Getting to Mozambique takes a long time. On my international flight to the former Portuguese colony on Africa's southeast coast last fall, I sat beside a talkative South African. He was curious why a young, single American woman was in transit to one of the poorest nations on earth.
"I'd like to help," I said simply. I would be staying with a ministry that ran an orphanage, a primary school, and a Bible college to train Mozambican pastors, where I'd be teaching two classes.
He admired my selflessness, but he assured me there was nothing I could do to help Africans.
"You won't find any hope there," he said, "and besides they're happy as they are."
I was confident I would prove him wrong. But when I first arrived in Pemba, a coastal town in rural Mozambique, I thought he might be right. Perhaps Mozambicans were happy.
Every day, smiling African women passed me by, speaking in Makua, their mother tongue. They wore brightly colored fabrics wrapped tightly around their heads and waists, carrying large buckets of water on their heads.
The place where I was staying overlooked the bright blues and greens of the Indian Ocean; the waves crashed loudly against the black rocks, and for a moment I forgot I would be living in voluntary poverty. On the other side of the road, however, were local village houses made of mud and reeds that lacked electricity and basic cooking stoves. The staggering poverty rattled my confidence deeply. The nation has one of the highest infant mortality rates worldwide and 70 percent of its people live on less than $2 a day, the global poverty line. I was driven to find answers to Africa's poverty in preparation for my upcoming postgraduate work in development studies.
My journey did not begin with a lifelong desire ...1
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