another blog entry from dominique who captures it all so beautifully:
we woke up at 6am to go meet the boys here in the city, in maputo. there were two of them and they had been living on the street for about a year and the other for about five months. today though, we were going to drive them back to their villages and see if their families would allow them to come home, welcome them back--- sometimes, on other occasions when sarah and luis have taken boys home--- the mothers didnt even look at their sons and they were not allowed to return.
we drove away from the city. the landscape grew more grassy in places, open, with people or children walking or playing near the road. cashews in plastic bags hung from different trees for miles and miles, also alongside the road, as venders waited in the sun or shade for a car to stop and buy some. we eventually did but from a little town. then continued on.
the first home was for a boy named Fazenda. for his home we began to drive through a village and then pull into an area off to the side, more hidden, with dead corn stuck in its growth yet much green around, gardens of vegetables, and large trees that created shade over the sandy places. we got out of the car and walked through a path between corn stalks leading to the shade where his grandmother sat, watching us, taking in that this boy who had been missing was now there walking towards her. her face was without expression. she stood and with a swiftness went to her hut--- to get a white plastic chair. but since the hut was collapsing, the doorway was no longer the size it once had been and the chair could not go through. she called facinda over to help her. her first greeting, so to speak. and he did, twisting the chair at different angles to get it out. finally it was free. she brought it beneath the tree and offered the chair to the three of us--- Sarah, Luis, and me. We greeted her with a kiss on each cheek and found a place to sit.
Luis, is mozambican and speaks the language of Shongan. He explained to her how Fazenda had been living on the streets in Maputo and how he found his way to Masana which lets the boys bathe, wash their clothes, eat two meals, study, and hear life lessons. The boys can not stay or sleep there, because it is Masana's heart that they would one day be reunited to their families. The grandmother asked if she could go get the grandfather and left for awhile to find him. When they came back the grandfather spoke telling us a story similar to the one Fazenda had told, that Fazenda's father had died when he was young and his mother had run away to South Africa. Fazenda had been living with his aunt and one day when given money he had disappeared. They do not know why he went. But his grandfather, wearing green and highwater boots, squatting near us because of no seat, said that this place is Fazenda's. it is Fazenda's home as much as it is his. it was almost his way of expressing that he welcomes him back but also this is so very much his home. the grandmother watched him as he spoke. in that moment i could see in their seriousness their great love for the Fazenda; he was somewhat a little distanced from them sitting behind the root of a tree, watching to see what they would say--- and in the way that he watched and listened, and in the way he chose to come back home even when there was no hut for him or anything that the streets of the city had... i felt his hope for his family. Sometimes in families you see the gap though between how people love one another and how it still seems hard to connect that love. The grandparents seemed to have a deep hurt in them-- perhaps from him going, perhaps from the other things and Fazenda too seemed to have a deep hurt that was different, from something else. And in it, I felt like they didnt know what to do to tell him how much they love him. Perhaps when we were gone and not looking on they did. Luis decided it was ok to leave Fazenda. And with the clothes on his back, he stayed. Fazenda also was visibly giddy as well about being home.
We walked back to the car and they all walked with us. We said our goodbyes and mutual thank yous. I smiled at Fazenda and said goodbye and before I got back into the car, he called out from where he was walking again between the corn stalks, his hand lifted in the air, and sheer enthusiasm to be home in his voice 'Ciao Dominguez!" he said. "Ciao." With that we left and began our drive to Castigo's home.
To take part in returning a son home I think is an action strangely full of aching when I was in it. I cried with each of them, held tears back while Luis talked to the families.
Sarah and Luis had tried to bring Castigo home a month ago. But Castigo could not remember or recognize the roads home. They drove for hours and hours until dark and then had to return him to the streets of the city. Today, as we tried again we didnt know if we were going to find his home but he noticed a road he had missed before--- it was over an hour and a half from the city. During the ride I was astounded at the thought of Castigo even making it to Maputo when he ran away. There was almost an admiration I could feel for him for a moment as we made all the turns towards his home.
Castigo, though, is a name that means punishment or to punish. It was a very sad name for me-- I guess for me and for some-- names are so important, embedded in them supernatural direction, favor and blessing. But what does it mean to have a name that means punishment? And what does it mean to bring a son named "punishment" home? I wondered. Castigo was also a very serious boy. Even among the other boys at Masana he kept to himself. While most boys were friendly and tried to talk to us, he did not. I would say hi and give him space and wave or smile from a distance and everynow and then he would smile too for a fleeting moment but you could see a stunning goodness in him.
By the time we made all the turns to his house, with my friend Sarah driving the car, our two white faces in the front had attracted a bit of curiousity from the villagers who gathered in small groups and looked on from afar in a way that did not happen at Fazenda's. We got out and walked towards his home and the earth almost seemed harsher, his hut black with ash of some sort, his mother grinding something to the side of it. When she saw us, she stood, went to the hut and came out with three plastic chairs for us. Also dark grey with some stain of time. There were more people, but in a way the place did not have the peace that Fazenda's did. The mother continued with her grinding and we sat there for a time, while Castigo disappeared--- later even when family called for him, he did not return immediately. Eventually the mother came to a mat near us and sat with her baby--- I should say that Castigo's three year old sister did rush to greet him when we came. She stood near him and she could not stop smiling, laughing and jumping up and down. He watched her not knowing what to do or not wanting to show us perhaps how well he plays with her when no one is looking. The sister eventually walked to somewhere else and it was just us and the mother, a toddler, and a baby wrapped in capulana on the mat. Luis told the mother of Masana. And when she sensed we were asking if he could return home she said with out looking at us "I need my son." which she would say again later. She too called the step father over, and an uncle came, and two aunts all resting near or on the mat. They were grateful to have him home. Luis told again of what Masana is. The step- father said leaning towards us with much expression on his face "This is his home. He can make as many mistakes as he wants and we will always take him back." The aunt she also spoke saying to Luis "We thought when he disappeared that perhaps he did go to the city. And then we began to think perhaps he could be killed in the city, or hurt or something could happen. We did not know what to think. And now you come and you tell us he had been safe, and he has been coming to you to learn about God...this is God answering our worship to bring you to him. This is God. We can not be more thankful. We can not be." She clasped her hands into her lap and looked down overcome.
Eventually Castigo came back and sat in the middle of the mat with them. They said they would celebrate. And while Luis was talking to him, telling him that if he ran away again we could not take him at Masana, he gave that smile that is so quick yet so true and said to Luis "no no I'm staying."