By Marie Curtis
LESOTHO (BP) — When Jim and Teresa Flora, IMB missionaries from Hamlin Memorial Baptist Church in Springfield, Missouri, think about their work and ministry in the mountains of Lesotho, they automatically think of how their children are involved. They are quick to say they rely on the prayers and encouragement of their three grown sons and their families in the U.S., but daughters Gracie, Anna and Rebekah are a 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, Gracie reviews the Bible story she will teach, Anna makes sandwiches with the bread she baked Friday night, and Rebekah loads balls into the truck and reviews the games she will play with children.
When they arrive, the girls engage the children while Jim greets a young pastor and Teresa, a registered nurse, checks on several villagers who have been sick. As the worship time begins, the family joins the crowd sitting on the ground as Basotho children shove to sit in their laps. When it’s their turn to teach a Bible story, the Flora daughters stand before the crowd with confidence and share from God’s Word.
Jim says he loves seeing the uniqueness in his daughters and the ways that they are using their gifts.
“They have some of their own ministries,” Jim explains, 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 adds.
The girls 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. Long-term partnering churches include First Baptist Church Perryton, Texas; First Baptist Church Clarendon, Texas and River Oak Church in Chesapeake, Virginia.
The girls’ faces light up with smiles as they greet visiting friends and spend the days beside them in ministry — helping in medical clinics, serving as guides in the villages and helping volunteers navigate the harsh living conditions of Lesotho. Some days that means helping to set up tents where they will camp in remote villages or encouraging a volunteer reluctant to ride a horse up the steep mountain trail. Every day is different and every experience is a blessing, the girls say.
“We want to model for them doing things that you think you can’t do, stretching yourself, being in the uncomfortable places and letting God bail you out,” Teresa says. “We want to encourage them to see God working that way in their lives.”
Lesotho just might be the perfect place to learn these lessons. The Floras live four hours away from the nearest grocery store. Trips to a city for supplies will 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 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?”
Jim says that the Lord continues to sustain them and renew their call. They understand the importance of the task.
“We understand that time is short; we understand that in a nation that has the second highest HIV and AIDS rate in the world that there are people that we share the gospel with from day to day that will not be here next year,” Jim says. “So we do 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 location, where violence against women is common and HIV/AIDS is a leading cause of death.
They are careful in their daily life and work but do not live in fear. They say their faith that they are exactly where God intends for them to be is strong, 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 Flora family thanks God for your faithful giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and 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 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.”
DECLARE HIS GLORY AMONG THE NATIONS
Find resources for churches at imb.org/offering 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.
Related video: “Africa: Sending the gospel to Lesotho,” vimeo.com/139493754
Marie Curtis is a writer and editor for IMB.