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I Am Forever Changed

Cindy Gullo shares where she saw God on her mission trip to Mozambique. Mozambique Scholarships is one of the causes you can support through No Selfie Saturday! Click here to browse causes and serve with us on October 21.

"Did Mozambique Meet Your Expectations?"

This is the number one question I have been asked by friends and relatives after returning from TMUMC Mozambique Mission Trip 2017. My answer remains, "I went with no expectations." I have supported our Mozambique mission for years, by donating money and more recently volunteering with the auction and fundraising, mainly because my dear friend Jackie Watkins asked me to. Africa has never been on my travel list or anywhere I thought I would want to go. I went because my daughter, Mary Audrye asked if we could go on the mission trip for her college graduation.

I had heard stories from Jackie about her trips, but to me they were just that, stories of Mozambique. She was passionate about it's people and their welfare, so I cared because she cared. I was not necessarily passionate about the mission, they were just another group of people in need and we all know God calls us to help the poor and the needy! They were to me, just another mission at Treitsch. I had heard people ask Jackie, "Why are you going to Africa, when there are so many people in need right here?" If I am honest, I have asked that same question in my own mind over the years. That's where the "I had no expectations" part comes in.

My prayer in preparation for our trip was for God to open my heart to love these strangers. To open my eyes to see them and their needs as He sees them and to give me confidence in my abilities to meet their needs. I honestly didn't know what I would have to offer them. Jackie continued to reassure me that I would be fine, but I remained unsure. Funny how God sneaks up on you when you have no expectations… I can tell you that I left a big piece of my heart in Mozambique and cannot wait to return to see my new found family. Jackie tried to describe to me the beauty of these special people, but I would have never imagined in my heart and mind just how beautiful their hearts truly are.

They live with such joy and love in their hearts, despite their every day difficulties and struggles. These are people who expect no help or hand outs from anyone. They are people who work very hard to improve their circumstances with very little available resources. Their faith in the face of poverty, loss and daily struggles is astounding! The joy in their smiles are the most beautiful I have ever experienced. Mozambican people also value education and learning above everything. They are proud of their country and their people and realize that education is the key to overcoming poverty. Many sacrifice everything for their children's education.

I have many stories of individuals I could share with you, but I will leave you with this one… On my first day of teaching Hospitality classes, I met 5 women at the guest house that was severely damaged by the recent cyclone. In this group, there was a 20-year-old girl named Tina, she was in charge of running the guest house. She had no formal training, her responsibilities included, booking guests, cleaning the entire house, doing all the laundry by hand (there is no washing machine or dryer) and apparently killing the bats that flew out of the attic with her flip flop. Yes, I said bats! Tina held her head down and would not make eye contact with me, she was very shy and lacked confidence. Of course, me being an American woman, I was shocked that such a young, vulnerable, inexperienced girl would be given so much responsibility and be left alone in this guest house. My goal was to win her over!

I began my class by explaining that the first and most important thing in the hospitality world is your smile and your body language. Most of the women responded well to my advice and would return my smile and engage. Tina just continued to hold her head down and would barely look at me. My translator, Piedade asked her to look at me, she just couldn't do it, she wouldn't even speak. I suggested that since we were in a guest house, overlooking this beautiful ocean, she should open the curtains and windows for fresh air and so the guests might enjoy the beautiful ocean view. I continued on for the rest of the class, reassuring her and the other ladies that God created them beautifully and He gave them all beautiful smiles and beautiful hearts to love others.

The class ended and I hugged them all, because that's what I do, and I told them I would see them in the morning. Tina was not a hugger. Tina was heavy on my heart as I left, I was feeling as it went ok, but had I really done much much for any of them. Well, take the I out of it and insert God and His amazing ability to use the most inexperienced person and watch what He can do. On my return to the guest house the next morning, the windows were open, the curtains were pulled back and there stood beautiful Tina waiting to show me, with the biggest smile on her face! Her head was up and she was smiling, full of confidence in herself and knowing that God made her special and for a purpose. She didn't know what a gift she had given me in that smile. God showed me!

She continued her progression, each day demonstrating something new she had learned from the day before. She proudly awaited my arrival for class each day eager to show me that she was doing the things I had taught her. The most important lesson she learned was that she had worth and was loved by God. So if about now, you are wondering "What's the big deal about teaching a 20 year old confidence?" Well I will explain. As Piedade (aka my new daughter/translator) and I were walking together after our final class, she said "You know that you have changed Tina's life forever?" 

She explained to me that Tina will carry her new found belief in her abilities and God's love for her and she will be able to live out her dreams. She explained that very few young women there dare to dream of a better life for themselves or for their families. I was truly humbled that she felt that God had used me that week to change someone's life. I was satisfied that I had simply gained Tina's trust in me and that she knew I and more importantly, God loved her. I was amazed at how God had shown me the power of his love between two strangers in such a small amount of time.

Many people have said "You were probably glad to come home?" My answer is honestly, no! A part of me will remain in Chicuque, Mozambique, with longing in my heart until I am reunited with those I love. I finally understand why Jackie works so tirelessly for these beautiful people. They are no longer "those people somewhere in Africa" that we have an auction for once a year. They are my brothers and sisters in Christ who loved me so perfectly for two weeks and the rest of my life!

I am forever changed.


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