Everyone has traditions – things they do on a regular basis which have significant meaning. We have traditions on our own which we try to do no matter where we are. Some traditions however are very place specific and as we prepare to leave Mozambique we’re realizing that some of these traditions, by default, will end.
½ marathon runs in Montepuez. Dan loves to run (so do I but this tradition started prior to my enjoyment of running). One of our colleagues in Montepuez also enjoys running so way back in 2009 Dan convinced Jeremy that they should plan their own ½ marathon course and run their own race. The 1st Montepuez ½ marathon was run by Jeremy and Dan on 29 January 2010! Martha, Jeremy’s wife, and I loaded all the kids into the car and would drive ahead of the guys, park the car and get out to cheer for them. We also provided clean water and energy snacks if needed. Once the guys passed us we’d load up again, driver further down the road and repeat the process. It was great fun for all. The guys ran again on Thanksgiving morning later that year (2010) and then again on Thanksgiving in 2011 and 2012 (we were Stateside last Thanksgiving). We’ve changed it a bit here and there. Once Josiah ran part of the way with Jeremy and Dan. Once Martha and another colleague, Amy, rode their bikes.
In addition to our self-planned marathons, Montepuez does have it’s own real ½ marathon race every year on Women’s Day (in April) so in April of 2012 Dan and I, Jeremy and another teammate of theirs all entered the official race. This year, we again headed up to Montepuez in April and Dan was able to participate in the official race. Though Jeremy didn’t run the full race he participated in the cheer squad and then got out to run part way with Dan.
It’s a fun tradition . . . .these self-made & “official” races with friends. I’m sure we’ll find other races to run but they won’t be the same as these.
Thanksgiving with colleagues and friends in Montepuez is an even older tradition than running races there. We began making the 5-6 hr trip up for Thanksgiving in 2007 when we found ourselves being the only GNFA members in Nampula. From that time on we’ve gone every year, minus 2008 and 2013 when we found ourselves Stateside for furlough. It’s always a great time though good food is only a small part of the package. We’ve varied in number some years but generally there are 10-12 adults and almost double the kids. As it’s summer here there’s usually a homemade water slide for the kids, kickball or some other game/activity, a time of worship, a time of dancing and limbo, a pinãta and lots of laughter!
Home made Bottle Rockets is a family tradition started in Martha Smith’s childhood home. One Thanksgiving she and her husband shared that tradition with several of us and it’s been one of Josiah’s favorite activities ever since – but we only do it with them, in Montepuez. Jeremy has a motor which we hook up to an air compressor. Kids decorate empty 2 liter soda bottles and we fill them with water and watch them blast off! It’s quite the spectacle to watch!
As I reflect on these traditions however what matters most is not the activities themselves but rather the people we do them with. These colleagues are more than simply colleagues. For that matter they’re more than friends. They are family. Our kids call each of them Aunt and Uncle and at least 3 “Best Friends” live in Montepuez. We’ve celebrated together, not just holidays but the births of many babies. We’ve cried together and sought advice from each other and spoken into each others lives. Those ties are stronger than the games we play together and those ties will endure even as we say good-bye to the opportunities of celebrating these traditions together.
Two weekends ago we traveled back to Montepuez for the weekend to tell our friends there good-bye. We laughed and enjoyed good food, sweet fellowship and an opportunity to worship together. It was bitter sweet but good.