"Each one of you will need to carry an extra fifty dollars because when we get to Johannesburg, we will need to pay for our second suitcase." Kathy, the leader of our thirteen member team, was instructing us that Delta would allow two large checked suitcases for free but the airline out of Johannesburg would not.
We each took two large bags so they could be filled with donated items for the mission in Mozambique: flip-flops, quilts, shoes, knitted dolls, small trucks and cars, jewelry, items for the medical clinic, little dresses handmade by women from our church, nail polish, little boy clothes, and many pieces of clothing for adults. They were overflowing with good gifts for people who have very little!
But, if we wanted to check two bags, we needed to carry an extra fifty dollars to pay the airline before flying out of Johannesburg.
So we did. We each tucked extra cash in our wallets, ready for the payment for this extra suitcase per person times thirteen people.
When we got to Johannesburg, fifteen and one half hours later, we felt a bit dismayed to find that only six of our suitcases were delivered there. What happened to the other twenty? We picked up the six, and went in search of the others only to find that they had already been transferred through to be placed into the plane for our flight the next day. Confused and hoping for the best, we took our six and went off to rest in our overnight accommodations, figuring that the next day would enable us to find answers.
After a wonderful night's sleep, we returned to the airport with our six suitcases. One of the porters tore off the tags from the past flight, not understanding that they were actually checked through and those tags were very much needed. There was a period of confusion mixed with hopeful patience while we waited to see what was going to happen. Would they now charge us for the extra bags? But they were transferred straight through. We now had six bags to check and they had lost their identification tags.
Eventually all was made right. Our six bags got properly tagged and were sent off to the belly of the plane. And the others met us at Beira, Mozambique, when we landed.
And each of us kept our fifty dollars safely tucked in our own wallets.
Fast forward to the middle of our days working in Mozambique. One morning we all piled into vans that drove us to a neighborhood several minutes away. We exited into the shade of large trees and sandy soil. A structure stood a ways off, filled with children who were lined up and singing their hearts out. Walking into that branch enclosure felt like stepping into a movie, so unlike anything we had experienced. Beautiful brown eyes and large smiles greeted us as the group of young children without parents stood in the sand, clapping their hands, singing loudly, "If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands!" Of course this was sung in their native language but its familiarity gave us a feeling of connection with them and of great welcome.
Soon we learned our mission there. It was to lean down, touch those dear children, and pray.
"Father God, thank you for these children. Thank you for their lives, planned and designed by you for our world. We pray that you will heal their illnesses. We ask for protection for their hearts and for their bodies. Give them what they need. Fill them with food. Enable them to have what they need to grow into healthy adults, to get an education, to have a family, to grow spiritually, to have a future. We beg you for the lives of these children."
Sobered, we left that place, honored to bring these children to God and thankful for the leaders, Ramizia & Helena, who have a heart for those dear ones and who are asking God to provide the land, the building, the provisions and the much-needed finances for this ministry.
A few days later our team was in the midst of a team meeting when Kathy, our leader, brought up the fact that we each still held that extra fifty dollars in our pockets! Perhaps we should think about what our pooled money could do in this mission. Perhaps we should leave it here! It was intended for the airlines but maybe, since they didn't want it, we should pray and find another place for it.
We had heard, from Todd, that this little ministry we had visited, called Corner of Joy, was desiring to purchase a small plot of land, very near to where they were meeting on rented land in a rented structure.
"How much would the land cost?" we asked.
"Seven hundred dollars," he replied.
We started calculating and pretty quickly we realized that fifty dollars times thirteen people equals six hundred fifty dollars...
"Close your eyes," Kathy instructed. "Everyone who thinks we should gift Corner of Joy with this money, raise your hand!"
Of course it was unanimous.
A few days later we invited Ramizia and Helena to Todd and Krista's house, where we were staying. They are each young women, sisters whose parents had died when they were young. They, in turned, raised their younger siblings and now are married with little children of their own. We told them our story of the extra money and that we would like to help them buy the land. Then they wouldn't have to rent the land and they would be free to keep loving and leading and providing for those little ones.
The women were expressionless. Then one covered her eyes with her hand and quietly revealed, "We are speechless. No one has ever helped us like this."
The other one said, "Now we can buy flip flops, and food, and toys. This money will be well used."
But we said, "Oh wait! We forgot! We have some of those things to give you also!" A suitcase full of donated flip flops sat unopened in the back bedroom, forgotten in the other give-aways. Out it came! And there was another one! Full of knitted dolls and little toy cars and trucks! And here are some little dresses!
The women's eyes widened in amazement and wonder as they looked upon all that had been gifted to them on that day.
Their smiles brightened as the realization came upon them that the money donated could truly go for land and that the other needs would be taken care of, in part, by our donated items.
So we prayed and thanked God for what had happened that day.
Not only had the love of God been proclaimed, it had been shown visibly through money, clothes, shoes, and toys.
Prayer. Provision. God's great Love: the "winning" combination for turning hearts, minds and lives to the living God.
Brian and I feel so thankful to have been a part of this unfolding story of God's love shown in such a tangible way.