This will be the beginning of some excerpts from my journal of our trip to Iris Mozambique, Africa.
To all our friends and family at The Harvest in Sarasota and around the world:
July 31, 2011 – SUNDAY MORNING CHURCH, VILLAGE OF JOY, PEMBA
Dan and I are up early and the base is alive with activity. People are everywhere. The mamas are sitting on the concrete entrance to the open air church waiting and watching. We greet them in their tribal dialect, “Salama. Mehavo?” “Hello. How are you?” They are so beautiful. Smooth ebony skin with high cheekbones, bright, tender eyes, and welcoming bashful smiles of ivory white teeth. Clothed in the traditional dress of colorful capelana (wrap-around long skirt) and headdress, their aura betrays the pain and poverty they endure. Most have their babies tied to them, again with a capelana in every configuration imaginable. I feel like I am in a movie.
There is an acronym among long-term missionaries in Africa; TIA, This Is Africa. It is the standard statement uttered in the face of endless delays, scarce provisions, tropical disease, and chaos. The sooner one adjusts to the shock of Africa, the sooner one can function, minister, and embrace all that Africa is. In light of that, this morning we find that:
Church starts late – TIA
Sound system is horrid – TIA
There is a LOT of body odor – TIA
Dirty, barefoot kids in rags are everywhere – TIA
There are not many in the crowd over 50 – TIA
There are pockets of other ethnicities in the mostly black sea of faces. From every continent they have come to witness an exponential expansion of the Kingdom of God into a totally unreached people group. They are here to capture the moment in pictures, in video, in journals, but one cannot capture this. One must witness it.
The praise begins with African drums and worship in Makua, the tribal dialect of this northern province of Cabo Delgado. Scores of people jump up on the stone and concrete stage and begin to dance exuberantly before their Papa who has redeemed them. I watch in amazement as I realize there is no self-consciousness among these beautiful people, but total abandonment to joy and celebration. No one is looking at the clock. No one is nervous.
There are two schools in progress right now; the school for the Mozambican pastors, who come for 3 months every year for 5 years, and the Harvest School of missions for students from all over the developed world. And they come in droves. The Mozambican pastors to learn the word of God and Papa God’s heart for His children. The West to learn brokenness and simplicity from the poor. To see how Kingdom works here as a little blond woman and a man who grew up a missionary’s kid, lay their lives down in every way to see Heaven come to earth.
Heidi and Rolland make it look easy. In all actuality, it is bone-crushing exhaustion and sheer determination. I know that Heidi says it is all joy and she is smiling, but I see the exhaustion in her eyes and in her movement. If she even thinks that is observed, she is up and off again giving out of a Source that never seems to run dry.
As the worship continues, we see a blond head bouncing around in the midst of the tangle of black arms and legs. Mama Aida (Heidi’s African name) has joined the fray and proceeds to prove she can dance with the best of them. The worship is intoxicating and other-worldly. So pure and simple. Nothing is really needed but a voice and hands and feet. Drums are nice but not necessary. A grateful heart is required.
As the music slows down, there are many on grass mats on the concrete floor, pouring out their love to Jesus. Old woman with wet eyes that have seen much pain and suffering. Children on their faces who we hope will not suffer the same atrocities. Mais Jesus! More Jesus.
Heidi takes the mic and kneels on the floor, calling for more of Him, in worship and thanksgiving. She asks for all visitors to come to the altar and sit. The Mozambican pastors, the mamas, the villagers, and the children are called up to lay hands on us and pray. I obediently go up and sit with my head down looking at the floor as they converge on us. One after one, they lay hands on my head and cry and pray in their language or in tongues. One after one, I see dirty feet, deformed feet, broken, mismatched flip flops; until I cannot see through the tears. I see Jesus, I hear Jesus. He is here.
I tell the Lord, “God I receive everything You are through these sons and daughters of Yours. Please let me see. Please help me hear. I want to understand Your heart and embrace the immensity of Your Kingdom through “the least of these.” I can barely get to my feet and return to my seat.
Our close friend, Mel Tari, is introduced to bring the Word. I go sit in the back with his son, David. David has given a couple of years of his life to start small businesses and teach the Iris family of teens and young adults how to run a business.
The General begins to preach another epic sermon. Walking through the pages of the Bible, he spotlights those mighty men and women who were African; Joseph, who ruled in Egypt, Moses, born in Egypt, and Simon of Cyrene, the man who carried the cross of Jesus, to name a few. He finished by wanting to know if we all have the heart of those Africans. “Who in here is an African?,” he bellows in his still strong Indonesian accent. A roar goes up. We are all Africans today.