Day 7: Cashews and Cage Matches…

It’s 10:40 pm. I just ate a peanut butter and mango jam sandwich using jam made from the mangos here in the village. The consistency of the jam is that of apple butter and it’s good stuff.

1st thing this morning I wandered out to the area where the building is being built and found Nunu and all the guys moving yet more blocks to strategic locations in and around the structure so that they could keep things moving without needing to carry the blocks across the property throughout the day. I jumped in and together we got about 200 blocks moved. Cade [ka-dee], the lead builder told Nunu he needed wood for the trusses so we hopped in the car and headed over to the guys that Nunu buys wood from. We needed 24 boards 12″ wide and 8″ long. Guy wanted 4200 mets (70.00 usd). Nunu started doing what he does and finally agreed on 3650 mets  (60.00 usd). We loaded it up and headed back to unload and get moving toward our adventure for the day.

 

 

Amanda and Nunu’s friends from the village, Benti and Mr. B invited us to come visit so we took the opportunity to walk through the village and meet several of the families that are served by the ministry along the way. Nunu has a joyful way about him and people are happy to see his face as we move down the dirt roads and paths leading to Mr. B’s house.

 

When we arrived at Mr. B’s house we were greeting warmly and invited to sit in the shade using chairs that were brought out from inside. We greeted everyone and sat around relaxing a swapping English, Portuguese, and Emakhuwa. Amanda brought a bag full of cashews so Benti could show us how to roast and hull them. For the roasting, Benti brought some hot coals from her outdoor “kitchen” and placed rocks around them. Next she took an old piece of tin roofing material and placed it on top to use as a roasting tray. Once it was hot, she dumped the raw nuts onto the tray and spread them out evenly using a stick. Initially they simply smoked, billowing a soft grey smoke and filling the air with a delicious aroma and then suddenly, the nuts began flaming and the smoke got heavy and black. She continued to let them roast like that for a few minutes, moving them around with her stick. As if a buzzer went off in her head, she dumped the tray of black nuts out into the dirt and covered them to let them cool. I now understand why cashews are so expensive and also why whole cashews are much more expensive than pieces and halves. It’s incredibly hard to get the nut out of the shell and even more difficult to get the meat out whole. As I type this, my thumbs are aching from whacking them a million times while trying to hit the shells just right, trying to crack them enough to open them up without shattering it and consequently shattering the nut inside. Everyone got involved, the adults and kids alike. Benti gathered sticks for us to use and and worked right alongside us so we could see exactly how to do it. The boys are surely better at talking with action rather than words that we are. At one point and said, “hey Indiana it sure seems like you and Silva are getting along pretty good even though you don’t speak the same language.” He looks up from hulling nuts and says, “Actually, I’m pretty sure he understands me!” I think he’s right. As we roll up our sleeves and really engage with people that aren’t like us, we do begin to understand what the other person is “saying”.

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When we got back to the house, Nunu and I were asked by Cade to go and get some nails. Cade and the other 3 men that are building the school don’t drive so they take the bus. Nunu procures all the building materials and provides lunch for the men each day. It’s remarkable seeing these guys do their thing. Admittedly, I was hoping that the boys and I would be more useful as it relates to the construction but the reality it, we’re more in the way than anything else. These guys have a system and I can’t believe how much progress they make each day. Cade thinks they’ll be completely finished in less than a month! Anyhow, we ran out to get the nails and hunt for some fresh crabs for sale at the roadside market but no such luck, maybe tomorrow:)

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As soon as Nunu and I got back to the house, Rebecca and Amanda headed out to do some shopping. I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to venture out with the boys and see if there were some friends to make. We opened the gate and headed out of the property and onto the dirt road that winds through the village. The boys were kicking a soccer ball as we made our way. Not more than 100 yards into our journey, local kids began coming out to curiously see what we were up to. “Indiana, kick the ball to the kid with the red pants so he knows we want to play.” And the rest is history, my boys and about a dozen local kids started kicking the ball to one another in a big circle. After about 10 minutes of this, Indiana started getting fiesty and tickled a kid that was trying to steal the ball from him. The kid took that as an invitation to wrestle and briskly took Indy to the ground. I didn’t know what to think so I started walking over to break it up but by the time I got over there it was plain to see that they were both laughing hysterically! This changed the whole thing,there was more laughing and shoving mixed in to their soccer game now and then a few minutes later I hear Eli holler, “Indy, get over here!” Indy and his entourage dart around behind a mud house to find Eli standing at the edge of a swimming pool sized, 5 ft deep hole in the ground, smiling ear to ear. As if they’d rehearsed it prior, they all just started running and jumping off the ledge, wrestling around and even pushing each other into the pit! Adults began walking out of their mud houses to see what was going on, I’d make eye contact and sort of shrug my shoulders and smile and then they smile and we just watched our kids get lost in play together. Again, here we all were, parents, children, foreign, local…with no words at all, save the screams and giggles coming from the pit, understanding one another perfectly.

See you tomorrow friends:)

 

John

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Day 6: Family of Friends…

It’s 6:03 pm. We’re finishing up a long day, eating grilled chicken and doodling in our notebooks while the kids take turns spouting off knock knock jokes while we offer “courtesy chuckles” in response.

I started the day under a giant mango tree reading my bible and looking out over the ocean.

By the time I came inside, the house had begun to stir. Rebecca was in the shower and Amanda and Nunu we’re getting things ready for the day. Indiana soon emerged with a sour look on his face. He staggered over to me, shirtless with his pajama legs pulled up to his thighs so that they looked like very short, shorts. “I’m soo thirsty and I think I might wanna throw up.” I handed him a Batman cup full of water which he turned up like a cowboy in a saloon after a long dry ride, drinking every drop. Before he could even utter a word, all 12 ounces of it came flying back up and onto the floor at my feet. I guess I should’ve heeded his warning.

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He and Rebecca stayed behind as the rest of us loaded up and headed off to Church. We arrived timely at 10:30 just as things were getting going. There were about 30 people in all sitting in plastic chairs under a large beautiful cover patio overlooking the ocean. A man was tinkering with the laptop, projector and sound while we were introduced to several people. Most of the folks that gather for this monthly “Celebration Service” are foriegners in Mozambique for some type of missionary work. There was an overwhelming sense of family among them, they talked warmly and deeply with one another, showing genuine interest in the struggles and victories in each others lives. We sang a few songs together to start things off and then a man named Auri (spelling probably wrong) shared with us regarding faith hope and love. He perfectly articulated the definitions and also the differences of each using passages from scripture Finally he showed us a video that featured a non-profit in South Africa. This group is changing lives and thereby the world, by teaching job skills, helping them out of addiction and all sorts of other things. The point Auri was using the video to make is that the Gospel of Jesus is shared most effectively through action. I couldn’t agree more. Once Auri was finished, we took communion and prayed for the meal. The food was awesome, it was a potluck anchored by grilled bone in chicken. Even the desserts looked good although I had chicken for dessert:)

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Auri and his wife have three kids around the age of my boys so Eli was in heaven. They played and explored along the rocks on the ocean shore from the moment lunch was over until it was time to go home a couple hours later. Decker decided to take a much needed nap out on a hammock overlooking the beach so he won as well.

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John and Mary Lou are an awesome couple who by the way are celebrating 50 years of marriage in a couple months WOO WOO!! They host these monthly gatherings at their home. It’s one of the most stunning places I’ve ever been, right on the ocean. Everything is just so, every plant, every tree, every stone seems to have placed or grown thoughtfully over time. Additionally, every door, window, piece of furniture, floor, even the staircase in the house was crafted by John over the last nine years. I wish I would’ve taken a couple pictures but here is one I found of the staircase prior to it’s completion.

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I sat by a man named David and his wife Mary. We were fast friends. We talked about our respective reasons for being and Pemba and even wandered off into some truly challenging conversational territory such as the wealth gap in Moz,  and the difference between the idea of poverty in places like Pemba compared to “poverty” in the states. They have an incredible love for both God, and the people of Moz. It was an absolute pleasure getting to know them.

About 4 hours after arriving, we said our goodbyes and hit the road. On the way we stopped for the only “fast” food available…grilled chicken, and I mean holy moly delicious grilled chicken. Nunu pulled over to the little shanty and we hopped out to do a deal with the chicken guy then we took it home to eat with Rebecca and Indiana.

About 2 miles from home, we came upon a man that Nunu knew. He was carrying two 40 pound bags of some type of cornmeal. We pulled over and made his day by giving him a lift to the village.

When we pulled up at the house, I was happy to see Rebecca and Ind in the yard playing catch. He was feeling himself again and they actually had a really nice day together.

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Another great day, thanks for joining me.

 

See you tomorrow:)

 

John

 

 

Day 5: Baseball, Monkeys, Mansion On The Sea…

It’s 9:58 pm and Simba is keeping me company once again.

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I’m rewinding my mind, trying to find the beginning of this beautiful day as it seems like it was much longer than 15 hours ago.

Saturdays are big days here at Casa De Macarrao. This is the day each week when all the kids in the village are invited to come over and play and drink “juice” aka Kool-Aid. Today was particularly exciting because word had leaked out that the white visitors were going to be showing them how to play a game from America.

It was all hands on deck, Nunu, his right-hand man Latino, Amanda, Rebecca, all three Pack boys and myself. We were scurrying around finding barrel tops to use for bases, raking ash piles into the dirt so the ground was flat enough to play, assembling the tee, gathering the gloves and balls etc. As we got things squared away, Latino divided the kids into two teams. Ages ranged from 3 to about 14, both boys and girls. Oh…and there were 36 kids! I took one group and Decker took the other. They lined up and when it was their turn, we helped them put the glove on the correct hand and then gently tossed them two or three balls and had them throw it back, giving encouragement along the way. In real life when coaching, I say three things a LOT. “Beautiful!” (Bonito)…”Perfect!” (Pertecto)…and “Good!” (Bom). Needless to say, I was quick to learn these Portuguese translations right away so I could be myself. Latino and Nunu were kind enough to translate for me regarding how to play the game of baseball. They did a fantastic job. I brought me great joy to be teaching this game I love so much with my sons as my co-pilots. They all made me so proud today. Decker, Eli, Indiana and I ran through several plays as demonstration so the kids could get a sense for what it looked like to hit the ball and ultimately try and score while the other team was trying to get them out.

Next I placed the 18 kids on team one throughout the infield and outfield…there was no way a ball was getting through!

Rebecca’s idea to bring a hitting tee with us was absolutely brilliant. Looking back at the day, that tee made the difference between having tons of fun vs 36 kids trying and mostly failing at using a metal stick to hit a ball being thrown at them. Because of the tee, every single kid got to put the ball in play and run to at least first base. Very few plays were actually made so most kids even got a chance to move around the bases and score. We kept track of outs but didn’t switch sides until each player had a turn to bat. I wish I would have taken a video of the kids clapping. When the first run scored, I made a point of telling the kids on the scoring team to applaud their teammates as they cross home plate. I only needed to say it once and for the duration of the game, after each and every scored run, a hearty round of applause came from the bench of the scoring team. It was so much better than I anticipated. The noises on the field were laughs and giggles and the kids tried their very best and played hard, in fact some of them were quite good! I wish I could some how articulate what my heart was feeling this morning but I’m having a hard time finding words other than to say it was one of the most memorable and awesome experiences of my life. Just imagine, I’m out there with my beautiful wife and amazing boys…Indian Ocean and breathtaking landscape as the backdrop, playing my favorite game with these precious kids that God himself told me to come and visit…simply amazing.

When we were finished playing, all the kids gathered under a mango tree in the shade and I took a knee in front of them. Nunu invited me to share with them so I nervously thanked them for playing my favorite game with me. They grinned ear to sweaty ear, and then I simply told them that we had come all the way from America for mainly two reasons. One was to play baseball with our new friends and second was tell them that Jesus loves them very much. Finally I prayed a prayer of blessing on them and we were all dismissed to drink “juice” and relax. Rebecca and I and the boys were elated, it was just so much fun!

By this time, we were needing to get ready for our next adventure of the day…lunch with the ladies that picked up our baggage at the airport the other day, Amanda’s friends Laura and Lauren. They are staying in the guest house of some good friends of Amanda and Nunu, and this guest house happens to be a stunning home sitting about 100 feet off beach on the Inian Ocean. It was low tide, se we were able to walk out maybe 400 yards to a sandbar, the water was crystal clear and 80 degrees. Decker and I walked way out into the water and fished using telescopic rods and rooster-tails we brought from home, just in case an opportunity like this presented itself. I smoked a La Aurora De Cuba while I fished, it was a delicious Cuban-seed Nicaraguan.

Eli and Indiana plopped down in the wet white sand and marveled at it’s clay-like mold-ability and started building a world to escape into.

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Rebecca posted up in a rope hammock with a view if the entire show.

Nunu and I eventually snuck away and got the coals going for a fire and then grilled chicken and sausage while solving the problems of the world.

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We ate, and relaxed and talked & shared with our new friends. It was another day for the history books to be sure.

We headed home around dusk and sat out on the front porch with Amanda & Nunu, their good friends Mr. B and his wife Benti, their 2 yr old daughter Sonya, and the three dogs that are head-over-heels in love with their momma, Amanda. We chatted and Benti taught Rebecca and I how to say several things in her language, Emakhuwa.

All the Mozambicans we’ve met speak Emakhuwa, and and, or…Portuguese.

BY THE WAY, WHILE DRIVING DOWN THE STREET WE SAW A GUY WALKING HIS MONKEY…

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Tomorrow promises to be my kind of Sunday. We’re gathering with other missionaries in the area for a celebration service followed by a pot luck…YES!

See you tomorrow,

John

 

 

 

Day 4: Coming Into Focus…

It’s 11:35 at night. The house is quiet and I’m snacking on some Simba brand potato chips as a night cap following a full bodied Nicaraguan cigar called Argentum. Both were delicious, but best of all was the company.

After dinner, Nunu gives me that look, you know, the look a guy gives his bro that says…”You wanna get outa here?” Then he asks me if I like live music. I said “Heck YES!” We both looked over at our respective brides to get the nod, followed by a peck on the cheek and we were off, bumping down the dirt road towards…I have no idea where. After about a 15 minute drive we pulled up in front of a very fancy, and very empty restaurant. We walked in and right through the dinning room to the back patio. It was an open air lounge, bar tender wearing a big smile and a crisp white shirt. He greeted Nunu in Portuguese then me in English and asked us what we were drinking. “Coke Zero for me and a Grape Crush for my friend please.” We carried our frosted stemmed glasses out by the fancy swimming pool and settled in to listen to a 3 piece band and a guy with a pretty voice sing their songs for us….and 3 other people.

I passed an Argentum Nunu’s way and it was met with a broad smile, this was going to be great, I could feel it.

Amanda is like 20 weeks pregnant with their 1st. Nunu didn’t waste any time, he blurted out…”So, what can you share with me about being a good father, I’m pretty nervous.” If you know me, you know this among my favorite topics. Through his humble opening, we were able to skip the weather and real estate prices and jump into the things that matter. We took turns sharing how we met and fell in love with our wives, how we met and fell in love with Jesus and what we hope is true about our lives, our ministries, our children, our legacy. I can’t share the details in the time I have other than to say it was one of the most soul satisfying conversations I’ve had in a long time.

I feel like things are coming into focus, like God used my time with Nunu to begin helping me see why he brought us all this way.

Stay tuned on that front:)

As for today, it was really great. I woke up at 6:00 am and spent some time with God under a mango tree overlooking the Indian ocean. Kids started stirring a bit after 7:00, they ate some oatmeal and then we wandered over to see if we could be helpful with the construction of the building. We spent some time moving concrete blocks from a giant pile over to a more convenient pile so the actual builders could stay busy…building.

We had delicious rice & beans for lunch and then Nunu and I ran out to do some errands. I got some currency exchanged, we bought a few 5 gallon bottles of water and grabbed a newspaper. When we got back, everyone was ready to move around a bit so we walked over to the property they own adjacent to their house where we’ll be teaching and playing baseball with a couple dozen local kids tomorrow. The boys climbed trees, and the water tower, we played a little catch, and finally had a scrumptious dish Rebecca made using spaghetti noodles, zucchini, fresh garlic, and chicken.

I’m so very grateful to be here, Thanks for joining us:)

Eli and Decker Like Salad…

I posted quickly on facebook yesterday that we had made it to Johannesburg. We arrived at around 8:30 am with about 3 hours to kill so we posted up at a place called “piece of pizza” and relaxed in comfortable chairs. It was nice, having the time helped us get some of the hustle out of our systems and begin slowing it down. The boys had orange sodas and breakfast food, Rebecca had a delicious looking muffin and I had a wood fired pizza.

The final leg of the journey was just a couple hours from Johannesburg to Pemba, Mozambique. Flight was on time and smooth. All 3 boys fell into a deep sleep during this flight, especially Indiana. By the time I got him conscious, he was mad and sad and still dreaming all at the same time. I hugged him and talked nice to him for a long time but he just kept getting more worked up. Finally I asked him why he was so mad and all he was able to muster was a kick in my shins and a fierce “I DON”T KNOW” as crocodile tears rolled off his cheeks. He stayed pretty upset for the next 20 or 30 minutes as we made our way off the plane and through the final stage of security where we had to fill out paperwork and purchase visas.

Once we procured our visas, the final security check is the only thing standing between us and Nunu & Amandas smiling faces…literally, we could see them, smiling from where we stood. This is by far the most important and unfortunately most unpredictable moment in the entire journey. At this point all 13 of our bags get put through the x-ray machine one last time and then the officers get to pull out as many, or few as they wish for inspection.  We were told by several people that we should expect some hassle at this point and that we should pray hard and try to remain patient. Rebecca and I were uncharacteristically calm as we watched our bags go through the machine, one by one. After each bag I expected one of the guys to grab it and begin dissecting it while hollering at us. Never happened. I repeat, Never Happened. The bags went through the machine, guys loaded them up nicely on carts and helped us wheel them out to the lobby to hug our friends. I tipped them and we were off and barreling through Pemba in a station wagon on the wrong side of the road.

Perhaps it was the look on Indiana’s face that compelled the officers to check ZERO bags, but my money is on answered prayer. Many, many people have been praying for smooth travels for us, specifically as it relates to obtaining visas in country and getting through this final security checkpoint. Thank you prayer warriors, and Thank you Lord!

Amanda and Nunu had their friends Laura and Lauren follow them so they could haul our bags…what a blessing that was. I think making two trips would have put the boys over the edge. Thanks L&L!! Can’t wait to spend more time with you both.

My thoughts surrounding what I’ve seen and felt in our first 10 hours here are jumbled and probably too long winded to get out after 30 some hours without sleep.

I’ll settle in tomorrow and we’ll start unpacking this beautiful place together.

Oh, and funny story…

When we were heading to SFO on Tuesday I successfully convinced the boys that we needed to come up with a “family saying” so that we could use it to verify for security people, border police and customs agents that we were in fact a family, as opposed to us just smuggling some kids out of the country. I’m not sure why it even crossed my mind and now that I write it, I have no idea why they bought it but they did, especially Indiana. At every security stop all the way to Pemba, he would get very serious and recite the sentence to me a few times to make sure he had it right in case they asked him for it. We weren’t feeling terribly creative on the way to SFO so the saying ended up being, “Eli and Decker like salad.” While practicing, Indy would say “Decker and Eli like salad” and I’d hiss “Wrong, step out of line please and come with me.” Or he’d say they loved instead of like salad and get my same dramatic rendition of how the police officer would respond to the error.

I’ll tell em the truth tomorrow, I just wanted to make sure they had their game faces on at the security checkpoints:)

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Pepto Does In Fact, Treat Heartburn…

We landed in London about an hour ago. It’s 4:30 pm here and I’m sitting on a lime green loveseat in the “Kids Lounge” at Heathrow. Big kids are playing Foosball while Indiana (Dylan) gathers news friends in an attempt to get some kind of tag game going on the play structure. Rebecca is sitting next to me, enjoying the moment.

We left SFO last night at 8:40 pm but not before this happened…

Ham & Swiss on White

Turkey on Roll

8 pc Sushi Tray

Chicken Caesar Salad

Chicken & Rice Plate

2 Cookies

Fruit Cup

Carrot & Celery Cup With Hummus

3 Lemonade Snapple’s

1 Peach Tea Snapple

1 Pepsi

$102.18

The lady ringing me up couldn’t help but utter…”So sorry sir”.

I simply said, “Don’t be sorry for me, I signed up for this!” She laughed and shook her head.

About an hour later I found myself grumpily moving from news stand to news stand in the concourse, looking for some Tums to no avail. At my fourth stop, a nice lady told me they had Pepto. I informed her that I didn’t have diarrhea and she gracefully smiled and pointed to the front of the bottle that clearly said…”Treats Heartburn”. It worked immediately and I was ready to chat, excitement rising up in me as we would be boarding in just a few minutes. I chatted it up with the guy next to me, Seni. He and his son are heading to Croatia to visit family. He owns SF Bistro Grill in Noe Valley SF. Food looks amazing.SF Bistro Grill

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Flight was a pleasure. Water bottle on the seat waiting for me. Got to full altitude and got Lemonade and Sour Cream & Onion Pretzels…and a Hot Towel! 1 hour later, Korean Chicken and White Rice with Goat Cheese & Crackers, Bread & Butter and Chocolate Ganashe. Beverage service every 90 minutes or so throughout the night and then for breakfast we had Warm Cheese Filled Croissant, Fresh Cut Fruit, Blueberry Yogurt, Black Coffee and Orange Juice. I watched Logan and John Wick 2 on the touch screen built into the seat in front of me. Both good.

My body says it’s 9:30 in the morning but the clock says 5:13 pm. I wouldn’t want hell to freeze over so I guess we’ll venture out into the absolutely amazing looking food court and procure some dinner…

We ended up eating at a British Pub type place called The Bridge. I had fish & chips of coarse and it was good. Guess what’s NOT good…mashed peas. Mashed peas are not good. They taste like peas that are all mashed up. Bridge Facebook Page

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Verse For Today…

James 1:5-6 (NLT)

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind.

My Take:

It’s wise to seek wisdom, and even more wise to seek it from the king of wisdom I suppose. The warning does leave me unsettled. I’m sometimes worried that my faith isn’t in God ALONE but rather God among other “iGods”. The good news is that verse doesn’t say that God will poke us in the eye and send us to bed without dinner if our faith is divided. It simply establishes that it’s an awful way to live. I’ve spent too much time in my life feeling like a wave being tossed by the wind. My great hope is that I would grow in a singular faith in God that is complete and undivided.

I’ll check in when we arrive in South Africa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Join Us In Mozambique…

It’s midnight in Ripon CA. I’m sitting by the fire, smoking a beautiful cigar from Honduras.

We leave tomorrow, headed to Mozambique…to smile, and play baseball.

Everything is done…The fridge is cleaned out, clothes have been dowsed in insect repellent, bags packed, final emails sent to clients and team members, the pool is shocked, floors mopped, rooms cleaned, locks checked, bills paid, House of Cards downloaded onto my iPad and a pile of Kindles sit neatly on top of Mine Craft carry-ons, waiting to be fondled at first dawn.

The physical journey begins tomorrow, but the other one started several months ago. In February, I had coffee with Amanda and her husband Nunu. Amanda is my best friend Josh’s younger sister. She and I both happened to be in Chicagoland and so decided to grab coffee. I was in for my grandfather’s 80th birthday and she was there specifically (in my view) to provide conduit by which God would remind me that Rebecca and I and our boys were supposed to make sure our tan lines come from things other than sitting by the pool. For months leading up to our chat, I’d been sensing a stir inside and almost immediately upon locking eyes with these two, I knew….we were going to Mozambique.

I wish I knew more of the story but I’ll tell you what… I’ll share it with you here, as it unfolds.

If you pray…please pray that God would give us everything we need to leave it all on the field.

PS. We’re bringing basballs, bats and gloves, so that should be cool:)

1 Peter 5:8-9New International Version (NIV)

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

Below are a couple links for reference.

Amanda and Nunu’s Ministry

Mozambique Wiki