Raised from the dead

The singer had been brBaby in capulana bowl coverought especially to bless the church. But no-one had expected this. Old, yes. But no movement? Just dead, with no vital signs. Was there any possibility of revival? Most agreed that this was unlikely and was really sad. But one lady thought there might be a chance.

Her faith was certainly bigger than ours. We thought there was no possible hope. How wrong we were. When an old man turned up with the singer alive and well we were amazed.

Lazarus

LazarusHow did he do it? We are not sure but the joy of every single one of the ladies present when the singer was plugged into the single socket in the darkly lit room, and we saw the sewing machine come to life was irrepressible!

As the ladies sang and danced they compared the restoration to that of Lazarus – or “Lázaro” in Portuguese. And each day the women gather to sew they refer to the singer machine by name and laugh.

Sewing justice

Over the last two months we have been coming alongside this small group of ladies in a local church to see how learning to sew may be able to help their lives. For Sara, one of the group, acquiring a skill may mean she can be the one who can provide additional income at home. Unemployment in this area of the city is sky high. Her husband and four boys, all in their late teens and early twenties, have no work locally.

Together

Some of our small group can sew but need to have the confidence and ability to know how to use this skill to make money. Others have never had the opportunity but are loving the chance to learn together. Starting off with small projects, they are doing things we take for granted; how to use a pair of scissors, to thread an old machine, and think creatively.

Capulana

Ladies at Huelene pin cushions

The wonderful thing about sewing in Mozambique is that you have the benefit of the “capulana”. Everyone loves the capulana. Brightly coloured cloth that is used as a wrap by every lady and fashioned into a shirt by every man. Babies are carried in them and sleep on them. Families have matching outfits made from the same capulana design for all manner of occasions. And for our ladies the capulana has been the starting point for many things: shoulder bags, pin-cushions, small zipped pouches and aprons to name a few.

Next?

Sewing with LazarusIt has been fun to see the ladies grow in confidence and enjoy being part of this learning group. We have tried to use what we possess, even three legged tables, rather than spend money we don’t have. Lazarus, being used in this picture, is one example of seeking to do this.

But expanding the vision and making real change is going to need some thought, planning and wisdom. We have started to talk together and talk to others about what might be possible. It’s a challenge but let’s see…

Viva!

They sang “Viva o dia das crianças!” at the top of their voices, out of tune and not really on any beat, but they sang and sang and sang as if their life depended on it.

Masana teaching

1st June is “o dia das crianças” or Children’s Day in Mozambique. Endorsed by the UN and celebrated worldwide this day provides awareness of the issues that children face in many societies. It recognises the need to protect all children from exploitation and abuse, whilst promoting universal education and encouraging loving home environments where adequate food and healthcare are provided. As Christians we believe that childhood and life begins before we are even born and every child’s life, especially the most vulnerable, needs to be protected. AMAC provides legal education seminars on children’s rights and, sadly, in this ministry we hear stories of children who have been horrifically used and abused. But on this Children’s Day we want to share some good news!

We have spent time recently with three sets of children’s groups in Maputo. Their situations are different but we have seen in each great joy and enthusiasm from children who are being allowed to be children when their life situation means that this is not always possible.

Boys at Masana

Masana

Street kids have possibly the toughest of lives. Often running away from huge problems at home these boys form bonds with likeminded others, living for the moment in close knit hierarchical groups. Masana is an organisation that seeks to come alongside the boys, and work with their families to move them back into their home. It was here that we joined about forty boys singing “viva” full pelt this week. Masana are successful in their vision of reintegration, but it is not easy. As they support the boys they provide a daily safe refuge of food, medicine, showers, education and teach about God’s restorative love. AMAC provides a monthly teaching session on the law and supports Masana and the children when there are legal issues to address. Spending some time with a small group just playing Dobble and Uno, whilst learning Portuguese, was a joy. Why? Because we saw them being children, as they are meant to be, laughing and helping one another to play the games.

Hodi Afro swing.jpg

Maputo Afro Swing

Learning to Lindy Hop has become a real joy for us in recent years, and about the only way we properly exercise! So we were pleased to find that we could continue this in Maputo. Our dance teacher told us about a kids group that happens here in a less privileged area, that is making a difference in children’s lives. We spent a morning with them as they practiced for a show later that day in their own neighbourhood. The space was cramped, and the hot sun kept away by a strung up tarpaulin, but watching these amazing dancers in action was brilliant fun. Seeing the passion they had to learn and perform well was infectious. These children were enjoying life in circumstances that are far from ideal but does not defeat them.

New Life Youth

Growing up cross-culturally as a child is not easy too. Our daughter must negotiate and manage a myriad of expectations from different peer groups, in different locations and in many different settings. International schools, local church, friends and family “back home” all have differing views, cultural or otherwise, on how as a child you should behave and live. We have been so grateful to an international church youth group that has welcomed us with open arms, allowing us to join in, even when we are committed to a different local church, enabling us to relax as we consider from a Christian perspective how we should live as our creator intends us to live. Spending time with the youth exploring the theme of “obedience” gave us some insight into what the pressures are on the lives of children in this country, and how they are successfully negotiating them.

So we want to say thank you for the children we know and love and celebrate all children everywhere today: “Viva o dia das crianças!”

I killed a beetle for breakfast

Independance mural wall painting

It sounds pretty dreadful but in Mozambique, if you take breakfast, you “mata-bicho” – or literally “kill the insect”. The phrase comes from the sadly all too often uncomfortable feeling of gnawing hunger that many have here in the morning. It’s like a beetle in your gut, that needs to be killed to soothe it. This is just one of the peculiarities we have learnt as we have taken language classes in Maputo. Others include the fact that instead of saying the local word for “toothpaste” it is just generally known as “Colgate”, such is the dominance of the brand in these parts.

Life in the balance

Life in the balance

The breakfast issue is a daily reminder though that life is in the balance and many live on the edge. In our previous post we relayed that we had observed economic growth and development in the city but that most, mentioning the residents of a local dump as an example, don’t benefit and scratch a living.

Huelene disasterLittle did we know that this dump would within the next few weeks hit the world headlines as torrential rains caused the huge piles of waste to collapse, killing at least seventeen who lived under its shadow and making many more homeless. It made world news for two days.

And then the world moved on. The residents haven’t really though. Some have been put into a holding camp. We asked someone whose church ministers to the residents when they will be rehoused and were told “who knows?”. The tragedy continues, as does the dump.

Plástico

Huelene disaster No2.jpg“Quer plástico?” You don’t really need language lessons to pick these words up. You are asked every time you shop if you want one. And as you can see the dump has plenty of it! Therein lies a conundrum. This city needs a place to put its vast quantity of waste, a huge proportion of which is plastic. People can make a living by scavenging the dump, especially for plastic. But we don’t want them on the dump because that is unsafe, unhealthy and can kill. And plastic is a big problem especially in the city here and all along the coastline of Mozambique.

Any answers?

Talking to people here, including the church leader who wants to help those living in the area around the dump, finding answers is tricky. But it is not all doom and gloom. Recycling (in a safe way) and re-using materials is one option that some are already putting into practice. The potential for providing teachable skills to empower people and move out is also possible. Maybe some justice could be sewn for those living on the dump soon, but that’s for a future time and a different blog. For now its back to the language learning…

Maputo – a history lesson in street names

Marx, Nyerere, Mondlane – you say these names constantly in Maputo. Why? Because each journey you make involves negotiating a “Rua” named after a historical figure.

The following really is a drive you can do here in about 20  minutes.

Ave Fredrick Engels
Avda Fredrick Engels

Begin at Avenida Kenneth Kaunda, turn right onto Kim Il Sung and then another right to Mao Se Tung before a left onto Salvador Allende. Proceed until Eduardo Mondlane where you make a right before a left onto Vladimir Lènine (yep!), passing the British High Commission just after Ho Chi Min, before a left onto Patrice Lumumba, and go round Julius Nyerere,  finally connecting onto Avda Friedrich Engels. And you didn’t even use one of the Avenues that help you to remember specific dates, like the 24th July (Independence), 25th September (Revolution) and 10th November (Maputo Day).

The journey is a history lesson. The road names tell you most of all you need to know of the last fifty years of this country. Mozambique boasts nearly 1500 miles of phenomenally beautiful coastline, but for the majority of the late 20th Century this was a not a place many people wanted to visit. From 1964, in step with other African Nations,  the demand for freedom commenced and the fight began. Then, after 1975, the birth pangs, infancy and adolescence of a newly independent nation were fraught with conflict as ideologies clashed for some twenty years. Many died, many suffered and many were displaced. Most have a story of those times, and we have heard some already.

Downtown Maputo

That was then. The now is quite astonishing, especially in Maputo. The development and investment is palpable. Construction is everywhere; hotels, bridges, condominiums, shopping malls, banks and a new beach front are just a few of the outward and obvious signs of economic growth. Funding and finance are coming from various parts of the world, including the usual sources, but at least it is coming.

Maputo from sand

The discovery of energy products (coal and gas) have given a new hope of the prospect of a brighter future. That doesn’t mean to say that all is a bed of roses – far from it. You only need to read the newspaper, visit an outside bairro, talk to a few people or, for a “full in the face” reality check, see one of the two massive rubbish dumps where thousands are said to live. Not everyone is yet (or even close to) benefitting and Maputo is a very different place to the rest of this vast country.

But there does seem to be a desire to move on down a new road, one that might see the next generation flourish given the right opportunity.

I had a conversation with a young man this weekend. As a boy he literally lived on those aforementioned streets ten years ago, impoverished and with apparently no future. With the love, help and care of others he is now the manager of a small but growing business. But I was impressed by his ambition to not stop there. He starts university next month and wants to become a lawyer. Why? Because he wants to see  a better future for his country and wants to be part of the change. To see justice done and others helped. His is an ambition that is born out of his own history.

We pray that he will see that dream turned into a reality for the sake of his future and we hope that the historians who write about this wonderful country in the coming years might have a street to write about, a street which is named after him.