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Young couple heads to Tanzania for missionary work

Javen and Caitlin Mirabella, both 22, are preparing to leave for missionary fieldwork with tribes in Kigoma, Tanzania.

Special to the Times

Javen and Caitlin Mirabella, both 22, are preparing to leave for missionary fieldwork with tribes in Kigoma, Tanzania.

SPRING HILL — That Javen Mirabella would be a missionary one day was a given.

His parents are longtime missionaries, and Javen has been going on missions trips by himself since he was 13 to places like Turkey, Germany and Central America.

As a child, he lived with his parents in Africa. He learned Swahili fluently.

"My father was building a Bible college there," the New York native said. "We lived there a little over two years."

At 12, Javen asked his parents what a kid could do for missions.

"I told them I enjoyed doing it so much," Javen said. "They said if God was calling me to do it and if I would raise up enough money, every summer they would send me somewhere."

It was what Javen felt God wanted him to do with his life.

Meanwhile, Caitlin Donley was developing a similar desire. Born and reared in Brooksville, she began believing that God was leading her to the mission field when she was in middle school.

"I'd grown up in church and just really felt like that was what the Lord was leading me to do," Caitlin said. "I just had a heart for it."

After returning to New York from Africa, Javen's parents felt that God was leading them to move to Florida. They settled in Spring Hill.

Javen and Caitlin met during their high school years while attending Grace World Outreach Church. During their senior year, they participated in a mission trip to Kigoma, Tanzania, along Lake Tanganyika, where Javen had lived when he was 9.

Caitlin recalled her first glimpse of Kigoma.

"There is a dirt runway and all these shanties are thrown together and you're in the middle of nowhere," she said. "You know nobody knows where you are really, but you know that God is right there alongside of you. As soon as I stepped off the plane, I just felt such a peace about being there."

She was smitten — with the town, with the mission work — and with Javen.

For his part, Javen had been praying for a wife who felt the same call from God as he did.

Now husband and wife for almost three years, Javen and Caitlin, both 22, are preparing to spend the next five years in the bush area of Tanzania, carrying the Gospel message to people who have never heard it or seen people of another race.

They will be ministering under the covering of Overland Missions, a non-denominational mission that has its U.S. base in Cape Canaveral.

"They are definitely an unreached people group," Caitlin said about the three tribes they will minister to from their four-house base camp in Kigoma. "The Tongwe, the Rugwe and the Pembgwe are so far out there and remote that it will take us 20 hours to reach them."

Javen's parents returned to Tanzania in 2008. They, along with Javen's sister and her family and another woman will make up the team assigned to their particular 10,000-square-mile sector in Tanzania.

Once assembled there, the team will complete a four-stage program of evangelism and humanitarian care that will include drilling wells and teaching the indigenous people about things like farming and hygiene. HIV/AIDS is prevalent in the area, so educating the people about the disease will be a priority. Churches and schools will be built.

But first, Javen and Caitlin must complete the training by Overland Missions.

"We leave in August to go to Kigoma to see what we'll be needing there," Javen said. "In September, we're shooting down to Zambia, where Overland has required us to take a three-month training course. They want to make sure every single one of their missionaries is fully trained, equipped and knowledgeable about the environment they're going into."

The training will include car mechanics, welding, bush cooking, medical training and general jungle survival.

"The best part about it is that they make everyone in your group wear the same hat," Javen said. "So in case something were to happen to me, Caitlin would be able to make everything work and take care of everything."

Unlike some missionary endeavors, this one will be fraught with many hardships. There will only be electricity available a couple of times a week at the compound in Kigoma. And the trek to the villages for two weeks each month can be treacherous, traveling over mountains and through rivers, even carving out their own roads. The missionaries will bathe and wash their clothes in the rivers. They will sleep in tents.

The Mirabellas say they have counted the cost, and it has not deterred them.

"Once you go out in the field, God really captures your heart," Javen said. "Far beyond anything else, while we are here on this earth, we need to accomplish what God has called us to do."

By mid-February, they hope to begin their expeditions.

Like most missionaries, the Mirabellas must raise their own support. They have reached about 20 percent of their goal.

Javen said they would be happy to sit down with people "face-to-face" to talk with them about their work.

They would also like people to pray for them.

"Even with all we are sharing and all that we're doing, it's not about us," Caitlin said. "It's really our hope that God would be glorified out of this. Really, it's all about him."

.More on the mission

Make a donation

To donate or become a partner with the Mirabellas in their work in Tanzania, visit To meet with the Mirabellas or have them speak to your church or group, send an e-mail to

Support the cause

To send financial support, visit and click on the "donate" button on the top left corner of the page. Or send a check to Overland Missions, P.O. Box 566, Cape Canaveral, FL 32920. Designate that it is for the Mirabellas or to Account 3069. To learn more about the four stages of ministry that will be accomplished in Tanzania, click on "about us/who we are/about us" on the Web page.

Young couple heads to Tanzania for missionary work 07/01/11 [Last modified: Friday, July 1, 2011 6:36pm]
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