In the last couple of blog posts, I've shared some details about Jim and my recent get-away to Stark-Vegas and Memphis. Today, I'm sharing details from a different sort of get-away. One of the ways that We Will Go spreads the light of God is through frequent mission trips to other parts of the world. Just this year alone, there are plans to take folks to Mexico, India, Micronesia, Turkey, and Peru. Mozambique is another place that will be visited, twice in fact, this year. I came across this blog post written by our ministries director, Nancy Flowers, when she was in Mozambique on a mission trip this past summer. I loved all the bits and pieces of African life that she included as well as God truth and thought you might enjoy this bit of vicarious travel, too.
A Trip into Town
June 11, 2012 – Pemba, Mozambique
After spending the morning with the widows, we plan to go into to town. Downtown Pemba. For groceries. Amy has given us a list which I am happy about because it includes coffee. I haven’t had coffee since the Atlanta airport days ago.
The town isn’t far from the mission base but we have no transportation and it is too far to walk. David’s plan is to try to get some cabs, and as he is trying to figure out how that will work because, Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore, a smiling man steps through the gate at the visitors’ center. David obviously knows this man, as they shake hands and visit. I am introduced to him and learn that he is Peter Wilcox. I have heard of the Wilcox family and am very glad to meet him. He wonders what we are doing this afternoon and we tell him of our going-to-town plans. His smile grows, though I wonder how such a thing is possible.
“I’m headed into town right now,” he says in his merry Australian accent. “I’m happy to take you.”
I look over at his vehicle. A Toyota pick-up truck, one of those small ones. It does have a backseat, but in my American seat-belt-for-every-person mind I wonder how eleven grown people will fit. David is thrilled and calls our group together. In moments we are miraculously stuffed in and Peter throws the truck into reverse. This is my first clue that driving in Mozambique is much different from driving in the USA. Five people inside the truck’s cab means that six are in the truck’s bed. With the spare tire.
Peter and his wife Debbie are expecting baby #7 in their late 40s. Their oldest are twins, young ladies also serving as missionaries, one of which will be marrying in October. I imagine the life changes of having the newest child in August followed by the wedding of the oldest. Peter tells us the story of how he and Debbie married.
They have both been missionaries always. Peter was serving on a mission field far from his parents’ home, while Debbie was serving with an organization that brought her into contact with Peter’s parents. In fact, she became very close to them. Peter met Debbie on one of his trips home, but thought nothing of it. Not long after they met, his mission organization encouraged him to get married. He’d reached the ripe old age of 23 and it was time for a wife. Peter had no idea where to start. He’d been on the mission field, not exactly a place filled with marriageable young women. His supervisor pressed him. “Don’t you know somebody you could start a relationship with?” It was then that Peter remembered Debbie. And the rest is history.
I hear the six team members in the bed of the truck. They laugh and sometimes yell as Peter maneuvers the rough Pemba streets. No doubt their backsides are getting a pounding. I see another truck next to us that has at least 25 people in the bed. As the light changes from red to green, I see a couple more Mozambican men hop into the now-moving truck. And I was thinking that 6 in the back of our Toyota was too many. I am so American.
We have made it to town, and Peter lets us out. I’m hoping Amy scheduled some time for us to get to know this family. She has told me much about them, and I long for the chance to hear what a life of missions work is like. I’ve been a missionary for such a short time; I have so much to learn. We spill out of the small truck and thank Peter. In the twenty minutes we’ve spent with him his smile hasn’t faded.
Some of the girls in our group want to convert their cash into mets, so Jonathan takes them into a small business sandwiched in between some other unrelated businesses. We women are wearing long skirts to cover our knees, but I see some school girls in shorter skirts. In this part of Africa, the knees are considered the sexual part of a woman’s body. Not only must the knees be covered, but the outline of the knees must be covered as well. No pants or leggings. Just long skirts. While our culture considers breasts to be sexual, knees are the part to cover here. Breasts are for feeding babies in this culture and women here breastfeed openly. I ask Sarah about the school girls and their above-the-knee skirts, and she tells me that this newer generation is breaking from tradition. We came prepared to cover our knees. I am glad to be here during Pemba’s winter. The temperature on this winter day is probably around 80 degrees Fahrenheit and my long skirt makes me hot. I can only imagine what this would feel like in the summer.
Driving on the left side of the road, 25+ Mozambicans in the bed of a truck, temperature measured in Celsius rather than Fahrenheit, gas purchased in litres, skirts to cover my knees. So different from America.
We walk toward a market that sells fresh vegetables. We’re looking for something to cook that we can put over some spaghetti noodles. The group looks to me because I cook, and I examine the vegetable table to review the available options. I decide on onions, peppers, tomatoes, green beans, and limes. The limes are small like key limes with a yellowish tint. I spot some avocadoes that will be wonderful on sandwiches for lunch tomorrow. David and I discuss how many of each item we need and he turns to Jonathan. “We’re ready,” he says to his boy.
Jonathan steps up to haggle with the owners of the vegetable stand and it is a thing of beauty. He is 18 years old, 13,000 miles from home, and he doesn’t speak the language, and yet he is clearly seasoned in the fine art of bargaining. He shows disgust at the appropriate moment. He stops the guys from slipping some extra produce as they weigh each item. He gets them to their lowest price and then asks to go lower. He finally settles on a price he can live with and we bag everything up. I want to get bananas for dessert and we step over to another vendor. African bananas are small and I’m hoping they have a similar flavor to the small bananas I ate on a trip to Mexico a couple of years ago. More intense banana taste and a creamier texture than the bananas I usually buy at home. There is more haggling to do so Jonathan steps up. The vendor has already bagged up a bunch and he hands them to me. I take the bag in hand. Reflex action. Jonathan’s haggling is done. “Once you touch it,” he tells me, “they consider it sold.” We pay and go, and I marvel at this teenager’s grasp of foreign customs. And I can’t help but think that it seems more important to be able to haggle at the market than to actually speak the language. Just sayin.
We find a place to buy a cold drink before we head off to finish the Amy List. First stop is a place that looks to me like a store housed in somebody’s garage. We walk up a rough gravel driveway and enter the store on its side. Unlike the grocery stores I’m familiar with, this store has its good behind a plexiglass wall. We look around for what we need and communicate this to the guys behind the counter. They retrieve our items for us. Stealing is a mega-problem in this third-world city, and this method of dispensing groceries seems to be working. We buy shelf-stable milk and juice, raw sugar, tomato paste, and a few other things that will be less expensive here than at our next stop. The coffee available is Ricoffee, an instant coffee with chicory. Not the brewed coffee I was hoping for, but coffee nonetheless.
The streets of Pemba look battle-scarred, the effects of twenty years of civil war. Though the country gained independence when they drove out the Portuguese, there is still no government structure in place to manage the country, its people, and its resources. Even the sidewalks have potholes. There are no city garbage cans anywhere, so we dodge the random piles of trash and stinky garbage along our walk to the next store. Dirty streets seem to be a trademark of hopelessness. Nobody cares enough to pick it up.
Our next stop looks more like the grocery stores I’m used to, but I learn the prices are higher. A large package of sliced cheese is the US equivalent of $20! We put it back and get a smaller package. Peanut butter, jam, seasoning for our veggies, and we’re on our way.
Jonathan’s haggling skills shine as he negotiates 3 cabs for our ride back to the base at 100 mets each.
Our veggie stir-fry over spaghetti noodles is some real Adventure Cooking. The visitor hut has a tiny stove and the light in the kitchen is out, so we’re really winging it. David uses his phone to give me more light. We add the tomato paste and squeeze the limes over the simmering vegetables. Someone went to the base cafeteria for rice, apparently thinking there is someone on our team who is craving more rice. David uses some of the spaghetti noodles to make macaroni and cheese. Our bountiful feast is amazing. We bless it and dig in. No leftovers tonight. I pass out bananas for dessert, no dishes needed. Jonathan eats his in the hammock which he has attached to the support poles in the hut, making him the centerpiece of the room. Even though we didn’t have meat in our supper, we are mindful that most of the people in Pemba will not eat this well tonight.
Julie Meyer, a worship leader from the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, is visiting Pemba as well, and she leads worship tonight in the big school hut. She shares a vision the Lord has given her involving the media, and how He is releasing ideas for screenplays and books and songs. That word is for me, as I am eagerly expecting Him to bring about the vision He has given me for We Will Go Media, which will produce all of those things to encourage Christ followers in their faith.
The longer I walk with God the more I see complacency, discouragement, conformity to the world, and rebellion among Christians. These are not new issues, nor are they unique to our generation. The Gospels are full of Jesus’ words to those professing a belief in God, and His words are strong. “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Matt. 7:19) Jesus doesn’t say the tree is dead or that it is not bearing some kind of fruit. He is looking for the trees that bear good fruit; all other trees, even lush green trees, will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
The Lord has convicted me of being busy with activities that are good but not of Him. It is all too easy for us to get caught up in doing good deeds while our faith dries up. Without faith, Hebrews 11:6 tells us, it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him. Without an active and growing faith, how can we even believe in God? Especially in a culture that is so unbelieving? We live in a world that tries to explain and tolerate and excuse the things of God when God asks us to simply believe in Him. And He has asked me to tell the stories of those with this active and growing, even rugged, faith to encourage His people to be steadfast, to press on, to be strong. Do not quit. Ever.
Being on this trip has been busy with activities and I desperately need time to pray through what He is showing me. I can hardly wait for tomorrow morning as I fall asleep praying.
To read more about this amazing adventure God has called Nancy to live, visit her blog: http://nancyhflowers.wordpress.com/