Saturday, February 27, 2010

"Don't be afraid, remember the Lord, and fight for your brothers"

These were Nehamiah's words (Nehemiah 4:14) when the people were facing discouragement and threat in the face of an overwhelming task (rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem with the rubble of the old walls in the way making it a daunting task...remember it was all hand labor!), and a threatening enemy! These were the words I felt impressed to communicate as we flew from community to community along the Zambezi river meeting with the pastors in our extension training schools this past week who are hungry and facing the threat of starvation the drought threatens to bring.

Our quest started immediately following the visit of two of our supervisors who brought word of the extreme impact the drought was having on the communities to the North of us. Although a little rain had come in early December, it was very little and any crops planted had long since dried and died in Mozambique's intense sun and heat. As we started to communicate the challenge with Mercy Air and a few of our key partners, we were spurred on by a significant donation of money to enable us to respond quickly to the situation. In God's wonderful timing it just so happened that the Mercy Air helicopter was in the Zambeze delta assisting another outreach, so it meant Matthias could position the helicopter in Tambara to meet up with us in pretty quick time.

As Andy (a Swiss pilot with a Canadian license and grad from Prairie Aviation school) and I climbed through the clouds we were trusting that Matthias could make it through the isolated storms brewing to the West of his location. Matthias had the same question as he awaited word from us, but by the time we landed on the grass strip in Tambara, we got word that the helicopter was 20 minutes out. So started a successful but very rushed visit to 7 communities on either side of the Zambezi. We achieved in less than two full days, what would have taken a week or more to accomplish and we visited communities that at this time of the year are simply cut off even with limited rainfall.

Each community and its leadership had the same story to rain, we have planted (in some cases) up to 5 times and everything has died, although a few who have money are buying in grain at very high prices, the rest of us are surviving on wild roots and wild seeds, but the elderly and children are suffering the worst and we are not sure about how we will survive the coming months. It is always so difficult facing overwhelming human need and feeling so helpless to be able to meet it all. To us and to these pastors and leaders the message is the same... "Do not fear". And the message that follows right on the heels of this is "remember the Lord your God who is great and awesome" In the midst of huge need, we must be courageous to do the little things we can do and trust our God who is great and awesome to multiply their effect.

This is the emphasis of the last part of the verse, "fight for your brothers". There is a call on the lives of every one of us to not be overwhelmed by overwhelming odds, but respond by joining the fight even though we feel rather weak and limited. It is only as we stand up and fight that we make a difference and give God the chance to work with us!

A strategy in each location was laid out to: 1. engage the pastors and leaders in being part of the solution and assisting to identify the closest locations we can source food and or other supplies, 2. Have them identify the projects we can implement as work-for-food opportunities in order to provide the food and yet ensure there is a longer term impact of the help in ways that will help to address food security in the communities we help, and 3. Assist to get storage locations and the right people who will assist in ensuring the food gets to those in need.

As a mission we have been working slowly in these communities to address the impact of this kind of crisis for some time and this year is the exclamation mark on that effort. Along with our pastor training and the orphan care programs in these communities, is the need to have the infrastructure that will enable us and the churches to 1. Better produce food in the community, 2. Provide storage for food and the ability to buy it in from the community when available to ensure it is not sold to outside buyers who truck it out never to be seen again and 3. Provide where necessary food processing and or other income generation projects that can help to make the local projects sustainable. There are many things the pastors can do in this regard, and every one of them is more productive than having them travel for days and days looking for food for them and their families only to come home with an empty bag! I have witnessed this first hand and it is not something I as a citizen of the Kingdom can live with.

This week has reminded me of the power of relationships and the synergy that results from people with Kingdom vision. Mercy Air has long been a partner of ours and so have so many of you who support and pray for SAM Ministries monthly. Put those relationships together with the Godly men and women on the ground in rural Mozambique who are studying God's word and the importance of effective leadership, and you have an explosion of good things just waiting to happen!

Thank you to everyone who participated this week to bring hope into a hopeless situation. And it is not over yet...some help should arrive on the ground by mid-March. The one administrator was very moved by our presence and shared with our pastor/monitor from Nhakolo (close to Tambara), that "the Church is a powerful have two aircraft come here and work with you to see the needs in the community is amazing." What more can one say.

(Thank you Andy for your help and all the pictures and to Matthias and the entire Mercy Air clan)