Nathan Reid, Partnership Development Consultant with Global Interaction NSW, took a moment with Tobias who is serving in Mozambique. Tobias and Heather, along with their children Elijah, Rachel and Lydia, are strongly committed to sharing the message of Jesus in culturally relevant ways and took some time out to share a piece of their story.
How did you come to faith?
The story of how I came to faith isn’t one of wholesale repentance from a more sinful life, nor is it one grounded in a great ‘spiritual’ experience. In truth, I had the privilege of being raised in a home that took Jesus seriously and I have been ‘going to church’ my whole life. As a boy I was forever asking questions about faith and pursuing understanding. I am a very introspective person so my inner dialogue was often about God and trying to make sense of his plan for me. Growing up in a Christian home however doesn’t mean that my faith was not tested nor that I have never doubted. In truth, I have had what I tend to see as my ‘dark night of the soul’ experience: a time where God seemed so horribly distant from me. Hell doesn’t need to be a place of fire to be a place of torment! The lack of God’s presence is hell enough. This period lasted at least a year – a year I spent trying so hard to get God back. It was a very, very difficult time for me. I believe it only ended because Jesus loves me and does not wish for anyone to perish. What I mean is that it is only by God’s grace that I was relieved of the horridness of it all and began to feel his presence again. I learnt a lot through the experience. Certainly I learnt a lot about perseverance and what it means to have faith and trust in God even when it seems fruitless.
What led you to become a cross-cultural worker?
The big thing I point to here is a life-changing visit to Africa in 2006 when I was still in high school. It is hard to see how I would have been led to become a cross-cultural worker if I hadn’t experienced the mission field first hand. I’m sure God could have used other methods to persuade me, but his plan for me involved a trip overseas to places where Global Interaction currently works or has worked before (Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique). My motivation for going on this trip was less than ideal – I’d never been overseas and so the opportunity through my home church was just too good to miss! Although I hadn’t exactly made any solid commitments, the plan after finishing school was to go to university and study criminal psychology. I thought I wanted to be a criminologist. God clearly had other plans – my heart was transformed on the trip to Africa. I could go on about all the little things that spoke into my heart on that trip, but for now it will suffice to say that Africa got into my blood and a burning heart for unreached people groups was ignited!
What kind of hardships do you face and what keeps you going?
We are very blessed to be serving with Global Interaction, who look after their staff very well. We have a secure house to live in and a reliable car to drive. These two things alone lighten the everyday stress of living in northern Mozambique! Although I could talk about the fact that funerals are the most common life event here, and that lots of people die from preventable causes every day (death is indiscriminate – kids and young people are often those I hear of having died), I will just focus now on the everyday (less emotional) life stuff that is challenging for us here.
Hardships include the fact that daily life is just that much more challenging than living in Australia – all the food we eat is made from scratch and from limited ingredients. We make our own sour cream from vinegar and tinned ‘dessert’ cream, we bake our own bread, cut our own chips. The ease of life in Australia in regards to food preparation is definitely not taken for granted by us living here! Not to mention that the few grocery shops are only open during the day and even then close between 12 and 2pm each day for a bit of a siesta. It leaves very little time in each day to get what we need and to do the work we’re here for! We certainly aim to do a ‘big shop’ and stock up in bulk on things we can’t always buy. I am known to buy 15 cans of coconut milk at once because it is inevitable that the following trip to the shop for coconut milk will be futile! The same goes for ‘fresh milk’, which is actually just long-life. I sometimes buy 40 or so litres at once because of the unreliability of stock. In fact, we’re down to our last 6 litres as I write this now with no more milk in town until a truck arrives from the capital!
The thing that keeps me going is a confidence in the fact that God has called our family here, and that there is a role for me to play in God’s plan of salvation for the Yawo people. I believe that our hardships here (and there are more serious ones than just those mentioned above – like separation from loving family in Australia) will be worth it. It will totally be worth it to see the Yawo come to faith in Jesus. It is a real privilege to be here and to share in what God is doing here.
What are some of the blessings in what you do?
One thing that blesses me here is that so many people are hungry to hear about God and that they’re willing to hear it from me! It is early days in terms of full-on out-inthe- village ministry for us (as I am currently learning my second language having learnt Portuguese already), but I am blessed right now by the fact that just last week my language ‘nurturer’ was asking me about the ascension of Jesus and what that’s all about. He’d heard it from someone else that Christians talk about “the second coming of Christ”. We had a good discussion about it. A discussion in Ciyawo mind you; it still blows me away that I am a white Aussie male who can converse in two languages other than English! It truly is a wonderful blessing to have the opportunity to meet these Yawo people and share in their lives.
How can churches pray for you?
In wanting to keep it real, a prayer that I would appreciate is just for my persistent neck and back pain. Doing a lot of language study at the moment is not best for my ergonomic goodness! Missionaries aren’t perfect and I’d be lying if I said that every day is a good day. As I seek to learn Ciyawo and move forward into ministry, I would also appreciate prayer for things bigger than me: that any willingness to hear about God would be transformed into faith and commitment amongst the Yawo; that the right people will be sent across my path and that whole families and groups of Yawo people would come to faith – not just individuals. Pray that the Holy Spirit does his thing of bringing Yawo hearts to Jesus.
You can support Tobias and Heather with either a one-off or regular donation. Please visit the Global Interaction website to find out more: www.globalinteraction.org.au/Support/Workers/Staff/TobiasandHeather