Finish Line in Sight
I’m writing this update as we babysit for some missionaries who are out for the evening, and since the baby is asleep we got to watch our first bit of the Olympics. No matter what the sport is, the commentators always talk about the athletes getting most of the way through the race, most of the way through the routine, most of the way through the event, and being so tired and exhausted but needing to finish strong. That’s how I feel we are now, the finish line is in sight but that is no reason to slow down, drag our feet, or just give half-hearted efforts. Please stand with us in prayer that we can give it our all, right up to the end.
As I mentioned in the last update, we officially got accepted to be long-term missionaries with Iris Ministries at the Dondo base, and we also got to go there for our extended outreach. That was a blast, getting to know the missionaries and kids there for a while and seeing the kinds of work we will be doing when we return. It looks like we’ll be taking over hospitality and managing all the visitors that come through the base, running the kitchen, and hopefully doing some discipleship with the Bible School students and local pastors.You can see pictures of the base and some of the people we will be working with on their website: http://www.irismin.com/ministryLoc_dondo.cfm.
Our outreach began a little ahead of plans, the Iris pilot planned on leaving Monday the 11th, but some paperwork at the airport fell through and he had to leave early on Saturday. That meant we had to rush around to finish packing and cleaning our house, but it was a fun trip! Jon got to sit in the co-pilot seat and even took over the controls for 2/3 of the trip, so he had a blast. I was excited to finally get back to Dondo! After a couple days on the base, getting a feel for the work and the town, we joined the missionary who is in charge of the church-based orphan care program, and drove to the Caia district (just below Malawi) to register kids and distribute food for 5 days. They have to register the kids with pictures and the local pastor present to verify the stories people tell, because everyone wants to show up for free food but the focus of the program is to help the orphans. They are all in the care of family members or friends of the parents, which is a great system because they get to grow up in the community rather than being separated from remaining family by living in an orphanage.
While we were in Caia we wanted to hop the border to Malawi to renew our visas, which was a process where we had to jump on the backs of bicycles to go over a 2-mile bridge over the Zambize River, then cram into the back of a tiny pickup truck for 2 hours, only to get to the border and find out they don’t give visas anymore :-(. So we had to cram back into the truck (along with 16 adults, 10 kids, 2 bikes, 9 big bundles/suitcases, and 2 chickens), back over the bridge on bikes, and then had to leave our outreach early since we didn’t have new visas. When we got back to Dondo the missionaries had an emergency situation so they couldn’t help us get bus tickets to Maputo, but God planned it out so that we happened to have a friend in Beira (30 minutes away) who was able to pick Jon up, take him to the station, and get the tickets just in time. So at 4:30am we hopped on the 17-hour bus to Maputo (normally 16 hours, but we had a tire blowout that took an hour to fix), where we had another fun coincidence because also on that bus was the guy from Gondola that I was teaching how to read in May! So we got in to Zimpeto really late, then got up at 4:00am to catch a ride with some Zimpeto missionaries to South Africa yesterday, where we successfully got our last visas for this trip.
Now we will stay here in Zimpeto for 3 weeks before we end our 9-month Mozambique Marathon and head home. It feels like a full circle since we started our journey here at this base, and now we’re finishing here as well. It has been a bittersweet return, as it is great to see familiar faces and pick up old relationships, but we also learned that three little boys we knew from our last trips died while we were in Pemba. I know we wrote about Thabo in one of our early updates, a 9 1/2 year old who was too weak to walk but was a powerful little intercessor and prayed for each missionary on the base by name every night. Now he’s running through paradise with all the strength he could ever have dreamed of, and probably still fighting for the people who cared for him here. 4-year-old Tino lived to love, and would rush to everyone who came anywhere near him to give a hug. He looked almost comical in his little round glasses, but now his perfect eyes are beholding his Abba father as he rests in His embrace. 7-year-old Alfredo was abandoned in the hospital as a baby because he had hydrocephalus and his head was disproportionately large (about 3 times what it should have been). He never walked, or even sat up, but he had gripped the heart of one Iris pastor, Domingo. Domingo started a hospital ministry so he could visit Alfredo 3 times a week, and he cared for him like a father. It was sad to see all of them go, but good to know they are all happier now than they ever were on this earth.