Saturday, March 22, 2014

Content to be Unsettled

"Settling into life back home" - something about that statement worries me.

It's dangerous for the soul to become settled, for settling can lead to forgetting, and forgetting allows complacency an opportunity to do its devious work. If left unchecked, our experiences are reduced to tales of past achievements instead of becoming catalysts for further action.

So really, the hardest part of any journey is returning to the place where the journey began. Something must keep the memories alive; our hearts need to be continually stirred, forbidden to settle for life as it was. I know this to be true in myself, so here are some visual aides to help me not forget. Here are just a few of the Mozambican people I have come to respect and admire. These are my friends.

Prosper Fernando

I began training this young man in 2011. He now has his Mozambican mechanics certificate, and has become the workshop manager for the new shop that MTM has built on the ASAM mission base. It is exciting to see how far he's come in such a short time, and as we continue to mentor him via the internet in his new position over the coming year, we look forward to even greater things in the days ahead.
Prosper receiving his own torque wrench. Take it from me; mechanics love these things!
Prosper climbing a local  mountain on a Sunday for a time of "light" reading. Here is someone who is dedicated to a life of learning. (Selfie photo by Prosper Fernando)
Prosper (left) and Tome (right) installing the first shop door
Prosper recently left this comment on his Facebook page: "Fixing broken vehicles so that broken spirits may be fixed." For him, mechanics is not just a job; it's a calling.

Tomé Tawalia


I've been working alongside Tomé, ASAM's chief maintenance man, since 2010. Self-taught for the most part, Tomé has done the majority of the skilled labor on our shop project, including welding all the roof trusses and beams, and installing the roof sheeting. During this trip, he put up the metal for the mezzanine, and helped me construct the large bay doors. 

In addition to all that, Tomé has been the main "mechanic" for the farm for years, fixing everything from backhoes to irrigation pumps. Although I've been able to show Tomé some of the finer aspects of mechanical repair, he has always been my "go to" guy when it comes to problem solving. He is a wealth of everyday wisdom and just plain old common sense. More often than not, I'll be running my ideas past Tomé before diving in; he usually has something to say that's worth listening to.
Tome welding up I-beams for the mezzanine deck
Connie and Bob Denesiuk chatting with Prosper and Tome
Installing the upper door hinges
Building the mezzanine frame
Welding the frame into place


Gabriel is the head carpenter at ASAM, building doors and windows for all the building projects on the farm. In the past two years, he has also been trained to use the wood lathe, and is now actively training others to use it as well. Gabriel is a hard working man with an enormous heart and a gentle spirit. Many times I and other MTM volunteers have enjoyed a visit to his home with his young family, or accompanied him on Sundays to his local church. 

On this trip, Gabriel built the storage shelves for the shop, and helped Bob put up the joists and lay the plywood floor for the mezzanine deck.
Bob, Pinduai, Gabriel - wood turning class in the bush
The first yo-yo made on the lathe for the local kids
Storage room shelves
Creating a bowl from local wood
Felix, one of Gabriel's students, creating a cup
A good example of skills being passed on from one to another

Joao Benjamim

Road trip to Beira
Joao was the first ASAM mission staff member I ever met. In 2010, he was waiting at the Maputo airport to welcome my daughter Laura and I on our first visit to Mozambique. As farm manager, Joao's days (and even many nights) are full to overflowing with work and responsibilities. Yet he is always cheerful, ever helpful, and has a servant heart that humbles anyone who meets him. 

Joao and I have had many conversations around the dinner table, on road trips to town, or as we drive through the bush to yet another church service where he will both interpret for us and guide us through the cultural differences that we encounter on a daily basis. He may be a short man in stature, but he's a giant among his people.
Joao and Pastor Mariano
Joao translating for Marta as Bob and Connie prepared to walk with her to church, the first Sunday that Marta will bring her new "leg" to church.
A new future for a young girl who lost her leg to a poisonous snake bite.
Joao serving refreshments to the work crew who are putting up the roof on his new quarters (March 2013)

It's these special people, and so many others too numerous to mention, that will always keep me "unsettled" as it were; always aware that even the small amount of knowledge that I have to share is vitally important to so many others. 

It's the stuff that changes lives, one skill at a time.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Week Five...and a little bit

Planning your endgame - aka: figuring out how to land this thing.

As my last day approaches (tomorrow morning, to be exact), it becomes critical to recognize which things are going to be wrapped up and which things will be left for others to complete. It's always a hard choice.
As my friend Todd would say, this is the edge of sketchiness...letting an auto mechanic near a 400v 3-phase electrical panel.
But somebody has to make this new air compressor run, so I guess that's going to be me.
Tome and Prosper welding the bay door hinge plates into place.
Half of one door in place; tomorrow we finish it...I hope!
Bob Denesiuk working on the mezzanine deck.
Making straight lumber out of twisted logs.
Connie Denesiuk has been busy as well, teaching Marta how to walk with her new prosthetic leg.
Gladys has been such a great help in this process. Yesterday Marta walked to church on her new leg, and today she took it to school. There was lots of celebrating as this young girl, who lost her leg to a snake bite, now has a new lease on life. A huge thank you to Stuart Watkinson at Action Orthotics for making this transformation possible. 
Revy and Vasco installing some storage room lighting.
Prosper Fernando, our new shop manager, organizing his tools and supplies.
Of course, there are many other things happening here at the ASAM mission base, like the Work for Food program.
Life is hard here, but there are some very proud mothers with beautiful children, and they do what they can to care for them.

Many things will continue on after I go, and that's thanks to committed people who have given their lives to be the change this world needs. My "To Do" list might not have everything checked off by the time I leave, but I do know that many new things will have been started.

And like good seeds in fertile soil, they will grow.