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For the love of Africa
April 29, 2013

Winsted postmaster to embark on a gospel mission the end of May

By Starrla Cray
Staff Writer

WINSTED, MN – Children struggle to find clean water. Parents wonder if they’ll have enough food to feed their families.

Winsted postmaster Ann Joos has seen the hurt in Africa – but she knows that no situation is without hope.

“My ultimate mission is to share the love of Christ,” said Joos, who is planning her third trip to Africa the end of May.

While supplying poor villages with tangible gifts (shoes, medical supplies, water pumps), Joos tells the people about God, grace, and the gift of eternal life.

For Joos, strong Christian faith didn’t happen overnight.

“I grew up Lutheran and went to church, but I hadn’t gotten the words out of my head and into my heart,” she said. “In my family, praying consisted of ‘Come Lord Jesus’ and ‘Now I lay me down to sleep.’ We never really spoke about Jesus other than that.”

Then, about 16 years ago, Joos went through a divorce. Through that painful experience, she surrendered control of her life to God.

“I learned that someone else is in control – not me,” she said.

Joos joined a Bible study, and later became a Bible study leader. Then, she went a step further by earning a bachelor’s degree in Christian ministry from Crown College.

The first mission
Ten years ago, Joos embarked on her first overseas mission trip, to Belize in Central America. Her father, Mark, went along, and began doing daily devotions.

“When we came back from that first trip in 2003, I told my dad, ‘Let’s go to Africa next,’” Joos recalled.

So, in 2005, Joos and both her parents made the journey – but it didn’t end there.

“My father left a $100,000 job to become an unpaid missionary,” Joos said.

After he quit his career, Mark was diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and doctors didn’t expect him to live more than five years.

The diagnosis didn’t alter his plans, however, and Mark spent the next several years of his life alternating between ministering in Africa, and undergoing chemotherapy in Minnesota.

Orphans and oppression
In Africa, Joos and her family concentrate on three main mission areas: Matamba orphans, peasant farmers, and oppressed women in Maasai tribes.

“When people give us money, 100 percent of it goes to the people in Africa,” Joos said. “Our travel and administrative expenses are all on our own dime. We go there to make sure every penny is going where it’s supposed to go.”

Supporters can select specific ways to contribute, such as buying a bag of seed corn ($20), a Bible in the Swahili language ($3), or school tuition ($450).

Even simple items, such as balloons and candy, become evangelistic tools in Africa, Joos said.

Last time she was there, soccer balls were given to groups of children, and people gathered from miles around to play soccer after church. Before, the best “ball” the children had was made from plastic bags and scraps of string.

Some of the gifts are impromptu – like the time Mark gave a man his own leather gloves.

“The man had crawled eight miles to see us,” Joos said, explaining he was unable to walk because his legs were deformed.

Joos also remembers giving a boy the tennis shoes off her feet.

“I wore my flip-flops home,” she said.

One orphan girl about 8 years old was responsible for taking care of her baby sibling. By offering to babysit for awhile, Joos was able to give the girl some much-needed playtime.

Is that flour?
For Joos, getting to know people of other cultures is an exciting part of each trip.

“In one village, it had been 65 years since they had seen a white person,” Joos recalled. “They thought we had flour on us, and they would try to wipe off the white.”

And, coming back home to America can be culture adjustment, as well.

“It’s strange to be able to turn up the heat with the touch of a button, and to buy groceries when you have two weeks of food in your cupboards already,” Joos said.

She’s looking forward to her upcoming two-week mission, which she plans to take with her mom, Terry.

“My hope is that more people will understand who God is,” Joos said.

Joos often speaks about her family’s faith journey in front of Christian groups. To arrange for a presentation, call (952) 212-5669 or e-mail akjoos@gmail.com.

How to help
Anyone who would like to financially support Ann Joos’ mission to Africa is welcome to mail a check to Ann Joos, 321 Maria Ave., Hamburg, MN 55339.

All funding is 100 percent used to directly help people in Africa. Joos and her family do not use donations to pay for travel/administrative expenses.

Checks for the tax-deductible donation can be made payable to any of the following:

• St. Paul Area Synod (to support agricultural efforts in Africa)

• St. John’s Lutheran Church in Annandale (to support Matamba orphans, secondary students, and hospital needs)

• IMAGE Project (to support Iringa Maasai adolescent girls education)

For more information, contact Joos at (952) 212-5669 or e-mail akjoos@gmail.com.

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