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Lessons out of Africa

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Ontario church sends team to Burundi, Rwanda, Congo, and Uganda

In early May, Cornerstone Community Church, Virgil, Ont., sent a short-term mission team to Burundi, Rwanda, Congo, and Uganda. The eight participants returned transformed, carrying with them many lessons out of Africa.
The team ministered to struggling Christ-centred people and their churches, and partnered with Doug and Deanna Hiebert, a family from Cornerstone who have been on assignment with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) for several years doing peace and reconciliation work.

While in Africa, the team helped build a meeting place (using bamboo instead of 2x4s) for a congregation, were involved in church services, and distributed handmade baby blankets, hygiene, kitchen, and school supplies, and other practical materials. They also visited and supported a small rural church in Bukavu, Congo.

Upon their return, team members shared their testimonies with the Cornerstone congregation. Again and again, they expressed how the short-term mission had changed them and how deeply they were touched by the way the African people showed such joy in the Lord in the midst of political instability, great suffering, and severe poverty.

Trusting God amidst fear

“For me, going to Africa was not just a step of faith, but a huge leap of faith,” said Cheryl Heinrichs. “It was unlike anything I have ever done. The risks along the way were often more than I anticipated.

“Driving through Uganda with Doug and Deanna Hiebert and their two girls, we travelled farther and farther along a narrow dirt mountain road with huge potholes and washed out sections. What if it rains and the roads are completely impassable for the way home, I wondered? Will I ever make it out of Africa?

“I was afraid to look out the window at the drop-off cliffs next to me. I was afraid to look ahead at the vehicles coming towards us. But Deanna was calmly sitting with her youngest daughter, Elise, in her arms, relaxed. Three-year-old Maddy was sitting in her car seat at the other window eating fishy crackers.

“Then Maddy suddenly started singing, ‘I will cast all my cares upon you, I lay all of my burdens down at your feet. And anytime I don’t know what to do, I will cast all my cares upon you.’

“I closed my eyes, took some deep breaths, and prayed, ‘Lord, can I trust you in this?’

“There were many times that my trust in God was stretched. Praise God. I made it through and was blessed, so blessed, in spite of my anxiety and fear. He was faithful.”

This trip illustrates the importance of short-term missions. Not only do they bring the Christian message of hope and life everlasting to people in foreign lands, they demonstrate to team members how to trust in God in all things and in all places.

In other words, short-term missions can change lives.

Sandra C. Crux

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