Reflection

Narcissus was a hunter in Greek mythology. Not just any hunter, but a handsome, chiseled, beautiful man. He saw his reflection in a pool of water and fell in love with it. He didn’t realize it was just an image. He lost his will to live after he was unable to leave the beauty of his image.  He stared at his image until he died.

As you might have guessed, this story is where the word narcissism originates.

I think we as individuals can identify with this story. Modern day narcissism may look like living for oneself or adoration of self on social media.

I think it feels natural to do what’s best for yourself. It’s easy to be selfish, honestly. It’s not easy to put others first and think, perceive, and empathize with the needs of others. I often find myself doing what’s best for Brittany. There is a healthy level of self-love; but there is also an extremely fine line of self-love and self-obsession. This is where I think social media plays a critical role in the epidemic of narcissism in modern society.

Social media is everywhere we look. There is social media for nearly every expression of media or interest. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat; whichever platform you use, you are creating an image of self. With the rare exception, people create an image that portrays themselves as their best self. You don’t often hear about people that are struggling with depression, they just miscarried, they lost their job, they struggle with addiction, or any other real difficulty they are struggling. You see a lot of happy profile pictures. You see me with a camel in the Sahara Desert outside of Cairo in mine, but what you don’t see is that I struggle with self-image. You can create a false and “best-self” on social media.

We all have little feel good moment when someone likes our picture or ooooh, maybe they put a heart on it!!!! How many followers do I have. I’ve heard it said that when we receive likes on our posts it produces a release of endorphins that mimic the same release drugs have on a person’s body.

There is a void that simply cannot be filled by your own self. That is the void of relationships. Relationships can be so messy but also priceless. As an extrovert I crave social interaction and I feel like I substitute it with using social media. So toxic, because you just never really get to know anyone through social media. I love my friends so much. You help me to become a more selfless person. I’m not saying that I’m amazing by any means. Often I probably resemble a bowl of dorito crusted pineapple chunks. (FYI. Doritos and pineapple are my absolute least favourite foods; I’m also not fond of crumbs.) When I struggle though, I go into isolation mode and my mind races and I wait for my friends to pursue me. I’m working on this, because I know it’s super manipulative and unhealthy. All I can say is reach out to others. Say, “Hi.” Look up from your device, there is a whole world waiting for you.

I challenge you to put others first. Choose to look up from your phone and chat with others around you. Get to know people face-to-face. Help others. Others first, self second. If we could take steps to love others as we love ourselves, I think you would see a shift in our culture.

Stop staring at the reflection in your phone screen. Don’t get lost in yourself.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

I’ve got some more thoughts I’ve been thinking that I want to share. I am wanting to hear thoughts on this. This is probably going to be one of my more controversial posts, so buckle up.

I’ve been thinking about the pro-life position lately. I want to clarify the basic meaning of pro-life and pro-choice to make sure people are on the same page before I get rolling.  I’m going to try to not allow any of my bias to impact this post.

A person who is pro-life believes that the fetus is a life from conception and that it is a living being, thus providing the fetus with its own sort of autonomy. To terminate a pregnancy would be considered murder and takes away the autonomy of the life of the fetus.

A person who is pro-choice believes that the woman has a right to choose what happens with her body. She has a right to autonomy. She has a right to choose to terminate the pregnancy.

I know that is a skin-and-bones definition of pro-life and pro-choice but that’s all I really wanted, as I’m not here to have a divisive debate about abortion. This post is going to be a challenge towards people who proclaim to be pro-life.

Get to the point already!

I am…here we go.

Often people have a condemning stance on women who are pregnant in “not ideal situations.” Single moms, teens, addicts, not financially prepared or whatever your parameters are for that. People in these “not ideal situations” get condemned for abortion, for putting their child up for adoption, or even for choosing to raise their child. Honestly, you’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. For that I am so sorry that you have to face that kind of pressure, pain, and shame.

The foster system is one that is broken and hurting. There are many stories of abuse and pain. There are foster parents who just foster to get money, and their heart isn’t in it for the child; but rather for themselves.

BUT there are also amazing foster families who help a child transition into a permanent home. I want to say thank you to anyone who is fostering, because that is not easy. There are a lot of kids lost in the foster system that go from house to house awaiting adoption, that sometimes doesn’t ever come. To those who have adopted; maybe this wasn’t what you expected parenthood would look like, but God did not give you the desires to raise a child for nothing. Thank you for loving your children and providing them with a stable home.

From what I’ve seen in Canada we aren’t super pro-adoption. The only people that adopt are generally people who are unable to conceive. I’m not saying no one else does, but it’s not the norm. What if that changed? What if it became the norm?

Would a mother struggling with a decision to terminate a pregnancy go to full-term if she knew that her child would end up in a home within a family capable of raising them?

My challenge to pro-life people is that maybe pro-life looks like more than just morally holding a position. Maybe it looks like taking tangible action and relieving the burden of foster children. Maybe it looks like working at a Pregnancy Care Centre. I don’t necessarily know what it looks like specifically, but actions speak louder than words. Inaction is not helping provide options for women wrestling with the decision regarding their pregnancy.

What does it look like to be pro-life for you?

I’m open to discussion on this or additions. Leave a comment with your thoughts.

To any of my friends wrestling with the decision of their pregnancy, consider all your options at a Pregnancy Care Centre.

To any of my friends who are looking for a resources on adoption. This web site is good. http://www.adoption.ca/home

And do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.

Zechariah 7:10

 

The Pain of Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day!

Thought I would say that before I get all deep and junk.

Mother’s Day is a day of great celebration. Moms have such a big impact in shaping our lives as children. I know I wouldn’t be the person I am today without my Mom. She’s the best, trust me.

But…

To the woman whose heart is breaking because she wants a baby but can’t have one.

To the woman who agonizes over the pregnancy she lost.

To the woman who is crushed to find out another fertility treatment didn’t work.

To the woman who anxiously waits for the man of her dreams so she can start her family

To the woman who is haunted by a decision.

To the woman whose adoption fell through, again.

To the woman who desires more children, but nervously waits for the next. 

As you silently walk through your days you long for motherhood, what could’ve been, and the countless ‘what ifs’. Your pain isn’t a one day affair, but like a ball and chain. You are afflicted and captured by the intensity of it. As your heart achingly longs for a child. You are overcome by the feelings of disappointment and crushed by regular defeat. You can’t help but compare your life to the lives of your friend who just had a baby. Jealousy poisons your perspective. You swallow a lump in your throat as you see the baby section at the store. You are enraged by a neglectful mother who is pregnant again. You struggle to celebrate with a friend at a baby shower. You are crushed when someone asks if you are expecting. You might feel so much pressure from your family. The tension in your relationship or marriage permeates every moment.

Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.

Don’t think that the things you feel about this are not legitimate. Don’t rush them. A friend of mine, Shannon Weiss once said, “The only way through the pain is through the pain.” Don’t rush it. Grieve lost dreams, lost lives, lost children, lost futures, lost ambitions, lost purpose. Don’t think that because your child wasn’t born that there wasn’t loss. That is a lie. Allow yourself to feel it if you need to. Some people are resilient, but feel it if you need to. Anticipation turns to disappointment. Excitement turns to sorrow. Hope turns to misery. A nursery turns to a memorial.

Get help if you need it.

Honestly, in hindsight, I fully believe that my diagnosis was a traumatic experience in my life. The pain was something that I dwelled on and resided in for strongly over the course of about nine years. I have slowly walked through the pain. Released my pain to God and regularly wrestle with God over the pain and the reason. I had a horrible counselor for awhile but I encourage you to find a counselor or professional and walk through this time. Walking through it alone is a long road with no turns, uphill, through the desert, with a blizzard, and hail, and other junk. You get the point.

It’s hard for people to empathize with you unless they too are walking in a similar situation.

I have had one friend who is not struggling with that, honestly enter into my pain. I deeply appreciate her heart and willingness to try and understand, thank you Nicolle. Others have listened and helped me express my feelings too. To those friends I say “thank you”.Otherwise people have been naïve to my situation because I have been so evasive about this part of my life because I don’t want to go there and let that be a lens that they view me through. Frankly, I don’t care how people view me anymore, in a sense. I have changed a lot in the last five years and so has my attitude. Also, give your friends grace if they don’t understand. Forgive them. Let things go, because bitterness towards their misunderstanding will poison your relationship. Tell them that their comments are hurting you. I hate confronting people, but they might never know that you are hurting from what they have said.

Friends take note, never ask:

“Are you expecting?” or anything in that realm.

When are you going to have a child.

Your biological clock is ticking.

Well at least heaven gained an angel.

You’ll have another.

You need to move on, it has been ___ days/weeks/months/years.

It is better to encourage them to seek help, honestly. Especially, if you don’t know what to say.

To my well-meaning friends whom I love dearly. My advice. Help people acknowledge their losses in whatever shape or form they come. A simple “I’m sorry” goes miles. Also, shutting up and listening is a major gift. I think people need to start being OK with awkward silence. Or a friend who has that messy, snotty, ugly cry. Let them cry. A true friend or person that loves you will let you feel and release your pain for as long as you need. ‘

There is no prescribed length of time.

Honesty moment from me. My diagnosis made me spiral emotionally out of control. I was inches away from killing myself due to this. Friends, check in on people. Especially people who have opened up about this to you, they opened up because they want your help and trust you. So honestly shut up and listen. My other friend Tasha spent many nights puzzling or doing a paint by number until 2 or 3am just talking about how I felt. She helped me process and for that she has become such an important friend to me.

To my Christian friends, although sharing that maybe it’s God’s will is a legitimate truth, that is an excruciating thing to hear. Don’t say it. It is something that a person has to unveil for themselves and work through. I know that Christ can empathize with me, because of His words, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” Luke 22:42 ESV.  My affliction is not nearly as heavy as His but I know He understands what it feels like to be afflicted. I don’t always understand God’s desire for good in my life. But hindsight again has helped me to see that His desires for me have helped me walk through other challenges and have ultimately been for my good. Although this is a has been something I have wrestled with and stumbled through; I trust Him because He is good and loves me. Also, don’t say to others, “You’re just not praying hard enough.” “You don’t have enough faith.” Look at Zack and Liz in Luke 1:6 “And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.” The struggled, but their faith was strong and steadfast. Love your sisters and men love your brothers. Your story is being written and the only one that knows the ending is God.

Please trust me. It gets easier. Don’t avoid the pain, walk through it. Reach out to friends, a decent counselor, or support groups. Others are struggling and feel alone too. Walk with them, they understand what you are going through and might desire to walk with someone.

Lets start supporting others who are struggling with issues surrounding motherhood. Don’t minimize women who are single, they might be searching, or their diagnosis might be something that is what holds back their relationships. Be a friend, not an interrogator. Love them for the beautifully broken person they are. Love others. This childhood advice is important, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22: 39.

If you are hurting, would like to talk face to face or over email. Please don’t hesitate to contact me at brittany.faubert@prairie.edu

My ears and heart are open to listen to you and walk with you on this journey. Keep going, keep pressing on. You are a strong woman of character.

Peace and Love,

Brittany

‘The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

 

 

Foreigner

Well I made it back to Ontario on Friday and surprised my Mom and Dad by showing up four days earlier than they expected. In some ways I am really excited to be home, but my heart also longs for the places I have been.

As I have come home, I have felt really overwhelmed by things. From people, places, to just plain stuff and choices. I went to a grocery store the other day and the choices available are insane. Go to a fast food place…I want a pita. Plain and simple. White or whole wheat? What kind of meat? Vegetables on the grill? Pita steamed? 3 different types of lettuce?!?!?!?!?! 294283759253 sauces. Why is eating this difficult?

I went to church on Sunday, it was crazy the amount of white people in one room. While I was there I was trying to have some conversations. It was difficult, I’m not used to so many conversations in English going on around me. I could hardly focus on the conversation I was having. I think I understand how people with hearing aids might feel when they first get them.

Another thing that I am having a hard time with is realizing that time has elapsed while I’ve been gone. Things have changed and people have changed. I don’t know why I’m having such difficulty with grasping this but I am.

There is also this weirdness that I am having trouble putting words to. I’m sure you’ll hear about it another time when I figure out what’s going on in my brain.

For now, please be patient with me. I am transitioning and hings are weird for me. If I say or do something that’s weird please let me know.
I would love to do coffee, or lunch, or supper, or a drive, or whatever and catch up.

Please be praying for my sanity. I would greatly appreciate that.

 

Ethiopiansanity

Photo Credit: Sheena Mejia

I wrote this post as a short story about our time in Ethiopia because it was so eventful. So it is a longer post than usual, but I hope you enjoy a bit of the time I’ve had in Africa.

As we take off from the dusty red airstrip in the middle of the Mozambican jungle, so many thoughts race through my head.

“Did I forget anything”

“I’m going to miss Mozambique and the people I’ve gotten to know over the last six months.”

“I wonder if Ethiopia will be much different?”

Round and round my mind races as we fly towards the city of Beira. As I stare out the window at the country I’d gotten to know for six months I am captivated by its beauty from 4,000 feet overhead. As the granite outcrops burst forth through the verdant jungle and huts dot the landscape I am reminded of its simplicity and the unique lives that people live here.

The horizon fills with the sandy beaches and deep turquoise water of the Indian Ocean upon our approach to the Beira airport. Our pilot is Andy, a missionary pilot with SAM Ministries; the organization I worked with since October. As he guides the plane onto the airstrip with a gentle bounce, we had arrived. As we pulled onto the apron, he parks and unloads the plane. As I swing my thirty-five-pound backpack around onto my back, I catch my balance and put my other backpack on my frontside.

We enter the tired-looking, small airport of Beira.  We make our way down the hallway into the main lobby. As Kerstin and I wait in line to check-in for our flight, so many people are in a rush to wait in a different room on the other side of the wall. As we wait behind a group of Caucasian people, I can’t help but think, “I wonder why they’re here? I wonder what organization they are with?” We get to the check-in counter after a few minutes. I throw my bag onto the conveyor and hope to see it again. Janette, another missionary with SAM waits for us before security. We exchange our last farewells. Without seeing Andy, I wonder “Where is he? I didn’t get to say goodbye.” We cannot wait any longer so we head towards security. As I approach the security checkpoint, I realize these are the final moments of time with people that have become like family. As my eyes well up tears, a lump forms in my throat. I use my old trick, by taking a deep breath and clear my throat and the feeling subsides. With one last wave we turn for security.

Security, lackadaisically allows Kerstin and I through with a litre of water each and we didn’t have to unpack our electronics. We sit down in the waiting area, after about ten minutes, a faint, barely understandable announcement comes over the speaker, they call for all passengers to the only gate, which is in sight. As I get up I think well this is it, this is the first moment of a transition not only from places but also in mindsets. Still anticipating to see Andy before we left, we were running out of time as we approach the woman accepting our tickets. We leave the building and slowly walk across the warm tarmac. We are about twenty-five feet away from the airplane when we hear Janette yell our names as she leaves the building. It’s Andy! We turn to head towards them to give one last hug, a woman tells us we can’t go back. Surely, this isn’t going to be the reason we don’t get to share a goodbye. Andy comes over in his pilot’s uniform and approaches us, and we share a hug. We turn and I am reminded that this is really it.

We sit down on the plane and await the rest of the passengers to settle in. I have loaded my purse with the essentials, my phone, my 3DS, and gum. I hate taking my carry-on down especially for such a short flight.

One of the guys from the check-in area sit down across the aisle from us. After taking off he asks, “Where are you going?”

I respond, “Maputo, right now then connecting to Ethiopia.”

His accent tells me he is from the states, I ask, “Where are you from? What are you doing here in Mozambique?”

“I’m from Virginia and working with Peacecore.”

We strike up a conversation on the most divisive topic I have encountered thus far. US Politics. We banter back and forth about Trump, democrats, and republicans.

He then asks, “How did Canada manage through the collapse of oil?” As I did not know much about oil, I turn to Kerstin to get her opinion as her family works closely with the oil industry. She replies about ambiguously about Edmonton and making a playoff run. In the noisiness of the plane, she thought he was asking about the Edmonton Oilers. At that moment, I’ve never felt more Canadian—unless we followed that story with “Sorry!”

We land in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique. We arrive on time and without detours. From the stories I have heard about this airline, that is quite an accomplishment. I breathe a sigh of relief as I see my luggage slowly make its way around the carousel. As we enter the main lobby area, I look at the shops. I ecstatically run over to a booth as I spot an authentic Mozambican football jersey. I had searched everywhere for one and I feel so victorious as I hand over 2500 Meticais.

We then head towards the check-in counter. We find out that our booking was cancelled. I think to myself, “let the gong show begin.” We are then directed towards the office of Ethiopian Air, where we sit in silence awaiting an answer or direction. A man is typing trying to get us booked into the current flight to Addis Ababa. Everything goes dark. Power surge. “Shit!” A woman in the small office exclaims and then gasps quickly, as she realizes what she had done. I couldn’t help myself from laughing. We then drop our bags off and head for immigration. As I hand my passport and residence card over, I overhear a conversation at the next booth over. A man is talking to the woman working at immigration. He says, “You should call me sometime on WhatsApp. Here I’ll give you my number,” as he reaches into her space to grab paper and a pen. I lock eyes with her for a few seconds, we share a smile and a chuckle.

There are many shops with beautifully coloured dresses and shirts made from capulana; a traditional African patterned fabric. We grab food and sit down in our waiting area. We then take off on a jet that is only half-full. It is so nice to be able to have my own space while flying.

Our team of four girls is coming back together after six months apart; I can’t wait to see them. We land in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia around 10:15pm. We are the first two people of our team to arrive. There’s no wi-fi, we don’t know who is picking us up from the airport (somebody is though), we don’t have an international number, but we have a phone number for our contact in Addis. We call the number using Kerstin’s Mozambican number and talk to someone who says, “I am outside, what do you look like? What are you wearing?” At the time both of us were dressed comfortably for our flight. I was wearing yellow tye-dyed pants, so I was definitely not hard to spot. Kerstin told this stranger, “One of us has yellow tye-dyed pants and we’re both tall and white.” He replied, “I am waiting outside for you.” At this point it is 10:45pm.

We walk through the airport, we find an automatic door that isn’t locked. I notice two things when we finally get outside, it is colder than I have felt in the last six months and as I choke on an urban breath, the air is not as clean as the jungle air of Mozambique. We follow a concrete ramp down towards the parking lot. An Ethiopian man approaches us and I assumed he was going to offer a taxi; instead he says, “Are you Kerstin and Brittany?” I breathed a sigh of relief as we replied, “Yes.” He firmly shook my hand and said, “My name is Alex, welcome to Ethiopia!” He is a cheerful and warm, middle aged man. He takes us to our taxi, which is an old Lada that looks rickety. As we are driving through Addis, I am overwhelmed by being in an urban environment again—from the real jungle to the concrete jungle in a day. We turn down an dark alley, the road is cobbled with rocks and has hills that our car struggled to climb over. We arrive at a metal gate, which opens big enough for a car or has a door cut into it, but is totally closed. Just then the gates creak open, Alex introduces us to the man at the gate; his name was Solomon, but he reminds us in broken English, “This Solomon is not the son of David.”

Kerstin and I don’t know much about who we are staying with, other than the fact that they have a place for us to stay. As we follow Alex up a couple flights of stairs we arrive at our rooms. We find out that we are staying on a school campus, the rooms we get resemble dorms. He jovially states, “You can sleep two in a room if you want.” As Kerstin and I look at the bed, I notice the bed is at best a three-quarter size mattress. We both quickly reply, “we will sleep separately.”

Next we have to make sure a ride is organized for Karla, as she flies in at 3:00am. Just thinking about arriving at that time makes me happy that I arrived earlier. But Kerstin and I agree that we would go together to pick Karla up, as we weren’t comfortable yet. As we are talking to Alex about picking Karla up, he looks puzzled. We tell him, “Karla flies in at 3, and she needs to be picked up then, in the early morning.” He agreed, but we weren’t convinced that he had understood what we explained. Kerstin called him and we had him come back to where we were. It was now about 11:00pm, Kerstin furthered her explanation, “We wanted to clarify that you will be picking Karla up in four hours.” His face twitched with misunderstanding. He said, “3:00am is in eleven hours.”

We reply, “What?”

“3:00am is in eleven hours, what time does your watch say?”

“11:00pm”

I realized that their clock was flipped. Twelve was six, and six was twelve.

He said, “When the sun comes up, we count 12, 1, 2…”

My brain in its hazy state made sense of it all. Due to Ethiopia’s proximity to the equator their sunrise and sunset don’t fluctuate much. In Ethiopia, the sun rises at 12am; during daylight, it is the a.m. hours. and it sets at 12pm; during nighttime, it is the p.m. hours.

In this moment of understanding, I exclaim towards Kerstin, “Flip your watch upside down. That is Ethiopia time. Karla lands at 9:00pm here, not 3:00am.” Alex surprisingly realizes what he is being asked, he replies, “Ohhh, 9:00pm! That’s late at night here, not early in the morning.” He has a heart of gold and replies, “I am happy to do that, I am here to serve you. The taxis stop running around 4:00pm (10:00pm) here, but I have a friend and he will be here at 9:00pm(3:00am).” With that Kerstin and I were satisfied that Karla would have a ride from the airport. As Alex leaves, we go to our rooms to catch a few hours of sleep; 9:00pm comes quickly.

As I toss my bag on my floor I realize how cold it is. I think, “This is Ethiopia it is supposed to be hot here.” I grab my sweater and sweatpants, before crawling into bed. They had quite a few blankets; I snuggled in and tried to fall asleep quickly. Although, a mosquito is buzzing my ears; each time I do a flail and swat action. It isn’t very effective. Eventually, I get to sleep but too soon I hear a knock. It’s Kerstin. We have to go to get Karla. I slink out of bed, still half asleep. I grab my bag, phone, and make sure my passport is still securely on my neck under my sweater. Alex is waiting with Kerstin in the hallway outside of our rooms. We head downstairs.

Kerstin, Alex, and I approach the gate, it is locked. Another man appears from a guard hut and unlocks the door to let us out. The three of us leave the security of the compound and enter the alleyway. Alex says, “The car will be along shortly.” As we wait for Alex’s friend to arrive, I am pensively caught up in the moment, thinking, “Here I stand in Addis Ababa, with a person who is pretty much a stranger, in a dark alleyway, breathing in the heavy city air. What am I even doing?” My thoughts are interrupted by a cough and a sputter of a car with no horsepower working hard to make it over the mounded and rocky road. The car slowly drives by. I ask, “Is that your friend?” Alex replies, “No, but he is near, just at the intersection over there,” as he pointed towards the busy main road. The same car as before drives by five minutes later, these true strangers ask us in Amharic (the main language of Ethiopia), “Do you need a ride?” We swiftly answer, “Uhhhhh, no.”

Soon after, another car struggles over the mounds and arrives at the gate. This time it is Alex’s friend. We pile into the car. As he presses the accelerator the car jerks forward, we get about twenty-five feet away, not even over the first mound. The car runs out of gas. Alex and his friend get out of the front seats and start trying to push the car. Kerstin and I are wanting to help, but the guys insist that we sit. After, a minute of them struggling to get the car moving at all, Kerstin and I decide to get out and help. There is just one problem. The door handles are broken and we can’t get out. We look at each other and laugh about the whole situation. We joked with each other, “Well I now feel like a Mozambican, struggling to get out of a vehicle.” Often, we gave locals a ride in Mozambique. Many of them have never been in a car, and when they go to exit they frantically try and pull on anything that will help them escape the vehicle. I felt like I could empathize in a moment where I felt helpless. After, a few minutes, they gave up pushing the car and let us out of the back. Alex calls a different friend and organizes a different ride.

We were waiting outside of this car that had stalled out. Just a few minutes later this Datsun car which is much smaller pulls up. Kerstin and I get into the back seat; which, is not built for people our size. Kerstin sits in the middle with her legs diagonally squashed to the left. I sit with my legs apart scrunched into the backseat. Alex sits in the passenger seat in front of me. As soon as he sits back, I scrunched even more into this backseat that seems to be shrinking quickly. Kerstin and I laugh at the foibles of the whole situation. We finally start driving towards the airport; I laughingly comment, “This feels like it could be an episode of Benny Hill.” The joke is lost, as Kerstin replies, “Who is that?” I reply, “A British comedian, that does stop-action. But you have to know that you just missed out on a great joke.” This reminds me of the eight-year age gap that separates us.

Alex’s friend drops us off at the airport, and scurries away in his Datsun to a side street as we try and locate Karla. We head towards the airport, as we want to receive Karla as she comes through the gate; after being apart for six months. As we start heading up the stairs, a security guard scolds us and tells us not to go any further. Kerstin and I stop in our tracks. Alex tells us that we aren’t allowed to go into the airport if you aren’t flying out. Kerstin and I, puzzledly look at each other thinking, “What!” The guard says, “I will go look for her inside for you.” As he disappears we wait in what feels like freezing cold; I bundle into my sweater and put my hood up. I think, “Well, I probably look like a weirdo. Tall white woman, sweater and pants, both in Africa.” We waited for fifteen minutes, the man finally returns; but it is definitely not Karla. He found a woman who has an olive complexion and thick dark, curly hair. Kerstin and I, headshakingly, say, “No. Our friend is white, with red hair. Try again.” He disappears again. After another fifteen minutes, Karla emerges at the top of the concrete stairs. All of the sudden the cold and the gong show don’t matter. I am just happy to see my friend, as I yell up at her, “KARL!” I meet her halfway up the steps and we hug. How I missed her. I can’t wait to tell her about everything that has happened over the last six months and even within the last six hours. Alex then introduces himself.

We now try to find the car. A few other taxi drivers try to persuade us to take their taxi but we wait and wait for our friend in the cold parking lot of the airport. Just then Alex spotted his friend’s car down the road. He waves him over. His friend slowly makes his way back towards us. He stops in front of us. He gets out and lifts the lid of the trunk. I can’t help but laugh, as the trunk was about as big as a dresser drawer. Karla tried to put her big backpack into the trunk and it would not fit. Thankfully, her smaller backpack fit in the trunk. I immediately realized that because the backpack doesn’t fit in the trunk, two things were going to happen that will continue to make this a night that I am sure I will remember fondly. Firstly, Karla has to squeeze in somewhere in the backseat. Secondly, she has to carry her backpack on her lap. As the three of us get crammed into the back seat, we set off across the city once again.

We get into the complex, unload, and head upstairs. Sheena, our other teammate would be getting picked up at 12:00am (6:00am), which is in two hours. Kerstin and I both agreed that only one of us needed to go and she graciously volunteered. Once again, I crawled into bed and slept for a few hours, until I heard some boisterousness in the hallway and the sound of a familiar voice. Sheena! I go into the hallway; her back is turned to me. I slowly creep up behind her, pick her up, and excitedly say, “Hello!”

Later in the morning, Alex leads us to a restaurant to get some breakfast. On the way, it is evident that it is Palm Sunday, as a large number of the people in the city who go to Orthodox Church are donning an ornate palm branch shaped into a headband. After we sit down and order breakfast, he says, “I will be back, don’t move from here until I get back.” We had a chance to exchange some stories and many laughs. He sits down, and now that everyone is awake we start asking more about his life. He works at the place we are staying. It is called Pentecostal Theology College and he is a Librarian there. He opened up with our group, “I became a Christian at twenty-four, I grew up as an Orthodox; which is the most common religion in Ethiopia.

Alex says, “We have a church on campus; that has an English service or you can come to a church outside of campus.” We are already running short on time and most of us had not worshipped in English in over six months. We return to campus and get ready for church. We head downstairs and arrive at the church. Many people are greeting us; an elderly woman leans in and does a triple-cheek kiss. A traditional greeting of respect. We find our seats three rows from the front. A husband and wife sit down in front of us. We introduced ourselves to each other. The wife continues after introductions, “Where are you from?” We reply, “Canada.”

“Really, I am from Edmonton!”

Kerstin explains, “Karla is from Leduc and I am from an hour and a half west of Edmonton, near Edson.”

“Oh wow! We are visiting family for a week. What are you doing in Ethiopia?”

“We go to Prairie Bible College together and this is an internship, we travel for the a couple of months and then are in one location for six months. We are in Ethiopia for two days and then we are heading to Rwanda.”

“Where were you for six months?”

“Brittany and I were in Mozambique. Karla was near Albania. Sheena was in Spain.”

“Oh, I know someone who works in Mozambique. Do you know Janette Stone?”

Kerstin and I light up, “Ya, we worked with Janette. We just saw her yesterday!”

I lose track of the conversation after that. As I reflect on just how small the world is, we get ready to start the service. The opening song is Hosanna, singing “Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest!” on Palm Sunday. After church, we share some tea and bread with our fellow congregants. I remember we are having lunch in about an hour, so I limit myself on the bread. We head upstairs to our rooms to relax for a bit before lunch.

Around 1:00pm, we meet Alex downstairs. As we sit in the lower cafeteria area, he seems to appear and says, “Are we ready to move?” And with that, we start walking through the dusty back alleys of Addis and emerge forth onto the street. We are walking and I spot an Ethiopia football jersey from across the street! I exclaim, “Look! I need to buy it. Oh, could we find an ATM after lunch?” Everyone is in agreement as they want to get cash out to have money for the market. We turn into a restaurant that is set back in off the road. We sit down and ask, “Alex, can you help us order? We want authentic Ethiopian.” We were trying to explain the dish by using our hands to make the shape of a large circular plate and indicating that you pick things up with the bread stuff it is made on. The waitress comes over to our table with her notepad. Alex quickly orders our food in Amharic. While we are waiting, we exchange questions about each others culture. Sitting of to the left of us is an older woman who was sitting on the ground. She is making Ethiopian coffee, using a primitive-looking pottery jug. My stomach is eagerly rumbling for lunch. I see the waitress winding her way to our table with a larger platter. She sits it down in the middle of where we are at. There is a vibrant array of sauces, meats, flavours, and smells. I volunteer to pray, as I am eager to start. As we begin to eat, I am trying to think culturally, “Should I only use my right hand? Is there a proper way to eat it?” I observe how Alex is eating and I am relieved, two hands and using the pancake/bread stuff to pick the sauces and meats. I dig into this delicious food and I am mesmerized by the flavours invading my palate. I continue eating until I am more than satisfied.

After lunch, as we were returning to where we were staying; Alex asks, “Who wants coffee? Not just any coffee, but Ethiopian coffee!” I am not normally a coffee drinker, but the information I know about coffee is that Ethiopia is famous for it. I accept his invitation; the others, find out there is tea, and gladly join. We sit in a stuffy little room with grass on the floor. There were two other men in the shop when we got there. Alex shook their hand and was talking to them. He says, “These two men are pastors in the area!” They speak some broken English as well. We drink our coffees together sharing stories and information about our lives. Before we leave, I feel like I should pray with them. Here we are in a coffee shop, with two pastors, in Addis, praying. What a moment.

After we head back to place we were staying. I collapse into the bed and drift off. In a state of quasi-sleep I wonder, “What else could happen here?”

Lump in the Throat

Well today was one of the hardest days I’ve had in Mozambique. It was the last day we would be at the school in the bush.

There was a mini-goodbye thing at the school for us. So the whole school gathered under the only shaded place in the dusty school yard. As I stood at the front, different students shared about the things we’ve done and what they’ve enjoyed while we’ve been here. Just looking at all these kids and catching eyes with a few of them made me miss them already. As the students finished up sharing I had a lump in my throat, then the rain started so like a herd of wildebeest everybody crammed into the library.

We danced and sang in dialect (to my best ability), then a couple of boys came up and prayed for us. While he was praying in his dialect I just internally melted down and barely held it together on the outside. I am going to miss their smiling faces, their laughs, their games, their incredible soccer skills, and their love.

This is a week full of good byes and each good bye is harder and harder.

I will never forget you Mozambique. Ever.

Brittany

Mozambexit

The nature here has been wonderful and I love birds! So I thought I would share a picture of the bird that I think I keep seeing on the way to the school. It’s called a red-collared widowbird and it is majestic with its long-tailed and unique flight. So you get to nerd out with me through that picture

I have to say that I am starting to prepare my mind and heart to leave Mozambique. It is going to be so hard to leave and say good bye to the wonderful people I have engaged. I have in a way become comfortable in Mozambique; although, there are parts that I haven’t been able to overcome. If you haven’t been following it’s the bugs, especially spiders.

I have to say that I have been trying to have a mindset and a “heartset” that reminds me that I am not the solution to the country of Mozambique. God has given me vision to walk alongside missionaries and locals in a way that helps them bring glory to God.

Firstly, leaving is going to be brutal emotionally. Part of me is ready to return home, I miss family, friends, and food, BUT…. Mozambique has been an absolutely wonderful experience. i have had wonderful mentors, coworkers, friends, and I’ve gotten to know locals. They are all wonderful people that will stay in my heart and have helped me to grow in every way. I appreciate people challenging me in a healthy way and that has been something that has been so great.

I am going to miss the shenanigans that João, Saimone, Revvi, Vasco, Andy, and so many others get me involved in or meddle in. They have become like brothers to me. I have come to admire the physical, mental, and spiritual strength of the women here. We think back home if we go in a pro-choice or pro-life walk that we are stepping on a tightrope of feminism. You want to know what stepping out in faith and out in feminism looks like. It looks like doing seminary pastoral training or doing work outside of the field. That’s the strength and feminism I desire…to go against the grain. In Mozambique, the women doing that means so much more culturally than it ever would in Canada.

Being part of the team in Mozambique has been such a privilege. The people I’ve developed relationships have changed me in ways that are hard to put into words.

As to looking forward a bit, I leave on April 8th. That day I fly to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (there for a couple days), then Kigali, Rwanda (for about 6 days), then Cairo, Egypt (for a few days), then Cyprus (an extended layover), then Israel (for a few days), then London (extended layover), then back to Canada. I will be back home May 8th, tentatively.

I can’t wait to share what I’ve seen and learned with all of my friends.

Love you guys!

Britt

Malaria

I’m going to leave the ambiguous title for a different blog post.

So last week on Wednesday after the first half of the day painting the school I got super exhausted and lethargic. Then started getting achy and chills-y. We had determined that I had malaria. I’m on the tail end of it. It’s like a flu-ish sort of thing but also like a short-lived mono, in relation to how it works.

So what is malaria?

It’s a parasite carried by mosquitoes. After getting bit by an infected mosquito, the parasites multiply in the liver and then start destroying red blood cells. So you end up with a swollen spleen, with a case of low iron, lethargy, and aches. It is treated here in Mozambique simply with a three day treatment which is cheap (at least for a Canadian), but not so for all Mozambicans. In town, the drug costs about 250 MZM, which is about $5. To give a bit of perspective, an approximate monthly wage is about 4000 MZM. So people often either have to choose between food or malaria treatment, or choose which child they will treat. If malaria is treated quickly it doesn’t cause complications, there is just a bit of recovery time. But if it is left, depending on the strain of parasite it has the potential to cause death.

I have had some interesting perspective on malaria while I have been here. Working up at the health post I have seen what seems like an unending stream of people with malaria. At the local health post run by ASAM, locals are given a significant break on the cost of medications for malaria. The government is also trying to get everyone a mosquito bednet to try and reduce the risk.

Another aspect of malaria in Mozambique arises from locals using traditional healers, which you might know as “witch doctors.” They have herbal concoctions that mix up which can have potentially dangerous results. Witch doctors play a huge role in health care here. To put things in perspective there 1 doctor for every 100,000 people, whereas there is 1 witch doctor for every 40 people! So where do you think the more likely treatment option is for any ailment.

The witch doctors use amulets, these herbal mixtures, cutting (small razor cuts around the area that is causing pain or trouble), and they summon ancestral spirits. Mozambique is an animistic and ancestral worship is everywhere. People are ruled by fear that they are upsetting their ancestors. The locals believe ancestors can be upset if they don’t follow in the footsteps of their ancestors. Getting glimpses of the culture in this way has helped me to see why Mozambicans can get stuck in their situations, because they are afraid to upset their ancestors.

It is a different culture here in Mozambique for sure and it has been a privilege to see the interconnectedness of all aspects of life here. By no means have I even scratched the surface of their culture though.

If you could pray for me as I recover I would be grateful. Also, as my time is coming to a close please be praying that I fully engage for the final couple of weeks here and for the time of transition coming up.

Thanks and Love,

Brittany

Life in the Jungle

Hey Everyone!

I realized it’s been a million years since my last blog post, so I figured I should update you all.

It has been a crazy last few months; to say the least!

Mid January we had a team of 16 girls from Prairie College come here to the mission base! That was awesome having some people here and we accomplished so much! We learned how many people we could carry in an long box pick up! The number is 18 I think! I’m glad I got to drive. During that time we painted a couple of houses and most of the school!

After they left in February, 3 days later we had a team of 8 arrive from Mercy Air in South Africa. They helped a lot with education and general maintenance and training.

So what does the organization I work with do?

First of all, their name is SAM Ministries in Canada and ASAM Associaçao Amor Moçambique in Mozambique. Here in Mozambique they have many different facets to the organization. There is education, healthcare, aviation, agriculture, sponsorship, work with orphans and widows, sewing and crafts, woodworking, mechanics and literacy to adults. I am sure that I missed something. They also have a base in Brazil, where they have education and sponsorship of children.

I have had the privilege of working with education, healthcare, and orphans and widows primarily. The organization runs a school and at we go there once a week and teach a Bible lesson, do remedial, and play games. Their school also provides lunch for the children everyday which consists of beans and “sedza” (basically, overly moist cornbread/mashed potatoes). You don’t use utensils when eating it.

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The kids at the school are wonderful! They are sponsored by the mission. Most of them probably wouldn’t get an education without sponsorship. They continue in the sponsorship program into middle school and high school. We tutor the middle school children once a week. To get that far they have needed to work so hard and we try to best help them prepare for high school academically.

Working with healthcare has been so wonderful here. I will say it’s unique because I take on a very different role here. I am so impressed by the local healthcare workers. They are trained for about one or two months locally and then they are able to run a small health post in a village. In my experience of assisting in the health post, you see everything from malaria and malnutrition, to serious skin infections, leprosy, and other interesting things. The one thing that astounds me about Africans is their strength. They are so strong and brave, they do not flinch when they are getting an incision without anesthetic or getting an infected wound drained. We as North Americans are the biggest babies.

Working with the orphans and widows has been so great. ASAM partners widows who do not have family with orphans. The widows help raise the orphans and the orphans help the widow with her “machamba” (field) and with other household tasks. It is a really unique program that has impacted so many lives truly. We make home visits fairly regularly and have one on one time tutoring the children. The hospitality that the granny shows us while we are there is amazing. They typically make a meal for us and they are so welcoming. It really is a joy to get to work on a more personal level with the children.

Also, Kerstin and I finished our language learning! I have enjoyed learning another language! It’s been cool seeing the difference from November to now! Just two weeks ago I was translating for a tutoring session! That’s been a huge blessing to be able to know the language and communicate. Anyone knows me knows that I like to talk, so this was a welcomed relief.

It’s been really great being here! I love my team, I love the people, I love it – truly! I do miss home though! I am trying hard to focus on where I am at right now, but also have the future in mind. On April 8th, we will be flying out of here. The final leg of the trip, we will be travelling to Ethiopia, Rwanda, Egypt, Cyprus, and Israel! We will then be flying home and arrive in Calgary on April 28th.

For now though, I am focusing on the people in front of me. People who are loving, caring, sincere, deep-thinking, and hungry for knowledge and for Truth. They may be poor but I assure you they are so rich in their mind, heart, and spirit! The people here have helped change the shape of my heart to see things more simply. I always overcomplicate the crap out of everything, but they’ve really helped me to see things simply and have challenged me to think deeply and live honorably for God. I love here so much.

Thanks for sticking around for the journey I’m on!

Pray for me that I can focus on loving those right in front of me and that I would seek God in everything and that God would captivate my heart.

Love you all!

Britt

Hopeless 

I have been thinking about homelessness and poverty. As I’ve been in Mozambique I’ve seen some of the most profound poverty in the world. There are many basic needs and necessities not being met. There is no opportunity for these people to thrive because their time is so consumed with trying to survive. Walking four hours out of the day to go fetch enough water for the day or 15 or 20 kilometres to school isn’t a rare occurrence. Healthcare is extremely limited here. North American poverty exists but is nothing compared to the profoundness of the poverty I’ve witnessed here in Mozambique.

I have been seeing North American politics from afar and I’m glad I’m afar to be honest. I heard about something Justin Trudeau did that had people upset.  He gave $20 billion to Iraq out somewhere . Right now we do have a lot going on at home in Canada. That money could always be reallocated to something the country seems “more worthy.” I heard many people say that he should put it towards poverty alleviation in Canada. While I am all for this idea, I also hesitate.

I hesitate because this would be like putting a bandaid over a gash. Although the intention is good,  the vision couldn’t be reached. Why? We don’t have and can’t have the sustainable long term plan necessary to help these people step out of poverty.

Why? 

People hate the idea of the burden of welfare recipients consuming their tax dollars. I admit I used to hold that perspective, but when social assistance is used as  a stepping stone it can be just what a person or family needs to get on their feet. 

The system needs reformation. Instead of social assistance becoming a long term source of income; we need to help these people step out of poverty. It can be small things,  clothes, food , a ride,  or even a listening ear. Don’t dismiss a person because you disagree with them being on social assistance. Hear them and help them. 

I hope my late night thoughts keep you awake,  because they sometimes keep me awake. 

Tens Two Cents

Life Along the Riverbank....

Odyssey

An adventure with purpose