Saturday, March 28, 2009

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Back to California

Sitting in my car stopped at a red light, my car suddenly began to shake violently. Within a few seconds, many thoughts whizzed in and out of my brain. Here was my thought process: "Hoodlums are jumping on my car!" but looking outside and seeing no one, my next thought was, "Did I accidentally lock someone in my trunk? No, that's silly Katie. But could someone have crawled in to play a joke? No, they would have been in there for a long time." Once I decided that no, no one was laying in my trunk shaking the car I thought, "My tires! All of them have exploded at once! Crap- this is going to be expensive." I looked around at the other cars thinking that they would tell me that yes, indeed all my tires had exploded, but no one was looking at me which I found strange since my car was clearly bouncing all over the place. "Well I guess it's not all about me but seriously, these people should notice the strange things happening to my poor little Jetta right now." I've seen one too many action movies and my next thought was, "maybe my car is about to explode!" Thus I quickly hit the hazards, ripped off my seat belt, threw open the door and jumped out. That's when the lady in the car behind me calmly said, "It's an earthquake." Oh. Shoot. I look like an idiot. Why isn't anyone else freaking out right now then? And why are you so calm lady? I quickly got back in, turned on the car and sped off.

Back to California living. Back to sunny, crowded beaches, traffic jams, Golden Spoon frozen yogurt, and EARTHQUAKES. It's been almost 2 months since I left Africa and I am slowly readjusting to life in California. Strangely, some days I feel like I never left- like Africa is a distant dream. But then I am reminded in small ways that I will forever be marked by Mozambique. I've yet to suffer from the inevitable "reverse culture shock" but that is most likely because I've been bouncing around with too many fun things going on to get down and depressed like I am apparently supposed to be:) What have I been doing in California since I've been back?

Well, I've caught up with old friends and played in the mud with Emma and her friends at Glen Ivy Day Spa.

I've relaxed with the fam at one of my favorite spots in the world: Bass Lake.

I've hung out in Palm Desert for one of the funnest weddings ever.

And I've met and started coaching my team at Valley Christian High School.

FYI, the girls in the front our Japanese exchange students of some of my players. I will always love speaking with people from other nations so I had been talking with them/acting out things to them and they wanted a picture with the team after one of our games. We are missing a few girls in this pic, one of which was being rushed to the ER at the moment because she broke her ankle.

Driving home from our game last night, I was overwhelmed by just how good God has been to me. Not just because we won- which we did in sudden-death overtime- but because I can see how His plans are so much better than mine. I honestly don't think I would have ended up at Valley if God hadn't first brought me to Africa. Little did I know that my year spent at CAM was preparing me for the next stage of life. I am so thrilled to be coaching at Valley and God knew it would be a perfect fit but also knew that I would be stubborn about teaching at a Christian school since I've always loved public schools so much. My friend Marcie at OC put it this way:

It always amazes me how God works...who would have thought He would use Mozambique to do all the things He has done??? I love how He knows your love of other cultures and places so it was like He was saying, "Okay...I know Katie will be at Valley teaching English in 2008....what's the coolest way to get her to that point...the one that will give her great joy and get her ready for that new role? Mozambique!!"

So as I zoomed in and out of lanes along the freeway last night, still relishing our win and how fun my team is, I was reminded yet again of what a great God I serve. Why do I often doubt His love, His wisdom, and His ways? He knows me better than I know myself- knows what is best for me and how I can best be used by Him. So when I do question Him in the future (which, being somewhat of a skeptic is bound to happen), I hope I look back and remember how He led me to Africa to lead me to Valley Christian. I hope I remember that His plans are good, even if I don't always understand them.

As a believer who often doubts, I have often found solace in Psalm 77. The author first talks about crying out to God and feeling like God is not there, not listening, not responding. So he begins to doubt and question:

"Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his favor again? Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?

Then I thought, "To this I will appeal: the years of the right hand of the Most High." I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds. Your ways O God, are holy. What god is so great as our God? You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples..."

And he goes on to recount many of the miracles God has performed for His people. I love this example of what to do when God seems distant or silent or His ways seem confusing. Continue to cry out to Him, ask those tough questions, but then REMEMBER. Remember what He has done in the past. Remember what He has promised and how He has already fulfilled many of those promises. Remember how He has provided. Remember times when He has been close and times when He has poured out His blessings. Remember how His plans have always been better than mine. And after remembering, trust.

This will be last and final post on this blog. I have missed coming to it and had to write just one more entry. Thanks for reading and being interested in what God has been doing in my life and in Mozambique.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Final Farewells

One thing I have in common with Lloyd Christmas is that we both hate goodbyes. And yes, that is ALL we have in common- the similarities stop there. (If you're asking yourself, "who is Lloyd Christmas?" please understand that my roommate Jenny and I watched Dumb and Dumber at least 15 times our freshman year since the only other movie we had was Beaches. Jim Carey was Lloyd.) Whenever I say goodbye to someone, I feel the need to say, "See you tomorrow, soon, in a few days, next week, in a few months, later, get the idea." So the goodbyes I've been saying recently are quite difficult because for most people I don't know if I will ever see them again...on earth. And saying, "I'll see you in heaven" just sounds morbid but it is true- for many of the people I've met in Mozambique, I most likely won't see them again which makes saying goodbye very difficult. There are several people that I most certainly will see again and will definitely stay in contact with, but for others, this is it. This final week in Mozambique has been one packed with farewells and "last moments." (this is the last time I will do this, eat this, look at this...) Here is a recap of my last week in Mozambique.

It began on Friday night with a Brazilian-style BBQ in which most of my new friends showed up and I was reminded yet again what amazing community God provided for me here. Here are the faces of the people God used this year to comfort, entertain, challenge, and uplift me. First, my girls. These 5 little ones are all so precious and it was so adorable this night when they all were lying on my bed watching Babar. (do you remember the beloved elephant?)Next is Cecelia and her children- Oliver, Viktor and Elvira (their dad, Par couldn't make it). Cecelia is Henrik's sister who I've often run with, gone to "African dance" with and enjoyed many interesting conversations with over meals. I love her kids and will greatly miss this family. Sometimes I accidentally pose like a mannequin. This was one of those times.In the back of this shot is Mateus, a hilarious German missionary. Tony and Leila are next to him- I got to meet them in CO before moving to Mozambique and instantly liked them. Mrs. Meyers is next to me- I hope I have as much energy as this fabulous woman when I am her age! I was terrified of her at first because she has a very strong personality but grew to value her friendship and wisdom and loved all our conversations. Below Mrs. Meyers is Bev- the art teacher at CAM. We were just saying today that it is such a shame we are both a bit shy around people we don't know at first. She is incredible and I appreciated her thought-provoking questions like "Could suffering be considered a gift from God?" her joyfulness, wisdom, devotion to Christ and laughter.
Unfortunately I didn't meet Mark, Julia and their girls Hannah and Emma until a few weeks ago but I so enjoy their company- they are absolutely hilarious and fellow Lost fans.
I was constantly bumming rides from the Bowers and Millers and have Cory Bowers in class as well as Kimberly Miller. One thing I loved about teaching at CAM was seeing my kids outside of the classroom and getting to know their families on a personal level. Yes, my awkward fist returned.
A sign of true friendship: a willingness to make yourself look horrific in pictures. So blessed by these two! Judith and Lisa are the friends I went to Cape Town with over Christmas break.
Finally, the two people I see the most and will greatly miss- Madalena and Henrik. My living situation here has been absolutely wonderful. I've lived with a fabulous roommate and have had a side-splitting crack-up for a neighbor who is willing share his dog with me.
The day after the BBQ, the OC team planned a farewell getaway and we all drove to a beautiful beach called Bilane. It was an incredibly relaxing time on the white sand beach, wading in the crystal water and enjoying a feast for a picnic. We played Frisbee golf and I discovered that I'm really bad at throwing a Frisbee. I'm not sand-bagging. Six-year old Rafa nearly beat me. My right arm is actually still quite sore. Pathetic.

This team has been family this year and I will miss each member.
On Sunday, I went to Shiparango for the last time. Mada translated for me as I told them how God has spoken to me through them; how He has revealed that He is bigger than I imagined and offers joy and peace in even the most remote areas. I thanked them for letting me worship with them, play with their children and learn with them. Mada's sermon that morning had been about the party we are all invited to in heaven and so I told them that most likely I would not see them on earth again but oh the day of the party- it will be quite a celebration! One of the men responded by giving me a message to bring back. He said, "Tell others about us. Tell them how we too love God and are not turning back to our old ways but are moving forward." Wow. Consider yourself informed:) During the service, I sat on the mat between one woman clearly suffering from AIDS with giant welts all over her body. (I noticed her glancing at the eczema on my own legs) The woman on the other side of me was breast-feeding for most of the service and I remember sitting there thinking, "Thank you LORD for bringing me here. Thank you for opening my eyes."

Here is a brief clip of the last song I heard sung in

This was the last time I heard Mada bang the rock on the metal shield to call the people to church. The little boy and Lucia were the first 2 to arrive.

Some of my favorite people in the world.

The children of this village have forever changed my life and perspective. The boy on my immediate left, Lorenzo, is one of my favorites. When I first met him, he had a huge bloated belly but now he is looking MUCH better!
On Monday I did my last and final run with Gizmo. It was the last time he would pull my arm out of the socket chasing a stray dog, the last time I would run along the Maputo ocean, the last time we would chase terrified, screaming children. I brought my camera to commemorate the final run so I'll never forget this route I've come to love running with this dog that I may have an unhealthy attachment to.

I love the picture on the left because you can see a woman in the distance walking with a basket of fruit on her head. I was in my "alias-mode" and was trying to be tricky taking pictures of people without them knowing. I stopped on a bench and hid behind a palm tree while I took the picture of the woman. Then later I passed by the crazy old homeless man who lives on my running route. I really wanted a picture of him so I stopped to "tie my shoe" and pretended to take a picture of myself but really was aiming for him. You can't see him that well but you can see my "sneaky face."

On Tuesday Lisa and I had our final sleepover. We went to
Mundos (the most popular spot for ex-pats) and ordered our favorite meals. Then we went home to make the Brazilian treat, brigadeiros. We don't have a lot of experience in the kitchen. We'll never live down the time we were babysitting and had to Google "how to make popcorn." The brigadeiros are supposed to come out like little chocolate balls covered in sprinkles. Ours were more like pancakes. They were still delicious though and we had a little too much fun making them. Here is step 1: butter your hands.
The pictures tell the story.

The only thing missing from these pictures is all the squeals of laughter. After finishing making the brigadeiros, we still were hyper and decided to go toilet-papering. Yes, we are college graduates and decided to toilet paper in Africa. We put on our disguises and toilet papered Henrik's porch and had a blast. We even toilet papered Rambo's leg. (No Lubito did not come back to life. Simba was sold so Henrik got Rambo to keep Gizmo company)

The next morning, Mada made us delicious pancakes and a very tired Henrik joined us. I am going to miss the conversations and laughter with these new friends so much. Here are my kids from Tuesday when we played the review game for the last time.

Wednesday was the last day of school as well as graduation. Here I am with the graduating class: Neel and Natasha. Love these kids. Thursday was my final day full of goodbyes. I said goodbye to our empragada Teresa who I will really miss although we never could really talk. I said goodbye to our bible study group whom I have appreciated so much. We went to the Meat Co together as my last meal with them. Yes, Philip is asleep and wearing a cape. I love it.

There is so much I will miss about my life here. I will miss the continent, the country, the culture and the community. One of my last times driving into the city, we were met with a beautiful scene which seemed prophetic of what my future will be like- what all of our futures will be like.
There is definitely going to be rain in my life, and not just drizzle; it will pour. However, from a different perspective, it is clear that in the midst of the rainstorm, there is a rainbow. I might not be able to see it all times but I know that God's promises are with me always and His beauty is there in the midst of the storm.