Ministry and Medicine in Mozambique

Gustavo and Beatriz Fuentes do not practice medicine, but their obedience to God’s call has brought healing into the lives of two students who will one day heal others.

In November of 2007, Gustavo and Beatriz Fuentes were missionaries serving in Inhambane, Mozambique. While eating lunch one day, the couple couldn’t help but notice a striking teenage girl who was sitting in the restaurant. Beatriz, an artist who loves to use photography as inspiration for her paintings, asked the girl’s permission to take her picture. The girl agreed, Beatriz took a few pictures, and before leaving the restaurant the couple learned the teenager’s name was Cleide.

Shortly thereafter, Gustavo and Beatriz met a man from Houston, Texas, wearing a Young Life hat. Beatriz’s last contact with the mission had been 25 years prior, when she began a relationship with Christ as a Young Life kid in Brazil. She shared this history with the man, who served on a Young Life committee, and who in turn connected the Fuentes with the Young Life Africa office. Sensing God’s leading, the couple came on staff in 2010 and were sent to Beira, Mozambique — a city of 600,000 about 10 hours north of Inhambane.

Gustavo and Beatriz soon began Young Life club in the neighborhood where they lived. The turnout was strong and one night the Fuentes were greeted by yet another new kid … Cleide. The couple and Cleide didn’t recognize each other at first, but a few months later Beatriz shared with Cleide that she had been in Inhambane for vacation four years earlier. As she recalled the time, her eyes were opened and she recognized Cleide as the girl she had photographed that day.

An amazed Cleide then remembered the encounter, too. When Beatriz showed her the picture she took that day, everyone was astonished. Having moved to Beira not long after the meeting in the restaurant, the now 19-year old and her family lived a mere block away from Gustavo and Beatriz.

Cleide, a devout Muslim, remembered her feelings about her first club. “I had never heard of Jesus before that Young Life club — it made me very uncomfortable. But I really liked the people — Beatriz and Gustavo and Lina [another leader] were so loving and made me feel so welcome.”


Soothing words

Almost daily, Cleide suffered from violent seizures triggered by her epilepsy. She’d been to many doctors — even as far as South Africa. Imams as well as traditional healers also tried to help, but nothing worked. As Cleide suffered through the seizures, her family and friends stood by watching helplessly.

It was during this time a crusade came to town. Cleide went one night to listen and at the end of the meeting a woman gave her a Bible — she had never touched a Bible before. She accepted the gift, but wouldn’t dare open it.

When Cleide told Beatriz about the gift, Beatriz invited her friend to study the Bible with her. Cleide, however, was not ready to respond to the invitation. Then, in a moment of desperation after suffering another violent seizure, Cleide reached for the book. The pages fell open to Psalm 91, which was highlighted, and as she read, things suddenly changed. “I felt a deep peace I had never felt before. As I read I was comforted. I had never opened the Bible before and did not know what I was reading, but it had power.”

Following that day, Cleide would often read Psalm 91 after she experienced seizures, and the passage would bring her comfort.


A double dose of healing

One day after club, Gustavo sensed the Lord telling him the leaders should pray for Cleide. When they asked Cleide if they could, she thought it was odd but agreed. Gustavo, Beatriz and Lina prayed for their friend. Cleide didn’t know what happened, but she felt a sudden peace and power come over her. With that prayer, the young girl’s seizures ceased. Cleide and her family were all amazed. Learning her three friends prayed “in the name of Jesus” piqued a curiosity in Cleide. She wanted to know more about this man.

Cleide and Beatriz started meeting weekly to study the Bible. After their first study, Beatriz shared the story of God’s love and His plan of salvation through Jesus. Cleide said, “I was overwhelmed. It was all new to me — like a fish breathing air. I could hardly take it.”

Nevertheless, she kept coming back. She devoured the Word, Beatriz said, reading more than was assigned each week. She began asking many questions to her madrassa teachers which they could not answer.

Cleide decided she was ready to give her life to Christ. Beatriz cautioned her not to follow Jesus because of the healing and benefits she had received, but because God loves her. Cleide began a relationship with Jesus and the decision changed not only her life, but the lives of her family members as well. Because of her healing and the obvious change in her, Cleide’s parents did not object to her decision, and in fact encouraged her to continue meeting with her Young Life leaders.

Today, Cleide attends the Universidad Catolica de Mozambique (UCM) where she studies medicine alongside Lina. Like her friend, Cleide is now a Young Life leader telling others on campus about her Savior. “I feel a joy and a burden — and I am ready to share Jesus with others.”

 “She is a natural leader,” Gustavo said, “and Beatriz and Lina continue to help her develop more of her skills in this area.” Gustavo is also happy to report, “Cleide is still seizure free, praise God!”

There is another student studying medicine at UCM who is also thankful to know the Fuentes. His background, however, is far different from Cleide’s.

A life on the run

For the first 15 years of his life, Bigiruhiriwe (Bigi) Renovat lived in four countries. Born in Burundi, Bigi experienced war from birth. Fifteen days after he was born, his parents took the family and fled to Rwanda, where they lived in a refugee center for four years. When war broke out in Rwanda, the family returned to Zaire (known today as the Democratic Republic of Congo).

“When we arrived, we did not have anything to eat,” Bigi said. The family was reduced to begging. “Some people were cheerful,” he said, “but others spat in our faces. Our only choice was to beg.”

When conflict broke out again in 1996, the family left for Tanzania. As a result of the war, Bigi’s family was separated. His father and brother went missing, leaving Bigi with his mother, sister and other brother. In September 2013, Bigi’s father was found alive in Burundi, but he still does not know the whereabouts of his brother.

After living in another refugee center for nine years, Bigi’s mother took her four children and started walking to Mozambique. “People who did not know us, helped us, they gave us food, shelter and clothes,” he said.


Showing God’s love in practical ways

Mozambique proved to be a land of hope for Bigi and his family. Bigi’s older brother received a scholarship to the UCM. “That’s how I had the opportunity to be at the university, even with a lot of limitations. My brother shared with me to cover our expenses, to finish and fulfill our dream to become professionals and help others.”

Excited to study medicine, Bigi entered UCM. It was during his time in school that Bigi had a life-changing encounter. “I met Gustavo in the University and he started talking to me as a friend.

“I started to participate in Young Life and it was amazing! It is a friendly way to share about Jesus.” Thanks to conversations on Saturdays at Young Life club, Bigi said, “I understood about God’s salvation plan through faith in Jesus Christ. I received Jesus as Lord and Savior of my life on April 11, 2011.”

Bigi credits his Young Life leaders with not only introducing him to Jesus, but helping to care for him in extremely trying circumstances.

“One unforgettable time I was detained because police suspected I was involved in human trafficking, just because I am originally from Burundi. Gustavo and Beatriz went to the police. They witnessed about my behavior and were even willing to witness in front of a judge. Because of their intervention I was released and safe. They showed God’s love in practical ways.”

“Bigi continues to grow as a Christian,” Gustavo said, “especially in the understanding that he is a disciple called to help others follow Jesus. In our recent outreach camp, he volunteered to help guide the blind youth as they moved around the camp.”

For his part, Bigi is appreciative of how God is using the mission in his life. “I am thankful to participate in Young Life and know the leaders. Because of their guidance to me as a Christian and as a student, I have an understanding of a better future with God’s help, through Jesus.”

As Bigi and Cleide soon leave the university to enter the world of medicine, they’ll do so armed with the knowledge that a loving couple once comforted them with the good news of the Great Physician.