To Everything There is a Season

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Dear Friends and Partners in Mission,
 
Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is with mixed emotions and a heavy heart, we share with you our time in Mozambique is coming to a close. Soon we will say good-bye to this country and culture we have called home for the past few years. We feel we have built a beautiful life in Maxixe, and as the time to leave draws near, we are saddened to realize this departure. In our time here, we encountered the constant presence of God through celebrations and sorrow, learned patience in the slowness and beauty of life, and experienced the humbleness of being held in prayer by Christian community. Our two daughters have spent formidable years running barefoot through the Mozambican sand learning how faith in God requires action. We leave behind a piece of our heart for the community we built and the friends we made while serving in God’s Mission in Mozambique.

We are excited to announce our next assignment will be as Mission Advocates for the South Central Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church. We will be located in the United States of America. We are headed “home!” We will continue to work as Global Missionaries with the UMC and continually discern how God is calling us into ministry. Our responsibilities will be connecting Annual Conferences, churches, UMC groups, and individuals to the Holy Spirit through missional opportunities and education. We look forward to the next challenge and opportunity to serve God’s people with the love of Christ.
 
It is through the grace of God and the repeated prayers, calls, visits, advice, and love from you, our friends and family of supporters, that we managed these past years working in Chicuque Rural Hospital and the community of Maxixe. We are grateful to you for being “doers of the word” and we have felt the presences of your actions. You have been an immeasurable blessing in our lives. When we say we could not have done this without you, we mean it truly. All of us leave Mozambique, and a piece of all of us will remain as a witness to God’s love in action. Estamos Juntos (we are together). Please keep our family in your prayers as we travel back and readjust to our life in the United States. We will continue to represent you all in the sharing of our stories and following of Christ.
 
Grace and Peace,

David, Elizabeth, Eva, and Annie
 
But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and preserve, being not hearers who forget but doers who act-they will be blessed in their doing.
                                                                        James 1: 25

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Sowing Seeds

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This is our garden (called a "machamba" here in Maxixe). It is flourishing with tomatoes. They are growing in mass on the rows, in the path, everywhere with vibrant green leaves and delicate yellow flowers. I am excited to soon taste the delicious sweet red flesh in my salads and to perfect my bolognese sauce with these fruits...the only thing is we didn't plant any tomatoes.

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These are volunteer plants, leftovers from a past machamba, or more likely in our situation, a past disposal/wash area. We planted cauliflower, celery, bush beans, jalapeños, and kale, all seeds shipped from the U.S. It was our idea to use farming methods we knew and were accustom to in our African garden. We were to adapt the way of vegetable growing, which has been in-place for hundreds of years, to what we thought it should be, and we failed miserably. Aside from one kale plant and some sad looking cilantro, we have nothing to show for our efforts of working the land. 

Then I realized, this can be just like our missional work, putting so much effort and time in changing a system or custom that does not want to be amended. Like our small garden, it can end in failure. I have seen it at the hospital, as I insist on changes I believe to be the best for the Mozambican patients, workers, and the world...only to have them reversed mere months after implementation. I have gone forward with programs not agreed upon by the local leadership only to see them met with constant resistance, frustrations, and barriers. It took a while to recognize it, but the tomato plant ways of Mozambique are strong and change is not easily accepted. It was humbling to experience these episodes of failure, as I recognized my efforts were not always aligned with what God had for the people. 

But God does calls us to be a gardener, a tender of what we have been given. However, in a way which uses God's methods to bring forth the best from what we find, not to work our own agendas. As missionaries, we are but a temporary, outside addition to this land, God's land, and we must at times be reminded God has it under control:

10 For the land that you are entering to take possession of it is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you sowed your seed and irrigated it,[b] like a garden of vegetables. 11 But the land that you are going over to possess is a land of hills and valleys, which drinks water by the rain from heaven,12 a land that the Lord your God cares for. The eyes of the Lord your God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.                                                                                                       Deuteronomy 11: 10-12

I often say "we are not here to bring God to Mozambique, God is already here, we are just in this place to be apart of what God is doing in the lives and land of the people." However, at times I forget this and I forget God has God's eyes always upon us, always. So our responsibility does not lie in creating a new garden of disciples, but to come along side God as we tend the flock in front of us all to the glory of the Lord. 

Although I am not giving up trying to grow kale and squash, we will just take a different approach. The plan is to incorporate local additions to the soil to make it more rich and full of nutrients. We will focus on a small area, using our knowledge and God's strength to make it suitable for growth. We are learning, after all, change does happen, but in small increments and over time, even in ministry...but that's a post for another day. 

In the Deep

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It was almost a year ago.  Yaya, David’s mom, was here for a visit and it was my birthday.  She agreed to keep the girls while David, myself, and Memory went for a scuba diving lesson.  The weather would not permit us to get in the ocean so David and I decided to try surfing instead.  The waves were high and the tide was strong.  I was pulled out very far and while I am a decent swimmer, was unable to make progress on getting back to the shore.  I was exhausted and the waves kept knocking me off my board.   I could see David on the shore waving his hands at me but he couldn’t hear me.  Terror set in.  I thought that day might be my last….that there would be no more hugs and kisses for my family….that my girls would be motherless and my husband be a single parent….that I would never see my family we left in Louisiana again.  My tears mixed with the salt water as I tried my best to propel myself forward. 

Some other surfers saw me struggling and came to my rescue.  Although they were experienced and strong, we were not making progress either.  Now three of us were out there unable to get back and they were there because of me.  I will never forget looking into one of their eyes and asking if we were going to make it. 

By the grace of God, a lifeguard was on duty that day.  It is the only time I have ever seen a lifeguard on duty at this beach or in all of Mozambique.  But he was.  He had a special surf board that was made for rescuing people and he did just that.  It was a very uncomfortable position, but I was so happy to be laid out like a dead frog on his board as the four of us made our way back to shore.  I can’t explain the shear gratitude I felt to put my feet back on sand and be in the arms of my beloved.   I still remember how sweet clean water tasted after taking in so much salt water.

It has been almost a year.  And for the past year, I have not been so enthusiastic about the beach and dreaded actually getting in the ocean.   Seeing my kids splash around in the shallow water struck a cord of fear.  Actually getting in myself was almost too much.   The sounds, the salt water in my nose and eyes, and the strong waves brought be back to my birthday and set off waves of terror in my heart. (This is difficult when the beach and the ocean are about the only extracurricular activities.  There are no parks, movie theaters, hiking trails, or museums…..the beach is what we have.)  Really, the experience has been hard to talk about without tears in my eyes even now.      

But today I was feeling brave.  We went back to the beach for the first time in months.  We were having lunch at the same dive shop as the year before.  And the girls were too excited to wait.  They bolted out towards the ocean with David and our new dog in tow.  Their excitement was contagious.  I wanted to get out there with them and jump the waves like my parents used to do with my sister and me as children.   And I did just that.  I wanted to go out past where the waves break so I could jump with the swells.  It reminded me of childhood and I laughed with brazen delight.  And as I did, I had a realization.  The ocean taught me a life lesson.  So here goes:

Sometimes the breaking waves are too big.  They will knock you down and beat you up.  But if you hold your breath and close your eyes and DIVE INTO THEM, they don’t knock you down.  If you accept them and take them as they come, they don’t beat you up.  Then you get through them to jump the wave swells with unabashed laughter.  And so it is in life.  This season of life has had its share of intense waves that have knocked me down and worn me out.  But I have learned that I am more capable of handling them when I accept them and just dive in.   And then the joy comes. 

So I thank the ocean for some perspective on life as I celebrate one more trip around the sun.  But mostly I thank my Redeemer God who gave me the gift of one more year.  

Back Home

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Over the Christmas holidays we had the opportunity to go back to Louisiana and spend some weeks with family. It had been 16 months since we had set foot on U.S. soil and we had trepidations about how the reintegration would affect us.  We took our time getting back, stopping in both White River, South Africa and London, England for a couple of days at each location. It was nice to allow ourselves some in-between time. It gave us the opportunity to break the 17 hour drive and 20 hour flight into a few days of travel, rather than one full push. Our intentions where to avoid using a large part of our vacation just recovering from travel. It was a well designed plan with a bit of adventure and rest mixed in.

  Mae Mae's Church

 Mae Mae's Church

England has long been on my list of the top 5 countries to visit, and I was looking forward to sitting in an English Pub enjoying a pint with friends and family. Elizabeth's college roommate, Mae Christie, is a Vicar with the the Church of England, and she was quite a hospitable host. Not only did she facilitate our pub visits, but she and her husband outfitted us for the bitter cold and piercing winds of an English winter. Mae met us at the airport wearing her Vicar collar and reindeer antlers! it was a joy spending time with her, seeing her amazing 110 year old Cathedral and participating in an Eucharist service. 

 Eva and I outside the National Musuem of History

Eva and I outside the National Musuem of History

We left our house in Maxixe, Mozambique on the early morning of December 10th and arrived in Mansfield at 11:00pm on December 16th, tired but ecstatic to see family after such a long time. As we settled into the yellow house, our accommodation for the next six weeks, a sense of peace and familiarity fell upon us and we crashed. 

The next couple of weeks were a blur of family, friends, and food. We surprised people who had no knowledge of us coming back, as we kept our travels as quiet as possible, we ate tacos from Ki Mexico, we hugged grandparents, we ate tacos, we played in hay fields and ran on golf courses, we ate tacos. i was reunited with my mountain bike at long last, and we managed to find time to eat tacos (did I mention that). We found little trouble in repositioning ourselves into the culture from where we came. 

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There were, however, two cultural reintegration "events" of note. The first occurred in the first hours of being back in the States. We stopped at a gas station on our way home, having been picked up at the Dallas airport and driving 4 hours to the house. As I stood in front of the cooler staring at so many options of peeled, cut fruit in the mist of a convenience store five times the size of our three aisle grocery store, I had brief and slight moment of panic. I was reminded everything really is bigger in Texas. So many options in such a large space was not what I was expecting in my tired, jet-lagged state. A deep breath and a decision of watermelon brought me back to my self. 

The second occurred on my first day driving in Shreveport. Mindlessly I pulled out of the parking lot of a local business and continued to my next errand. I looked ahead and was confronted with a car coming straight at me, in my lane! I was on the brink of road rage when it dawned on me, I was driving in the wrong lane. You see, in Africa, the steering wheel is on the right side and you drive on the left. I had fallen back into my Africa driving habits. Elizabeth and I managed a laugh after we safely righted our path. Admitedly, mine was more hearty than hers. 

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Overall our trip was great, and much needed. We viewed our time as a chance to reconnect to what brought us to our Mission. We judged how our lives had changed and who we are now based on the comparison of countries and cultures. We longed to find out if the country we left, the one we had been building up in our minds over the past year and a half was indeed what we remembered or was it glorified in an attempt to find footing as we attached ourselves to a former version of us. We are sure of one thing, we are different Americans because of our time living abroad. 

I've taken to say "America is the land of Opportunity." And with this opportunity will can fill our days to the brim, always finding an activity or cause to whittle away the waking hours. Elizabeth and I found ourselves falling back in to the routine of scheduling our days until we grumpily and exhaustedly fell asleep. It was in this, a real appreciation for the remoteness of our little part of Africa surfaced. I began to long for the time when there was nothing to do, because where we are there are no shopping malls, no running clubs, no committee meetings, no organized after school activities, it is just us. After work and school we return to our small and cozy home and we just Be. They girls will play outside, Elizabeth and I enjoy a cup of tea as we look upon the bay. Because of the brutal heat, we spend out time outdoors in the shade and we live a simple life. 

There has been much spiritual and mental growth during our time in Mozambique. I am thankful in the many ways God has shown and delivered God's glory to us and our community. And also, I am thankful for the new way we live, the more relaxed, less rushed style in which we approach our family time. I found this was what I missed the most during our visit to Louisiana.

January 30th began another adventure, a visit to PA and snow storms, 17 hour flights, three hour border stops, broken down cars, and a new puppy acquisition, but we arrived back in Maxixe on Feb 7th, late in the evening. We were greeted by a surprise party by our new friends and neighbors. They lovingly made posters and dinner for us. It was a welcome site after months of travel and change. As we sat on the back porch and watched the girls chase our new French Bulldog around the yard, we felt how good it was to be back home. 

 A park in Maputo where waited for news on our car

A park in Maputo where waited for news on our car

 Jules                                                                                                     *Photo by Noe Cenal

Jules                                                                                                     *Photo by Noe Cenal

Reflections on a year in missions

I remember it as if it were yesterday. My family and a few close friends were there. They had gathered to share the last good byes before my two beautiful daughters and amazing wife moved from the United States. Elizabeth had long dispensed with the trying to keep it together as she allowed the tears to billow down her cheeks, matching our families faces. I was resolute, determined to keep the stoic demeanor like the strong men I had for examples, those who did their duty. I knew I would have 30 hours travel time to reflect on our stepping out on faith in missions. I was keeping with my wishes until I stood before my oldest daughter and told her it was time to give a final hug to her family and tell her cousin, her best friend goodbye for what could be years.  As I started the sentence the words became caught in my throat and struggled to release as a bird struggles on it’s first flight. My eyes swelled and blurred with tears, this was actually happening.  After more than two years of prayer, discernment, and preparation, we were leaving to be missionaries in Africa. I remember looking at my mother and saying “you will be alright, you will be alright,” knowing she would be fine but really, deeply telling myself through her “I will be alright,” an uncertainty then. And that was it, we boarded the plane and started this crazy journey as missionaries for the United Methodist Church.

Today marks one year since we left. As many missionaries will tell you, the first year is rarely easy, but more an uphill battle with mixed emotions. A complete paradigm shift in most everything you know leaves you falling down a tunnel faster than any time deficient white rabbit.  Fear is real, tears are real, love is real, it all gets very real very quick, and we were no different. We had times of calling out to God knowing there was a mistake in placement and knowing he had chosen the wrong people for the job. We had times of pure joy and bliss knowing we were exactly where God needed us. We have even more times in-between filled with uncertainty. But, in this, we know we are not the same as we were when we first stepped onto the plane in Shreveport, LA. We have changed, and we pray it is for the better. We pray God is glorified through our service.

But to celebrate us crossing the year, our first anniversary as expats, we have compiled a little list of what we have learned over the past 365 days.  There are twelve “lessons” one for each month living in Mozambique. Here goes:

1.     We appreciate our church family now more than ever.  We have a greater appreciation for children's Sunday School classes and the people who invest.  We miss the opportunity to be provoked or inspired by sermons on Sunday.  But now we can appreciate the simplicity of showing up and listening for God's still voice amidst the people's languages we don't understand.

2.     We transformed into engineers, plumbers, accountants, teachers, and experts of many things the moment we stepped off the plane in Mozambique.  "Necessity is the mother of invention."  We find that to be true as finding the real professionals can be challenging.

3.     We have a higher tolerance for discomfort and inconvenience. The power goes off almost daily from 5 minutes to 12 hours, it usually varies and is always a surprise. Come December when it is hotter than hell, there is no air conditioning, electricity, or running water....Elizabeth will be an irritable mess (as professed by her).  Maybe don't come visit then. 

4.     The entire very pale McCormick family has a tan.  It is strange!

5.     Our thoughts on poverty have changed.  We had the thought being in a "top 10 poorest country" would give us an idea of what it is like to be poor.  We now know how people live off of $1 or $2 a day. We can feed the family nutritious meals for around that.  We can buy decent second hand clothes for around 30 cents.  But we have come to recognize, we will never have any clue what it is really like.  When Eva got sick, we had the extra $10 to buy her medication from a private pharmacy.  When legs are tired from walking so far and the vehicle is broken down (again), we can pay $1 to hire a ride the rest of the way home.  And ultimately, if things get really rough, we can call family or friends to wire us some money.  These are luxuries the family living in the storage building in our back yard do not have.  The vast majority of people do not have those luxuries.   We will never know what this kind of poverty is like.

6.     Our view of living in community has changed.  We had talked for years of sharing our living space with another family or friends. In these dreams we all looked the same, thought the same, and spoke the same language. However, we are able to live in community in a way more divined by God.  We live with Gildo, Tina, and Baby Kayla.  They are the three family members sharing a two room metal building in our back yard.  We share food, chores, and fun. They play with our girls, we with theirs. They can not afford phones, but they have ours.  Gildo was able to talk to his mom for the first time in four months because of our living together and the use of our phone.  God’s idea of community represents more of a Kingdom of Heaven on earth.

7.     Being among Mozambicans and other nationalities has changed the way we see the world.  This isn't something we can explain, but we know we are different for it.  I think Eva and Annie will see the world differently as well.

8.     We have a greater sympathy and comradery with immigrants and resident aliens. We get the stares, the derogatory name calling, the difficulty in understanding how to do even the basic of things, like paying a water bill or getting electricity for the house or even how to use the ATM. We understanding their desire to separate themselves and the inability to speak the local language even after years in the country.

9.     The definition of "clean" has evolved to adapt to our surroundings.  It is a means of survival!

10.  We are learning to appreciate a simple life.  We just thought our life was simple in Louisiana.  But it was full of meetings, committees, yoga classes and small groups...all important things.  Making time for ourselves, each other, family and friends was often a challenge, especially with everyone else's busy schedule.   We did not know what to do with ourselves when we first arrived.  But now, we have settled into simplicity in many ways. Sabbath has a new meaning for us as there is nothing else to do on Sunday!

11.  We can now recognize and embrace the positives in the vulnerability and insecurity of being dropped off in an unfamiliar place, at dark, in an empty home, to be left to wait. We gained the confidence in finding our way in a city where we knew no one and did not speak the language, where we had no idea how to function or to get around.  

12.  When everything familiar is stripped away, when earthy comforts are greatly decreased, and when few people speak your language...that is when we hear God.  That is when we experience God's comfort.  That is when faith is tested and God refines us.  It hurts...but it is totally worth it.

Our ideas of why were are here and what we want to accomplish have changed many times in the past year.  Above all we seek to give honor to God and to love in the example of Jesus Christ. In this year since, we have found the joy of God when we least expecting to find it.  We stand ready for another year with help of the Holy Spirit and the love from our friends and family.

Out of My Box

Our family recently took a short break in Swaziland.  Swaziland was never a place that was on my radar before moving to Mozambique.  Yet, when we had to go there for visa issues, we fell in love with the country.  It has mountains, cool weather, hiking, pecan trees, nice grocery stores, lots of art and culture….and they speak English!  It is a great place for us to rejuvenate and to find a pediatrician with whom I can communicate.      

One day during our trip we were driving around looking for a nice place to picnic and hike near Sibebe, a solid granite mountain.  After a few detours, we found a trail that led to a waterfall.  We noticed candles under the waterfall as well as a few men, an older woman, and a young girl by the waterfall pool.  We said hello and kept hiking. 

Shortly after Eva picked out our perfect picnic rock, we heard screaming.  It was the young girl.  Thoughts began to flood my mind.  “Were they hurting her? What would I do if they were?  Would I be putting my own family in danger?”  But I could not continue on with my lunch as if I did not hear her.  I snuck over to peer at them behind the cover of some large rocks.  The men were holding the girl under the likely cold waterfall.  One of them was chanting something I could not understand.  I said some silent prayers and continued to secretly observe while the adults also went under the waterfall. 

I determined the girl was not in immediate physical danger and returned to my family picnic.  I wanted to talk to the people about what was going on but I did not want to intrude either.  (Being limited in English conversations most days makes me a bit more bold when those conversations are possible.)  We finished our lunch and headed back towards the waterfall.  The candles were still burning but the people were gone.      

A few other guys and a young boy were there.  The men looked as if they were from a National Geographic magazine.  I struck up a conversation with them.  The man said that he was there searching for rock rats but could only find their excrement.  He would have to return at 3am.  I asked about what I saw before with the young girl.  He explained it was sacred water with powers…a place for ritual cleansing.  Many people practice Zionism, a religion born from missionaries bringing Christianity to people who incorporated it into their traditional faith.

I was reminded that Swaziland, despite seeming more familiar, is still vastly different from the world we are from.  I was horrified to hear this girl scream….but I thought these folks may also be horrified to hear Eva’s screams as someone stuck a needle in her arm to drawl blood.  What must that look like to someone who doesn’t use Western medicine?  Still I do not know how to process what I observed.  I can only leave it as something beyond my box of understanding and realize God’s big beautiful world is wild and diverse.  And God’s love covers every centimeter of it!

Baby Kits!

Today!  Today is the day we were blessed to bless the new mothers with baby kits!  The ideas for these baby kits started almost a year ago at First Bend UMC in Oregon.  We had the pleasure of sharing our call story with their congregation.  Later that summer, they contacted us and asked if they could raise some funds during their VBS.  They wanted to come along side us in our mission at Chicuque Rural Hospital and do something to help the babies.  We did not know what the needs were at that time but we willingly agreed to figure it out after we settled in Mozambique.   

 

After we started working at the hospital, we discussed some possibilities with the head nurse in Maternity.  I thought about how so many friends and family helped prepare us for welcoming a new life into the world. We hoped it would be possible to do the same for these new mothers!  The nurse identified the items needed:  cloth diapers, a onesie, socks, hat, and a capulanna.  (A capulanna is a versatile piece of material used for everything….baby blanket, towel, a skirt, and even to tie the baby to the mom!)  Later, another employee had the idea to provide a “saco de peso” – a weigh sack for measuring the growth of the baby. 

 

I started to gather the items, which is more of a challenge than one might expect.  During the process, I had a thought.  It would be cool if there was more to the baby kit gift...a deeper significance that would be a greater gift.   I contacted my cousin with an embroidery machine to see if she could make “Jesus Loves Me” patches.  This truth that many Western church children grow up with is not widely conveyed here.   This simple but important message could be shared with all of these Mozambican babies and their mommas.  My cousin petitioned others to help make patches which were then brought to Mozambique with David’s mom.  A local seamstress who was making the saco de peso was employed to sew the patches on.  (The patches were very popular on their own and many people asked to have one.)

 

Last week, all of the items were assembled into baby kits.  A prayer written by Rev Ann Sutton was attached. “May this gift of grace bless this child and mother with hope and health and the love of God through Christ Jesus our Lord! Amen.”  And today we got to share them with all of the babies born over the weekend.  Fifteen babies (10 boys, 5 girls and a set of twins), received the baby kits this morning with lots of excitement.  We will give more this week and will be able to continue to give these baby kits thanks to a generous donor who wanted to bless the babies born in Chicuque. Please pray these gifts not only help mothers care for their new babies but also that they know the deep love of Jesus. 

 

You can connect with this project in various ways.

1)    Pray for those who receive the baby kits.

2)    Make “Jesus Loves Me” patches.  Contact Jennifer Green for embroidery design where patches can be sent. (office@newlifeluling.com)    The patches are sent to Mozambique via mission teams coming this way.

3)    Purchase a baby kit for around $15.  Donations can be made through the Advance http://www.umcmission.org/Give-to-Mission/Search-for-Projects/Projects/09734A.

Please send David and email and let him know you are designating for Baby Kits at dmccormick@umcmission.org.

Pan African Health Conference

We have just returned from a week in Johannesburg, South Africa.  The time was spent attending a conference of health professionals, food security personnel and water and sanitation workers. This event was a connection of missionaries, administrators, farmers and doctors all connected with the United Methodist Church's Global Health Unit, to which all these categories falls under. For three days we honed our skills, picked up helpful hints and networked with other professionals to determine what works well, what does not work and what can be shared throughout Africa.  There were more than 10 countries represented from Africa and Asia. The conference was well worth the time and effort of everyone involved.

It has long been an insecurity of mine to come into this position of Hospital Administrator with no previous health experience. And if I was to be truly honest, I did not even like going into hospitals prior to the acceptance of my call. It is funny how God works, taking the things or situations you feel are the antithesis of you and turning it around.  For example, I have always been a mountain person; camping, hiking, mountain bike riding, all the joys of the woods and hills.  However, now, in this season, I am learning an appreciation for the beach and flat lands as the closest mountains are 10 hours and two borders away.  It is how God works right?  Through Jesus coming to subvert the norm, changing the way we think of spreading the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, so I shouldn't be surprised at my own divine initiated paradigm shift. Not that it makes it easy or even comfortable, but I believe a certain amount of discomfort is necessary to keep us on our toes and keep us fully relying on God in every moment of every day.  And so it is with our time here and in our jobs here. For this I am thankful. 

I have many take aways from the conference: a new found knowledge of job expectations, a network of like minded (and not so like minded) colleagues, renewed confidence and vigor towards ensuring quality health care in a environment of difficulty. These are just a few of the comforts I will bring back to the focus of my job.  For this I am grateful.  I am grateful for those who pray daily for our safety, for those who come along side us in mission, for those who have put into us the trust and knowledge to be who we are and to God for the opportunity to live fully in the mercies and grace provided by God.  

It wasn't all work.  We did managed to take a couple of days to have some much needed down time.  We went to Jane Goodall's Chimp Sanctuary, the largest Rock Gym in the southern hemisphere, a Chinese restaurant,  a movie and some nice stores...all things we are only occasionally able to do these days.  All in all I think we are renewed and ready for the months ahead.  Grace and Peace in all God's endeavors.

-David 

 Us with Ms. Joyce, a Hospital Adminstrator in Nigeria

Us with Ms. Joyce, a Hospital Adminstrator in Nigeria

6 Months in

In my quiet time today I reflected on John 15:16. It helps us as missionaries to identify our call.  We are often asked to share how we arrived to our current placement. These questions surround how we became missionaries for the UMC, how we arrived in Mozambique, and why we are followers of Jesus Christ.  Both Elizabeth and I have spent time sculpting articulate words to demonstrate how our lives fit into the Holy Spirit’s movement in missions.  But this scripture is different.  It reminds us of the simplicity and truthfulness of our actual call.  Jesus reflects these words in the book of John, “You did not choose me, but I chose you.  And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name.” And there it is, simple and real.  God chose us to be in these roles. God chose us for these works and these trials.  God chose us so that our journey can glorify God as we are all chosen for some purpose known to God.  Our home church Pastor, Juan Huertas, reminds us often that God did not bring us here to fail, and God will equip us in God’s timing.  Juan’s guidance and comforting words support us in our successes and failures as missionaries.

February marked six months since arriving in Mozambique.  What a tumultuous six months it has been.  We were dropped in a foreign town after dark in a house with no furniture and left to ourselves.  We started Eva at a school we thought would be a great option, only to change two weeks later because she was really struggling. We endured five months of visa and immigration issues.  We were not sure if we would be allowed to stay in Mozambique and were temporarily exiled in Swaziland.  Additionally, we dealt with bronchial pneumonia, impetigo, a hurricane, and at least seven car breakdowns on the side of the road in a country where we do not speak the language. Yet, we know a real sense of relying on God everyday.  We have felt the love of those who sent us, those we represent. We have made connections and allowed the Holy Spirit to fill the voids.  We try to live the faithful example as followers of Jesus.  We trust in the providence of the Lord and continue to seek to glorify God in all we do.

It is reassuring we do not go at it alone, but fully backed by a host of prayer warriors, family and friends.  This is not just our mission, the McCormicks, but our mission with all whom we are able to connect.  We are all missionaries in this!  We have the word of God to be our strength, the love of each other to be our support, and the promise of being called into this journey. So I say bring on the next six months!

Bread Crumbs and Cavities

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We just returned home from a quick trip to the dentist. Let me just give you an idea of what this looks like. First we had to go to the Immigration office. They did not give us our residence visas as anticipated so we needed letters stating we could leave the country. Of course, these letters came with a price tag. I’d been struggling with some dental pain since the last time we put off the trip a month ago, so we happily paid. We packed our car and said a little prayer that it will make it. This old vehicle has left us stranded on the side of the road more than once. We start off towards South Africa to see the dentist 10 hours away from our house.

You might be wondering why we travel so far to see a dentist when we have dentists in our own Chicuque Rural Hospital. I have wondered this myself. After considering the reality of our hospital, I quickly realize how we arrived at the decision to travel so far to see a dentist. The autoclave at the hospital has been broken since before we arrived. The autoclave is the thing that sterilizes instruments as to not spread infection. The gloves available at our facility are poor quality and are reused when supplies get low. There is no oral x-ray machine and local anesthetics are limited. Not to mention, I need to be able to explain my dental history and my Portuguese lexicon just won’t suffice. So we travel because we can…..but this is the best available to the vast majority here.

Arriving in Nelspruit, South Africa was like walking into an alternate reality. Shopping malls and grocery stores with isles and isles of fresh, abundant produce. Restaurants and amazing mountains were everywhere! Evidence of poverty was well hidden, although I’m certain poverty lives there also.

We were just planning on staying a couple of days, but thanks to David’s cavities (three of them), we got to extend our stay. It turned into a “med-cation”….that is my term for a medical trip turned vacation. We hiked in the mountains, explored a cave, ate Mexican food, shopped for supplies, and even saw a movie in the theater! It was a wonderful and much needed respite.

I even had the opportunity to experience a Fish Spa. That is, I paid to have little fish nibble the dead skin off my feet! My sweet husband gave me 30 minutes of peace and quiet to enjoy this while admiring beautiful views of God’s creation. As I was adjusting to the sensation of the fishy frenzy on my toes, a lady approached me. We visited for a while and she confessed she suspected we were missionaries. She is a Christian also. For a few moments, we shared life and admired the way that God puts people in our path at just the right time to encourage and bring assurance….like breadcrumbs on His path.

After the long journey, we were happy to be home and in our own beds. We are full of anticipation for how God will continue to drop breadcrumbs on His path for us here in Mozambique. We are daily seeking to trust the plans He has for us and remain in Him. Please pray that we see His path and are able to improve the hospital in a way that brings glory to God.

Opening a Bank Account; Here vs. There

In the United States, as a citizen of the United States, opening a bank account is a routine and almost a necessity for modern day to day commerce.  The process has been streamlined for maximum effectiveness, convenience and is usually customer service focused. You simply walk into a bank, present your identification card and/or a bill, hand over some money and then viola! It is done.  You leave the same day, within the same hour (if the bank is not too busy) and you emerge to the outside with the smell of capitalism in your nose and money burning a hole in your shiny new account.  Simple, easy, fun.

However, this is not the case everywhere.  Allow me to take you through the process of opening a personal account here in Mozambique:

Step One: Identify the Bank

As the news is plastered with financial turmoil and bank failure and insecurity, identifying the least risky institution takes a valiant effort. It is not a matter of picking the best available, but which is not likely to go under in the next few years.  We decided on an international bank.

Step Two: Go to Bank with Cash in Hand

Haven chosen the bank, Elizabeth and I walk in prepared for the process as we are familiar, to open an account.  For added assurance, we bring along our Portuguese teacher, as we want to make sure we do not miss anything in translation.  We have passports and money, ready to go. Within five minutes we are told we need a letter called a Decleracão De Residencia (Residential Declaration).  This document proves our address, which we do not have, as in to our knowledge our house has no road name and no number, it is only marked by the red roof house in the prefabricated neighborhood.  A bit confused, we leave to find this Decleracão De Residencia.

Step Three: Visit the Municipal Planning Office

We leave the bank and walk directly to the Municipality's information office.  Quickly we identify someone with whom to request this Declaration of Residence.   Thankful to have a translator there as the process got murky quick.  To obtain this letter we must first find and request it from the neighborhood chief.  We left there with only a name of a "Chief" who lives somewhere near us.  Allow me to define this "Chief" position, it belongs to someone who lives in the neighborhood for a long time and is reputable...translated as an old man in the area, for which there are many both old men and areas.  

Step Four: Find the Neighborhood Chief to ask for Letter

As we walked home we devised a plan to find this neighborhood chief.  We arrived to our street and asked our neighbor who he was.  She informed us that before we could meet with the Neighborhood Chief, we would have to meet the block chief who would vouch that we did indeed live in the neighborhood.  Thus, we were directed to our neighbor, Senhor Arturo. It would be his responsibility to construct a letter to give to the Neighborhood Chief so we could be given a Declaration of Residency. We walk to his house only to find he is not at home.

Step Five: Sitting down with the Block Chief

Days pass and every afternoon I inquire about the presence of Senhor Arturo.  After 4 days, I finally catch him at home.  Through his broken English and my fragmented Portuguese, we are at an understanding of the need for a specific letter from the chief.  However, before I can be presented to the Neighborhood Chief, I will need to meet the Sub Division Chief.  I leave Arturo's home with the promise of a Letter soon.  

Step Six: Meet the Sub Division Chief

Before I went to bed that night, I heard a disturbance at our front porch.  The street lights were on and the sun has long since set.  I warily went outside to find Senhor Arturo and the sub division chief patiently waiting at our gate.  After pleasantries, and more assurance, I was to meet Senhor Arturo the next morning at 7a.m. to finally go to the Neighborhood Chief's house. At this point, a full week has passed since we started this process

Step Seven: Declaration of Residency

As promised, 7 am, Arturo and I are in the car traveling the half a mile to what ended up being the neighborhood office.  No appointment was made, and no previous notice given, so I was not surprised to find the Chief to not be there.   Fortunately, his secretary was, and after them graciously relieving me of some money and conveying the information yet again, we had the signed, stamped Decleracão de Residencia. 

Step Eight: Back to the Bank

Taking the new letter, our passports, and some cash we return to the bank. We are quickly found by one of the bank agents and set down to begin the process.  Oh, but he requested the NUIT (Tax card), which we did not have with us.  I return home, leaving Elizabeth there to hold the spot, walk the blocks to the house, pick up the card and return to the bank.  Copies of information are made, questionnaire filled out, forms signed, and just when I think we can begin the transfer from our U.S. bank, he drops the bomb.  The bank needs a letter written by our local place of employment. Another signed and stamped letter necessary.  We leave the bank, with no account number but the promise of a simple letter able to resolve it all. 

Step Nine: Letter from Employer

So, as the Igreja Methodista Unida de Mozambique is our partner, they are the ones who needed to complete this form. After requesting this from our direct supervisor here, he decided that instead of completing this letter quickly in his office, he would need to send the request to the central Methodist office, in Maputo.  At this point, it is merely a week before Christmas.  Two days go by and I have yet to hear anything nor do I have a letter.  Finally I get a phone call, from a pastor in Maputo, whom I have never met.  She asked me questions and requested I send her some passport information by email...which I quickly complete and am assured by her the letter will come shortly.

Step Ten: The Waiting

A week goes by, then two weeks go by and still nothing.  No email, no response to our requests and texts.  Elizabeth and I finally decide we do not need a bank account here.  We can keep our U.S account and then just take money out as needed.  Of course it would make some things easier, but the arduous process of opening an account was not bolstering our confidence in the system. 

Step Eleven: Success

After a full month of attempting to get a bank account open, we were within moments of success. Randomly, after the beginning of 2017, I receive another email and this time the letter is attached! There were some apologizes for taken long and an excuse of a closed office, but finally we have what we needed.  Except it was Friday afternoon, and we had to wait the weekend to get it finally completed.  As one of the hospital's accountants was going to the bank, I gave her the letter to deliver (suggested by the bank agent so I wouldn't have to make the trip myself).  She returned with our bank statement and account info.  It was done! And we had an amazing balance of 0.00.  But, we had the account.

Step Twelve: The transfer

The final step in the process was/is to transfer funds from the U.S. bank to our new local account. A process that may take over a week and with a few trips to the bank to confirm transfer.  At least the money has a place to go now! This should make things much easier.  I can smell the Mozambique Capitalism in my nostrils like Peri-Peri Chicken wafting from the open fire pits.  It is good!

 

 

Sustainability of Community...The Impact

It is with great praise to God we give thanks and are able to say WE DID IT! Through the efforts of all those who contributed, made crosses, raised funds and awareness and mostly by the grace given by God, we raised $12,800.00 for the salaries.  The workers of Chicuque Rural Hospital stand with you as we rejoice in this blessing.  Thank you so very much for the direct impact this will have on the community.  

As special thanks to Whitefish UMC who had the largest church donation.  The largest individual donation was done anonymously, so thank you for whoever committed to sponsoring a full years salary!  Special note goes to one Sarah Green who showed immense love of Christ and the heart of a missionary.  Her contribution was to make handmade crosses and sell them for $5 each.  She was able to raise more than a full years salary for one lucky Chicuque employee.  Check our Sarah's Story Here  .  Thank you Sarah for living and loving in the Christ like way.  

Again, thank you to everyone who joined in, and helped in this Giving Tuesday.  I know the impact you have help to start and I am thankful for each one of you.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

-David

 

Sustainability of Community...the responsibility

(a note from exile)

Then Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure the diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.  He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money-not even an extra tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there, and leave from there.  Luke 9: 1-4 

This post marks the third and final blog posting on Sustainability of Community.  Soon the time will be here to make the commitment to the workers of Chicuque Rural Hospital.  This is a commitment not only to help provide a way of life for them, but a more symbolic commitment stating you are a part of their community.  Tuesday, November 29th, will be the time to take being the hand and feet of Christ out of our comfortable homes and beyond ourselves to those of a country, a neighborhood, a family completely unlike that which we are familiar.  And what a blessed opportunity it is!

While we serve in God’s mission in Mozambique, I find myself often asking “what is my responsibility in this?” The questions that follow are, “How does this further the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth” and “How is God glorified?”  These questions guide me in the path to being a healthy participant in the community of those whom I wish to serve along side.   I check whether I have listened appropriately to the spirit by asking “Where is God in this?” If I can find suitable answers to these four questions, then I feel I am divinely supported and guided.

I write this to you sitting on the front porch of a cabin in the mountains of Swaziland.  The weather is cool, the scenery is green and lush, the people are the friendliest I have met in Africa.  Swaziland is quiet different from Mozambique, sharing borders and little else. As a result of expiring visas and changes in the procedures of immigration, my family and I made a cannonball run escape to Swaziland, to regroup, apply for different visas, and to await direction.  We had to the leave the country by November 17th or risk being permanently exiled from Mozambique (well, permanent like for a year). In all honestly, we have struggled with our placement.  The sparse town where we live, the lack of resources, the lack of friends for our children, language challenges and the enormity of our task at the hospital have often found us questioning our placement.  So when our car broke down 28 kilometers away from the Swazi border, we once again found ourselves asking the questions above.  Unsure how we would be able to find our way out of the country, we asked “Is Mozambique and Chicuque our responsibility?”  Are our efforts serving to further the Kingdom of Heaven? Should we just take this as a sign and be resolved to our exiled fate?  And it is in these times God reminds us that we are not always the catalyst of change, that we merely provide a space, a connection and the Holy Spirit works to soften the harden heart, to bring comfort in a time of pain, and to pave the way for God’s work to continue.   In our case it was a mechanic named Hannes, who lived and worked on a nearby banana farm.  His efforts and kindness restored our near empty spiritual tanks, and got us physically across the Mozambique border.  We will have ten days all together in Swaziland as the visas are processed.  We will use this time to reflect, renew, and remember.  God has put a call upon our heart for Mozambique and the people of Chicuque.

As we go into the last week of the Sustainability of Community campaign and we continue to learn of people directly affected by local inability to fulfill the commitment of salary, I will turn these questions to you.  What is your responsibility in the lives of the people of Chicuque Rural Hospital?  What efforts can you make to extend the Grace and Peace of Christ to those who find life a struggle everyday? How can your participation in “Sustainability of Community” work to further the Kingdom of Heaven on earth? Lastly, where do you see God in the faces and lives of those who will benefit the most?

We know when we get back things will still be hard, there will still be challenges to which we will not know how to respond.  Each day it gets a little bit easier, and we find comfort knowing that God has called us, the McCormicks, to this place at this time.  We are resolved in our responsibility to Mozambique and Chicuque Rural Hospital as we search to further the Kingdom of Heaven to everyone we meet. We are also thankful for the respite of Swaziland and the opportunity to recharge. Join us as we continue in our responsibility to be a connected global community of faith. 

Sustainability of Community...the Pathway

                                                              The hospital's road (pathway)

                                                             The hospital's road (pathway)

Luke 1: 78-80 (The Voice)

78     All this will flow from the kind and compassionate mercy of our God.
        A new day is dawning:
        the Sunrise from the heavens will break through in our darkness,

79     And those who huddle in night,
        those who sit in the shadow of death,

    Will be able to rise and walk in the light,[g]
        guided in the pathway of peace.
80 And John grew up and became strong in spirit. He lived in the wilderness, outside the cities, until the day came for him to step into the public eye in Israel.

It is a good feeling when things fall into place.  In that moment when you can see the road ahead and know how each step of the way will be.  Granted it does not always go according to plan, but in that moment of realization of how and why things work, it is beautiful.  I imagine it was how the disciples felt as they watched Jesus enter Jerusalem on the back of a donkey.  Adoring fans waving palms and singing “Hosanna in the Highest”, validation for them of the previous three years of hunger, uncertainty, incredulousness. Little did they know of what the next many years would hold as they pursued The Way. 

That is the thing about paths and planning.  No matter what you think will happen, no matter how carefully you plan, and identify every possible detour to encounter, you just can not be certain, ever. For example, right now I am sitting in rural Mozambique’s version of a coffee shop trying to write this.  I started this post at the Hospital, but after the third unscheduled guest/interruption, I made the conclusion to get any work done I would have to leave…work. My mind has been preoccupied planning and scheduling the “Sustainability of Community” project.  I try to identify pitfalls and shortcomings, so that I may properly plan the maneuvering to ensure we can provide security and benefit to the workers at Chicuque Rural Hospital.  In an effort to be proactive rather than reactive, I find myself encompassed in this pathway planning.  And through out each divergent rabbit hole, I am assured of one thing, this project has merit.  Everyone who learns of the plan, be it spiritual mentors, hospital advisory team, outside donor partners all agree providing a years worth of salary security for the Methodist employees can prove a ripple effect of sustainability and development for the people of Chicuque and Mozambique. Last week, Elizabeth and I introduced “Sustainability of Community,” a plan which would hopefully directly impact the condition of living of those in and around the hospital.  Allow me to lay out the plan for how this will work and why it is important.   

Our goal is to have $12,000 given on November 29th to Chicuque Rural Hospital through the United Methodist Church’s The Advance Project. Each online gift submitted on that day will be recorded and date stamped. We will be able to check the account and know the total amounted donated and then earmark it as restricted use for salaries.  The money will then be transferred to our specific bank account which salaries are paid from, so as not get lost with the operational account. Each month on the 1st of the month, salaries will be distributed to the employees.  And that’s the pathway, seems simple enough huh? I hope it proves to be.

Hard to believe $12,000 goal will cover the salary for the Methodist employees for the year, but it is true.  I will be honest, with more money donated on that day, more employees can be hired.  The hospital is in dire need of a plumber and an electrician.  As the 103 year old buildings begin to crumble, having someone on staff who can stave off the collapse would be beneficial beyond measure.  But my duty and guarantee is to the current employees, those who are working hard today, in the rain, to ensure the safety and responsibility of the patients. 

The roadblocks to seeing the “Sustainability of Community” pathway achieved are hard to prepare against. The burden falls to me for communication of the need and the request for help.  It also falls on you, to be stirred within enough to consider sponsoring a month’s salary for one employee. Fortunately for us both, it is the Holy Spirit who works in and through us to achieve God’s will.  In that there is peace, in that there is hope, and above all in God’s will there is love.

Prepare your own path to journey along side us and the Mozambican people as we petition for God’s help and love in the development of the community here.  Mark you calendar for November 29th Giving Tuesday to be ready to donate online.  Please speak to your church’s mission chair to reach out to your congregation to multiple the giving. Consider your coworkers combining to sponsor an employee for an entire year.  A baseline for stability and security can be established in this endeavor, one worthy of the hands and feet of Christ. 

Sustainability of Community...an Introduction

“But he answered one of them and said ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’ So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Along with the American Dream, the nuclear family, hot-dogs on the grill and the Cubbies with the pennant, we are conditioned to “A honest days wage for an honest days work.” We have an inclination that we deserve a set rate of compensation for what we produce on a daily basis. We incorporate this into our job offers, our family planning, our vacation preparations, but I think this serves to perpetuate the “me-mentality.” Perhaps this is a cultural formation, which conditions us to hesitate to ask for help, to rely on others, to invoke community. And as we fight nail and tooth to get a piece of what is ours, who really suffers, what is the collateral damage to method of thinking?  For this, I do not have the answer.

I do know here in Mozambique, amidst a country in the financial peril and scandal, there are no guarantees.  No assurance that at the end of the 40 hour work week there will be a paycheck to support the family.  No assurance of food on the table, fees for school, or available medicines at the pharmacy.  The greatest distributed compensation for “an honest days work” is merely hope. Hope there will one day be enough to trickle down to the average labor. Here it is better to show up everydayto a job which cannot pay you, because the hope of one day getting paid is better than the stark reality of having no options.  It is in this time of disparity, one’s community is of the upmost importance.

Community at it’s core is a statement which expresses “Not of myself and not alone, but built on the strength and love of many.” Tasks that may prove to be unattainable for one are accomplished through the sharing with many.  Support is given to bolster a weakened community member, the weight of burden spread to make bearable the load.  Community is an orchestra of values; emotions, directives and goals blended together producing a cacophony of care to each who participates. Members band together to feed the hungry and care for the orphan and widow, just as called upon by Jesus.  And it is a beautiful thing. 

Households in Mozambique will often find not just husband and wife and children, but the presence of extended family.  It is not uncommon to have sisters, grandchildren, brother-in-laws, cousins, nieces, all banding together to survive in the same space, the same community.  When one is elevated and rewarded, all benefit.  A beautiful design of the Kingdom of Heaven! Yet, community is a living being and needs nourishment, culture and care.

This week Elizabeth and I announced an opportunity to share in mission called “Sustainability of Community.” (View the video here)  It is a chance to expand our personal community and ensure a continued success of our fellow man and woman here at Chicuque Rural Hospital.  An opportunity to facilitate how “The last will be first, and the first will be last.”

November 29th, 2016 is Giving Tuesday.  After we have stormed the stores on Black Friday and surfed the internet on Cyber Monday, we relegate Tuesday to philanthropy.  This Tuesday, every donation made to the hospital through the Advance Project will be earmarked for the cultivation of the community through staff compensation.  Every dollar donated will be used to provide security and relieve worry for a household connected to Chicuque Rural Hospital. This is how we need your help!

The average employee salary at the hospital is $84.16 per month.  For $1,009.92 a year, a family is supported and can be sustained.  The ripple effect of having a steady income to put back directly into the community reaches past the walls of this hospital, past the families of the employees and into the whole of Inhambane Province.  There are no large corporations to ferry the dollars away, the money earned here stays here.  It will become a revolving door where the community will maintain and care for itself.

Mark you calendars for Tuesday, November 29th.  Plan now to commit to expanding your community to ours in Mozambique.  Let us become a community who shares in the burdens and in the successes.  Throughout this month we will be highlighting employees and families.  We will get to know whom our brothers and sisters in Christ are as we grown in community not bound by proximity. Let us pledge to take the hope of fair compensation, to the reality of Sustainable Community.

 

Snap Shot of the life of Director of a Rural Hospital

(WHO HAS YET TO MASTER THE LANGUAGE)

Sept 30th:  Official Handover Ceremony

I made the mistake of eating a small breakfast.  I did this in anticipation of the large “Copo de Agua” banquet we were to have at lunchtime…or so the schedule stated.  My error came in the relying on the schedule. In true African fashion, the breaking of bread was only three hours after the intended time slot.  Normally the audible indicator of mealtime is welcomed, however as I was seated in between a retired Bishop of the Mozambique UMC and the District Director of all the Hospitals, my stomachs verbal discontent was less than appreciated. Combined with a complete mistranslation of the schedule and a perceivable lack of cultural savvy made for a complete comedy of errors.  But, we managed through and after two speeches in Portuguese and an awkward moment when five of us held hands to cut a cake (ceremonial) the handover was complete. Perhaps they assumed giving me the folder of information would instantaneously prepare me to be adequate in the position. I took the weekend to relax and prepare for my first week on the job!

 

Oct 3rd: First Day at Work in full capacity

Arrived to work in time to join the morning medical and announcement debrief.  I struggled my way through informing the group of another mandatory meeting I was hosting the following Tuesday.  Afterwards I plopped down in my office chair, sweaty and exhausted from the immense amount of effort to converse coherently, the natural African heat, and the cultural refusal to use the air conditioner unit.

Glancing at my watch I note it is only 8:15am and there is still so many miscommunications to have, but it’s ok because I’ve been thinking, praying, planning for this first day and all the methods, tactics and procedures I will be able to put into place, right? Yeah, no.  As if on cue the Hospital Administrator knocks on my door and as the bearer of all things unholy informs me of the backing up of the sewers in two of the Hospital wings.  So, with a face of incredulity, we set off to take a look at Internal Medicine and Surgery’s crappy situation.  Sure enough, there’s waste spewing out, fortunately, only on the exterior, but the bathrooms are unusable.  At this point I remember during my orientation walk I came across a tractor and a tank which sole purpose is the sucking up of human waste.  The “honey truck” was owned by the hospital.  An easy fix right? Not if you do not have anyone trained to drive the tractor, or even operational hoses to hook up and suck up the yucky…in the end we hired someone with the exact same equipment the hospital has, but with the knowledge to use it (I have since identified and initiated the training program for the drivers to learn the tractor way.)

To clear my head I walked the grounds, attempted to conversant with patients and staff, I took time to visit the many on-going construction projects I inherited.  That is when I made the discovery of the flooding Maternity Wing, more specifically, the new addition to the Maternity Wing.  My eyes scanned the room to find the stores of concrete, trash, building supplies to all be inundated with three inches of water….and the one thing I did not see were the workers who were not only suppose to be constructing the building, but at least cleaning up the flood from the undefined source.  At that point I was done.  I told the people who could do something, and then I hid in my office like a crab scared to emerge for fear of losing control of everything.  I passed the time planning and meeting with people ensuring me I did not have to internalize this stress as we all work together.

 

Oct 4th: Peace Day

Peace Day, a holiday, all non-mandatory personnel get the day off! It marks the signing of the Peace Accords, which ended the civil war.  I called it a day to stay in my pajamas and contemplate the mountain ahead.  More importantly it was much appreciated time spent with my family.  In the first three weeks of October, there have been three holidays…I think I could get use to this work to holiday ratio.

 

Oct 5th:  Getting into the groove

Semblance of a normal day! I walked the grounds, I made some positive conversations, and I still tried to wrap my head around the information I had received during the handover.  I was in my bread house; excel spreadsheets, cash flow analyses and credit/debit assessments, human resource evaluations.  I was in and around familiar territory.  At quitting time (3:30pm here) I climbed into the questionably safe double cab Isuzu truck that was “mine” during the time here and headed home to my family.  A smile on my face and faith renewed. Another week of days like this and I would feel adequately informed and prepared to tackle this elephant, one bite at a time.

One thing I like about where we live is it is in walking distance of everything we need.  Grocery stores, clothing stores, anything the city has available is easily reachable within a ten-minute walk.  It had been a goal of mine to live in a place where a car wasn’t necessary and I could easily shop for my meal each day.  I will be honest, in my daydreaming of this the area it looked more like Paris and less like sub Saharan Africa, but we all have our reality checks. As I was purchasing that night’s chicken for dinner, I received a call from the aforementioned district director…why he seems to always be associated with food I do not know.  In my broken Portuguese and his obvious mounting frustration, I ended the call believing I may have to travel the following day for a meeting of hospital directors.  However, the time, location, and distance were still unknown to me.  As this call came in way past working hours, I resolved to handle it the next day.

 

Oct 6th: Derailment of the week

Thursday morning had the air of a good day.  Rolling off the successes of the previous day I saunter into the office with a game plan.  As I am beginning to understand, plans are great…in theory, but in reality, I am just passenger on this airstream of life.  I was met with the news that I did in fact have a meeting in the touristy town four hours away.  I would be leaving that day and I would be in a meeting all the following Friday. At that point, old plan out, new plan in.  Family vacation to Vilankulos! Beach town with lots of fun activities…if you don’t have an all day meeting.  But for my three ladies, fun was planned.  We loaded the car and headed north stopping only once, pulled over by the police for speeding. 

I will not contest that I was in fact speeding, and I was in fact going almost 20 km over the speed limit. But when the policeman in good English beckons me to come over to his car and “receive my punishment” I couldn’t help but laugh.  It felt like the awkward moment in the movie Animal House and I was mentally repeating “Thank you sir may I have another.”  Presented with a 2000 meticais fine, I stare blankly at the man and remember reading something about corruption within the rank and file of the police.  This begins the bargaining process.  He starts with the his amount and a ticket, I counter with wanting a recent and showing him my missionary ID card, he says maybe we can work something out, I tell him I don’t have the money he wants, we parry back and forth and settle on an under the table amount one quarter the initial request.  I get back in my car, but not before passing a small deer lying dead by his truck, what I can only guess what someone else’s attempt at negotiating their fine.  The rest of the trip is thankfully uneventful and we arrive at our wonderful beach side accommodations and settle in for the night.

 

Oct 7th: What did he say?

A dawn stroll down the beach lightens my mood as I head into the day full of meetings in a language I still do not understand fully.  I resign myself to the inevitable headache I will have from complete linguistic brain overload and enjoy breakfast with my loving and fantastic family.  On our way out to the meeting we pass two UK Missionaries we had briefly met upon first arriving in Mozambique.  We were all surprised to find that of all the beach resorts in all the towns of Mozambique we stumbled unknowingly into where they call home every time they are in the country.  A pleasant surprise! As they were heading into the bush and I to a meeting we agreed to meet the following morning for breakfast. 

I arrived at the meeting a little before time, so I can be seated and ready when the schedule start time arrives.  You would think I would anticipate the systemic propensity to run behind schedule, but no, optimistic me am ten minutes early. After an hour and a half of sitting in my chair burning through my cell phone battery and data, the meeting begins. There is standing, clapping, singing and then the introductions.  This marks the first of two times I am to give a speech in Portuguese, on the fly to a group of my medical contemporaries and superiors.  The second opportunity to stand up and inform everyone on the status of the hospital, which I realized literally about one minute before it was my turn, occurred shortly after the introductions.  As I attempted to listen and understand the requests being sent our way, I casually leaned over to the man I had just met, thankful he spoke a little English and asked “What did he say?” Confirmed in the requirement to report, my mind raced with not only the words to describe the condition of the hospital, but worse, the translation of the words to a coherent stream of Portuguese.  The African heat again taken a toll on my internal temperature and as beads of sweat adorned my brow and I stumble through what little I knew in the two days I had under my belt as the official director of the hospital.  I think it was well received as the senior official allowed a slight smile and a comment about needing to learn Portuguese. I managed to keep my head down and my ears mostly open for the rest of the meeting.  Friday ended with lovely dinner and family walk down the beach…and only a slight headache.

 

Oct 8th: Blessed Assurance

My wife and I peered through the curtain as the sun broke the plane of the Indian Ocean.  A comfortable red orb emerged with the blessings and promise of a new day.  This tiny miracle set to the soundtrack of the rhythmic breathing of our two, sleeping daughters.  In that moment, in the haze of transition between asleep and awake, I was at peace. Thankful and renewed we met our friends for breakfast. 

Connection is found and lost at the table. Entire spans of communication are realized through the sharing of a meal.  Uncomfortable beginnings transition to intimate moments and conversation binds us together or tears us apart. Perhaps this is one reason I search for that perfect meal.  When we travel, I do not seek souvenirs or tangible representation of experiences.  I hold onto the time spent together.  My questions for any who return from a trip is always “What was the best thing you ate and drank while away?  What was the worst?” For me, this is a glimpse of who and how you are.  The breakfast shared with our new friends will be remembered as divinely placed and definitely needed.

After discussing what each of our mission fields resembled, we shared our call to ministry/missions.  We shared our frustrations, our surprises, moments of realization and the working of the Spirit.  It was good and so very much needed.  It was confirmation through dialogue and prayer at a time when I questioned my ability to effect positive change. The Holy Spirit was present and the assurance of God’s provision was realized.  For this I give thanks. 

Starting with a meal, a time to nourish and caffeinate, in unforeseen opportunities and experiences, God is there.  Whether it is a café in Normandy, a beach in Mozambique, or the broken chairs in Cedar Grove, God is there. When you feel undeserving and unappreciated, God is there.  When you are lost and unable to understand the language, God is there. And when you cry out “enough is enough,” God is there for you.

Look at the flamingos of the air

[an excerpt from Elizabeth’s journal]

We had not even been in Maxixe for two weeks.  The drive up from Maputo was long and hot.  It was after dark when we arrived in Maxixie.  The street we came in on was very dirty and crowded.  Our house was not far off of that street.  The first thing I noticed was an amazing smell….a flower planted in our “yard” that only blooms at night.  Then we walked into our nearly empty house.  The house had been rented-out fully furnished previously, but since we had children, someone thought it would be best if we purchased everything new.  I’ve never had all new in my life….but whatever.  We were graciously given a few borrowed mattresses, plates, and cutlery. Our hosts prepared a meal for us to share in our new house.  We met people that we had been hearing about and emailing with for dinner and fell into bed, exhausted.

The next day, we set out to furnish our house.  There are a few small “lojas” or stores in Maxixe that sell appliances and mattresses.  The stores we went to maybe had two or three options for a stove…we opted for the one with electric and propane burners so that we would be prepared for electricity outages.  Then we went to all of the stores again to find the propane tank, hose and connections for the propane tank.  Sincerely, this took all day as no single store had all of the parts we needed.  Progress….we could make coffee the next morning.  Thankfully, we brought one pot in our carry on so we could heat water. 

The next day, we made more progress.  We found a refrigerator and mattresses!  In Louisiana I would have spent hours looking at product reviews and considering if we would want a firm or pillow-top mattress.  Perhaps I would have waited for a 4th of July sale.  In Maxixe, this was not the case.  The options were springs or foam….box spring or no box spring.     

I quickly realized that there were no typical furniture stores.  Luckily, I saw wicker furniture made on the side of the road where I ordered a few chairs and a couch.  My new Mozambican friend talked the maker into throwing a coffee table in for free!   If we wanted a headboard or a bookshelf or dinner table or even a couch, someone would have to make it.  There were even less options for purchasing things I considered to be basic such as a bath mat or white towels.  The options available involved purchasing second hand linens from a constant yard sale on that busy street we came in on the first night.  I am all for a garage sale, but…  I had thought of myself as low maintenance until this very moment. 

I found myself stressing out over these material “needs.”  I needed a tub stopper, curtains, white flour, a rug, sunscreen, and a hat to keep this winter sun off of my face…..and I needed all of our boxes to ship from the USA so we could have more than one pot in which to cook! I went to bed that night feeling very selfish.  I spent all of this time and energy thinking about material things when there were people so close to me surviving on next to nothing.  I was ashamed of my desire to make my family and myself comfortable.  Then I was reminded of Jesus’ words in Matthew 6.  “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth….Be anxious for nothing…Look at the birds of the air; your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value?...But seek first the Kingdom of God.” 

The very next day, my children brought me their devotional, which referenced the same scripture.  Even today, the New Testament reading from“Common Prayer” was from Matthew 6. (The birds in our air happen to be pink flamingos.)  Our Lord has been persistent with this message for me.  And such a good lesson in patience and trust it has been!  Of course, we can live without curtains….but what a sign of God’s provisions when I find just the ones in my mind from a lady on the road!  (Perhaps I’ll find the rods to hang them on next week.)  Of course, my kids don’t need Playdoh and finger paint, but what a sign of one christian’s care for another when a friend in Maputo sends some up for our girls as a surprise.  Of course, I don’t need a pool to sit by, but what a nice oasis to remind me that we are to rest…and it feels a bit like “normal life” as Eva calls it.  Also, finding craftsmen to make our household furniture has offered opportunities to build relationships and support fellow Christians that simply would not happen from a simple transaction at a store. 

There is so little that feels “normal” these days, but we are settling in.  I have had the great blessings of being able to see God’s provisions everyday.  This Master Planner has repeatedly shown me that God has gone before us and God hears our prayers.  God has put just the right people in our path at just the right time and has given me confirmation that this is the place God wants us right now. 

It is well

My four-year-old keeps asking about “normal life”.  She comments on the way things used to be, on what she misses.  She speaks as though the time now is not regular or even right, but some fantasy life where every meal has bread and butter and nothing is as she remembers.  At times her head spins and she grasps tightly to what she once knew.  Commenting with excitement when we are able to have oatmeal for breakfast or attaching ourselves to a lingering routine from home.  She makes a list of things to do when we return to this intangible normal life. And I understand her association with and desire to recreate what once was versus what is now.  Because everything is different. Everything has changed.

We have been in Africa for two weeks.  Only five days in our home in Maxixe as it took almost ten days from when we arrived for our house to be ready and available. We stayed at a guest house in Maputo and I am glad we had that opportunity as it was a good adjustment period to life in Africa. This place we call home now is not without its issues and misunderstandings, but overall it is a place of beauty and love. And it is GOOD.

During our layover in Istanbul, Turkey on the trip here, I can remember a feeling of anxiety and almost fear as we stepped out on faith to spend the next few years in Africa.  Away from family, away from convenience as we know it, away from the security we have taken for granted and been accustomed to in the United States.  As we boarded the plane at 1:30am for our 10-hour flight to South Africa, I trudged up the stairs to enter our plane and plopped myself down in our row, the middle row of four seats.  Here I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and reminded myself of the Call upon our lives and the great foundational support from home.  I said a quick prayer for safety and understanding as the plane took off and we settled into our flight. 

My prayers were answered in the overwhelming feeling of peace and excitement as our plane touched down in Africa, in our new home continent! I looked at Elizabeth and made the comment of how “It feels good to be here and really start this new journey with my family.” It was the feeling of being home.  We left Louisiana on Tuesday, August 16th.  On Friday, August 19th, we landed in Mozambique. After three days of travel time, we burst into our new country, a little smelly from the confines of planes, a little tired from jet lag, but full of gratitude to God and excitement.  And each morning as I awake and go outside, I am reminded of two things: the amazing presence of God in this place and that nothing is normal.

There has been a settling-in period, and we are by no means settled.  Our home although nice and close to town it is completely unfurnished.  No stove, no beds, no tables, no dressers, no toilet paper, nothing.  We were aware of this prior to getting here, but it still did not soften the shock of being in a place were we didn’t speak the language, we didn’t know where we were, and we were alone in an empty house. Bit by bit we are taking this house and making it our home.

But this is Good.  This shows it will not be of us, but of God, we must rely on God to provide, to comfort, to establish a new normal.  God will be at the root of our time in Mozambique and to God will be the glory.  That normal life my daughter hints at is no more.  Even in this small amount of time here we see the personal changes occurring.  Soon, this time and this place, will be her new “normal life” it will be our normal life too.

The morning after a hard night, Elizabeth and I were sitting, in the empty dinning room, sharing our devotional when the song “It is Well” was suggested.  We began to sing, and as our voices reverberated around the empty room we looked at each other, both with tears in our eyes and a calm in our heart.  For it is well with my soul in this place. It is well with my family in this place.  It well with God’s work in this place.  It is well, it is well, it is well!

 

 

Season of Preparation

The theme song of the original Nintendo video game Tetris is stuck in my head.  I attempt to focus on something, anything else, to remove the repetitive and almost calming Dun, dunt dunt dun… but as my eyes lite on the mountain of boxes stacked three and four high, I just give up trying.  These twenty-two boxes represent weeks of planning and preparation.  The contents of these misshapen cubes hold what we can only assume will be the essentials in our new home, our new life.  Months long supplies of toiletries, sunscreen, bug spray are lost among stuffed animals, books, and clothing.  Christmas decorations are sharing space with kitchen supplies in a turbulent attempt to find that balance between bringing just enough and too much.  All of this based on a contrived notion of what we will need, what we will have, and what we will want. 

Our material inventory is not the only area of preparation.  Spiritually we find ourselves making lists, packing and unpacking the gravity of our answer to God’s call.  As we begin to start those final good byes, we lean heavy on our faith and our earnest confirmation of God’s work in our life.  We have seen the fruitfulness of spiritual preparation and found the presence of the Holy Spirit with us in this journey. More so, we see the results as God goes before us and prepares our way in the community and lives of Chicuque. The overwhelming support of friends and family bolsters our confidence and provides us peace.  The relationships we have built just since accepting this call have already made a live long change in the lives of us and those in Mozambique. But really, we are just now ready for the journey to begin.

Looking over our life until now, no one would be surprised that in 12 short hours we are boarding a plane and moving to one of the top ten poorest countries in the world.  We have been unknowingly groomed by loving families who led by example in the act of service with others.  We have grown together as husband and wife, mother and father, and McCormick Family in the service of God’s call in our lives.  Taking what we thought was just mundane and regular path through life and turning that purpose around to the full act of serving others, God has shown us our path. But, knowing this does not make it any easier to make the journey.

In our sharing of our place in God’s mission with local churches before leaving, we invited everyone to join us.  To be in prayer and support for us.  To come along side us as we take our leap of faith in Mozambique.  That time begins now.  The Lord has gone before us, preparing a space for us to serve and opening the hearts of those we will join in life and mission.  It is our turn, with your help and encouragement, to fall all-in to this adventure.  As we spend the next four days traveling, please lift us and our families up in prayers and thoughts.  Grace, Peace, and Love.

David