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children's relief international

The Winning Combination

FaithDeane Watters3 Comments

"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.

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Soon we learned our mission there. It was to lean down, touch those dear children, and pray.

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"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."

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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.

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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.

Things I learned in Mozambique, part one

FaithDeane Watters4 Comments

This past month my husband and I traveled with a team from our church to Mozambique, Africa for two weeks of work through Children's Relief International. Pastor Jeronimo Cessito and his wife, Noemia, national missionaries, had a heart for their poverty stricken country and its people and started this mission, now called Ray of Light project. As you can imagine, this country is very different from our own in just about every way imaginable. There was much to learn during our time there.

  1. People are being called to help in Africa. 2016-08-04_0025After boarding at Atlanta  and getting settled on the plane that would take us over the Atlantic Ocean for 15 1/2 hours, we found ourselves surrounded by many fellow passengers. Early in the flight I noticed that the man sitting next to me was getting out his Bible and making notes on a small yellow legal pad. Sure enough, he was a Christian, with a team of people from his church traveling to Zimbabwe to participate in a three week mission to help build houses and lead Bible schools with the kids. Their energy matched our own in anticipation of what they would experience in the coming weeks. On our way home, two weeks later, I found myself sitting next to a high school student named Hannah, just finishing up a month long mission trip to Swaziland with a group of fifteen girls. From these two encounters, I concluded that God is moving in Africa. He's sending folks from America to serve and help in this work. This compelled me to believe that there is a bigger plan out there and somehow we are being allowed to be a part of it.
  2. Life is not fair. Psalm 139 has always been a comfort to me. Verse 16 reports, All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. In my naive little "easy" life I have always pictured this as a positive narrative; those days were surely intended to be good! But in observing such extreme poverty, my understanding of that verse has expanded. Many people suffer greatly. 2016-08-04_0002 2016-08-04_0003The days ordained for them are not pretty, hopeful or pleasant. I find this hard to understand or to face. Searching farther into scripture I find that God is "near to the brokenhearted,"as in Psalm 34. Jesus  declared from Isaiah 61 that he was anointed "to preach the good news to the poor" and "to bind up the brokenhearted." Even the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31 "opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy." After meeting Domingos and hearing his story (which I will tell another time) I feel hopeful that God does indeed see their suffering and is allowing opportunities for people to come to their aid until they are able to stand on their own. This is God's way. Are we listening? Are we stepping up to the opportunity to be Him to people in need?2016-08-04_0014
  3. Mentoring changes lives. Todd and Christa Bush and their two children opened their home to our team for our eleven day stay.  Part of their work with CRI is to be in Mozambique managing summer teams that come to participate in the compelling work there. Todd is a master story teller and through his heartfelt narration we got an inside view of the powerful influence this ministry has and the emotional roller coaster they ride while working with these outstanding people. Five young Mozambican men served as translators to teach us about their culture and to enable us to communicate well.2016-08-07_0001    2016-08-07_00022016-08-07_0005  2016-08-07_0003 2016-08-24_0002Jerimias, Gerson, Torcatos, Rafa and Max carefully kept an eye on us, laughed with us and undoubtedly shook their heads a few times at our "American" ways. But these young men have come to trust Christ and have committed themselves to getting an education and making the future of Mozambique stronger. Really. After getting to know these guys, I realized that there is hope for Mozambique! These are quality men burdened for their country, striving to make a difference in the lives of their people. One is studying at the University to become a doctor, another, a civil engineer and several want to become teachers of English. One of the ministries, Spark of Hope, founded by Ercylio Dos Santos Greva took the sport of handball and turned it into an opportunity to bring young boys in and offer them a place to belong, some One to believe in and to embrace a vision for their future. Many times over we witnessed the power of relationship, love, commitment, belief and hope.
  4. The Gospel plus food provides a clearer picture of God's goodness. We knew before leaving for Africa that this country had been burdened by a severe drought. People's gardens had produced little in the dry growing period and much suffering had ensued. So we asked some of our family and friends to donate money so we could help alleviate a bit of their hunger. We added to what was given and together we took over $7,000.00 and sent it ahead of us. Bags of rice were purchased and food distributions were set up. The first was at the Dondo Baptist Church on a Sunday evening. People who attended that morning got a little card that they were able to trade for a sack of rice. That evening, anticipation was high as we entered the church. Brian got up and greeted them telling them that God had heard their prayers and we were so excited to deliver his "Yes" to them. I prayed and thanked God for hearing the cries of his people and for providing for them in this way. And the distribution began. Orderly and joyful. People went home able to fill their bellies with a bowl of rice that night. There was much singing and praising throughout the evening. We were privileged to do this five times! Once in a community of orphaned children who were raising their younger siblings. 2016-08-04_0011Another to a group of blind people, 2016-08-04_00182016-08-04_0006plus two church plants in the bush. 2016-08-04_0017 Each time we were greeted by beautiful people singing and worshiping with joy. I'd look at Brian and say, "Can you believe we get to do this? God is letting us participate in this good work?" Then we would line up, receive a bag of rice, give it to the one whose name was called, and then turn for another bag. Often we got to pray for them afterwards. We felt so honored. One time there was rice left over when the list was complete and the neighborhood children were told to run home for a cup or a bowl and we would fill it with rice. In joy they ran home in hopes of getting a bit before the rice was gone. 2016-08-04_0020Oh, it filled our hearts with joy for those who took home a cup of rice...and then sadness for those who were too late.

Psalm 41:1 says, "Blessed is he who has regard for the weak..." I feel blessed to have walked among these people, to have had the opportunity to give them something to eat, to pray for them, to touch their hands and to smile into their eyes. I have been given much more than I gave. I have the assurance that God sees them, knows them, loves and calls them and he wants to use us in ways we never dreamed possible.

I, in turn, pray from Psalm 28, "Save your people and bless your inheritance; be their shepherd and carry them forever."