We were having dinner with friends a few months ago. After eating and conversing about our summer plans, one asked Brian, "Why do you want to go to Mozambique?" I don't remember how we answered that night but the question encouraged us to think a bit deeper and try to put into words, our feelings about traveling around the world one more time.
As you may know, Brian and I have traveled with mission teams to several countries including Ukraine, China and Mozambique. Each trip was unique and rich in its own way. God was with us and used our hands, our voices and our hearts to encourage the church and to share the truth about Jesus. We have not really talked through why we feel compelled to go. We just felt called. Here is a collection of thoughts: Please know that these are not meant as a judgement against anyone. They are simply a few of my thoughts about why I am traveling to Mozambique one week from today.
I think the truth is that I'm eager to return to a people who have suffered so much. Afflicted with AIDS, hunger due to the drought, much death, great loss, a violent culture, malaria, extreme poverty, and severe darkness has led to much distress and sadness. We get to share the hope of the gospel with those in such harsh conditions! It blesses them to find people from America who care about them! Our fresh faces and voices speak and teach of the goodness of God. We bring gifts to those who have NOTHING! We get to walk in a setting of people who celebrate greatly, the gift of a donated necklace. There is something abundant and meaningful in the gifting of jewelry, quilts, clothing, and food. How could I not want to go?
Whenever I go to my sink and turn it on and find hot and cold water that I can drink and wash in, I think of women across the world who do not have clean water. They don't enjoy dish soap that will create light foamy bubbles to clean their dirty dishes. I use my own moment of convenience and comfort to pray for them. Touching their faces and looking into their beautiful brown eyes will remind me that their lives matter and are extremely important.
I want to challenge my apathy, my desire for comfort, my stronghold on fear, the impatience I so quickly find in something as meager as a slow computer. It is just so easy to sit at our dinner table filled with good food and not think about what is happening around the world. I want to challenge that love of comfort in me. Alicia Britt Chole writes, in 40 Days of Decrease, " Apathy describes an emotional disconnect from life in general and suffering in particular...the antonyms of apathy are not absorption, activism, or even emotionalism; they are sympathy, sensitivity and concern." Getting out in the midst of a people whose lives are so different from mine will awaken my heart with love and care for them. And these are incredible feelings to hold.
I want to fast from stinginess. I want to give of my time, my money, my energy and a few of my moments of comfort "because love does not calculate. What an honor (for Mary in John 12) to be remembered as one who loved lavishly...let's seek an opportunity to be irrationally lavish toward someone who cannot possibly return the favor. Give because you love. Give without letting reason ration out your love in stingy portions," writes A.B.Chole. I want that.
Recently I read the account in Matthew 21 of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem. People were laying down palm leaves and worshiping him as King as he rode into town on the back of a donkey. After reading, I closed my eyes and pictured the story as it happened and wondered where I would be if I had been there that day. Would I have had a palm branch in my hand and would I have been shouting praises? Watching the story play out, I found myself standing back, watching quietly as the procession paraded by. I opened my eyes and said , "NO! That is not the person I want to be! Let's re-see this story!" This time, as I visualized the scenario, I found myself running up to Jesus as his donkey trekked by. Patiently approaching, his eyes locked with mine as he reached out his hand, cupping my cheek, a gentle smile on his face. His was a smile of love, kindness and of knowing me. Whew.. I want to not be the spectator! I want to be in the action, not holding back, not watching but going, doing, being the one who risks for the gospel. Might we find Jesus as we reach out and touch these beautiful people? (Matthew 25)
Recently Brian and I drove to Eagle Grove to meet and listen to, Umar Ado, a Nigerian pastor who works in Nigeria to help the Christians there reach out in love to their Muslim neighbors. He grew up as a passionate Muslim eager to kill Christians who dared to believe that Jesus is the Son of God. But God miraculously saved him and for over 20 years he ministered for Christ in his native country. On this day, in north central Iowa, after sharing his powerful testimony, a sweet American woman raised her hand with a question. "Is it safe for those Christians to be reaching out to Muslims?" Umar walked over to her and in controlled emotion admitted that no, it was not ever safe. He said his life is in danger every day. But, for the gospel? It is so worth the risk! I sat there and repented for the deep fears that hold me hostage. I asked God to help me choose to be bold.
We love God. We believe He goes with us giving opportunities t0 help others understand a bit more about His goodness and love. Going to Mozambique gives us people who need and want to hear about how Jesus is the Son of God. Perhaps they will not find faith as blah or common place as many here in the USA.
I have to admit, though, that there are places in the world where I am not yet brave enough to go, a price I'm still not ready to pay, suffering at which I find myself unable to gaze. Mozambique is a relatively safe place to go on this kind of trip because of the well established mission in which to work. We will never go off by ourselves to do things we have not been asked to do. Safety is always important and we take every precaution to act in secure settings shielded from many dangers.
One week from today, off we go!