Lord led me to Mozambique’
Joan Simmons remembers clearly the day God directed her path into mission work.
She was 15 years old and had just recently converted to Christianity after growing up in a Hindu family in Trinidad. One day while praying with a group of friends, she heard the Lord say “One of you will be a missionary to Africa” — immediately she felt it was going to be her.
“I received that word right there and then — and when I look back now on those persons praying with me that day — one has gone home to be with the Lord and the other person had no desire to go into the mission field.”
From that day onward, Mrs Simmons would read stories about the African continent and about missionaries, like Mary Slessor, who ventured there.
Then in 2009, the door finally opened for her to fulfil that desire in Beira, Mozambique.
“I was praying and the Lord just dropped into my spirit to work in Mozambique,” she explained.
“I contacted Bishop Earl McCloud and his wife Dr Patricia McCloud, who had done a lot of work in Africa, and they welcomed me with open arms and said ‘Sure come and help us with our work in Mozambique. I always ask the Lord ‘Why this part of Africa?’ and I’m not sure, but when we went there for the first time we discovered it was very dead and nothing was happening in the church,” Mrs Simmons said. “A few church services were held under a tree and two others in mud buildings, but nothing much outside of that. When we got there we realised God was sending us into this place to speak life into it.”
For the past eight years, Mrs Simmons has taken a team of volunteers with her each year to lend a hand in the southeastern African country.
This past July, she took a team of eight, including seven Bermudian volunteers and one from South Africa, to experience the culture and share the love of Christ.
Volunteer Lashuntae Dill-Assing spent two weeks this summer working at an orphanage, caring for babies and helping to finish the school building by painting and varnishing.
“I visited the hospital, assisted with the child evangelism days and organised clothing for giveaways,” the 20-year-old said. “While in Mozambique, I did a little of everything. Being there taught me that being adaptable is something that comes easy to me.
“It helped me to understand how diverse this world is and how blessed my friends, family and I are. During my time in Beira, I became closer to God. I began to thank God more for my haves and prayed less for my have-nots, but mostly for theirs.”
Alana Furbert was another volunteer who admits her faith grew from watching the Mozambicans enjoying life and praising God, despite their circumstances.
“Most had so little compared to me, but they loved our Heavenly Father regardless,” she said. “It made me appreciate life more and understand that Jesus is everywhere. When we attended the church services it was amazing just watching them sing, drum and dance. Through the process I learnt that I’m very caring and loving and wanted to give all I could to others. Putting their needs before my own, my primary goal was to make them smile each day.”
Ms Furbert, 27, spent her mornings at the orphanage singing, feeding and cuddling the babies. In the afternoons she switched gears and would teach English at one of the local schools.
“Since coming back to the island, I definitely feel different,” she said. “I appreciate life a bit more and also understand that I should be thankful every day regardless of my circumstances.”
In the early days of the mission’s project in 2009, Mrs Simmons partnered with Dorcas Aid Ministry to assist with a medical clinic. With donations provided by the community in Bermuda, they were able to pay for necessary medical supplies and were able to offer volunteer support from retired nurse Cynthia Stovell.
They have since raised enough money to purchase a piece of land so the people of Beira can grow their own food, as well as built two wells for drinking water and irrigation.
In 2014, they decided to expand their offering and raised enough money to build a school in the region, currently educating 320 children.
They named a few schoolrooms after generous patrons like Dame Jennifer Smith and Savannah DeVent. The following year, Mrs Simmons partnered with Joint Aid Management to provide a porridge breakfast to 187 children who would otherwise go without. This portion of the programme is sponsored by the Reverend Milton Burgess and the members of St Luke AME Church.
They have started a handful of other programmes including a sewing school, teaching women a new trade and empowering them to become entrepreneurs.
Mrs Simmons said: “For me, the biggest reward comes from feeding these hungry children. These are children who sometimes the only meal they have is the one they get in the morning from the school.
“You see all these beautiful children lined up with their bowls and see how grateful they are and it gets you emotional. When I saw this on our recent visit in July, I took myself into the boardroom because I couldn’t stop crying. It gives me satisfaction to see these projects working, but especially to see the lives we have touched.”
•For more information on the mission’s project in Mozambique, email email@example.com
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