Note: Last week my husband and I (and three others) returned from 13 days in Mozambique, Africa, on a mission to bring food, blankets, and encouragement to the people still suffering after a devastating cyclone in March. For the next few weeks, I plan to share with you some of my memories from that trip. As you read my reflections, I hope you find them to be interesting and informative. Perhaps God will show you a bit more about how He works through His people in this amazing but complex world.
On March 14, 2019, Tropical Cyclone Idai hit Mozambique with a deadly fury. The people were warned of the coming storm but many scoffed at the idea until the winds started and the devastation began. Trees swayed and uprooted while tin roofs detached and became massive projectiles as dangerous as the storm itself. People living in mud houses found their walls melting and everything inside violently being whisked away. Every person feared for his/her life. They screamed out prayers, begging for relief. After the first surge, all became quiet so they thought it was over. But soon the next stage began, more intense and deadly than the first. They all thought they were going to die.
We knew about this cyclone. It played a monumental part in our decision to travel there. Leaders told us that the people were still hungry and cold. Their babies still needed blankets. Many were still waiting, living in camps hoping that homes could be built for them. Hunger was still crouching at many doors.
Reaching out, we asked people in our churches, along with family and friends, to help us gather money to buy bags of rice and blankets to be distributed by us, directly into the hands of those in need. We couldn’t feed them all but we could offer a bit of relief to the people of the church and the mission of Children’s Relief International, who is doing dynamic work in that area. People were generous! The thought of these already very poor people still in need after four months, moved many of us to share from our abundance. We raised $16,000 and could only thank God for stirring people to be generous toward those who have so little and have gone through so much.
Early in our visit, our team leader gathered a group of workers (Activistas) to let them tell their personal cyclone stories. These dear people work with Project Life, in the mission with Children’s Relief International. They gather regularly to study the Bible, pray and sing out their praises and then walk into the villages. They visit the homes of the 130 moms with new babies, making sure the babies are thriving, to pray over them, and to get help if it is needed. Over 370 widows with AIDS who live in the villages are also faithfully visited, ministered to, cared for and prayed over by these faithful workers. Prayer permeates this work. And these prayers are always accompanied by energetic dancing, clapping and praising.
At our little gathering the stories began:
Everyone suffered, they said. No one was safe. All feared for their lives. All cried out.
“Our house was destroyed,” Laurinha told us.
Maria spoke quietly, “No one got through this cyclone with nothing to complain about.”
Manuel gently reflected, “When you are with God you don’t only win. You lose also. Everyone was wondering, “How am I going to survive?” We started singing God is great. He protected our lives. If it wasn’t for Him we’d all be dead. We are thanking God we are still alive.”
Confidently Elisa commented, “Only God takes care of us. There is no one else.” Only her roof was destroyed and she praised God for that.
Adelina whispered, “The Lord is my Shepherd. He takes care of us. I thank God I am alive and I got a new house.”
Joalina emphasized that everything is in God’s hand. “What is impossible for us is possible for God. He protected us.”
Our team was amazed. Each of these godly faithful workers started their stories with some form of “I thank God because…” So much faith. So much love and praise for the God who sees, knows and loves His people.
After listening to the stories we celebrated God’s goodness with prayer, praise, cookies and bottles of pop! We gave these lovely people crosses made by Bob from our church. Each woman was gifted with a piece of donated jewelry and the men received ties donated by a neighbor of mine. We finished up by personally handing each of them a quilt made by the women at First Lutheran church here in Cedar Rapids.
What an afternoon.
Cyclones hit. Death is feared. Hunger sets in. But God is bigger than all that. He allowed these people an afternoon to voice their stories and receive a few gifts. It didn’t change anything but a bit of joy was felt and a huge amount of praise and thanksgiving resounded.
1 Corinthians 16:14 Let all you do be done in love.
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