Missio Dei: A Journal of Missional Theology and Praxis 10, no. 1 (Winter–Spring 2019)

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Hope Is a Place

Renata Cabral Vicente

The Hope Mission was planted in Mozambique 23 years ago. Its founders, Geraldo Borges, and Kleber and Juracema Ribeiro, were sent by the Christian Churches in Brazil to start a mission work in the northern part of the country. Throughout the years, the missionaries have planted more than 100 churches, trained indigenous leaders, started a Christian school in a predominantly Muslim neighborhood, and opened a house to take care of orphans and children at risk. In the school, more than a thousand kids receive free education that prepares them to go to high school afterwards. In the Hope Home, around sixty kids receive everything they need to thrive while living in a Christian environment. Kleber and Juracema Ribeiro were members of my home church in Goiânia, GO, Brazil, and I visited them for twenty days in order to learn about their work and to be a better advocate for them back in Brazil. As you can read below, I had a transformative experience, and I hope to give you a glimpse of what I saw.

To get there, first you need a visa to Mozambique. Then, you have to buy a plane ticket to Johannesburg or to another major city in South Africa. From there, you take another plane to a city called Nampula located in the northern part of Mozambique. While in the plane, you can see the so-called “square of asphalt” out the window—the only place in the city with paved streets. However, do not be so excited. You are not at Hope yet.

After becoming more familiar with the smell of the city, a mix of human odor and spice, you drive to a predominantly Muslim neighborhood. While crossing Nampula, you notice that the majority of its inhabitants are seated in front of their houses no matter what time it is. Some of them are talking, others are playing cards. Some just observe what is going on. You will soon discover they do not do it by choice. Just like Hope, jobs are a rare commodity in the city.

Still driving, you cross the railroad tracks. Next to the tracks, you see a bustling marketplace. Under the scorching hot sun, clothes are bought and sold. If you decide to stop and take a look at them, prepare to be surrounded by a great number of insistent sellers trying to convince you that they have the greatest deal to offer. However, do not be mad if they try to sell you used American clothes for an exorbitant price. Here, international visitors are like jobs and Hope: rare and valued.

Talking to some of the local people, you discover that the American clothes sold in the marketplace were sent to Mozambique for the purpose of being distributed to poor people. Unfortunately, you will realize soon that corruption has managed to transform charity into commerce. Probably hopeless at this point, you decide to get out of there. It is the perfect time to continue your trip to Hope.

Driving to your destination within the city, you ask yourself why you are here. Why have you decided to come? Why have you planned this trip? The dusty streets, the scorching sun, the strong odor, the unemployed people, and the busy marketplace have influenced all your questions. But do not allow them to stop you from finding Hope. You are almost there.

The gates are open and a thousand kids are playing among the trees. They are wearing uniforms: white shirts with purple skirts for the girls and purple shorts for the boys. You can feel the happiness in the air; it is contagious. While you are trying to decide what to do, one of them takes your hand and invites you to play. How can you say no? He points to the swing, hung from one of the trees. You swing him so high that he almost touches the sky. His laugh fills your heart with joy and Hope.

After the bell, you will see all of them entering their classrooms in a very organized way. To your surprise, warnings not to run are unnecessary. They know exactly what to do. It is lunch time. For most students, it will be the only meal of their day. Maybe, you imagine, this is one of the reasons why their Muslim parents allow them to attend a Christian school. The other reason, you know for sure, is the fact that the school also offers free quality education no matter the religious background of the child. This is Hope for you and for them.

Leaving the school, you will be invited to visit the orphanage located on the same property. There, forty kids receive three meals a day—something unimaginable in the reality of Mozambique. You will listen to some of their stories and discover that, in fact, the majority of them are not orphans. Their parents, in a desperate act, gave them to the missionaries. Hopeless, they decided to offer Hope to their kids.

With the faces of the kids in your mind, their laughter in your ears, and their stories in your heart, you will probably need a moment of silence—and so will I. Providentially, one of the workers will invite us to spend some time in the chapel located in the back of the lot. While going there, he will tell us his own story. He will talk about how the mission reached out to him in his remote village. He will tell us that he was one of the kids of the orphanage and one of the students at the school. With a smile on his face, he will tell us that he is now one of the teachers at Hope Mission. In that moment, looking at him, we will finally realize that Hope is real, and we have found it.

Renata Cabral Vicente is an ordained minister who works as Administrative Pastor at First Christian Church in Taguatinga Sul, Brazil. After working in advertising agencies in her hometown, Goiânia, for ten years, she answered her ministerial calling. She holds an MDiv in Theology from Emmanuel Christian Seminary at Milligan College.