The heart of man plans his way,
but the Lord establishes his steps.
- Proverbs 16:9 ESV
I imagine these words of wisdom in Proverbs are coming to mind to many Christians this year. We can plan all we might, but whether or not our plan takes place is in God's control, and the global Covid-19 pandemic is certainly no exception.
Early into our plans for Hope of a Nation, we had decided to bring our Mozambican leaders to the U.S. for ministry and to raise awareness of our work in Mozambique. In this day and age that might sound like a fairly easy process, and it is pretty easy for Americans to travel to most countries (at least prior to the pandemic). Normally, we just fill out some paperwork and get some photos taken to get our passports and visa, wait a week or two, and then we're done. Not so for a Mozambican coming to America.
Our teammates live in the central part of Mozambique, but pretty much anything "official" has to come from their capital city of Maputo, located in the south, a near 16-hour bus ride. Paperwork processing is generally much slower there too because of various inefficiencies and corruption, so getting their passports took weeks. Though they were able to fill out their U.S. Visa applications online, they had to travel to Maputo for an in-person interview at the U.S. embassy.
At the time, bus rides to Maputo had become quite dangerous because of political unrest in the region, so we flew them to Maputo instead. Originally, we planned to bring four teammates, but one was denied a visa. Coming to America on a temporary visa can be difficult for Mozambicans, because our government wants sufficient proof that you aren't coming to America to just disappear into our society and not return home. It's easier for people who are married with families; not so easy for someone who is single.
So, after months of planning and coordinating, jumping through visa and passport hoops, lining up speaking engagements, and so on, our team of three arrived in the U.S. We had actually found it quite difficult to get engagements scheduled to begin with, so when the lockdowns started just two weeks after their March 3rd arrival and the majority of the engagements were cancelled, we were very disappointed.
Before their arrival, while we were still trying to schedule engagements, the Lord had laid it on Jason's heart to just focus on building relationships instead of planning more engagements. Looking back now, we understand why. Nothing catches God off guard. He knew the pandemic was coming.
During this time, we were able to get to know many families and individuals on a more personal level and share testimonies that helped strengthen each other; something we might not have been able to do otherwise. So many people reported back to us how much meeting and spending time with our Mozambican teammates impacted and ministered to them personally. What a blessing!
Our team was equally blessed. From words of knowledge and confirmations of callings, to prophetic words, the Lord spoke into all our lives through many different people. One in particular was a total stranger from out of the area who had just come up for the day with his family to spend time in Branson, and he approached one of our teammates when we were down at the Branson Landing. The way the Lord used him to minister to and encourage all of us was amazing!
A couple of weeks before the team's scheduled departure, their flights were cancelled. Jason, feeling the weight of responsibility for our team's situation, wrestled with God asking questions, and the Lord replied, "Prepare to be shipwrecked." And so, they were. International lockdowns and communication breakdowns between airlines, transportation authorities, and embassies created an utterly mind-boggling situation to navigate. The effort it took to get them home and the way people pulled together to help us with the unanticipated cost of expensive repatriation flights and quarantine, was nothing short of miraculous. If only I had the space to share it all!
When it was all said and done, our team finally departed on July 13th, 6-weeks after their originally scheduled departure date. They arrived in Mozambique 3-days later only to undergo a 2-week quarantine in separate hotels before finally being reunited with their families on July 31st. Their families were overjoyed to have them home, and our teammates were ecstatic to be back, but they will never forget their time in America, as crazy as it was, and the relationships they built here.