JUST A FEW DAYS SHY of our family’s tenth anniversary of serving here in northern Mozambique, we experienced a home invasion. Armed thieves broke into our home, and my wife, Rachel, and I were held at gunpoint as they stole money and computers. While I had some cuts and bruises, we were grateful that no one was seriously hurt. And although the chaos of the event (the screaming, yelling, and gun shots) lasted less than ten minutes, its effects lasted much longer.
Here’s what I wrote down later that week:
We’ve been flooded with visitors. In the first few days after the incident, we had at least a hundred Mozambicans come to visit and cry with us. They’ve called this kind of visit okituwela, which is the Makua-Metto word to describe the visits you make when someone is mourning a death. They’ve come to grieve and encourage us.
One of the Mozambican preachers who was here within a few hours of the break-in wept with his hand on my shoulder as he prayed for us. At least ten men came on Sunday from the Evangelical Assembly of God to pray for us and bring the equivalent of ten U.S. dollars to help with our losses. Others brought flour and peanuts and bajias (small balls made of fried bean paste) for our children. A man who barely knows us sent over bread, jam, and a jar of mayonnaise. Women sat and cried with Rachel, and a pastor’s wife in another village sent her own clothes as a gift to her.
One friend walked barefoot from a nearby town and started crying as soon as he saw me. Two other men rode their bikes from another town to check on us after hearing about it over the phone. They said, “It wasn’t enough to just hear that you were okay, we had to see you with our eyes because the whole village is crying for you and we needed to be able to tell them that we saw you alive.” One Mozambican church leader friend with whom I have often talked about the need to be ‘strong and courageous’ sent me that same reminder in a text message as I drove to the police station that morning.
People sat with us and told us their own stories of suffering and tales of God’s faithfulness in the midst of pain. One man, a former Muslim leader, who has been a follower of Jesus for just a couple years, rode his bike from another town to deliver a gigantic bag of flour and shared a testimony of Christ’s provision in hardship to me and the others present.
All these visitors have reminded me that we are really doing ministry ‘among’ or ‘with’ the Makua-Metto people. It is not just us doing ministry ‘to’ them. They are ministering to us as well, and that is how it should be.
In the aftermath of the most traumatic experience of our lives, the outpouring of love from the Church in both our home country and our host country served to anchor us. Our Christian family back home was as amazingly supportive as I would have suspected, but the Makua-Metto Church is relatively young. I could not have predicted the depth of care and compassion they graciously poured out on us.
We came to Africa to share God’s love with the Makua-Metto people. We came here as witnesses of the love of Christ to those we were called to serve. Now I know that I’m also here to witness to the love of Christ’s body, the Church. Love poured out, even on me.
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Alan Howell (MDiv) and his family have been in Mozambique since 2003. The Howells are part of a team in Montepuez, Cabo Delgado, serving the Makua-Metto people (www.makuateam.org).
EMQ, Vol. 52, No. 1. Copyright © 2016 Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMQ editors.