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mozambique

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.

Why do you want to go?

FaithDeane Watters4 Comments

2016-07-05_0011We 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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

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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.

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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!

 

feeding the hungry

FaithDeane Watters1 Comment

Last Wednesday night we invited our church people to come and eat chili. "Would you come, eat our chili and make a donation? We want to go to Mozambique and we need help to go! It is a poor country and there are many hungry people there. We plan to go into some of the villages to give them food. They are hungry and we will bring packets of rice to give them so they will be able to eat."

The invitation was sent out and the chili, cornbread, plates of vegetables/dip, garlic bread, toppings, and cookies (lots of cookies) came in.  The tables were prepared and 5:00 arrived.  We were ready for the hungry to come; the ones wanting to eat our chili.

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Soon they started to arrive. Greeted at the door by our team leader, Kathy Knight, they found one who offered a huge grin. "Thank you for coming! Bring in your hungry family and feast on our delicious food! We are so thankful you are here."

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Couples, families of all sizes, kids, singles, relatives, friends and many more started coming through the door. They were hungry and eager to hear about our trip, to eat and to give money toward this important work.

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Kathy got up as they were eating to inform the crowd about what we were planning to do with our ten days in Mozambique. Telling them that we would be ministering to the poor in this impoverished  country. That we'd be praying for the AIDS widows in the villages and giving them quilts made by First Lutheran quilters here in Cedar Rapids. That we'll be taking soup to the sick in the hospital and praying for their recovery and gathering women to paint their toes and share with them the hope we have in Christ. Our young men will speak with young men. Our women will gather with women.  While sitting in their church we'll rejoice that our church helped pay for their building. We'll dance and sing with joy at the beauty of a shared faith and hope in Christ.2016-04-11_0003

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I got up and shared a little story from when I traveled to Mozambique several years ago with another team from Maranatha. I told them how we gave the women little bags with jewelry donated by our friends and family and when they opened the bags they broke out in singing and dancing! It was unreal standing in the midst of these joyful women, ones who are often hungry, who had walked a long distance to meet with us, who had their stomachs filled with rice and dried fish, eaten with their fingers; the same rice and fish we, the team, ate with our fingers. The moment felt like pure worship and it changed me to witness these hungry women so overjoyed with their small gifts.

Our evening at Maranatha was nearly over. The savory chili was mostly gone, a few scoops left in the bottom of the many crock pots, one left half full.  But..

As I sat down after telling my little story, another hungry one took me aside. In the hallway she explained that she lived in the neighborhood, had just moved from Texas, and did I know anywhere she and her husband and three grandchildren could find some food? She must have slipped in the door when I was up front and didn't notice that the hungry stood among us.

I looked at her, this grandmother, a tooth missing, wearing an oversized sweater, asking for food. Hungry, trying to provide food for her babies who's mother was in prison...

"Of course," I said! "We have food!" And took her out to the main room and asked the girls to fix her up. A box was found and food was packaged up. All the scoops of leftover chili, corn bread, garlic bread, toppings, vegetables and lots of cookies. "Let's pray!" Kathy joyfully called out, and several gathered around "Elizabeth" and prayed that God would send her the help she needed, the jobs they were applying for, the food they were desperate for and the love she longed for in Him.

I escorted her to my car, stopped by Jim's Foods for a couple of gallons of milk and dropped her off at her house, my work done for the evening.

I couldn't help marveling though. Isn't this just like God? While we were feeding the hungry so we could go to Mozambique to feed the hungry, He sent us a hungry one from our neighborhood to love on and to feed!

Jesus tells us in Matthew 25, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."

Did Jesus show up last Wednesday night to bless us and to show us how satisfying it is to feed the hungry? To show us Himself so we could remember it is He who comes to us in the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison? To remind us that we have all kinds of hunger all around us and that there are many ways to feed that hunger?

Dear God, thank you for sending Elizabeth at just the right time on Wednesday night. I pray that you are taking care of her and that she got the job she was hoping for and that she is keeping her babies nourished. Thank you for letting us be the ones to feed her from the overflow of the bounty you provided for us. Send her back to us on Sunday morning so her soul may be filled with the truth of your unfailing love. Thank you also for providing much needed funds for our mission to Mozambique. Those hungry folks gave so we can go and feed more hungry folks. And as more hungry people in our neighborhood show up, may we continue  to show grace, generosity and joyful humility in finding them what they need. After their stomachs are full, they might be open to hearing more about You and we'll be here to share it with them.

Thank you, Maranatha, for your generous contributions for our trip.($4,300!!!) If others are eager to share in the blessing of the hungry in Mozambique, call our church office to find out how to do just that. 319-362-8784 Or leave me a message in the comments. I'll get back to you.