Tuesday, April 30, 2013


After three days of bouncing through jungles on motorbikes under the punishing African sun, we had definitely earned a day off. On my last day in Quelimane, we had planned a day at Zalala Beach where we hoped to swim, relax, and chat about church life in Zambezia before leaving tomorrow. But this is Africa. And nothing in Africa ever goes as planned.

First of all, after days and days of endless sun, we woke up to pouring rain and dark, ominous skies. Secondly, LAM Airlines called this morning to say that they had pushed back my flight time the following day (just because they felt like it), which means I would miss my international flight back to the US if I didn't board a plane this afternoon instead. Their solution was to put me on a 3:30pm flight today and overnight me in Maputo before connecting with my international flight tomorrow. All of the sudden, I was leaving Zambezia, no beach, no relaxation, and no certainty about exactly what LAM had in mind when they said "overnight".

We arrived in Maputo and I waited and waited for them to issue a voucher for some unknown hotel where I would wait it out until I left for home.

And then I broke down.

I was homesick, exhausted, my body couldn't take it anymore, and I just knew that I'd end up in a rat-infested, hole-in-the-wall in the middle of nowhere with only critters to keep me company at night. Poor Ezequiel didn't know how to handle my blubbering, but he was very gracious and worked furiously to ensure that LAM got their act together and stopped making the white girl cry in the middle of the airport.

I was utterly shocked and amazed when we pulled up to the VIP Maputo Grand Hotel, which is a five star hotel much nicer than most places I've stayed in the US. I sprawled out in my air-conditioned room, took a hot bath, and had a complimentary, gourmet dinner on LAM's tab, and I thought to myself that somehow, God knew exactly what I needed in exactly this moment. After my Indiana Jones meets United Methodism adventures in the bush, this white girl needed a bath and a quiet room to herself. The Lord is gracious and compassionate; and even though we try to be very brave, and we deny that we are feeling weak, and we go where we are called, and we rarely complain (except for occasional crying in airports), God is always quick to wrap us up and manifest love in ways that we don't even know that we need.

Tomorrow I fly back to the States and I will be rested, full of gratitude, and forever changed by these last 18 days.

Location:Avenida 25 de Setembro,Maputo,Mozambique

Monday, April 29, 2013

Anna from Antioch

Today we visited another local church outside of the city of Quelimane called Antioch UMC. It's a satellite church of Fitimela UMC, and it is waaaaaayyyy off the main road, accessible only by foot and, much to my delight, motorbike. Through fields of tall grass as high as we were, we tunneled through a narrow, winding path on our motorbikes hoping we would find the church before we found hungry wild animals.

Upon our arrival at Antioch, I learned about the daily lives of the people here and how they have to dig holes in the sand in order to access tiny, underground springs for water. These holes that they dig are basically open wells that are easily contaminated and cause all kinds of health problems, but this is their only option. This community is next in line for a safe water well, and they were eager to share their need for safe water while educating me about their struggles.

I also saw their church building, of which half was recently destroyed by the terrible rains and flooding that hit this area very hard. They are slowly rebuilding their chapel made of sticks and mud, but they must do it piece by piece, since resources are so limited. The women were able to make charcoal and sell it to bring in a little bit of money for the tin sheets that make the roof.

After learning about their need and hearing about their seemingly insurmountable difficulties, I was given a great gift. Although meat is terribly expensive and only consumed on very rare and special occasions, I was given a live chicken along with bananas, sugar cane, and corn, as a way of honoring me as their special guest.

We picked a brilliant name, Anna (short for Antioch), strapped this bird to our bike, and rode off into the wind. I was completely humbled by this extravagant gift from a community gripped by extreme poverty, but more importantly, compelled by extreme generosity.

In Mozambique, apparently it's totally acceptable to bring a live chicken into your hotel restaurant and ask them to fix it up nice for you. For 100 meticais (a little more than 3 US dollars), that's exactly what they did. The hotel restaurant served up a mean Zambezia Style Anna, and we feasted as we thanked God for a beautiful and full day.


Sunday, April 28, 2013

Far-Flung Family

I have never, in all my life, been to a location as remote as where we were yesterday. In order to reach the small, satellite churches of Inhassunge UMC near Quelimane, our travel plan was downright insane. The Inhassunge area is completely isolated, blocked by an ocean and rivers on three sides. To reach these villages, we rented motorbikes, which were loaded onto a very full and precarious ferry boat. After crossing the river on the ferry among throngs of people, we arrived safely on the other side, unloaded our motorbikes, and headed into the jungle. We drove for a good hour, passing coconut groves, vast rice fields, and trees full of wild monkeys.

We have drilled 4 wells in these tiny communities, and it was my job to see to it that they were complete and water was flowing. I wanted to hear stories from the people who had received this water in order to learn more about their lives. My big plan was simply to listen and learn.

When I arrived, I was curious to see if this group of United Methodists had any context for a blond girl like me. As I polled the group, not one of them knew where the United States of America is located (let's not even bring up the state of Missouri), and only three had ever seen a white person in their lives. I was a spectacle to behold. Their kind-hearted and curious stares were evidence of our differences.

I say all of this not to point out how adventurous I am (although, truly, this work takes a "Dora the Explorer" kind of attitude), but to say that in this tiny village, so far from home, where I looked completely out of place, I was among family. I was welcomed into the lives of these beautiful people who share the faith that I call my own. We share the same gospel, we work for the same purposes, and our hope is in the same God.

On this epic day, we shared stories and laughed. They showed me their homes and how they cook their meals. They showed me how they collect water, and how the new safe water pump works. I learned how rice is harvested, dried, and shelled. I learned about my brothers and sisters, and I am a better person today for knowing them.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Missing the Boys

My team of travel buddies left for home this morning while I stayed behind in Maputo in order to continue up to Quelimane tomorrow. I was surprised when I got back to my room and found myself tearful and sullen. I'm sure it had to do with the fact that it was 6 in the morning, I was emotionally exhausted, and it has been a long journey thus far, but also, I was already missing my travel companions.

I must say that I was hesitant (to put it nicely) to lead a team of middle class, white men, and I thought for sure I'd find myself arm wrestling for power and listening to "mansplanations" of things that insulted my intelligence while demonstrating abnormally high levels of testosterone. Yvi and I, as both the youngest team members and the only two females, were nervous at best.

It didn't take long for me to discover that I was very wrong in these assumptions. Each one of these guys love God with all that they are and they love their neighbors as they love themselves. They give generously of their time, they overcome flying-induced panic attacks, they risk their comfort and health, they eat really weird things to make their hosts feel appreciated, they ride bikes with women in tiny villages to make them laugh, they engage in long conversations full of creativity, they take time to brainstorm and dream big, and they provide me both the guidance and freedom needed to spread my wings and fly. The individuals on this trip have been nothing short of amazing and inspiring. Each one sacrificed greatly to support me and more importantly, to support this ministry through this journey and beyond. I am grateful and missing them already. God speed, boys.

Location:Mateus Sansao Muthemba Road,Maputo,Mozambique

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Burning Hearts, Bobbing Heads

As we filed into the conference meeting room this morning and took our places around the long, boxed tables dimly lit by African fluorescents, I could visibly see the dread on everyone's faces. Here we were, Missourians and Mozambicans, all gearing up for that kind of tortuous meeting where you find yourself wanting to pull your fingernails out just to keep yourself from dying of boredom. We had all traveled great distances and were preparing to hunker down for a long and arduous day of business speak and professional talk. And indeed, we engaged in our fair share of business speak and professional talk.

But, in her hesitant and humble wisdom, rather than starting with business speak agenda item #1, our MI team chair, Yvi Martin, immediately derailed the boredom train by getting right to the heart of the matter. She started with reading the scripture about when Jesus revealed himself to his disciples right after his resurrection, "Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him...They said to one another, 'Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road?'" She asked us to talk in small groups about a time that we had experienced this divine burning.

And then it happened. Our hearts, in that dank and stuffy conference room, began to be strangely warmed. We heard stories of miraculous survival from war and stories of calling into the ministry. We heard stories of extravagant worship under mango trees and stories about being light in the darkness. Stories of how our great God lights us on fire and sets us ablaze, from the remotest mountain tops in Mozambique to the coolest hipster bars in St. Louis City. And while the business speak and professional talk still caused the room to fade into hazy, head-bobbing, and slightly embarrassed afternoon napping, our hearts were awakened within us and lit with the fire of purpose and unity.

Location:Avenida Oliveira Salazar,Beira,Mozambique

Monday, April 15, 2013

Jerks, Screw Ups, and Defining Moments

In our church, we are in the midst of a sermon series about defining moments.  It's been really inspiring in lots of ways, but also kind of awkward for me because when I think about these examples of amazing people having defining moments in their lives that are given from the pulpit, I think about my fits and starts and how I love tripping all over myself.  I think about how I tend to stick my foot in my mouth and say inappropriate things much more often than I make inspiring speeches like MLK or Moses.  I have a dream...that some day I will have a filter between my head and my mouth...

So, as I sit here with 20 minutes to spare before departing for this super-duper important trip where I will be escorting our bishop around beautiful Mozambique, signing new documents to solidify our partnership with our Mozambican brothers and sisters, and essentially beginning a new chapter of ministry,  I think, "this is a defining moment, Sarah", followed quickly by, "don't blow this, Sarah."

But then I think about how I'm really lucky that God tends to choose a bunch of jerks and screw ups to do God's work on earth.  I mean let's be honest, MLK was no saint, right?  A rough personal life.  Moses?  A murderer.  In fact, it wouldn't really be God's work at all if we were already perfect; it would be OUR work.  I think God actually likes choosing jerks and screw ups because then it becomes incredibly obvious that God is truly an amazing God.  It's like God intentionally chooses those people who need the most work (read: prostitutes, tax collectors, sinners), and uses them just to prove a point:  I'm awesome. You're not always awesome.  I got this.

This is oddly soothing.

I say all of this to say that this is truly a defining moment in this ministry.  I'm so, so, so excited about what God is going to do in us, through this trip, for this partnership  And this jerk is incredibly grateful for being chosen.