Posted in Crossing Cultures, living in their world, Mozambique, thankful and grateful, willing hands

Chopi-Land

Thanks be to God, the work has begun in what we affectionately now call “Chopi-Land” (Show-pea land). It’s much like Disneyland, only way more fun. 😉

The term Chopi-land emerged out of an extremely simple desire to keep track of where Matt was headed each day. And since names of places here are a little complicated to translate back to you all there in the States, Chopi-land it is.

Who are the Chopi? Well for those of you catching up on this amazing rollercoaster adventure with us, they are our assigned unreached, unengaged people group here in Mozambique. Let me start by unpacking that for a minute so we’re all on the same page. The Chopi are a local people group of over a million strong that are, thus far, only found in Mozambique. They are a branch of a southern Mozambique native mother language and therefore we often classify people (just to merely keep track of the vastly different people groups in the world) by the language they speak. That being said, if you step foot in southern Mozambique and ask where the Chopi life you will be looked at like you have 3 heads. You know… just throwing that out there out of a mere hypothetical situation and not cause some overly-excited missionary lady might have said that once in a conversation here in M. Ha! But, all that to be said, the Chopi are here and cover a happily HUGE 4-5 hour span of land here in southern Mozambique.

Ok, so let’s move onto the unreached, unengaged part. That part is decently simple to explain. Unreached means there is not a significantly impactful evangelical presence in the Chopi community. Unengaged means there is not anything currently really being done to reach the Chopi with the Gospel.

… Until now…. 😉 Just kidding. We don’t have that kind of influence. Ha! But God totally does!

So let me give you a happy praise report for those of you whom have yet to hear:

God blessed our first steps into the community with an open government-affiliated leader who showed us an area far off the “beaten path” that had been asking for a church presence. Yeah, you read that right, the Chopi were already asking for a church presence when we got there. That’s the hand of God for you right there.

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With some compliance paperwork completed to protect the people there and make sure we were working within government regulations for religious groups, Matt was given a contact of a man there who could help translate (since we have yet to learn the Chopi dialect) and Matt was able to meet with the local leader “Father” of the particular area. There Matt began making visits as we prayed for people of peace to help us bridge into the community. Due to the nature of the work, Matt was our wonderful primary leg into the community and the girls and I remained behind to pray. Matt took M’s Baptist church pastor with him since the local congregation here in M had and continue to want to share in the work there in Chopi-land.

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The girls and I got the chance to come to a community-wide meeting in which we introduced ourselves, explained our beliefs and answered the many theological questions before the community all voted and agreed to the evangelistic work that lay ahead.

From visits, Matt was able to launch a weekly bible study where he started walking through Creation to the Ressurection of Christ during two visits per week. Matt intentionally chose not to offer a time of response as he etched through the full Gospel in order to make sure the whole thing was fully understood. Over the process of 10 weeks, Matt and many times the M pastor or other brothers in the Lord here in M traveled down to Chopi-land.

 

Then we were able to have a team of two gentlemen from the States come share some time with us here in Chopi-land as their church prays over possibly adopting the Chopi through persistent prayer. God gave us the opportunity to spend a Saturday together there in Chopi-land investing in the community, playing games with the kids, sharing testimonies the adults, eating together and then watching the Jesus Film together all huddled together under the African stars. The film was presented in the Mother language, not Chopi, but a language that is more fully understood by all ages that were present.

The following week, when Matt returned to the regular teaching time, he brought along the Pastor from M2 Baptist church an hour north of M as well as the return of our team leader from the capital. And that day after M2 Pastor shared his testimony of turning from his own cultural ways to receive Christ as his Savior and Christ’s radical change of his heart, the entire group under the power of the Holy Spirit cried out to receive Christ. The group was divided into three sections and each person was counseled and walked through receiving Christ. There were tears of repentance, talk of casting off old cultural ways and desperate cries for guideance on how to now live in close relationship with our Father. Twenty-three people fell on their faces before the Lord and sincere Holy-Spirit inspired brokenness over sin resulted in a new family of Christ there in Chopi-land.

When Matt returned for the following study, two more came and received the Lord as their Savior.

We’re not a numbers kind of couple. We find it an honor to be here, even if just one more would come to know Him, it is worth having left it all in the States and having spent a year pulling our hair out learning Portuguese so we could speak through a translator to share the Gospel with even one Chopi (or seriously anyone down here, but the focus of this post today is the Chopi). But we are beyond floored, BEYOND FLOORED, that God would allow us to be a part of twenty-five new brothers and sisters in the faith. We don’t deserve such an honor.

I just got back today from a day out in Chopi-land with the girls. We shared in the lessons a bit today as we walked through the Creation story again as we’re now starting to have them learn the stories in an effort to share them with others. And I just have to say, that group out there is an absolute blast! They are just so ridiculously joyful. They absolutely ate up the Creation story, laughing and giving their all to try so hard to remember each day of Creation. Oh how they laughed and cheered each other on as Matt called on volunteers from the group to retell each day. How they eagerly listened and asked questions.

In the video above, a national is recounting the story from last week that Matt taught the group.

It helps many times to write cues in the sand to keep things straight in recalling stories.

Here is Matt involving the girls by using them as props for the telling of the first seven days of creation. They were great sports and it really helped everyone to visualize the days as distinctive and separate. Plus it was just fun for all involved. What I did not catch on video was when those from the group came up individually and touched each volunteer’s head as they physically walked through the days of creation. The girls were such willing volunteers, even though they ended up “standing” up there for a good 35 minute lesson when it was all said and done. On the way home, they each reported that their favorite part of the time down in Chopi-land was getting to participate in the storying. We plan on sending Matt with creation numbers and a few simple drawings to aid in the review of the seven days of creation next week. =) Here you get a feel for how the community storying time is very interactive as meaning is clarified and all questions are welcomed. It’s a blessing to see how willing the Chopi are to learn the stories and how much they want to learn them well to share with others.

(This video clip has nothing to do with the Chopi but has everything to do with the realities of serving as a family. Here as people slowly trickle in before the study began, the girls were enjoying singing and frolicking about, to the enjoyment of those there. With each new participant, the girls would stop and greet them. =) I’m thankful for the opportunities to serve as a family… even when a piece of tree bark is unwelcome in a watering eye. 😉 )

*Please pray for the Chopi, that the Lord would grow their hearts in their hunger for Him.

*Pray for Him to continue to bless their committing to memory these stories as they begin to walk through retelling Creation through Christ’s Return for themselves.

*And please pray as they wade through the fight against flesh and culture, as they cast off old lifestyles and learn to have the mind of Christ.

*And by all means fall on your knees with us and thank the Lord, thank Him so for all that He is already doing in the lives of these 25 new believers who are HUNGRY for His words. The Life on their faces is quite a thing to behold!

Oh praise the One who paid my debt and raised this life up from the dead!

Posted in celebrating life, Crossing Cultures, Mozambique, thankful and grateful, willing hands

Cupping a Treasure

We laughed about how the road had deteriorated from the rain as the car leaned to the right on the sandy back-roads. We squeaked past the sideways growing coconut tree, forming an uncomfortably close “bridge” over the only passable part of the road. We rounded the government building, proudly displaying the Mozambique flag on it’s flag pole. How interesting to find the government building out there, tossed right into a neighborhood. I wondered which one came first as we pulled off and parked near the woven palm-branch fence.

Out came four little girls, bounding down the familiar path. “I can’t see him,” they strained to look past the laundry dancing in the breeze. She used a broken piece of a mirror as she picked and styled her hair with the little one cooing on the mat at her feet. Her smile was huge when she caught glimpse of the girls bounding past the clean diapers on the line.

She jumped up to grab us chairs. The girls all went straight to the mat to coo at the baby. “Isn’t he so cute?” They called out his name, let him grab their fingers and his whole face radiated with delight when he focused on their faces. I love that our stories are so inter-twined. I still remember that phone call at nearly midnight. How Matt drove our guard and his wife to the hospital in time to welcome their first child. And this little guy there at all our feet, how we all rejoiced at his welcome to our world. How we celebrated his first day at church when we could all marvel at his little precious self that God had given us all, his community.

Shoes were instantly flung aside as the girls dug into the sand with their toes and found some stray items with which to start an adventure. Mountains were formed in the sand, paths etched out by an unrecognizable metal object they found, and they proceeded to frolic about in the “yard”, adhering to the natural boundaries of the beaten dirt borders.   

There was no agenda. No necessity to our visit. No business to discuss. And suddenly I realized that we had arrived at the very moment in which I had yearned for over a year of language learning. We were just visiting friends. Here in our home city. And it just was normal. 

We were rolling with laughter over stories of learning to drive the stick-shift on the opposite side of the road here in Moz. We listened to shared life challenges and encouraged this dear sister. We bounced from topic to topic as we passed around the baby. Oh that smile he imitates. It’s almost as addicting as just being there, with our friend, doing the normal together.

And when the time came, we walked together to our car, saying goodbye along the way. Four girls bounded to give hugs and say goodbye to our friends. One hug for my friend. One hug for the baby. They waited patiently as they made eye contact with him before they said goodbye. Promises to come again soon and “See you in a few days” were exchanged. Windows were rolled down as the girls waved to a group of kids nearby the car as we backed up. Smiles exchanged and a little greeting. Eden cupping a treasure in her hand as she bounced in the back seat. 

I uttered a prayer of thanksgiving on our drive home. Thankful for my friend, praying our friendship would grow stronger. And thankful for her wonderful little baby. And four little girls who my friend just adored watching gawk over her son. Thankful that Eden had felt comfortable enough to stumble over asking in Portuguese if she could bring home a fake earring pearl that she had found in my friend’s yard. How Rachael had smothered that little baby in love and kept him content for thirty solid minutes. How he just lit up watching her face, locking eyes and using every ounce of his energy down to his toes to coo at our Rachael. And just how the time flew until it felt like we were leaving far too soon despite the passing time.

How richly He blesses us. What a beautiful Body of Christ we find.

Right here on the deteriorating sandy back-roads

In our Mozambique.

Posted in celebrating life, Crossing Cultures, enjoying life, living in their world, Mozambique

Dança, Dança!

(Title translated: Dance, Dance!)

Minhas pequenas Moçambicanas (My Little Mozambicans).

[Boa noite, Irmã Suzana! Minhas filhas tem uma canção para você e nossa familiares lá em Quelimane!]

(Translation of song: Hallelujah, Hallelujah we are saved in Jesus.)

Éden está dançando como uma moçambicana… ou quase…

(Eden is dancing like a Mozambican… well, sort of. Hehehe)

Posted in Crossing Cultures, honesty, life friends, the Cost of Love

When You Let Go of Your Last Known Embrace

It’s really hard to process. I don’t even really know where to start.

Part of me wants to go back home and hide and pretend like we will see each other again next year or the year afterward.

While the other part has a stinging that’s hard to put into words.

It’s just so hard to possibly explain to you how bittersweet it is to have other missionary friends.

Like not just the kind who live in the same town as you by the mere grace of God, but the kind that live literally ALL over the world.

And then to make it worse, there’s the kind that are returning to the States because their shorter term mission is nearly complete and the whole rest of their lives is about to unfold.

I feel like they should come with some kind of a warning label. Something that reads like, “I’m amazing, but I’m also going to rip your heart out when you realize we will probably never live in the same part of the world. Ever. But we absolutely will have to be friends.”

Oh man, it’s that kind of stuff that I just don’t even know how to process.

I have never had a file for that. That kind of box just does not exist in my world.

Oh the plight of missionary friends. Missionary friends that are amazing. Absolutely “kindred spirit” amazing. Their passion for the Lord, their burning fire for sharing His Word in even the hardest of places, their sharing of Scriptures and times that God just presses into them and drives them to deeper layers of faith, their hysterical laughter over the ironies of life, their shared resilience that just pushes and encourages you so. Oh man, why do they have to be such a blessing?!

You know, like if they weren’t such a wonderful family it wouldn’t hurt so much to say, “See you ‘later.” When all the while we both want to leave the conversation on the note of “you never know what meeting He could orchestrate in the future,” our hearts ache within us at the thought that He just might not orchestrate a time to see each other again.  No one wants to even say it. But it catches in both of our throats as we walk away. You return to your country and me to mine. Please, Lord, may that not have just been the last time I get to see them on this side of Heaven.

And THIS is why I feel like they should come with a warning label, people! Ugh. It rips your heart out.

Like think about it, our distance, friends and family, is intense. I don’t really like to think about it. I still like to feel like we live in your backyard. You know, just your very large, kind of wild backyard. 😉 And while the distance feels almost too much to bear sometimes, there’s a comfort that we can both rest in at the end of the day. Lord willing, we have every plan to come back. We have a time to look forward to when we will grab you up in our arms. We know where to find each other. For now we find each other online, but come our Stateside assignment, we get to find each other side by side for a beautiful season. A beautifully “promised” season. (I put that promise in quotes but don’t be scared, anyone. I’m just trying to learn not to speak in 100% definites if it’s not found in Scripture. I’m not the planner here, just the willing tool in His hands. So while that’s the game plan on absolutely everyone’s radar, God holds the ultimate trump card in His Sovereign hand and I want to be yielding, even in passing speech, to whenever and wherever He would lead.)

But for my international missionary friends, there’s no reunion hanging out there. No lingering meeting to hold in our hearts on the “the distance is too far” days. We’re not even on the same continent, some of us! How in the world would we ever even cross paths?!!

I can’t explain to you how this fact about our lives feels. Because in all honesty, I don’t even have words for it. It’s that lump caught in my throat when I think about it. That thing that makes my eyes hit the floor sometimes cause it’s too intense of a hurt to put words to.

Oh my, but how beautiful it is. How incredibly beautiful to have precious hearts literally all over the world sharing in the same drive. The same devotion. As much as Mozambique becomes even on your radar, friends and family, because we live here, there is an endless list of countries that pop off the map for us too because we have “family” living there. Serving there. Pouring out there. And a piece of our hearts are with them.

That’s just how we’re wired.

And it hurts to let go of the last embrace known to us. And it hurts to take that first step in the opposite direction that they’re going, wondering if your footsteps will ever line up again while here on earth.

But you can’t possibly keep from loving them. It’s just not even fathomable. They’re family. They’re precious.

And part of you is just overwhelmingly proud to call them family. Overwhelmingly delighted to encourage them in their pursuit of spreading the Gospel to the very ends of the earth.

There’s just no words for how proud and honored you are to call them family. Just like there’s just no words for how much it hurts…

when you let go of your last known embrace.

Posted in Crossing Cultures, God's heart, Hope, JOY, my heart, Overwhelmingly Thankful

But For All Eternity

 

There’s no Christmas lights on houses. No tinsle. Not even Christmas trees. There’s no discounted decorations. No Christmas music playing in stores. No desirable presents to buy and wrap for expectant kids. There’s no sledding. No cold winter walks. No snow. Nothing that points to a familiar Western Christmas scene. Nothing here that even points toward the Christmas season.

That’s what it’s like to live in the seed-planting phase on the mission field. Where Christmas doesn’t even seem to exist. (Kind of like the first Christmas, I would imagine.) The “first feet on the ground”. We are literally two of a small handful of Christians swimming up a stream of 100,000+ people. When Matt and I stood up in church to receive communion with the other baptized believers in the church, we stood alone with a visiting pastor. In a congregation of about twenty (and that was on a good day!), we stood alone as baptized believers in our city.

‘Ok then, let’s get started!’

It’s the proclamation phase. The proclamation of the Good News to those inside of the church building because clearly there is much to be certain of in a foundation of the very basics. And the standing on the figurative street corner outside of the church calling out from the depths of your toes to a passing sea of faces.

“Noel, Noel! Come and see what GOD has done!”

 

It’s not just some story. A folktale. A feel good slice of religion for the weak.

It is a piercing light that breaks through the suffocating darkness surrounding us all. It is a promise of a God-man who stepped out of his place of honor into the filth and terror of this world.

This God-man who humbled Himself into the form of a needy babe that we could have the opportunity to be reconciled to a God we, as all of humanity, were actively, and still are, choosing to deny.

It’s a God-man that steps into the middle of egos, desperation, pride, selfishness, manipulation, corruption, hate, abuse, assumed self-sufficiency, deception, and a whole host of all our dirty laundry. The God-man that comes for the purpose of stretching out His arms to take the gut-wrenching blows in our place.

 

“Noel.

Noel.

The Light of the World given for us!”

 

He didn’t just leave us in the middle of our unraveling chaos.

No, beloved, instead –

Come. And see what God has done!”

 

May His Good News sweep through this home, this community, and this world,  breaking the Light of Hope into the hearts of those surrounding all of us.

It’s a story that changes absolutely everything. Not just for a season, but for all eternity.

 

“The story of AMAZING LOVE!

The Light of the World, given for us.”

May we never be the same.

Never.