Report on Mission to Tnazania 2014
My mission trips to foreign countries began in 2000 when I first travelled to Brazil and Guatemala. Near the end of 2002, I met a friend who encouraged me to participate in a mission to Africa. At first, I told her that I was not interested, but a month later, she told me it was a mission to work with widows. It was then that I had been a widow for 15 years and I realized that the widows on this mission would understand me since I had similar experiences. I prayed about it and felt a strong conviction that God had led me to do this. Since then, I have participated in yearly short-term mission trips to Africa with the Christian Life World Mission Frontier.
Africa is a far away land, yet before I knew it, that land had become very close to my heart. After returning from first mission trip to Africa, I felt that my work seemed minimal and my disappointment was greater than the satisfaction I had felt and I initially wanted to stop going. However, God revealed many other valuable lessons for my spiritual growth when I reflected on my time there.
His voice resounded: ¡°I know you very well. I want you to remember your sacrifices for my people, no matter how small they are, make me very happy.¡± I remembered the Word of God: ¡°to obey is better than sacrifice (I Sam. 15:22),¡± and ¡°Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God¡¯s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifice holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship (Romans 12:1).¡± Since then, I have left for subsequent missions to Africa with gladness in my heart and excitement in my soul. As the saying goes: a decade is an epoch and my heart has greatly changed towards Africa over the years.
First of all, the poor living conditions in Africa reminded me vividly of my struggles during and after the Korean War. Koreans have worked hard to rebuild my home country by receiving assistance from others and can now give help to other countries in need. Similarly, I can do the same now that I have grown and can participate in missions to help other more unfortunate people. Just as Koreans had faith that they could make their life better for their future children, I can now be a messenger to suffering Africans and share my story of hope.
I had never planned to live in US, but it happened. I had never dreamt of becoming a social worker as a career, but it happened. However, I believe that God is guiding the course of my life and I am grateful for the experiences during my journey. I have felt selfishness in my nature, but my I have learned through my life to change and open my heart to feel the pains of others and give comfort to those who are in need. It is because of my life experiences that the door to mission work has been opened to me. Since my husband passed, I have learned to depend on God and experience my life with a thankful heart, especially since He has provided my family with all of our basic needs and challenges us to grow daily.
Horace Underwood was the very first missionary who arrived in Korea on Easter, April 5,1885. Now, every time I leave for a mission, I remember his prayer: ¡°I am happy.¡± This prayer has encouraged me, stopped my complaints, and allowed me to face challenges with a positive attitude and gladness in my heart.
Trusting God¡¯s goodness and faithfulness, I was going to leave for Africa, but there was Ebola spreading in East Africa and airplane accidents in many parts of world. Due to my friends' warnings not to go to Africa, my mind had gotton weaker. Then two weeks befor my departure, my pastor, Pastor Chip Ingram had sermons two weeks in a row, 1. How to seek God when we face unfairness or mistreatment, and 2. How to seek God when we face dangerous situation. Then I had a feeling of relief and left for my most recent mission to Africa with ease and comfort in my soul. I now know that this trip was to fulfill God¡¯s desire.
This trip was the very first time that I was to go on a month long mission trip alone. I did not get sick, ate and slept well, and completed my work with happiness. I hoped that the Lord was glad with my work as well. I believe that all your prayers were the backbone to making this safe trip and to completing this good work.
Tanzania is a very big country (the 31st in the world by size = California + Texas ). It is well known for Lake Victoria (the second largest lake in the world and 2/3 of South Korea), Mt. Kilimanjaro (The highest mountain in the world), and Serengeti National Park that is an amazing draw for world tourism. My mission trip was to visit four villages around Lake Victoria and teach groups of students who were obtaining a degree in Theology. The students are pastors, wives, church leaders, or any others interested in the subject. My job is to offer a course, Christian Parenting and Family Life, where I would discuss subjects such as Men and Women, Their Roles, Harmonious Relationships vs. Unharmonious Relationships, Parenting in God¡¯s way, etc.
It took over 50 hours to get to the first destination from my home by car, airplane, and bus. The flight included 3 transfers with 5 to 8-hour layovers at each airport. However, I was determined to think of this trip as a gift given to me by God so that I could rest. I was not bored at all during these many hours of traveling, but enjoyed my time the best I could reflecting and watching people. I went through DaEsalem, the capital city, and to Mwanza, the second largest city in Tanzania. After a night stay in the Center at Mwanza, I went to Mugumu where tradition is very much respected and men¡¯s privilege were severely practiced. The road to the village was very rough and the bus ride was six hours long where I thought I would get bruises on my bottom. The village in Mugumu was located in the outskirts of the famous Serengeti National Park. On my way there, I saw a large group of zebras from far away riding bus. I had never intended to visit the park, though, seeing them made me glad of their closeness. I stayed there in a hotel at 150,000 shillings a night (which is equivalent to $15 US).
On my way to the church where I was going to teach, I saw many interesting things. A group of cows, chickens, and goats running all over the streets. I also saw a carriage pulled by four cows. On the side of road, bare-footed school age children were sitting and watching me with a very curious look.
After a 15-minute walk, I arrived at the small church built with cement bricks and windows without window panes. Luckily, the breeze through the windows helped keep us cool. The students arrived by motorcycles, bicycles, or on foot. Some came on foot for 2 hours or by motorcycles or bicycles for 3-4 hours. I was very moved and humbled standing in front of these students who had travelled so far to learn the Word of God. I prayed that God would help me do my best to deliver the messages and also to help us all to learn from each other.
Everyone had many children, usually from six to fifteen children in a family, except for one pastor. The pastor with only one child shared that his father had forty children from three different women and believed that every child would be born with what he or she needs. He had never cared for family or children since growing up, this pastor had a very difficult life and was therefore determined not to have any more than one child.
Soon, I had learned beating women and children was an indebted issue in this community. Bible tells us men and women were created so differently, but God had never meant for one person to be greater than any other person. I wanted to let them know that there should be no more beating of women and children. It had become my greatest purpose during this mission. Sitting for seven hours a day on the very hard plastic chairs for 5 days, the students caught onto the idea and felt that changes were needed. Daily, the majority of students shared their determination to instill these new ways of treating women and children and to build a better home and family life overall.
Finishing up the work in Mugumu, I went to a small village called Suguti by a few small buses with a couple of transfers. It took for almost a whole day. Even then, I was excited to dream about meeting with a group of women in the village. During this journey, I was accompanied by my interpreter, a Tanzanian elementary school teacher who was laid off. She volunteered during the summer for medical missions held in this village before and was sponsored by Christian Life World Mission Frontier as an interpreter of doctors and other volunteers from New York. She had seen women who were suffering from physical, sexual, mental, and emotional abuse due to domestic violence. Women and child abuse were also the cultural norm in this village. I was filled with righteous anger and ready for my work.
All the attendees were women except the village volunteer who was a male. Later he told me that he was a retired social worker. This volunteer stayed with us the entire time. The invited were all Christians, but there were also six Muslim women who voluntarily joined. I only told the truth that how God created women delicately and beautifully, and how much He loves them.
Everyday after class, people stood in line to talk to me in person. Suddenly, I acted as a counselor until very late into the night. There were so many bizarre stories that I felt helpless. I remember a 26 year old mother of three children. She asked me to help one of her children who had been suffering from unknown illness. When she married the father, he said it was his first marriage. After the wedding, she found out that he had three other wives and many other children with them. The other wives started to abuse her and her husband was careless of her and her children. She had returned to her parents¡¯ home, but they kicked her out because there was no extra food for her and they said she should go back to her husband¡¯s home and die there. She had no one to turn to and was suffering from mental and emotional issues. She would not leave and told me so much of her pain. She was happy that I listened to her patiently. I gave her information that there was a medical ship in construction and it would be in this village and she should go to get help when it arrived.
Another women with the name, ¡°Problem,¡± asked me to give her a new name. I asked her what she would like to be called but she had no idea. I named her ¡°Grace¡± and we prayed together. She was very happy. The next day, another woman came with the name, ¡°Trouble.¡± She wanted me to give her a new name. I named her ¡°Joyce¡± and we prayed together. She was delighted.
I left the village and after transferring three times over a whole day, I returned to the Center of Christian Life World Mission Frontier in Mwanza. There I met two Korean Reverends¡¯ wives who worked on the medical ship in construction. They made good food for me and we exchanged stories. I felt refreshed and ready for the next chapter of my mission. After two days of rest, I crossed Lake Victoria by night ship which took 11 hours to get to Bukoba.
There was Bukoba Center for Christian Life World Mission Frontier a half mile away from Lake Victoria. The new group of the students were waiting for my arrival. A five-day lecture started and soon I found everyone except two of the pastors were staying at the Center. Therefore, I had to finance their meal preparation every day. It was an unplanned activity, but God was good and provided for all of our needs. This group did not have as many children as the Mugumu students with each family having about 4 to 5 children.
Based on the Bible, I shared that no discipline should be dealt to children and women by physical force. They brought to my attention Proverb 23: 13-14 and I was prepared to share the true meaning of discipline and how to use parental authority properly within their families. Unfortunately, these students could not return home to their families and so there was no opportunity to actually practice what they had learned. Two pastors who went home came back with reports of wonderful experiences they had to share and another woman with a two-year old who stayed also shared her great stories. We shared the changes we had experienced and our desire to continue to make changes in our lives and the lives of others. One pastor shared that his children had never physically come close to him. But that day, he went home to talk to them and found his wife beating them. He experienced a miracle because they were all over him and he was very happy.
There was no rain and they were unable to collected rain water while I was in Bukoba. I did not wash even my face for four days and instead used wet towels that I had brought with me. One of the pastor¡¯s wives decided to build two water tanks and started to gather donations from her friends in the US. I poured in everything I had and participated in the project. It was a miracle that we were eventually able to do it. While in Bukoba, there was an incident where Muslim people attacked and attempted to kill two deacons who were praying at their church overnight. The day that happened, I was leaving the town and heard that one had died and another one had survived. On my way back to Mwanza, we took a bus and I observed further acts of outrage from the Muslims against others on the bus. I was not scared and decided to claim my rights as a human being. It was a difficult place to live where bad things happened to Christians.
Many of the older pastors during my time were having difficulty absorbing what they had learned but I gave them opportunities to discuss amongst themselves every time a question was asked. Young leaders and pastors were alternatively progressive in their ideas. I told them that I was not there to destroy their tradition, but came to reveal God¡¯s Word. One of the pastors said that we had lived under tradition throughout history, but if these traditions had not helped improve their lives, they should try something new. ¡°This is it,¡± he said. Many clapped and made decisions to improve their traditions and change their lives. He came to the class alone on the first day, but on the second day, which was a national holiday, he brought his wife who was a school teacher. I thought she was visiting only that day but she continued to come until the last day and said she took vacation time to attend. She said she wanted to learn how to help her family live differently from tradition. One of the pastors had come 11 hours by bus to class. He bagged me to come to his town to teach. I told him that I would share his request with the leader of the organization so that maybe we could go there in the future.
Wherever I visited, there was limited to no wi-fi, television, or phones that I could use. For almost a month, I relaxed and enjoyed my time there without any attachment to the technology I have in the US. Every place I visited, there were great and compassionate people who wanted to share their learning with their neighbors and wanted to be good fathers, mothers, and spouses. There were many inconveniences and I missed my family greatly while I was there, but just like mothers who forget about pain during childbirth, I now miss the friendly sweet African people I met in Tanzania. I also reminisce about seeing the people from my previous missions to Rwanda, Uganda, Brundi, and Kongo. They also were eager to learn and make improvements in their lives and the lives of their families.
I honestly and truthfully can say that my mission experiences have only made me very happy and feel rich over all these years. I can only hope that my services have made God happy as I try to help influence the beautiful families and souls I meet to follow in the footsteps of Him who dearly loves them.