Like any job, I guess, there are parts of living in Africa that are really enjoyable and parts that I could do without. Those challenges make this a work that is sometimes easier to love than it is to like.
Trying to live as a resident alien, for example, adds its own set of challenges and difficulties. Sometimes it feels like we're trying to maintain an outpost on mars!
The best parts of my job, though, those ones that I love being here for, are the times that I get to help nudge and encourage someone who's hungry to be pointed in the right direction.
This past weekend was one of those golden times.
A young man that we've been discipling started college earlier this year. His dad has been out of the picture and Armindo had cobbled together some jobs over the last few years to get himself through High School. Now, a couple of our former interns are collaborating to provide a scholarship for him to get a degree in Agriculture. And I've wanted to check in on him and make sure that he's doing okay.
So, on Friday morning I left Montepuez and drove about 8 hours (over a lot of bumpy dirt roads) to the town of Cuamba, Niassa. I met up with Armindo and he gave me the tour of his campus. He introduced me to a bunch of his classmates, roommates and friends. Everyone was so kind and generous. (His suitemates, though, seemed pretty shocked to have an American spending the weekend with them - I might as well have been an alien!) We stayed up late talking in Armindo's dorm room and I slept there on the floor in a sleeping bag.
It was interesting to notice the things that are similar to a U.S. college experience: students sleep in on the weekends, they enjoy blasting their music and watching movies together. But other things are different. Instead of ordering pizza or going out for a burger, we ate rice and beans, xima and fish. For Mozambique, it is a pretty nice dorm, but students still have to go get water from the well for drinking and bathing. And using the bathroom means having to exit the dorm room and walk across to one of the latrines. "Use this one," Armindo told me, "it smells the least bad."
Over the course of the weekend, he and I talked about everything from God to girls to grades to goals.
He shared about the pressures of living in the dorm with people of differing faiths and ethics. He talked about being disappointed in a fellow Christian student who failed to practice what he preached. I was pleased to see how Armindo has made strong connections with a local church, and has been very involved there. And I tried to encourage him to follow through on his idea of helping that church form a youth group.
He talked more about his dream of moving back to Montepuez after his studies are over and working for the cotton company. We talked about his vision for returning to Cabo Delgado and blessing the church through his future vocation.
Developing people like Armindo is an important part of what our team can do to help. It can serve to stabilize the church and increase its influence in the community.
So, the trip "back to college" this past weekend was really good. It reminded me of the past experiences Rachel and I have had in campus ministry...though, with a Mozambican twist!
While my goal in going to Cuamba was to encourage Armindo, it was so encouraging for me to get to do what I love. Here in Africa, I've accepted the fact that those feelings of being an alien won't ever fully disappear, but they are worth it if they put me in a place to get to hang out with and pour my life into people who are striving to follow Jesus well. Those times are a gift.
May God bless Armindo and other young people to faithfully grow into men and women who have a strong vision for his Kingdom.
Grace and Peace,