Friday, August 26, 2011

The Least of These...

Matthew 25:37- 40

 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
   40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
sunset over the rail line as we drove north

This week I had the privilege of joining Rick up north for a few days as he started his 12 days of seminars and training the pastors. Tendai and I went up with our colleague Andy, to help Rick and Dwight hand out the Orphan Care packs purchased last year during our Unique Christmas Gifts campaign.

The children who recieve these gifts are either orphans or vulnerable children. Many have been abandoned, all are struggling to survive in whatever situation they find themselves. Most do not receive more than on full meal a day, will have to travel five hours by foot followed by several on a boat to recieve medical care,  and attend a school where the highest available grade currently is grade 3.
this is part of the bike/walking bush trail that the pastors widened to make it passable for trucks like ours!

The village Rick and I went to is called Chireza, it is located about two hours past the end of the planet. Or at least that is what it felt like! We left the highway and drove three and a half hours on a dirt road then it was two hours on a dirt track/sand road, and finally, after crossing a rather interesting bridge, we drove nearly an hour on a bush trail. We wound in and around rural villages, small herds of cattle and goats, women pounding maize, and thru many dry riverbeds.
the bridge. those rocks are about the size of footballs and basketballs.

Once we arrived in Chireza we were greeting by the entire church and community singing and clapping as we drove up to the Pastor's home.  I wish I could upload the video of I have of them surrounding us and reaching out to shake our hands.. it was such an amazing moment.
a granny recieves her certificate for completing books one and two in the training program

After initial introductions and organization we had an hour of teaching, and then handed out the certificates for the pastors and church leaders studying in the mission's extension Bible Schools. I was so impressed by the number of women studying in the Chireza school. Young women, mothers, grannies looking after orphaned grandchildren- all of them recieving top marks in their studies! 
Rick hands out the soccer balls, rice, etc to the Pastor who runs the Orphan Program.

Once the seminar portion was over, we started with the main event- handing out the Orphan Care Packs!   We gave out 80 packs in this community. One to each of the children registered in the church's Amore Orphan Program.  These kids were so excited to receive new backpacks and all the goodies inside of them. 

 when we asked these three what their favorite thing in the pack was, not one of them could pick just one item! They just kept saying "all of it.. its ALL my favorite!"

Its cultural here for people to be rather reserved when receiving things, and when having their pictures taken. It usually takes a while for the real excitement to shine thru. It was fun to watch as the day continued on as the kids discovered new items in each pocket of the packs! These packs contain probably the only gift some of these children have ever gotten. We are so grateful to all those who purchased items thru our Unique Christmas Gift campaign last year- the joy those packs brought to these kids is impossible to describe, but they really did make a difference. Jesus' love came to Chireza this week in the form of 80 backpacks lovingly purchased by God's faithful!

 everyone wanted to save their Maheu (drinkable fermented porridge) in their new Water Bottles. Maheu suprisingly tastes a lot better than it sounds.... its maize meal and water made into a porridge and then covered and left to sit (ferment) for three days. Then sugar is added and its left for one more day. Then you drink it. yeah. not on my list of things to learn how to make but the kids sure seemed to like it!
Tendai tries Maheu for the first time. mmm. :) lol

 Tendai really enjoyed her rice and beans for lunch- someone fed her while we werent looking!
 a little girl (one year old) enjoys her lunch
(quite possibly the cutest kid on the planet. next to mine of course)
(children from the surrounding area came to see what all the fuss was about)

One of the hard parts of handing out packs it that inevitably children from surrounding communities or areas will come to see what all the fuss is about. We only bring enough packs for those registered in the programs so sometimes it is hard to see a child who you just know is wishing he too could have a pack! We try to bring enough for the orphan program that everyone present can have a good yummy lunch, some juice and this time we brought popcorn as well- so at least everyone got a treat of some sort!

cokes and fantas purchased for our lunch. these cost as much as a working mans daily wage! so humbling!

It is just such an amazing feeling to see how happy the children, grannies, pastors and everyone around was to have visitors, to have fellowship. We know that they sacrificed a great deal to have us visit- they honored us with a chicken lunch and even gave Rick a piece of gazelle meat that they had orginized to be hunted and prepared for him since the pastor knows Rick loves to hunt. The pastors young son gave Tendai an offering of a live chicken (a typical gift to show gratitude for visiting someone's house).

I am constantly reminded here of how much I have and how much I take for granted. It is an incredibly humbling experience to be given so much but those who have so very little. As we drove away we were once again surrounded by singing and clapping people, faces I will never forget. 

The next day we visited another community where Rick again taught a Children's ministry seminar, and I fellowshipped with the women and took pictures. I was invited to dance with the women as they sang a traditional song- again, a memory I will never forget! (sure wish I could upload the video of that as well, though my attempts at dancing with them are not that pretty to be sure!)

If you would like to check out some more of the pics from our trip, you can check them out here-

I also want to share with you an amazing story of God's protection over us. I ask each and every time I post a blog for prayer, and I allways tell you how much we appreciate those prayers. Sometimes I think people must think im nutty- I say the same thing every single time it feels like, but I want to tell you that we honestly depend on those prayers. 

This is what the vehicle Andy, Myself and Tendai travelled home in looked like by the time we got back to the farm. It was an absolute miracle that Andy was able to maintain control of the truck (not ours, we were driving Ron and Barb's truck)! As we came up over the crest of a hill there was a large fully loaded semi in the middle of the road, barely moving at all- no brake lights, no fourway flashers! Had Andy not managed to slam on the brakes and swerve to the side we would have slammed straight into the back of the truck. As it was Andy kept both the truck and the heavy trailer we were hauling on the road and all of us safe. The entire passenger side front quarter panel and mirror are destroyed, but had we hit even 2 cm over we would have had the full impact on the truck frame- and that would have been much much worse. We KNOW that those prayers and our amazing God kept us safe! Thank you so much for all your prayers, please keep praying. We need them!

In other news, TOMOROW is the Golf Tournament- We are praying that it goes well!  

Rick will be up north until next wednesday, so Tendai and I are alone here till then. With Dwight, Rick, Joao and Francois & Alta all gone from the farm, it is rather empty! Again, we appreciate your prayers!

God Bless, Rick, Heather & Tendai

( I just realized I didnt post ANY Pics of us preparing the packs in this post! oh well. I guess ill post some at a later date and it will all just be a bit backwards! haha)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Rainbows of Hope and a bunch more Snippets!

Im warning you now. This is a long post. But is a gooder, full of the awesome things God is doing here and the Hope that He brings. (and its got lots of good pictures!!)

This last week has been a pretty long week. Lots of great things happened, but we've also had a rather stressful time, personally, as Rick has been in a lot of pain and not sleeping due to we think, some pinched nerves.  Last week as we were checking on the progress at the house and I was feeling a bit down (Rick is Ill, the house is going so slowly it feels like at times, we were all tired..) I turned around and saw this rainbow.. stretching right over top of where our house will be. God is Good. He reminds of his love and provision just when we need it. And I needed it right then.  (not the greatest pic, but you get the idea).
This shows the "shallowest" part of the house, nearly completely backfilled and packed! PTL! The picture below shows just one of the rooms in the "deep" part that is waiting to be filled and packed. Ten Centimetres at a time, until it gets to where Rick is standing. 

Ive had a few other Rainbows of Hope in the last few weeks as well.  We delivered the monthly food amounts to the families in our Amigo Orphan Program. Its always a long day, but I always enjoy seeing Grannies, the kids, and hearing how they are doing. 

This is part of our storeroom for our Maize and Beans. The guys just recently completed several months of buying in, sorting, treating and packaging all of this so that we will have enough to last thru the coming "hungry season." Each month Pastor Mariano and his helper Marco make up packets of food for each child, and also larger amounts for our school. There is a LOT of Maize and Beans in that room.. but we are feeding a lot of people! Each of the meals we provide brings hope to not just the orphans, but to the grannies, the school children who eat nutritious meals every day and their families too!
One of Tendai's favorite things to do is to help hand out the food and items to the orphan kids. She is growing up to be a deliverer of hope! (I pray!)

Another Rainbow of Hope came in the form of five boxes sent to us from Valley Baptist Church, in New Brunswick Canada.  There were tuques, washcloths and even blankets in them! The blankets and washcloths are waiting to be given out yet, but the tuques (knit caps) were distributed to the mission employees last week. Although winter here is nearly over, the nights and mornings are still very chilly, so I knew they would very welcome!
Rick explains the the staff that these Hats came from VERY far away.. from people who have been praying for Mozambique and the Mission.
She loves to help hand things out, I hope and Pray that she is developing a sense of compassion!

so many warm heads around here now!!

Last Friday was a big Rainbow of Hope day for me. Pastor Mariano and I spent the day with the older children from the mission's Amigo Orphan Program, as they visited the different "sectors" at the farm. We had organised this day to expose the kids to different types of jobs that they can have.  In North America you can ask a group of children what they want to do and get a different answer from each. Here, many of the children have no idea what kind of jobs there are, much less that THEY could learn how to do them. When I ask what they want to do the answer is almost always "teacher," simply because they do not know there are any other options! In the pic above they are listening to Gabriel describe what he does and the machines he uses in the carpentry shop.

In total we visited Four areas of the farm this time around. 
-The carpentry shop, where the kids helped to build a door for the training centre.
-The Administration Office where each one was taught how to "open" Microsoft Word, use a "mouse" and type their name. (lots of excited kids after that one, not a single one had ever used a computer before and Im pretty sure most had never seen one!)
-The Garden where Senhor Alec taught them how to transplant "baby" plants.
-And the Bricklayers, where they helped to brick in one of the windows at the Training Centre.

It was so exciting for me to see their eyes light up as we visited each different area of the farm. I saw HOPE in their eyes. Excitement. Interest. As we left each area you could tell that at least one of the kids had found something that caught their interest, that they think THEY could do! In December we will host another similar experience, though we will do it for three days and allow them to choose what area they would like to learn more about. 
I was also so excited to see our mission staff take such an interest in the children. They were patient, explained things very well, and invited them back to learn more! So excited to see our staff so excited about sharing HOPE!!!!
Of course, after a hard day of learning and observing we went out to the "helipad" (large cleared area where the Mercy Air helicopter lands when it visits) and played a game of Soccer. The teams were Mozambique and Switzerland (had some Swiss visitors join us for the game). Mozambique won, but the Swiss did their best!

Ok... now, that is the end of the major part of this post, which is already soooo long. However, I promised a few snippets. So here they are in no particular order.

Snippet #1- We are often asked "what are some of the crazy things that happen to you?" or "do you have wild animals in your backyard?" ........ this almost happened to me last week while delivering Orphan Food. He was coming for me. I screamed and ran to the truck and hopped in, so he chose Pastor Mariano next.

This happens to be someones pet monkey (they most likely trapped it to get it).  I am not a huge fan of monkeys unless I am in the truck and they are outside of it.

Snippet #2-
Snakes. we have seen more snakes this year than I remember in both the other years we have been here combined. I usually only see them once they are dead, or when they are being hunted. I have NEVER been the first one to see one. In fact I am very very BAD at seeing them. My eyes just do not pick them out. But this past week at Devotions I noticed a branch in the tree the guys were leaning on was swaying. Ever so slightly, back and forth. Then I noticed there was no breeze and none of the leaves were moving. On closer inspection I realised it was a SNAKE.  Couldnt believe I saw it first, and there were 50 local guys standing RIGHT THERE!!!

Its a Twig Snake or Vine Snake, very poisonous but not very dangerous since their mouths are very small and their fangs are very far back in their mouths, meaning they cant get a good grip on you to inject their venom unless they have ahold of your finger or toe. They are also not very agressive. Amazing how they are built to look just like a tree branch with a leaf shaped, green head!!

Snippet #3

This is Pindurai, a young man who used to be in our School Sponsorship program, and is now training under Gabriel, learning to be a carpenter. He also happens to be a gifted and creative artist. Yesterday he gave me a gift of some of his artwork. He puts a lot of thought into each piece. We still had some markers and pencil crayons from the folks in Fort McMurray that had not been handed out yet, So I gave him some, and a notebook as well, so he could continue to make beautiful pictures! He was pretty excited to get them!

Snippet #4
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, Rick has been in a lot of pain for over a week now. He is having a hard time slowing down since he so badly wants the work on our house to continue and he knows he can help with that.  Please join with us in praying that pain in his neck and shoulder will go away, that he will be able to rest (ie.. not go out there and work on every project !) and be able to sleep at night. Last night was the first night in over a week that he slept nearly all night. We know it was because there were literally hundreds of people lifting him up in prayer. Again, we cannot tell you how much those prayers mean to us. It is so hard to put into words the peace and the calm that we have when people are lifting us, our health and our work up in Prayer!

Snippet #5
August 27th is coming soon!!! If you haven't contacted Carter Krahn yet to get involved with the Golf tournament yet and you want to.... Now is the time! Even if you are not from Grunthal area you can get invovled by sponsoring one of the Golfers, donated towards the event as a whole, or if you are close enough to come... you can Golf yourself! You can contact Carter at Grunthal Abundant Life Church 204-434-6829. (also dont forget to check out our snazzy promo video by scrolling down a few posts in this blog). The money raised from this event will be going to help with out ministry costs and current projects we have. Cant wait to see what God is going to do thru these teens and adults who are putting a whole lot of love, sweat and prayers into this event!

Thanks so much for praying- we appreciate every prayer! Our prayer requests for this month are
- a return to health for Rick's shoulder, as well as some good nights sleep for him.
-that funds for our house will continue to come in
-that Rick and hopefully me too, will be able to have a good time of fellowship as we visit the pastors up north,  run Children's ministry seminars and deliver the Unique Christmas Gift orphan care packs in two weeks time.

-Praise the Lord for a great Amigo Orphan Career Day!
-Praise the Lord for  safety on the roads these last few weeks.
-Praise the Lord for the encouraging words and emails we have gotten lately from folks back home!

God Bless, Rick, Heather & Tendai Neufeld!