A Special Trip To Mozambique // M-Note 6.7.2019
Yesterday I returned home from a nearly two-week trip to Mozambique. I traveled with a group of students and adults from The Gathering as we visited villages in which we have recently completed safe water wells. I’ve been to Mozambique many times, but this trip was special. Let me tell you why.
Nearly two years ago, a then middle school student named Alex Turley set an appointment to talk with me about a ministry idea that he had. We met at Bread Company and he told me that as a kid who has grown up at The Gathering, he had heard about our work in Mozambique every year since he could remember. He felt like God was calling him to do something to participate in that story. Then he shared his idea. He wanted the students of The Gathering to raise enough money to fund a well all by themselves (for those of you that are wondering, the typical well costs about $15,000 with costs often exceeding $20k). But he wasn’t done there. He said that after they succeeded in raising the money, he wanted to actually travel to Mozambique, go to the village and dedicate that well. I smiled, and said, “Let’s go for it.”
And go for it, he did. Alex shared the idea with other students, cast the vision and rallied support. So, many students spent this past fall raising money, personally and together, in order to give to our Christmas Eve offering. The passion and enthusiasm spread from Alex to many of our middle school and high school students. Together they accomplished their goal. This spring, a well was completed in a village called Mugungamete near Inhassoro in the southern part of Mozambique. The village started a Methodist church two years ago and as it grows, so does the need for safe, clean water in that community. The completion of the new well funded by students at The Gathering changed the lives of hundreds of people in that community and is helping the church there to not only meet the spiritual needs of people, but the physical needs as well. It is changing lives, literally.
That story alone is inspiring – our students rallied, raised the money and funded a well because of their faith in Jesus and desire to make a difference. But the story doesn’t end there. Last Thursday, Alex along with four other students from The Gathering traveled to Mugungamete (a journey of 5 flights, three days, and a 3 plus hour bus ride). Anytime representatives from The Gathering visit a village to dedicate a well, they ask the leader of the team to speak. As Lead Pastor of The Gathering, anytime I am on a trip, that honor falls to me. But this time, I shared (through a translator) the story of how the well in Mugungamete came to be. In honor of that, I asked Alex to address the church. Alex stood up and on behalf of all the students at The Gathering and brought greetings to that church and prayed over the new well. It was an incredible moment in ministry.
Alex didn’t do that alone. Dozens of students participated in the funding of that well. They benefited from all of you that have supported this ministry over the past ten years at The Gathering. Watching Alex stand up and pray over that new well was a validation that The Gathering is indeed raising up a new generation of Jesus followers who are changing the world. It was a beautiful moment that I needed – a reminder that church matters and that what we are doing together to follow Jesus has world-changing ramifications.
Friends, here is what I really want you to know. It is tempting sometimes, even for me, to grow skeptical of church. There are seasons when it can feel like we are going through the motions. We can get cynical about the difference it makes and sometimes wonder if it all matters. Last week in Mozambique, I was reminded that church matters. The Gathering matters. That each and every one of you that worships with us, serves, gets involved, begins giving or invites a friend – YOU are part of creating a movement. A movement that is making a difference in the lives of people right here in St. Louis and the lives of people all over the world, especially in Mozambique. It is good, God inspired work. And it matters.
I want to thank every one of you that calls The Gathering home. Thank you for your work, your commitment, your invitational spirit and your generosity. The work we are doing together in Jesus’ name is changing lives. I am proud to be your pastor. Lets keep the momentum and energy going.
Before I go, I went straight from Mozambique to Springfield, MO for the Missouri Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. Please pray for me and our pastors as we do work that will impact the greater denomination here in Missouri. This weekend we will have a very special sermon and finale to our More To The Story series. I will not ruin the surprise, but you will want to be there. Have a great weekend, make sure to join us in worship this weekend, and Let’s Go Blues!
p.s. This trip was a beta test for taking a few students to Mozambique (including my own student age kids). We hope to make student trips to Mozambique a regular opportunity for all students in the future. Parents of students, stay tuned for more information from Martin Leathers, Gathering Students Pastor, about future opportunities.