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Homebutton01.jpg. Welcome to St. Paul's United Church
  • St. Pauls United Church

973 Pillette Road Windsor, ON, CA, N8Y 3B7

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 180

  • 18 December 2007

On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit...and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. - Revelation 22.2

John doesn't tell us what the dozen kinds of fruit are, nor exactly what their various leaves will heal and how. His tree, fruit, leaves are symbolic. In several fields across rural Mozambique, CCM is growing much more than a dozen varieties of plants which, whatever their symbolic value, have actual, physical healing properties, for individuals in this nation of Mozambique.

These all are crucial in the fight against AIDS and associated diseases and infections. Here in a country where the government's budget for pharmaceuticals is only $1 per person per year, and 1 in 6 adults is HIV+, these plants are crucial – locally growable, inexpensive, and sustainable. Families of subsistence farmers struggle in the best of times, and when someone in the family is weak with AIDS, his or her labour is lost, and the family rapidly becomes even more vulnerable and destitute.

Many of these plants you might recognize – aloe vera, garlic, periwinkle, peanut, passion flower, artemisia, marigold and many others. A few you might even have used – like the aloe vera plant for healing skin lesions. The proven uses of others in treating AIDS-related conditions might surprise you.

Peanuts and passion flower fight the insomnia which robs the body of precious strength.

Periwinkle builds immunity, and fights urinary infections.

Artemisia, like garlic too, fights malaria which so often attacks those whose resistance has been weakened by AIDS.

Garlic also fights herpes and hypertension.

CCM trains community volunteers in these uses. The typical course runs two weeks. They learn how to tend the plants, how and when to harvest flowers, seeds, leaves, roots–whatever is the plant's therapeutically active part. They learn how to prepare the medicines: some become powders, others are syrups, still others are lotions. They learn how to store them, in recycled jars or bottles or clay pots. They learn how to administer the healing product to affected families, who pay only what they can.

These fields are rural pharmaceutical factories, and the volunteers' houses are pharmacies. The project is headed by our colleagues Balbina, a nurse, and Baltazar, an agronomist. From CCM nursery fields, they take cuttings and seedlings, to transplant to new pharmacy fields which they will start in other communities. In the photos you see one of their Christmas educational displays.

Medicinal plant display 1.jpg
Medicinal plant display 2.jpg

We pray for rich harvests of medicinal plants for the nation, and pray that the produce of all those fields bring sustenance and healing to many. What a blessing for Christmas and all next year.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique

Letter 179, 4 December 2007

For a child has been born for us...and is named Wonderful Counsellor....His authority shall grow continually. - Isaiah 9.6-7

Advent in Mozambique is launched and coloured by World anti-AIDS Day, December 1. In our city of about 180,000 people, dozens of activist churches and organizations and thousands of individuals take part in marches, rallies, prayer and worship, door-to-door education campaigns, visits with the sick.

At the Christian Council, the girls of the PEDRA program held an Open House to exhibit their locally grown medicinal plants, their banners and posters against AIDS, their beaded and cross- stitch AIDS ribbons.

They took one of their musical puppet shows about HIV-AIDS to the children of a poorer Quelimane bairro.

At the anti-AIDS rally on December 1 itself, in a packed stadium they sang their own song ‘SIDA Lutaremos' (‘AIDS We'll Fight You'), written by Danny, one of the young women musicians who collaborate with CCM. You see them chanting at that rally in the website photo:

179 PEDRA AIDS rally Dez407.jpg

That same afternoon the CCM youth showed one of their video dramas about AIDS to the students at the Quelimane Health Sciences Institute.

What has this to do with Advent? Well, Advent marks the time of the coming of the holy Child. Victims of AIDS tend to be young and poor. At CCM, the activists too are mostly young people, not well-off but all of them passionately involved in loving care for those suffering and marginalized by HIV. Young, poor, compassionate, activist for social justice–isn't that a just description of the Christ whose coming we are preparing for, whose work we are called to do.

For the CCM Youth and the girls of PEDRA, as AIDS activists they are also peer Counsellors, and Wonderful ones at that. Who speaks with most authority to a young person, is another experienced, articulate young person. And as CCM's anti-AIDS programs for and by young people grow, the young activist counsellors' authority also continually grows. We see them develop, as another Biblical passage has it, in wisdom and in stature–stature not just physical but social, moral, spiritual.

What we see in the story of Christ is a child born poor, in a manger even, who grows to become the saviour of the world, the victor over evil. The defeat some day of AIDS in our world will come through the work of scientists, funders, counsellors, professionals, and, crucially, young people like those we are working with at the Christian Council.

Have a blessed Advent.

In mission and service,

Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 178

  • 24 November 2007

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. – James 1.27

James has no doubt at all: the core activity of a Christian is care of orphans and widows. Then Mozambique with its 300,000 children who have lost a parent, mostly due to AIDS, gives a Christian lots of scope. The orphan total is growing – funerals pass by CCM every day.

Seventy of those 300,000 orphans live near a small mud-walled Church of the Nazarene in a Quelimane bairro called 17 de Setembro. (17th of September is Armed Forces Day in Mozambique.) You see a lot of them in the web-site photo:

Nazareno orfaos.jpg]

It's a poor neighbourhood - houses of stick and eroded mud stucco. Trucks or cars rarely pass; women spread reed mats and sit on the road allowance. Taking James to heart, Pastor Andisse and his congregation of 310 members run a program caring for their 70 orphans. They've done this for 13 years now.

Some of these children live with aunts, uncles, widowed grandmothers, older married siblings – people who can hardly feed themselves, and can't afford to feed extra mouths.

The rest live with families of the congregation.

Three girls live with Pastor Andisse, his wife and their own children.

Four boys in a tiny battered tent set up beside the church.

Though the congregation members themselves are poor, like everyone in 17 de Setembro, they donate clothing and school supplies so that every one of these orphans goes to school. They bring corn, rice, beans, whatever food they can spare, and church volunteers cook breakfast and lunch for the children seven days a week when funds permit, in the shade of a thatch roof adjoining the church:

Nazareno cozinha.jpg

For many of these children, this will be their only meals. With no noise, about 25 little kids under 6 years (they feed the youngest first) get their plate and sit on a reed mat and quietly with their hand eat their beans and rice or corn porridge. There is not a sound – these kids are hungry.

Thirty of these orphans are girls aged 10 to 14, PEDRA age. The Church of the Nazarene is a CCM member. So a PEDRA centre has opened at the 17 de Setembro Church, staffed by women volunteers of the congregation.

They've started a vegetable garden on land by the church. The orphaned children work there, growing cabbage and onions to help feed themselves. PEDRA gave watering cans and hoes.

James could hardly ask for followers more faithful - not stained at all, though they could have been, by world despair.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 177

10 November 2007

"Tell me whose daughter you are. Is there room in your father's house for us to spend the night?" - Genesis 24.23

Abraham's servant, sent to find a wife for Isaac, meets Rebekah at the spring, who is beautiful and kind, and he thinks she could be the one, but he won't know for sure till he sees her home. Can we say we really know someone well till we've been with him or her at home, met the family, seen how they live?

Here in the city of Quelimane the Christian Council has a program of home visits, though not overnight, to people living with HIV-AIDS. AIDS, is more than a syndrome that erodes the body's immune functions till you succumb to one or another opportunistic disease, and die if you don't receive anti-retro-viral treatment. It affects everyone you live with, complicating so many other lives, multiplying the suffering but also, often, the love. Here are 5 HIV+ persons that we've met in their homes, with their families.

This week was distribution of their monthly supplementary rations. All of the people are among the small minority of HIV+ Mozambicans fortunate enough to have started anti-retroviral medicines. In the first months the medicines are hard on the body, and people need encouragement and dietary supplements to bear it. So CCM for 6 months is helping 40 people on ARVs, and their families, to strengthen their health: 2 litres of cooking oil, 4 kg of beans, 10 kg of corn flour, 3 kg sugar, 2 bars of soap. A rickety CCM van made deliveries to homes in the dirt-road bairros around the edges of Quelimane.

Albertina is 16. She has a young baby who is also HIV+. Her boyfriend left her, and refuses to be tested for HIV. She lives with her mother. You see her with her rations in the website photo

Distribucao nov807 008 kv.jpg

Iana is 6. Iana contracted the virus from her HIV+ mother. Her husband, Iana's father, has already died. You see them both in the other photo.


Paula has 4 children. The youngest, 5 years old, is HIV+, and contracted the virus by vertical transmission from Paula. Her husband has already died.

Misa is 20. Her husband is also 20. He refuses to be tested for HIV, but still lives with her. They have no children.

Abilo lives with his brother and his brother's family. When he found he was HIV+, his wife left him, and took their 3 children.

Imagine the family complex of confict and support, anxiety and love. Not so different from the painful roads of family lives in Genesis. Every week, CCM volunteers serve these people and many others, and their families, accompany them to hospital visits, comfort and encourage them, and bring their lives hope.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 176

1 November 2007

Jumping up, he stood and began to walk, and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. - Acts 3.8

This joyous verse comes right after Peter's first miracle in the Book of Acts, healing a lame man at the Temple gate. The Christian Council of Mozambique also has a program of ministry to the lame: it gives them wheelchairs. These are 3-wheeled, with pedals at the level of the hands and not the feet. They're made right here in Quelimane, from bicycle parts.

Last week CCM gave one of these wheelchairs to an 18-year-old boy, or rather young man, named Manuel Pequenino. ‘Pequenino' means ‘small', and in a sense Manuel is: he can't stand up, and so is not tall. He must walk on all fours, on his hands as well as his feet. Since birth he has been this way. His parents are subsistence farmers in the mountains of Namarroi district in our province of Zambezia.

In a spiritual sense, Manuel is not small at all. He has always worked in the family fields. When he was thirteen he built himself a house of his own beside his parents', of mud bricks, thatched roof with veranda on all sides, and wooden doors and windows. It's a miniature of his parents' house, with walls not much more than a metre high–Manuel's height. You can see it in the web-site photo:

Manuels house r1196109675.jpg

Last year at age 17, for the first time Manuel went to school, crawling daily 2 km to the neighbouring school. He passed Grade 1.

Now he has a wheelchair, as you see in the other photo.

Manuel 28 oct 007 r1196109705.jpg

Armando Rafael, a Baptist minister and former President of CCM in that district, presented the wheelchair at Sunday worship service at Manuel's family's church. It's a congregation of the Church of the Foursquare Gospel, which some readers might recognize as the Church founded by Aimee Semple MacPherson–not a CCM member church, but CCM works with anyone in need. As you can imagine, Foursquare people aren't quiet. Exuberant is more the word. As filled with wonder as the people in the temple in Acts 3, Manuel's church family clapped and cheered as he hoisted himself onto his vehicle and started to pedal his way with determination across the church yard.

Manuel says he had never imagined having such a machine. Like the man healed by Peter, he'd be leaping if he could. Certainly he's praising. And he's learning to navigate the steep narrow sandy rutted paths around his home. Now that he's more mobile, Manuel plans to go back to school. Someday, he says, he'd like to have a job as a driver. Who knows? Maybe he will. He's already driving his own vehicle.

In mission and service,

Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 175 10 October 1007

He cut her into twelve pieces, limb by limb, and sent them throughout all the territory of Israel. - Judges 19.29

We hadn't planned that this letter would be about murder. It happened suddenly. Onesima Chauque was the daughter of Fausta Cipriano, the head of our Christian Council of Mozambique in Zambezia. Onesima (it's pronounced with the stress on the ‘e', and the ‘e' is short) was 22 years old, attractive and intelligent, nearing the end of her second year of university in the capital city Maputo, studying human resources administration, following the career path of her mother. On Sunday October 7, while alone at her apartment in Maputo, she was murdered.

Crime in Maputo has been growing worse. This is partly through the influence of South Africa, a country infected and distorted by decades of racist hatreds, with some of the world's worst statistics for crime. Criminals in Maputo are well armed, well organized, and act with impunity. The police in general are poorly paid, inept and corrupt. The judiciary too is weak, under-educated and under-staffed. Ordinary people are nearly defenseless. In fear and frustration, neighbourhoods have resorted to lynching: Since last May, Maputo crowds have burned to death over twenty accused criminals that, they claimed, the police had not been trying to arrest.

The book of Judges tells Israel's story in an era of disorder. The great leaders of the nation's founding died long ago, the judges are not strong leaders, the people's minds are far from God. Of all the Bible's books Judges is perhaps the most violent, relating many appalling misdeeds, often against women, as in the sordid bloody tale of rape, murder, mutilation and revenge that the verse above comes from. The Israelites concluded that only good governments can defeat crime and disorder, and early in First Samuel they demand that the system change: they have Samuel anoint Saul their first king. Though Saul was a genuinely tragic figure, and many other kings too were ineffective, David and Solomon brought peace, and King Josiah restored the book of law. The lesson is that citizens must press their leaders to enact and enforce just laws.

Onesima was exactly the kind of young person Mozambique needs as future leaders. Her body came by airplane home to Quelimane. A crowd of hundreds gathered at the airport to wait in an evening dust-storm. In such strong wind the plane couldn't land, and arrived instead late the next afternoon. It was sunset by the time her body was buried, with wind rattling the fronds of palm trees that line the cemetery boundaries, the sky a dusty, hazy rose-grey, and people chanting ‘Pass by here, Lord. Pass by here.'

A year ago, the Christian Council began an advocacy campaign called Escolha a Vida. In English, Choose Life. It's about Saying No to Crime, rousing citizens to denounce criminals and corruption. It struck a chord, and spread to all ten Mozambican provinces. The PEDRA girls took part, embroidering banners with anti-crime slogans; in the photo

175 carmen escolha a vida.jpg

you see a PEDRA leader, Carmen, with one of them. They marched hoisting and waving their banners to a Choose Life rally at the biggest Quelimane stadium.

If the mourners at Onesima's interment feel called to Choose Life, to be activists and advocates, pressing politicians and police to institute genuine justice, law and order in their country and homes, then brutal sudden deaths like Onesima's may happen no more, and girls like Carmen may grow up in safety and without fear.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 174 16 September 1007

You grew up and became tall and arrived at full womanhood.... - Ezekiel 16.7

This tale of Ezekiel's is an allegory of Israel as a lovely young girl, born in terrible conditions and left to die, rescued, grown up beautiful, then lost through unfaithfulness, much to Ezekiel's disgust. That's exactly not the end we pray for the lovely girls of PEDRA, who will keep themselves free of HIV by strength of character, self-respect, and fidelity to one partner.

To make this happen, the PEDRA Girls' Bursary program is so important. In 2007 CCM supports 47 girls in the Namarroi government boarding school studying Grades 6 to 10, and 12 more girls boarding and studying in the teachers' education school in Nicoadala. They have come from the villages called Mucissi, Maquiringa, Mutaliwa, Regone, and Molumbo. Their village schools end at grade 5, and without a bursary to go to a bigger centre these girls would not be able to continue in school. Their families are all subsistence farmers who earn barely enough to feed their families, but they do provide food for their girls at school–sacks of corn, rice, beans, when they can.

Also the Bursary program supports 40 girls living in a residence in the village of Molumbo. These girls too come in from surrounding villages where school stops at Grade 5. There are 39 girls there, studying Grades 6 to 8. This residence is run by a group of local women and the Christian Council of Mozambique, and the bursary helps with some essential expenses, like start-up seeds for the vegetable garden, blankets, soap, school supplies, and bunk-beds so that the girls don't sleep on the cold cement floor. The beds also mean more space in the 5 dormitory rooms–4 bunks, 8 girls per room. In a web-site photo

Pedra namarroi julho07 131kvr.jpg

you see them doing their laundry at the river, a 15-minute walk from the residence.

The Bursary girls all take part in PEDRA, the Girls' Education Program activities that CCM runs. It's a way to monitor the girls, and help them to adjust to life away from the village. Our PEDRA educators are their mothers away from home. The PEDRA staff also meet with the bursary girls' parents in the villages several times a year, to involve the parents more in the lives and schooling of their daughters, who are living a life very different from what their parents had the opportunity to know. The Bursary money helps to pay residence fees, school supplies, uniforms, school fees, some hygiene products, emergency medical expenses, and their transportation home at Christmas, and in July for their one-month winter holiday.

A web-site picture

Pedra namarroi julho07 056r1193152098.jpg

shows the girls arriving home for winter holiday, leaping in joy from the truck. It's a time of celebration for all their villages, where people turnout to dance and greet them back home; everyone considers these successful girls as ‘theirs'. As they say in Africa, ‘It takes a village to raise a child.' The girls' parents have said their daughters are the future leaders of the communit,y and support for their families. The Bursaries have been the only chance for many girls to continue in school. If Ezekiel's girl Israel had had that kind of opportunity for instruction, she might have met a better end.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 173 5 September 2007

Half of my servants worked on construction, and half held the spears, shields, bows, and body-armour. - Nehemiah 4.16

Nehemiah here is telling of the reconstruction of Jerusalem, its walls and gates and temple after the Babylonian exile. The teams used those specialized tools called weapons, to protect the rest from their enemies. The construction workers also used tools–hammer, saw, adze, knife, chisel, smelting-forge, mortar blade. (They're beneficiaries of Tubal-cain, the first toolmaker, singled out in Genesis 4.22.)

Here too in Mozambique in the Zambezi river basin, re-building has been going on, after war but most recently after flooding. Disastrous rains in January-February displaced 160,000 persons, and about 10% of those will not be going back to live in their lowland communities. CCM has been providing tools–hoes to re-plant crops, hammers and saws for re-constructing houses–as well as other essential items like mosquito nets, pots, plates, blankets. In the web-site photo

Mopeia morrumbala ag07 093kv1193151660.jpg

you see a beneficiary family re-armed and reinvigorated with these goods, better ready to face their life after flooding.

Another photo

Mosqueteira valeta apr07r.jpg

shows a mosquito net in use in those times–literally a life-saving item for people living for weeks in the damp mosquito-thick open after their houses were destroyed, and before they built others. Later came watering cans, to keep vegetable crops watered on the drier higher ground where the refugees re-settled. Those post-floods crops have grown and now are being harvested; see the photo of Guilherme Alberto, selling his tomato crop in the nearest market.

‘Abaixo Fome' is Portuguese meaning ‘Down With Hunger'. It's the name of a farmers' co-op association in a swampy, flood-affected zone in the district of Mopeia. They are 26 members, half women, half men, plus their families–over 130 people in total. With CCM seeds, hoes and watering cans they've cleared and planted a vegetable plantation of about 5 hectares. They've so much produce they asked CCM for credit to buy and use a water-pump. It's a portable 5.5-hp Honda pump, made in Thailand, pumping1100 litres per minute. Through a long hose it brings water to the fields; in the photo you see the team of men and women spraying.

Mopeia morrumbala ag07 177r1193151733.jpg

Next they'll be carving a system of water channels to spread and direct the pumped water with even more control. With the huge increase in production, and sale of their surplus,

Mopeia morrumbala ag07 1111193151817.jpg

Abaixo Fome says, they'll be more than recovered from where they were before the flooding. They have new hope and confidence, thanks to their courage, diligence, perseverance–and tools and equipment.

Humans are known as the tool-using species. With tools, humans re-built Jerusalem. Since the days of Tubal-cain, till today in the Zambezi basin, tools have been God's will for us.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 172 4 September 2007

Awake, awake, Deborah. Awake, awake, utter a song. - Judges 5.12

The Christian Council of Mozambique has a small studio for recording music and video by and for young people, about the war against HIV/AIDS. In our city of Quelimane, 1/3 of young people over age 15 are infected, and the rate for young women is much higher. One of these young musicians, singers, actors, writers is Dannyca Simao. She's 21 years old and recently recorded her first song and music video about AIDS for CCM. In the photo

Dannyca in studio.jpg

you see Dannyca in the studio. (Viewers with sharp eyes and memories will recognize the United Church of Canada Beads of Hope poster in the background. Beads of Hope sponsored the studio.)

Deborah's song in Judges 5 celebrates a victory over enemies of Israel, thanks in part to a woman warrior. The war against AIDS here is far from being won, but in CCM's anti-AIDS campaign there are many women warriors like Dannyca, whose artist name is Danny. She sings her song, called ‘Muvicubarele', in the local language Chuabo. The title means ‘Take Care of Yourself'–avoid getting the HIV, and treat well those who already are HIV+, including yourself. It's a message of caution and hope.

Like most of the young artists that CCM works with, Danny grew up in the Church, in her case the Old Apostles Church in her neighbourhood; it's one of the hundreds of Mozambican indigenous denominations. She sang in the Sunday school, and in her teens in her church's Gospel choir, a group of 22–more than half of them young women–who wrote and sang their songs every Sunday during morning worship. (Her other favourite activity is playing soccer.)

As in many a North American singer's career, Danny got a ‘break', when she and a neighbour boy named Ceto Te wrote and sang a commercial for So-Klin (pronounced ‘so clean'), a Mozambican detergent, entered a So-Klin jingle competition, and won. Shortly after, Ceto told her about the CCM program, which he also records for. That same week Danny wrote ‘Muvicubarele'–lyrics first, then music–and brought it to CCM. From a clean clothes message to one about clean bodies. Working with CCM's young producer Domingos Francisco, they had it arranged and recorded in a very few sessions. Though her first time, ‘the work went smoothly, quickly, and naturally', says Danny. So did the video, which features the girls of PEDRA.

Like other CCM studio productions, both the music and the video are widely played on Mozambican radio and television. Danny's become rather a star and role model in her neighbourhood and beyond. Every time she sees or hears ‘Muvicubarele' Danny feels moved. ‘My music is something that makes me feel well,' she says. ‘It wakes my spirit.'

Right now she's recording a second AIDS song with PEDRA, and has three more written.

Most of the victims of the war against AIDS are women, and if that war is ever to be won, it will need the Deborahs and Dannys to awake and sing. No better way to end this letter than with lyrics of ‘Muvicubarele', translated into English:

I don't want to be an orphan. Sisters and brothers, protect yourselves.

AIDS is killing people, but many are taking care.

I look to one side and my mother has gone.

I look to the other side and my father has gone.

If the world brought health I'd embrace it with both hands.

Take care of yourselves so we all can live in health.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 171 21 August 2007

There was Rebekah coming out with her water jar on her shoulder; and she went down to the spring, and drew. I said to her, ‘Please let me drink.' - Genesis 24.45

This is the sign that marks the wife that God has chosen for Isaac. She brings water, the one most life-sustaining element; and the servant and the camels drink. Earlier in Genesis we learn that a river flowed through Eden. Of course: without water, there would have been no Garden. Every human settlement is where it is because in the first place there is water near that makes life viable: spring, river, lake, or well.

That is why CCM helps bring water to communities. Along the Zambezi river, during floods last February, 160,000 people fled to higher ground, and many thousands will not go back to their devastated lowlands, but have settled in new communities, with the government's encouragement. The government criterion for viability is that each water source serve 500 people. CCM is helping dig at least ten wells in new post-flood communities.

One of these is in Catal. The trip in to Catal from the main highway is 40 km and 2 hours by 4wd on a logging road, through dense bush and tall grey-barked trees hung with vines. It starts as a sand track, which turns to 2 rutted tracks with grass between, and then to a single track much narrower. Except for CCM, no other non-governmental organization works in Catal. The people said they hadn't seen a white person there since the last Portuguese farmer had left, more than 30 years ago.

A CCM team was there for the meeting to decide on the well's location. Community traditional leaders spoke, and leaders of the Farmers' Association that CCM supports, and of course women spokespersons, since it's always women who carry the water. After the meeting we walked to the spot, in the community's centre, a patch they say stays green when other spots go dry and brown. The Catal well right now is an unprotected hole in the dirt, as you see in the web-site photo:

Mopeia morrumbala ag07 214r.jpg

Its water is foul. It makes people sick with vomiting and diarrheas. In the dry season it has no water at all, and people walk 2 km or more to the river.

The plans have been made. CCM will lend wheelbarrows, shovels, and a machine for making blocks, and will buy sacks of cement. The community will haul sand, mix concrete, make blocks, dig the well-hole and line it to protect from polluted drain-off, and build and install the concrete slab where the hand-pump will be mounted. CCM will buy the pump. A Ministry of Public Works technician will oversee the digging and lining of the well, and pump installation to government standards. That whole process will take about a month. The community will choose a management committee, including women. CCM will train them in pump mechanics and management. They'll collect a small payment monthly from each user, to be used for sustainable maintenance.

In the other selected communities similar work will go on, communities swollen with people displaced by flooding. Then they'll have water enough for all.

The people of Catal held a ground-breaking ceremony. The Secretary dug a small symbolic hole with his hoe, as you see in the other website photo:

Mopeia morrumbala ag07 241kvr.jpg

Soon the women, the Rebekahs, will come there with jars and draw water, so that every family may drink.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 170 12 August 2007

The Lord blessed the latter days of Job....He had seven sons and three daughters.

- Job 42.12-13

We get the sure sense at the end of the book of Job that nothing restored to him–fortune–gold, livestock, reputation–is more important than his children. His last and greatest blessing, so we're told in the second-last verse, is to live to see four generations. Mozambicans and sub-Saharan Africans in general understand this perhaps more than many in Canada, with our birth-rate too low to maintain our population. The average Mozambican woman has six to seven pregnancies; without children, most believe, you are not fulfilled, nor sustained in your old age.

Hence the central role in rural Mozambique of the midwife, the traditional birth attendant. Women like Amelia Janeiro, who CCM works with in a neighbourhood of the town of Mopeia in the Zambezi river valley. She's borne nine children of her own; four are still living. She has six grandchildren, and when we visited her last week she was smiling and holding in her arms the sixth, born that very day. See the web-site photo:

Amelia janeiro ag07.jpg

She delivers two or three babies every week, and has done this for 21 years–since her teens. Appropriately, Amelia's neighbourhood is called 8 de Marco. In English, March 8: World Women's Day.

CCM supplied Amelia, and fifteen other Mopeia district midwives, with a bicycle. Now she serves birthing women for a radius of nine kilometres in all directions. Before, to reach outlying homes she would need to walk there and return the next day, and often would arrive too late to help. Now, she is there and back home in half a day if the delivery goes well, to be ready for the next call. Before, when a woman suffered complications, Amelia would organize neighbour men to make a stretcher of poles and palm-leaves, and they'd carry the woman in pain and labour up-to nine-kilometres to the nearest clinic. Now, she can transport the woman on a saddle mounted on the carrier above her bike's back wheel.

But many women are in such distress at childbirth that they can't ride on a bicycle back-seat. In wide-spread Mopeia district, stretching along the Zambezi river flood-plain, for 90,000 inhabitants there is just one functioning ambulance. Anyway, very few Mopeia roads are in condition for that ambulance to pass. The answer, says Inocente Mbude, District Health Director for Mopeia, is bicycles, for midwives and other health activists in every community. And not just bicycles, but bicycle ambulances.

We visited the Quelimane workshop where CCM is having ambulances fabricated. You see one in the other web-site photo,

Prendas bicicletas ag07 035r.jpg

Newly made, out for a test-run. Soon it'll be on its way to Amelia Janeiro. Such a simple technology, something like the produce-cart we mentioned in our last letter,169. Compared to a palm-leaf stretcher, Amelia's colleagues testify, it's so much faster, more stable, more comfortable for the suffering patient.

In Amelia's experience with birthing, many babies die. Mozambique has one of the world's highest mortality rates for women and children during birth. A shorter ride to clinic saves patients' lives, time and time again–lives of childbearing women and others, so that many more, like Job, may survive to be blessed to know their children's children.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 169 30 July 2007

I went down to the nut orchard, to look at the blossoms of the valley, to see whether the vines had budded, whether the pomegranates were in bloom. - Song of Solomon 6.11

One vivid and recurring metaphor of the Song of Solomon compares the beloved to a garden, imagery that resonates back to the Genesis garden with its good fruits, which fed the first couple before the Fall. Often the Biblical prophecies tell of a land of plenty for those who follow the righteous paths. In all human endeavour there is no more honourable and important occupation than producing of food.

One remarkable benefit of PEDRA beyond the growth in the girls themselves, is the way the girls have inspired others in their communities to support girls' education. Each rural PEDRA has its volunteer activist group, and one of their activities is generating income. Some raise poultry, others plant market gardens on community land. Last week we went down to the brook valley in Mussissi, to see how the activists' PEDRA crops were ripening, the plump cabbage, tomatoes, onions, peppers, bananas and sugar cane, and the seedlings for a later crop. The group of eight have cleared and cultivated about 2 hectares, more than the average individual family farm. CCM invested funds for seeds and sprinkling cans. A portion of the proceeds go to help fund the local PEDRA.

A question that the Solomon lovers don't face is economics, the marketing of all those lovely nuts and pomegranates, since they're metaphors. In Mussissi, fifteen kilometres from the district capital of Namarroi, produce is cheap, since that's where the producers are, but not the buyers; and so the prices there make it hardly worth the effort to grow. In the capital town, prices are high. But how to get your produce there? The activists have no trucks, and if they did have, a truck couldn't travel the last kilometre to the garden site. If buyers with trucks come near the site, they pay minimal prices, to compensate for fuel and other costs of their vehicle. The activists have bicycles, but how much could a cyclist carry?

So CCM is arranging with a local fabricator to make a two-wheeled cart, to be loaded with produce and towed behind a bicycle. On market days the activists could take turns pedalling in to town. In some Zambezia districts, CCM has provided carts that serve as ambulances pulled behind bicycles, to get sick or injured people to hospital or health-post. The produce cart is at the experimental-design stage now. What weight can a cyclist manage to tow, under Mussissi-Namarroi conditions, on that sandy and hilly 15-km track? How sturdy must the cart be to bear that weight? And then, can the proceeds from the sale of each day's load justify the cart's cost over time, and the cyclist's effort? If so, it could be a model for innovative rural development beyond PEDRA. As far as we can find, nobody's seen in Zambezia anything like what CCM envisions, which is why there's no photo yet, only of their garden, as you see in the web-site photo:

File:Pedra mussissi garden julho07 r.jpg

Maybe with a cart like this and its proceeds, the lovers of Solomon's Song could have financed a splendid wedding feast. The PEDRA growers are more interested in notebooks, pencils and thread. They're inspired, but practical, and say that the cart idea can work. We'll see how it turns out. In international mission, sometimes you advance by faith and experimentation.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 168 24 July 2007

He took her by the hand and said to her, "Talitha cum,"

which means, "Little girl, get up."

  • - Mark 5.41

Mark tells us that the girl whom Christ helps in this story is twelve years old, exactly in the middle of the age-range for girls from PEDRA who are ten to fourteen. PEDRA's mission too is helping girls get up, not from sick-beds but in the sense of higher in school, higher in their life plans–and in keeping them free of HIV to keep them out of sick-beds, so their parents don't have to beg for help like Jairus the little girl's father.

Recently we watched them playing an AIDS game that they've learned. Blindfolded, as you see in the website photo

Pedra aids game.jpg

They walk about the circle shaking hands and saying Good morning. At least one girl is not blindfolded; she's the virus; and when a girl comes in contact with her, shaking her hand, she informs her that she's infected. The lesson being that in matters of HIV and sex you're steering blind, you can't know who's infected, and who will pass the virus on to you. You need always to keep alert. Games like that have more persuasive impact than a lecture or pamphlet.

Simple simulations help. One of their displays is two clear-glass pop-bottles. One is clear water. The other is muddy–representing infected blood. It's shut in the bottle, there's no way to cleanse it, any more than you can disinfect an HIV+ body.

New skills they're learning like crochet, embroidery, song, and vegetable gardening have always an AIDS component. You crochet an AIDS-ribbon bookmark, embroider an AIDS banner, sing an AIDS song, learn nutrition from growing vegetables. These new skills also teach self-confidence in a girl's ability to achieve, and instill the urge to share their knowledge and skills with others.

At PEDRA they help one another with school homework.

They crochet baby hats and booties to give to families with newborn infants, to keep them warm in these cold mountain winter nights.

Some activists go house to house about their community, encouraging parents to let their girls join PEDRA and stay in school.

When a group learns to cook a nutritious lunch recipe, they share the food with other PEDRA girls, and the recipe with friends and neighbours.

As you see in the other photo,

Pedra mutaliwa julho07 r.jpg

it's crowded in the rural PEDRA gazebos, with their thatched roof, mud walls, and benches or straw mats instead of desks. But the girls don't complain. They love the program. Like sponges they soak up activities and messages, and then push them back out to others.

As the months pass and you watch them, you realize they're no longer little girls like the nameless one that Jesus healed; they're turning into wise and self-assured young women. Perhaps the little girl in Mark 4 grew too in wisdom and stature from her experience.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 167 15 June 2007

Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. - Jeremiah 29.5

At the bottom of a mountain in the village of Molumbo, 49 teen-age school-girls are living in a lar, or residence. They're girls from isolated areas who've passed the last grade of their rural schools and want to continue their education. The lar began and is run by a group of local women who call themselves AMER (Portuguese acronym for Women's Association for Rural Education), each contributing whatever small amount each personally can. Three years ago they started with 12 girls sleeping in a hut on a dirt floor. Without the lar, the girls would have nowhere to live, and would leave school, to return to the life of subsistence farmers.

When PEDRA first came to work in Molumbo, the girls were hungry. AMER couldn't afford enough food, and hungry girls were leaving school, going back home. PEDRA called in the their parents, who rallied, and formed a Board with president, secretary and treasurer, who decided what each girls' parents could contribute to keep the lar going.

Now, after harvest, the parents give corn which the girls bring to the lar in sacks.

The governmento donated land and an abandoned army barrack where the girls now sleep. PEDRA put in doors and windows.

The parents banded together to fix the roof when it blew loose in a windstorm.

They built a dining room / study room with their handmade bricks, an open-walled kitchen, a store-room for food and bicycles, and a reed-and-bamboo fence around the compound to give the girls privacy - all with their volunteer labour and local materials.

With some help from PEDRA they hired a dedicated, diligent guard who said, If I had seeds the girls and I could put in a garden. They cleared the tall grass and planted, and now they grow a steady supply of sweet potato, cabbage, lettuce, beans and tomatoes, as you see in the web-site photo.

May trip pedra 019r.jpg

They sell surplus in Molumbo market, to buy salt and oil for cooking.

The girls planted trees–banana, citrus, eucalyptus. A rainstorm washed out some but others have grown much taller already than these growing girls.

PEDRA gave 4 guinea-fowl. Now they have 8, and keep on hatching more.

IBIS, a local Danish organization, visited the lar, admired, and donated a well and a pair of goats, and lessons in their care. Now the lar has bred 4 goats, with more on the way as they keep on reproducing.

Newly united, organized, articulate, the parents with help from CCM lobbied the district ministry of education, who has come to see the lar as a magnet for girls' education in the district. They lobbied the local Catholic priests, and now in a formerly empty Catholic schoolroom the government offers classes to Grade 9. In 2008, they'll add Grade 10.

Two half-days a week, with volunteer instructors and advisers, the girls take part in the PEDRA program of arts, crafts, educational enrichment and lessons about HIV-AIDS.

Here is a community of school-girls and their allies putting into practice what Jeremiah envisions. They continue to have ideas for the future. They would love a solar energy source so the girls can study at night, and bunk beds to get them off the cold floor. AMER and the parent committee continue to envision, and that is what is so important. It's truly a success, a solid community initiative that took root, and looks as if it'll keep on thriving.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 166 5 June 2007

On that day there shall be inscribed on the bells of the horses, "Holy to the Lord."...and every cooking pot in Jerusalem and Judah shall be sacred.... Zechariah 14.20-21

Faithful people do not compartmentalize, separating church on Sunday from secular life the rest of the time. Like Zechariah, they want ideally to discern the holy in every act and thing. The Christian Council at its best does this. Its workers don't see their mission as religious in a narrowly churchy, doctrinal sense. They work with animists, Moslems, or people of no religion at all. They work at daily social issues like children's rights or water conservation, as much as at Biblical studies or choirs. A communion chalice, say, is no more or less worthy than a cooking pot or horsebell.

In the same way, we didn't come to Mozambique just to work at the Christian Council, but to live, and like every healthy person's, our lives are not defined only by job descriptions as consultants for communication and girls' education. So we and CCM get involved, for instance, with the Montes Namuli music-and-dance troupe, who, it turned out, got invited to perform an AIDS ballet of theirs at the World AIDS Conference in Canada last summer.

Their latest ballet, called The Computer and the Sorcerers, is based on a true story, about when the first computer arrived in Zambezia. Like any new technology anywhere, the computer provoked great stress and marvel. Some people thought it was haunted by spirits, others saw it as a talisman of power, and fought to be the one to possess it. In the ballet its first operator becomes himself possessed by spirits who both fear and idolize the computer. He goes mad, and dies. His successor likewise goes mad but she's cured in the end by traditional healing. The demons are dispelled, society reunites, the computer is absorbed as one more tool, no more or less demonic or magical than any other. In the website photo

Computador e feticeiro r.jpg

You see the poster, which gives a sense of the ballet's style and flavour. You also see a photo of the band, with its 2 Japanese guest musicians.

Banda computer e feticeiro.jpg

It's not about AIDS, nor anything that you might think of as religious. Then what's it got to do with the Christian Council, who lent musical instruments, sound-and-light equipment, logistical support. Well, you could argue that a dance about computers may be sacred, and not after all just a secular horsebell. It wrestles with the timeless problem of power, those who have it, how they use it, how others are excluded. The Bible's prophets and apostles did the very same, just as Christ gave strength to the dis-empowered–and drove out demons.

Computers are tools of power. CCM could not function without them. Most congregations in Canada have one or several. But in Mozambique, no. There are people who've taken on the mission of providing computers for developing countries. Or training in their use. Or, in the case of Montes Namuli, understanding through art their effects on a third-world community and work-place, so that computers will not disrupt and divide–not be just one more demonic foreign instrument of domination, but a tool for development of Mozambique's own strengths, resources and society.

In mission and service,

Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 165 24 May 2007

I will plant them upon their land, and they shall never again be plucked up.... - Amos 9.15

Last week we were working in Mopeia, a district on the Zambeze river which badly flooded last January and February, when thousands of families farming on its banks and islands lost their crops and homes. Since then, CCM and many others have been working to help them in their dislocation camps, first with shelter (tents, tarpaulins), emergency food (corn, beans, cooking-oil), clean water, pots, soap, blankets. Then with seeds, hoes, watering cans to replant and grow crops as soon as the soil has dried enough in each location. Now, the families are re-settling, where the government has surveyed and allotted plots on higher ground.

We worked and talked with families unloading and piling stout poles to support the walls and roofs of new houses. Those displaced people most in need–the elderly, and those supporting AIDS orphans, who are often the same persons–were paid a small wage to cut poles for everyone at chosen sites in the bush, and a government truck transported them to a central pile at the campsite to be sorted for each family.

They talked of the past, leaving lands where their ancestors had lived for generations. But most of them know they can't go back. Floods came in 2001, and now again. Times have changed.

Acceptance was in the air. After months in an encampment, dependent, they knew it was time to move on to their own new spaces. CCM will be with them, there too. There are wells to help them build, a road, maybe some day a school to replace the temporary UNICEF tent, perhaps even a clinic.

We worked and talked with farmers who'd replanted. Besides the staple corn and beans, they now were growing vegetables–tomatoes, onions, cabbage, lettuce. They planted seeds from CCM, who has arranged for the main produce store in Quelimane to buy their wares, if the quality is right, at fair prices that CCM and the farmers negotiate, dealing together in associations which CCM has also helped to form and strengthen. This way, instead of importing from Malawi and South Africa, the local economy benefits and grows. CCM is organizing training in techniques of vegetable cultivation to increase the probability of commercially viable crops–something new for these subsistence farmers–and some help with irrigation. They're willing to learn, and have hope now of seeing promise from the disaster. Ironically, without the floods, this new opportunity probably wouldn't have opened.

It's the vision which ends the book of Amos. In this earthly life it's the best that the prophet can imagine God can give–land, a home, a crop, a family. In Mozambique, in this time of more and more erratic climate and global warming, let's pray that these farmers will never again be plucked up.

In mission and service,

Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique - Letter 164 - 12 May 2007

The women went out after Miriam with tambourines and dancing. - Exodus 15.20

What is it about dancing? And music too, because they almost always go together. We‘ve kept many vivid photos and memories of African dance–in Mozambique, Angola, South Africa, Ethiopia. And always you see in singers' and dancers' faces and bodies an absolute exuberance, like you see in the PEDRA girls in the photo that comes with this letter on the web-site

Pedra dance apr07.jpg

Practising for another music video. You see it in the other photo too, the CCM Youth Choir in their vivid orange gowns.

Jccmz coro ig anglicana.jpg

The Bible verse above is Israelites dancing, just before Miriam starts up her victory song, to celebrate the Red Sea drowning Pharoah's troops. Mozambicans dance and sing not just at victories but on any notable occasion. So we asked four of the CCM Youth about this.

They say first of all that much of their music and dance is traditional. Many of them young and old know the style of these songs and movements. Singing and dancing together they're sharing a longtime common experience. It's a common language, something everyone of every generation knows; and doing it you all feel a part of a larger world and longer time.

They also say music and dance show feeling that you can't express with normal speech and gestures only. Music and dance have more rhythm, more energy, more different sounds, melody and harmony. So they create more pleasure, and performers and watchers both are more moved. Also, they say, unlike talk and normal gestures which you do alternating (first one speaks and then another answers), you all do music and dance at once.

They say that if people just sit and talk, not so much happens. There's never a meeting or worship service without music and rhythmic movement. If you sing and dance, everyone joins, even those who are watching and listening. No-one stays feeling separated.

They say that if you have a message, whether sad about HIV/AIDS or happy about a special guest's arrival, it will come across more strongly in music and dance for the people watching and listening, just as it will for those who are performing.

They say finally also that music and dance just entertain, and that itself is good, when times are so hard. You feel the rhythm in your body, and that strong feeling takes away tension.

We think they're on to something that goes back long before Miriam, something that North American culture perhaps is letting slip away. When someday we leave Mozambique, it's hard to think of anything we'll miss more.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 163

  • 27 April 2007

A man came ... bringing food ... to the man of God: twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain in his sack. Elisha said, "Give it to the people and let them eat." - 2 Kings 4.42

A hundred people ate from this one sack during famine–one more miracle by Elisha. Right now here in Mozambique too there is famine, in the flooded Zambeze river valley, and CCM and others have the mission of Elishas. CCM is feeding 11326 destitute lowland families who lost their crops and homes. Logistically it's complex. To monitor work like this you go by 4x4 pickup down roads sometimes axle-deep in mud, or by canoes gouged from tree-trunks.

Supplies come by trucks as far as they can go–corn, beans, cooking-oil and more–which workers toss from the load to the outstretched arms of others on the ground, who carry them temporarily to metal storage/shipping containers or World Food Program portable warehouses of tarpaulins over tall aluminum frames. Then they're loaded to sturdier trucks–or to helicopters, where there are no roads–and on to the refugees waiting at their temporary camps.

These are dense rows of miserable shelters–low roofs of river reeds spread loosely on a tiny frame of sticks for posts and rafters, that block sun but not much rain. See the 3 pictures:

Woman baby sack r.jpg

Filling sacos r.jpg

Habitacao r.jpg

Luckier families have gathered reeds enough to add walls, and some have tarpaulins spread above the thatch, donated by CCM and others. The most vulnerable–the elderly, and pregnant women–get mosquito nets hung and spread from the reeds, often wider than the shelter itself. Banks of water pipes and faucets bring water to fill the women's pails from huge collapsible plastic tanks. They've built individual bath-sheds, and latrines, hand-dug, with walls of reed or tarpaulin. Since February, thousands have lived like this, in malarial damp.

At first CCM gave a pail, blanket, soap, a cooking pot and spoon and bowls, and once a month or whenever possible comes the food that keeps them from starvation. Priority goes to woman-headed households. Mothers bring their empty baskets, pails, plastic sacks or even capulanas. Workers slit the corn-sacks and bean-sacks, amass them knee-deep in a central pile, weigh out each ration and fill the miscellaneous containers which each beneficiary holds out. Then off she goes, her sack or pail or basket on her head, a baby on her back or breast, to pound the corn with a post in hollowed-out chunks of tree-trunks, and cook on gathered firewood, with whatever else she can gather–river fish, aquatic tubers–to feed her family, and survive.

But trucked-in food won't last. So the families get seeds–corn, beans, vegetables–which they must plant now without delay, while the soil is yet moist. Those who need them get a watering can and hoe. There aren't enough; they will share.

Sometime, later, maybe there'll be harvest. Families will re-build houses on higher ground. Only after years will the devastated communities be entirely re-settled, with re-built wells, school, health-post, access roads–the conditions that make a life viable. Elisha, for all his miracles, wasn't able to help with all that.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 162 4 March 2007

Consider the lilies, how they grow.... Luke 12.27

Well, we arrived back to Mozambique to face the damage:

floods in the Zambezi river valley leaving 285,000 people without crops or homes

an arsenal explosion in Maputo that has killed 130 people and injured over 500 others

drought for 3 years running has again destroyed the crops of over 250,000 people in southern Mozambique

HIV infects 500 people a day in Mozambique; 1.5 million in the country are infected

People in Canada often have asked us, How do you manage to keep working in a country so dire?

First of all, we're inspired by the tremendous faith and perseverance of Mozambicans under horrible conditions–the girls of PEDRA (many of whom eat just 1 meal a day), the young people of CCM, emergency project staff, pastors of CCM member churches, friends in the church we attend, PEDRA volunteer activists in rural communities, and everyone in the Montes Namuli Music and Dance Company. When they're doing so much good, with grace, under burdens greater than our own, what would we do but try to follow their examples?

Also–as Christ advises in Scripture above, we take nourishment from small things.

We really do have lilies in the yard at our house–canna lilies, with broad flat variegated yellow-green leaves and soft-orange flowers. A friend tells us that people eat the roots for nutritious starch, and some musicians use the seeds in musical rattles.

On our veranda a pair of wiretailed swallows are raising a chick in their mud-pellet nest, a metre from where we sit. Their slim shapes, iridiscent blue backs, bright-rust caps, soft-grey undersides, the way they swoop above the street to nab what we hope are mosquitoes, then circle back to the veranda, and tighten their wings to zip through its bars, on home delivery to the nest.

The pied crows are bird clowns, doing ridiculous head-bobbing feet-shuffling dance duets on the peak of the roof across the street. Besides, they eat garbage that otherwise would go to rats.

The rufous sparrows hop about in the shrubs of the seminary next door, and so far seem to be resisting the invasions by the same dreaded plain house sparrow so irksome in Canada.

At dusk the flock of fruit bats pass, on their way to roost down the street in a giant mango tree.

Sleek gold-black-white striped frogs with bodies the size of loonies let out such a chirp getting ready for breeding after rain.

Guava season is on us, oranges have begun, bananas and papaya are always for sale from the vendor ladies outside the gates of CCM. Coconut, roast corn and peanuts–we could do a whole list on the good plain foods of Quelimane.

Our guard keeps poultry. The yard is alive with muscovy ducks, guinea fowl, chickens and the peeping offspring of all of the above.

Our other guard is also a fisherman, and spends spare hours in the driveway shade knotting with skillful fingers the fine strings of his nets.

Small things, all of these, that sustain us, because we see life in its various lovely creature forms going on, sustaining itself, reproducing, making life more beautiful, at least to us–whether or not that's their intent.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 161 26 March 2007

What does God know?...Thick clouds enwrap him, so that he does not see.' - Job 22.13-14

We are on the third of three days of national mourning. All flags nation-wide at half mast. In our capital city last Thursday afternoon, the main arsenal of the armed forces exploded. The chain reaction sent rockets, mortars, cannon shells and tracer bullets flying randomly for a 10-km radius through crowded neighbourhoods. Flames rose several hundred metres high above the arsenal, columns and clouds of smoke billowed at times to twice that height.

The explosions and carnage went on for hours, late into the evening. Shells fell on or tore through houses, cars, stores, schools and churches. They shattered storefronts 10 km away in the city centre.

People leapt on buses and mini-taxis or tried to run randomly in panic from the explosions. Others dropped to the ground but were hit by strafing. Many were blown to pieces. There were body parts in trees days later, decomposing in the heat.

To date 101 people are known dead from the morgue counts; identification is often impossible. More than 450 are injured, many in intensive care, and 250 new cases appear daily at the Central Hospital or the makeshift suburban triage centre. They are suffering from burns, smoke inhalation, fractures and lacerations. Many need amputations.

Entire families died together in their homes. Many people have still not been found and may be lying in the rubble of the hundreds of destroyed or damaged buildings. Parents trek to police stations in search of missing children. Many were killed or injured leaving school.

Three rockets largely destroyed the nation‘s psychiatric hospital.

Same for the main power transmission station, putting parts of Maputo and two southern provinces without electricity for several days.

Three days later the late-summer heat still was setting off intermittent blasts, every time spreading new panic.

Crews including experts of the Christian Council's TAE program for weapons collection have removed more than 1500 unexploded shells, as you see in the photo:

Munitions removal mar23 07.jpg

Some people still are waiting in their houses with unexploded shells. Others use their own cars to take away bodies and munitions. Hundreds of ruins will need to be dismantled slowly with extreme care, in search of hidden unexploded shells.

The city distributes tents for the homeless, and coffins for the dead, but not enough.

The family of the pastor who heads CCM's national AIDS program lost their home. The United Methodist and Anglican churches of the Christian Council were hit. The Methodist administrator lost his little boy. On it goes, the list of suffering. But in CCM and its churches, faith remains strong and the ministry goes on. TAE workers take shells, churches offer food and shelter and daily mass funerals.

To thousands of others, the words of Eliphaz must resonate, the bitterness and dread when we think that God behind the clouds does not know our pain.

We don't know if any of this got a mention on Canadian news.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Letters from Mozambique Letter 160 8 March 2007

All look to you to give them their food in due season....When you hide your face, they are dismayed. -Psalm 104.27, 29

After leaving Mozambique last August for home assignment in Canada, we've now arrived back in our province of Zambezia, and are picking up again with our Letters. Our time in Canada filled up with presentations, visiting congregations, telling about the work of our United Church partner the Christian Council of Mozambique. A busy but rewarding time.

But we've returned to much suffering. Just before our arrival here in our city of Quelimane 394 mm of rain fell in 24 hours. Frightened people climbed on chairs and tables as water levels rose in their houses. When levels rose more, they scooped up whatever they could carry and splashed to emergency shelters in schools on higher ground. 2600 families were driven from their damaged homes, leaving their goods behind to be ruined or to float away. Streets have become rivers

Road near mopeia.jpg

Flood refugee camp mopeia1175485171.jpg

and yards are sewage-infested lakes.

The building of Karen's program PEDRA was flooded half-a-metre deep. It took days for the girls to salvage and dry the soaked school and sewing materials.

Across our province of Zambezia 16 people died; 132 classrooms are wrecked in whole or part; also bridges, docks, stores, plus many kilometres of washed-out road. One of the web-site photos shows emergency shelters for victims of the floods, cobbled together from bits of reed and plastic.

Across the country 494,000 people are affected, and 2% of the country's land under cultivation destroyed - a huge blow to Mozambique where 21% of the Gross National Product comes from farmers.

After two consecutive years of drought, now this. Here where most people are subsistence farmers, and almost everyone lives with very little of anything to spare, they depend much more than in Canada on weather. That is, on God; and in times like this people's faith is being roughly tested, as the lines above from the Psalm express so well.

There is dismay, but not despair. CCM and others are busy with flood relief. At church this Sunday, people brought bags of clothes or what they could spare, to share with those less fortunate. People need food, clean water, tools to rebuild houses, tents or tarpaulins to shelter them till then, medicines for the epidemic of malaria and diarrhea from contaminated water, tools and seeds to re-plant crops, household goods like pans, soap and blankets. Our international friends and partners are helping.

Events like this take years to recover from. We'll need the prayers of you all.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 159 2 July 2006

Among Solomon's wives were seven hundred princesses and three hundred concubines...and his heart was not true to the Lord his God.... - 1 Kings 11.3-4

By any standards that's a lot of lovers. The current king of Swaziland, last time we heard, had married seventeen. To the writer of the books of Kings, this is the dark side of Solomon's glorious reign, the main reason for God's ire and Solomon's decline. Swaziland currently has the highest rate of HIV of any country on earth, about the same as our city of Quelimane's, where about one-half of the girls the probable age of Solomon's wives are HIV-positive. This at least was not a plague of Solomon's time.

Which brings us to six young Quelimane women that we know and have been working with day after day since last December. Their names are Lura, Mila, Nora, Sheila, Silvana, and Susana. They're all between the ages of 19 and 24. They're all HIV+. They all contracted the virus from male sexual partners. They fall in love, or think they've fallen, they act from passion - things that many young people do. But they shouldn't have to die as a result.

We've accompanied the process of their coming to terms with the virus within them. Lura tried to kill herself. Nora and Silvana, the first to learn of their HIV+ status, have been the best at consoling and counselling the others. Susana felt only anger, and an urge to infect others so that she will feel less alone in her condition. All feel hurt by the disloyalty of the men they had loved. But they're all developing, and learning. That it is not impossible now to develop an honest, loving, and stable relationship with another, faithful, man in future, and to continue their lives. That they are still the same women they were before the virus came to them. That AIDS is a disease like any other, with treatment–at least in Quelimane, where, finally, this year for the first time, anti-retro-virals are available. That no one of them is alone, that each can count on the loyalty and support of all the others. That is a blessing that adversity has brought them.

These six young women are fictional, the main characters in a movie which CCM has just finished shooting, about AIDS and young people in Quelimane, called in English If Tomorrow Comes. There are four male characters as well, but the movie is mostly of the women, as the disease itself is, world-wide. In the web-site photo

Amanha girls.jpg

You see them together on the beach in solidarity in the movie's final scene. It's been a privilege to work with them, and the marvellous young actors who portray these women - characters in many ways much like themselves, though we pray never in the sense of having AIDS - shooting scenes together in bedrooms and living rooms, in churches and bars, at Blue Lagoon beach and along the Good Omens River.

We hope you get to know them too. Their movie is subtitled in English. We sure do recommend it.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 158 20 May 2006

Peter took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. - Acts 3.7

This is the first healing miracle by a follower of Christ, just after the descent of the Spirit at Pentecost in the book of Acts. This man who begged daily at the temple gate might have had polio. In Mozambique and all around Africa you see people with feet and legs shrivelled from this virus. Through widespread vaccinations, polio clinics in villages throughout the country, allegedly the polio virus now is eradicated from Mozambique–a medical miracle in itself.

That's no help to the thousands of earlier polio victims in Mozambique, people like Felizarda Manecas, a 14-year-old girl of PEDRA in the rural mountain community of Regone in central Zambezia. She will never get back the use of her legs.

But other miracles happen. Felizarda is only in grade 4. Though she always wanted to go to school, as a little girl she simply hadn't the strength to crawl the 2.5 km up and down the narrow dirt paths–dust in dry season, mud when it rains--through mountain hills from her family's home to school. By age ten finally she had grown enough to begin the daily 5km crawl, though ‘crawl' is not the word that serves, for what she does is pull herself forward by her arms and hands, while her legs simply drag and dangle behind her. For two years that's what she did, attending school with able-legged children years younger. She can ‘walk' with her arms as fast as a normal child on legs. Each year, she passed her school exams. Surely a genuine miracle of the human spirit.

In January a year and a half ago at the start of her grade 3, the Ministry of Social Action at district level heard about Felizarda and arranged a wheel-chair, the kind we described and showed a photo of in Letters 135 and 140, last year. See the photos of Felizarda in her chair on the website:

Felisarda kv.jpg]
Felizarda manecas.jpg

Another miracle, that a crippled girl from such an isolated zone has come to the authorities' attention. She pulls herself up into the chair using only her arms.

As soon as she had her chair, Felizarda joined PEDRA. PEDRA meets at a thatch pavilion off the road between her house and school, an impossible added distance in the days before the wheelchair. On the steepest hills, and when it rains and her chair bogs down in mud, friends help to push her through.

Felizarda loves school and loves PEDRA. At home her favourite pastime is cooking; chicken is her favourite dish. There are many things in life that Felizarda can't do, but she focusses on the possible. She likes sewing and embroidering, she says, and learning about HIV/AIDS. PEDRA has arranged a hand-powered sewing-machine for the Regone centre, instead of the usual foot-powered treadle, so that Felizarda can take part. Perhaps her future may be as a tailor.

Whatever her future, and however much others around her help, that future is being made by God and by Felizarda's own miraculous spirit, intelligence, determination and positive thinking.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 157 20 May 2006

Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing. - Ezekiel 47.12

Here in Africa many plants cure and nourish, and local lore is passed down by traditional healers through the generations. They're not scientists who analyze biochemical properties, they just know they work. We ourselves have seen a PEDRA girl dying from snakebite, healed by a poultice spread in an incision by her uncle. Surely such actions are of God.

Here in Zambezia with its 18.5% adult HIV infection rate, and anti-retro-virals available for only 1 in 20 persons who need them, locally available medicinal plants can help fight against the opportunistic diseases that come with AIDS. Pineapple treats herpes. Eucalyptus treats diarrheia. Baobab and aloe vera treat lesions of the skin. All these correlate with HIV/AIDS. Dozens more local plants and trees–roots, leaves, stems, flowers, fruits–become teas, syrups, ointments and powders for many more such treatments.

In partnership with one of its members the Reformed Church in Mozambique (which operates a medical clinic in Milange district of Zambezia province) and ANAMED (the NGO Action for Natural Medicines), CCM put on a 10-day seminar seminar for 46 people–community leaders, health-care workers, church leaders–to learn about these miracle plants. Adelia Raul who works with PEDRA took part, and came back energized, with seeds and seedlings, posters and textbooks, knowledge of how to use 60 different plants of Zambezia–and a missionary zeal to teach others how to put what she learned into practice.

Moringa Olifeira for example, she enthuses, is a miracle plant. It's got 7 times the vitamin C concentration of oranges, 3 times the potassium of bananas, 4 times the calcium and twice the protein of milk. In the web-site photo

Moringa olifeira r.jpg

You see moringa growing in Milange. Now there are 9 seedlings sprouting in pots on the PEDRA Quelimane veranda. Each will grow to 9 feet tall, and one tree's leaves are enough to nourish 1000 people. She'll tell you of artemesia,


Which also grows here in abundance, whose active ingredient treats malaria, and is found in many commercial anti-malarials. (26% of Mozambican deaths are from malaria–the primary cause of death in the country.) Or of periwinkle, sunflowers and marigold.

CCM has formed community activist groups of 15 to 20 people per community who learn to grow the plants, prepare the medicines, and administer them in the prescribed means and dosages. Every PEDRA centre is starting its own garden plot, along with nutritional plants like cabbage, tomato and green pepper, and the girls are learning nutrition as well as the use of these natural remedies. In their home communities, far from health-posts, such inexpensive local resources can save the lives of many.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 156 10 May 2006

When the people set out from their tents to cross over the Jordan...waters flowing from above stood still... - Joshua 3.14-16

Not very often does a flowing river stop to let folk cross. That happens here, in a sense, in times of drought. Otherwise, you need a boat or bridge. But even the making of one of these might be as much a miracle as the stopping of the Jordan, and so too the result–crossing into a new land; a new life. In a letter last year (No. 133, June 14) we told about one such bridge being built by the people of Mutaliwa, a rural community in the mountains of interior Zambezia. They finished it some time ago, men, women, and youth working together to haul sand, split stone, cut timbers. CCM provided cement and engineering expertise.

It's made a huge difference. In the long rainy season, that river floods and the community was cut off. Now year-round they can haul their produce by bicycle to market and return with necessities they purchase–salt, candles, school supplies and so on. Now the birth attendant can get pregnant women to the hospital in town when the birth is hard. CCM invited the provincial governor to come see the result. He was so impressed he said, We have to invite the President of Mozambique to see this. So they did, and last week Armando Guebuza came to see and promote a grand example of local initiative for development. In the web-site photo

Mutaliwa ponte 06.jpg

You see the bridge in its fresh-painted glory.

We are old enough to remember Queen Elizabeth II visiting Canada for the 1959 opening of the Seaway, and the crowds and excitement at seeing her yacht pass. That's how it was in Mutaliwa. Hundreds of villagers turned out, and dozens more of course in the President's caravan of 4-wheel-drive Land Rovers, and reporters from national radio and TV, and the CCM Secretary General from Maputo.

The PEDRA girls of Mutaliwa held up their banner

Pedra mutaliwa inauguracao ponte.jpg

Sang for the President a song of welcome they had written, praising their schools and programs against AIDS. They presented him their video CD of The Virus Never Sleeps. President Guebuza already knew of PEDRA. At an audience in Maputo he'd received a PEDRA beaded AIDS pin, and praised the program. In his address he did the same for the bridge, calling it an inspiration for communities all across the country.

Back in Namarroi with President Guebuza and his ministers watching from a bamboo pavilion, local men and women danced their traditional Namarroi snake-dance, as they do on the most important occasions, dancing with poisonous snakes they had gathered in the forest (and would release to the forest again, after the dance). The snakes dance too, swaying their heads rearing out of dancers' gazelle-skin backpacks, and twining around dancers' bodies, arms and shoulders.

The day the President visited Mutaliwa. Probably the PEDRA girls will remember it all their lives. The bridge itself will last longer than the memories, a blessing to the community that built it; a model for others; even, you could say, a miracle, the kind that happens every day when local people here imagine a better future, and work with Spirit to make it happen.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Post-notes from Letter 155.

Trivia item: The Tokens who sang ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight' weren't black, but white.

The original creator of the song was Solomon Linda, a Zulu South African who died in 1962.

The PEDRA version is in mp3 format on the London Conference website.

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 155 17 April 2006

The lion and the serpent you will trample under foot. -Psalm 91.13

There's an old African folk-song well-known outside of Africa. "Don't fear, my darling," the singer says, "the lion sleeps tonight", which is also the song's title in English. Some of you will be old enough, or young enough, to remember a version that became a Top-Ten hit in the early 1960s, sung by a group of black Americans called the Tokens.

Nowadays in sub-Saharan Africa, the monster most feared no longer is the lion.

It's the HIV virus.

So the idea came about to import this song back into the Africa of today, to be sung in Portuguese by the choir of the girls of PEDRA Quelimane. Unlike the lion, the virus apparently never sleeps–which became the new title--"O Virus Nunca Dorme".

"In the city and in the countryside," the girls sing in Portuguese, "the virus never sleeps".

The other three verses continue:

Oh my darling don't be frightened, we can all be saved.

If we love and work together the virus can be beat.

We can free our lives of AIDS if we all live in faith.

So they trooped into the CCM studio with Ester the PEDRA music teacher, got equipped with headsets and microphones, and recorded – four verses and ‘wimoweh' choruses and an interlude with exuberant harmonies and soaring solos for the voices of girls aged 10 to 15, with a simple accompanying musical-instrument arrangement of guitar and African drums recorded too at CCM. An instant hit, first among its singers, who play it dozens of times most days in the PEDRA classroom, loud enough to reach ears of passersby on the road outside, who often turn their heads to listen. Now it's reaching visitors to CCM from Germany, Britain, Australia, and near and far parts of Mozambique.

But nowadays, what's a song without a video?

So PEDRA invited a dancer/choreographer in Quelimane, to design and teach the girls dance-moves. This week after dozens of rehearsals they put on traditional African costumes and squeezed into a CCM van–14 dancers, Karen and Ledice 2 of their teachers, Gilda the choreographer, Bill the director, Domingos the cameraman, Carlos the driver–off to shoot video on location–a downtown park, a riverbank fisher village downstream from the city, and the basketball court and bleachers of Quelimane's sport pavilion. The web-site photo shows what they looked like:

Pedra virus filming apr06.jpg

If you want to draw a crowd, 14 dancing girls will do it, anywhere, every time.

Next, video of puppets that the PEDRA girls made themselves–3 schoolgirls and a monstrous masked virus in black, embroidered with leering mouth, sharp teeth, red streamers snaking from its arms–for a Punch-&-Judy-type show the PEDRA girls put together, a virus beaten by 3 schoolgirls, just as the song says. All this is intercut with their dance and shots of the girls painting anti-HIV posters and beading AIDS loops, and close-ups of them singing in-studio.

Maybe someday it'll make its way to your TVs and iPods. A modern psalm and anthem by a group of girl activists, to help to trample under foot the monster of this millenium.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 154 24 March 2006

You make the clouds your chariot, you ride on the wings of the wind.... Psalm 104.3

In Biblical days and nowadays, transport means power. Little boys here make toys cars from tin cans, bamboo and bottle caps, and wheel them through their neighbourhoods burbling imitations of the sounds of racing engines. Not one adult in thousands owns a real car, but a person with a bicycle is considered to be rich. A bicycle transforms the rider's life–a means to get produce to and from markets, or travel to and from employment. As the psalm shows, the best ride of all goes to God.

In many cases, a bicycle saves lives. That‘s the case for midwives in Mozambique. We had the great privilege recently to meet two midwives at their homes in the rural community of Mucissi, in Zambezia province's mountainous interior, who'd received a bicycle each through CCM. Mozambique has 1 doctor for every 36,000 persons–one of the lowest ratios of any country in the world–and almost all of those are in towns and cities. On average a Mozambican woman has 7 children, though 2 will not live to age 5. One in 10 women dies in chidlbirth. Much more than half of the population live many kilometres from the nearest health-post–many hours on foot. Almost all rural women give birth in their homes, and depend on local midwives like Maria Calimoto and Celina Lampiao. You see them in the web-site photos:

Maria calimoto.jpg
Celina lampiao.jpg

Both became midwives because, they say, nothing is more important to a woman than giving birth to children, all women produce babies, and the midwife's help is so important. They were trained at the hospital in the nearest town, Namarroi. Though the government hopes to furnish kits for each who completes the course–gloves, towels, blades, soap, a lantern, disinfectant, analgesics–in fact neither of them have any equipment or supplies. Maria and Celina haven't money to buy these things. They receive no pay. The mother's family gives what it can–vegetables or fruit or a chicken. They have children of their own, and must work on their own farms, and they worry about contracting HIV during childbirth from the mother's blood. But they keep on serving.

Now at least each owns a bicycle. A bicycle means they can reach more women, or reach a woman in less time, than when they had to travel on foot, up and down the narrow paths through these green hills where Celina and Maria have lived all their lives. With a bicycle, they can travel at night by its generated light. With a bicycle, when the labouring mother has complications maybe they can get her to the hospital or health-post. Before, they depended on a male family member carrying the suffering mother on his back, or two men carrying a palm-leaf litter. Though not all mothers survive such a journey, many women, they say, would have suffered more or would have died were it not for the bicycles.

Both Celina or Maria have lost count of how many hundreds of babies they've helped to deliver. When we think of their dedication, their persistence in conditions of absolute destitution, and how much good work such women do in their communities, we admire them enormously. They're heroines, riding off to their mission day or night on two-wheeled chariots, to help infants enter their difficult world less painfully, more safely.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 153 16 March 2006

He will turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents....

  • --- Malachi 4.6

Parents and children is the theme of this the last verse of the Bible's Old Testament. It appears that in the end there is nothing more important than turning the hearts of children and parents. The ‘he' in this verse is the prophet Elijah, and so anyone doing this–like the women of the PEDRA program of education for girls against AIDS–is dedicated to prophetic work.

As Malachi suggests it should be, PEDRA is education and growth for parents. PEDRA is now at the start of its third year, and the attitudes of the rural parents have changed. At first most parents didn't want their girls attending PEDRA, time away from the fields and from useful household chores, fetching firewood and water, pounding corn, tending babies. Their daughters left school by age ten, and married soon after. Now the PEDRAs are full–more than 200 girls–who stay at their village schools till Grade 5, then enter the bursary program, and leave their villages with parents' blessings to attend Grades 6 and after.

Of course the girls too change and grow. When we drove them from their villages to Namarroi town to school, the younger girls sat hunched and quiet in the back of the truck, no doubt pondering the big impending change, moving away for the first time from family and familiar village. But the older girls, excited and confident, sang exuberantly all the way.

Turning the hearts of parents, PEDRA also now has groups of PEDRA activists. Each community chose ten or a dozen volunteer women and men, fathers or mothers or youth. They spread the PEDRA message, and work on a group income-generating project of their choice such as growing and selling vegetables. A portion of its income goes to their local PEDRA, to help the community feel ownership, and help their PEDRA's sustainability. Each activist group also elects a PEDRA counsellor for the girls. Two of them chose the village parteira, the traditional birth attendant–who will now be helping birth a new program.

At the lar, the school residence, PEDRA arranges other ‘parents' for their girls. Our youngest, Idalena, who's in Grade 6, is only eleven years old and tiny, and we wondered how she would manage in the food-line. ‘Don't worry,' said the cook, an elderly smiling man, ‘Papa is here to watch out for her.'

Also new this year is a Peer Training Program. Every two months, two maes educadoras (the local PEDRA teachers–yet more ‘parents') and two older chosen PEDRA girls meet at a central village for two days of training in HIV-AIDS, Bible study, hygiene, music, sewing. Then they return with material and curriculum, to teach their new skills to all the other PEDRA girls until the next two-day training. PEDRA is about self-esteem, the confidence of a girl to manage her life choices about HIV and everything else. The girls and maes educadoras were learning to use a treadle sewing machine. As each managed to make it run and sew, co-ordinating feet and fingers, needle and cloth, clumsily at first, then more nimbly, you could see their delighted smiles.

(You can see them too, in the website photo ).

IMG 3154kv.jpg

When they in turn teach others, their self-esteem grows even more, and their faith in their ability to achieve and to direct their lives.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 152 9 March 2006

So God created humankind in his image...male and female God created them. - Genesis 1.27

Nothing in the first Genesis account of Creation suggests inequality between woman and man. But for many complex reasons, in most of the world–and especially in the so-called developing world–women do not live as equals with men. They suffer from less income and education, higher rates of poverty and disease, less decision-making power over their own lives and bodies, fewer opportunities to develop the gifts the Creator gave to each. That's why there's the World Day of Women. On March 8 women in many countries rally and march, they find and use their minds, bodies and voices to say the things that matter most to them.

At our parade in Quelimane hundreds of women and some men turned out–women from neighbourhood cultural or community development groups, from national organizations for economic justice or gender equality, from their places of work, from their homes. They marched singing and chanting from the Teachers' College on the edge of the city, 2 kilometres down a sandy road through mango, palm, cashew and acacia trees to an outlying semi-rural bairro where they gathered in their hundreds in the courtyard of the Training Centre for women prisoners. The Quelimane prison for women is badly overcrowded. Statistics show that most are there for theft, or for killing abusive husbands.

Women of each parading group wore matching head-scarves and wrap-skirts and T-shirts, and carried hoisted banners in Portuguese.

Viva Women's Decision Making Power

Value the Family and Protect Our Children

Viva Mozambican Women, Teachers of the Family and Society

Equality Between Men and Women Helps to End Poverty

Jobs For All and Justice in the Work Place

Viva a World Without Exclusion

No to Poverty, Violence and AIDS

The PEDRA women including Karen were there in PEDRA T-shirts and matching capulanas. They and CCM Youth led the brief opening worship, with the Biblical verse above, and a song and dance about raising the place of women which had the whole crowd mimicking the actions with raised arms. There were prayers for all that the banners were demanding, skits and traditional songs, speeches by women leaders, and drumming and dances in the circles that formed spontaneously all about the courtyard. Some of this you see in the web-site photos

Womensday06 2r.jpg
Womensday06 3r.jpg

There were prizes for the winners of the wheelchair races that had whizzed through the Quelimane streets that morning. You see hundreds of disabled in Quelimane, most with legs shrivelled and useless from polio, or stumps where legs were lost to land-mines. They were there parading with their wheelchairs and crutches, in solidarity with women, knowing from their own experience how hard life is for the disadvantaged.

A rally won't change Mozambique or any other country in a day. On March 9 and 10 and 11, still 1 in10 women here will die in childbirth, less than 1 in 3 will be minimally literate, 2/3 of the HIV+s will be women. But a rally like this one matters. Women see that many others feel as they do, they articulate the world they want and the one they don't want, they get their voices and confidence, and unite.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 151

27 February 2006

I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of humans and the seed of animals. - Jeremiah 31.27

Though it doesn't seem to have made much stir in the news of the western world, for two and a half years running millions of people in east and southern Africa have been suffering drought, made more severe, the scientists say, by global warming that keeps the Indian Ocean air from cooling enough to drop its moisture inland. In Mozambique alone, 800,000 hungry, subsistence farmer families have had no crops at all now for two years, no chance of a harvest this year till April at the earliest, and the current crops too looking to be grim or nil for many. Starving farmers wonder desperately why no-one is noticing. Video and photos of children with stunned eyes and bulging kwashiokor bellies are stale; TV news-watchers have been-there and seen-that. Even rock stars' famine-tours are losing their glamour appeal.

Well, some aid agencies like the UN's World Food Program and smaller ones like the Christian Council of Mozambique do notice, and have been doing their best to feed millions of farm families. Not only to feed but to give seeds to plant so that farmers can plant and work and there'll be a next harvest if rains come.

We were working last week in the district of Funhalouro in the interior of Inhambane province, one of the driest in Mozambique. It's a flat low-lying inland zone of sand, broad-leafed cactus, low brown grass trying to be green, scrubby acacia bushes trying to be trees, and sparse lagoons where malarial mosquitoes and purple-flowered lily-pads breed in the mud, until their little moisture seeps away through the porous soil. Few people come here. Their road is a narrow sandy track where anyone riding in the back of a 4WD truck needs to duck overhanging branches, and shuffle to the middle of the box to evade the scrapes of branches reaching in from bushes along the roadside.

CCM is distributing cassava sticks, peanut seeds and fruit-tree seedlings to 500 farmer families who live here, drought-resistant species with a chance of surviving till harvest. For the next 6 months they're also distributing food–beans, corn-meal, sunflower oil–so that people no longer will have to pass their days scavenging for wild roots, nuts and fruits in the savanna, they'll have time and strength enough to hoe and plant their fields.

The meeting to launch the distribution took place at the community meeting-spot in the thin shade of sparse-leafed acacia trees hung with dry moss. The people sat on log benches and told their tale. After 2 years of drought it rained in November. Overjoyed, they planted. It rained in December. The corn grew up green. In January the rains stopped. It hasn't rained since. Their cornstalks are stubby and brown and without rain soon will give no crop. This project, they said, is their last hope.

The CCM Secretary General spoke on the passage above from Jeremiah. As God knows, what is being planted will grow not only peanuts but will let humans grow, families, and the livestock that with income from their next harvest they can replace, having sold their own off long ago. To invest in seeds is investing in human lives. As you see in the web-site photo

Funhalouro fev06.jpg

They prayed for God's aid, for help to be the productive self-sufficient farmers they have always by tradition been. Their prayer is ours, and we hope yours too.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 150

18 February 2006

The whole assembly together was forty-two thousand three hundred sixty...and they had two hundred forty-five singers, male and female. - Nehemiah 7.66-67

The Bible text for Letter 150 could have come, symmetrically enough, from Psalm 150, which is all about praising God with music–trumpet, lute, harp, tambourine, dance, strings, pipes, cymbals. Because this Letter too is all about music. On Valentine's Day (Dia dos Namorrados, Lovers' Day in Portuguese), 18 musicians of Quelimane held the launching of their CD of songs about AIDS that they'd written. Recording, arranging, producing, mixing, mastering–all this was done in the studio of CCM in Quelimane. It's called Salva Minha Vida, in English Save My Life, the title of one of the CD's 14 songs. They'd chosen Valentine's Day for the launch, because of the deadly connection between what lovers may do and how the HIV spreads. Every one of them had volunteered his song (they all are men), his time, his talent for free.

Everyone in Quelimane who's young, or interested in music or in AIDS–most of the city–have known for months about this CD in production, even if they hadn't heard the excited ads on local radio. So the Casa de Cultura was packed, the provincial Cultural Centre, with more than 500 fans, most of them teens and early-twenty-somethings–the group most at risk of HIV-AIDS, the ones the music is aimed at. There was scarcely room to stand, or dance, but they managed.

Each musician danced and lip-synched on stage to his own recorded music booming through speakers. Most turned up in white-and-red Valentine's-Day finery, like the photo of Mole (pronounced Mo-lay) in the web-site photo:

Lancamento 3.jpg

singing his song ‘A Mozambique Free of HIV/AIDS'. The songs blend styles–Angolan, South African raga, French West African zouk, rap, soul, r&b–lots of bits mixed in typically Mozambican fusions. They also mix languages, often in the same song–Portuguese, English, bits of Brazilian and Angolan and Zimbabwe slang, Chuabo the language of Quelimane, Sena the language of the Zambezia delta.

When every singer had sung, the crowd wanted more, wouldn't stop dancing. But another band was booked to play later that night in the Centre, so we had to close. Since then, radio stations are playing the songs, distributors are calling, and musicians are dropping in offering songs for a follow-up CD.

The provincial director of the Network for Combat of AIDS was one of the dignitaries who showed up in the crowd of young people at the launching. "For our war against AIDS," she said in her short speech, "we now have one more weapon in this CD. It's being proven in various countries that music is one of the most effective ways to influence changes in behaviour."

The Bible may not be much of a reliable source for statistics, but if Quelimane (population about 180,000) has the same proportion of singers in its population that Nehemiah claims of the Israelites re-building Jerusalem, we have about 1,000 here. In fact, we probably do; Quelimane is a musical city. Thanks to God.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 149

  • 5 February 2006

You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God. - Psalm 40.17

Ledice and Lu's baby Ivan died this week. He was five months old.

Two consecutive letters on death. We hope this won't happen again. But no apologies. When we write we reflect the world we live in, here in Mozambique.

More than two-thirds of Mozambican deaths are of children under 5 years old–more than 125,000 of these die every year. They perish from malaria, from drinking polluted water, from respiratory infections, from drowning in open water holes, but mostly from a cause unknown, with no health-care system able to diagnose let alone treat them. Parents have to watch their suffering child helplessly, until it recovers through its own body's resistance, or dies. This has been a theme of all our time in Mozambique. In CCM's program of community journalists in 6 provinces that Bill worked at for 3 years, of the 7 young men and women who took part for the program's duration, all of them produced a child in that time, and 4 of them lost a child before its second birthday.

Ivan (you pronounce it Ee'-van) was born last August 31. He had always cried a lot, not just normally from hunger or colic. It was constant, chronic. At the Quelimane provincial hospital–best in Zambezia–they said it was his navel. They could operate when he turned two. A bizarre mis-diagnosis in our view, but that was their best. No treatment, no medicine. The national health budget for drugs is a dollar per year per person. So Ivan survived until January 30, and died at home, when finally his body surrendered.

His mother Ledice (Le-dee'-see) is a teacher for PEDRA. She is 21 years old. You see her with the living Ivan in the web-site photo:

Ledice e ivan 1.jpg

Lu is a teacher at one of the colleges in Quelimane. We worked with him in Maputo, in a theatre troupe linked with CCM. He specialized in playing clown roles–brilliantly–but these days Lu isn't doing any clowning.

The short funeral was next morning, at the gravesite, in the cemetery section for children. The graves are short mounds of dirt, with a wooden cross embedded, and twigs or flowers left by mourners, that have either taken root or wilted, and a black sheet-metal plaque with the chronological number of the death. Ivan is No. 19 for the year 2006–in the year's first month, in one of four cemeteries in one small city. Mortality rates in rural areas are much worse. Ivan's coffin is less than half a metre long, plenty enough for his tiny body in its white sheet and yellow knit cap. His parents are devastated. Never believe that when many children die the people get used to it. For most of the funeral Ledice was prostrate on the grass.

There is no sadder aspect of the hideous inequality between the lives of the rich and the poor of this earth than the early deaths of children, almost all of them preventable with rudimentary health-care. God comforts parents like Lu and Ledice, suffers with the parents and each crying child. When you see the pain here in the so-called developing world, you realize that God's capacity for suffering, unlike Ivan's, must be limitless as God's love. But why do we continue to make our God and our children suffer?

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 148

  • January 24 2006

Zion's gates are desolate, her priests groan; her young girls grieve.... Lamentations 1.4

This week we buried Odete. She was thirteen years old, a girl of PEDRA, dead of malaria.

The World Health Organization says that Mozambique is the 6th-worst country in the world for malaria. More than a third of all deaths here are from malaria, more than from any other cause including AIDS. Twelve of every hundred children born here die of malaria before they reach age five. We ourselves have had malaria more times than we can count, but we can afford the inexpensive medicines that save a victim's life.

Odete attended her grandmother's funeral here in Quelimane, and then went to Nampula city, seven hours' drive away, with her aunt. That same night she fell sick, and died by morning. CCM sent a truck to bring the body home to Quelimane. In Zambezia there are no funeral-homes where staff look to arrangements. It had rained intensely and an unpaved 200-km section of highway was impassable, clogged with stopped vehicles sunk in mud. The truck arrived in Quelimane at 3AM Friday, with a body dead since Tuesday. In Zambezia there is no embalming.

We walked from CCM for prayers at the hospital morturary space, the plain grey-walled grey-tiled prayer-room where bodies are brought in and carried out all day. As we arrived a man was unloading a coffin from his bicycle, a box of rough planks and grey fabric tacked over, for the body whose service would follow ours. After prayers we carried Odete's blonde-painted coffin to the back of the waiting CCM pickup truck, and piled into other trucks standing bunched together in the open backs, in procession to Odete's family's home just behind the CCM compound, for their second family funeral in four days.

As is custom, their bare yard was draped and shaded from the hot summer sun for the event, with a huge tarpaulin propped on mangrove poles. Jose and Adelia the young pastor couple of the family's church led a brief funeral, by the open coffin resting on two plain wooden chairs. Then all filed past it, one by one, children and Odete's young friends first, to say goodbyes. They closed the lid and loaded the coffin again and we climbed again on the trucks for the 20-minute drive to the cemetery, people singing slow hymns all the way.

At the gravesite the sun-heat bore down like a weight. Barefoot men of her church had dug an oblong hole the size of Odete's coffin. A woman of the church read a biography of Odete's short life, her Sunday school class, her joy in PEDRA. The men lowered the coffin on ropes, and with hoes and shovels and bare hands filled the grave hole, and piled the sandy coast soil above it. Each mourner filed past and embedded a flower or leafy branch in the mounded dirt.

When we got back to the city the sky had broken open with thunder and pelted rain, and streets were flooding.

The web-site photo

Anjos carmen odete.jpg

shows Odete and her younger sister, Carmen, who also is in PEDRA. That was the day the PEDRA girls made the Christmas angel pins you see them wearing. Now, it may be, Odete is an angel.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 146 December 18 2005

She said to her mistress, ‘If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.' - 2 Kings 5.3

The ‘she' here is the young Israelite captive girl working as a slave for the commander of the army of the Arameans, a tribe of Israel's enemies. We don't even learn her name. But she's one of our favourite Biblical characters. Though just a little girl, she's someone that people take seriously. Only because of her idea, Naaman the general she works for goes to the prophet Elisha, and is cured.

So she's one of our Biblical role models for the bursary girls (bolseiras) of PEDRA. She's practical, resourceful, confident, not afraid to speak up, faithful to her God, and loving, even towards a leprous Aramean. Those too are qualities of our bolseiras. Last week when the school year ended we took them home—22 of them—to their families for summer holidays. Their parents met them at the roadsides as close as a truck could get to their farms. The parents, like ourselves, were astonished at the change in these girls in a year away from home—then timid country girls, now confident young women. They're all about 15 now. In their PEDRA t-shirts and clutching their school knapsacks they leaped from the truck and ran to their mothers and fathers who hugged their grown-up girls and then burst into tears, dance and songs, as you see in the web-site photo:

Bolseiras homecoming dance.jpg

They've been at school boarding in Namarroi, the nearest town that offers schooling after Grade 5. It's less than an hour from their homes by truck, but the town is another world. Almost none of them had ever been there. We had talked to every girl's family, and many parents at first were doubtful about sending their little girls so far away. But the girls weren't there alone. A PEDRA educator met them once a week to embroider, do bead-work, talk about AIDS and anyother problems. Now, seeing them one year later, all the parents are thrilled with the program and eager for their girls to continue, to stay in school as long as they can, and reach their dreams of being nurses, teachers, artists or agronomists.

It costs 70 cents a day for these girls to go to school, a sum far beyond the possibilities of a rural subsistence farming family in Mozambique. PEDRA is hoping to fund 48 girls in the next school year which starts late in January. Much of the fundraising is headed by a dynamic, dedicated woman in Pennsylvania, a physics professor and Unitarian. In the globalizing world, like-minded people can get in touch and collaborate. PEDRA also is working with the parents in each PEDRA community to start up income-generating projects. A part of the income will go to PEDRA and bursaries for girls who need them. Each village has its ideas—raising guinea fowl, working a co-op farm field growing vegetables—whatever makes most sense in their local context to help make the program self-sustaining.

Starting in January, each PEDRA community will also have a group of activistas--bolseiras and their parents and others, who're being trained in HIV-AIDS, children's rights, the Mozambican Family Law. If she'd been born in Namarroi 15 years ago, instead of in Samaria 500 years before Christ, the girl in 2nd Kings who got Naaman cured would have been an activista too.

In mission and service, Karena and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 145 10 December 2005

I raised up sentinels for you: "Give heed to the sound of the trumpet!"

In Mozambique are 36 of what are called Postos Sentinela, Sentinel Posts. They're spread throughout all 10 provinces, in a mix of urban and rural zones. The title sounds military, and these are outposts in the war against HIV/AIDS. Here is where the incidence of HIV is measured, and extrapolated statistically to the population as a whole. The weapons gathered and stored there are data. Knowledge.

But those who battle in the war against AIDS in Mozambique are in shock these days. The latest HIV/AIDS figures have just come out, and the rate has increased from last year. It's now 16.2% of the adult population. One in six. In Quelimane the rate is the 2nd-highest of anywhere in the country: 32.9%. One in three. For women in their twenties, one in two.

The statistics are higher than anyone had projected. There've been over 10,000 new cases of HIV infection this year in our province of Zambezia, and over 18,000 died of AIDS, most of them women. More than 56,000 Zambezian children are orphans due to AIDS.

That's what the Sentinels are spotting. The Trumpets have been coming in response to these appalling numbers. The week surrounding World AIDS Day on December 1 was the busiest Quelimane has ever seen, a week of rallies, marches, concerts, film projections, theatre, dancing, choirs, music (no trumpets, but lots of drums), with CCM working on many of these fronts, including a huge outdoor concert to present for the first time in public some of the AIDS songs that Zambezia musicians have been producing in the makeshift studio at CCM.

CCM also took their movie about AIDS and young people to two poor bairros of Quelimane, and projected it in schoolyards. In the fisher-folk bairro of Incidua, of windowless mud-and-stick houses among salt lagoons, and dykes around yards to keep out tides, over 400 people gathered, with children climbing a mango tree to see it. Even the trio of rowdies drunk on fermented palm-sap stopped talking, and stayed to watch to the end.

Most of the girls of PEDRA and the CCM Youth showed up for the big December 1 rally. Thousands of others marched too, or skipped and danced and whistled, from the Capuchin monastery to a dusty football field in the low-lying bairro of Chirangano, hoisting dozens of banners painted with slogans.

There were soldiers, police, neighbourhood activist brigades, church choirs in African-print gowns, and leading them all a wheelchair crew of the Mozambican Association for the Handicapped:

Aids day parade wheelchairs 05.jpg

At the football field there was dancing, singing, karate and acrobat demonstrations, and chants of slogans with fists punching air. ‘Life Yes. AIDS No.' ‘Down with AIDS.' ‘AIDS Out of Mozambique.'

At the end, together everyone sang the national anthem, with its refrain, ‘Beloved country, we will triumph.' Nowadays, the main enemy to be beaten here is HIV. So far, HIV is winning.

In Mission and Service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 143 November 15 2005

See, I am making all things new. - Revelation 21.5

Anything genuinely new is a marvel. It says to us, See, there is life, growth, hope, change, things do not stay always as they were. So it is that in John's vision of the coming perfect world everything is always new. Nothing is static, fixed and dead.

Something new appeared in Quelimane last week. After almost 3 years in the making, a movie was launched by the Christian Council, and seen for the first time, in the Council Chamber of Quelimane City Hall. You can't buy a screen in Quelimane, so CCM made a frame with wooden poles, bought a used bedsheet in the outdoor market, and stretched it tight between them. There's never been a movie made in Quelimane, and almost nobody thought there would be. Its title, Cry of Hope, describes the attitude of the young people who made it, who believed that this new thing that they dreamed of could be made real.

It's a movie of an hour (the length to fit on national TV), by and about the youth of Quelimane, a story of young people and AIDS, in a city where 1 in 3 are HIV+, and about 1 in 2 young women. The screenplay was written by a young intern at the Quelimane hospital. He'd seen many people die of AIDS including a close friend, and wanted to do something personal in the war against AIDS. CCM arranged funding from its partner the United Church of Canada, through its Beads of Hope campaign against HIV-AIDS.

Before the movie the CCM youth choir in their uniforms of orange African fabric performed two songs of theirs that are on the movie soundtrack.

When the closing credits rolled the audience started spontaneously to applaud.

The bishop who heads CCM's National AIDS Commission got up and said it had to be translated into other Mozambican languages.

The chief executive officer of Zambezia province said she was crying while watching it (she wasn't the only one), that it needed to be seen by everyone in the province, not just young people, and wanted to know how she could help.

The head of the provincial umbrella organization against HIV/AIDS wants two public showings in the days programmed around December 1, World AIDS Day, and then plans to send it to all the rural districts, using a projection team with a VCR, monitor, generator and cassette of Cry of Hope.

People said it was like a real movie. (The young people decided to take that as a compliment.)

People said they were astonished by the quality of the filming, acting, storytelling.

They said it made you think, about AIDS and how to get it or not get it, and how to treat lovingly those who are HIV+.

National TV, radio, and print media covered the event, and interviewed the actresses, as you see in the web-site photo:

Entrevista gilda tvm.jpg

Fausta Cipriano the head of CCM Zambezia asked the 3 girls who were stars of the movie to come up and be recognized. People clapped and cheered. People said that the best thing was that these were not stars from somewhere else, but from here–our own people, our own voice.

Yes, certainly it was and is a new thing.

The Christian Council and the crew of young artists who made it, felt elated, validated. Events like this new weapon against AIDS give hope that the war someday can be won, that all young people someday will live all the years of life that humans are meant to have, they will know how not to let the virus into them, and will treat with compassion and solidarity all who are infected. That's the film's vision.

Maybe you'll get to see it sometime. It's got subtitles in English.

In mission and service, Karena and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 142 30 October 2005

Neither shall they learn war any more; but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid.... Micah 4.3-4

November 11 is approaching–in Canada, Remembrance Day. A time to remember those who fought and sacrificed themselves at war, in order–such is the human irony–that there might be peace. In Mozambique, we do this on 4 October. Peace Day. On that historic date thirteen years ago, 4 October 1992, in Rome, the signing of a Peace Accord put an end to a disastrous civil war, in which hundreds of thousands of Mozambicans died of violence or starvation, and millions were displaced, fleeing the lethal countryside for the relative safety of fortified towns. It was a sideshow of the Cold War, Africans fighting and destroying each other as proxies of the Communist bloc and allies of the USA. When it ended, Mozambique was in ruins, the poorest per capita country on Earth.

But Peace is more than the absence of war. As Micah says, it's when people can grow crops on their own land, and live their lives unafraid. It's when people can build communities and individual lives in a climate of mutual tolerance and security. Through more than a decade of democratic national and municipal elections, reconstruction of roads, schools, health posts, rail lines, debt cancellation and foreign investment (albeit with its powerful negative side effects), Mozambique has advanced, Peace has spread, so that now according to the United Nations Human Development Index it's no longer last in the list, the country worst to live in–it's 169th out of 177 measurable countries of the world. Progress, of a sort.

So on this past 4 October as every year, a large crowd in Quelimane paraded to the Heroes' Plaza, the downtown park by the provincial and municipal government with the broad whitewashed memorial to those who died in the civil war, and before that in the war for independence from fascist Portugal. Students of elementary, secondary and post-secondary schools marched, and neighbourhood groups of peace activistas marched. Choirs from CCM member churches came too, the women in matching wrap skirts and head-scarves. The CCM Youth marched chanting and singing, holding up their banner in Portuguese: ‘Help Build Peace'. Othesr carried the banner of the TAE project for Turning Arms into Tools: ‘Tell Where the Arms Are Hidden'. At the Plaza, with the provincial governor, the Quelimane mayor, schoolchildren, choirs, hundreds of citizens, and the honour guard of soldiers and police looking on, a TAE technician with a large electric blade flinging out sparks cut turned-in weapons into pieces.

The Zambezia governor solemnly laid a wreath, carried to the monument by women soldiers as in the web-site photo.

Peace day oct4 005.jpg

At the canopied stage he spoke to the hundreds, and to the microphones of TV and radio. Excepting only those under age 16 or so, everyone present is scarred by memories of the war. It is everyone's job, the governor said, to educate the children about life before the Peace, so that they will know the good effects that the Peace can bring if all work together. It is everyone's job, he said, to avoid another war.

After the ceremonies, the groups from CCM member churches marched to the Anglican Church for ecumenical worship and prayers for peace. Our prayer would be that the future bring many more Peace Days in Mozambique, and in Canada, Remembrance Days.

In Mission and Service, Karena and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 141 27 September 2005

Go down to the potter's house, and there I will let you hear my words. - Jeremiah 18.2

So Jeremiah does as God suggests, and there is the potter working with his clay–the way God the Creator crafts humans, in varying shapes for varying purposes. In some rural centres of PEDRA, those with the proper clay nearby, some girls have been turning out pots. You see them at work in the web-site photo:

File:Pottery molumbo sep05.jpg

They gather river clay, mould it on the ground by hand, then inscribe the decorative designs, and temper each pot in an open fire. Later they will paint them–animals, flowers, trees, or the red looped ribbons of HIV/AIDS. The potter girls love the experience of making something beautiful and useful, to see a new thing coming into being by her hand,. There is pride, a sense of self-affirmation. See what I can do and have done! The potter God must feel much the same love and satisfaction, looking on some beautiful work of creation–for example, a PEDRA girl herself.

In another PEDRA centre recently, the girls made up and put on a play about AIDS. It ends with a mother and two daughters dead, and the girls clapping in a circle around the dead ones singing in Portuguese, "A solução é preservativos": "The answer is condoms". Whatever the churches might prefer, for girls and women without the power to say No to sex, but still at least with some power to negotiate, a condom may be the only answer. In any case, to make a play, as to make a pot, is a means to articulate, to find your voice clearly against what threatens you.

Best of all, voices by definition travel. People hear them. What the PEDRA girls learn and do about AIDS doesn't stay behind in the classroom. The father of Maria, a girl in Mucissi, said she comes home and tells them what she's learned, and how she's planning her own future, and he's glad she's learning and then teaching the family. Such a change, in rural families who used to think that girls didn't need to go to school at all, let alone then speak up like the bold little activists they are, and teach their peers and elders.

For several days last week, PEDRA had a visitor, Tammi from New York, from the PEDRA donor Church World Service. She saw the pots, the play, the beaded AIDS ribbon, all that girls' creativity. Then later in Maputo Tammi with a CCM delegation met the President of Mozambique. She gave to President Guebuza the beaded AIDS pin that Maria had made, and they talked of girls' education, and how it's key to the country's future, and how he himself and others can learn from what PEDRA is achieving. So a PEDRA girl's voice has reached the ears and mind of the President himself.

Maybe we need to fasten a PEDRA pin on George W. Bush, on Paul Martin, on the leaders of every country in this world. Maybe they all should hear what Maria and her creative PEDRA sisters have to teach them.

In mission and service, Karena and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 140 15 September 2005

It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them up in my arms.... -Hosea 11.3

Chamuchir Xirafo is twelve years old. Because of polio which is still common in Mozambique, for many years his legs have been twisted and useless. Chamuchir will never walk again. But his twelve-year-old arms are strong. He must use his arms to pull himself along the ground, dragging his legs behind. Or his parents or neighbours must pick him up and carry him, but Chamuchir is growing, getting too heavy for many to lift.

So with money from a small fund, CCM gave him a wheelchair, a wheelchair that you saw and heard of being constructed in Letter 135, specially designed for the rugged streets of this city and its bairros. The Orthopedic Centre built it here in its Quelimane workshop, and Dona Julia the Centre's therapist for children with disabilities is teaching him how to drive it, to make his way through the narrow winding paths of the swampy neighbourhood where his family lives.

In the passage from Hosea, God thinks of all Israel as a child. God's child. We believe that all children are God's children, as all created beings also are God's own. Among the many early ways that a parent shows love is to take that child in his or her arms, and later to help her or him learn to walk, a crucial step on the way to being independent, and to being of more and more help to others.

To judge by the way that neighbours gathered and helped Chamuchir start to understand his chariot on the day it arrived at his family's house, how to move and steer it, he already is a loved member of a neighbourhood community. Blessed with his wheelchair, Chamuchir will have more chance of developing the gifts that God gave him, and giving something back to his neighbourhood. May he keep on smiling as he is in the web-site photo :


In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 139 2 September 2005

I will take you for my wife in faithfulness; and you shall know your God. - Hosea 2.20

In an ideal world, the loving relation between a woman and a man would reflect, as best humans can, the faithful love which God is offering to Israel the bride, through the prophet Hosea. In practice, in Mozambique as anywhere else, many people do not know the blessing of a mutual love that endures till earthly death. Those few who do, will very likely not get AIDS.

Many writers–Shakespeare among them–portray the comic or tragic woes of lovers who change lovers. So that makes Shakespeare great for getting out the message about how to not get the HIV. And that's why four Canadian theatre directors and teachers showed up in Quelimane to work with a local theatre-and-dance troupe called Montes Namuli, to create and put on a show about HIV/AIDS, adapted from A Midsummer Night's Dream. We called it Sonho Nocturno– Dream at Night.

In Shakespeare's play, among other marvellous events, pairs of lovers in a forest, enchanted by a mischievous sprite, fall out of love with their partners, and into love with others. Since that's the main way that the HIV can spread and find new homes, Shakespeare's sprite and the HIV are natural allies. In our version, the sprites are HIVs. The lovers who resist the virus/sprite's call to unprotected sex with other partners, are the lovers who survive.

So for 2 weeks at the end of August, those 4 Canadians from Toronto, Humber College and the Stratford Festival and 44 Mozambican artists worked with music, dance, mime and spoken word to bring their Sonho Nocturno to life. Actors like the one in the website photo


Gripped banana leaves and played swaying forest trees, and forest monkeys, king and queen, forest God, viruses, and lovers faithful and otherwise. Eight on-stage musicians on leather drums and wooden marimbas banged out sound-effects, while actors bird-whistled or monkey-chattered effects from the sidelines.

Didn't matter that the Canadians spoke no Portuguese, and the Mozambicans knew just smatters of English. In gestures and expressions every message in rehearsals got through, for two rich weeks of persistence, creative thrills, and mutual learning from one another's cultures and artistic styles. The four white Canadians prowling Quelimane's streets between rehearsals were sandwich-boards for the show, and at the end of two weeks, a standing-room-only crowd showed up at Quelimane's community cultural centre. There'd never been a Canadian-Mozambican Shakespeare-and-AIDS show put on in Quelimane before. Well, now there has been.

Shakespeare's play and ours ended as comedy does, with marriage, celebration, and mutual acceptance of everyone, HIV+ or not: as happy an ending as a play with HIVs can muster. The Shakespeare-and-AIDS project also finished up happily–but hasn't ended. Now, Montes Namuli take their show to other Zambezia districts. The Canadians have returned home to put themselves to work linking Canada and Mozambique in a long-term partnership for AIDS and the arts. That's their summer Dream, and the dream of everyone involved.

In Mission and Service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 138 24 August 2005

It was kind of you to share my distress. - Philippians 4.14

Paul in his letters from prison gives thanks for being loved and strengthened by brothers and sisters in faith who did not abandon him. A prison in Mozambique nowadays is a grim place, worse maybe than in Rome in the time of Paul. The Youth of the Christian Council here have a ministry to prisoners at the Quelimane provincial jail.

Last Sunday twenty of them gathered at the jail in their I Have AIDS T-shirts, laden with boxes of cookies, soap and juice as you see in the web-site photo:

Cadeia ag05.jpg

Handing in ID and cell-phones we passed through the barred doors to the yard of sun-beaten dirt, surrounded by its 4-metre-high concrete wall topped by barbed wire and broken glass, and bisected by a shallow drainage trench flowing from the reed-walled showers and latrines. Prisoners milled about the yard in shorts and worn shirts, in bare feet or plastic sandals, pumping and hauling pailsful of water, hacking at firewood, rolling out reed sleeping-mats to air in the sun, scrubbing laundry and draping it on sagging lines. They looked on average about 20 years old.

When they saw us enter, prisoners headed for the open-ended chapel and filled its concrete pews. Others followed, some women too, a hundred or so in total, standing packed in the two aisles that led to the front table. Eighty of these take part in weekly Bible-study and literacy hours which CCM helps to run.

Two CCM youths gave short meditations, on saying no to discrimination against people with AIDS. To judge by the number with festering Karposi's-syndrome lesions, the jail has a very great many of these.

The youth choir sang in Portuguese.

If God will bless us

Peace shall reign for ever,

Peace will spread for ever,

With peace we will live and conquer.

After worship, the young people handed out a biscuit, diluted juice in the plastic cups and bowls that each prisoner thrust forward, and a cube of soap cut by hand from long brown bars–all this to great excitement, prisoners singing, clapping, dancing.

The CCM youth are the lucky ones: we could leave at will. The prisoners may be there for a very long time. Many have no lawyers, no family on the outside to help. Already the CCM Youth are fundraising for their next visit, to bring soap and food treats again, and clothing, towels, Bibles, pens and notebooks for as many prisoners as possible.

Except for the Bibles, probably Paul's friends in Christ brought him much the same.

In Mission and Service, Karena and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 137 August 20 2005

Like fish in a net, and birds in a snare, so mortals are snared at a time of calamity.

  • - Ecclesiastes 9.12

Currently CCM has a program of ministering to persons with AIDS and their families in their homes in Quelimane. One of these PWAs was named Bernardo.

Bernardo had been sick for 7 months when Atanasio, one of the project's home-care workers, began to tend him, in May. He was coughing continually from tuberculosis, which commonly develops here in Mozambique as one among many consequences of AIDS. He had been a technician at a cashew plantation and processing factory, but had to stop working because of his sickness. He had no idea when or how the HIV got into his body.

Bernardo lived with his wife, his sister, and his sister's two little daughters in a suburb of Quelimane. The girls are only three and four. You see them, and Bernhardo, in the web-site photos

Bernardos nieces.jpg

. They know that their uncle was sick and unhappy, but don't know why, and they feel tense and sad. Once Bernardo had to stop working, they all worried a lot about finances. The project arranged a small grant of $20 to start a micro-business, which the family stretched by buying corn flour and charcoal in bulk, and then re-selling in smaller quantities at a profit, using some proceeds to buy more stock, and others for basic food necessities, soap, and the milk which the doctor said Bernardo should drink to give him strength.

Atanasio visited at least twice a week, and accompanied Bernardo to his hospital appointments. Then Bernardo's feet began to swell and lost feeling. He could hardly walk and his brother, a driver for a petrol company, had to drive them to appointments.

As his health worsened, Bernardo spent two weeks in the hospital's TB ward. Atanasio and Bernardo's sister cooked and brought his meals daily. In Mozambique that is the family's responsibility, not the hospital's, which has funds to supply only a minimal gruel.

He grew weaker. He was moved from the TB ward to intensive care. Then, he rallied somewhat. He went back home. But he felt exhausted and depressed. He needed more and more care, and felt himself more and more a burden on Atanasio and the others in the household. In the end his wife could endure no more of watching his decline, and wondering if she too was HIV+. She left him and returned to her village..

Bernardo lived for only two more weeks. Supposing that his end was near he said goodbye to his sister and nieces, and to Atanasio, and thanked him for CCM's help and support. Bernardo went alone back to the Zambezia mountain district of Gurue, where he was born. He said he was going to see if a local healer there could help him. But two days later, on July 24, he died, and is buried there according to custom on his family's ancestral land.

There are more than 1.5 million HIV+ people in Mozambique. This is the brief story of one of them.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 136 10 August 2005

In the evening quails came and covered the camp. - Exodus 16.13

The Israelites on their 40-year trek out of slavery must have marvelled on that night when the quails came. Then flakes of manna covered the ground, that looked like frost, and tasted like honey and coriander. Miracles dropped from heaven, and there was much feasting.

But miracles don't just happen, God zinging good things our way while we sit waiting. The Israelites' endurance in Egypt, ability to organize, courage, leadership, patience, solidarity, faith in a strenuous unknown future as wanderers— all this they had, at least now and then. They didn't just happen to be ambling by when quails and manna came along. They already had travelled far, were hungry, cranky and exhausted.

In the Methodist Church of the Christian Council's General Secretary Dinis Matsolo, every Saturday morning there is manna— a stew and bread lunch prepared by the congregation's Faith Kitchen project, for homeless and hungry street people of Maputo, who also have come from far for their week's one good meal.

This too doesn't just fly in like quails from heaven. Early in the morning the volunteer cookers– Mozambicans and others-- gather to shop with donated funds, to buy bread and chickens, onions, carrots, corn-meal, cabbage. They peel and dice and simmer and stir in one huge soup-kettle over charcoal, as you see one of the web-site photos.


In a second pot they boil the corn porridge. Some people of the street help too- cutting, stirring, ladling, serving, washing up dishes. They want to contribute, not just receive.

By late morning the odour of stew is spreading out of the churchyard, and the hungry are arriving, about forty people, mostly old men and women. They carry their belongings in plastic bags or tied-up cloth sacks. They wash at the churchyard tap, and seat themselves patiently on the grass beneath the pine trees. Each pulls out a battered plastic plate from their bundle, to hold up in an outstretched arm for the broth to be ladled in. There is fellowship and prayer, and then serving of food every bit as tasty as sweet coriander wafers and quail. Many live lonely, solitary lives-- if they had family they likely wouldn't be homeless-- but for a precious weekly hour they feel cared-for and accompanied.

It's called the Faith Kitchen— in Portuguese, Cozinha de Fe. When they ebb away after, back to the streets, their fervent words of thanks make it clear that faith in fact is what's been cooked up— faith that they are not alone.

In mission and service, Karena and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 135 10 July 2005

Each wheel had another wheel intersecting it at right angles, so that the wheels could move in any of the four directions. – Ezekiel 1.16-17

In a workshop at the Centro Ortopedico, craftsmen are making wheelchairs from hollow metal pipes and bicycle parts. The CO is their workshop at the Central Hospital in Quelimane, and the chairs are paid for by the Christian Council of Mozambique. They're given to those most in need, people who can't get around without one.

Many here in Quelimane need them. Some have lost both legs to land-mines, and pull themselves along by their hands, dragging their stumps. Others have the shrivelled legs left by polio, which is still a threat in Mozambique.

The vehicle that Ezekiel describes is an engineering marvel. So in their way are these hand-crafted wheelchairs. The web-site photos show them being built: Saldando workshop ortopedico.jpg
Workshop ortopedico.jpg

The hospital doesn't have much equipment—a rack for bending pipe, a portable oxyacetylene welder. They use hollow pipes and assorted gears, chains and wheels salvaged from bicycles. To start, they build a sturdy pipe frame, a match for Quelimane, where navigating streets is like trying to make your way through rocky quarry, bog, and lagoon.

The wheels and tires are from mountain-bikes. A bicycle drive-gear and pedals mounted upside down in front, powered by the driver's arms, attach by chain and sprocket to the axle of the two rear drive-wheels. Handlebars steer the front wheel.

To fabricate each chair, one craftsman would need about a week. Instead, they build several at a time, two men working together. Each costs about $200 US, small price to transform a life by making it mobile.

The verse for this letter could as well have come from Acts 8, with the Ethiopian treasurer on his way home by chariot, who invites the apostle Philip to climb on board. He's travelling in style, reading Isaiah. Travelling in style is the way the beneficiaries of these wheelchairs feel, compared to the way they wriggled or hobbled about in the bad days before they received a wheelchair to pilot.

Cruising through Gaza, or scooting across the heavens, or in and about a city in Mozambique, chairs on wheels are a fruit of love and human technical skill, a blessing for people who otherwise would be nearly immobile.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 134 28 June 2005

When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. -Luke 14.13

Fundamental in Christian living is practical, loving behaviour above all toward those who are suffering, marginalized, and disempowered. That's what Christ calls us to in the verse from Luke above. If he came back now, he'd embrace and nourish those living with HIV/AIDS. In Mozambique most of those are poor since they can no longer work, and physically crippled more and more as weeks pass, the virus taking over inside them in a world without medicines.

In Mozambique the person with HIV/AIDS so often is spurned by family, friends co-workers. Alone, without support moral or financial, they lose hope, worsen, and die despairing. But for those with someone to love and care for, and who loves and cares for them in return, they have help, hope, comfort. They have something to live for. They live longer and happier lives.

The activist girls of PEDRA have been working on a campaign of theirs called How to Treat Someone With AIDS. They gathered together around tables in the PEDRA centre to come up with practical, do-able acts that anyone and everyone any and every day could do to show support.

help care for their children

go with them to the hospital

help in the kitchen

help gather their firewood

help fetch water

help them clean

take them to church

help them take their medicines

entertain them telling stories

unite with them and hold hands

Each girl drew a poster, including her suggestion, and a picture to illustrate it. In the web-site photos

Poster cantar.jpg

You see one girl hard at her work, and one final product which says, "How to Treat a Person with AIDS? Sing to Them". We're sorry you can't see them all. They're being mounted where many people in Quelimane will see them, and hopefully learn.

For a person with HIV/AIDS, treatment like this would indeed be a banquet. Ironic that it's young girls 10 to 14 doing this teaching, showing their AIDS-ravaged world how to behave with love. The verse for this letter could have come from Isaiah 11: A little child shall lead them. If everyone followed where these girls lead, the world would be much closer to what Isaiah prophesied, Christ worked for, and God intends.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 133 June 14 2005

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 132 2 June 2005

Job lived one hundred and forty years, and saw his children, and his children's children.

  • - Job 42.16

It's clear in this 2nd-last verse of Job that his children were his greatest blessing. Mozambicans feel that way too: a person without children is bereft. Since they value children so highly, to be unable to care for one's children is the worst of Mozambican fears. Always persons with AIDS here say their greatest regret is not that they are dying. It's not knowing who if anyone will care for the children they leave behind.

So one of the hardest battles in the war against AIDS is care of orphaned children. There are 400,000 Mozambican AIDS orphans.

When parents get sick and can no longer work their fields or any other job, there's no longer food, let alone money for school. Right now in the poorer school districts in and near Quelimane, CCM has a program to help 500 orphans stay in school.

The teachers and principal identify the students most vulnerable. A CCM van loads up and drives to the school. The chosen children come, one by one, with the relative or neighbour who is caring for them, and CCM workers give to each a school kit–uniform, schoolbag, workbooks, pencils, pens, eraser, and ruler. It costs under $12 US per child. Without these, a child can't work and learn at school, and the future is dismal.

The web site photo shows Nadia

Nadia artur r.jpg

with her school-kit, on distribution day at her school in a rural zone called Morrupue, a swampy zone of cocoanuts, rice fields and poverty, between Quelimane and the ocean. Nadia is one of those 400,000 orphans. She lives with her grandmother, who is also in the photo. But Grandma is old and no longer very strong, and wonders how much longer she'll be able to care for Nadia. Nadia worries about this too. She was afraid when her father got sick, and when he died, and then when she watched her mother get sick too, and die. Now she's afraid for her grandma.

One bright thought in Nadia's life is that at least for now she can keep on at school.

In mission and service,

Karen and Bill Butt

So we rebuilt the wall, and all the wall was joined together to half its height; for the people had a mind to work. - Nehemiah 4.6

Like the Israelites back from Babylon, the people of Mutaliwa also have a mind to work and rebuild.

They're a rural community in the mountainous interior of Zambezia province, 8 kilometres from the nearest road. After the civil war, they returned to their lands but have had to re-build from nothing. They needed a road to get their produce to market, or for trucks to come from the towns to buy and sell. The Mozambican government has no budget for tertiary roads. So with hoes and machetes they hacked down savanna brush and levelled the soil for 8 km and built themselves a narrow, serviceable dirt road. They work in teams to maintain it–cutting back the brush and thick grass at the shoulders, filling eroded ruts after rain.

Their road to Mutaliwa has to cross a river. They felled two thick logs and placed them lengthwise so that people and bicycles could cross. But that doesn't do for trucks. So they're working these days to rebuild it.

CCM supplied the tools–shovels, wheelbarrows, hammers for crushing stone to gravel, trowels for mortar, axes and a huge two-man bucksaw for cutting the thick planks. The local people have no money for such treasures. CCM also bought the sacks of cement mix. The stone and sand and lumber all are local. An engineering student designed the plans, and supervises.

The people do the labour themselves as volunteers. Forty-three men and 17 women work in rotation, a couple of days each per week. Depending on what needs doing, they might all be there, or perhaps just a dozen. The women's main job is to bring sand from the pit, about 50 metres from the bridge site, in wheelbarrows and buckets.

So far they've built six hefty concrete pilings spaced across the river's width, which you see in one of the web-site photos:

Bridge building.jpg
Bridge mutaliwa.jpg

They've cut trunks in the mountain forest 4 km from the bridge. CCM brings them in by tractor. There, the men saw them by hand into long thick planks. By August their bridge will be finished.

But last week, the Mozambican government declared a national state of emergency, result of a 2-year drought in many parts of Mozambique. Warmer Indian Ocean air means less of its humidity falling as monsoon rain. Of the half a million families facing starvation country-wide, 90 families live in Mutaliwa. The first traffic over the bridge to Mutaliwa may be bringing in emergency food relief. A community works to build itself up, and global warming drags it down.

In mission and service,

Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 131 20 May 2005

I am going to die in this land without crossing over the Jordan, but you are going to cross over to take possession of that good land. -Deuteronomy 4.22

Yesterday we went to a funeral. Domingas was the youngest sister of our colleague Fausta, the head of the Christian Council in Zambezia. She was 24 years old. She had just finished 3 years of her 4-year law course at the Catholic University of Nampula, the only one of the siblings to have gone to university. Domingas was the family's pride, vivid, popular, intelligent. She got sick, left school, came home to hospital, and died. There'll be no graduation, no crossing to take possession of that rich future that might have belonged to her.

In the Quelimane hospital the busiest room is the Casa Mortuaria, where funerals are held for patients who die there. It's almost always full: first die, first served. There's a yard at its door where trucks back in to pick up the coffins.

Then mourners gather at the home of the family of the one who has died. Domingas's mother's was draped with a broad tarpaulin against the sun. One sister could not stop crying, a heaving barking wail, and could not walk without a woman at each elbow. Women sang chants and hymns. They sang in Lomwe one we recognize in English: ‘When He cometh'. He will gather the gems for His Kingdom, all the pure ones, all the bright ones.

One by one, all filed in a circle around the coffin of black fabric. A white candle shone on a chair on either side, by her head with its strangely yellow lips, its pale black face. In Zambezia there is no embalming. The body is buried as is, if possible within the day. Hundreds were there, many students in their white shirts and black skirts or pants, mostly younger than Domingas, wondering perhaps if they would have more years than she had.

Then as is the custom the coffin was loaded on a pickup truck. Mourners stand and sit around the coffin in the open back, and one stands holding up a plain wood cross. Then all move off to the cemetery in procession. In Quelimane there are few cars or trucks. In funerals and everywhere, most walk. Many rode bicycles, a few had motorbikes. Almost the only vehicles were from CCM projects. The cars moved at the slow pace of the walkers, through the rutted littered dusty streets lined by thatched market-stalls and shoppers watching the familiar daily funeral sight.

The CCM office is on the road to the Quelimane Christian cemetery. Processions like this pass us every day.

The cemetery is enclosed within a high cement wall. You enter through an arch with iron-barred gates. Huge pines dominate and darken the skyscape, and pied crows perch in their tops. In all of its many hectares the yard is jammed, there's hardly space to pass between the flat coffin-sized earth hillocks or slabs of stone that are the graves. Cemetery workers in blue coveralls with spades had dug in the sandy soil by a huge dead pine. They hacked with machetes to tear out impeding roots. There are no longer any root-free sites. For lack of space they piled the soil on adjacent graves.

With worn green nylon ropes they lowered the coffin, then with spades and hoes filled it in again. The wood cross is pushed deep into the soft soil, and then mourners file by with flowers or branches with coloured leaves that they've gathered from yards or roadsides or verdant nearby graves, to insert in the soil. A woman with a basin scoops water in her palm to sprinkle on the decorated mound. You see it in the web-site photo

Tumulo domingas r.jpg

Later, the family will install a plank frame to enclose the dirt and hold it. Few anymore can afford to buy tombstones. Some of the clippngs will take root and spread.

Till the grave was filled, the mound heaped above it, the foliage laid, the women did not stop their half-sung chant. ‘I have my friend who loves me. Jesus is his name.'

Reverend Ernesto, CCM's President, spoke briefly at graveside from the text that heads this letter. So many young people here do not reach the promised future, promised at least by their strong young bodies that with basic health-care and global justice should serve for many years. The survivors who live a longer span in this good land that is Africa live with the unforgettable regret that so many people like Domingas are not with us.

As we wrote in our last letter, it is in the nature of the HIV and how it spreads in Africa that most of its host victims will be young adults and adolescents. World-wide, every minute, according to the UN, five young people get the HIV. 7200 every 24 hours, and most of those young women. Most will die, like Domingas, by age 25.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 130 10 May 2005

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. - Revelations 7.17

The ‘their' in this verse refers to all who suffer; from hunger, thirst, loss, any danger or disease. That is–everyone. In this Letter we think of the tears of those with HIV in their young bodies. The accompanying photo

Grito fita preta r.jpg

shows an image done by a young Quelimane artist, the title graphic from the feature film ‘Cry of Hope' that CCM youth are working on. The red AIDS band, and within its loop an open mouth crying in hope and pain.

Some current statistics. Today in Mozambique, the rate of HIV infection is 14.9% of adults aged 15-49–one in seven persons. That's over 1.5 million people, in a country with a population about half that of Canada. Two in five of those infected are females aged 15 to 24; their rate of infection is one in three. That's 600 thousand HIV+ young Mozambican women. In our little city of Quelimane the figures are even more appalling: A girl now aged 15 is as likely as not to be HIV-infected before age 25.

This week, not for the first time in our experience, a young woman that we know, age 21, told us that she has just tested positive for HIV. Besides ourselves, she has told just one other person. We've worked with her closely in youth projects of the Christian Council. We know she's vivacious, attractive, an artist, multi-talented, a natural leader. And still in high school.

In these first days of knowing of her status, she's filled with doubts, fears and questions which we try to help her to confront.

How and when will she tell her parents? How will they respond? Who else can she turn to?

Which friends can she count on to stay friends, and keep her secret for now if she tells them? Which ones may isolate and reject her?

How long will she stay healthy? What diseases may in time come into her defenseless body?

How long might she be able to stay in school, and keep up all her after-school projects?

Will she ever now fulfill her dream to study dance at college?

How can she conduct a life with a boy-friend, a partner? How could she have a child? More than half of babies in Mozambique born to HIV+ mothers get infected.

What medicines might there be for her? For now, only about 10,000 HIV+ Mozambicans have access to life-prolonging anti-retro-viral drugs. Few of those fortunate souls are in Quelimane.

There are no easy answers. There are steps she can take. Diet, for instance. Inexpensive and easily available foods like garlic and carrots make a huge difference. Think and live positively. Hold on to her goals, dreams, self-esteem. Believe in her future; even in Mozambique, not all who are infected get sick and die in short time. Life isn't over. She's still the same marvellous girl she was the day before yesterday, before she knew of the HIV within her.

So we try to comfort, love, strengthen, wipe the other's tears. All this, God does well: because God, like us, is crying too.

In mission and service, Karena and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 129 24 April 2005

Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost...? -Luke 15.4

This week in Bible study–a big part of the PEDRA program–the girls read the parable of the one Ovelha Perdida, the Lost Sheep. They made posters to illustrate the story, which they took to their churches next Sunday to show-and-tell, young artists becoming Sunday-school activists. In one photo

Ovelha perdida avr05.jpg

You see them in groups at their art-work. Though it's too hot for sheep in Mozambique, almost every family has goats. A goat is precious, a means of cash income, and small boys with sticks have the job of goatherds–monitor their browsing and get them back to the compound at night. To the PEDRA girls this was a story about helping out. There are many ways of being lost, and many ways to help--guide, protect, rescue, or do anything most needed.

One thing PEDRA needs is cleaning. Last week included Cleaning Day. The girls take care of their building and pride in it. They rolled up the cuffs of jeans, kicked off their sandals, and in bare feet with brooms and buckets and suds they swabbed to every corner of the program room's concrete floor, as you see in the other photo:

Limpeza avr05.jpg

They brushed Quelimane dust from table-tops, bars and window-sills, and with rags wiped window-glass till it squeaked. Then they rested, and looked around with big smiles at their gleaming soap-smelling surroundings.

At the rural PEDRAs the girls bring stick brooms to sweep the yard and the Centre's dirt floor. On Saturdays they do the same at their schools. Once a year they bring armfuls of grass to re-thatch their PEDRA Centre's roof.

When the girls in Quelimane first moved in to the new Centre funded by Canada's Embassy, some of them needed lessons on some details of how to act there. Some of them felt a bit like lost sheep themselves, for a time. How to lift latches to open inner window screens, for example; how to open glass windows and secure the frames with the bolts at night. At home they don't know screens or windows–a house of stick and clay has no structure to support them. Many needed instruction on how to use flush toilets–also a novelty for girls who at home use latrines. Another important skill if a girl will someday have a job in an office, say, with plumbing.

Such sessions weren't something that the PEDRA teachers planned, any more than the shepherd planned to lose a sheep and go searching. It was what most needed doing at the time to be most helpful. That's the kind of girls they're growing into–not complacent but always watchful for what needs doing, and pitching in with will and a broadening skill-set.

In mission and service, Karena and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 128 10 April 2005

But as one was felling a log, his ax head fell into the water; he cried out, "Alas...!"

- 2 Kings 6.5

When Elisha and his crew were chopping trees to build themselves houses, and that ax fell into the Jordan, the worker panicked. He'd lost a borrowed ax. Some of Elisha's disciples did not even have their own tools. Elisha made the iron ax head float to the surface again. The worker reached out and grasped it. Relief all around. The building continued.

Without the tools, whatever your will and skill, you can't do the job. With tools, people can do so much more to build their lives. This week a shipment of tools left our CCM office for the rural community-development project in the mountain district of Namarroi. The photo

Instrumentos projectinho dcn avr05.jpg

Shows the loading on the truck in Quelimane. At the other end, CCM project workers match the tools to the people who can use them–114 workers in 6 different Namarroi communities.

Shovels, hoes, sledge-hammers, axes, planes, 2-metre buck-saws, watering-cans, wheel-barrows, boots. It's not so much the tools that matter, but the action that follows when tools get into willing workers' hands.

With hammers men are breaking stones that they clear from their rocky fields, to build a dam to block a stream that flows from the mountain down to village fields, to make for year-round irrigation.

With wheel-barrows, they haul stones up the mountain to the dam-site.

With axes they clear new fields in what will soon be irrigated zones.

With the 2-man buck-saws they turn the fallen tree-trunks into boards to build bee-hives, furniture and much else.

And more.

A welding set–oxyacetylene tank, bronze electrodes, pressure-gauge, face-mask, long thick gloves and so on. Local men have the skills, but hadn't the equipment. So Namarroi now will have a bicycle repair shop–literally a life-and-death matter when a bicycle can get a sick person to a clinic, or vegetables to market. For 28 years, the nearest welder-shop has been 200 km away.

Fine small knives for grafting citrus and cashew trees in Namarroi's community nursery, making seedlings that bear in two years and can transform a rural farm family's diet and financial life.

For all its abilities, CCM can't yet make an ax-head rise from the bottom of a river. But in their way they're doing the mission of Elisha, getting tools to people working to build their lives.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 127 31 March 2005

Many others who were paralyzed or lame were cured. So there was great joy in that city.

-Acts 8.7-8

In curing people, Philip followed Christ's example, who had healed women, men, children–blind, lame, bleeding, leprous, epileptic. They and their families and friends went away joyful, and believing in the power and therefore the teachings of the one who had cured them. Physical health, spiritual faith–these came together.

This is a letter about health. Though we try to write every other week, this letter is the first in two months, and that's because of illnesses. Here in Mozambique, so many people come down with any of a number of diseases–diarrhea, cholera, malaria, pneumonia, tuberculosis. Though all these are treatable, they kill hundreds of thousands of victims every year, for lack of clinics, nurses, doctors, medicine, equipment.

When you're sick in Mozambique, not getting treatment, not getting better, as hard as discomfort from your symptoms is the feeling that you have so little help or hope. You see people certain that they won't get any better, lying with a passive resigned stare, waiting to die, knowing usually that they leave children behind as orphans.

Our province has one doctor for 75,000 people.

One X-ray machine for 1.5 million.

At birth your life expectancy is 37 years.

One-third of all children die by age 5, of malaria, respiratory infection, or diarrhea from unhealthy water.

If you live in the countryside as most people do, on average your nearest health-post is 1.5 hours away on foot. It may have no medicines, and no staff trained in more than first aid.

We surveyed 24 girls in grades 7 and 8, that CCM is helping to put through school with scholarships. Nine of them wanted a career in health as a nurse or midwife. You can see why.

Working in the field of development, the Christian Council knows that health-care is always a community's first priority. Without health, nothing else can happen. In rural zones CCM works with the Ministry of Health to build health-posts, clinics and latrines; train primary-care workers and midwives; teach village people about hygiene, nutrition, sanitation.

This month CCM bought 18 bicycles, for community volunteers in the isolated mountain district of Namarroi who are trained in basic health-care. In the web-site photo

Bicicletas parteiras.jpg

You see two of them, Celia and Emera. Pedalling down narrow dirt paths through savannah with her kit of basic medicines and instruments, now each can reach the home of someone in peril–a woman in labour, a child with diarrhea–that perhaps she could not have reached in time on foot.

How many lives might a $50 bicycle save? Philip could have used one.

In Mission and Service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 126 31 January 2005

They came to the Wadi Eschol, and cut down a branch with a single cluster of grapes, and carried it on a pole between two of them. -Numbers 13.23

In Mozambique the end of January starts a new school year, after two-month summer holiday. In many Mozambican villages there's a posted sign that says: To educate a girl is to educate the country. PEDRA now runs a Girls' Bursary program. This year 25 fortunate girls have moved from their outlying villages to a Ministry of Education boarding school in Namorroi, their district town. Their small former school ended at grade 7. PEDRA aims to keep a girl in school as long as she is interested and able.

By a little miracle of global connectivity, a professor from Dickinson College in Pennsylvania USA and Unitarian colleagues raised money for 25 Mozambican bursaries–$150 US per girl per school year, all-inclusive. Not much really, considering the enormous difference another year of school can make in a rural girl's life. But the girls' subsistence-farm families can't afford it.

So–as anyone with children who's been through back-to-school will know–the PEDRA folk have been busy.

Visit each girl's family on 25 rural farms, spread across an area 100 km wide, farms unreachable except by off-road motorbike. Convince each family of the benefits. Many might rather their girl stayed home, cooking, pounding, hauling firewood and water, producing children who in turn become farm workers.

Get them registered at school and in the residence. Paperwork, long lineups but no photocopier, printer, photography, computer filing, telephone, and often not electricity.

Buy uniforms. Orlando Fumane the CCM worker in Namarroi had each girl measured, penned an outline of her foot, and fed that information to CCM in Quelimane the provincial capital, some of it by radio- no telephones in Namorroi. In Quelimane, Adelia Raul of PEDRA scoured the outdoor markets, setting shoes down on each of a sheaf of drawings to test for size, choosing well-made just-slightly-used shoes for each girl, haggling with market dealers, buying bolts of fabric, negotiating with teams of tailors to sew up uniforms for 25 girls–blue skirt and white blouse, shorts and white T-shirt for phys ed.

Buy notebooks, pencils, ruler, sharpener and knapsack for school; cup and plate and towel for the residence–more scanning and haggling in more stores and markets.

Give emotional support for girls in a strange new environment. They've come from simpler village schools. There they sat on straw mats:

Aula sentadas molumbo.jpg

There they knew everyone in class. CCM will start a new PEDRA centre for them. A chance for wise counselling with a PEDRA educator. A chance to get together with their home-village peers. For sewing, reading, embroidery, art. Learning about AIDS, and how to avoid it in a town far from home.

Keep in touch with each girl's family, tell how she's doing, get her home to family each term-end. In their villages these girls can be role models, but too often the fortunate ones who leave for school never come back. The more their visibility continues back home–the more their influence for good.

Joshua's crew brought back from that Wadi a bunch of grapes that took two to carry–one legendary sign of the promised land's richness. For these PEDRA girls on bursaries, Canaan is the land where school goes past grade 7, and its wondrous fruit the school experience itself. Unlike Joshua's warriors, these 25 girls don't have to sneak in and dispossess the locals–but plucking the fruit still will not be easy. They'll do their best. PEDRA CCM will help. Few would think of Namarroi as Canaan, but there or anywhere, with education a girl might get closer to that mythical ideal.

In Mission and Service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 125 10 January 2005

They shall pass through the sea of distress, and the waves of the sea shall be struck down.... Zechariah 10.11

In Quelimane as in Canada, Sunday 9 January was a day for services to commemorate the tsunami's hundreds of thousands of victims dead and living. The Baptist Union church, largest of the CCM member congregations, was filled. Mozambique has known genocidal war, drought, monsoon floods. Its people are acquainted with grief and desolation. For these reasons they know and feel in a concrete spiritual way the suffering in those afflicted countries.

They prayed for those without homes, food, shelter, medicines, animals; those who lost parents, partners, children, friends, neighbours. "Bring to the victims blessing, bring them peace," they prayed. "May your strong loving arms encircle and comfort them. Our God, we know you suffered and always suffer with us, and show us how through love we conquer suffering."

One thing a Mozambican congregation can do, in mourning as in happy times, is sing. "In this world so full of troubles, full of problems, full of suffering," the CCM Youth choir sang, "O dear God send to us all of your love." In the website photo

Jccm tsunami 1.jpg

you see some doing just that.

"We are one family, we have one home," everyone sang, to the tune that we know in English as ‘Stand Up for Jesus'. If our people of Sumatra and Sri Lanka and Somalia lost family homes and family members, then each of us will live as if having lost our own too.

Those who had gathered in that Baptist church, in a stick-house and dirt-road bairro, gave a total offering of 398,000 meticais, about $17.50 Canadian. In the collection baskets were mostly coins of 500 or 1000 meticais, like Canadian pennies and nickels. Like the widow in the parable, people gave what they had. According to the UN, if measured by per capita income, Mozambique is the 6th-poorest country in the world, but the Mozambican government itself has contributed $80,000 US to tsunami relief. Invariably in a Mozambican church the liveliest, happiest time is collection time. People chant and clap and beam with joy and thanksgiving at having a little coin to give. This day, collection time was more sombre.

The word most heard in this service was ‘Paz'. Peace. Mozambicans who have been through war know that peace is much more than only the absence of war. It's people free to do and think as they believe, in a world with health-care, education, a flourishing culture; free to grow and develop their gifts; to live in social cohesion, each one a recognized, respected individual; each one contributing as best possible in her or his way to community. That's a tall order in a land devastated by tsunami, impossible without the world-wide solidarity that inspired this service.

"May this oneness that brought us here today continue throughout the year," said the pastor who spoke the final prayer. "May we live this year knowing that our family is our household, our church, our ecumenical neighbours, and all people and all creation." A fitting prayer for everyone, for this year 2005.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 124

  • 13 January 2005

Though God causes grief, he will have compassion....for God does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone. - Lamentations 3.32-3

In Mozambique, though almost 2 million of its 18 million people are HIV-positive, any one of those 2 milllion will probably feel entirely alone. Living in Mozambique you might think that AIDS is just a virtual disease, a media phenomenon only–saturating wall posters, billboards, ad spots on radio and TV country-wide–but not to be found in any living human beings. Through fear, shame, ignorance and stigma, almost no-one says: "I am HIV-positive". As they die by the thousands here every year, they and their families talk the language of euphemism and denial: "Lengthy illness." "Chronic condition."

GATVs are a way to try to change all that–the Portuguese acronym for Centres for Voluntary Testing and Counselling, which exist in all provinces. More are being opened every month. In a GATV, in private, supportive surroundings, a person can get tested for the HIV, and counselling on how to cope with being positive, or how to stay negative. For anyone 19 or under, it's free.

Last week CCM filmed, at a Quelimane GATV, a scene to show a fictional Mozambican youth coming in for the test and counsel.

In the waiting room there's TV with soccer to distract you, and pamphlets arrayed on wicker tables.

In the private meeting-room, glossy posters on the the walls show smiling couples under slogans about faithfulness, and others portraying in clinical detail lurid symptoms of AIDS and STDs.

There's a shoebox-size carton of condoms and a sign saying, Help Yourself, and a wooden penis for demonstrating how to apply one.

In a corner of the room on a table are the ominous chemicals and testing vials, and a vase of plastic flowers.

Most of all there's a friendly, first-name-basis nurse, who sits beside you on the green upholstered couch, to guide and test you–and your partner if you came in together.

In the film they are Lourdes and Marcos–Lourdes a nurse in her white coat, Marcos a teen in black T-shirt, jeans and gangster head-scarf. You see them in the web-site photo ( Tough as he tries to look, he really just shuffles in, subdued and bewildered. Compassionate, professional, Lourdes leads him through the counselling–the what-ifs, the means of HIV avoidance, the ways to make the most of your life if the test shows you seropositive already.

We don't find out the test result for Marcos. We don't learn if his girl-friend is positive, or his previous girlfriend or friends, or who has passed the virus into whom. We don't know what his life will be from this day on. We do learn that the GATV exists, as surely as the virus does, and it is far, far better for the Marcoses to go there for help than to stay alone in doubt, grief and affliction, not knowing if the virus is breeding away inside you, nor what you can do if it is.

Nothing is more frightful than the unknown. The film can demystify the GATV, the way the GATV demystifies the dreaded virus.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 110 6 June 2004

Whatever your hand finds to do, do with your might. - Ecclesiastes 9.10

Sara is 10 years old, though she looks much younger, as you see in the photo of Sara with her father ( ).

Sara and dad.jpg

She has gone to school for 3 years, studies hard and is clever, and already is in grade 3. She lives with her mother Emilda and her father Vasco and her 3 sisters and 3 orphan uncles. The uncles are children too, her mother's sister's children, younger than Sara is. They live in a rural zone called Ekaia in the Namarroi mountains in central Mozambique. It is very difficult for a car, or even an off-road motorcycle, to reach Ekaia.

Sara's family are all farmers. They grow corn and mandioca, beans and pumpkin and cabbage. But after Sara's aunt and uncle died and their orphan children came 2 years ago to live with them, there was not food enough. Many other families in Ekaia have taken in orphans. From AIDS and many other reasons, many adults die young, living children. There is no health post anywhere nearby.

Sara's father is president of the Community Development Committee–47 local farmers. The CDC got in touch with the Christian Council of Mozambique, to ask for help–a hand up, not a hand-out. One CCM idea was fish tanks. On the land below their house is a spring with water, enough to keep 2 tanks full which Sara's father and other members of the CDC dug in the red Enkaia earth. Other CDC families dug too, and now Ekaia has 50 fish-tanks. CCM gave 10 to 15 small fish for each tank, depending on its capacity.

One of Sara's jobs is to feed the fish. She gathers termites from the bush around their farm. They live in tall earthen hills, often twice as high as Sara. Besides the termites she feeds them the skins of mandioca and the shells of corn kernels, after she has pounded these to make flour, in the wooden mortar with the heavy pestle which also is taller than Sara. She takes this food in a metal pan down the hill to the pond, tosses it in, and the fish come swimming to gulp it down.

The fish have grown and bred. Already the family has captured some in a borrowed net, and sold them, and with their profit of 146,000 meticais, about $6 US, her parents bought clothing for the orphans. Sara's parents have promised new clothes for her and her sisters, but Sara understands that the others' needs were greater.

Sara also is a potter. From her mother she has learned to make clay pots. They gather heavy wads of clay from lowlands below their farm, wrap it in banana leaves and bring it home balanced on their heads. They make large narrow-necked pots for water, and broad-necked pots for cooking. They shape them and decorate the rims with markings etched in with sticks, and dry them in the sun and then burn them in a fire. Some they use at home and some they sell. The largest pots sell for 7000 meticais, about 30 cents US.

With some income from the fish they plan to breed and sell rabbits, and make a beehive and sell honey. Then there will be different and better foods for all, and money for clothes and medicines and school fees. Maybe, someday, a bicycle, to take their products to buyers who live farther away than Sara's father can walk with a heavy load of produce.

With that little start-up fund of 10 fish that CCM offered, and with the busy hands and willingness of Sara and her family, they are no longer hungry and dependent.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter109 23 May 2004

The hand of God was upon him. - Ezra 7.6

As of this week, PEDRA has eleven new members. They're not very big. They're made of cloth, with black wool hair and embroidered faces. They're eleven hand puppets–girls, boys, mother, man, doctor, nurse–and more to come as we make them. They came to teach the girls about AIDS.

The girls took to them quickly like new friends, slipped them on their hands and the puppets began to speak. Or, the puppets make the girls talk. With a puppet they relax, the toy cloth creatures helps put into words scary issues about AIDS.

Gina and Augusta wore a mother and daughter. Mother brings her HIV+ daughter to the clinic. Benilde wore two nurses who were kind, explained about thinking positive, eating fruits and vegetables, living a normal life still is possible.

Elisabete wore an HIV+ girl. Two girls on Gina's hands ran away. Augusta wore another girl who told them that by playing they couldn't be infected, a seropositive friend was still a friend. They returned and all four embraced. They ended quoting together a line from a poster that the girls had made the day before. Together We Can Conquer AIDS.

And that was just day one. Adelino and Lucrecio, students from IMAP the Zambezia teachers' college, are helping. Puppets are new to them too. Thanks to puppets the girls are more comfortable and confident. When Natalia stood up spontaneously and talked nonstop for a minute about how you get HIV and how persons with HIV are your friends–itself a rarity for girls in Mozambique, who tend to shrink back bashfully and let boys talk–the others all clapped and cheered.

Like hand-painted posters, embroidered banners, AIDS-ribbon beading, flash-cards, and all the other PEDRA teaching paraphernalia, the puppets do interactive learning. The puppet makes the girl's mouth and arms and hands move–and the concepts take root in the vivid circuits of the brains for muscle memory.

In the photo ( )


Gina's hand is a mother, Julieta's her schoolgirl daughter. The smiles show how much they love being puppeteers. In the Bible and elsewhere the hand is the symbol of action and strength, faith and grace, like the hand upon Ezra. Girls' hands in puppets–you could think of those as hands of God too. Here in Mozambique with 1 million 250 thousand HIV+ persons, the more loving helping hands God recruits the better.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 108 9 May 2004


The word of God was rare in those days; vision was not widespread. At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim...was lying down in his room. - I Samuel 3.1-2

'Vision' in English means our physical sense of seeing, it means to understand, and also to perceive super-natural things. The better our eyes can see, and our minds comprehend the images, the better might be our spiritual seeing.

We often take photos of the PEDRA girls at work. At first, looking at those photos, many girls didn't realize they were looking at an image of themselves. They don't have mirrors or glass windows, had never seen what they look like. A photo can give, among other blessings, a visual self-image. When they visit our house, they love to look at picture albums-and to play with the full-length mirror. A girl looks at her image, moves her arms, makes a face, gestures, poses-- and watches what her double does.

Last week a Japanese photographer named Hikaru Nagatake came to PEDRA, in Quelimane and in rural Mucissi. She works for a program called Wonder-Eyes. She brought for each girl a disposable camera. She taught them what a camera and a photo are. She showed them how to photograph-subject, composition, lighting, point of view.

None of them had ever used a camera. Each girl squinted through her view-finder, and swivelled and stepped around the room, and marvelled at what the little window showed. See the photo on the website ( ).

Then each went away for two days with her camera, to photograph whatever she wanted, anything she'd like a record of. They brought back their cameras, we took them to a photomat, and next day each girl had a little plastic photo booklet of her own, which she showed to all the others. Hikaru took a photo of each girl holding up her own favourite photo.

The city girls shot pictures of their families, kitchens, bedrooms, yards. People cooking, welding, sleeping, doing laundry. Pictures of river boats, flowers, heroes' monuments, buildings-stores, schools, post-office, library. Pictures of sights they didn't like: potholes of stagnant water, garbage, abandoned car hulks. Mucissi girls shot families, houses (but not inside-their houses have no lights or windows), the school, PEDRA pavilion, mountains, fields.

We scanned some of the best. Someday we'll get a good colour printer, and put on an exhibit. That's what Hikaru will do in Japan from the negatives, and put the best ones on the Wonder-Eyes website.

It's all about learning a new way of seeing. To look at your world with new eyes. Photography can make you aware of seeing, so you see more fully, more clearly. You get perspective, the possibility to stand back, to see and judge more independently.

The Bible doesn't mention photos, but on almost every page are marvellous visual images. Eli who is going blind is about to pass the vision-task to 12-year-old Samuel. We hope the 10-to-14-year-olds of PEDRA develop, each one, her own point of view to see her world from, and respond to it accordingly-actively, lovingly, with vision.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Ponto de cruz molumbo mar04.jpg

Pictures and Letters

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 107 24 April 2004

Philip the evangelist ... had four unmarried daughters who had the gift of prophecy.

- Acts 21.8-9

At all six rural PEDRA centres, if you ask the girls what SIDA is (AIDS), hands go up and the answer is always the same: ‘Uma doença que nno tem cura'. A disease with no cure. If you can't cure it, you have to avoid getting it, which in Mozambique in large part means minimizing the number of sexual partners.

This is what PEDRA has been teaching, wherever the girls gather. The veranda of the former barracks in Molumbo. The shade of a mango tree, simple diagrams tacked to the trunk. In PEDRA shelters of eucalyptus poles and thatch and local mud blocks, built by the communities themselves, because they want their girls to get education, not get AIDS. (In one PEDRA centre, Moriamuendo, the Queen cooked mandioc root and served it to us saying, Thank you for PEDRA and how it helps our girls. AIDS is here and our girls must be protected.)

The girls learn how you do and do not get the HIV. From mosquitoes? From kissing? From sharing a cup or plate? The girls shout, ‘NO'. If a man comes and offers you food or nice clothes or shoes in return for sex, what do you say? The girls chant, ‘NO'. They learn that they have a choice, they can say: ‘I'm still very young. I want to go to school. I don't want to marry early.'

The notion that a girl has a choice–this the traditional culture has not taught. But AIDS must change everything. So PEDRA is not just interactive talk. The girls are embroidering AIDS banners. They're painting AIDS posters. They're cross-stitching bookmarks with the red AIDS ribbon loop, as you see in the photo. It's holistic and hands-on, the kind of education that works. Not create fear but build the self-esteem that comes from achievements, and the power that it gives to make choices, even when traditional culture opposes.

At one PEDRA centre, Mucissi, the public school director came to watch the program, impressed with the girls' knowledge and willingness to speak up, which doesn't happen in the public schools where girls are shy and reticent. At day's end he asked if PEDRA would come work with the teachers and children at the school. So the PEDRA girls' example is spreading. Like Philip's four prophet-girls they know truths: about HIV/AIDS and what future it may bring, and how the way we live our lives now might change that future for the better. A short life and then slow death from AIDS–or one that is longer and fulfilling.

One girl in Mucissi walks 7 km to school, and 9 km to the PEDRA program on a muddy trail. When we arrived at 7:45 AM, she was already there. So you know how early she left home, and how much this program means to her. We gave her a ride back to her house, and will try to get her a bicycle. She's the sort of prophet-girl who later could spread the word to others– by bike, faster and farther, keeping ahead of the HIV.

In mission and service, Karena and Bill Butt

Maquiringa mar04 adelia aula.jpg

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 106 10 April 2004

Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. - John 8.6

This is the one time in the Gospels when we know that Christ wrote. He had communication skills beyond oral parables, dialogues, public prayers. He knew what means to use when, to whom. Here in Zambezia, AIDS communication is a puzzle and challenge every day. CCM works with churches, government ministries and other NGOs to get out the messages- how to avoid HIV, how to get help if you're HIV+. Slowly you learn what works where, and why.

Few people read, so radio is crucial. About half of Mozambican families have one, though fewer in the countryside. So CCM and others work with Radio Mozambique and community radio stations. Three times a week here in Zambezia province there's a half-hour variety program on AIDS- interviews with health-care workers and people affected by AIDS, group discussions, songs about AIDS, radio dramas by local actors recorded on-site. (With no phones, no phone-ins.) It's broadcast at times to reach the most listeners- 5:30 AM when folks are on their way to fields, radio in hand; 6:30 PM when all of the family has gathered home. Unfortunately radio reaches mostly men, and teens. Like the TV remote in some Canadian families, the radio in Mozambique is the man's to monopolize.

Then there's live theatre, under the local sombra (meeting-tree), in the five main Zambezia languages. This works best with few words, lots of mime and action, music and dance. It works best too when followed by discussion. People ask questions, say what they felt, offer opinions- what a character did or didn't do, should or shouldn't have done.

Even without theatre, discussion groups help. But there's fear and shyness, so CCM and others may use puppets. Easier when it's not you talking but that toy on your hand.

And not just how to communicate- but to whom. So many different target groups, each needing different messages. Women, men, girl and boy teens and pre-teens (like the PEDRA girls in the photo, at a CCM rural AIDS class discussion), older women (grandmas, aunts, mothers-in-law) respected as mentors. High-risk groups like prostitutes, teachers, truck-drivers, soldiers, workers on construction sites far from home. And birth attendants: in rural districts each works about a dozen births per week, and about a quarter of pregnant women are HIV+.

How communicate, to whom- and what? Negative doesn't work. "SIDA Mata"-"AIDS Kills"-just makes people fearful, in a country with two million people already infected. It encourages denial or giving- up. So a negative message itself can kill. For seropositives, "Positive Living" is the slogan.

Long messages don't get attention. Stick to key words and simple slogans.

For teenagers: 'Save Sex Till Later'.

For those who might be +: 'Get Tested - Know For Sure'.

For those with a + partner, friend or family member: 'My Positive Friend Is My Friend Still'.

So hard to know what will work. New ideas are tried out daily. Maybe we should try writing on the ground.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 105 28 March 2004

Then the daughters of Zelophehad...stood before Moses, Eleazar the priest, the leaders, and all the congregation, at the entrance of the tent of meeting. -Numbers 27.1-2

This letter is about the World Day of Prayer. First Friday in March worldwide- except, this year, in Mozambique. The order of service for the worship- which is the same in every country- arrived in Quelimane in Portuguese only after the World Day had passed.

But the Women's Society of CCM said, We'll hold the service anyway. So they did, on a Sunday afternoon later that month. They sent out invitations to churches- delivered by hand on foot, since churches and ministers here don't have trucks or phones.

Saturday night and Sunday morning it rained hard. In such weather the Quelimane streets turn to mud and small lakes, and travel is hard except for ducks. But near noon the sun came, and though it didn't dry the streets by the time of the service, more than 150 people filled the sanctuary of a small Baptist church- women, men, youth and children.

Interspersed in the Order of Service from Panama, colourful choirs from each member church of CCM sang. In the photo you see two singers.

An ecumenical choir sang too, fifteen girls aged 10 to 14 from CCM's ecumenical PEDRA program for girls' education. They trekked up the central aisle singing that Zulu hymn 'We are Marching in the Light of God', with accompanying guitar and huge smiles. They sang Kumbaya- another hymn of Africa- in Portuguese and English. And then back down the aisle they paraded, singing We are Marching.

As everyone knows who worshipped on the World Day of Prayer, one feature was the story from Numbers 27, of the five brave daughters who publicly challenged unjust inheritance laws in the time of Moses, and brought about lasting social change.

Women in Mozambique face much injustice. Some families disinherit widows and send them away. Some don't let girls go to school. Beating of wives is common, and prosecutions rare. One woman in ten dies in childbirth. At a much higher rate than men, women are infected by HIV, and killed by AIDS.

Slowly, times are changing. The proportion of girls in school is rising, slowly. After South Africa, Mozambique has a higher percentage of women members of the national assembly than any other African country. The Prime Minister is a woman. So is the Minister of Finance.

A service like this is a worldwide chance for women- and men- to say together: 'United with God we can transform the planet'. To announce their faith that a world can come where women have equal protection from law, equal access to education and all social services, to employment in any field at equal pay, the freedom to make their personal decisions, and to march with confidence through life in God's strong light. In mission and service, Karena and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 104 12 March 2004

I said to you, "Live! And grow up like a plant of the field.." - Ezekiel 16.6-7

Last July PEDRA ordered 300 trees from a group of young people in the town of Milange (see Letter 89). Orange trees, eucalyptus, banana, and acacia, to be planted by the girls of PEDRA in the Lar (school residence) in the town of Molumbo, come rainy season. This year, the rains came late, but the youth of Milange nursery took good care of PEDRA's trees while waiting.

And now they're planted. The girls of the Lar turned out on an overcast Saturday morning to plant. Later that same morning they had to go to school to help with cleaning. The students take turns with this–no money in Mozambique for custodians. So there at 6AM they were, 38 of them, lifting trees in their plastic tubes–some still tiny seedlings, others as tall as the smaller girls.

They greeted the truck with songs, and carried the tree-lings in armloads in a singing file to the spots they'd picked out for planting. Eucalyptus to line the laneway. Acacia in the yard for shade. Oranges and bananas along the field where they grow their corn and beans.

They brought stout short-handled hoes that Mozambicans use, and gouged the dirt and planted and watered and hilled up soil to protect the seedlings against heavy rain. In two hours they were finished–38 girls, 300 trees. As they headed off to the school for weekend clean-up duty, it started to rain. Perfect timing.

The trees are theirs to tend now – PEDRA among its other classes teaches care of the living environment God created. With good care, these trees will grow as the girls grow.

In the year since PEDRA started, already we've seen growth. In February the new school year begins. Rural schools go only to grade four, and Molumbo only to grade six, so some girls who took part in the PEDRA program have had to move away, to larger towns with a school for higher grades. CCM still manages to pay their fees. The PEDRA Centres have new girls in from the villages. The older ones who have not passed on become teachers, role models, mentors for the new ones.

Back in their villages, without the fertile soil of the Lar and PEDRA, most of these girls would have long ago left school. They'd be working at home or with some other family, pounding corn, hauling firewood and water, by age 14 having babies. Important work, but God gave some girls other talents that are meant to grow and be used, as a plant or tree is meant to be everything that its seed is the pattern for.

"Live and grow!" Ezekiel's God says. That's what PEDRA tells these girls too.

After we wrote the above, sudden violent rain sent a flash flood hurtling down the mountain behind the Lar, tearing some of the newly planted trees from their carefuly built little hills. They're lost. But somehow the girls will re-plant. That's the way of life here, in one of the world's poorest and most afflicted countries. You grieve, then move on, make the best of painful situations. That too must be part of growth.

In mission and service, Karena and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 103 27 February 2004

I adorned you with ornaments: put bracelets on your arms, a chain around your neck.

  • - Ezekiel 16.11

Ezekiel pictures God's gifts to Israel as beautiful things to wear. Long before Ezekiel and down till today, they help to make our sense of well-being. In the rural mountain Centres of PEDRA, the girls are learning to make bead bracelets, threading tiny plastic beads bought in the local market, to make designs of flowers.

Straight-legged on reed mats on the red dirt, they focus intently on the thread and each tiny bead-hole. Their finger-eye coordination is amazing. Smiles grow broader as the flowers take shape.

In the PEDRA Centre of Moriamuendo, on the border with Malawi, isolated from the rest of Mozambique, the girls don't speak much Portuguese, only the Chichewa language of southern Malawi. But beads are a universal language.

The community's Rainha-Queen- came by. She sat on a bench to watch (see her photo) and give PEDRA her royal blessing. She was recently elected by her people, replacing her twin brother, the last King, who died. Last year the King himself had helped to set up PEDRA. When the rain poured down-this is rainy season-we all ran to her stucco palace and sheltered on the wide-roofed clay veranda.

When the first three girls finished up their bracelets we said, Now you are educadorinhas- young teachers. They spread out, one to each reed mat, and helped the others make the floral pattern, thrilled to have a skill to share. PEDRA isn't mostly about beading, it's teaching self-esteem, teaching girls to want to learn and believe that they can, and to stay in school, make wise life decisions for themselves, and be models for others.

We met with the Director of the local school. By grade four, he said, not one student in five is a girl. They are shy and insecure, never raise a hand, never answer questions or volunteer to write on the board. PEDRA, he saw, is changing that. That same day he picked some girls and told them they could join the PEDRA program.

When the rain stopped and class ended the girls all slogged back home through mud, wearing bracelets. Most walk several kilometres to the program, one more reminder of Mozambican people's strength. Next week they'll be back. Next class, bead necklaces of flowers. Then, the looped AIDS ribbon in cross-stitch.

Each class in the PEDRA program ties to the theme of HIV/AIDS. Teenage girls-just after PEDRA age-are the highest-risk group of all for HIV. We want for these fine young educadorinhas long and creative lives-no strong likelihood, these days, in Mozambique.

In mission and service, Karena and Bill Butt

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