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Meeting a critical presence request by the United Church of Christ in Mozambique, Kim and Erik Free were approved as missionary candidates to serve a full four year term working in rural Mozambique as a health worker and local minister, pending financial support for this position. UPDATE: As of February 24, 2014, more than $36,000 has been raised toward the goal of $50,000 for the first year of their missionary appointment! To make a contribution to their work you may give online, set up a reccuring gift or give by check to Global Ministries.
Kim and Erik, last year you served in the Amity Foundation’s Summer teaching program and now you have been approved to serve in Mozambique, what led you to engage in this call to mission?
Kim: It has been an interest for me my whole life. I was attracted to the way that Global Ministries works in partnership with organizations internationally. I knew that Erik and I may be in a position to share in ways that would be appreciated in communities overseas, and were glad to accept the challenge when an opportunity was brought to us.
Erik: Kim and I have always shared an interest and passion for overseas mission work. My earliest experience in mission work was participating in youth mission trips to Mexico. The many experiences I have had on these trips, as a youth and adult leader, have been formative for my understanding of God’s mission in the whole world and how I might serve. Looking back, I can see how this and other experiences as well as my study to become a pastor have informed and led me to a place where accepting a call to overseas work is exciting and life-giving.
Like so many others, Kim and I have been blessed with a willingness and passion to serve where our skills and gifts can be used to their fullest. Through many conversations and prayer we have found that place in Global Ministries.
Can you tell us a little about your experience with the Amity Foundation in China? How did it challenge your understanding of mission?
Erik: Our experience in China was a bit of an experiment for Kim and me. We wanted to have an opportunity to discover, in a short-term context, if we were cut out to be overseas missionaries. Thankfully, ours was a very affirming and encouraging experience. Our time in China was also very challenging. I thought I was pretty good at adapting to new situations when we left. Our time in China taught me a whole new level of adaptation and the joy that can come with genuine partnership with our sisters and brothers overseas. While I did not feel my sense of mission challenged much on this trip, it was greatly enriched by interaction with the people we met and worked with.
Kim: It was a gift to be able to see how a church in Oregon can affect a partner organization in another country. We were able to work with people from all over the world and all different backgrounds for the same goal. It wasn't always easy and we didn't always agree on how to do the teaching we were asked to do. But, I learned how to step back and listen to our partners, to really see their culture and customs. When I was able to let go of control and work together we were able to get our work done in a way that I would have never thought of on my own.
Is there a moment or two from that experience that stand out in your mind?
Kim: There was a problem we had about the schedule for class on Friday. We, the teachers, wanted to give the people in our class the opportunity to choose from several options on Friday to allow them to have some flexibility with their time at the week's end. It turned out that this idea was unfavorable to the host and they wanted an all or nothing approach to the schedule. We had a hard time at first thinking that it was unreasonable to demand this. We were luckily able to step back and remember that the custom in China is not individuality but unity at a much higher level than in the US. Even though it felt awkward at first we did see that the people in our class did much better grouped together than if we had allowed them to break off. I learned that just because something doesn’t make sense to me at first, it may just be our culture getting in the way of a learning experience.
Erik: My favorite moments were when the Chinese teachers I was working with shared from their experience and exercised their teaching skills in our classes. The times we were able to laugh together at a funny skit or story. Those were the times when I felt a deep connection with them.
At one point during our time teaching, we were visited by a representative from Amity, who explained to the participants of the Summer English Program a little of what it took for the volunteers to get to China and why we came. Later, my class seemed very interested in what it actually cost us to come to China. After talking a while and being amazed at the investment we had made to come be with them, they asked me why I would do this. That day we were able to share some deeply held beliefs and came to understand one another on a much deeper level than before. It was a humbling experience and one I won’t soon forget.
Now you are getting ready to serve in Mozambique, can you tell us a little about the partner there?
Erik: The United Church of Christ in Mozambique (UCCM) has a long and often difficult history of Christian service in Mozambique. Tracing their history back to 1905, they have survived struggles with imperialist regimes, civil war, and the hard work of reconnecting with partners overseas beginning in 1992. Currently, the UCCM is involved in many development projects from women’s micro-credit to developing clean water installations. Kim and I are humbled and excited to be invited to work with such a wonderful organization.
And which of your gifts do you think will be most useful in this new calling?
Kim: I have a diverse background of skills from working with people and animals, being a healthcare provider, and working in local missions. I know going with an open mind and heart is important. I am not going with an agenda, I am going to serve.
Erik: While, like most people, I have many gifts and skills that will be useful in a global ministry context, the one I expect to rely on most is the ability to adapt and to be creative.
How can we support you in your ministry?
Kim: Making sure that your local congregation participates in missions, either local or global. Share our stories at your church and add us to your prayer list. Invite a missionary to come and share in your congregation. We are also trying to raise the necessary funds for our mission work, and would greatly appreciate your financial support as well. You can also keep up with our latest adventures through our Facebook page.