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In Mozambique, mission couple listened before starting projects

By Ruth Brandon - Global Ministries Committee

Who knew that motorcycle repair and compost were keys to community.  Who knew that when heading into a mission field it is wise to spend a whole year listening before trying to run a project.

Kim Free answers questions during an itineration gathering at the Veradale UCC in Spokane Valley.

 Photo courtesy of Gen Heywood

These were some of the observations Eric and Kim Free shared when visiting 19 locations in the Pacific Northwest in February, starting in Anchorage, Alaska.

These realities were part of their message about their time embedded in the United Church of Christ of Mozambique from 2013 to 2016. 

Their hosts in Mozambique insisted that they should listen, improve their language skills, and learn how local people lived and thought as they set priorities for their first year. 

The Frees said they were antsy, but when something they tried failed, they realized they were indeed too early into their experience to be making suggestions. 

Meanwhile, they met other missionaries who had just jumped in with little or no listening, and then complained that nobody was responsive and their efforts were not working. 

Kim and Eric were assigned to a rural church community to help with agriculture, health and women’s empowerment.

They realized that in everything they should be accompanied by local folk who were both learners and helpers so they could carry on when the Frees were not there. 

Compost was one lesson.  They said that locals thought them crazy as they gathered piles of sticks, grass, leaves and even went farmer to farmer requesting manure.

Visit by visit they said they developed their compost pile and relationships.  Many hands helped them turn the pile and after it had time to work, they chose a Sunday to continue the lesson. 

Large numbers of curious people were at church.

Eric brought a rod, thrust it deep into the compost and asked the skeptical observers who would like to touch it when they pulled it out. 

Finally, a brave soul accepted and was astounded at how hot the rod was.  Then each and every one wanted to try despite their fear of touching excrement or spiny irritating things they knew had been put in the pile.  It was changing into fertilizer.

The teacher at the school run by the church brought a class to learn hands on. 

Before the Frees returned to Oregon, compost was distributed to all the farmers.  The community had grown stronger, a good farming tip was learned. Now though they are gone, they know that compost-making will continue, that crops will be stronger and that there will be less hunger.

The motorcycles also helped.  Eric was bored with too much down time and discovered that the church had a shed of broken-down motorcycles. 

Most pastors had four to five churches they were responsible for and long distances to cover. 

Motorcycles helped, but the pastors were not mechanics and had no money to pay mechanics. 

When Eric began to repair the motorcycles they had left in the shed, some asked to learn how to do that.

Eric and Kim made clear that it was local needs and aspirations they learned to relate to, starting from their church base. 

They made it clear that Global Ministries missionaries with the United Church of Christ and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) do not go to dump their own priorities on others but to work side by side with them as they discern what God is calling them to do. 

For information, call 425-220-2476 or email


Pacific Northwest Conference United Church of Christ News © April 2017


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