to school. Where less than half of students reach high school. Where only 1% graduate from grade 12–and less than a third of these are girls. Where the national literacy rate for men is 65%; for women 39%; for rural women, under 25%.

That's why the Christian Council has its PEDRA bursary program for rural school-girls. That's why the graduates in unison recited their oath to dedicate their education to their country's development. In the other website photo, our pastor friend Adelia recites the solemn pledge.

217 adelia pledges.jpg

There followed a minute of silence in memory of students who died while enrolled but before completing their studies and taking their place among the country's educated future leaders.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique

Letter 216

11 June 2009

He said to Simon, "Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch." - Luke 5.4

Apparently Jesus felt a strong bond with fisher people. We can only guess why. Perhaps their patience. And perhaps he knew that no job is more important to human life than supplying food.

When he went recruiting disciples, as Luke tells us here, he first chose fisher men, and won them over by showing them where to catch. Matthew says that he chose the lead fisherman, Simon Peter, as the church's foundation. And in John's last chapter of his gospel, when Jesus meets his disciples for the last time, again he advises them where to put the nets, and again they haul in a mammoth catch–while Christ is on the beach barbecuing.

In the mountain interior of Zambezia province, far from the ocean fisheries, there are over 200 farmers who are now fish farmers thanks to training and investment from the Christian Council, with stocked in-ground ponds where they breed and sell fish to supplement both income and diet. Lately in Mopeia in the Zambezi river valley, CCM has worked with fisher families who lost their nets and livelihood in the flooding of last year. CCM has encouraged them to form fisher associations as farmers do. Jesus' disciples did the same; you don't read of them fishing alone.

The fishers of Mopeia work from dugout canoes to place their nets, which are much as the Galilean disciples must have used, as one website photo shows:

216 fishing nzanza 10june09.jpg The association men and their young sons help haul the nets to shore. Some fish they sell fresh locally. The rest the women association members dry salted in the sun if the catch is small, or smoked if the catch is larger and worth the while to build a fire.

CCM has given them a produce cart and bicycle like the ones they've been giving to farmer associations for some time now, to let them haul produce to farther, more-lucrative markets–in the case of fishermen, large sacks of dried fish like the one that you see in the photo,

216 loading cart 10june09.jpg


where they're starting to load their cart. With the cart, since all fish caught can now be preserved and transported, no fish caught goes to waste. The fishermen (all are men, or boys) pedal to the main national highway and sell in bales to merchants' trucks, or to the nearest town where they sell to traders who come by bicycle from Milange on the border with Malawi to buy, a 2-day pedal-ride away, up and down mountains, bringing manufactured goods like soap and capulanas to sell to local merchants.The other website photo

216 boys with cart 10june09.jpg

shows eight of the next generation of Mopeia fisher families, whose future is brighter because of something simple and sustainable as a produce cart.

Thus producer associations and a small investment in local transport help the rural economy along the Zambezi basin grow. In the Bible, when they fish where Christ suggests, their nets are full almost to bursting. Perhaps they couldn't sell it all on-site, but smoked or dried it. For sure they didn't have a produce cart and bicycle to take it to customers wealthier but farther away.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique

Letter 215

  • 1 June 2009

The sheep follow him because they know his voice. - John 10.4

This was a verse from the Biblical text for the sermon at the Christian Council's weekly Monday morning service in the PEDRA building delivered by Patricia, age 14, on June 1, the Mozambican Day of the Child. The website photo shows her confidently presenting:

215 patricia 1june09.jpg

Other girls of PEDRA consecutively read all the verses of the passage, and the PEDRA choir–that is, all the PEDRA girls present–sang.

In Mozambique where half of the population is under age 17, the Day of the Child is widely celebrated in schools, churches, community organizations and government functions, unlike say in Canada where proportionally children make up so much less of the population. Here, the saying is that children are the country's present wealth and its future. Every Mozambican man and woman wants children; the fertility rate in 2008 was 5.24 births per woman, compared to Canada's 1.59 (far below what a society needs to maintain its population).

Preparations and commemorations of 1 June start throughout the week before, with school children rehearsing dances, songs, and dramas, making banners and posters, trying on new sloganed t-shirts and capulanas. All week you see students with hoes and twig brooms cleaning up school-yards before the day their families come for a concert, rally and picnic.

And there's more: June 16 is the African Day of the Child, which is also celebrated widely in Mozambique–and in fact all the 3 weeks or so from the week before June 1 until June 16, cultural groups, sports teams, and so many others mount special children's programs.

Last week the Christian Council delivered 100 school-desks to furnish 4 classrooms in 2 schools in 2 different districts, which CCM had built but where children still had been sitting on the floor to try to learn, for lack of funds for furnishings. At one of those schools, in the mountain community of Maquiringa, the PEDRA girls were on hand for the event;

215 desks 1june09.jpg

you see them testing the new desks in their classrooms before the hand-over June 1 to parents and all the assembled community. In principle these desks are made for 2 students each, but often in over-crowded schools they hold 3 or 4 students. Studies here have shown consistently in quantitive ways that attendance and performance improve in well-built and furnished schools.

As Patricia in her sermon pointed out, the shepherd's relation to his (or her?) sheep is like God's to each of us, and of parents to their children–the offer of guidance, love, security, protection from the perils and evils that beset children in this country–a voice and hand the child can trust. Since at any age we all need this, to that extent we all are in the position of the child, which is one of the central and richest images in the Bible. To you and all children that you know, and the inner child in each of you, we hope that this June you have blessed Weeks of the Child.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique

Letter 214 21 May 2009

From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages...

- Exodus 17.1

This week we went to check the progress of 3 wells being installed by the Christian Council in isolated communities in the district of Mopeia in the Zambezi river valley. This was going to be a letter about wells, because after security the first and most basic need for a community in development probably is access to good water. But instead, it'll be a letter about how hard it is sometimes to get work done here, and how much more miraculous it truly is when work does get done despite so many dificulties. In this case, the difficulty of travel by stages through wilderness.

From Quelimane city to the nearest of the 3 rural communities of Bajonde, Catal and Morais is an hour's drive on the national highway, then 50 km to the district capital of Posto Campo on a secondary dirt road, and another 15 km on a tertiary road to Assiate where at this time of year you have to park your car at a schoolyard and continue on foot, bicycle or motorcycle for another 15 km of footpath to Bajonde, then another 20 to Catal and 10 more to Morais.

What starts as a 1-lane dirt road becomes 2 tire-tracks separated by overgrowth, and then dwindles to just one thin track. You detour around fallen trees and around or through puddles that become larger the farther you go into the bush, till they're really no longer puddles but seasonal lagoons.

Grasses 2 and 3 metres high line the road and lean over it from either side, sweeping the windshield like the soggy oscillating fabric strips in a carwash, slapping your face when you're on a motorbike, blocking your vision in a sort of greenout and closing in the sky so you're travelling less on a road than through a grass tunnel and can only see the path by looking down. You're picking grass-seeds from your clothing for hours after, seeds with hooks and spears and barbs that cling like burrs. Now that the rainy season is ending, volunteer work-crews of local men and women as the photo shows

214 road crew 21may09.jpg

are out on the roads cutting grass with hoes and machetes so that trucks like ours can pass to their community.

At spots the water's so deep you can't ride but have to put the motorcycle in lowest gear and run along beside it pushing and splashing. At other spots where the water's too deep even for that, again you depend on the locals, fishermen who will load your motorcycle into their dugout canoe and everyone wades along on either side holding the bike balanced upright and pushing the boat through waist-deep water to the other side, as you see in one website photo,

214 canoe 21may09.jpg


and then another where they're 214 fishermen 21may09.jpg

smiling for a camera from a job well done after our last crossing. (One of them carries his reed fish-trap.)

It's with a blessed mix of transport technologies, team and community spirit, persistence and dedication, that you journey by stages and jobs like installing these three wells get done.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique

Letter 213 7 May 2009

Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. - Matthew 25.1

People depend on light. When it's dark and we can't somehow produce light for ourselves, our lives are much restricted. The five wise bridesmaids who kept oil in their lamps understood this.

The Christian Council's PEDRA helps to run a residence for 61 schoolgirls age 10 to 17 in the village of Molumbo in Zambezia's mountains, sponsored by the United Church of Canada, and by Church World Service and the Unitarian Universalist Church in the USA. It's an isolated place, not on Mozambique's hydro-electricity grid. Candles and oil for lamps aren't easily available. It's always dark by six in the evening. In Canada many people use small solar panels to power lamps for their gardens, boats or gazebos. Now, the girls of Molumbo use them too. Both lamp and panel are mounted on small wooden bases, so the panels can be set out angled to catch the sun in daytime, and safely stored at night, and the lamps can be carried as needed in evenings from kitchen to dining hall to study hall, and then light the girls to their bunk-rooms.

The lamps and panels are a simple, portable, inexpensive, sustainable technology that instantly has added hours of useful work and study time to each girl's day. When the panels first were charged and the lamps turned on for their inaugural shine, the crowd of girls gathered broke into celebration song and applause, as you see in the website photo

Panels and lamps molumbo apr2009.jpg

If you were wise like those five bridesmaids, thrifty but with very few funds, what else besides lamps might you purchase as priorities, that for very little would make life more pleasant, healthy and productive? Well, soap, for one. The Molumbo girls have just learned to make their own, for personal use and for sale. They use sunflower oil and cocoanut oil, and have only to buy inexpensive caustic soda. They readily caught on to the process; the hardest part was putting on gloves, which none of them had ever worn before. (Think of Canadian kindergarteners struggling to steer fingers into each limp glove-sleeve.)

And mattresses. Till now, most of the girls had slept on the wooden slats beds. There was much excitement and activity unloading when the foam mattresses arrived that week, as the other photo shows.

Mattresses molumbo apr2009.jpg


Like lamps and soap, a mattress by making for a restful night makes the waking hours that much more healthful and effective.

It's more and more acknowledged that preventing harmful climate change on earth will mean each of us intentionally consuming less. The Molumbo schoolgirls' example encourages us all to ponder how to consume responsibly, acquiring and maintaining fewer things, that will do most to conserve our planet's resources and genuinely improve our lives, in such matters such as health and education, that are critical to everyone as they are to the school-girls of Molumbo.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt


Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique

    • Letter 212 21 April 2009

Let us make a small roof chamber with walls, and put there for him a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp.... - 2 Kings 4.10

The wealthy Shunemite woman and her husband arrange a guest room for Elisha to use when he travels their way. A secure closed space, and the most essential simple furnishings. A way for them to honour the prophet. Later in the chapter, in turn, Elisha arranges for her and her husband to conceive a much-wanted child, and later in the chapter miraculously resurrects that son when he dies.

Here in Mozambique when we visit at people's homes, always the best seat–sometimes the only seat–is for the honoured guest. The hierarchy of seating is clear: a chair with a back, if there is one, before a plain stool; a stool before a block of wood or a stone; a block or stone before a reed mat; a mat before the bare ground. As well as being functional, furniture affirms and validates a person's worth.

Recently we took part in the formal delivery of a school built by CCM, to the district government and to the community. In one of the photos

212 meeting at namirere school.jpg

you see the handover assembly underneath the mango tree in the schoolyard: the 200 students of the morning session (200 more have classes in the afternoons) seated on their rocks, trunks, or ground–and the uniformed traditional chiefs in the white plastic chairs. That's the new school in the background.

Two rooms plus a teachers' office. Not much for 400 students. But there was great excitement. The former school was of mud, sticks, thatch and a dirt floor. Now they have concrete block walls, corrugated metal roof, and a concrete floor elevated above the wet.

What they didn't have yet is desks. Something to sit on, with a horizontal surface where a student can place workbooks and texts, and write. Working at a desk is more convenient and efficient than working seated on a log, like the 3 young girls in the other website photo

212 pupils at namirere1240513513.jpg

with their UNICEF schoolbags. Perhaps even more important–like the table and chair for Elisha– furnishings show respect for the pupil and her or his work. Desks state that education is esteemed and important. The community's respect for the building and the work that goes on within it rises. Parents are more inclined to send their children to a place of such stature. Children are more motivated to go, and to learn.

That's why Mozambique's government is doing its best to furnish schools as they are built, and why organizations like the Christian Council want to help. At this moment, carpenters in Zambezia are building desks for Namirere, as one Old Testament carpenter must have done for the woman of Shunem. Jesus' father also was a carpenter, a practical and useful occupation, building practical and useful items like schooldesks that dignify the person who uses them.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique

Letter 211 7 April 2009

    • ...a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted... Ecclesiastes 3.2

Medi-Plantas is almost a year old; it started up last April. It's a CCM project promoting locally grown plants to make medicines to help against HIV/AIDS. It began with one medicinal plant garden in the mountain village of Molumbo, a nursery from which seedlings could be transplanted to other gardens in other neighbourhoods. Now there are two nursery gardens, 20 km distant from each other. The Molumbo field has 10 different plants; the second Muguliwa field has 13. The land was granted by the local chiefs, who are solidly in favour of the project.

Now was the time to harvest leaves to make medicines; you see some drying on tables in one of the photos:

211 drying plants.jpg

After harvest, plants were plucked up and transplanted to thirty new gardens, in neighbourhoods where HIV-positive Medi-Plantas clients are already trained in caring for the plants and making the medicines for their use and use by neighbours. Besides the plants, each received a hoe, a watering can, and vegetable seeds for improving their diet–tomato, cabbage, carrot, onion, pepper and garlic. The other website photos show a batch of plucked-up plants awaiting transplant, and distribution of seeds and tools.

211 distributing plants.jpg
211 seeds and tools.jpg

Since the start of the project, its 3 workers, Manteiga, Rosa and Domingos, have given 122 presentations in the communities to a total of 3294 people, telling them what the project does, and urging them to take part and to spread the word to others. All this they organized with local chiefs, political parties, pastors, the ministry of health, and other community leaders. Immediately after, people started showing up daily at the CCM office, and still are showing up; the veranda has become the waiting room, and a local carpenter is making some wooden benches.

Medi-Plantas has also identified and is promoting 7 other plants which grow wild locally and are used by local traditional healers for treating symptoms associated with HIV/AIDS. Through Medi-Plantas, CCM is working closely with the local registered members of AMETRAMO, the Association of Traditional Healers of Mozambique.

A key to the success of Medi-Plantas is family visits. When Medi-Plantas began, many HIV+ people were banned from their families. This no longer happens, once Medi-Plantas staff explain HIV-AIDS to the families and make sure that the HIV-positive person is accepted and loved.

Currently Medi-Plantas treats 59 patients, and has 62 volunteer community representatives spread through the project district. More HIV-positive people are appearing every week–19 new cases in January and February of this year. A typical example is Isabel, age 33. She and her husband and her 18-month-old son are HIV-positive. "I'm very grateful to the project," she told us. "We have learned how to care for ourselves, how we can live life with the HIV."

For lots more about the Medi-Plantas project, and lots more photos, visit the website dedicated to this project: www.londonconferencedwo.org/mozambique_gardens.htm

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 210

21 March 2009

They went around through all the cities of Judah and taught among the people.

    • - 2 Chronicles 17.9

The Chronicler has a great regard for King Jehosophat, who has formed a team of sixteen prominent leaders and sent them out to teach the people God's ways. As a result, the kingdom knew peace and prosperity. It was all about education. The people were taught well, learned well, and put what they learned into life practice.

Mozambique also believes that education is the road to social health. Especially for girls; there's a government slogan here that "To educate a girl is to educate the nation." Judah was a small kingdom; Mozambique is vaster. Though Mozambique is training teachers by the thousands and posting them to isolated rural districts, and enlarging rural schools so that students can stay at home to stay in school, sometimes it's more practical to bring students to the teachers. But that means the students have to pay residence fees, transport, tuition, school supplies and so on. Most rural parents can't afford this, and so their daughters leave school, marry early, and live a short exhausting life.

So one of the best investments in a country's development is girls' education. CCM in this school year has 103 girls studying through a bursary which pays their school expenses. None of them could be at school without it. Sixty-one live in a CCM residence in the isolated village of Molumbo, studying grades six to ten. Thirty-five are in grades eight to ten in a district town called Namarroi, in a residence run by the ministry of education. Six are in grades 11 to 12 at the pre-university high school here in Quelimane, and one is at school in agriculture college in the city of Mocuba. (Twelve bursary girls from last year graduated from a teacher training college, and now teach full-time in rural Zambezian districts.)

Since their arrival in early February (see in the photo,

210 quelimane bolseiras.jpg

four of them just off the bus, on the PEDRA veranda with their suitcases), we've been helping the six girls studying here in Quelimane. One of them, Aida, was in school here last year. She's helping the other five–Rita, Anastacia, Otilia, Natalia and Zainete–to adapt to big-city ways and meet new friends from many different districts. All of them grew up in PEDRA–it's a condition of getting a CCM bursary–absorbing its values, and learning self-confidence, all of which now they're passing on to younger girls in PEDRA here in the city, where each volunteers as a teacher helper one day a week. Several have decided they'd like to be nurses, and are studying extra hard in Biology, Chemistry and Portuguese.

In Namarroi, the bursary girls in residence also face steep learning curves, new phenomena like electricity, mattresses, mandatory study hall, communal cafeteria eating, and a school much larger than their village schools back home. Other responsibilities–working in the residence vegetable gardens, sweeping the schoolyard and corridors, washing clothes in the river–they have known from childhood.

The PEDRA staff–Adelia, Ledice and Karena–regularly meet with all the bursary girls to help them to adapt and cope. They've been meeting too with directors of each residence and school, to explain the PEDRA bursary program, and offer help in the girls' guidance and supervision. So the bursary girls in these four widely separated centres of education will each, in her way, help to build not only her life but that of her community and country. Jehosophat would have understood.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 209

    • 7 March 2009

I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with. - Ecclesiastes 3.10

Early in each year, workers from the CCM offices in all ten of Mozambique's provinces gather to plan the new year's projects, and report on their past year's achievements. The 2009 country-wide gathering took place last week, and we thought you'd be interested in a few short glimpses of some of what God gave the Christian Council to be busy with during 2008.

In Tete province CCM built the first of a planned 21 small-scale dams for water conservation and crop irrigation, with community labour and engineering expertise from the Mennonite Central Committee.

In Sofala, CCM trained and equipped 30 community first-aid workers, dug 8 wells, rehabilitated the water supply system of the small town of Chemba, distributed 350 fruit-tree saplings and 90 fuel-efficient clay cooking stoves, and supplied a diesel pump and water hoses for small-scale irrigation to promote food security.

In Cabo Delgado province, CCM organized 8 community associations of farmers, 2 of metalworkers, and 2 of carpenters. One of these last is of women only

Carpintaria mulheres niassa fev091236170458.jpg

who build and sell items such as doors, windows, beds, wardrobes, and storage trunks.

In Gaza province, CCM sponsored theatre for HIV/AIDS education

Teatro sida massangena fev091236170303.jpg

and financed the building of a bakery being operated by an organization of HIV-positive persons as a means of income generation.

In arid Inhambane province, CCM built a well with pump for a community which mobilized itself to turn in all its weapons, under CCM's program Guns to Ploughshares.

In Manica province, CCM ministered to the surviving relatives of the chief stonemason on their dam-building project, who died in a still ongoing cholera epidemic along with his wife, son, daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter. They also hosted a Canadian Food Grains Bank tour where visitors witnessed dam-building projects first-hand.

In Niassa, CCM trained 268 community AIDS workers, who in turn have arranged school fees and supplies for 2200 AIDS orphans to continue in primary school, and 29 scholarships for orphaned older girls to complete high school. They supplied bicycles for 137 community healthcare workers and birth attendants, and 12 bicycle ambulances. They distributed 2000 fruit-tree saplings and opened 3 community fish-farming ponds.

In Maputo, 86 CCM Youth volunteers served the 1328 delegates to the quadrennial All Africa Council of Churches General Assembly, as greeters, logisticians and interpreters.

In Zambezia, CCM's studio produced 3 CDs of original songs by Zambezian artists on the themes of HIV/AIDS, children's rights, and domestic violence, and 8 music videos for Mozambican television and open-air cinema, by groups like the choir you see recording in the third website photo.

Tinasese gravacao1236170366.jpg

There was much else. We could tell you of dozens more projects, with dozens of photos. We're constantly amazed at how much is accomplished by the Christian Council, with limited resources but apparently unlimited faith.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique

Letter 208 21 February 2009

The people went around and gathered it, ground it in mills...and made cakes.... - Numbers 11.8

In this Biblical verse the Israelites are struggling in the wilderness of Sinai, in the second year after their exodus from Egypt. What they gather, grind and bake is manna. Apparently they brought away with them grindstones from Egypt and lug them wherever they go–a necessity, heavy as they must have been. They must have thought that any Promised Land worth the name would offer conditions to let them grow grain, which means milling. Otherwise, they'd just be hunter-gatherers.

When rural communities develop here in Mozambique, there's a sequence of priorities. After security, shelter, clean water, and seeds and tools to grow food, people's hopes turn to a grinding mill. It's up there in the list with health post, school, and access roads. Sometimes, the Christian Council has helped with this.

The rural community of Mucissi is 15 km from the nearest motor-powered grinding mill. So as happens all over rural Mozambique, women pound their corn to flour with a wooden mortar the size of a bucket, and a pestle the size of a fence-post. Each day, long before dawn you hear their rhythmic pounding; it sounds like drums. When a group of Canadians visited rural Mozambique last August and tried their hands at pounding, none lasted more than a minute. It takes so much of a woman's time and labour– drudgery and hard work, every day. This is time she could spend on life-improving initiatives like learning to read and write, or producing some income-generating item like soap or dried fish.

Last week, CCM arranged a mill for Mucissi, in the inner mountains of Zambezia. You see it in in the web-site photo:

Mill mucissi fev009.jpg

It's up and running now, just in time for the early weeks of harvest, which right now is about to start.

The community elects a mill management committee: treasurer, weigher of the grain brought by each client, mill operators who work in shifts, and a logistician with the intricate responsibility for keeping diesel fuel on hand when the nearest pumps are a half-hour walk and then two-hour minibus ride away. You see the team in the other photo,

Mill mucissi committee fev009.jpg

outside the woven-stick millhouse. The women bring corn in a basket, and take away flour in a plastic sack. Per kilo of corn ground they charge one metical–about 4 cents. Enough to keep them in fuel, and keep the mill maintained, and save something up for other community projects.

Mucissi needs a lot more–health post, access roads–but with hard work and a bit of outside investment, the people are developing the community they love. As Canaan was in Biblical times, Mucissi is their promised land.

In mission and service,

Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique

Letter 207

7 February 2009

Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. -Philippians 2.4

If we all followed this civilized advice from Paul, we'd live in more-civil communities, where each person contributes according to her individual abilities, and is acknowledged for her contributions. By developing solidarity and self-esteem, that's one main aim for the girls in the Christian Council's PEDRA program for girls' education against HIV/AIDS.

In Canada the school year starts near the end of summer , and does the same in Mozambique– but in February, not September. So the program 2009 has begun. For the last few weeks, girls have been arriving every day to register. They've started showing up at 7 AM, an hour before PEDRA opens. Some are veterans of the program, with three or four years of experience. Others are new, generally younger; the PEDRA practice is that girls start at age ten.

The program room in Quelimane is jammed–almost 40 girls each morning, over 40 in the afternoons, girls of various age, height, experience and abilities, from ages 10 to 17. A dozen girls, overflow, work at extra tables set up on the broad veranda, shaded by straw mats.

First step–they make name-tags, as you see in one of the web-site photos,

207 nametag.jpg

each writing her name on the foil side of old juice and milk boxes, cut in the shape of butterflies, then decorated with sequin sparkles glued on in patterns according to each girl's taste. The new girls have never worked with glue or scissors, and are learning brand-new skills that take concentration, creativity, and unfamiliar muscle movements. Sparkles are a novelty, and end up decorating faces as well as butterfly name-tags.

They learn to line up by height, and to sing and dance the PEDRA songs and dances that the older girls all have learned, and help to teach the young ones–all with dance-steps and vigorous gestures as you see in the other photo,

{[file:207_song_and_gesture.jpg]]

loud enough to carry across the CCM compound, which doesn't bother the non-PEDRA staff who are used to 30 or so girls around most days. Seeing them in rows from smallest to tallest reminds you how they grow from age 10 to 14–not just in physical shape and size, but in mental stature.

With so many girls this year they're divided in groups of 8 or so, each led by a pair of older girls to encourage peer-to-peer learning, the younger girls learning from older role models–and the older girls developing in themselves leadership skills and self-esteem. Group leaders monitor and mentor the others, and help teach classes like cooking, hygiene and HIV. The older girls also get the privilege of much-sought-after classes in English and computers.

In the rural PEDRA centres, the year starts with a meeting with the parents and community; PEDRA is a community program–as Paul said, people working in the interests of others. Then there's work on the PEDRA gazebo roofs. If they need new thatch, the girls cut and bring long grass from home and install it; they all know how, from working on their own homes.

Then, we have brainstorming sessions on the girls' hopes and plans for the new year. In 2009 they'll be learning to make soap and candles; we've experimented with adding eucalyptus leaves to give a pleasant odour.

Also, they're looking forward very much to learning self-defense. Because not everyone they'll meet in life will do as Paul urges.

In mission and service,

Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique

Letter 206

Jan 24 2009

Then his sister said to Pharaoh's daughter, "Shall I go and get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?" Pharaoh's daughter said to her, "Yes." So the girl went and called the child's mother. - Exodus 2.7-8

The child here is the baby who will soon be named Moses. His sister is Miriam, whose courage and cunning confront and outwit Pharaoh's daughter, who has found the baby in the basket in river reeds, and brings on a deal whereby Moses' own mother gets paid by that Egyptian princess to nurse him, instead of being slaughtered as the Pharaoh had commanded. As we find out later, Miriam was also a leader, warrior, prophet, singer and musician on the tambourine. Among women of the Bible, they don't come any stronger than she was.

Which brings us, as Biblical passages often have a way of doing, to the Christian Council's girls' education program PEDRA. You might say that PEDRA hopes to help turn out Mozambican Miriams for the 21st century.

Two new PEDRA centres opened last October in another province, Manica, across the Zambeze river from our province of Zambezia. They're run by a partner organization called TIOS; PEDRA keeps developing. Last week Karen and Adelia from PEDRA Quelimane travelled to Manica for a week-long get-together with the educators there to exchange skills and ideas. Accompanied by colleagues from Church World Service, main funders of the PEDRA program, the Quelimane contingent learned soap-making from local materials, teaching AIDS lessons with anatomically correct and detailed handmade Mozambican dolls, and teaching self-defense, among many other activities now built into the PEDRA Zambezia program.

The key to self-defense, as the PEDRA Manica girls learn, is self-esteem. If you walk looking vulnerable and scared, you'll just attract attackers. But move with self-confidence and the bad guys will think twice, because you don't look like a victim. Zambezia PEDRA girls already know this from theatre exercises they've been doing since last year, as you see in one photo

206 self-esteem poses.jpg

striking assertive poses–girls you wouldn't care to tangle with.

Then, they learned self-defense maneuvres, as the other two photos show:

206 self-defense 1.jpg
206 self-defense 2r.jpg

Working in pairs, they role-play male molestor and–surprise!–girl's instant deft response (‘male' in the orange top, ‘girl' in pink and blue). Exactly how it's done–details of her moves on his vulnerable neck or groin–you'd need to watch on the video, or be present in the class, and paying attention.

You may think this just a bit violent for a Mission and Service letter. But it's necessary education for a girl here in a culture where many young men grow up with a notion of male entitlement when it comes to sex, whenever with whomever. It's no less violent than Miriam, shouting her triumph-song when pursuing Egyptians perished with Red Sea closing over them. Like males who might in future try to get inappropriate with a trained girl of PEDRA, the Egyptian soldiers must have wondered what hit them.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 205

6 January 2009

"For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage." - Matthew 2.2

The magi had the wisdom to perceive and understand a signal from God, and the courage to act upon it. In this new year we could ask for no more for each of us. Though we may not be called as those wise men were, to a dangerous long winter journey by camel to Bethlehem from somewhere in Iran, via Herod's Jerusalem with its violence and intrigue, this year will call each of us on its various journeys, and we will need God to illuminate our way.

Here in Mozambique, most days bring moments of inspiring and guiding brightness, often in the example of the people that we work with in the projects of the Christian Council. On December 30, to close the year and open the new one, the CCM Youth went to the homes of five particularly afflicted children that they had met during their volunteer missions this year in the poorest bairros of Quelimane. Travelling by bicycle taxi not by camels, they brought to each a sack of foods–pasta, milk, cooking oil, juice powder, rice–foods the like of which none of these families could have afforded throughout the year.

Jordito Manuel has the telltale orange hair of malnourishment, tiny legs, and though he's two years old hasn't had the strength yet to walk. His mother lives alone in a shanty without a roof–the Christmas manger in any painting looks better.

Latifo Luis is nine. Both his feet are eroding and misshapen from leprosy. He can't walk any more, can't go to school.

Pasquinha Baptista is seven. Both her parents died of AIDS. She lives with her grandmother, who can't afford to support her.

Alfredo Pinto is hydrocephalic, profoundly handicapped, unable to talk, walk, crawl, or even give convincing signs that he is conscious of his environment. There are no institutions for Mozambique's Alfredos. Even if there were, his family despite their minimal resources wants to care for him at home, and they have been for all his ten years.

Juma Amusse is thirty–not a child but included in this mission because he must walk with two sticks, mostly by using his upper body to drag his useless legs from behind him. He lives alone, also in a house without a roof, and has no job.

On the website you see three photos: of Juma, Pasquinha with her grandma, and Latifo receiving his New Year bounty from Borges, Executive Secretary of CCM Youth in Zambezia.

205 juma r.jpg
205 pasquinha r.jpg
205 borges and latifo r.jpg
The plans of the CCM Youth for this year include school fees and school supplies for Pasquinha, medical treatment for Jordita and Latifo, a wheelchair for Juma, house repair for the families of Juma and Jordita, and whatever support they can give to encourage the loving family of otherwise helpless Alfredo.

Unlike the magi, these CCM Youth aren't wealthy. They haven't gold or incense to bring Mozambican children, as the magi did to the Christmas Child. But beyond all doubt their mission is guided by God's light. It's that kind of example that inspires us, that has kept here so long among such appalling suffering and limitation. May your year's work be as clearly lighted by the Spirit, and may it as clearly light up the lives of others.

In mission and service,

Karen and Bill Butt

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