Among the places the missionary team visited was the Union Building in South Africa. From left, Chantal Cheeseman, Rev. Simon Muwowo, Shane Foote and Tonya Cheeseman pose with the statue of Nelson Mandela.
BURIN, NL – Sixteen-year-old Chantal Cheeseman of Burin won’t soon forget the people she met and the things she learned during her two-week missionary trip to South Africa and Zambia in July.
Chantal is a youth leader at the United Church in Burin. She and three other members of the missionary team visited a church in rural Zambia and were warmly welcomed by the people.
“There were little girls in white dresses. They had flowers for everybody,” Chantal said of the team’s warm welcome.
Two children in particular touched Chantal deeply.
“Their names were Grace and Olivia. They stuck with me every day I was in Mansa. They’d come see me in the morning, before they went to school, and they’d come see me in the evening,” she said.
Chantal and her group erected a roof on a church in Mansa, and the community celebrated the tremendous accomplishment.
Chantal said she received special recognition from the people.
“They all bowed down to my feet. And in Africa, that’s basically treating you like a queen,” she said.
Chantal has returned home with a powerful message – one of giving thanks for what you have and doing what you can to help others.
“Families over there live in little tiny huts. Half the kids have no shoes. They have holes in their clothes, but they are so appreciative of the littlest things,” she said.
Chantal’s mother, Tanya Cheeseman, was also part of the missionary team. She describes the trip as “an amazing experience.”
“We visited hospitals, schools and churches in Mansa, Zambia. We donated school supplies to the school and teddy bears to the hospital. We brought Canadian souvenirs to the youth at the church,” Cheeseman said.
Cheeseman said children were overjoyed when they received such simple things as a pencil and exercise book.
“To us these things are minor. To them they are major. People here in Canada don’t think they have much, but a pair of shoes on your feet, running water, a flushing toilet – if people in Zambia had that, they would think they had everything,” Cheeseman said.
The team also visited the Nelson Mandela National Museum in South Africa, home of the Nobel Prize winner and former South African president.
Mandela helped end apartheid and is known worldwide as a passionate advocate for human rights.
Cheeseman said she learned a great deal about Mandela during the tour of the museum.
“The guide explained everything to us about him, how everybody was against him and when he got out of jail (he’d been imprisoned for 27 years) he didn’t want revenge. He wanted good for all the people,” Cheeseman said.
Rev. Simon Muwowo, United Church minister in Burin, organized and took part in the mission.
Hearing stories like Mandela’s is important, he said.
“Education is the best tool that can save the world,” he said.
Muwowo is from Zambia and moved to Newfoundland with his family in 2014. He said the expedition was everything he’d hoped it would be.
When asked about his ministry, Muwowo said Burin is a wonderful place where he has dedicated his heart to shaping the lives of young people.
“They are the future,” he said.
Chantal said she is happy to have Rev. Simon in her church.
“He’s all about the youth. And we’d never have done something like this if he did not come to our church,” she said.
Shane Foote, the adult leader on the mission said, while the highlight of the trip was helping others, the team also did some sightseeing.
“We went to Victoria Falls (in Zambia) and we went on a safari. We saw lions, elephants, water buffalo, and hippopotamus.”
The team is thankful to the community and all those who supported the numerous fundraisers the church held in raising money for the mission. As well, he said, they had tremendous support from the United Church of Canada and the United Church of Zambia.
The people of Zambia responded warmly to the team, he said, and were very appreciative of their help.
“They are people that give from the heart, and just to see their faces when we were putting the sheets on the roof, it was just unbelievable,” he said.
Muwowo said his goal is to take more youth on a similar mission in two years’ time.
“I’d like more young people to open their vision to the world. Sometimes, most of our careers are shaped by interacting with other cultures. I pray that we can begin building self-esteem for our young people to be involved in youth outreach programs,” he said.