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Family togetherness uplifts their work in Africa

[SLIDESHOW=41575,41576,41577,41578]EDITOR’S NOTE: Nov. 29-Dec. 6 is this year’s Week of Prayer for International Missions in the Southern Baptist Convention for workers such as Jim and Teresa Flora and their three daughters in southern Africa. The Week of Prayer, with the theme “Because of Who He Is” from Psalm 96:3 (HCSB), undergirds the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions. The offering, in tandem with Cooperative Program gifts from Southern Baptist churches, supports international workers in seeking to fulfill the Great Commission. Gifts to the Lottie Moon offering are received through local Southern Baptist churches or online at imb.org, where there are resources to promote the offering. This year’s goal is $175 million. A tandem story about the first individual led to the Lord by the Floras in Africa follows this story.

LESOTHO (BP) — When Jim and Teresa Flora think about their ministry in the mountains of southern Africa, they quickly think of how their children are involved. While the Floras rely on the prayers and encouragement of their three grown sons and families in the U.S., daughters Gracie, 17, Anna, 16, and Rebekah, 11, are part of each day’s work.

“We view our ministry as a complete family job,” says Teresa, who was called to missions as a child in Girls in Action.

On a typical Saturday when the family heads into a rural village in the country of Lesotho, Gracie reviews the Bible story she will teach, Anna makes sandwiches with the bread she baked Friday night, and Rebekah prepares for the games she will play with children.

When they arrive, the daughters engage the children while Jim greets a young pastor and Teresa, a registered nurse, checks on several villagers who have been sick.

As worship begins, the family joins the crowd sitting on the ground as Basotho children shove to sit in their laps. When it’s the daughters’ turn to teach a Bible story, they stand before the crowd with confidence to share God’s Word.

“They have some of their own ministries,” Jim says of the uniqueness in his daughters in using their gifts, like Gracie who took the initiative to learn and then teach simple sign language to the church family of a deaf girl.

“They do some discipling with teenage girls, they do storying in the village and they do a lot of baby holding and playing games,” Jim says of Gracie, who was adopted from India, and Rebekah, adopted as a baby from Haiti along with her biological sister Anna.

The daughters also are helpful when church teams come from the U.S. The logistics of hosting short-term groups is extensive, but Jim and Teresa say that they couldn’t reach these mountains for Christ without the support. The Floras are from Hamlin Memorial Baptist Church in Springfield, Mo., and their long-term partnering churches include First Baptist Church in Perryton, Texas; First Baptist Church in Clarendon, Texas; and River Oak Church in Chesapeake, Va.

The girls’ faces light up as they greet volunteers and spend the days beside them in ministry — assisting in medical clinics, serving as guides in the villages and helping their new friends from the States navigate Lesotho’s harsh living conditions. Some days, that means helping set up tents to camp in remote villages or encouraging a reluctant volunteer to ride a horse up a steep mountain trail.

“We want to model for them doing things that you think you can’t do,” their mom says, “stretching yourself, being in the uncomfortable places and letting God bail you out. We want to encourage them to see God working that way in their lives.”

Lesotho just might be the perfect place for Jim and Teresa to teach such lessons to their daughters. The family lives four hours from the nearest grocery store. Trips to a city for supplies take all day, or sometimes several days if they get stopped at the border between Lesotho and South Africa. Roads are often flooded and some villages become inaccessible. Visiting rural villages means hauling camping equipment to stay the night.

Teresa has held babies as they took their last breath, and the whole Flora family has grieved the loss of friends. Starving children continue to break their hearts. Violence against women is a constant concern. Teresa confesses that a few moments have led her to say, “Lord, can we keep doing this?”

Yet the Lord continues to sustain them and renew their call, Jim says.

“We understand that time is short” in a nation with one of the world’s highest HIV and AIDS rates, Jim says. “[There] are people that we share the Gospel with from day to day that will not be here next year. So we work hard to be good stewards of the Lord’s time that He has given us on this earth because we do believe that it’s unacceptable that there are people who have not heard the story of Jesus.”

Jim and Teresa both confess that the hardest part of living in Lesotho is being far from family in the U.S., which now includes six grandchildren. But neither feels reservations about raising their daughters in a remote part of Africa.

They are careful in their daily life but they do not live in fear. They say their faith is strong that they are exactly where God intends for them to be, and they know their daughters are part of God’s plan.

“God gave them to us for a purpose, and we believe that part of that purpose is reaching the nations,” Jim says. For their family, going was the only option.

“Our prayer is this, that we could teach them more by going than we could ever teach them by staying.”

The Floras give thanks to God for Southern Baptists’ faithful giving to the yearly Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and the year-round Cooperative Program, as well as the continued prayers of hundreds of churches. But they also want to encourage more churches to send out missionaries and teams to join in the work.

“We’re praying in 2015 and the years to come as we serve God in the mountains that there will be more Southern Baptists who come to put their boots on the ground,” Jim says, “so that we can get the message to every village and to every person so that they would have the opportunity to accept Christ as their own.”

Find resources for churches at imb.org to learn more about and promote the Lottie Moon offering. While Southern Baptists are encouraged to give to the offering through their churches, a Donate Now option is available for individual online gifts.

For a related video, “Africa: Sending the gospel to Lesotho,” click here.
Marie Curtis is a writer and editor for IMB.

Her faith shines amid
rearing 5 grandchildren
By Marie Curtis

LESOTHO (BP) — Deep in the mountains of Lesotho as day breaks, Me’ MaTumo rises from the cot she shares with two of her grandchildren. Three others sleep on mats next to hers. She takes the blanket that covered her during the night and wraps it around her waist. Later she might use the same blanket to hold a grandbaby on her back.

The family lives together in the small, round dirt home called a rondaval. On one side of the room is a stack of mats they spread on the floor at night. On the other side is a meager collection of metal pans and plastic buckets for cooking over an open fire.

In her late 50s, she is raising her five grandchildren, two of whom have HIV. Her adult daughters left the children behind in Lesotho to find work in neighboring South Africa. This is a common practice among the African nation’s Basotho people, but makes it difficult for women like Me’ MaTumo. Now caring for five grandchildren, she also worries about her daughters. She has not heard from one of them in three years.

Her day will be hard. She will prepare what little food she has for her grandchildren, sometimes choosing not to eat so there will be enough. When crops are growing, she will work in the fields with others from her village. In winter, she will wait out the bitter cold days wrapped in her blanket by the fire and pray that her dwindling food supply does not run out.

Me’ MaTumo was the first person led to the Lord by missionaries Jim and Teresa Flora when they started their ministry in Lesotho. They have watched her develop into a woman of great faith who never complains or questions God about her difficult circumstances.

“She has nothing, and yet she asks for nothing,” Teresa says. “She trusts God to provide.”

After she became a Christian, the Floras asked her if they could hold a Bible study for the village outside her home. Many from the village accepted Christ and now join the “tent church” in worship each Sunday. Through the ministry of the church, she’s been taught to make handcrafts that she sells to help support her family.

“Me’ MaTumo is such an encouragement to us. She has so much joy, despite her circumstances,” Teresa says.

When night falls on the little village, Me’ MaTumo will check on each grandchild and cover them with their own blankets. Then she will give thanks to God for another day’s provision, unwrap her blanket from her waist and settle under it for another night’s rest.


    About the Author

  • Marie Curtis