Corydon couple hone survival skills in Maputo
A Corydon couple who arrived in southeast Africa in January for a two-year term as missionaries are adjusting to their new life. Recently they slept through an earthquake.
Charles and Elizabeth Swarens said they didn’t feel the 7.5 earthquake that struck Mozambique and Zimbabwe just after midnight on Feb. 23. The Swarens are living in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique. Population of the port city is about two million.
Elizabeth said they slept right through the quake that killed at least two people and injured another dozen or so. Heavy rains that preceded the quake washed out the sandy roads in many places.
The couple, who are serving with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, have spent the last month-and-a-half organizing the mission’s distribution center, taking inventory, checking baptismal records, and putting together the monthly newsletter and ‘fireside’ talks for the seminary and institute. Later this month, they will hold two employment workshops for some of the men in Maputo. Charles plays the keyboard during the sacrament services (Elizabeth will also play sometime.)
Elizabeth has made 10 sets of curtains for the missionary apartments. The curtains were made from fabric to help block out sunlight; it gets light there about 4 a.m.
‘These are not skills I thought I would have to use as a missionary,’ Elizabeth said in an e-mail, ‘but we are support for the missionaries.’
The couple are becoming more accepted by their new acquaintances.
‘Our neighbors are speaking to us now,’ she said, ‘instead of just staring at us as we go in and out.’
The Swarens aren’t soliciting donations, but in response to an inquiry about items that could be used there, Elizabeth said, ‘The best kind of care packages would be for hygiene, such as toothpaste, brushes, combs, shampoo, and baby and toddler clothes.’
Items can be sent to: Elder and Sister Swarens, Mozambique, Maputo Mission, Private Bag X 3009, Houghton 2041, Johannesburg, South Africa.
‘The people here are not starving,’ Elizabeth said. ‘They just don’t have jobs and funds for any necessary facilities. Most of their houses are huts … The people live without lights and water. There is no fluoride in the water or any treatment of any kind, hence the bacteria and diseases.’
The Swarens had been buying bottled water or carrying bottles back and forth from the mission center, until Charles installed a water filtration system in early February.
And they learned about pre-paying for electricity … the hard way.
Charles said they woke up one morning to discover they were without power.
‘We thought the electricity had gone out in the building,’ he said. ‘But when we talked to a couple of our neighbors, we realized that we were the only ones without electricity.
‘This is because we had used up all of our prepaid electricity,’ he said.
In Maputo, electricity, in kilowatts, can be purchased just about anywhere. ‘We got our last batch at one of the local filling stations,’ Charles said.
Elizabeth continues to use a lot of bleach to disinfect everything, and she battles the mosquitoes.
Both Elizabeth and Charles are becoming more fluent in Portuguese, which is the main language there.
‘Charles and I are studying every night, and I can almost understand the morning news reports on our alarm radio,’ she said. ‘Fortunately, the BBC has an English version of the news an hour or so later, and I can get the news, as far as England and Africa go. The United States is mentioned occasionally.’
The Corydon couple believe they are fulfilling their mission.
‘If our intention was to change their way of life with dollars and cents, we could never do it,’ Elizabeth said. ‘But, if we offer them the gospel of Jesus Christ, and they accept it, they can change their own lives.
‘We were certainly needed here,’ she said.