Sunday, June 29, 2014


Cashew season is coming to an end now. The season started with our children's friends coming to our house asking if our kids could go to the cashew orchards with them. We were so innocent and without thinking said yes. Jada was the first to go.  She walked out of the house and her friend took one look at her and told her to go back in the house and change. Jada needed to have on dark clothes, sunscreen and she needed to bring a water bottle, a bucket and a lensu (cloth to put on her head to carry her bucket of cashews). This was a learning experience for all of us. Her friend was gracious with us and taught us that dark clothing is best because collecting cashews is a very dirty job. We sent her off having no idea when she would return, but when she did, boy oh boy was she filthy! Her legs and feet were black, and I don't mean just a little dark, I mean black! Her clothing was stained black, her body was black and her shoes were black.  She was hot, tired, and in desperate need of a shower. All of our kids have returned from collecting cashews looking the exact same, dirty. The reward for this dirty work is sweet. Cashews grow off a fruit that is quite similar to an apple and delectable.  The kids have enjoyed sucking the juice out of the fruit and we have even made juice from the fruit.  

Cashews are the main source of income for this poor country. The good thing about cashew season is there are all kinds of foods available in the village, clothes, jewelry, and everyone is happy.  The unfortunate thing is everyone spends all their money as fast as they earn it and they are left with nothing at the end of the season.  In a few months people will be back to begging for money for rice.  Another unfortunate part of cashew season is the amount of drinking alcohol that goes on.  The cashew fruit turns into wine overnight and it is widely made, sold and consumed.  

I have enjoyed working alongside some women in the village to help them collect cashews and Michael has even helped to take the nut off the fruit.  It has been a good way for us to practice our language and to form relationships.  

One thing I have learned is that cashew season may be a lot of fun because of all the fun things going on in the village, but it is a lot of hard work.  Collecting cashews is back breaking work, as you stand bent over for hours walking through the orchard picking cashews off the ground.  I have a new appreciation for the people here, and for the price of cashews in the states.  They are every bit worth the amount they cost.  

Eskola ten? (We have school?)

What is school to you? Something you dread? Something you look forward to after a long summer of the kids running around the house making messes all day? School in Catel, Guinea Bissau is optional.  Not everyone attends school here, but even if you did, there is no guarantee your teacher would show up for school. There are days that the teachers just don't show up, but then there are also days when school is canceled because of a funeral in the village. School has been canceled for an entire week because of a funeral.

Micah and Isaiah just finished their year of preschool. The preschool is something that was started on my first short term trip in February of 2011 to Catel.  When we first started, we were in the church and we used two benches to form a table and a bench.  The kids crammed together on the bench and sat while the teacher taught them, hitting each other the entire time.  I came a second time in November 2011 and worked along side a kindergarten teacher to train the teachers even more.  Since then God led a worker to come here that advanced the preschool so much it was moved over to where the school is and transformed into a preschool classroom.  

Preschool in 2012 when it was first established. 

Original teachers, Gibby and Mario using newly learned techniques for teaching. 

The preschool room as it is today. Former CHE missionary serving in Catel alongside us helped transform the preschool from what it was (in above pictures) to what is in today. 

This is the attendance board.  The kids present are on the left and absent are on the right.  Upon the children's arrival, they find their name and put it under the present side.  This was a good way for them to learn to recognize their names.  

The preschool is much different from regular school here.  The preschool teacher is fabulous and dedicated, this past year she did not miss a single day.  Bilgusa (I am not good at spelling their apologies for misspellings), has an incredible amount of patience and worked wonderfully with Micah and Isaiah to help them to learn Creole as well as teaching all the kids their letters, numbers and many other things.  

Micah and her friend, Delfina, writing their name. 

Bilgusa helping a student learn to write his name.

The other day was the preschool's last day of school and the kids and their parents were present. There was a short program where the children sang two songs and Bilgusa handed out the children's school book they worked in all year and all their papers from the year.  There was also an impromptu meeting. This meeting opened our eyes to a big problem in the village. The parents were complaining about the primary school.  They didn't want their kids to go on to the first year because they don't really learn anything.  The discussion changed into whether or not their children could repeat preschool. The preschool is such a blessing to this village and to the families involved. We also learned that kids shouldn't enter the primary school until they are seven years old, which most kids are five or just turned six when they finish preschool.  We encouraged the parents to allow their children to repeat preschool.  Bilgusa does a wonderful job at teaching each child at his or her own level so we agreed this would work.  

Micah and Isaiah with their teacher.

This preschool is a way to reach many people that would never enter the church.  Bilgusa teaches them stories from the Bible and prays with them daily.  In order for this preschool to continue we need some additional funds.  The students tuition can cover their materials, but it can not cover the salary and transportation of Bilgusa.  If you are interested in supporting this ministry go here to learn more and/or to donate online. 

Thank you for prayers and support to keep this preschool going to help a community in need.  

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Malnutrition or Moringa

When we first came to Guinea Bissau, our family faced many trials.  One of those trials was the new foods in our diet.  We became vegetarians over night, have no refrigerator or freezer, and we are limited on what kinds of fruits, veggies and other foods we can buy.  Our entire family struggled to feel full or to desire to eat.  Eventually we adjusted and with the help of friends in America, I got recipes and spices and was able to start making some delicious meals for my family.  

However, we still had a problem, our kids were losing weight.  I was worried about their nutrition and their little bodies growing properly.  We were blessed to be serving with a couple long term missionaries, Andrew and Lia. Lia worked with CHE, Community Health Evangelism, and one of the things she did was to teach women in West Africa how to feed their children nutritional filled foods. She introduced me to two trees that we have growing plentiful in our yard and in the orchard behind our house called Moringa and Chaya. I tried Chaya first and the kids did not enjoy it at all.  I then tried Moringa and got a more positive response from our kids. Moringa is more time consuming to prepare because of the size of the leaves and picking them from their plant, so Andrew introduced me to Moringa powder.  This excited me because I could sneak it into almost anything I cooked and as anyone that cooks for children knows, sometimes you just have to hide the nutritious stuff.  

Moringa is an amazing plant that is packed full of vitamins and nutrients. (Check out this website to read more about it's nutrients.) Within a week of cooking with Moringa and Moringa powder, our kids faces started to fill out.  After a couple weeks, their clothes started to fit them again and they began growing normally. They have now grown so much that they are out growing some of their clothes we brought over with us.   

Because of this experience and seeing what Moringa did for my family, I want others to know what Moringa can do for them.  When a friend of mines son got sick with vomitting and diarrhea. he wasn't eating and wasn't able to keep anything down that he ate. I decided I would make him mashed potatoes and put Moringa in the potatoes.  He hungrily devoured the mashed potatoes and he did not get sick from eating them, so his mom asked if I could make more.  For two days I made mashed potatoes, which they call papa, and brought it over for this boy.  He quickly got better and was back to his normal healthy self.  

When we returned from our vacation, our laundry lady's daughter, Rebekah, was sick with diarrhea.  She had lost one kilo in weight and was not eating or drinking much. She is only a little over a year, so to lose a whole kilo was a little worrisome to me, although I am not a nurse, so I don't know medical things. I quickly made up some papa for her with Moringa and with the help of Jada and Lydia, we fed it to her. We continued to make it for her for a couple days and she also quickly recovered and was back to her normal busy activities of a one year old.   

This is Rebeka eating mashed potatoes with Moringa.

I would say she enjoyed this very much so. 

Guinea Bissau may be a poverty stricken country, but God has planted the very nutrients they need in their land.  God cares about all his children, no matter the country or economic status they are in.  

I am so thankful for Lia and Andrew who helped me to learn about Moringa and encouraged me to keep feeding it to our kids. I am also thankful for those that sent me recipes, spices and other yummy additions to add to our diet.  Our children are now growing like weeds and as healthy as they always have been.  Our God is a good God. 

Terrible Two Crew

Guinea Bissau is in no short supply of children. In fact, there are days when we feel like all the children in Guinea Bissau are in our yard. That of course cannot be true, but there are typically a lot of children that hang out in our yard all day.  One group of children that might think they live at our house would be a group of two and three year olds from our neighbors house.  They are cute and adorable…but so are puppies.

Could you imagine having a two or three year old and then leaving them at home alone all day while you go do your work? That is what happens to the kids that hang out in our yard, their family goes to work in the cashew orchard while they are left to themselves, so naturally, they come to our yard. Our kids lovingly named them the Terrible Two Crew. They act just like any two or three year old would that never gets disciplined and is left to his own accord.

Often, we offer lunch to our little friends. It is difficult to eat our lunch with little hungry eyes watching and so eager to join. They are always happy with whatever we give them.  They enjoy my "American" cooking as well.  (I added quotation marks because it's not truly American cooking without the American ingredients…it's just as close as I can make it for my family)

Michael is adding a fence in our yard to block off the back of the house to visitors.  He was putting in fence post and had two little helpers come along and help pack the dirt around the post.  Michael enjoyed these two helpers. 

Since the kids are at our house all day we invite them to join us and our children in our daily chores.  In this picture they are helping us to carry our bath water. They were so happy we got little cups for them to use to carry water. 

One day while we were drawing our shower water (this takes a significant amount of time to draw for a family of seven), Michael decided to dump a bucket on the kids that had gathered around the well waiting for empty buckets.  The joy on Sana Mane's face is priceless.  It wasn't shortly after this picture that all the kids stripped their clothes off (well those adorable white kids kept their shorts on) and were begging for more water.  

I just couldn't not add this picture into this blog.  This is the old fashioned water sprinkler.  On a hot day, it's worth the work of drawing a bucket just to dump it a group of excited children.  

As cashew season is coming to an end, our terrible two crew is starting to get smaller.  We said goodbye to one of Micah's best friends, Sally, the other day.  She went to be with her mother (she did not live with her mother, but her grandparents), but some day she will be coming back.