I can’t tell you how many times in the past two months I’ve sat down to write these last few posts; to finish this blog. Mozambique was home to me. After feeling like a nomad and questioning whether I was wired to ever feel like I belonged anywhere, God took me back to Masana. It felt natural being there. After a year of absolutely nothing feeling natural, the sensation felt simultaneously strange and wonderful.
I love the masana family with my whole heart! I miss them. I miss each and every one of them because I love each and every one of them. I miss long talks with Sarah and Felix’s loud contagious laugh. I miss creeping and cutting up with Edson and Neddy’s big hugs. I miss Maya’s grunts, Melina’s shrugs and Roberto’s big heart and awkward jokes. For a season I got to be a member of their family, and it’s impossible to just move on and forget that.
God was and is so generous to me for sharing them with me and allowing me to know and love them. Im forever humbled by how he spoils me with getting to know and love so many amazing people.
My second prodigal son mural for Masana serves as a sweet assurance from God. I didn’t prepare for it before I left the states, mainly because I didn’t feel particularly burdened to. If you followed my time while I was there, or have since read my posts from my time there, you’ll know that I didn’t rush with painting it either. I lived in Masana and enjoyed the ministry first.
On the flight over I started praying about it. I knew then that rather than a painting about earthly family’s being prepared to welcome these boys home, this painting was meant to be about their Heavenly Father holding and loving them, unabashedly and without judgement.
In that first week of just hanging out with the boys, I considered several of them to use as my model for the prodigal son. The first I considered, sadly ran away with a (large-enough) sum of money out of Melissa’s bag. This happened the night before we were traveling north to reunite him with his family. The second, whom I was rather close with, got an opportunity to illegally cross the South African border and find work there with another former Masana boy. In the end he ended up staying in Maputo. But, in the time he was away, I came to consider the third and final boy; the one in the painting today.
His name is Louis (pronounced loo-eesh). Louis is both hard to love and impossible not to love. It’s a strange paradox. He is 16 years old. Physically, he looks maybe 12. Mentally I’d say he’s a little bit younger than that. Louis is boisterous and goofy. My first time in Mozambique I actually planned my painting schedule around when he’d be there, just because his antics made it impossible to get work done. His best friend is Melina, Sarah’s oldest daughter. Their friendship is adorable to watch.
When I first got back to Mozambique I asked after Louis, but nobody had seen him for a long time. On a weekend where we were away, Louis showed up to church and the members there became very worried for him. That week Roberto found Louis and brought him back to Masana. Louis was and is very sick. Seeing the once healthy spunky kid, emaciated, silent and worn down… well, it’s hard to find the right words for how it felt. Sadness and compassion don’t seem strong enough. But the truth is, I’ve never felt a stronger surge of compassion mixed with sadness than I did when I saw Louis again. He was a dim shadow of the kid I had known less than a year before.
After some testing and numerous hospital visits we were able to begin getting him the treatment he needs. Masana took him into their temporary housing and began looking for a permanent solution/family to love and take care of him. The reception was less than encouraging.
In the beginning of his time back, it was little 3 year old Melina who first began petitioning for me to “pinta Louis”. This became her mission, to see Louis in the new painting on the outside wall. She told me. She told Sarah. She told Roberto. It honestly didn’t take much convincing, because we had all come to the same conclusion. I needed to paint Louis as the prodigal son.
When I finally came to that conclusion, I was instantly reminded of how this painting was meant to be about a Heavenly Father welcoming and loving his son, rather than an earthly family joyfully taking care of their kid. I teared up, struck with awe and reassurance by how completely all-knowing God is. When I was flying over the Atlantic Ocean starting to pray over this painting, God was on the streets with Louis. While the Masana staff was beginning the search for family to take Louis in, God knew already how his family would respond. The whole time I was preparing for this painting and working on it, God knew what its final significance would be. He knew the story we would be left with and who it would be about.
This painting is a reminder of God’s character, His omniscience and His heart for us. It is a picture of a Heavenly father’s unconditional love for a broken son. It is a picture of God’s love for the individual, His love for Louis.
Free will is such a tricky thing. I love the ability to decide for ourselves how to live ninety-nine percent of the time. But there’s that one percent where I really just wish God would intervene and not let us hurt ourselves and others. But partial free will, no matter how minute the limitation, is not free will.
God will not force us to do His will. It hurts him far more to watch these boys whom he loves, choose to live on the streets. It’s easy to wish in their cases that God was a father who powerfully went out, grabbed his sons and brought them home to Him whether they wanted to come or not. But that’s not the kind of father that God is.
For better or worse, Louis has free will. The people he has lived with on the streets and his family back home have free will. We have free will. While God will never rob us of our choice, He is: always present, always loving, always waiting and always willing to welcome us home with open arms. There is no offense too great or chasm too wide to prevent us from experiencing the fullness of the love and forgiveness of God, if we choose him. We just have to choose to him; choose to go back home to Him who loved us first.
Today Louis is still at Masana, needing a permanent solution. I would ask you to keep him and the rest of the Masana family and staff in your prayers. Pray for wisdom on their part to make the best decisions possible in regards to his health and future. Pray for strength, encouragement and support for Sarah and her family as they continue to give their all, to love and assist the street boys of Maputo everyday. Pray for the boys living in the house and attending the program at Masana to know God on deeper levels; to come to points of surrendering their will and their hearts to God. And if you feel so led, pray for me. That I may learn how to healthily continue to love and care for the mission and people at Masana without living in continued heartbreak for not being called there in this season. (The same request goes for Melissa Pierce as well)
If I haven’t said this enough, or don’t say it again, you are lovely. And I am honored to have shared this journey with you. I just have one more post (maybe two) until I can close the chapter on this blog and my incredible crazy year of missions with God! Love love love, MER.