Love Story: Chapter 13

Yeah, so, that Saturday I took off for Mozambique, and fifty-six hours on a bus later, my group arrived in Chamba, a rural community just outside the city of Beira.

The journey to Chamba was long and hard. We either slept outside or on the bus, and we rarely had access to toilets and sinks. Showers were out of the question. The roads in Mozambique are, at the very least... bumpy. By the end of the trip, I felt like my stomach had switched places with one of my kidneys. And it goes without saying that I was missing Tony. 

For those 56 hours, I was relatively introspective. I journaled, read and listened to music. As the leader of my seven-person team, I knew I needed to healthily process where I was spiritually and emotionally and prepare myself for another month of leadership.

My team faced its fair share of spiritual battles while in Mozambique. And of course, we had our own set of relational struggles. But we faced them head-on and worked through our conflicts.

I’ve had the privilege of sitting under the teachings of Betsy and Randy Garmon for the last year and a half. The Garmons coached my World Race squad, and when Tony and I got engaged in January 2014 (a month after I arrived back in the states), they offered to do our premarital counseling. We still Skype with the Garmons when we can, and Tony and I often talk about how blessed we’ve been to receive such wise counsel and love from them.

Two months into the Race, my team sat in the floor of HQ Villa in Lima, Péru and listened as Betsy and Randy tackled the subject of conflict. “The goal isn’t to eliminate conflict,” they said. “All healthy relationships have conflict. The goal is to effectively deal with it and to improve turnaround time.”

That concept is something that’s greatly aided Tony and me as we continue navigating our way through friendship and love.

Our relationship and feelings for each other grew exponentially during my time in Mozambique. We wrote a lot of emails. Oh, how much you can learn about someone through the written word!

We also Skyped when we could, and Moses, the 12 year-old boy I worked with that month, loved joining in our conversations. Even then, it was evident that Tony and I share a heart for impoverished youth. We believe in the power unconditional love has on the lives of children and want to give what we can to those in need.

Moses at Toni in the soccer field at Kedesh Orphanage & Sanctury, Chamba, Mozambique.

In an email Tony sent to me on July 9, 2013, he said:

“Greetings from Cape Town, South Africa! Where do i even start? Well, Ephesians 2:10 says, ‘For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.’ How amazingly mind blowing is it that God has put dreams and aspirations in our heart to do the good works that He’s planned for our lives? He’s spent intricate time preparing our paths and has blessed me with the opportunity to cross yours. This crossing is not for me to be selfish with and want to hold on to, but it’s for the greater good of His people. This is something I’ll be mindful of for life. God brings people together to serve Him for a greater good, for His Kingdom to increase and not deplete. What an awesome opportunity! You’ve been called by God to Mozambique for one month to do the work of Jesus Christ, then you’ve been called to give it your absolute all in every other foreign land that you set foot upon. This excites me so much!

Galatians 6:9-11 says, ‘Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.’ This passage speaks a thousand words. There’s so much to take out of it. Look at the previous one from Ephesians. It says that we were created to do God's works. Now Galatians tells us not to become weary. It tells us not to give up. Remember Julie, you’re already in pain. Why not keep going and get a reward for it? The reward is a great harvest at the perfect time! What an opportunity you and I have both been given to do God's work all throughout the world. And then the passage speaks of doing good and loving the believers around us in the family of Christ. What a message to you and your team for this month. Although focusing on the task at hand is so vital and important, take a percentage of your time, in the midst of intensity, to love on each other, build each other up, regroup and carry on running the race. Think about it... it’s a big one!”

We exchanged many lovely, encouraging messages over those few weeks. My team was moved out of Mozambique early and headed to an orphanage in Mbanane, Swaziland for four days before going to Manzini for debrief.

While I was in Manzini, Tony and I had our first real argument... and I’d be tested on whether or not I could apply all of those lessons in conflict resolution to the most intimate kind of relationship.To read our full story, please 

Moses and me having our photo made by little Toni. I think he's a photographer in the making!