Monday, December 27, 2004

Merry Christmas From Anna!!

My dear family and friends, I pray you all have a wonderful Christmas! Snow on the ground... Christmas trees up... Last minute runs to Wal*Mart and standing in 20 minute check out lines. Fresh baked Christmas cookies... Christmas pagents... Sounds of snow crunching beneath boots. Christmas presents... Long drives through the cold to visit family... Staring out the car windows at all the lit up houses covered in Christmas lights and decorations. New sweaters... Sucking on red and white striped peppermint candy canes, trying to make the end pointy... Christmas songs playing softly in the back ground. A manger set on top of the mantle surrounded by swags of spruce and holly berries...Christmas.

Hard to imagine all those wonderful things as I sit here in the house with the fan blowing directly on me, sucking ice cubes to stay cool. The thermometer says it's 100 degrees, and I believe it! I passed George today and he said, "It hasn't snowed yet." "But they're calling for it tonight!" I assured him. "A 70 percent chance. So we should still get our white Christmas!" Hahaha.

Christmas is going to be an exciting and amazing event here, and I am so excited! Tonight we have the candle light service at church. The kids are all going up in groups to sing a Christmas song or do a skit. I've been working with 9 of the four year olds in the baby house to do a special Christmas song. They are so precious and are really doing a fantastic job! I hope they don't get stage fright. After the service the church will be set up with tables and decorated with streamers and balloons and maybe a Christmas tree, though we haven't bought it yet.

Tomorrow morning the gift giving starts around 10:00. I will be assisting in the baby house, and might move over to the girls dorm when the babies are done. At 1:00 the kids from the bocaria (the city dump) arrive and get a chicken lunch in the church, followed by gifts prepared for them, and then we haul them back to the dump in the big cameo truck.

Next our kids file into the church. They will sit at long tables, each get a big plate of chicken and rice and french fries, and a bottle of Coca-cola or Fanta. After everyone's tummies are quite full, they will have the after noon to spend playing with their new gifts. The missionaries are getting together to watch "It's a Wonderful Life" and eat pop corn and Christmas cookies.

Sunday morning's church service will be a special one, as we are integrating about 60 kids back into their homes and families this year, and we are having a special service for them. Sunday evening the long term missionaries are getting together to have a cook out, sing Christmas carols (Like "I'm dreamin' of a white Christmas" ;-)), and have a gift exchange.

Everyone is talking about it being Jesus's birthday. The preschoolers run up to me just to ask "Is it Jesus's birthday yet?" Then run off to play again.

Things are certainly different here for Christmas. I can imagine what's going on at home. Right now it's about 6:15 a.m. Mom is getting up to start getting the gifts and food packed to take to the grand parent's houses for our usual Christmas eve get together.

Tomorrow morning my brothers and sisters will be tip toeing down the steps at 4:00 a.m. to sit on the couch with all the lights off except the Christmas tree lights. They will sit there talking quietly and staring at the Christmas tree, in great anticipation of mom and dad finally rolling out of bed to get the day started. Hopefully Cara or Christina will remember to put the coffee on so it doesn't take dad an extra 20 minutes.

Mom and dad will come in and turn on the light and put on the radio (WCRF's 7 days of non stop Christmas music, you know!). Dad will sit down with his bible, and read aloud the story of Jesus's birth from Luke. Then starting with Sammy (the youngest) and working their way up, each of my siblings will pass out the gifts they bought or made for each other. It is so special at my house. Everyone opens their gifts one at a time, and lots of "Ooh's" and "Ah's" are raised over each other's presents.

When the siblings are done, we clean up all the wrapping paper, then comes mom and dad's gifts. We again open the gifts one at a time, waiting for each person, and getting excited with them. When the Christmas presents are over, we clean up, everyone makes a place under the tree for their pile of gifts, and we spend the day playing with the new toys and wearing our new clothes.

Mom makes a big lunch to have around 2:00, and grandma Dorn comes over. Last year grandma came on Christmas eve and spent the night, so she was there for our special Christmas morning routine. That was sooo special.

God has blessed me with 18 amazing Christmas's at home with my absolutely AMAZING family. I can't believe I won't be there this year, but I am thrilled to be here. AND, my mom and dad consented to leaving the Christmas tree up till I get back, so that makes everything okay. Lol

Well, right now I am going to the baby house. The kids just went down for their naps, and I am getting together the educators, and decorating the whole baby house! I have garlands and streamers and balloons and Christmas lights, and a Christmas tree poster the kids made with their hand prints. It'll be so beautiful when the kids wake up.

May the Lord bless you richly this Christmas. May His light shine ever brighter on you, and may you sing and make music in your heart to God! Don't be frustrated over burnt cookies or the wrong size clothes for someone. Just relax and enjoy your day. Sit and just ponder our Savior's birth. Think about what it means to YOU personally. Thank God for His incredible gift to you. And think about what you can give back to Him for Christmas this year.

I love you all so much! Merry Christmas, Feliz Natal!

In Jesus, Love always,

Saturday, December 04, 2004

December 3, 2004 Update

"Mana Ana"
An update from Anna Coumos, serving Jesus in Mozambique, Africa with Iris Ministries

Bondia! Good morning!
I am sorry it’s taken me awhile to get this update letter out. So much has been going on around here. But now things are quieting down a bit (for me anyway).

Well. Where do I begin?! In the last several weeks God has really been stretching me. It’s been so good. I’ve learned allot about God, allot about people, and allot about myself (my, there’s allot I need to work on).

Every day can get so busy. Sometimes it’s just overwhelming. But God is so faithful. He just pours out grace and everything I need to get through the day. Over and over He brings me back to Isaiah 43:1-3, 5:

"Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…Do not be afraid, for I am with you."

Wow. What a promise! I am just amazed that the God of the Universe. The Same God that created the Heavens and the earth and all that is in them, would want to be friends with ME! He cares for me, He protects me, He provides for all my needs…He loves me. That’s a Huge and amazing revelation to me.
I love the Lord so much! I love in Isaiah 49:23 (the last part), where God says, "Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who hope in me will not be disappointed." Lots of things can let you down. But God will NEVER let you down.
I have two passions here above all else—the baby house, and the girls dorm! The girls are all so special to me. About once a month I make a healthy snack for all 94 girls. Sometimes peanut butter and jelly on crackers, sometimes bananas, or something else. I have them all go to their rooms and usually one or two of the girls help me and we go from room to room. First we pray together, then pass out the snack It’s so fun. They love it.

One of the short term missionaries wanted to have a party with some of the girls. So today we had a festa with the 2 youngest rooms (5-8 year olds). Some of the girls have gone home for the extended school holiday, so we just had 7 girls for the party. I translated for Katie and told the girls, "The reason for this party is because you are all very special to God. You are His daughters. And because God is a King, that makes you girls His princesses. So today we are going to treat you like princesses!"
Benia (7 year old) prayed, and we passed out candy and juice. Then we blew up balloons for them to play with. Another short term missionary did the girls hair in colorful clips, and some of us painted their nails. They we’re so excited and unable to contain their joy, which bubbled out in laughter!
To me, it is such an honor to be a part of these sweet girl’s lives. They are all adopted by God, and they ARE princesses.
Casa Dos Bebe’s
The baby house will forever be stamped on my heart. I love each of those babies with all my heart. We’ve had several new babies come in the last couple months. It’s amazing to see them in the state they are when they come—often expressionless, and sick—and watch them change and grow with love and care.
I go there about 3 or 4 nights a week to put on a movie and help diaper and dress the kids after their baths. After the video is finished and all the kids are in their rooms, I go into each room to pray with the kids. They come one by one to sit on my lap, and I pray the blessing from Numbers 26 over them, as well as the Spirit of adoption, and health.
We just got over a bad bout with malaria in the baby house, so it’s really important to pray health over them. One of my boys, Ivo, had malaria really bad and didn’t come to preschool for a week. One day I had the rest of the preschoolers gather around and we prayed for him. He is now healed and back to his happy little self. The kids are never slow to say, "Jesus healed him, because we prayed!"
I have been given lots of supplies from various people for preschool, which has been a great blessing. The kids are learning and growing so fast! Angelo can almost write his name. Aidenha, who couldn’t trace shapes or letters when we started, is now tracing her name all by herself. They are learning to stand in a line and wait their turn, instead of all crowding around. They are learning to interpret stories I read to them into their own words and tell it back to me. It’s so fun to watch their minds develop! I love it.
We have been learning a new number every day. What shocked me was today when Salito was counting his blocks, but not in Portuguese. In ENGLISH! Sometimes I count in English and then Portuguese, but I had no idea they were catching on because they never repeated me. I just love teaching preschool.
Felismina is learning and growing so quickly. She has the cutest voice—I love it when she talks. She has come so far from when we first got her 4 months ago! She can walk if someone holds her hand. She is such a happy little girl. Full of life and spunk. She has brought such joy to the baby house. She is also very bright and is doing excellent in preschool!
Here Kitty, Kitty…
I’ve adopted a kitten! It’s a cute little white kitten with brown and black stripes. She is so adorable. A missionary treated it for worms and fleas, and now I’m taking care of it. She has found a nice home in my flip flops and sleeps there every night. She is really adorable. I’ll keep her until I leave, and then I am giving it to some other missionaries at another Iris center, who want it to keep the rats down.
Coming to an end…
My time here is coming to an end (all too quickly!). I am hoping to come back long term. But it’s still very sad to think about leaving this place—a place that has become my home. On Sunday I was sitting in church holding one of my dear babies (who was sound asleep), and watching the toddlers hold hands and dance. It was so precious, and I couldn’t help but cry a little, thinking about leaving in 6 short weeks. I can’t believe I have been here for almost 6 months!
I love Mozambique so much! I love the people. My heart just sings for them. I have made friends with so many of the Mozambiquan ladies and children. It’ll be hard to leave. But at the same time, I really look forward to going home and seeing my family. I look forward to seeing all of you and sharing with you what God’s done. I am looking forward to preparing for my return to Mozambique, as well.
Well, it’s time to close. This has become much longer than I planned. I hope you don’t mind.
May God bless you richly. Thank you so much for praying for me.
Here’s another praise report: I haven’t had malaria for 1 ½ months! Hallelujah!
I’ll see you just after Christmas. Please continue to e-mail me. I love hearing from you.
Love in Jesus,