Two days after Carlota’s funeral, I’m sitting outside her sister’s house, surrounded by her other relatives, who are still gathered together, according to local customs. Two young people from our church have accompanied me for the hour-long visit. Like most locals, Carlota’s family finds it quite entertaining to converse with me, a foreigner, in their tribal language, and begins asking about my life and what brought me to Mozambique. Questions about my religious experience naturally open the door for me to explain to them all how my sins were pardoned by the blood of Jesus Christ, and how He extends the same offer to anyone who will come to Him in repentant faith. My companions add their own testimonies to mine, and we eventually say goodbye with the promise to keep in touch.
During a morning in the office, my work is interrupted by an unexpected visit from Sérgio (pictured here), asking for money, again. I sigh inwardly, as it seems the hope of an economic windfall is his only motive for attending our church for the past two years. After listening to his plea for funds to repair his crumbling hut, I begin asking him some probing questions. “If you died today, where would you go?” He freely acknowledges that he’s unsaved and would thus go to a terrible place. “Does that concern you?” “Yes, but . . . ” Out flow a whole litany of excuses for focusing on alleviating his temporal woes rather than seeking eternal safety in Christ. Patiently I keep turning the conversation back around again: “Which is more important to secure: the house you inhabit on earth, or the place where you’ll spend all eternity?” “It’s hard to believe that you’re really concerned about your spiritual condition when by your own admission you’re doing absolutely nothing to try to improve it.” He finally grows somber with the recognition of a problem much deeper than money can solve. After a long silence and further exhortation to flee from the wrath to come, I pray for him and he takes his leave.
One morning during devotions for our employees, who hold various faiths, I feel compelled to speak up with my own affirmation of Bonifácio’s message about the urgency of choosing the right spiritual destiny before death overtakes us. “In the past months, three people close to me have passed away”, I begin, summarizing the story of each one. But in contrast to the common local spiritism-related fear and despair in the face of death, I continue, “Each of these friends trusted in Christ, so their deaths fill me with joy that they are now in His perfect presence, free from all suffering and pain, where I will one day go to join them.” I conclude by observing how sad I would be to one day hear the news that a co-worker who didn’t know Christ had passed away, due to the recognition that he would be in eternal torment without any further hope.
“Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (II Cor. 5:18-21 NKJV)