Every morning over the last two weeks, I’ve woken up to get on Facebook to check this blog. When I met John last year, I could tell that he was a deep and thoughtful person. So, I wanted to see what his thoughts were on our ministry, The Widow’s Might, and life in Mozambique. I hope you found John’s stories as interesting as I did. The main thing I want to talk about are some of his expectations and confusion about their mission trip.
Growing up in an orphanage, I’ve watched many short-term mission trips come and go. In John’s blog Day 13–15 Benny and the Brat… John talks about what most people do on mission trips, painting churches, vacation bible school, passing out Bible tracts and compelling people to follow Jesus…I’ve seen all of these things and many other so why didn’t we have the Packs do these things?
The plan was for John and his boys to help with construction on a small block building with 2 classrooms and 2 offices. When the time came, John felt it best to let the builders build, so he and his boys moved blocks to where the builders needed them. This took them less than 2 days.
In 2016, The Widow’s Might started by entering 25 kids in school. We wanted to get to know the families around us and become, for most, their first Christian friends. We wanted to build relationships and earn trust; these things take time. Slowly we have introduced the gospel and this June I shared with 60 kids about my faith in God and made sure they knew that Jesus is why we are here.
Our goal is to introduce people to Jesus through daily life while helping with education and life skills. Our village is our focus. For this reason, when visitors come, we try not to make a show. If every time we had visitors come we handed out gifts (even useful ones like hygiene products) or did anything we don’t normally do, it looks like we are here to celebrate visitors or make visitors out to be like Santa. While each group of visitors brings different skills, our ministry must be consistent. If you visit us anything we do with you in our village, we would also do if you were not here.
One of the things people like to do when they are on mission trips is bless people, I’ve noticed those blessings often come in the form of things. Toothbrushes, soap, shirts, shoes, beans and rice… things. This can create “fake” friendships and what we sometimes refer to as a culture of expectation.
To be clear, there are times we hand things out, mainly for Children’s Day and when school begins. Sometimes when we see great needs, we have someone privately deliver something, but we do it as quietly as possible and with no cameras. We feel this way helps people to maintain their self-respect and dignity.
We want locals to be excited to meet our visitors as people, not because visitors bring gifts or leave things behind. Of course, there are exceptions to this; not everyone in Mozambique has this motive, but it can easily build when things are handed out at the wrong time or in the wrong way.
You might think this means we are against short term mission trips, but we¢re not! Our ministry is young but the Packs are the third to visit. We encourage people to come to Mozambique for several reasons, but two mean the most to me.
Each year we come to the States to talk about the ministry and fundraise. Even if you heard us share a couple of times, you wouldn’t truly understand the needs and what village life looks like in Mozambique. It’s not until you walk out of our gate, down a dusty road to our neighbor’s house, and are greeted with smiling faces that you get to see real life, and the reason God has called us here.
We love having visitors come to see what the ministry does, who we are trying to reach, how our team works here in Muxara, what life looks like in a village and so many other things. We do our best to share all of this during our visits to the States, but nothing ever compares to a first-hand experience.
Amanda and I are human; being missionaries doesn’t mean everything is perfect. Missionaries struggle, get discouraged and have to battle feeling alone. It’s not always easy. So when someone wants to travel 30 or more hours to spend a week or two out of their place of comfort, we are encouraged before they even say one word. With each set of visitors that have come, the one thing they have left behind for us is encouragement!
One of the things that surprised me about reading Johns blog was that he was confused about why he was here. When I read this passage, I paused for a moment and thought to myself, ²if John knew how much he has already encouraged me, maybe he wouldn’t have written this.²
Amanda and I are expecting our first child in November and so it was interesting to see John and Rebecca parent their boys. I loved how they interacted with their kids, I loved the words and phrases John often used when talking to his kid. Things like “buddy,” “dude,” “What’s up,” and “What you got for us.” It was cool to see the Packs joke and tease each other, because this is not common in Mozambican culture.
I enjoyed all of my car rides and talks with John. I had fun talking to him about so many things but especially the gospel. It was clear and encouraging how passionate he is about Jesus. His opinion was good to hear, he was always very direct and I liked this. His passion for Jesus and his strong opinion meant that he boldly spoke about things like leaving a legacy to his kids that is Christ centered, his love for Jesus and the gospel in action.
Just think a family of five, flew 30 or more hours to come visit 2 missionaries, a few workers and 30 to 60 kids (depending on the day) just to teach baseball and share about how much they love Jesus. It was easy to see this on our first day playing baseball as John and Decker patiently taught each kid to wear a baseball glove and throw. As Eli hit the first ball, even showing how you can strike out. Indiana looked into Silva¢s eyes and spoke English, convinced he understood every word. All while Rebecca cheered for the boys and took pictures to remember the day the Pack¢s introduced baseball to Muxara, Mozambique. Did you notice, they didn’t hand anything out, except for their love of Jesus. That is the gospel in action.
Thank you so much for joining the Pack’s on their mission trip to Mozambique, we hope you were as encouraged as we were! If you would like to stay updated on our lives and ministry, you can sign up for our email newsletter http://eepurl.com/ho6x6 or follow us on Social Media.