We desire to bring sunshine to Africa....opportunities to allow people to realize their destinies and be released from oppression. We are starting in Mozambique with The Sunshine Nut Company. The majority of proceeds from this company will go to the poorest of farming communities and the neediest of children. Mozambique is ranked among the poorest in economic status but we believe they are among the richest in spirit. Join us in our adventure....

Friday, March 17, 2017

Sunshine in the Schools

Part of the privilege we enjoy here in Mozambique is in hosting guests and teams who come from all around the world. They come in all shapes and sizes and for a variety of reasons. It is very overwhelming to host a team both in the preparation before they come (which includes meal planning, food shopping, preparing beds, letters of invite for visas, and getting the necessary governmental authorizations to complete the work they intend to do), in hosting them (which includes providing 3 meals a day, getting them up and transported to where they are working, and reassuring them that if they got bit by a mosquito they will most likely not get malaria), and the clean up after they go (washing up all of those towels and sheets and storing them away for the next group). Yet…each team or guest we have hosted has given us so so so much!

Our guests bring us an ever new outlook on this crazy place in which we live as we get used to things and take them for granted. When we look through their eyes, we see things here in a fresh way. Their fellowship with us brings  lots of good conversations as we get to know each other…they come as strangers and leave as family. They bring with them knowledge in their particular field to share and help people here- it can be construction, medical, dental, educational, ministerial, or simply just loving and playing with the children. They bring us donations that we can use to bless the children and people. The “best” kind of guests bring me Reese’s Mini-Peanut Butter Cups-ha ha!

Visiting here has its challenges. It can be hot. Very hot! We sometimes do not have power to run the air conditioners or fans that keep us cool at night. We sometimes do not get water and therefore one cannot shower or wash clothing. No dishwashers or fancy appliances here, so we all must chip in and share the load of work. There are snakes. There are mosquitos. There are pickpockets. There are many things to be wary about….but nothing to be afraid of.


Today we said farewell to a group of amazing teachers, organized and led by our daughter Cassie, who joined us from the Landmark School in Massachusetts. The tears flowed at the airport as we hugged goodbye. I seriously considered ripping up their return tickets and keeping them here with me! The team came to train teachers in some local high schools. This was a pilot program to see how it would go. If a success, Landmark would like to send a team of teachers to us each year. Because it was a pilot program, we decided to work within  the private school arena so as to try it out without having to go through the red tape of working in a public school. We chose three schools- Christian Academy of Mozambique, Anna Mogas Catholic School, and Cantinhou do Ceu Christian School.

Previous to the team’s arrival, I met with the directors of each school several times. First to receive their permission to come and run a training program at their school. We personally know the director of Christian Academy and our William attended school there, so that was the easy one. When I met with the directors of the Portuguese schools, I got the feeling they were thinking to themselves, “Exactly who is this white woman and why is she bothering me?” But they were kind and gracious and agreed to allow us in. I invited them to share with me what their needs were for their teachers and I shared with them the ideas we had- training in classroom management, lesson planning, creative teaching strategies, teacher/student relationship, etc. I also shared with them that we would provide a meal for the teachers…”If you feed them, they will come!” I returned several times to make sure all was set …I was worried they would forget!!

While I was laying the groundwork here, Cassie and her team were busy preparing and organizing a training program. They met multiple times to create the lessons, presentation slides, and assemble the needed materials. Cassie was joined by 4 experienced Landmark teachers- Lauren, Kaleigh, Kate, and Kyle.

The team arrived on a Sunday afternoon just shy of 2 weeks ago. They arrived tired and feeling dirty, but I told them that no one would be sleeping or showering just yet. We came home so they could unpack and freshen up a bit, but we then headed out to play with children at a local orphanage (which is why it made no sense to shower first) and then to eat a traditional Mozambican chicken dinner at our all-time favorite Mozambican restaurant, Tubikanga. My whole purpose in this was to keep them moving and awake until bedtime. They would have no time to relax and adjust to the time change or get over their jet lag. We would have to be up and out the door at 6:30am the next morning to our first day of training. They did great and lasted up to bedtime. In hind sight, they now thank me for having done this. Every one of them did adjust quickly.

Monday morning we completed an all-day inservice training for the 21 teachers at the Christian Academy of Mozmabique (CAM). This was a great start for the team because this is an English speaking school, so there was no need for translation. Our team shared their presentation and were doubly blessed by a capulana service just before lunch in which the teachers sang traditional songs and wrapped each team member in a capulana. At the end of the day, they made speeches and thanked our team. One teacher shared that he had not learning anything new since university…and he has been teaching for 20 years! The teachers again broke into song and dance and presented the team with yet another gift.


Tuesday morning we returned to CAM. Pairs of or team went into classrooms and taught lessons to model the strategies taught during the inservice the day before. The CAM teachers observed. On Wednesday, our teachers then observed the CAM teachers looking for them to use the strategies. We provided them with feedback as well. I observed a 10th grade Portuguese class. (I must brag a bit here and say that I understood every part of the lesson and instruction. I used to say I spoke equivalent to a 5 year old child, but now I think I can say that I speak more like a high school student!!) I was so excited to see this male teacher put into practice so much of what was taught the day before. It was also exciting to see how the students responded enthusiastically to his new techniques.

Before leaving CAM on Wednesday, Cassie met with the director to plan dates for next year’s trip in March. They were that excited! The director said that the team was so well received because they were experienced teachers who could relate well to her teachers. It was fun to see everyone commiserating together, especially over the funny things that students do during lessons!


Thursday morning we headed off to Anna Mogas. Everyone was a bit nervous. This would be very new territory for us. We would have to use a translator because this was a Portuguese speaking school. Our Sunshine Nut Company employee, Sebi, was our official translator. She did a fabulous job in relaying the information and also on elaborating when necessary. The students at most Portuguese schools study only half a day and therefore, the teachers only teach half a day. We ran a training program in the morning for the afternoon teachers and one in the afternoon for the morning teachers. There were 37 teachers in attendance. We did this on Thursday and Friday. The teachers were very enthusiastic and received everything that was shared with them.  They also shared a lot with us as well. On the second day that we were there, a teacher told us how much he had benefited from our training. He said that he went back into his classroom that afternoon with new eyes. Another teacher shared that she tried the simple technique of developing relationship with her students by giving each one a “high five” as they entered the classroom. She said she could not believe the difference it made in the atmosphere of her classroom.  In the end, the director invited us to return again next year but this time, he invited us to come spend more time there and run a program like we did at CAM where we would go into the classrooms to model lessons and observe teachers. He said that we are now family.


Our final training program was a Saturday morning at Cantinho do Ceu where we presented to 48 teachers. The team was now “on a roll” with their program. They also were more in tune to asking the teachers to share their ideas- this was a big hit and got everyone discussing and sharing. Our main goal was to come alongside the teachers in Mozambique and collaborate. Again, the director was effervescent in his appreciation of the program. He invited us back to not only present again but to do a 3 day program like we did at CAM. When we told him that we would be happy to return in March 2018. He was disappointed that they would have to wait a year and asked if we could return sooner! He said that our team had changed his views on America- that we were a nation of people who were not selfish, who were very helpful, and who want to do good. A teacher at this school thanked the team in front of his colleagues saying that this was the first further training he has received since he graduated from teacher training many years ago.


I received the following message from a teacher who attended the training program. It pretty much sums up how very successful this program was…

Hello. I am one of the teachers from CAM. I just wanted to let you know how much the workshop the teachers did was appreciated. I have heard so many positive remarks and more importantly, a couple of teachers said they are changing their ways and seeing results already. One remarked on how positive they (the training team)  were. She said they didn’t tell us what we were doing wrong, but only gave us ideas to use. Just thought you would like to know you made a difference!


SCORE!!!  Looking forward to having you back again next year, Landmark!!!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

It's Raining Boys!!!

After three years of drought conditions, southern Mozambique is being blessed by lots of rain this year. We are all so thankful for this. Yet my life is not only filled with rain from the skies in the form of water, but it’s raining boys!

In my previous blog, “My Birthday Present- It’s a Boy!”, I wrote about our new little guy Samuel. He is being cared for by Berta in our second Sunshine House along with Juju, who has been abandoned by her parents. He is doing great…eating everything in sight (we had to teach him to not pick up food off the ground and eat it), playing with lots of other children from sun up to sun down, and bringing tons of joy and giggles into our lives. He truly is a picture of God’s grace.

Samuel came to us on my birthday, January 3rd. On that very same day, there were two other boys needing a place to call home and a family, but it was too premature to say anything yet. Now I can! 

Meet Maiquen and Samuel. Maiquen is 15 years old and will be entering grade 7 soon. Samuel is 9 years old and will be in grade 2. 


Again, it was a neighbor of these boys who connected with Berta to share their story. Each boy had a different father whom they never knew. The fathers abandoned the mother and their sons when they were infants. Their mother died in April 2016 from Aids. Their older 24 year old brother was left with the responsibility of providing for the boys. He rents a very small, one-room cement home where he lives with his wife and son. He has no job. To make money, he does biscata- the word for odd jobs. He barely earns enough to feed his own family and certainly not enough to feed two more boys. He tried to get help from extended family members, but no one had the conditions to take in more children. My heart breaks to imagine the emotional pain of losing your mother and then not having anywhere to belong…not having anyone willing to accept you into their home and to care for you…not knowing where you will live or how you will survive.

We had already been planning to put together a third Sunshine House. We had a widowed woman named Guida who had agreed to take in and care for children. Guida has worked at Berta’s preschool for the past two years. She is a lovely woman whose husband passed away and her children have grown up and left her behind to pursue their lives.  Guida also has a huge heart for children. In fact, on the morning of the very day that I first heard about Maiquen and Samuel, I had seen Guida. She asked me when we would be able to get the project started. My response to her was, “As soon as we get some children who need a home.” I asked her if she would like boys or girls or any particular aged child. She responded, “Qualquer”, whatever. So all we needed was whatever children God would bring our way. Unbeknownst to us, He had already provided.

I met Maiquen and Samuel for the first time today. They waited quietly for me to finish the community feeding program. I don’t even know at what point they showed up…dishing up food for 200 noisy, squirmy children does keep you pretty occupied! When the dust had settled, I found them in Berta’s Project room sitting in two plastic chairs. I pulled up a chair beside them. I was unsure of how to introduce myself and what to share with them. So I told them our story…how God had called us to leave everything behind and come to Mozambique to help the poor and orphaned. I told them that we would be happy to have them join our family.  I invited Berta to share with the boys. She told them how special they were to have this opportunity and reaffirmed again and again with them that they needed to respect me as well as their new tia, Guida. Guida then spoke a little bit with them telling them that she would care for them and help them to grow in the Lord.

All the while, quietly sitting on the sidelines listening in, was our Cecilia, who is the oldest child living in our first Sunshine House. I asked her if she had anything she wanted to tell the boys. What she shared was so strikingly beautiful. It revealed to us that there is something very special being created in this very large group of widows and children that we refer to as our Sunshine Family. She said that she understood how they felt because she too lost her parents early at a  young age. She told them that I am now their mother and that Don is now their father. She  told them they no longer need to fear or worry because we will be there for them. It was such a tender moment and it made me understand that these children can support each other in a way that I cannot…I don’t know what it is like to lose your parents and to have no where to go. I don’t know what it is like to be turned away by every member of your family. Because these children have gone through similar life circumstances, they will be able to understand and encourage each other. I saw this again a bit later. After our meeting, we were all waiting inside because there was a sudden downpour of rain that kept us from leaving. I went off to another room to talk with Berta. While we were meeting, I saw that Cecilia had pulled up a chair next to the boys and was continuing to talk with them. I pointed it out to Berta. A smile spread across both of our faces as we realized what was occurring.


As I write out this blog, I feel the weight of responsibility on my shoulders. We now have three families to look out for. We have three women and 7 orphaned children who rely on us. We have made a lifelong commitment to them. Our company, Sunshine Nut Co., was created to transform lives and provide hope and a future for those who have been brought low by their circumstances in life. This is a big deal to us and to the people whose lives with which we are involved.  I find comfort in knowing that each one of these women and children were brought to us by God, and He will sustain what He has started. I also take comfort in knowing that I am not alone…I have Zelda, Berta, and Guida, and in fact, they are the ones who will carry the majority of the work. I have the entire staff of Sunshine Nut Co. behind me. And I have you, our consumers…who not only support our work by buying our cashews, but so many of you are our best cheerleaders by spreading the word about the work we are doing.  As it says in Galatians 6:2, “Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law.” I see a lot of stooping and sharing of burdens in all of our futures, and I believe we are all ready for this task!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

My birthday present - it's a BOY!

My husband always says how happy he is when birthdays come around here in Mozambique. Life is so simple and uncomplicated for us. There is nothing we want and nothing to buy, even if we wanted it. This is what makes birthdays easy to celebrate. The worries of figuring out what the person would want, where to buy it, how much to spend, wrapping it up, choosing a card… all of this fuss does not exist for us anymore. My birthday just came on January 3rd. We planned a nice evening out to dinner with our son, William, who is visiting from university right now. I knew there would be no presents for me. And while I am fine with that, there is still that little selfish part of me that wants a present even so. I did not receive any presents to unwrap on that day, but God, in His infinite goodness, remembered my birthday with the best present I could ever receive. It didn’t come in a box. It was not bought in a store. It came in the form of a little boy named Samuel.

Samuel is just five years of age. His mother died when he was only two years old. His father took on a new wife. What happened next is a sad but all too common scenario here in Mozambique. The stepparent would not accept or care for this child because he is not her biological child. This woman refused to give the child food, did not give him water, and beat him regularly. The neighbor witnessed this and told the woman that she was doing wrong. The neighbor told the stepmother that if she lived in the city, she would have been arrested and taken to jail by the police. But apparently, when this type of situation occurs out in the bush area, nothing is done.

Berta was contacted by this concerned neighbor; she is a member of Berta’s church family. The father had come to the neighbor and asked her if she knew of anyone who would accept the boy to live in their house. He desires to keep this wife more than he desires to keep his own son. The neighbor knows Berta has a heart for children and told her about Samuel.

Samuel had recently been admitted to the hospital due to being severely malnourished. At 5 years of age, he weighed only 9 kilograms, 20 pounds, when he was admitted. He was literally skin and bones. His stomach had stopped digesting food. Thanks to the care he has received in the hospital, he has gained 2 kilograms, but he is still very poor in health. We expressed interest in having Samuel as a Sunshine child, so Berta visited Samuel in the hospital.  She asked the stepmother if she could care for him when he was released. The stepmother agreed. Berta left her with money for phone credit and told her to call her on the day he was released. She asked her to not take him home at all but to take him to the neighbor’s house and Berta would fetch him from there. Berta already heads up our second Sunshine House in caring not just for her own two children, Zaca and Amanda, but also for her abandoned granddaughter, Juju, and the 39 community children in her project. She agreed to take on the full-time care of Samuel as well.

I was so thrilled to learn of this on my birthday. I was elated to receive this special gift who would be part of our Sunshine family. I immediately began praying for this little boy’s physical and emotional healing. Berta had sent me photos of him from the hospital, so I had his little face imprinted in my mind as I prayed. I couldn’t wait to receive the word that he was with Berta in her home and that I could come and meet him. We didn’t know how much longer he would have to stay in the hospital. We were all anxious to get him into our care and to know that he wouldn’t have to return to his previous horrible home life. We worried that the father and stepmother might change their minds and just take him home with them again. Thankfully we didn’t have to wait and worry for long. In just two days, he was released from the hospital, the stepmother did call Berta to come fetch the boy, and she gave Berta all of his documents to take with her.

If I were to tell you that today you were going to meet a 5 year old boy who had just been rescued from living in a home where he suffered from beatings and was deprived of food since he was 2, what would you expect to see? A sad little boy? With a broken spirit? No smiles? Scared? Withdrawn? This is what we expected… yet it was not what we encountered.


Samuel walked into the room and came directly to me without hesitation. As I bent down to receive him, he nestled right into me like he had always known me. I wanted to scoop him up and snuggle him tight, but I was still a bit concerned he might be scared. So I moved slowly, first just laying my hand on his thin arm, then wrapping my arm around his frail body, and then moving on to pulling him in close and holding him in a tight hug that conveyed he was now in a place where he is loved… all the while thanking God for this special gift and praying for his future.


I presented him with a stuffed monkey that I bought for him. He took it and smiled. This smile led to more smiles and these smiles led to laughter! As Don stood by with the camera taking photos, Samuel erupted with giggles, filling us all with great happiness and a wonderment of how a little boy who had been through such suffering could be so joyful. My words in retelling these moments are lacking the depth of what we all felt and experienced. However, the photos that show these moments convey the emotions that meager words cannot.

Don could no longer stand to wait behind a camera capturing the moment. He put the camera down and came over to hug Samuel as well. Samuel treated us to kisses and hugs and love. Samuel cozied up to William, giving him sweet kisses on his cheek. We fell in love with this little boy. Our whole family fell into an awe of the grace of God that is clearly on his life. This little boy now has a future. He will be loved and cared for. He will never again suffer from physical abuse. He is the child of a God that will never leave him or forsake him. He will grow up in a loving environment that offers him dignity, hope and opportunity. He will come into the plan God has for his life.


He truly is my best birthday gift ever…one that will keep bringing me joy for many years to come!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Small but Mighty

Our foundation supports a preschool in the Matola-Santos community, located near our factory and home. This preschool is directed by none other than our wonderful Berta. She started the preschool about a year and a half ago. At this time, most of the children in her community project attended school in the morning, so the project children left at her house in the mornings were mostly preschoolers. Therefore, it only made sense to create a preschool for these little ones. 

In the beginning, it was lovely. There were only nine children in the preschool. I loved going there to sing, play, and squeeze their chubby little cheeks. 

Yet each time I went there, it seemed to me that they were multiplying. Nine turned into 13; 13 turned into 19, and so it continued until one day I stopped to count… I counted 29 children! This is when I had my “less is more” talk with Berta. There was only one teacher for these 29 children. They had nothing available to them. No toys. No books. No crayons. Not even chairs to sit on. These dearies sat and slept on the cement floor of an outside area. I spoke with Berta about how difficult it is for one teacher to meet the needs of 29 two-, three- and four-year olds. Yet Berta would look at me with her sad, puppy dog eyes and say, “But in my heart I cannot say no to them.” She knew that by helping these children, she was helping their parents. She gave the children a safe place to learn, play, and nap while the parents were free to then go out and work to earn much needed money to support their families. So since Berta could not turn any needy child away, I decided I had better help her transform her heart’s desire into a viable solution.

Last January, we covered the cost for her and 4 women who would be her teachers to attend a two-week preschool teacher training workshop. They learned how to manage a classroom and teach a preschool curriculum. We then purchased this curriculum and provided a workbook for each student in the preschool. 

Berta then held an official registration for children and before I knew it, she had 4 full classes of children containing 20-25 children in each class. They started their lessons in late January 2016. Throughout this past year, it has been the highlight of my weeks to go and visit this preschool. I enter through the gate to be mauled by 100 children who almost knock me to the ground as they swarm me and wrap themselves around my legs. I make sure to physically connect with each and every child with a kiss, a hug or a touch in some way. Their love and exuberant joy fill me with love and joy as well. Our foundation has helped in many ways this year with many different projects to improve the preschool. I also try to get there as often as possible, not just to garner hugs, but to teach Bible lessons with a craft or to sing a song or tell a story.

We have completed a variety of projects including opening up the rooms by removing the dividing wall, adding a window and a ceiling fan, and painting the walls. Thanks to generous donors, we provided toys, watercolors, pencils, crayons, books...all the things that help the children learn and play.

Fast forward to December 3, 2016. Berta scheduled a graduation ceremony for the five-year-old class. We literally arranged our plane tickets to return back to Mozambique after celebrating Thanksgiving with our family in the US just to attend this special day. It meant everything to Berta. The graduation was to begin at 9:00 am. Almost every event here occurs in what we term “Mozambican Time”. When a time is given, you can count on the fact that nothing will happen until one to two hours later. This happens with workmen who are coming to your house, public events, meetings, and even weddings. I left my house at 8:20 to begin the short drive to Berta’s. At 8:25 I got a call from her asking if I would soon arrive. I found this strange seeing that the graduation was not scheduled to begin until 9. Add in the fact that this is Mozambique. I really believed I had lots of time and could not understand why she was so concerned about how close I was to the preschool. A few minutes later I arrived at Berta’s, parked my car, walked down the short lane to her house, and pulled open the large sliding metal gate to enter her property. I was shocked beyond belief to see before me rows and rows of parents lined up in plastic chairs quietly waiting for the graduation to begin. There was not a seat left! And it was only 8:34!! I sheepishly passed by them to enter into the preschool building. There before me stood two lines of five-year-olds dressed in their finest clothes. Everyone was ready to start…they were all waiting on me!! I did a sweep of the room to locate Berta. At first I did not see her, but then I did a double take. I could hardly recognize her! She was beautifully dressed in a smart white blouse and a capulana that matched with all of her teachers'. Her hair was a new style for her that made her look so fashionable. She had gone all out to look her best. After a quick hug, she shooshed me off to a chair in the audience, and the ceremony began.

Music blared from the stereo as 25 five-year-olds came marching out with their hands waving in the air. Their teachers, all wearing matching capulanas around their waists, and Berta proudly entered in with them. They assembled before us in two lines- girls in the front and boys in the back. A message was shared with the parents by a young man from Berta’s church. He spoke to the parents about the critical responsibility they have to teach their children in godly ways. This was followed by the children singing the National Anthem of Mozambique. Every day in every school in Mozambique begins the children lining up outside of their classrooms singing the anthem. And this is a good thing too…because Mozambique has to have the longest anthem of all the countries in the world! The children’s singing was of course lovely, but soon, the children from Berta’s project who had gathered to watch joined in, and this was followed by the parents. For me, this was one of those, “I can’t believe I am here in Africa and having this experience” moments. It left me in awe.

The ceremony continued with a series of activities where the children displayed what they had learned during the past year. Each of the 25 children went to a chalkboard one by one and wrote their name. Each child was rewarded with a round of enthusiastic applause by the assembly of proud of parents. This may not sound like a big deal to us Westerners, but here in Mozambique, it is a BIG thing for a preschooler to know how to write their name. Many children do not complete first grade knowing how to do this. The children continued on with letter and color recognition and even role played occupations they wanted to be when they grew up. As I watched the parents watch their children, I was amused by how many were recording the ceremony with their phones and electronic tablets. We Americans get busted on all the time for viewing our children’s accomplishments through the lens of a camera instead of just sitting and enjoying the moment. Let me tell you…we have nothing over the Mozambicans!!

The children then marched back into the building to don their graduation garb. They returned to the performance area wearing caps and gowns. 

Each child was awarded a diploma and a present bag to mark this special accomplishment in their lives. The ceremony concluded with the usual round of speeches by the director, Berta, the teachers, the cheffe of the area, and by me, the madrinha, or patron, of the preschool. They love their speeches here! The event concluded with a feast of food for the children, who were served at little tables, and their parents, who gathered around the food table and helped themselves to all that was left.




Berta and I stood back and just watched everyone gathering to share a meal and celebrate the accomplishments of their children. We took in the sight before us with a humble pride. What began with nine little ones had grown into this! A lot of sweat, tears, discussions, and efforts had gone into this moment in time. And it felt oh so good to see the fruit of our labor before us.  

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Reflections upon Returning to my Home Away from Home



Family events and a busy schedule kept me away from Mozambique for most of this past summer. When I am here in Mozambique, I miss America. When I am in America, I miss Mozambique. I have resigned myself to the fact that no matter where I am, I will always be in a state of homesickness. As I was away in the US for so long this year, I started getting too used to life there…being with my children, family and friends…indulging in all that is good…relishing a life that is predictable and planned. It was so easy to settle back into life as I once knew it.

And while I yearned to return to Mozambique, when I arrived here, I was not so sure I was ready to face life here again. On my first day back, I wanted to hole up in our home and not go out. I wanted to just stay inside and cry for what I missed back home. But I knew that was not a good idea at all. So I made myself get up and go out. I reluctantly pulled out of my driveway and had to literally force myself to close the front gate behind me and continue down the road. I said a prayer, pushed on the gas pedal, and went on my way. And God met me right then and there.

As I turned the corner at the end of my street, I spied a random middle-aged man walking along the road. This is so very normal here as most people walk everywhere. My eyes were drawn to his, and his eyes locked with mine as I drew closer to him. Then all of a sudden, he broke into a huge smile and waved to me like we were best friends. My heart was immediately filled with happiness, and I thanked God for this gift. 

I drove to Berta’s preschool where all the women in the surrounding village came out to greet me and told me how much I was missed and asked why I had stayed away so long. The thought hit me…I was missed! I entered into Berta’s Preschool where I was literally swarmed by at least 40 little children who chanted my name as they hugged me to the point of almost knocking off my feet. Berta came out and cleared them away. She turned her attention to me. Her face lit up and she welcomed me with the biggest ever hug. This all had occurred within 20 minutes of leaving my house! The day continued on like this as I went from place to place. I was received with such love. A love that filled the hole in my heart.

I drove around from place to place most of the day. As I did, it was like a walk down memory lane for me.

I had forgotten how tired a person can look.

And then I saw how sweet was a baby’s face as it peeked around at me from his mommy’s back.



I had forgotten the smoke that stings your eyes and fill your nostrils.

And then I remembered the smell of freshly baked pao (Mozambican bread) at the bakery.



I had forgotten the over-stuffed vans that carry people around like they were cargo.



And then I saw little girls dancing freely along the streets.

I had forgotten the sight of garbage lining the streets, overflowing onto them in many places.


And then I saw the care and pride that people take of their little homes that you and I would be devastated to stay in for even just one night.

I had forgotten what it was like to see men and women picking food out of garbage dumpsters and eating it. Food that I would not even give to my dogs!

And then I had the privilege of gifting a man picking spoiled food from my garbage can in front of my home with a bag of fresh fruit and bread and water.

I had forgotten the hopeless look in the faces of the poor sitting around with no work, no opportunity, no dignity.

And then I had the privilege of holding a recently abandoned two year-old girl until she fell asleep in my arms.

I had forgotten what it was like to see children in tattered clothing and mis-sized shoes that were either too big or too small for their feet.



And then I had the privilege of buying a pair of shoes for a brother and sister who had none.

I had forgotten the irritation of being pulled over by a police officer and interrogated for no reason at all.

And then I was able to surprise a police officer doing legitimate work directing traffic in the middle of a busy intersection on a hot day with a Coca Cola to thank him for his service.



Life here is hard for everyone. Yet it is a good life. It has its up and its downs, just as in every other place. But there is something very, very special about life in Mozambique. Something that makes you feel like you are making a difference. Something that makes you realize you are needed and wanted. Something that makes you feel just plain good at the end of the day.


Every time I have to say goodbye to visitors who have come to stay with us and experience Mozambique, I feel so very, very lucky. They have to leave. But I get to stay here. In my beloved Mozambique.  

Reflections upon Returning to my Home Away from Home



Family events and a busy schedule kept me away from Mozambique for most of this past summer. When I am here in Mozambique, I miss America. When I am in America, I miss Mozambique. I have resigned myself to the fact that no matter where I am, I will always be in a state of homesickness. As I was away in the US for so long this year, I started getting too used to life there…being with my children, family and friends…indulging in all that is good…relishing a life that is predictable and planned. It was so easy to settle back into life as I once knew it.

And while I yearned to return to Mozambique, when I arrived here, I was not so sure I was ready to face life here again. On my first day back, I wanted to hole up in our home and not go out. I wanted to just stay inside and cry for what I missed back home. But I knew that was not a good idea at all. So I made myself get up and go out. I reluctantly pulled out of my driveway and had to literally force myself to close the front gate behind me and continue down the road. I said a prayer, pushed on the gas pedal, and went on my way. And God met me right then and there.

As I turned the corner at the end of my street, I spied a random middle-aged man walking along the road. This is so very normal here as most people walk everywhere. My eyes were drawn to his, and his eyes locked with mine as I drew closer to him. Then all of a sudden, he broke into a huge smile and waved to me like we were best friends. My heart was immediately filled with happiness, and I thanked God for this gift. 

I drove to Berta’s preschool where all the women in the surrounding village came out to greet me and told me how much I was missed and asked why I had stayed away so long. The thought hit me…I was missed! I entered into Berta’s Preschool where I was literally swarmed by at least 40 little children who chanted my name as they hugged me to the point of almost knocking off my feet. Berta came out and cleared them away. She turned her attention to me. Her face lit up and she welcomed me with the biggest ever hug. This all had occurred within 20 minutes of leaving my house! The day continued on like this as I went from place to place. I was received with such love. A love that filled the hole in my heart.

I drove around from place to place most of the day. As I did, it was like a walk down memory lane for me.

I had forgotten how tired a person can look.

And then I saw how sweet was a baby’s face as it peeked around at me from his mommy’s back.



I had forgotten the smoke that stings your eyes and fill your nostrils.

And then I remembered the smell of freshly baked pao (Mozambican bread) at the bakery.



I had forgotten the over-stuffed vans that carry people around like they were cargo.



And then I saw little girls dancing freely along the streets.

I had forgotten the sight of garbage lining the streets, overflowing onto them in many places.


And then I saw the care and pride that people take of their little homes that you and I would be devastated to stay in for even just one night.

I had forgotten what it was like to see men and women picking food out of garbage dumpsters and eating it. Food that I would not even give to my dogs!

And then I had the privilege of gifting a man picking spoiled food from my garbage can in front of my home with a bag of fresh fruit and bread and water.

I had forgotten the hopeless look in the faces of the poor sitting around with no work, no opportunity, no dignity.

And then I had the privilege of holding a recently abandoned two year-old girl until she fell asleep in my arms.

I had forgotten what it was like to see children in tattered clothing and mis-sized shoes that were either too big or too small for their feet.



And then I had the privilege of buying a pair of shoes for a brother and sister who had none.

I had forgotten the irritation of being pulled over by a police officer and interrogated for no reason at all.

And then I was able to surprise a police officer doing legitimate work directing traffic in the middle of a busy intersection on a hot day with a Coca Cola to thank him for his service.



Life here is hard for everyone. Yet it is a good life. It has its up and its downs, just as in every other place. But there is something very, very special about life in Mozambique. Something that makes you feel like you are making a difference. Something that makes you realize you are needed and wanted. Something that makes you feel just plain good at the end of the day.


Every time I have to say goodbye to visitors who have come to stay with us and experience Mozambique, I feel so very, very lucky. They have to leave. But I get to stay here. In my beloved Mozambique.  

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Maria- PROBLEM SOLVED!!!!

You may remember my previous blog about Maria… It was entitled, “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?”. (If you want to refresh your memory, you can find it at http://sunshineinafrica.blogspot.com/2016_01_01_archive.html).

Maria was the little girl who at the end of first grade was told by the school system that she was deficient and could not continue on to grade 2. Deficient!! How could anyone tell a 7 year old child that she is deficient? And why did they tell her this? She is unable to speak well and cannot walk well due to a mild case of multiple sclerosis. Since Maria could not return to school, she spent the next 3  years learning alongside the 3, 4, and 5 year olds at Vovo Berta’s preschool. Maria was far from deficient. She could write well and even read a little. But because she was not able to speak or walk well, the public school system cast her aside.

We believed she had potential. We believed she deserved a chance to learn. We believed she could thrive and do well. So our company, Sunshine Nut Company, through our Sunshine Approach Foundation, is sponsoring her to attend primary school at Escola Luz e Vida (Light and Life School). The director of this school is an amazing woman who agreed to give Maria a chance.

Maria has been attending school for the past 5 months. Each month when I go out to the school to pay her tuition, I check in with the director to see how she is doing. The director has told me that she is a sweet girl  who works hard and is doing well. Those are very kind and encouraging words. Yet I was waiting to see concrete proof that she was succeeding.

Upon my return to Mozambique this past week from a trip to the US, my first stop was to go to Berta’s Project and check in on her and the children. As I was leaving Berta’s project, Maria greeted me at the gate with a huge smile. She was so happy to see I was back in Mozambique again. After receiving a long and tight hug, she told me that she had her grades from her first semester of school. I told her to bring them to the community feeding we sponsor the following day and I would take a look at them. If I had known what I would see on her report, I would not have waited!! She brought her report to me the next day. Grades in Mozambique are based on a point system with 20 being the highest value.  A grade of 14 or above is considered above average. Check out her grades (and her photo with her big, beaming, well deserved smile)…

Portuguese- 18
Mathematics- 20
Visual Education- 16
Music- 16
Physical Education- 16
Art- 15



Her final average was…17!!! 17 out of 20!!! Do you even realize how amazing that is?! For a regular, normal child, 17 would be amazing. For Maria, it is out of this world!!! I was overwhelmed and rejoiced with her and her parents as I looked at her report. I just could not believe it. I profusely lavished an incredible amount of praise on her as other children stood in the street watching on, wondering what all the fuss was about. Maria was so proud…unbelievably proud. Everyone was grinning…Maria, her mom, her dad, me, and all the children around us. Today, we are taking her family all the fixings for a celebratory meal...chicken, rice, potatoes, carrots, soft drinks, and a big cake that says "Parabens", Congratulations. We are doing this because this is not just a victory for Maria...it is a victory for her whole family. She could not have done this without them. Her mother and father take her by chapa (public transport) to and from school each day. This a a huge time commitment on their part, and they have been faithful in doing this every day. Therefore, we believe that all deserve to celebrate together.


It is because of people like Maria that we are here in Mozambique. This is why we established the Sunshine Nut Company. We believed that the people of Mozambique deserve hope, opportunity, and dignity. We wanted to transform lives. Our efforts here are challenging, and we go through many days where it feels like we are facing more challenges than we are enjoying successes. Yet today, little Maria brought us immense joy as she showed us that we are transforming lives. The pride in her eyes and the smile on her face and even the way she held her posture straight and tall demonstrated that her life has been transformed. It makes me so very sad to think of what would have happened to Maria if we had not been here to intervene in her life. There are so many more children like Maria who deserve the same chance that she has received. We will continue on and on and on, reaching as many children and adults as we can…and moments like today will fuel us to keep on keeping on.