|Constant in the storm: Florida women pray with Mozambique missionaries
Soon after Mozambique’s long civil war ended in the mid-1990s, International Mission Board missionaries were concerned about their safety when traveling along dusty roads and bridges neglected for nearly 17 years while the strife raged. So the women of Florida prayed.
The missionaries asked God’s mercy on visits to long-isolated churches, while they were preaching, teaching, and showing the JESUS film. So the women of Florida prayed.
When a missionary family accidently hit a small child in the year 2000, “we thought he was dead,” said missionary Charlotte Cearley, “but the Lord revived him,” as the women of Florida prayed.
“I can truly say their prayers saw us through many difficulties, changes and personnel,” said Cearley, recalling the 18-year prayer partnership with Florida Woman’s Missionary Union.
“It felt like a constant in the storm that often happens in and around missionary lives,” said Cearley, who was formerly assigned to Mozambique, but currently serves as prayer strategist for Sub-Saharan African Peoples. Her husband Tim is the affinity strategist for Sub-Saharan African Peoples.
When the Florida women began praying in 1995, 15 missionaries—seven couples and a single woman—served in the African country roughly twice as large as the state of California. Now the number of missionaries serving the Southeast African nation has doubled.
“They have prayed in new personnel through the years and now in Mozambique we are touching more people groups than ever before,” said Cearley.
Missionary Larry Randolph recalled that during the time after the civil war, as a result of “praying on both sides of the ocean. . . lots of churches were started and not all directly by missionaries.
“Mozambicans were going out themselves on foot, on bicycle, and the occasional mini-van taxi,” he said.
“This partnership has helped us to go to new places to begin a new work knowing that people in Florida were praying for this new place,” recalled Wanne Dina, who along with her husband John has served in the country of 24 million people for more than two decades.
When the couple asked the Florida women to pray for the health of their children when struck with malaria, none of them had complicated cases,” Dina said, attributing that to prayer.
They had asked for prayer for the Moniga people who had no Christian witness in 2010, recalled Dina. God sent a student missionary who started the work. But one day as he returned from sharing the gospel with a small fishing village, he was killed in a motorcycle accident. Yet his death was not in vain. Now nine new mission outposts exist among the Moniga people.
Prayer for strong leadership among the pastors and church leaders brought “a strong group who loves God and loves to share with others about their faith,” Dina said. Prayers for new missionaries resulted in six new couples and two women journeymen being assigned to the Mozambique’s mission force.
But the prayer partnership also changed the women in Florida, said Sarah Fitzgerald, who has been involved in the partnership, even traveling to the country in 1998 during the prayer ministry’s embryonic stages.
The purpose of her trip was to meet missionaries serving in Mozambique, gain insights into the culture and prayerwalk to better inform the Florida women. “Putting names, faces and locations together proved beneficial in the initial months of the partnership,” she said.
“For me it was the beginning of a love for the people of Africa, specifically Mozambique,” said Fitzgerald, a member of First Baptist Church in Belleview.
The prayer partnership “unified women in WMU for a common purpose during some difficult days of the organization,” she explained.
“Praying for lost people on the other side of the world has a way of lightening the load here. It helps us see with Kingdom eyes. It raised us to a new level of more than compassion for the lost. We gain the desire to do what we can to take the gospel to them,” she added.
Fitzgerald’s deceased husband, Lawrence Fitzgerald, published a bi-monthly Prayergram, communicating with the missionaries, discovering prayer requests and sending them to Florida women to pray for the needs. That task has now been assumed by O.L. Haynes, who produces an electronic newsletter every other month
The Fitzgeralds’ involvement spawned a desire from the members of the Belleview Church to adopt a relationship with the Koti people, which had been designated by the IMB as an unreached people group. The Koti people live on the eastern coast of northern Mozambique and the small islands just off the coast. Some are Muslim, Fitzgerald reported.
Teams from the Belleview Church traveled to the Koti area several times and rejoiced when they discovered a couple from England, representing Wycliffe Bible translators, had been there eight years before the Floridians, working on a Bible translation and a second couple sent there from a Japanese church.
But retired Belleview pastor, Ronnie Walker, believes the partnership with the Koti people “changed the culture” of the Central Florida church. As God began to work among the Koti and clear evidence of answered prayer was reported, the church became more intensive and intentional in prayer at every level.”
In Mozambique today, the work is progressing as never before, said Dina. God has placed missionaries in new places, including several families working among Mozambique’ Muslims, while others were assigned to locations where there are no believers at all. She reported that new churches are being planted by second and third generations strong in doctrine and beliefs.
“God is opening the door for new believers,” said Dina. “We continue to see people coming to the Lord every day.”
And the women of Florida continue to pray.