They are not here

I wanted to go slow. As long as it takes. And with no photos.

My dilemma. Visit all twenty five families just for a moment or stay, but only with a few. This time we stay, with no regrets. We believe that God who connected us with the displaced families knows their needs and our capacity of time and strength.

We sit down on the sand. All nine people are already seated there, under the branchy mango tree. But then someone brings a mat made of rice sacks. She unfolds it and presses it with stones so that it does not curl up when the wind blows. And she invites us to sit down. Mozambique hospitality which is a reflex.

The tree under which we sit is next to the house that we built for two families displaced from the north of Mozambique. Two of the many women present live next door and they are the ones who are speaking. A few children are playing between us. But too quiet and too polite.

Ordinary morning. Slowly cut vegetables for the evening meal. Eat what’s left of yesterday. Apply a white paste on the face, which they made by themselves in this part of the country. Some will say it’s for healthy skin. Others, it is an expression of beauty. Or that women paint their faces during menstruation. I did not ask them for their reason.

Ordinary morning. To withstand the time, the heat and the waiting of the return back north.

They still live there, even though I can see them here. But they don’t belong here. Farming? We had land there, we don’t have land here. Here we live not on our own. Fishing? We could fish, fry and sell there. You need a boat here to get deeper and consent from the government that no one will give us. Baking, selling bread and donuts? We did that there, for a short time here, nobody bought anything. We want to go back there, but the government has not yet said we can.

They have been waiting for almost two years. Does anything predict a change in the situation? From September 2017 it is only getting worse. But though they are here, they are still there. Then it’s hard to do anything but wait.

We ask for health. They proudly show bright pink tablets in transparent pouches. They keep them like treasures. They shuffle it between their fingers like jewelry. They’ve all been in the hospital recently. Weakness, vomiting, diarrhea. It’s better now.

We talk in words, Jo goes into action. In a sign, he encourages one of the women to lift him high so that he can pluck leaves from the tree. Efficiently. They put sand together in a plastic bag and these broken leaves. Jo has no cultural barriers. I wish he would grow in a Kingdom culture independent of physical places and group affiliation.

And it’s harder for me. We couldn’t say we were asking all of these because we wanted to help them start their own businesses. Even if we used words like “we will see”, “we check the possibilities”, “we can’t promise anything”, it would already be a promise for them. And they would wait for its fulfillment. Though maybe not as eager as for ready food delivered to the door.

Others never did business. Neither there nor here. And they don’t plan. Instead, they plan to be home and wait for the phone to ring with some quick job. Because the man is an electrician. But the phone on this matter did not ring for a long time.

Only this woman, whom we find sitting on a mat laid on the ground, with a group of children around (four of whom are born to her and two of hers, but from her sister) is looking for an opportunity to work. She buys a large bag of charcoal, divides it into small portions, and sells it. But now there is no money to buy another bag. I remember that a large family lived there. We ask where they are. The woman says that many have gone north to celebrate together that the boy becomes a man. One of the women was pregnant. Where they stayed, she gave birth. There, too, Islamic extremists attacked the village. The family fled. She and her child died in the bush. The rest of the family stayed there. No food, because it’s looted. No possibility of return, because the government reportedly prevents them from leaving the island in order to maintain the appearance of a stable situation. The woman said so.

The husbands are not home during the day. Are they working? No. But they are not present, they are in town. Or they are with other wives. One of the women complains to us that her husband stays with the other wife for weeks, and with her for only a few days. In Mozambique, polygyny is very common. Not possible if it’s about the law but culturally acceptable.

Our neighbor, where we stayed in Pemba, was a Mozambican. He was on the phone frequently, usually with one of his nine wives. He called one of them “queen”, another “princess”. We didn’t hear the rest. Each evening he would invite a different woman over. None of them were his wifes. The wifes were at homes.

We sit down under another tree. Next to another house. There are also no husbands, there are wives and mothers. Several adult sons. A few children. They are happy to play with Jo. It’s Thursday, about eleven in the morning. Nothing happens.

From these meetings we brought one impression of most of them. We are strangers here. It’s not possible. Let’s sit and wait. From these meetings we brought hope from the One who sent us. It is possible. Let’s help them to make a business.

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