By Craig Stevenson
The season of Advent is upon us, and as we anxiously await the arrival of our savior, Jesus, I also think about what this time of year conjures up for me. This time of year I am full of nearly the entire spectrum of emotions: feelings of gratitude, joy, generosity, craziness, needing to slow down, and a desire to be with friends and family, and a sense of anxiousness for those who struggle during this time of the year.
This Advent I reflect on the idea of arriving. In late October, I was in Mozambique with leaders from Morning Star UMC and my parents, who are members of First UMC in Rolla. Throughout our time in Mozambique, we were met with smiles, people awaiting our arrival as guests. This truly humbling experience cannot be explained until you personally experience it. At Cuamba, the people waited for us to arrive to dedicate their new chapel, provided by the generosity of Morning Star. At Munene, a local church leader gave a two-plus minute monologue (in English!) expressing his appreciation to God for our Missouri partnership and our visit to their community.
In non-worship settings, I felt God using our arrival at various places to give us a message to share with our Missouri churches. At Marrupa UMC, this community debated whether it was a two or three hour walk (one way!) to get to the nearest clean water well. Instead, they use the river, a 30-minute walk, with unsafe water. God used Memory, one of the two Mozambican students who is being sponsored by our endowed scholarship at Africa University, to reveal to us truly how much the opportunity to continue her education actually means.
During this time of year, we work to arrive at all kinds of different locations from children’s holiday parties at schools, work parties, family gatherings and church celebrations. My prayer this Advent season is that you and I both take the time to truly arrive, and be present as we anticipate celebrating Jesus’ birth. As we go through the hustle-and-bustle motions of the Christmas season, I hope to put into action the lessons of Mozambican hospitality, generosity, and joy. I invite you in doing this in your actions to our neighbors and in generosity through a new opportunity, by participating in our Alternative Christmas Gift Guide that we are launching this Advent season. You can access it online at www.moumethodist.org/mialternativegiving.
This guide presents a yearly cost breakdown of ministries that highlight some of our most significant needs. As I anticipate Jesus’ arrival with the giving of gifts to loved ones, please consider join me in spreading the Good News of Jesus’ arrival with our brothers and sisters in Mozambique.