A life-changing mission to Africa
The focus falls on Buttershaw Baptist Church, Bradford, which was awarded a Home Mission Project Grant of £1,200 towards a mission trip to Mozambique, Africa:-
A MISSION trip to Africa proved life-changing for 12 people from a Bradford church – and it has had an impact on the community back home.
Trip team leader Liz Gregg takes up the story: “The aim was to take a group of people from Buttershaw to join in with mission in Africa, with the aim to increase our world vision for mission, understanding of poverty and to increase our community’s awareness of worldwide needs.
“During the run up to the mission trip we visited the local high school and did an assembly for over 500 children, we went into two local primary schools and a local scout group and talked about the trip and why we were going. This raised local children’s awareness of poverty and we have been asked to do follow up talks in the schools and scout groups.
“We did a number of fundraising events where we took the opportunity to share what we were doing and why. This meant we not only raised money but raised awareness of the issues of mission, poverty and world needs. Events such as the pie and peas supper where we did games and quizzes related to Africa or the fundraiser meal where we did a presentation on the mission trip.
“The team reflected the make-up of the church, having local indigenous people as well as people we would consider to be ‘scaffolders’ who help support the mission of Buttershaw. Each team member was impacted by the poverty we saw and was challenged by how we can bring change to our world.
“During our time in Mozambique the team had to step up in new ways, often finding that as they did, God always met them in unexpected ways and provided for them. This has impacted team members, helping them see that they can have an impact on the world around them and that God is wanting to use them to bring salvation, healing and hope to our broken world.
“Here are some highlights of our trip:-
And now for some testimonies from the team:-
TONY WILKINSON writes:
“Going to Mozambique has truly changed my life. Being with people where trusting in God for their survival is actually a matter of life or death all they have is Him. It was truly overwhelming at times but God came through every time. Praise Him.
“Going to Mozambique has changed the way I think about the way I'm going to live and work in Buttershaw, as I've seen and learned from the Iris* team that the people I live with and are called to serve are really really important and things should happen even if you've got to scale it down.
“I've also been given confidence in my own abilities as a youth leader by being given free reign for a session about God’s plan and purpose for your life. I gave it to older lads who were about 14 years old - they didn't know me but trusted God enough that God had equipped me to deliver a message for the guys in their charge. The message I gave, without me knowing, was the message the educators have given for the two months before I arrived in Africa.
“So in conclusion, I've had a life-changing experience - I'm so thankful to God for the things I've seen and the people I've met it is an experience I am going to repeat again God willing.
Africa has opened my eyes and shown how I can improve and impact my community for God’s glory. It’s not just a saying in Africa “there is a smile round every corner”. I will never be the same again.”
(*Iris – the group visited Iris ministries)
MARIA LACEY writes:
“While in Mozambique, I went to another children’s centre in Zimpeto. This children’s centre was specifically for children with special needs. What struck me about the centre was that the staff were so loving, and it was so clean. Despite having next to nothing, the children were well cared for, clean and happy, and the staff were so caring and played with the children entertaining them as best they could. While I was there, a boy with special needs was upset about being in his chair so I picked him up and gave him a hug and carried him around.
“It really touched me, that although he was 11, he felt like a three-year-old in my arms. His young, hard life had taken its toll on his body so he had not developed as he should have. The boy was so loving, so pleased that a stranger had picked him up and he was so happy and trusting.
“My heart was moved with compassion, reminding me of my own children with special needs at home and how fortunate they actually are. I have learned it doesn’t matter how much money you have in the bank, as long as you have love you actually have everything. Material stuff doesn’t matter, what matters is the love that I can give to people. I realised that I took so much for granted, and I am now more appreciative and thankful of all that I have; like my bath, hot water, food, and a freezer.
“I feel like my heart has been made new from my experience in Africa. I have a better way of looking at things, like I now know I don’t have to spend £200 a week on shopping. I will now teach my kids that there is so much more to life than the X-Box.
“Since coming home from Africa, I have more compassion in my heart for the people on Buttershaw and I feel that I can give so much more. I have had my eyes opened and I want to share that new way of looking at things with all the kids on Buttershaw.”
AURELIA SITCH, aged 10, writes:
“We took loads of loom bands to Africa. We went to the boys’ dorm, they were about 4-8 years old, and we taught them how to make loom bands. I was like a teacher to them and I loved watching them struggle and then succeed. It was great to see something that I love to do in the UK, bring such joy to the boys in Mozambique.
“I also went to the baby house and I prayed for each of the children as I held them. I prayed that they would know God's love and that they would be healthy. I learned that it's better to give than receive, and around God it’s best to have both, to receive from Him and give it out to everyone around me.
“Now I am back in Buttershaw I am more grateful for everything I have, and I am being less shy because I now step boldly out with Him and tell my friends about what God did in Africa, and what He can do for them.”
ELIORA SITCH, aged seven, writes:
“While I was in Mozambique I went into the baby house. I noticed a girl there who had Downs Syndrome and she had one of her eyes closed and she was struggling to walk. So, I prayed for her and straight away her eye opened and she started to walk on her own without needing to hold my hand.
“Then my dad spoke to one of the helpers in the baby house and she said that the girl had been very poorly, but once I had prayed for her they noticed a change in her, she had got a lot better.
“I learned that the people in Africa are very poor, but they enjoy living there a lot and I was just amazed at how they could be so happy. Now I am back in Buttershaw, I think more on the positive things and not on the negative things and I think about others before myself. I want to work in Africa when I am older, I want to be a missionary and help the children to have more education.”
MERYL SITCH writes:
“While we were in Zimpeto I went on an overnight outreach into the bush. We went to a small village. While we were there we walked for miles in the sand and baking heat. I had my heart broken as we saw a grandmother living in a corrugated iron shack with her four grandchildren, but she and her children were still so full of joy.
“We prayed for one lady who had been in a bike accident and had constant pain in her thigh. As we prayed for her the pain left and she was able to walk more freely, so much that she threw her walking stick away.
“We also met a beautiful older lady called Angelica. She was dancing with us as the bush outreach service started and there was such overwhelming joy on her face. Another lady gave me a capalana (a piece of cloth, like a sarong, which is used for everything from carrying babies, to a skirt to a blanket). Out of her poverty she was moved to give me a gift. I was blown away by her generosity.
“I learned that living with and in joy is not about your circumstances, it’s about perspective; that generosity is still possible even when you think you have nothing, and even when you do literally have nothing.
“This whole experience has had such a profound effect on me and my whole family. I am now living with a different perspective, one in which I remain (I hope!) joyful whatever life throws up. I am more desperate than ever before for more of Him in my life, in my heart, in my work, in my family, in my street and in my neighbourhood. I'll do whatever it takes to see Buttershaw people know that they are loved by a good, good Father, who is in a good mood with them.
“I've crossed over the line, there's no backing down, no hiding away. If that family can be joyful with next to nothing, I have no excuse.”
HELEN SCHOFIELD writes:
“I learned that God comes over and over again to those whom the world chooses to forget, ignore and abuse. In a place where tears, fear, sadness and hopelessness exist, Jesus performs the miraculous over and over again. He lifts the lost from the pit of hell and releases them into the high places of Heaven.
“Through His children, He patiently loves, nurtures and redeems those who yield all of themselves to Him until His light shines in them and they become free.
“It was a privilege to be part of the Buttershaw team, and I believe the beginning of a new adventure for this church and those they seek to care for and release.”
REBEKAH GREGG, aged 13, writes:
“Mozambique was an amazing experience. We arrived with all the worries and tiredness of the flights which disappeared when we saw the kids with their eyes filled with joy.
“I mainly loved going to the baby house. These were 9 months to three-year-olds. There were around 30 children and five teers (helpers), so when you went in you could imagine the thrill of being hugged and played with one on one.
“On one of the days went on the street mission and on a visit to the Bocaria, their local large rubbish dump. I would say this place affected me the most. The love the Mozambiquens who took us showed to the kids and adults who live there every day was overwhelming. But most of all it was that they worshipped, I mean full on danced and sung in this tiny building. In the midst of a vile smelling, rotting, burning tip we sang and danced and thanked the Lord. Honestly I think that we in England need to adopt their attitude!
“Africa changed me and made me realise how wealthy I am. I thank God for the opportunities I get at school and church. I really hope I do get to go back one day. The money we raised was worth every penny to be such a blessing to see those kids!”
LIZ GREGG writes:
“This was a dream fulfilled for me. Eight years ago on our sabbatical as a family we had the privilege to go to Mozambique. This deeply impacted me and since then I have been excited about the possibility taking a team from Buttershaw and the impact that would have.
“It is impossible to go to Africa and not be impacted by the poverty, by the passionate faith of those who willingly sacrifice all to follow Jesus and by the presence of God in such brokenness. I was impacted by all these on a new level but it was also a privilege to see team members, people from Buttershaw be changed.
“I expected that coming back people might lose some of the passion they felt while in Africa but it has been truly encouraging to have many people who didn’t go to Africa come up to me and speak about the change they have seen in the team. New levels of confidence to speak and share about their faith, new confidence to pray and expect God to heal, increased passion to take God’s presence in the darkest places of our society.
“For me personally, I was deeply impacted by worshipping everywhere we went and feeling the presence of God in some unexpected places like the inner city rubbish dump with rats and cockroaches where a mum and baby (plus many others) lived. It reminded me that God does truly come for the broken and lost, and if we want to find Him then that is where to look.
“I was impacted to by the sacrifice of the pastors we met, many of whom lived under physical threat for their lives and yet so willingly did so because of Jesus.”
AUBREY SITCH writes:
“I went to Mozambique with my ideas of what poverty might be like and was humbled by the depth and readiness of the smiles on people’s faces who faced such poverty. I saw God at work both through the hands of people willing to sacrifice their home comforts and western 'security' to change people's lives and through God's miraculous provision of food, fuel and healings.
“I was really taken by the boldness and urgency with which young men who had grown up in the orphanage we were based at would share their faith with people in the most challenging circumstances.
“Just a little goes a long way in Mozambique, whether that is a cuddle with a child at bed time that lights their face up with hope, a second-hand donated laptop that can allow a former orphan go on to higher education and provide for a family in the future or a word of encouragement that brings hope to a prisoner with no legal representation. These are priceless acts as we cannot calculate the value they bring yet cross all cultural barriers. I'm sure that similar acts can break through walls of consumerism and entitlement that grip British poor communities such as Buttershaw.
“I came back with less luggage than I went with but a greater burden to reach out with kindness and a readiness to share God's glory.”
JOSHUA LEAKEY, aged 14, writes:
“I was not sure what to expect before the trip - not sure what the buildings would be like, not sure how developed it would be. “We were near the capital which is the richest part of Mozambique.
“I was nervous about what was out there, not sure what to expect. I wondered - would there be enough food, would the water be clean and drinkable? What would the accommodation be like - toilets, showers, beds? Would anyone get a dangerous disease? What would the hospital treatment be like?
“The flights into and out of Mozambique were difficult emotionally. On the way in, I suddenly realised that we could see what little they had, when we compared the buildings in Maputo, to those we had seen in London - and Johannesburg on the way out. The realisation that we had had to leave the people behind and we might not see them for quite a while, if at all, was difficult.
“I have learned that being poor isn’t always a bad thing. They were happy with nothing, they all wanted to try to be your friend, even though they did not know you.
“I have so many good memories:-
“From Laura I learned that you can be kind and generous. Laura was nice, she was willing to play games with us and she was available for the boys to talk to and cuddle. She also shared some of her life with me.
“Leaving was the most difficult bit, leaving the people and the culture. I did look forward to having a meal that was not rice-based and not having an air-raid siren wake me up in the morning!
“To anyone else that is thinking of going I would say you should definitely go, it is well worth it. They share everything they have with you, even when they do not have very much. They give you love and joy, especially if you enjoy playing with kids, physical affection and cuddles.”
DAVID LEAKEY writes:
“I have never travelled to a city primarily to serve the community, to encounter need and poverty. I was thrilled to be included in the group going on this trip. As soon as the possibility was discussed I knew that it was something I wanted do. There was a quickening in my spirit.
“My 14 year-old son and I had mixed emotions and some concerns but overall we were excited by what would be the trip of a life-time, both of us expecting to be changed by the experience. Once we arrived the excitement and joy we saw and shared with the children we looked after was truly amazing.
“We chose to devote most of our time with one dormitory - Laura’s dorm, room 5 - which was home for 34 boys between 4 and 8 years old.
“We also chose to eat in the main dining hall with the children, each day we served the children first and they then said Grace and started to eat, then we were served and we went to sit with a group of older boys most days, which in turn led to us having more time to form bonds and have fun together messing around and laughing together. It was also very humbling to serve the children before we ate.
“One of the older boys “Antonio” drew me a picture during a church service, and this broke my spirit and made me cry. He had touched me, he had wanted to give me something to take back with me, something to remember him.
“The children often just wanted to interact with you, to be cuddled and be the focus of your attention, it seemed that they particularly liked to use your camera to take pictures of each other and take numerous ‘selfies’, I have some amazing shots of the children that I did not take! They have a sense of fun and laughter.
“I work as a pharmacist, serving the same estate that Buttershaw Baptist serves, I see my role involves spreading the stories of the trip, with other people not directly connected to church. I am able to talk to people about generosity, culture, poverty and love even if they have no understanding of the Christian faith.
“One of the spiritual experiences I had on the trip, was a picture I received while praying for a prisoner in the local prison. This picture was of Jesus being sat with the prisoner even in the depths of his despair - when he was at his lowest moments Jesus was there to share them with him, to comfort him and to love him. As I thought more about this vision and prayed for the prisoner, as the days went by, this picture grew on me, and it became personal to me as well. This was the first time that I had spent a prolonged period of time praying and soaking in the same picture that God had given to me and it sank deep within me. It still inspires me to share Jesus’s love of relationship and spending time in his presence.
“I would love to return to Zimpeto Children’s Centre, to pick up on relationships and encourage and love the staff serving the children every day of the year.”
LIZ GREGG CONCLUDES:
“In reading our individual testimonies and reports it is easy to see the impact that the trip had on each of us but also the impact that it is having on our church and community. Since coming back not only have we had chance to share at church the testimonies of our time but we have been invited back into primary, secondary schools and Scout groups to share our time.
“There are times as a church we take a step and it easy to see where it will lead but already taking a team to Mozambique has had a far bigger effect on the individuals who went and the community we are part of than we would have expected.
“As William Carey, a great Baptist missionary said: ‘Expect great things from God, do great things for God’. At Buttershaw we love to do this and this has been one of the times we have truly seen God do great things.”