by Candace Cortez
This past week, I was a part of a team of 12 incredible individuals who went on a journey to Mozambique, Africa for a short term mission trip. My husband and I have personal friends who are missionaries there, and we also have a heart for the continent of Africa. We were thrilled to be able to go on this trip along with our two children. Here are a couple of things I’ve learned.
Unity is key. When you are in a place where you do not know the language, it is easy to feel ill-equipped. In this situation, multiple languages were being used and I didn’t know any of them. There were several moments of partnership that made sure to keep me humble. I wasn’t able to go and change much of anything. But I was able to go and encourage the unity between people who are different than each other. This mission was not intended to radically change the culture in another area. It was more about embracing that culture and highlighting what God was doing there before we got there. When two churches come together and serve others side by side, I believe it pleases God. Now back home, I want to make sure I am not a part of creating more disunity in my context. There are apologies to be made, and invitations to be sent. Unity takes more work than independence. But I believe it’s one of the ways the Lord’s heart is revealed. I am committed to staying unified with my fellow believers.
The majority of the world is different. It was brought to my attention that I live in a minority culture. In our context, even the most poverty-stricken have opportunity. Spending a week in a developing country, which is similar in many ways to the majority of the world, is an incredible reminder of who God is speaking about when He refers to the least of these. I have created a lifestyle that could keep me separate and blind to this majority world. I am committed to seeing it.
People are people. There is the habit I have caught myself falling into. Sometimes when passing a crowd, people are a crowd. This seems like a duh statement, but what I mean by this is that crowds often strip people of their individuality, story, and sometimes as a result, their perceived value at that moment. We had the opportunity to visit families with children who have special needs while in Mozambique. This experience will leave a mark on my heart for my lifetime. But what I didn’t expect was the realization that people are people. Each parent, grandparent, or child had personality, hopes, fears, and a story. They were not a part of the crowd anymore. This is how Jesus sees us. We are not a horde of His creation. We are individually, wonderfully made. I am committed to seeing people as people.
Miracles are happening. Recently at a Bible study, a friend mentioned some frustrations that miracles don’t happen today like they used to. Everyone shared the sentiment. You may feel the same. But I have good news! Miracles ARE happening. We did a mini-conference for youth in the neighborhood we visited. We were expecting 50-60 kids to show up. We were thrilled and surprised when the room was filled with over 100 people. This left us nervous about the amount of food prepared. In faith, we began to pray that God would multiply our shredded beef like the loaves and fishes. Our team gave generous portions and as the last person was served, we celebrated having an entire crockpot of beef remaining. It did not seem possible. This may not seem like a big deal to some, but in that moment, we knew God had made a way. I am committed to seeing how God is shifting the circumstances to give Himself glory.
It’s possible to give more. This is the last thing I’ll share, I promise. I met a lady, who had 4 children, one with a disability. She was not wealthy. She lives in a one-room house. A member of her family had a child with a disability and wanted to abandon that child, which is relatively socially acceptable in that context. This lady brought that child into her home and has been raising her as her own. She has a heart for adoption as at one point she was caring for 8 children total. I am humbled and inspired by this woman, who has given so much to love others. It is often felt, that one can give after they have reached a level of success or comfort that gives them excess. It is not often taught to give even when you are lacking yourself. I am committed to being generous, even when it costs me.