St Pauls United Church-Mozambique 2010

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Editing St Pauls United Church-Mozambique 2010

Mission and Service Letters after Mozambique

Letter 247 19 December 2010

Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts…. – Matthew 2.11

Like the Persian elite who followed the star to Jesus' home, most of us still offer gifts at Christmas to loved ones. Even in our secular, commercial times, our gifts at Christmas are an echo of that first homage, to show our affection or love. We don't need a treasure chest: As Jesus later said, a widow who offered the tiniest coins gave more in spirit than the rich who gave large sums.

Which brings us to Girl Power! (the exclamation mark is theirs), a peer-support group of more than thirty at-risk teen-age girls in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where we travelled last week to work with donors of the PEDRA girls' bursary program. These girls aren't well-off, their home and school lives may be precarious, but they wanted to give what they could at Christmas to girls in Mozambique more at-risk than they are.

So they came up with a project called girls 4 girls. At their YWCA workshop they made Christmas decorations, embroidered toques, baked candy, put their gift-wrapped treasures on display in the Y lobby, sold them and raised $500 for bursaries for Mozambique. Then they gathered again to watch and cheer for the Mozambican girls' music videos, talk about what they all had in common in their different cultres, present their cheque, and pose for a group photo by the Christmas tree, to send to Mozambican girls who may never have seen one.
247 christmas tree.jpg

Over cookies and submarine sandwiches, as another gift each girl wrote from heart-felt experience a note of encouragement and solidarity for the girls they'd never met but nevertheless felt they'd come to know across the distance.


Study hard and stay encouraged.

Follow your dreams all the way.

I loved your music videos! I loved your dancing!

I am proud of each and every one of you girls for wanting to stay strong.

Always move forward in life and don't ever stop believing in what you do.

Hey Ladies, keep studying, education will take you a long way!

Learn as much as you can and you can become anything you want to be!

Keep making videos!

Keep doing what you love! Spread the word!

Study hard and ask a lot of questions.

I am very amazed with your culture especially your music!

You got the power! You can do it!

I really want you to be successful so I'm going to help.

Whatever your age or gender, with this tale of Girl Power! we wish you a blessed Christmas, and all it brings of love and kindness.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters Letter 246 20 November 2010

Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom.... - Matthew 13.43

Though the Gospels show that Jesus could be blunt and cranky when people fell short of what he hoped from and for them, they also tell how he praised the righteous when he found them, giving credit where credit was due. After three months now of getting to know churches in three Conferences across Ontario, in the spirit of pre-Christmas giving we'd like to hand out as many praise awards as our 1-page limit permits. What follows may give you a sense of our journey, and how the churches inspire us with their faithfulness, energy and creativity. All are worthy; what follows are only typical examples shining like sun to hearten us all.

Best church-supper potluck: Mountjoy UC, Timmins. For foods unparalleled in our experience. For unparalleled creativity with chicken-flake-and-noodle casserole and other dainties, boldly going beyond the beloved scalloped-potato standbys.

Best upward leap along the fundraising slope: Goulais River UC, which six years ago on our visit was buttressed with Mission-and-Service-support grants, and this time around we found is an M&S contributor.

Best audience square-dance with promenades and allemandes and do-si-dos around the church-hall in impromptu response to watching video of a Mozambican welcome-dance: Powassan-Chiswick UC (south of North Bay if you want to look it up).

Best aboriginal painting hung in the sanctuary chancel: St Peter's UC in Sudbury, a magnificent and spiritually resonant example from the renowned endowment collection of Manitou Conference.

Best architectural re-incarnation: St Andrew's Place in Sudbury, where a large downtown late-19th-century edifice burned and was reborn as a residential high-rise for those in need, with community program-space and a modern sanctuary and a chapel formed of salvaged stone from the original–and a welcoming shelter for overseas personnel passing through.

Most creative ecumenical use of resources: A tie. 1- St Matthew/St Paul's Anglican/United church in Hearst, where two congregations worship in the former St Paul's building since the next-door Anglican buliding was condemned and demolished, maintaining their spiritual traditions in a town which is now over 90% French and Roman Catholic. 2- Lion's Head UC and St Mark's Catholic Church; a satellite parish of St Mary's in Owen Sound, the people of St Mark's worship Saturdays in the UC building.

Best youth group: Knox UC in Clifford. See the photo


showing a few of them with their minister, with Mozambican instruments and regalia. These boisterous pre- and early-teens meet Friday evenings with their parents and church leaders, an important ministry in a small Bruce County town.

Most-memorable animal-spirit presence. The UCC's Turn! National Justice Event in Pinawa, Manitoba (a one-off nation-wide congregation) where deer were as common on the lawns as squirrels in southwestern Ontario, and their dignity and beauty spiritually enriched us one and all, the way simulated animals can do at a Christmas Nativity creche.

 

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters

Letter 245 October 28 2010

...On taking leave of them he said, ‘I will return to you, if God wills.' - Acts 18.21

Since Thanksgiving we've been travelling, speaking about the Mission and Service fund at work in Mozambique, meeting Christian colleagues in congregations in the United Church of Canada's Algoma Presbytery, Manitou Conference, and Manitoba. Many are in rural or small-town congregations, in little steep-roofed white-sided churches. We've built a great respect in short time for many United Church folk in this part of our country. In a short letter we can't begin to describe all these marvellous churches, though they all deserve mention. Here are just a few of many examples that inspire us:

Goulais River United Church, which for years depended on Mission-and-Service funding support, now needs that help no longer, and instead in fact contributes to M&S. About a dozen children turn out for its Sunday school, and planted vegetable gardens by the church this past summer, and gave the produce to the Food Bank.

The youth group at Grace United Church on St Joseph's Island through rummage and bake sales and matching grants from their elders raised $2000 for the Christian Council of Mozambique's medicinal HIV/AIDS gardens. Their minister, by the way, is Korean-Canadian. She's a part of that long tradition of partnership and cross-fertilizing between Korean churches and our own UCC.

Iron Bridge United Church after some years of hiatus recently started up again its UCW, reinvigorated and enthusiastic. Its minister spent this last year living in an uninsulated log cabin without plumbing or electricity. (Fortunately, she says, last winter by Algoma standards was mild.)

St Andrew's United Church in Sault Ste Marie in the last few years has produced from its membership a string of ministers—four to date--now serving Algoma Presbytery United Church congregations. We're wondering how many other congregations can match a record like that.

The congregation and minister at the Garden Hill reserve in northeastern Manitoba are speaking out about the effects of global warming. There's no access to their community except a winter ice-road, whose season is growing shorter and shorter, and isn't open long enough anymore for them to get in the year's supplies. The option, air delivery, is costly beyond the people's reach.

Trinity United serves Elliot Lake, a community whose average age is much above the average for Canada, and works with other churches and government ministries to pioneer new and cost-effective ways of doing hospice for the aging.

The accompanying photos on the website of our home congregation


were taken by a talented new friend of ours, at a spirit-filled UCW Presbyterial rally at St Peter's UC, Sudbury. Like Paul leaving Ephesus, we'd be glad any time to come back to and spiritually feed on any of these vigorous, faithful congregations.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique

Letter 244

11 October 2010

When we had parted from them and set sail, we came by a straight course to Cos, and the next day to Rhodes, and from there to Patara. - Acts 21.1

Dear Friends,

Lately the book of Acts, the New Testament's travel book, has been much on our minds. We've been spending our current home assignment mostly on the road, using words, slides, video, and hands-on time with Mozambican food, clothing, and musical instruments to show-and- tell interested groups and congregations about international Christian partnership, at least as we've known it. That's why you haven't seen new ‘Letters from Mozambique' on this web page since July (though you still can catch us in the London Conference Bridge in the Observer). We're taking the liberty to call this also a Letter from Mozambique: at least, its origin and inspiration come in part from there.

We don't claim to have a fraction of the vigour and rigour of St Paul, haven't yet been beaten or jailed or even jeered at, and are glad to be travelling by car instead of feet and sail. Overall we're glad to have come to know so many new colleagues in so many communities. This Thanksgiving weekend we finished a 6-week stint of journeys through all but one of the southern Presbyteries of London Conference, and the next day head for a week or more in Algoma, then to the national UCC Turn! social justice event in Pinawa, Manitoba. From there to 9 events in Manitou Conference from Sudbury and Elliott Lake, Hearst and Hornpayne, the next day to Timmons and on to New Liskeard, and yet onward through North Bay Presbytery. Then Hamilton Conference till late Advent, and in the new year to Montreal & Ottawa, Toronto, and Maritime Conferences. That takes us through till April, and after that, the Spirit will call in its way and time.

Though some people feel distressed about apparent United Church of Canada decline, that's not the way we've seen it. We've been welcomed and inspired by active, creative, faithful congregations who remain faithful in a practical way–financially too–to United Church projects like the Canadian Food Grains Bank, the London Conference Gifts of Hope Catalogue, ministries to the disadvantaged like Inn from the Cold, and above all the Mission and Service Fund.

Joyous worship in St Paul's in Windsor–whose website is our Letters' home–and in dozens of other events and celebrations give us hope and strength. These 2 photos–from Curries and Norwich United Churches in Oxford Presbytery–will give you the idea.

If we've visited your church, thank you for your hospitality and solidarity. If we're booked to see your congregation in the next few months, we're looking forward to it very much.

In faith, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 243

7 July 2010

‘Take a scroll and write on it all the words that I have spoken to you...from the days of Josiah until today.' - Jeremiah 36.2

That covered a lot of years, that Jeremiah would have remembered but apparently hadn't written. In those oral days, people of necessity had better-developed memories. Even Jeremiah's 52 chapters don't tell everything; to record, you have to select, and by far most experience goes unrecorded. For now this will be our last Letter from Mozambique, just before heading out to Canada for several months of home assignment. Since we arrived to work in Mozambique in June of 1999 we've experienced and remembered a lot, that 243 letters couldn't begin to tell. These days we're feeling retrospective, and so here are some of many highlights we'll always look back on with wonder and with gratitude for having been so blessed.

Prisoners in the grim district prison in Gurue performing their theatre of the parable of the Prodigal Son, with a cast of characters including the pigs exuberantly played by crawling grunting inmates–the Biblical story that most gave these prisoners hope that their own lives too could be redeemed despite their past bad choices

Travelling by motorcycle with a crew of technicians through swamps and lagoons in Mopeia to reach communities building wells, and ferrying the bikes by dugout canoe across swollen rivers, wading beside holding the canoe upright and watching for crocodiles

PEDRA girls' AIDS video clip based on the Zulu song ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight', with a soaring operatic soprano part, female basses, and dances performed at a downtown park, a riverbank fisher village, the stage of Zambezia's provincial cultural centre, and the city's largest stadium, which supplies the photo that accompanies this Letter

Any one of the PEDRA girls' 8500 beautifully crafted knotted friendship bracelets

Paraplegic Felizarda one of the rural bursary program girls receiving her gleaming new wheelchair, hauling herself to the driver's seat and flashing off down the road squirting up dust from her acceleration and turning tight nimble slalom turns that a person with legs on a bicycle would be hard put to match

The Montes Namuli song and dance company's on-stage presentation of a Mozambican forest in their version of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, dancers holding huge swaying leaves aloft playing trees, crouching monkeys, a snake slithering its limbless way, drums and wooden xylophones and a chorus filling the on-stage savannah with bird-sounds

The HIV-positive women's peer-support group of the Medicinal Plants project, each with her own spectacular medicinal garden, spunky and cheerful and passionately loyal to one another, absolutely defiant of the virus and of public stigma

The thousands of visible stars of the southern-hemisphere's constellations, on cloudless nights at Molumbo in Zambezia's mountains a hundred kilometres from any polluting electric light, that leave you wondering at call of God's African creation.

We won't need a scroll for memory of scenes like these to provoke a tear.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique

Letter 240 21 May 2010

God delivers the needy when they call....

                                -Psalm 72.12

That's good news, but in order to call, the needy require a voice. And preferably a listening human ear as well as God's. Otherwise, they're without any say or social power. God calls us to do what we can to strengthen the voice of the weakest and most marginalized, because those most needy are often least able to articulate their needs in a way and forum that can influence those with power to help them. One recent project of the Christian Council of Mozambique is called Listening to Poverty. In four provinces including Zambezia CCM calls public meetings, invites the articulate poor to testify, invites government officials to listen and respond, videotapes the proceedings, and delivers the edited tape direct to the President and Prime Minister of Mozambique, to let them hear their neediest citizens call out, testifying for themselves.

A hearing took place recently in Quelimane. First, a team of 5 CCM youth spent a day interviewing 30 people in the poorer bairros of Quelimane, gathering their views and experience of daily life in their neighbourhood. You see a photo of one of the interviewers, Sonia, with one of her subjects in the yard of his family's house:

On the second day; three of the most eager and articulate came to speak at the public meeting, on the plaza of a public school in another of Quelimane's many poor bairros.


You see one speaker, amid the project's video cameraman, the camera of MTV Mozambique's national television network, and the microphone of national Radio Mozambique. About 150 people turned up, teachers, journalists, civil servants, religious and community leaders, and many urban poor themselves to support their speaker neighbours. A neighbourhood dance troupe with drummers danced two original numbers about lives of poverty in Quelimane. The provincial governor showed up to listen and then to speak in response. So did the official representative of Quelimane's mayor.

The speakers talked of the lack of street-lights and police, that lets gangs of unemployed youth armed with machetes roam the city's night's shadows robbing citizens at will.

They spoke of the lack of drainage, the standing water that blocks roads and breeds malarial mosquitoes.

They spoke of the lack of employment–one speaker told how he rides his bicycle as a taxi like hundreds of other men in Quelimane, earning 5 meticais (15 cents) per ride in the city, for 10 minutes or more pedalling hard with a passenger, then waiting who knows how long till the next fare, earning not enough in a day to feed a family and keep a bicycle maintained after the beating it takes on Quelimane's bad roads. Another sells charcoal, buying a 50-kilo sack and selling it in small piles on the street for as little as 1 metical (3 cents), to people too poor to buy any more at once, just enough to cook their day's one meal. Her way to try to feed her family.

And so the governor and everyone present heard compelling personal stories that lie behind poverty statistics, from the people who best can tell them, because they live them. Graca Machel, widow of Mozambique's founding president, wife of Nelson Mandela, Mozambique's most influential lady, already has an appointment to present the final product to the President and Prime Minister, from the needy who are calling. May God deliver them.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique

Letter 239 7 May 2010

It is God's gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil. - Ecclesiastes 3.13

This is the gloomy writer of Ecclesiastes at a rare optimistic moment; often and more typically he says that toil, like most else in human life, is ultimately vain. Still it's a pleasant vision, and welcome from such a cynic, to affirm that God does not want unemployment, but everyone with productive and fulfilling work for fair wages. Biblically, six days shalt thou labour.

May 1 is the day in most of the world to celebrate the worker, and meaningful dignified work that puts the skills of each into practice and develops an economy and community. Workers turn out for a grand parade in Quelimane. The Christian Council team took part, hoisting various banners that proclaimed, Choose Dialogue, Combat Poverty, Fight For Socio-Economic Justice.


As the scores of groups and thousands of workers file by the governor's reviewing stand, some on foot, some on floats, you see a synopsis of Quelimane's economy:

Workers from the government ministries like Finance, Fisheries, Science and Technology, Education and Culture, and Labour of course.

Workers who provide education, health-care, water, roads and bridges, telephone, electricity, postal service, policing, and military protection.

Men and women who work in television, radio, insurance, miners, fishers, bakers, mechanics, workers from the factory that turns cocoanut oil into soap and plastic dishes, workers in construction, and workers at the shrimp farm, Quelimane's largest employer.

Workers from Quelimane's port and airport, fuel suppliers, plant nurseries, banks, hotels, beauty salons, restaurants, and sawmills.

Workers that make juice from local fruit, and furniture from local timber, and who bottle water from local mountain springs.

Workers from stores that sell seeds, tools, vehicle parts and much more that goes to making a functional society.

(The workers from the cell-phone company and internet provider also took part, but to heckling from the crowd since we've been without those services for a couple of weeks now due to a break in the fibre-optic cable in the Mozambique Channel, which means we have no idea when this letter will leave Mozambique.)

 

The web-site photos show two of the floats



It was all quite inspiring and picturesque, even if you could not forget for a moment that the largest employers are foreign-owned with Indian, Spanish, Dutch, French or Chinese managers, nor forget that the minimum wage is not enough to feed a family, nor forget that so many in Quelimane can't afford the parading workers' products and services, and survive by what they grow in their family farm-plots, or sell charcoal, used clothes, bottles, fruit or vegetables on sidewalks at a tiny margin of profit, or push 2-wheeled cargo carts, or fix bicycles or shoes for a pittance. Or turn to crime.

Still you glimpse what, with just distribution of employment and its services and products, and just labour laws, could be someday the economy that Ecclesiastes says God intends for all.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique

Letter 238 21 April 2010

And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing…. –Zechariah 8.5

April 7 in Mozambique is Women's Day, and a national holiday. (There's been so much happening to write about that we're just now getting to this topic, though it's dear to our hearts.) This year's theme was Women Fighting Poverty; healthy developing-world economies and families depend upon means to empower women—educate them, strengthen their voice—because most of the economy is literally in their hard-working hands. Since the PEDRA program is for girls, and girls become women, Women's Day matters to PEDRA.

Sixty-five girls of PEDRA marched from their program building at CCM to the sport field about a kilometer away in a bairro called Chirangano. To avoid the busiest street we took a back lane, more a path really, less than 2 metres wide, that runs by people's back yards and over the little log foot-bridges that cross drainage ditches in swampy Quelimane. The girls sang as they marched, and children came out of their homes to greet and applaud. At the sport field they joined up with other neighbourhood children's groups associated with Right to Play (www.righttoplay.com). Founded and headquartered in Canada, it is now worldwide in 23 countries. Its mission is using the power of sport and play for development, health and peace. So Women's Day for PEDRA was learning new educational games.

One new game they learned at Chirangano was the 3-legged race, as one website photo shows:


Yes, that same show of hilarious awkwardness that many of us played as children at church picnics. In Right-To-Play, a learning experience via group discussion follows every game. The girls talked about how progress in a 3-legged race depends on confidence in learning new skills, and on cooperation, understanding your role and the other's, which can only be done by 2-way communication and practice. They named other life activities too where we need to cooperate, communicate, practise in pairs or other groupings, and work by team spirit.

The program featured other new games. Because CCM has no yard, nowhere to throw balls, the PEDRA girls much enjoyed a sort of stationary dodgeball, two teams in single files, a race of throw-catch-throw-duck. The other website photo shows the gist of it, not one thrower and one thrown-at, but a team affair, for girls who concentrate and anticipate.


Among God's other promises for the messianic era—justice, abundance, peace among nations —the book of Zecharias gives the vision of children at play. Not just some fortunate few, but enough to fill safe public streets. You don't live in the ideal world if you don't see playing children. Nowadays we understand the crucial role of joyful play in child development. It seems from his vision that Zecharias knew something of this too, 2 ½ millennia ago. The Right To Play slogan says, "When children play the world wins." A Mozambican slogan is, "To educate a girl is to educate the nation."

In mission and service,

Karen and Bill Butt


Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique

Letter 237 21 April 2010

...from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. - John 6.13

The feeding of the 5000 is the only miracle told in all four Gospels (though the number fed varies). For Jesus, feeding people was a priority. On our planet today almost two billion people are going hungry; and while population grows, our farmland continues to degrade. Throughout the Gospels, food is shared; we are called to do the same. In Mozambique, the Christian Council works with the UN's World Food Program and others to combat hunger. We could learn a lot from this Biblical scene about how it can be done. Jesus doesn't just order 5000 takeouts from the nearest restaurant.

For a start, he asks his disciples to contribute.

He divides the people into groups, so that each forms group identity; solidarity.

He sits them down together, to build closeness yet more.

In the sight of all he blesses the food and then, as the disciples distribute, no doubt others are inspired by example to share within their group–for surely many of these folk had brought at least some food with them when they trekked to hear Jesus.

Finally, since the food was blessed, then all of it is sacred: nothing is scorned and wasted. Later, those twelve leftover baskets must have fed many more hungry people.

In sum, there's no handout, no passive dependency–and there's also no inexplicable ‘miracle'. Just a sharing of resources, each giving according to her or his means, each feeling ‘ownership' of a marvellous process.

Last week in an isolated rural zone called Chire, near the border with southern Malawi, CCM held what's called a seed-fair. Farmers there lost their last crop to drought. There is widespread hunger. Now some rain has come and in lowland areas farmers have soil moist enough to plant–but no money for seeds. So CCM prints booklets with coupons of 5, 10, and 20 meticais, totalling 300 meticais–about $10. A thousand of the neediest farm families are selected and registered, most of them woman-headed households. On fair day each receives a coupon booklet, paying a symbolic 20 meticais and so feeling ‘ownership'. CCM organizes local vendors to bring their wares to the fair site–seeds like tomato, corn, cabbage, beans; tools like axes, hoes, machetes. With coupons each farmer buys what she or he wants from whatever vendor sells it, and later CCM redeems the coupons from the merchant for cash.

The fair strengthens the local economy, and the locals own the process: the printers, vendors, farmers, and CCM project staff (also mostly local) who register participants and do crowd-control and coupon distribution on fair day. And there'll be a harvest this time, food for farm families to eat and surplus to sell to pay for what farmers don't produce, like soap, salt, clothes, medicines, and school supplies. Like any fair, it was festive–smiles, conversation, children playing. Much the way the mood must have been on that picnic day in Galilee. As the fair closes, the farmers go with new hope to their fields, their new seeds and tools on their heads, as you see in the photo


In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 236 7 April 2010

When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish that you have just caught." - John 21.9-10

Just prior to this verse, the resurrected Jesus on their last day on earth together advised his disciples where to cast their nets. So they do–and have to work hard to haul their grand catch in their nets a hundred yards to the beach, where Jesus does a barbecue. Jesus doesn't give a handout–just a hand. He's brought fish and does the cooking, not because they can't, but to show his love, preparing and sharing a last meal together, his fish and theirs, to say: Though physically I am leaving, our team remains intact.

Time and again in the Gospels, with disciples and others, you see Jesus lovingly help people achieve the most they can with what gifts they possess. He makes them feel ownership of their lives and resources. His way doesn't work for passive folk; people are cured by their own initiative and faith, or learn through their own hard work to understand parable and other cryptic teachings. Jesus' way is to empower you: to play to your God-given strengths, keep realistic about your equally God-given limits, and keep on in faith, hope and love.

The age should be long past in international mission where people from the United Church of Canada or any other organization come to Mozambique or any less ‘developed' country spreading around handout donations of what they presume to be their superior knowledge and resources. That breeds dependency. It is disrespectful. It is not ‘sustainable'. The UCC doesn't send donors, but partners, who will work the way Jesus did with partners there on the beach.

That's the way it is for example in PEDRA's computer class, a reward and enrichment for the senior girls who've been longest in the program and have come to be leaders and mentors for the others. They're all in high school now, relatively mature and intelligent. In urban Mozambique where all the better jobs are, computer literacy is a precious skill; these girls have earned the chance to learn it, and are eager. There's not much teaching; it's mostly empowerment. Show some basic notions, and within minutes on their own they're practising useful operations we hadn't thought to show them, and starting to work on projects we hadn't known they'd have had in mind. Carolina promptly started working on her resume. Gina designed an invitation for her parents' Easter Day wedding. Sonia typed up her poetry for Valentine's Day.

After Easter when the physical Jesus left his disciples, hurt and baffled as they were, with all their limitations and inexperience, they had the courage and faith to build on the wisdom and love he had left them. In occupied, oppressed and impoverished Palestine, the Jesus movement continued and spread. He'd done his best to contribute and could only hope they'd do all right after. When our time comes to leave Mozambique, however impoverished and limited its opportunities, however little we ourselves will have accomplished, we'll still have the same hope when it comes to all the people we've had the privilege to work with in various programs, including Flavia, Gina and Minjurda. You see them at work in the website photo


In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique

Letter 235, 21 March 2010

Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years...and she was no better, but rather grew worse. - Mark 5.25-26

Flesh lesions, skin eruptions, lung infections–many chronic conditions in Mozambique correlate with HIV/AIDS. Without treatment, an infected person will die of an opportunistic disease or invasion. No instant miracle cure exists against AIDS; no cloak-hem the sufferer can touch and be healed. But anti-retro-viral treatment, ARVT, will reduce or at least stabilize the HIV load. In time the patient can return to approximately normal living, if she (most Mozambican HIV-positives are women) will take ARVT daily for the rest of her life.

Trouble is, ARVT's initial side effects are numerous, severe and unpredictable– nausea, cramping, diarrhea, skin-rash, fatigue, sleeplessness. Many patients already are weakened by malnutrition, poverty, loneliness, stigmatization. For different reasons many start ARVT too late, when they're already weak gaunt spectres. Many live in rudimentary, insecure homes of stick and leaves, with no income, no farm-plot to grow food. Many live alone, abandoned by families who can no longer cope. Others came home with surviving children they're too weak to care for, to live with widowed mothers. Two of these you see in the web-site photos:


there are tens of thousands like these in Mozambique. Many of their children are HIV-positive too, or already have died of AIDS. Often the result is, patients on ARVT can't bear the added suffering and stress. They lose hope, abandon their ARVT, deteriorate, and die.

The stronger the patient's body, the better her odds. Unlike any other organization, CCM provides the neediest patients at the difficult start of ARVT with three months' worth of Ministry-of-Health-approved food supplements–milk, flour, sugar, and cooking oil–to build strength for those critical months till the body, if possible, adapts. And CCM workers don't just dump food on a patient's doorstep. They sit by her reed mat, get to know their family if she still lives with one, and keep in faithful touch, as you see in the other web-site photo.


One day last week our colleague Reverend Isaias walked past a woman on the street whom he didn't recognize when she said hello. She reminded him she'd been a patient who started ARVT three years ago with CCM, when the treatment was new in Mozambique and Isaias headed CCM's pioneering ARVT program. She was frail but since then has recovered her strength, gone to school, graduated, found work, stayed with her ARVT–and now is principal of a primary school, a model to her students and community.

The Gospels don't tell of the cases that Jesus didn't cure, that majority, the ones who never reached his hem. And they normally don't tell the aftermath of that smaller number of the healed. But we can imagine. That woman with the chronic 12-year hemorrhage whose faith had made her whole would not be likely to forget it. Probably, like Isaias' grateful acquaintance, one of the fortunate minority who got help and persisted with ARVT, she continued to build on that blessing, and become in turn a blessing to others.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt


Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 234

7 March 2010

...gnats came on humans and animals alike; all the dust of the earth turned into gnats....

- Exodus 8.17

A note in our NRSV Bible says, ‘From ancient times stinging gnats or mosquitoes have plagued Egypt'. After the Nile overflow they breed in stagnant pools. If those were malarial mosquitos that Aaron called forth, the plague would have killed Egyptians by the thousands.

Malaria kills more Mozambicans than any other cause, including AIDS. More than half of all hospital and clinic diagnoses are malaria. Unlike the Hebrew tribes, people here can't trek away to malaria-free promised lands. In the swampy Zambezia river delta where we live, malarial mosquitoes propagate all year long. The female bites a human, the plasmodium parasite enters the blood-stream and attacks red blood-cells till they burst, and an untreated person will die from lack of blood to the brain and vital organs.

The symptoms are horrendous. Fierce body-temperature spikes–fever and then chills that bring on convulsive shivers; unbelievably painful headaches; heaviness and near-immobility in limbs and joints; sometimes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea. Malaria kills babies and young children especially, before their bodies have developed some resistance.

Like many other organizations, the Christian Council of Mozambique (CCM) is deep in the fight against this plague:


• Gardeners in its medi-plants project grow and harvest artemisia, a local plant–the source of a main active ingredient in pharmaceutical anti-malarial medicines. They dry and crush its leaves and administer it in teas to sufferers from malaria. In one website photo


you see Isabel, one of the medi-plants gardeners and healers, smiling; the jagged-leaf sprig in her hand is artemisia.

• CCM produces music-videos arousing people to the need to protect themselves from malaria. May seem to you an unlikely theme for songs, but music is a common way of teaching in Mozambique, and our musicians and video-editors have a marvelously creative knack with imagery.

• Another tactic is mosquito nets, impregnated with insecticide. CCM this week has been distributing nets, mostly to communities in zones that are low and badly-drained, where mosquitos lay eggs in the stagnant pools, where they hatch into larvae, pupate, and in a week or so have become another deadly generation. Pregnant women and women with young children are the first priorities; a pregnant woman with malaria bears a child with lower birth-weight and lower resistance. In a second website photo


you see the CCM team demonstrating a mosquito-net to a crowd beneath a mango tree–how to hang, use and maintain it. The third shows a woman beneficiary who has just received the net beneath which she and her child will sleep, and which could well save her baby's life. Like Isabel, she is smiling.


In the midst of malaria, hope.


World Malaria Day is April 25. We pray you remember.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique

Letter 233 21 February 2010

All the world came to Joseph in Egypt to buy grain, because the famine became severe throughout the world. - Genesis 41.57

According to the World Food Program, 1.02 billion people on our planet are malnourished. They do not have enough to eat. According to Mozambique's National Institute for Disaster Management, at present over 785,000 of these sufferers live in Mozambique. This is because of drought. Here in Zambezia province, in most of the lowlands of the Zambezia river basin, since last April there has not been rain enough to grow crops.

Almost three quarters of Mozambicans are farmer families whose subsistence depends on what they grow–mostly corn, cassava, beans. Also peanuts, millet, sorghum. When the rainy season comes and the soil is wet they plant, usually sometime in December, and harvest around late March. If the rains have been sufficient and the soil still is moist, they may plant again, for a second crop in August. But last year, all year, there was no rain and no second crop. Farmers who planted in December when a few local showers fell watched their plants sprout and wither. In some spots in the last two weeks some rain has fallen. This comes too late. In the website photo you see a typical stunted corn field now:


No cobs have formed. None will form. Two consecutive harvests have been lost. People there say it's the worst since the drought of 1988, during the war of destabilization, when Mozambique had the lowest standard of living in the world.

In the districts of Zambezia where the Christian Council functions, the people have started eating the roots of water reeds. They walk up to 20 kilometres to gather them. In the other photo you see women with tubers in their baskets.


These will be their families' food this week. They grow along the margins of lowland lagoons. They are bitter. They cause indigestion. The school directors say that half of all children have not registered for the new school year. They are too hungry, too busy helping their families hunt for food. When the people uproot the reeds they damage the lagoons, because the plants help hold the water. The people know this but they see no choice.

Groups like the United Nations World Food Program and in its smaller way the Christian Council are Josephs. Where harvests are plentiful they store them to feed those who have none until they can recover. From Egypt's granaries Joseph supplied his brothers who had trekked from Canaan where they would have died, and he put their money secretly back into their saddlebags.

Drought is a slow natural disaster. Not sudden and spectacular like floods or earthquakes. It doesn't get quickly in the papers and on television, not till the pictures of starving emaciated children. Then for many it's too late. But as global warming accelerates there's going to be more drought and famine. If you live in a land where there is harvest, you are called, like Joseph, to share with brothers, and sisters, who are starving.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique

Letter 232

7 February 2010

I went out by night by the Valley Gate past the Dragon's Spring and to the Dung Gate, and I inspected the walls of Jerusalem that had been broken down.... - Nehemiah 2.13 (NRSV)

As Nehemiah secretly inspects the ruined Jerusalem he can see the damages, and the dangers. The Dragon's Spring is water for drinking; the King James version calls it the Dragon's Well. Since containing walls by the gate where people go to deposit human waste have broken, the adjacent water source would be polluted, and the population who've returned to their city from exile will face diseases borne by water contamination, among other looming problems.

In much of Mozambique, water and sanitation infrastructure are dangerously weak, especially in rural and peri-urban areas. Water sanitation is most dangerous in two circumstances above all: when it rains (fecally contaminated water enters unprotected water sources, causing annual cholera epidemics in affected communities), and when it doesn't rain (meaning dried-up wells and streams, and long treks after water from farther sources for girls and women, hauling 20-litre jugs on their heads for a dozen kilometres or more).

According to the most recent census, three quarters of the Mozambican population draw water from open unlined wells, streams, lagoons or water holes. More than half of households have no sanitation at all, not even a simple pit latrine. More than one in ten infants die before their first birthday, and after malaria, diarrheas from contaminated water are the second-most-common cause of child death, killing 50 Mozambican children per day. Often the Christian Council, like UNICEF for another Mozambican example, strategically builds latrines at schools and school residences, where a concentrated population can use them, be taught in their use and maintenance, and carry their knowledge home to their families.

This is the aim of CCM in building a new well and latrines at the bursary girls' residence which it operates in the mountain village of Molumbo. Previously the latrine and bath house were simply roofless straw-walled enclosures as you see in one website photo


with an unlined hole beneath. The well also was unlined, and the walls underground were collapsing inwards, with nothing to hold back contaminated seepage. Now both are to the standards set by the Ministry of Public Works. In the other photos you see the digging of the septic holding tank.


Work on the latrine/bathhouse brick walls.


From here on, the 52 girls of Molumbo residence will stay in health in rainy seasons, and even in dry times can pump water from their own yard, and spend more time instead on their studies.

In mission and service,

Karen and Bill Butt


Mission and Service

Letters from Mozambique Letter 231 21 January 2010

"See, I make all things new." - Revelations 21.5

If all things are made new, then every thing is–small or large–and most importantly each individual human life. January here is a whole month of preparing for the new school year, and all month we're struck by the re-newed keenness, hope and relish of the girls in PEDRA.

On the streets and rural roads we pass files of children with twig brooms and hoes on their way to spruce up their schools–weed the yard, sweep the classrooms. We've met with school directors in communities with PEDRAs whose offices were stacked with textbooks for distribution. Girls of the Molumbo residence for PEDRA bursary girls had helped unload with broad smiles from the PEDRA truck supplies for their new school year–pencils, notebooks, toothpaste, towels–items none of them have ever had at home. You see some of the smiles in the photo


One of our former bursary girls, Laurinda, now a teacher, dropped by on her bicycle and helped hand out supplies to younger girls. Later we visited the rural school where she teaches grades 2 and 4. Logs on forked posts for seats and desks. A ragged thatched-roof straw-walled open-sided semi-shelter. Not easy when it rains, as you can imagine from the other photo.


At the rural PEDRA centre of Regone we picked up Felizarda and her new wheelchair (you met her most recently in Letter 219, last July), to drive her to Namarroi where she's one of 22 bursary girls starting Grade 8. Other Regone bursary-girls climbed on for the ride. Most had no suitcase–all their school-year's worldly goods fit wrapped in a capulana. Some had mangoes and bananas from their farms. In the residence will be their first time with a bed and mattress. Up and down the hills to town they sang, but when the truck entered Namarroi they suddenly fell silent. It's a big new step from their rural povoados to this small town with a few stores, a market–and, crucially, a middle high school.

Of the bursary girls who applied for teachers' college, two of six were successful–a good percentage for PEDRA when you think of the big picture: that thousands in Zambezia applied for 300 positions. Ledice of the PEDRA staff is off tomorrow to the college in Morrumbala, 3 hours' drive away, to help them get registered.

The other four continue on in high school in Quelimane, grade eleven–still an unhoped-for dream for them and their families. They'll join 4 other PEDRA bursary girls in residence here studying grade 11, and 5 in grade 12. Just the trip in from their villages is a new adventure–three separate bus rides, to a city none of them have ever seen. They start to arrive tomorrow. We'll be waiting for their phone call from the bus depot, and take them to the residence, where older PEDRA girls will help new ones launch into their new school year.

In mission and service,

Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique

Letter 230 7 January 2010

"...you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it." - Mark 11.2

Shortly before his death, Jesus rode apparently a young donkey into Jerusalem. According to artistic tradition (though the Bible doesn't say so), as an infant with his parents fleeing to Africa from Herod, he also went by donkey. At the start and the end of his earthly life, a donkey. In between, as far as we know, in his travels about the Holy Land he went by foot, in sandals. Chariots were for generals and kings, and the wealthy Ethiopian treasurer in Acts 8. Camels were for magi in search of Epiphany (or so we imagine–another un-Biblical artistic tradition).

Now, imagine bicycles. The modern bicycle developed only circa 1900, it wasn't available in Palestine year 30. It's the world's most efficient land vehicle in terms of distance travelled, per weight, per energy expended. What if Jesus and his disciples had owned bicycles? How would their work have been different? How might their ministry have grown and spread?

We get a glimpse of an answer by looking at an ongoing project of the Christian Council of Mozambique to provide bicycles to rural pastors and church leaders. Just before Christmas we were in the town of Mopeia in the Zambezi river valley delivering another lot of 5 bicycles–on the website


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