So here I am about one month after moving to Maputo. One of the other missionaries, Brooke (who became a dear friend!!) and I decided to check out the street outreach. We loaded up in the van with some visitors and older youth from the Iris center. When we got to the city, we gathered street kids and had a church service. That night I met 2 little boys, Gaspar and Zacarius. These brothers became a huge part of my life. At the time, Gaspar was 7 or 8 and Zacarius was around 9 or 10. They were new to the streets. I was drawn to them because they were so little and you could just see the fear in them. We ended up taking both of them back to the Iris Center with us that night. Brooke and I let them shower in our house and found some clean clothes for them to wear. The joy on their faces was like a child on Christmas morning!
The next day, some Mozambican workers spoke with the boys and tried to sort out their family history. It turns out they had both run away from home. The workers made contact with the boys’ father and he agreed to take Zacarius but refused to take little Gaspar. He said Gaspar was just too much trouble. So Zacarius went home with his dad while Gaspar began living at the Iris Center.
A few weeks later, Brooke and I were in the city and saw Zacarius on the street. We spent some time talking to him about why he had left home again. He claimed his father was abusive. Though it saddened me greatly, I knew we couldn’t take him back to the center since he had already been placed back with his father. I began looking for Zacarius every time I went to the city. We found out his mother lived not far outside the city so we began offering to take him there. Eventually, he said yes so Brooke and I took him home and met his mom for the first time. That day began a cycle of Zacarius staying home and returning to the streets that continues to this day.
With the company of a couple of Mozambican youth from the Iris Center, we began visiting Zacarius every few weeks at his home. Every time we went, the kids from the village would come from everywhere to see us. With such a captive audience, we began teaching Bible stories. We discovered that, as long as Zacarius knew we were coming back, he wouldn’t run away so we began going every other week and then every week. Eventually it turned into weekly children’s church sitting on a mat outside of Zacarius’ house with anywhere from 10 to 30 children.