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Casa Ahavá Re-Opens!

A Layne Post

I remember the first morning without patients. We had temporarily closed Casa Ahavá so that we could adjust to being a family of 6, and our home felt so empty. I woke up to make coffee, glanced out the kitchen window and mourned not having anyone out there to check on.

But time passed by, as it does. Selah was born, and our lives adjusted once more. I became accustomed to Jon having a bit more time, him being around every morning when we woke up, having a predictable schedule, and having our evenings all to ourselves. There was a certain ease in that lifestyle that I enjoyed.

We took our trip up north, which went much different than expected, and then decided to give ourselves a week to recover from sickness. Finally the time had come to talk with the hospital staff about which patients would be good candidates for our project. I knew the day was approaching for another transition – the need to readjust to full time ministry from our home. I felt a bit nervous and apprehensive about life with four little ones, homeschooling, managing patients in the home, being constantly on-call, etc. Honestly, the selfish side of me wanted to hold on to the new easier life because, well, it was easier. But the part of me that knows Christ, knows that easier doesn’t mean happier and that there is a joy found in a life of service that cannot be attained in any other way.

After a few false starts, two ladies were set to move in – Melinha and Maria. On the day they were coming, I put a big  beef stew in the crockpot and tidied up the house. Jon ran out to their kitchen to make sure that things were ready. He happened to touch an appliance while out there and received a wicked shock. After touching one more thing and getting shocked yet another time, he concluded something was not grounded well. He called an electrician who could not come until the next day and so move-in day got postponed. It was frustrating.

The next day I turned on my crockpot again and filled it with beans. Maybe this day would actually go as planned. I got a call from Jon at the hospital and sure enough Melinha and Maria were coming, but so was a lady named Fruta, who was done with treatment and only waiting on transport the next week. No problem. I knew Fruta and liked her a lot.

They arrived, settled into their rooms, met our big ol’ dog Gasher, saw the markets on our road, and were ready to start life at Casa Ahavá.

Our home feels full again and our girls content to run around and giggle with the “ladies” out back. Just yesterday Jovie told me how she had eaten earlier with the ladies. I wondered if it was true or a part of my girls’ grand imaginative lives. Turns out it was true. Anaya and Jovie were happy to go sit in the kitchen and eat up the yummy traditional Mozambican food that their Tias had made.

I had no reason to be nervous. I love what we do, yes, even with the extra work and responsibility. Our lives are richer this way.

This is Fruta. Last night she boarded a bus and headed home, finally finished with her treatment. We were blessed to host her for a short stay, but excited for her to re-join her 3 children at home. She was easy going and the most comfortable of the group in our home. Let’s pray for an easy trip and for continued health.



This is Melinha. She will be here another week and a half. Fruta was her best friend, and I am sure she will be missing her. She is spunky and animated – full of facial expressions. She doesn’t speak Portuguese very well and we don’t speak the language where she is from up north, so it is comical at times, but we are managing with special thanks to the other patients for translating.



This is Maria. She has almost five more months with us. She is a hard worker and self-motivated. We knew her the least before coming to our home, but she has been nothing but delightful. She has five children at home, the youngest one is only one year old. I know it is difficult for her to be so far. We will try and send her home for a visit after another two treatments.



We have another two ladies in the line up to come and one man, who is set to come after his next treatment. We were encouraged that the hospital seemed as excited for us to restart as we were, and multiple people expressed that our absence was felt in the ward. The staff has been so supportive and helpful as we fill up our space here. We thank God for the partnership we have. To Him be the glory!

Two Years

A Jon Post

Thanks to so many of you, Casa Ahavá has been serving hurting people for two years. Below is a brief video celebrating that and celebrating all the patients who have come to be a part of Casa Ahavá.

We are trying to make Casa Ahavá a bit more visible. Please help by sharing our new site and (if you are a twitter user) following us on twitter @casaahava.

Thanks for all your support for us and for Casa Ahavá.

Trip to Beira Part 3 – Trusting God With Selah’s Breathing and Jon’s Driving

A Layne Post

This is the conclusion to the story of our time in Beira that we’ve been telling over the last two posts. If you’ve read it all, thanks for your patience and for your time. We feel you are owed all the details we can provide. 

That evening I had another scary time with Selah. Jon called a pediatrician we love and trust in the states, who gave us some advice on things to do. It was good she had no fever still and was eating fine. My 5 month old nephew in America recently had been hospitalized for RSV (a respiratory virus) and  my sister also gave me some symptoms to look for. One main things to watch for was rib retractions, where the skin under the rib curls under with each breath. This means the child is having to use chest muscles to get enough air, and they should not. Selah didn’t have those.

Jon took Selah into a steamy bathroom, and I paced the room praying over my children and their health. I ended up face down, forehead plastered to the hard tile, begging and pleading with the Lord for healing.

When Jon returned I vented some of my frustrations. I felt like this was spiritual attack, but if that were the case, shouldn’t I be able to rebuke sickness and because Jesus is stronger, we should all be healthy in the morning? Jon told me, “Layne, isn’t this what we do? We work with people begging God for healing?” I was getting a very small glimpse of the desperation and frustration that accompanies sickness.

We had a decent night, nothing alarming. I handed Selah to Jon so I could go to the bathroom. He called me back to have a look at Selah and confirm she was having rib retractions. Sure enough, she was. That was it.

It was time to get her seen.

We called Dr. Brian, the missionary doctor working there in Beira. He quickly told us to come up to the central government hospital, where he was working, and he’d have a look and then we’d make a plan.

The big girls were still feverish and tired, and we didn’t want to drag them around a hospital full of more sickness. Thankfully, there was a young missionary family staying next door to us in the guesthouse and the wife graciously came to sit with Anaya and Jovie, while we took Karasi and Selah with us.

We entered the large gate to the central hospital, surrounded by fellow sick Mozambicans waiting for help. We made our way to a bench to wait on our friend, who was currently with a patient. Selah had a large mucus-filled vomit. I was scared. I could not help but think what it would be like for us if Selah were the average Mozambican. Truth is, she’d probably die. It was sobering.

Our friend emerged from the ward and pulled out his stethoscope. My heart was beating quick as I tried not to melt down right then and there.

Her lungs weren’t normal.

We needed to get to Maputo.

First, Dr. Brian recommended we get and x-ray as a marker for comparison when we arrived at the hospital. He looked me in the eye and told be Selah was going to be okay. I cried. With his connections, Dr. Brian got an order written and walked us in and out of the x-ray room within 10 minutes, which is nothing shy of a miracle. The x-ray didn’t show pneumonia. Good news.

I asked Jon if we could fly someone up to help him and the girls get back to Maputo. He called our dear friend Ian.

Ian didn’t even hesitate. Within 1 hour he had dropped everything else he had to do (he helps lead a center for boys who live on the streets of Maputo, and co-runs a thriving business that helps fund that center), and was standing at an airport gate waiting to board the plane to Beira.

I felt a little more at ease knowing Jon would be able to tend to sick girls in the car. Selah’s breathing was stable for the time, and she was peacefully sleeping. We began the run around to get a flight, which proved to be complicated since we didn’t have I.D. for Selah. Finally it was done. We had a ticket for me and Selah at 2pm.

I hated that flight. We had a few scary moments, and I was all too aware that if she stopped breathing that was it. I kept telling the Lord, “Surely you have not brought us this far to have her die on this plane!” When we landed, relief washed over me. By 9 PM we were admitted to a bed getting treatment. Jon even texted with the awesome news that our insurance was going to pay for the flight!

The next four days were spent in that bed, curtained off in a large communal room with two bathrooms to share. It was slow. It seemed every time Selah drifted into peaceful sleep, it was time for another round of some kind of medicine. Listening to regular crying and vomiting from other patients, watching one news channel the entire day was maddening. I missed my family. Visitors were the highlight. Again, it seems almost silly to compare my short comfy experience to theirs, but I was getting a slight glimpse of what the people we minister to experience to a much higher degree. Our patients stay for months. I can only imagine the deep loneliness, frustration, and hopelessness they must feel. On a new level, I am aware of the ministry that we are trying to do – the joy and temporary comfort that can be found in a short visit to break up the monotony of the day.

Jon made it safely home with the girls, but not without his own challenges. The night before the drive Jon’s concern for Jovie was heightened. She hadn’t really eaten in three days and he was having a difficult time getting fluids in her. She was weak and lethargic. He decided he’d see how the first half of the drive went. He’d make the call whether to push through and also get her to Maputo near medical facilities, or if she drank and improved, they could stop and sleep halfway. To add to the challenges, Karasi had also started with a low fever and the nasty congestion.

Thankfully, Jovie began drinking and eating in the car, and so they stopped to rest for the night. That night at dinner she even asked for seconds of chicken and rice, which made everyone terribly relieved. The next day they made the final leg of the trip. Karasi was fairly miserable much of the morning and finally threw up in her car seat. (Extra stars for Jon for cleaning that one up.)

Karasi Wearing Dad's Shirt After Throwing Up on Hers

Karasi Wearing Dad’s Shirt After Throwing Up on Hers

After that, she felt and played better, though still not 100 percent.

We had hopes that Selah and I would be discharged by then and we could be reunited as a family that evening, however, that was not the case. The doctor still heard something in Selah’s lungs. We spent the next two nights in the hospital before finally getting discharged. I left the hospital with a renewed sense of purpose and tank filled with fresh compassion. While the Lord’s plans looked nothing like my own, He remained in control and poured out His graciousness on our family. We don’t deserve health and wellness, but I am grateful for His mercy and His willingness to restore us this time.

Trip to Beira Part 2 – Visiting Friends and Trusting God With Sick Kids

A Layne Post

This is a continuation of the story that began in the last post. Thanks for sticking with us.

The next day was Saturday. Out of nowhere we received a text message from Inês’ son explaining who he was and that she wanted to talk with us. Our hearts leapt! It had been months since we had had contact with her, and now here we were in Beira and we could actually visit her! How awesome of the Lord! When Jon told her we were there, she could hardly believe it. We told her we could come to her house on Monday. I joked with Jon, “Now, if only Sara would call, we could see everyone!” and we shrugged it off as an impossibility.

Later that morning after a feed, Selah started gagging and not breathing well. We got out the nose sucker and after a max of a couple minutes, which felt like an eternity, she coughed up some mucus and was fine. I, on the other hand, was not. I was left in tears, tired from the lack of sleep of the previous nights and scared about what had just happened. Jon called an missionary friend of ours that is a Doctor teaching in the central hospital of Beira. We wanted to know our options.

There were not many.

There is one German pediatrician in Beira he trusted.

She was on vacation.

And so we prayed. A peace came over us. Selah was fine at this point with a hint of snot, no fever. We decided to monitor through the night and decide if we wanted to see a doctor the next day. We continued to our first patient visit that afternoon.

Edson was a boy when we met more than four years ago. He and his mom were quite dear to us. Edson lost his leg during his time with cancer, but since then has been thriving. We visited him in 2013 and were filled with excitement to be reunited. When Jon called him, Edson knew his voice and exclaimed, “Tio Jon!” So off we went, me still a little shaky from the morning’s event, but confident the Lord was in control.

We were greeting with big grins and kisses. Edson was no longer the boy we once knew, but a man with his 18th birthday fast approaching. How good to see his same smile matured. His grandma came to take Selah from me. I explained her congestion and the fact we wanted her upright and then I handed her over. In my spirit it was a handing her over to the Lord, a symbol that I trusted Him and His works. The visit was sweet.

Selah had a good enough night with mild congestion, but no big scares. She was still playing great during her awake times and had no fever. The big girls were doing okay, Jovie a little worse.
Sunday morning Jon picked up Benjamin and brought him to the guesthouse for a visit. It was good to see him, his white hat, and his smile, even though we all know he is in constant pain. The girls all gave him big hugs goodbye, Jon and I knowing this was the last time we’d see him this side of heaven.


Also that morning, we got a call from Campande, the first in a month or more. He, like Inês, was so happy to hear we were in Beira as a family and that we wanted to see him. We praised the Lord for His hand on the trip and our time.

Jovie rested for the morning and in the afternoon we went to visit Anita and her daughters in their home. During her time at Casa Ahavá, Anita had consistently bragged on her 4 daughters. It was such a treat to finally meet them in person. What a wonderful job Anita has done as a mother! Her smile and shy giggle hadn’t changed. The girls enjoyed chasing cats and chickens, though Jovie tired quickly and returned to Dada’s lap. Selah contentedly slept with whomever want to hold her.

That evening we were hosted by a sweet South African family that had housed Jon during his trip in the beginning of March. The girls played great. Even Selah was full of smiles and coos. It wasn’t too long though and poor Jovie zonked without much of an appetite. In the middle of dinner, Jon got a phone call. He came back in with a smirk on his face. It was Sara. After not seeing Campande since their time together in Casa Ahavá, she happened to run into him at a bus stop and he told her we were in town. Awe. What deep assurance we had that we were where we were supposed to be, when we were supposed to be there. Despite the trials we felt we were battling with the girls health, God was in control. We cut the night short and got the girls in bed early.

The night went alright, congestion and coughing for all but Karasi. We had three visits to do and then we were done. We would go to Berta’s and Inês’ homes in the morning and then Jon would pick up Campande and Sara and bring them to the guesthouse in the afternoon.

It was great to see Berta smiling and cheerful after such a rough time during her stay at Casa Ahavá. Her family is taking such great care of her, bringing much peace to our hearts. We repeatedly apologized for the visit not being longer, but we needed to see Inês that morning and get the girls back to the room to rest. Jovie was stuck to her Dada’s lap, extremely tired and had no appetite.


I think the image of Inês walking from her house to see us and snatching up Karasi will forever remain in my heart. She was thin, but strong as ever. Her oldest son died last November and you could see and sense the sorrow was still deep. The girls got to watch coconuts cracked open, peeled apart, and cut open to see the milk, though they were not so keen on trying it. We had a sweet visit, though too short as well. The girls were in desperate need of a rest.

I really felt hopeful that everyone was close to better, and then I am not sure what happened, but everyone got worse that afternoon. The girls all fell asleep when we got to the room. When Sara and Campande got there, Anaya and Jovie just could not manage getting out of bed, and we let them stay. Selah and Karasi were happy to visit. We did manage to enjoy some smiles and laughs with our friends, and it was awesome to see both in such great health. In a ministry where the majority end up dying, it is heart lifting to see some wins.

We will finish this story in our next post. We know it is often hard to put time aside to read long posts and view many pictures. We hope breaking it up like this doesn’t feel like we are just trying to generate more traffic to our blog. Thanks for your care, prayers, and interest in how God has worked in and through our family here in mission.

Trip to Beira Part 1 – Family as Mission

A Layne Post

Because the story of our Beira trip is long and we feel it is important to tell it in completion, we’ve decided to do a 3-part blog. Stayed tuned every couple days for the next two segments!

Since our first trip to Beira (the capitol of Sofala province about 16 hours north of us when traveled by road, and where most of our patients are from) in December-January of 2012-13, we have longed to go back. It was our desire to make it an annual Heller family trip, as it was a highlight of our ministry and time in Mozambique, following up with patients we had grown to love. 2014, however, did not happen due to the instability of the country during elections and fighting along the only road up north.

But we did not forget.

We settled in our hearts that a trip would be priority for 2015. With a new baby to consider, planning was going to be tricky, but we felt confident it could happen. I wanted Selah to be at least 6 weeks old, so that I would feel comfortable with people holding her and getting to know her, and I wanted her to be young enough to still sleep often during the long car ride. So it was settled – mid-May.

We also knew with 4 kiddos 4 and under the 16 hour drive would need to be broken up. We decided to go more or less half way and spend two nights on the beach, letting the girls frolic and stretch for one whole day, and then continue the rest of the way to Beira. We would do the same on the way home.

In a country where planning ahead is somewhat foreign, we began calling our patients and friends about a week in advance letting them know we were coming and that we would like to see them. We were pretty bummed that Inês had lost her phone a long time ago and we had no contact with her. Sara’s phone also hadn’t worked in months. Even Campande was not answering his phone. This meant there were 3 former Casa Ahavá patients we didn’t know if we would be able to visit. Still, we had people we wanted to see. Regina’s health had taken a turn for the worse and she had been admitted to the hospital, but had a desire to meet Selah. That, in our hearts, was enough to make the trip. Also, Jon needed to do some leg work in person for Benjamin’s house, which had frustratingly come to a standstill.

So we made check lists, piles of supplies and loaded up the van as a family of 6.

Off to Beira.

The drive to a little beach town called Vilanculos, our half-way point, went fabulous. Anaya threw up once, but showed no other signs of ill effect, so we figured it was car sickness. Overall the girls all did better than I could have imagined. The next day they so enjoyed the beach. Anaya kept telling me, “Mama! Jovie and I are having so much fun!”

We felt nice and refreshed ready to make the second push and get to Beira. Again, the girls astounded me. They traveled so well!

The last 120km of the drive is full of pot holes, which had Jon and I wincing and the girls giggling. As we pulled into the guesthouse parking lot, Jon noticed the telltale signs of tire trouble and stuck is head out the window. Flat tire. What grace of God that it had only gone flat then! No changing tires on the side of the road. Hallelujah.

So the girls and I settled in, while Jon put on the spare. As he did, he noticed the other rear tire had considerable damage and it was a miracle that it hadn’t gone flat yet. He called a friend, who recommended some to-go pizzas just up the road from us, and we agreed it sounded good. Jon, Anaya, and Jovie went to get dinner, while Karasi, Selah and I enjoyed some rest and Dora the Expolorer. The girls ate tons and then giggled themselves to sleep in our new “camp house”.

The next morning we were awoken to Jovie thowing up. She was slightly warm, but not hot. We figured it was probably the pizza. We needed to get to a grocery store and have a friend peek at our tires to point us in the right direction for replacements. In the store, Jovie said her tummy hurt. We quickly let our friend look at the tires and headed back to the room to let the girls rest up. Jon got on the phone and started scheduling our days.

Regina was in ICU and asking to see us. Visiting hours were at 1pm. We agreed Jovie wasn’t quite herself, but seemed up for a short visit, and we’d keep her at a distance. We did know it was going to be a challenge to get the girls inside, but Jon has persuasive lips and usually is surrounded with much favor, thanks be to God.

Sure enough he convinced the head nurse to let us bring the girls in one by one and hold them up to the window right next to Regina. So while we would not be able to do a proper visit, Regina would get to see all the girls and most importantly in our hearts, Selah.

I quickly headed in. Selah was awake and happy, which was such a blessing. I held her to the window as Regina waved and I blew kisses. It was a moment I won’t forget, knowing it would be her last time to see my children. Some staff started hollering about a baby being in the ward and a nurse tried to explain our permissions, and I sneaked out. Jon took Karasi in quick and then came a grabbed Jovie. He took a long time, and I knew something was wrong. When he eventually emerged, with tears in his eyes, he said we had to leave and Anaya would not be able to go in. The nurse who had given permission had left and the new staff would not have it.

As gently as possible, we tried to explain to Anaya that we weren’t going to be able to take her in to wave at Tia Regina, even though all her sisters got to go in. I could tell by her face she was bothered, but in her soft 4-year old voice, she whispered, “I’m glad the other girls got to go in.” I choked back tears as I hugged her tight and told her how proud I was of her.

Jovie didn’t throw up for the rest of the day and played nicely on the playground outside our room. That night Anaya and Jovie started with some mucus-y coughs, but nothing alarming, just unfortunate colds. We decided to make it a down day for the girls to hopefully recover as we tried to balance mandated down time with letting them play.

IMAG1026Jon went to get the tires replaced and took a picture of the tire that HADN’T gone flat. It was a miracle we did not have 2 flats on the road! The Lord had been carefully watching over us.

I went at 1 pm to visit and sit with Regina on my own. I got to show her a video of Selah playing. It was a sweet time, though I heard the discouragement in her voice as she told me God had forgotten her. I assured her this was not the case. We prayed and before I left she was again telling me Jesus was there beside her.

That evening Jon was able to meet with a new contractor for Benjamin’s house and felt good about proceeding throughout the week to make things final. What a relief. Benjamin and his family are in desperate need of a place to call their own.

Selah started with some congestion that evening, but no fever. We kept her propped up or held upright through the night to ease her discomfort. Anaya and Jovie continued with a mild cold, feeling tired sometimes and playing other times.

If you made it this far, congratulations on finishing Part 1 of this epic. I know it’s hard to give this much time to something on the Internet so I’m really glad you made it through. Rather than force you to keep reading we will let you rest for the next two days and put Part 2 up on Friday. I hope you have the time to come back and read about how God continued to use our family to His purposes and how He kept teaching us about trusting Him and His hands around us.