Life with Covid-19 in Mozambique
As all of you know, much has changed over the past few weeks as the world deals with this pandemic. And as missionaries, we are having to adjust in order to help both family and our ministry.
What does that mean?
Three weeks ago, we were busy trying to renew our residency papers that allow us to stay in Mozambique, when things started to shut down in the States. We had traveled to Maputo for a couple days in order to get the necessary documents, with plans to return home. While we were there, South Africa announced that they were going to close their borders to US citizens, so it quickly became clear that the window of leaving was closing rapidly. We had to make a decision. Mariah and Jayden’s universities had just announced they were extending Spring Break and moving to online instruction. Gabe and Mariah both work in restaurants, which meant they were going to lose their jobs. Even though we couldn’t get the emergency exit documents required for Lisa, with our boards input, we decided to send her back to the US immediately.
We left for South Africa early the next day and thankfully were allowed to cross the border. We also decided that I would drop her off and return home so I could continue to work on the paperwork and help our local churches face the challenges ahead. We are so thankful that Lisa was able to not only get across the border (the country shut down to all US citizens the night she left) but to also get a flight out of South Africa.
I returned to Inhambane and began to help the local Christians prepare for the virus. I stocked up on food and supplies for the expected lock-down I was sure was coming. I helped some of the brothers who work for me by paying their salaries early and helping them stock up on food. (Not the way they normally buy food.) We visited the churches and taught them how to slow the spread of the virus by not shaking hands or drinking out of the same cups. I bought extra food like rice and beans so I would be able to feed more people as needed.
So what is the reality of the virus here in Mozambique?
We have no idea. Officially, we currently have ten confirmed cases. But the problem is that there is only very limited testing being done, and no access to any testing to the general population. In fact, I doubt there is a single test in our whole province! We are now on general restrictions, but as I drive into town, nothing has really changed. And the truth is, it can’t be much different.
People here live from day-to-day, under the best conditions. How can they survive without selling or working to earn enough money to buy food for the next couple days? There is so much uncertainty and fear and yet in many ways nothing has changed. People don’t know what to believe. If you think there is a problem of misinformation where you are, just imagine here!
One of the things being said here is that the virus won’t hurt Mozambicans because their blood is “strong” and the virus can’t make them sick. Or, because it is hot here, they can’t get sick–even though we are moving into winter. Need proof? There are only ten cases in the country! The problem is that those are confirmed cases. Without testing, there is no way to know how many are sick and spreading it. I personally believe we are still several weeks out from the impact of the virus here. I hope I am wrong.
If people are not allowed to sell, many families will go hungry.
An example of someone’s street side stand selling vegetables to earn a living.
On the positive side, we began to formulate a strategy before government intervention. I suggested we gather everyone’s cell phone numbers to create a network to send out lessons and encourgement. That is up and running. We have also divided the churches into small groups based on where they live in order to create a system to check on and encourage one another. This network will also be used to share prayer requests. Additionally, I have my supply of “standard staples” and extra medicines for those who need extra help. The goal is to become one another’s brothers’ keepers and to live out our Christian faith in action during this pandemic.
Please pray for this country and the entire continent of Africa during this crisis. Pray for the millions of people who have little to no resources, and that the church will rise up and shine Christ’s light on those around them.
ECHO Project Blesses Amone
Meet Amoné. He is one of the members of the Guinjata church. He doesn’t know how old he is, except the best guess is about 95. He is almost blind and has great difficulty walking. He lives alone and was living in extremely poor conditions.
Amoné has been receiving one of the monthly food packets that the ECHO Project provides to widows, orphans, and the most vulnerable. We had learned that he didn’t have an outhouse and desperately needing help as he was sick all the time.
When we went to investigate, we found his house and compound very overgrown and a huge mess, making it a perfect place for snakes. We decided to assemble a group of disciples from town and the local church to help our brother Amoné.
We also discovered that he wasn’t able to really cook for himself anymore, so one of the women from the church agreed to cook for him once a day the food the ECHO Project provides him. As a result, his health is improving. We were all blessed to serve Amoné and it was a powerful testimony to the community as they watched us help this old man.
Pray for our Paperwork
Life in Mozambique is a never ending course in patience. Anytime you need to get something done, it takes much longer than necessary. Case in point, we have to renew our residency permits yearly, and this used to be a super easy process. But after several rounds of “improvements” to the system, it is now a major pain! There is a whole new application process that must be processed locally, then sent to Maputo the capital to be signed and approved, then returned to the local office before going to apply at immigration.
Additionally, in 2019 our registered ministry here in Mozambique which sponsors our residency visas had reapply for a certain key document. We applied for that document the end of July 2019 and we still do not have it. It is done, as we have seen it, but the director hasn’t signed it. Without that document, we cannot begin to apply for our new residency visas which expire in less than two weeks. Due to the virus situation, all visas have been automatically extended until the end of June. Now I have more time to try and get things sorted. But we need your prayers that people in the offices will do their work, so we can be ready to renew our residency when the process opens back up.
As we already shared, Lisa is in Tulsa with the kids and near her sister and mother who is in lock down in assisted living. They are all fine and blessed to have a house to go to. Just over a year ago we purchased Lisa’s mom’s furnished house when we needed to move her. In God’s infinite wisdom, He know our family would need that house for such a time as this! And we are grateful that so far, they all remain healthy. Gabe, Mariah and Michael (Mariah’s boyfriend) are with Lisa at the house. Jayden had gone up to Chicago to spend Spring Break with Janelle and decided to stay with her through the quarantine process.
On my side as for preparations, I have stocked up on fuel, food and medication. I have prepared myself family size meals so that I could freeze leftovers so that if I do get sick, I will have ready made meals. Currently, I have about two weeks of meals standing by. I been using the time to work on lessons for the future, work on projects about the house, and continuing to encourage the churches. Another project will be to go through all the files in my office and do some major “spring cleaning.” I am also planning to finally sit down and prepare for my Mozambican drivers license test which has to be done in Portuguese. I have put it off for too long as I don’t know all the vocabulary, so time to learn!
Being apart isn’t our choice, but we feel like it was the best decision we could make given the circumstances. Thanks to internet and cell phones, we are able to talk and communicate several times a day, making the distance feel just a bit smaller and our family connected.
If you are looking for some encouragement, every couple days Lisa is reposting some encouraging and timely blog posts from our time in Mozambique you can read here.