As he prepares for a trip to Mozambique to visit his family, Wendell McDaniel said he was shocked when his son, Lee Mc Daniel, told him the family was going to serve full-time in for eign missions.
However, the Ranburne resident said in retrospect, it wasn’t that shocking. Lee, 45, and Tracy, 41, had served in missions for years.
“He had been going on mission trips every year since they were married,” Wendell said.
More than 15 years ago, Cleburne County native Lee, a medi cal supply salesman, felt a call to work in foreign missions; she, a kindergarten teacher, took a little longer, Tracy said. Tracy felt the call in 2011, she said. That call is hard to explain, she said.
“I guess you could say that you feel like that is the only way to truly do what you were made to do,” she said.
Once they made the decision, life changed fast.
They explained to the girls about the upcoming adventure and about how they would be meeting new people and learning new things, Tracy said. They moved out of their home in North Caro lina. They found a new home for their dog. They sold and donat ed a houseful of things they would no longer need and moved to Virginia to begin their training.
Reverend Kevin Thomas, pastor of Wise Chapel United Methodist Church, said he and his wife were privileged to drive the family to the airport when they left.
“That was a very special time for us,” Thomas said.
As they drove, the family told them about their hopes and fears for the mission. It was interesting and inspiring, Thomas said.
“I think it’s a great response to God’s call in their life,” Thom as said.
In January 2012, they arrived in Mozambique where Lee now organizes housing, transportation and paperwork for other Bap tist missionaries and Tracy works with the women at their lo cal Baptist Church. They work with the International Mission Board, a division of the Southern Baptist Convention, Lee said. As of May 14, the board has 4,810 people serving in missions overseas, according to its website. In 2013, the missions did 114,571 baptisms in 28,008 churches. The total overseas church membership is 853,020 in 2013, according to the website.
Van Payne, spokesman for IMB, said the board has missionar ies serving nearly every country in the world.
“But they may not live there,” Payne said. “If not, they’ll live nearby.”
Payne also said a family serving as missionaries is not uncom mon.
“Most of our long-term missionaries are couples or families,” he said
He said the missionaries do have some common traits. They have to be flexible to live in a cross cultural situation. They un derstand God’s heart and they have to be practicing members of a Southern Baptist Church before becoming a missionary, Payne said.
After serving two and a half years in Mozambique, the family calls the southeast African county their home.
The family, which also includes Meghan, 15, Emma, 12, and Lilly, 10, will be returning to the states in June 2015 for six months; but then intends to return home to Mozambique, Lee said.
Working on a mission in a foreign country is difficult, they say. Wendell said the family had to sell everything they had – their home, their cars, all their household goods.
“All they took was their clothes and suitcases,” Wendell said.
They had to learn Portuguese, the official language in Mozambique.
They had to adjust to a new culture, one that is quite different than what they knew in the United States.
Life in Mozambique is slower than in the United States, Tracy said. No one is in a hurry, she said.
“Just living requires an amazing amount of time,” Tracy said.
For instance, there’s no such thing as one-stop shopping at your local department store. There aren’t a lot of jobs, so everyone is an entrepreneur, Lee said. There are lots of small businesses that don’t sell much. For instance, to buy fresh fruits and vegetables requires a trip to the town market, Tracy said. Then to buy sugar and canned goods takes another trip to what they call a grocery store in Mozambique, she said. Bread comes from a bread store, meat from a butcher, eggs from an egg vendor, she said.
And everything is purchased with cash; so a shopping trip starts with a trip to the automated teller machine, Lee said. However, since everyone is going to the ATM, it may take 30 minutes to get to the front of the line and the machines often run out of cash, which means standing in line at another ATM, he said.
In addition, as missionaries their goal is to teach the Gospel, Lee said. But in a country where many practice Hindu, Islam or traditional African religions, those lessons can be difficult to teach, Lee said.
Many Mozambiquans, for instance, believe that their ancestors spirits still continue to live with them after death, he said.
“If a child gets ill,” Lee said. “It’s because you’ve done something to make them mad.”
So they take care to keep them happy, leaving food at the grave site and building a roof over the graves, he said.
It’s difficult to teach Biblical principles in a culture that has little reference to them, Tracy said.
“It takes a lot of discipling to make a new believer completely let go,” she said. “They do this dance with one foot in each camp.”
Wendell said that when he first found out the family was moving to Mozambique, he knew nothing about the country.
“My wife got on the internet and found out all about it,” he said.
Then he visited Mozambique a year ago, and learned firsthand what the country was like.
“I would say they’re about 100 years behind us,” Wendell said.
There’s no sewer system in Nampula, where the family lives, no running water like in the United States. They have to purify their water before drinking it, he said. The people live in mud huts with straw roofs, Wendell said.
But the people are friendly and he doesn’t worry about them being there as he would in some more violent countries, Wendell said.
The reality of living a missionary life is also lonely, “especially for the girls,” said Lee.
There are few, probably less than a handful of Caucasian teen girls in the region where they live, he and Tracy said. But it’s rewarding work that they intend to continue, they said.
The family is supported through an annual collection named after Lottie Moon, a missionary who served in China in the 1800s. There are some 45,000 churches in the United States that donate to that collection, Lee said. It takes pressure off the family as they do their missionary work, he said.
“So that while we’re here we can focus on the task at hand which is to teach the Gospel,” Lee said.
Thomas said the local connection with the McDaniel’s has given new meaning to the collection for Wise Chapel members.
“People are giving to support someone they know,” Thomas said.
• Mozambique: Population: 24,692,144
• Language: Portuguese
• Capital: Maputo
• Religions: Roman Catholic, 28.4 percent; Muslim, 17.9 percent; Zionist Christian, 15.5 percent; Protestant, 12.2 percent; other, 6.7 percent; none, 18.7 percent.
• More than 50 percent of the population lives on less than $1 a day.
• Fast growing economy due to foreign investment in oil and gas reserves, coal and titanium.
Staff Writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545 or, in Heflin, 256-463-2872. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.