Wednesday, July 31, 2013

mozambican feet

When I'm in Mozambique, I don't care what I look like. 

Messy, greasy hair. Little to no make-up. Legs and arms adorned with mosquito bites. Wearing the same clothes twice (or three times) in a row. Showering only every 3-4 days.

Yep. And my husband still loves me, including my not-so-glamorous moments :)

What most people, both my team members and the Mozambican people, notice about me when I'm there are my feet.

I call them Mozambican feet. I love the feeling of the center's sand in between my toes. If I could, I'd choose to walk around the center barefoot; even one time I walked all over the place with no flip flops for several hours (one of the girls was wearing mine). Most of the time, my feet are even dirtier than the kids there; that says a lot. 

I like who I am when I'm in Mozambique. Aside from not caring what I look like, I'm more carefree in the way I think, act, and say. And, more importantly, I get a little closer with God each day. I never have to worry about filtering how I present myself to other people; and I enjoy the freedom in that. It's a shame how I oftentimes return from my trips and, slowly but surely, return to the person I was. As much as I try not to, I go back to my natural habits: conscious of how I look before work, how I say things in front of new people, and how I carry myself in the public.

But when did all of those things ever matter? Who are we trying to impress? Our natural tendency is to think about how other people will perceive us. And most of our time is spent not only on our appearance, but knowing the right or "proper" words to say, or controlling how we act in a group setting. We have a desire to control everything in our life, so we try to control how people see us by basically becoming the person we think they want us to be. We waste time putting on this "false self," a made-up identity that deters us from who we are called to be. In reading Brennan Manning's Abba's child, I came across this quote which best summarizes how we ought to live:
"Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. This is the true self. Every other identity is an illusion."
When we know and accept that we are defined in Him, nothing else matters. So why should I care about wearing different masks to please people?

Here's something I've learned: When you're on a mission trip, you're called to step out of your comfort zone and be present with the person or people God places in front of you. If we get caught up with the distractions, the worries, and our own selfish needs, we miss the point and we miss out on the unique opportunities He gives us. 

I hope one day I can be the person who I was in Mozambique here in Orange County. Still working on it.

Sidenote: A little dirt don't hurt, right?
Hours after I walked around the center barefoot.
Amazing what baby wipes can do. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

back home to reality

I woke up today in my own bed, in my own room, in my own apartment ... I'm back in the OC.

About to fly home :(
Top (from left to right): Liz, Cecilia, Brian, Miria, Alex, Jesse, Edvaldo
Bottom: Korynn, Naomi, Maggie, Camille, me
We flew into LAX Friday afternoon. Exhausted, worn out, irritated, and, of course, sick, all I wanted to do was to stuff a burger in my face and shower (I didn't shower for 4 days #yolo.). Although I'm grateful for two days of much needed rest, I wish I could've taken this week off. 

Today is my third day back at work. It's been easier adjusting to my work schedule today than it was earlier this week. I don't know how I survived Monday, but I did. Monday was filled with three hours of answering emails, sharing stories about my trip with coworkers, sifting and reading through endless piles of edited articles, and drinking LOTS OF COFFEE. 

It's hard being present when my mind and heart is somewhere else. Like past mission trips, the "coming back home" portion is the hardest. Learning how to transition back to reality after experiencing a life-changing moment in your life is not easy; for the most part, you're never the same person before you left. But this time around, my "coming back home" process has been different. And I don't know why. Lately I've been blaming it on my jet lag and sickness. But deep down, I know something is off. 

Am I over thinking everything [Maybe I'm use to it since it's my fourth timeIt was a shorter trip.]? Possibly. Or is God working in me differently this time? Maybe.

All I know is this: We serve an amazing God, and He exceeded all of my expectations.

Maybe once I catch up on my journaling from my trip, I'll be able to process more. 

More stories to come.  
Our last Sunday service (for now).
Nos filhas, Olinda e Sheila.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

mozambique adventures

A little taste of our time here ...

portuguese e muito bom.

Six years ago, I fell in love with the language, Portuguese. Portuguese is one of my favorite languages to speak (kinda) and listen to. If you ever watched the movie, Rio, then you know what I’m talking about.

Bom dia.
Bom dia.
Tudo bem?
Si. Gracas a Deus.

Whenever I hear people speak Portuguese back home in the states, I always think of Mozambique. It was the first place I’ve ever heard anyone speak the language; who would’ve thought that a country in Africa could speak Portuguese?

When we arrived last Wednesday, one of the first times I had to speak Portuguese (since my last visit) was during customs. Each of us took two bags filled with our personal items, supplies for ministry, and donations; we had 16 huge bags total. Because of past experiences through this process, we were pulled aside once again so that the airport personnel could look through our bags.
         I went first. The guy who checked my bags was not the nicest personnel there; with my luck, I had the guy that was the most stubborn of them all. At first, I couldn’t understand what he said in Portuguese. Often times, the Mozambican people say their sentences really fast that it almost sounds like they’re slurring. So after saying a lot of “Que dice?” and “Eu nao entendo,” he proceeded to open my bag. With my best Portuguese (or at least the ones I could remember), I tried my best to explain the items in my bag. Bag after bag, it was the same. He questioned what he saw; and I, who was scared, confused, and exhausted, responded in the best way that I could, which I didn’t even know what I was saying sometimes.

When one of the missionaries, Jesse, came in, the first thing I said to him was “Vovo,” which means grandpa (an inside joke we had the last time I was here). Although, to some people, it may not be the ideal thing to say to someone face to face after a long period of time, it was comforting to speak the little bit of Portuguese that I knew to someone that I knew really well and knew I wouldn’t feel timid around.

Since arriving here last week, my Portuguese flows so much better and with a lot of ease. I may not always speak it perfectly, but it has allowed me to make new and keep existing friendships over. Since last week, I’ve been able to reconnect with old friends, learning about what they’ve been up, hearing their hopes and dreams, and sharing some of my stories with them. And I’ve also been able to develop new friends, young and old, through day-to-day conversations.

Singing and listening to worship songs in their language is one of my favorite things here. It’s such a beautiful thing to witness, how beautifully the words intertwine with the music playing in the background. Most of the songs they sing here, I sing back home; so to hear them in a different language, especially ones that I’m familiar with, is such an incredible experience. I enjoy listening to the voices harmonize and observing how passionate people are in worship.

 I’m falling in love with the language all over again.