All your houses

For the first family we’ve met, I chose something from my clothes and one capulana. We also had a mosquito net which we didn’t use anymore. And something else, ah! A baby bottle. We packed everything in a big bag and shared with them what was ours. Who knew then that an year later we would be building houses instead of bringing a few clothes. How I like it! His extravagant love. And those ordinary beginnings.

I don’t know what attracted us to them then. Yes, the Holy Spirit. But how. Because it was not a clear voice, rather a tuning. Seeking understanding, until we meet their voiceless cry and the response of the One we carry in us.

Far away.

There were three women in front of the house with children around them. Nothing special. But during this walk, we asked the Holy Spirit to show us those to whom He is sending us. We greeted them from afar and prayed as we passed. But they continued to follow us with their eyes, and we kept coming back to them with ours. Something was developing between us. Until it became obvious that they prepared space for us. Not yet knowing that it was really for the One who brought us to them.

Closer.

There were three women sitting in front of the house. One of the older ones spoke the most. The other, very young, with her forehead furrowed in pain, was breastfeeding a two-week-old baby. The third one, with a teenage child, was sitting at a distance, observing our conversation more than participating in it. And another little girl in a torn dress. Closest to us. With that spark of life, against the facts.

We had no idea who they were until I asked where she gave birth – at home or in the hospital. (Since I am a mother, since I know what childbirth is, I respect the women who give birth in Mozambique. And I want to know their stories. And I cry that they have no choice.)

But she gave birth in the bush. Somewhere on the way to Pemba, while fleeing the northern parts of the country.

Internally displaced persons. In the last year, thousands of them came to Pemba. They are looking for shelter. They saved broken lives – because there are no relatives, neighbors or strangers anymore. Because there are no houses and belongings. They only have the pain of all their losses. And fear for tomorrow.

An older man left the house while we were talking. He came with the women. The husbands of the two younger women stayed in the north because they had no money to pay for tickets. The prices have increased since people save lives by escaping.

They came with nothing, just shoes and clothes that they were wearing. Their houses and farms were burned down.

They stayed with an elderly woman who is related to them. Now eight people will live in the small house. It is not known how long. There is no savings. There is no source of income. There is no plan. There is only hope that the men will manage to escape and rejoin the family in Pemba.

I often come back to our first walk, because God started the implementation of His plan from that point. A plan that we did not know then. This family had a place to stay. So we thought about coming back to visit and see what God would do next. And it was during one of our returns to them that we found another way home.

For several days now, I carry within me some disagreement. More precisely, from that day when we met a refugee family, by the road, maybe a hundred meters from our home. They stretched two tarps between the fence and bamboo sticks, and one small mosquito net next to it. Under the cashew tree they light a fire where they cook. Because of shade and wind. They also spend there long days without a plan. It is their home now.

Very often, when I am at home, I think about them. About the fact that I sleep on my bed with clean sheets and they sleep on the ground. About the fact that we are too hot at night and we have to use fans or air conditioning, and they are too cold and have nothing to cover up. About Jo having books and toys and those kids not even having clothes. About the fact that, although we eat modestly, we eat variously and always when we are hungry. And they have rice from their neighbors from time to time because they are not on the list of families who need help. Sometimes, when I think about them, I go with Jo to a room where we can see fragments of tarps from the window. I know they are there and we pray for them.

We also visit them every now and then and bring the things they need. They fled the island where Tony was helping with the food distribution. A year ago, it was completely destroyed by a cyclone, this year it was completely burned by terrorists. I can’t believe anyone can have so bad in life. My empathy is too short. My capacity for misery too tight. It is not only the pain of all their losses. This is a no-win situation. Permanently complicated.

But, Jesus. We have this answer for them. Without any complex explanations that we wouldn’t even have if we thought there was a need to share. Jesus who has Himself for them, the only Solution. And He is a solution in sense that they will live in a house with an ocean view and never be hungry again. We can’t promise them that. But, He is enough. Although they need to eat, they need a house, they need a job – we can promise them Him. And cry out to Him. And introduce them to Him. Because our help has limits. If not limits of money, finally of time. But He will stay with them. The same night – cold one, on the bare ground, under a tarp, or hot one, in a nice house with air conditioning.

However, I carry within me some disagreement. Because I look at Jo, a happy boy who knows no sorrow or lack, and I think he has done nothing to live like this, and those kids have done nothing to lose everything before they even know they have something. And yet he and his mom are looking through the window of a nice house at the tops of the tarps by which those children have to play. And there is nothing to be done about it but to cry out: Jesus. This is what I can teach him.

I wrote about it at the end of December 2020, still not even having the idea and, what more important, the space in me to build even one house. But it was my friends who started sending messages: let’s build them a house, how much would it cost to build a house for them, how much building materials cost in Mozambique, I would like to add something from myself. And it was they who allowed this space in me to grow until both – my husband and I – were ready to take up this challenge. The first house was build in January 2021. We finished building the sixth in December 2021.

Six houses in Pemba serve thirteen families who had no homes. All your houses. Yours, because there are seventy people who financially supported the construction of houses in Mozambique this year! Yours, but given without regret, indeed, with joy, to those who had nowhere to go. This is the Kingdom of God which is near!

Thank you. Without you, we would still bring them some slightly worn clothes.

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