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Kim and Erik Free spoke at churches in PNC

The Global Ministries Committee of the Pacific Northwest Conference of the UCC and the Disciples of Christ Northwest Region hosted Kim and Erik Free, members of First Christian Church in Portland, Ore., for visits in at churches in Richland, Veradale, Spokane, Seattle, Olympia and Tacoma.

Erik and Kim Free

Erik and Kim Free shared with North Hill Christian Church in Spokane and Veradale UCC.

They are preparing to leave in March for a four-year term as mission partners in Mozambique with the national Global Ministries.  Given limited funds in both the UCC and DOC for Global Ministries, they invited partnerships and pledges toward the $50,000 it will cost for their term.

The Frees will serve with the United Church of Christ in Mozambique (UCCM), which has struggled as a Portuguese colony with imperialism, racism, poverty and civil war. 

From 1905 to 1930 the American Board for Foreign Missions sent missionaries, but stopped during the Great Depression for lack of funds and lost contact. 

The Congregational Church in Mozambique was a founding member of the Council of Churches.  In 1950, it became the United Church of Christ Mozambique.  Most projects have had indigenous funding.

The Portuguese left in 1975, destroying much of the infrastructure, buildings, bridges and wells.  They had not educated the people, so rebuilding has been hard.  With a power vacuum when they left, there was a civil war that killed a generation of people, Kim said. 

After it ended in 1991, a Global Ministries representative came to a meeting of the UCCM and Council of Churches in Maputu, offering to help. 

“You are already here, the representative was told,” Kim said.  “We are going to help rebuild our relationship on a long-term basis.”

Mozambiquans want to do projects themselves.  They want schools and education for preachers.  The majority of people are under 14 and have a short life expectancy, she said.

Despite the suffering, Kim and Erik have been impressed with videos of people in church dancing and singing.

“People are full of joy as they prepare for communion,” Kim said.  “In four years, I will come back and teach you to have the joy they have.  I hope to learn from them.

“Mozambique began rebuilding after the civil war ended in 1991,” she said.  “It is one of the world’s least developed countries with a high rate of HIV and AIDs.  The UCCM works in rural communities where there is no safety net other than churches and non-governmental organizations.”

In 2012, the Frees, who met at Northwest Christian College in Eugene, Ore., served as volunteers with Global Ministries, teaching English in China for three weeks.

Kim, who grew up on a farm, has experience in nursing and EMT work.  The pastor at the Assembly of God Church she attended as a child had served as a missionary in the Philippines and stirred her interest in mission work. 

She will train churches and communities in health care and preventative care. She will also work with women and girls on empowerment projects.

Erik, who grew up in a Silverton, Ore., DOC church, has experience in youth ministry and hospital chaplaincy.  He believes his eclectic career path  that gives him experience with cows, driving tractors, drilling wells and electronics, will be useful for the varied tasks needed in Mozambique.

He will train youth and elders in the community in agricultural skills and will serve as a local church pastor as needed by the UCCM.

He led youth mission trips to Mexico and New Orleans, before the couple went to YaAn, China.

“We knew we would work together and be immersed in a different culture,” he said.  “We will be living off the grid in self-sufficient communities.”

Erik said mission is different today.

“We go to work as partners, reaffirming relationships,” he said.  “Previously, mission was about saving people, but now the Gospel is already there.

He appreciates Global Ministries’ partnership mentality of mission partners going where they are invited “to be a critical presence, to form relationships and to ‘do life’ with the people,” he said.

Understanding the culture is critical for any project, such as digging wells, Erik said.

With the water table at 110 meters, wells have been hand dug as a big hole, that makes contamination a danger.  It takes a crew many days. 

“Gender roles are rigid, so men dig wells and women carry water,” Erik said.  “We hope to introduce a well drilling system that takes two men three days a hole the size of a coffee can and will less likely contaminate the water.

The Frees hope to help people in the PNC and DOC-NW will connect with them through the Global Ministries website, so they will learn about projects and ways they can be involved.

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February March 2014 © Pacific NW Conference News


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