By Ezequiel Marcos Nhantumbo
The city of Beira attracted attentions of hundreds of delegates from all over northern conference, guests of honor from abroad and from south conference, including government officers. The Beira United Methodist Church chapel – one of the venues for the conference sessions – was too small to accommodate the crowd in the initial days.
Missouri Conference through its mutual partnership program helped to a greater extent in bringing together clergy of less economic churches from districts to the sessions as part of ongoing missional exercise, and also on its evangelical commitment, the Mozambique Initiative brought to the conference the Mpunzu youth gospel band, which amused sessions with joyful songs of praise and motivated delegates to active and emotionally participate in debates.
Rev Wayne Levender, a Missouri Orphanage Foundation advocate and University lecturer, was the guest of honor as conference main chaplain. Together with Rev Antonio Fafetine Jacob, the Zambezia South District Superintendent, they ignited participants with morning deep spiritual and inspirational devotions of life and ministry through scriptures from the Books of Exodus 2: 3-25, … “Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?” “Why did you leave him? Invite him to have something to eat.”... “I have become a foreigner in a foreign land.” Mathew 16:13-19 … “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”, and Mathew 10:20 ” for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. ” The preachers highlighted the need for growth in faith and acts of service, for putting God first in everything we think and do, for transforming our churches and communities into holy places, for repentance and obedience to Christ, for embracing Christ and ministering to the children and the poor and needy people. We are all called to share blessings through sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We are all asked to know our inner part and know our role in society. We are anointed to share god news and make true disciples and transform the world, living in, with and for Christ
Holy Communion was served in remembrance of the One who died for us, a true sign of recognition of sins committed along the service in respective communities. Go to the world, remember that we all resemble Christ, and share life, expectations, hope and love to those we serve.
Bishop Nhanala’s episcopal message focused on challenges and opportunities faced during ecclesiastic activity year in districts and church programs. She rejoiced for prayers answered, discernments which helped address community needs, goals and dreams effected. God’s action in communities was sensed through service for the children at Dondo orphanage, the children education at Bishop Nhanala Elementary School of Malema, Lay leadership and pastoral training in Seminaries and at Gondola Training Center, health facilities in Muadja, including provision of safe water and means of transportation for pastors, improvement of church infrastructures, and adult education. Nhalala was overwhelmenged by the statistical church growth throughout the conference, irrespective of challenges faced. More importantly, Nhanala congratulated churches and communities for good stewardship of resources and for active physical participation in activities, as well as for building chapels through local funds. Bishop Nhanala deeply expressed thanks to Missouri partners through the Bishop Bob Farr leadership, for prayers, thoughts, and supporting mission in Mozambique.
There is still a lot to cover- Bishop said, and this will include improving adult education, construction of new health facilities, more safe wells, decent parsonages and chapels, outreach programs and provision of Christian education materials.
Bishop broaded her speech to a greater picture of the present portrait of the Church today on the way forward to be discussed in Missouri general conference, and the position set forth by African Bishops of continuing tightening bonds of a United Methodist church in the world, togetherness and and servanthood.
After a decade of service as Bishop of Mozambique Area, delegates surprised Bishop Nhanala with a traditional dinner mixed-up with a celebration of songs of praise and recital of poetry and special messages, congratulating her ten years of fruitful episcopal leadership. The scripture from Joshua 1: 5_9 summarized the dimension of this church leader. 5 No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. 6 Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.
7 “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Emotionally touched by this gesture, Bishop Nhanala wiped her eyes full of tears and shared gratitude for Gods trust, prayers that enabled her to become the first African Bishop elected, in the midst of female discrimination of all kinds throughout the world, but God chose her to serve, just like what happened to Moses.
`The Lord said I will not abandon you. Be animated and seek His strength and guidance. I am not alone…God is using Mozambique conference people to empower me to lead you. It is not an easy exercise but I believe that as united body we are making progress in edifying the church and making Disciples of Christ. There is still lot of challenges ahead, but nothing can fail in God’s hands.`- Bishop Nhanala concluded.
The conference session continued with reporting of District superintendents, Church department projects, church organizations, followed by very productive debates on important aspects of life and ministry of the church. All this has tremendously helped in drafting recommendations and decisions for the next ecclesiastic year.
Manga United Methodist Church entered in the history of North Conference because its chapel was dedicated during special sessions. It is a project which was partially funded by the International Cooperating Ministries and the Mozambique Initiative, including local funds contributed by its members. After the ribbon cutting by Bishop Nhanala, Wayne Levender preached and reflected on Deuteronomy 21: 1-9, exalting educational, missional, and edifying God, stressing the relevance of individual’s gifts to Gods ministry, serving than to be served unto other, serving the poor, the sick and oppressed, and to be in prayers and glorify God in unity trough holly spirit. In humble and solemn illustration, Rev Wayne washed the feet of some church members, followed by jubilous songs.
Church message was presented, expressing votes of mission accomplished and thankfulness for a handful support. The chapel was then introduced to the community, followed by blessing of the pulpit, the holy communion table, and handing over of a Bible to Rev Calton Ngale, tools to spread the word of God to communities. Bishop Nhanala would not hide her extreme joy for the beautiful infrastructure set forth for mission and thanked partners for helping edify chapels such as Monapo and Manga and many more to come. Bishop Nhanala and cabinet conferred the first ordination service in same chapel to the deacon Rev Francisco Viagem Tivane.
The conference sessions closing worship service took place at the newly completed Central United Methodist Church, a beautiful chapel to be dedicated next November 24. Rev Wayne Levender danced along with the Dondo orphanage children, applauded by nearly thousand people present in the worship service. Levender preached and brought the illustration of Moses vision on the mountain as clear evidence that Mozambique conference will still be united after the Methodism future events. His message found support through the books of Psalms 34:1
”I will extol the Lord at all times;his praise will always be on my lips., Deut 34: 1- 8 Then the Lord said to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not crossover into it.”, and John 17: 20-26. 20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one-- 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.
25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you[e] known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”
Bishop Nhanala closed the 17th conference sessions with a blessing of clergy and laity through assignments to various pastoral charges and special services of the conference, in response to the call to serve and making of disciples.
One reason had brought together hundreds people of various backgrounds, denominations, Government staff representing the Governor of Inhambane province, and members of the United Methodist pastoral charges of Inhambane Area District. Bishop Joaquina Filipe Nhanala and her Cabinet and Department directors, including the Mozambique Initiative, had an eye wide open to witness the re-opening of the Inhambane UMC Chapel and the dedication of Elias Makhule UMC parsonage.
Cry no more!!!- We had had this being said from our brothers and sisters from our covenant partner Missouri Conference, in response to extensive damages that literarily destroyed Chapels and parsonages and community homes, and claimed lives in Massinga, Morrumbene and Inhambane Districts of the UMC, including the Mission stations of Cambine and Chicuque.
Hope was restored, as prayers continued and actions of faith and compassion and solidarity emerged from many corners of the Methodist world. Bishop Robert Farr and his leadership delegation had been to the rabbles of the aftermath of Dineo cyclone destruction in Inhambane UMC and many other places. "There is nobody overwhelming like Him"- Bishop Nhanala mentioned this while addressing crowds in the dedications, and extending deep words of thanks to our sister Missouri conference for prayers, thoughts, suffering together and supporting by financial means in the restoration of faith and love in Mozambique.
Colorful processions accompanied by "endless" joyful songs of praise drove the Bishop through facilities as introductions were being made of newly built infrastructures which included toilets, fellowship house, bedrooms, etc. Nhanala cut the ribbon, and reminded people to open minds and hearts, so as to receive the word of God with faith. "Our blessed communion nourished from baptism and full of Holy Communion should be the temple of the Holy Spirit while we gather in love"- Bishop also referred to the Parsonage as a place of peace and love for the pastor and his family- 2Samuel7:17-29. Bishop Nhanala presented the Bible, a lump, a hoe, a salt, a broom, and pounding mortar, as signs of prosperity, faith and productivity in the Christian family. Nhanala urged the Elias Makhule UMC members to help realize their Pastor is now in a comfortable house, but God is outside, as the congregation continues worshiping God under a tree-cover. She also asked members to make contributions to help furnish the parsonage and bring in electricity.
In the consecration of the Chapel, Bishop Nhanala presented and blessed the Holy Communion table, the pulpit, calling upon God to shine upon His light for a bright path for healing and salvation from the living Christ, and for the glory of God who has invited us through His grace. She pointed the Church as a place of refuge, a place to welcome the known and unknown, sinners, people of good will, poor and rich, criminals, drunken people, so that they can be renewed and receive the Holy Spirit, be born again, and be blessed equally.
Bishop Nhanala reflections came from the books of Matthew 25:34;36; Numbers1:47-49;53; Numbers 35:1-2;6; commenting on the blessed Leviticus chosen to maintain focus in the Lord and seek protection to all kinds of people in the city of refuge. The city that saved and renewed physical and spiritual lives. Today, in the dedication of the Chapel, Bishop Nhanala calls on people to be transformed and make difference in the family and surroundings, and at workplace. To serve in communities and set example of self-sustenance, like what Inhambane UMC did, by making local contributions to build additional church infrastructures. Final reading came from Joshua 1:9 9 Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.
Holy Communion was served as sign of unity to the body of Christ and confession of faith and commitment to Jesus Christ. “As sinners we are called to repent to be forgiven”- Bishop Nhanala, surrounded by Cabinet members and District Superintendent also baptized 5 children, symbolizing purification or regeneration and admission to the Christian Church. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20.
Government officers congratulated, applauded and welcomed the United Methodist Church in the edification of social tissue and economic development of the country, through actions already in place in religious, education and health areas throughout the country.
Bishop Nhanala closed the events and asked the crowd to mingle for fellowship as one in the body of Christ.
With 71 years old, Inhambane UMC has now above 1,200 members, 5 local churches, and is a mother-church to nearly 5 parishes. Elias Macule UMC (named after a prominent Evangelist) is 54 years old and has about 150 members and 4 local churches.
The Mozambique Initiative has had a focus of encouraging, approving, and supporting various microfinance or sustainability projects to assist the churches in Mozambique to become self-sufficient. We've learned hard, valuable, and good lessons. Some projects have failed, some didn't receive enough funds, but some are providing valuable funds to assist congregations become reliant on themselves instead of on our support. Below is the summary report for the Mozambique South Annual Conference projects. We hope a North Annual Conference report will be received soon, and we will share this, as well.
Lastly, we will be relaunching our efforts in sustainability projects at Annual Conference. Look for more details to come!
Mozambique Wrap-Up Thoughts
Today marks our last full day/night in Mozambique and has essentially been a travel day. I will take the opportunity to share a few final random thoughts/observations/lessons of this trip. I will distinguish between the three of them.
1) Mozambique is a BIG country and we traveled it on this trip. As a reminder, we arrived on October 13th. Since then, we’ve traveled a total of 2,149 miles by plane and a minimum of 900 miles by car. That’s like flying from Atlanta to Seattle and like driving St. Louis to Denver – except on roads not like I-70! The distance from Atlanta to Johannesburg is 8,425 miles – we covered more than 25% of that distance in Mozambique. It’s been a grueling travel schedule and one can only truly appreciate it if you’ve been to Mozambique. Check out a map and find the following cities that we’ve spent significant time in (2+ hours/overnight): Maputo, Nampula, Lichinga, Cuamba, Marrupa, Beira, Chimoio, Mutare (Zimbabwe). It’s a huge amount of space we’ve covered.
2) Mozambique Methodism’s roots are deep. I’ll mention the stops in a minute, but it always amazes me the respect of United Methodism in Mozambique among its people. This respect has served us well—much better than it would (in a situation such as a police stop, baggage questioning, and in asking for directions).
3) It’s really hard to be in the minority anywhere—and stand out. It’s easy to be “on guard” in a foreign country—but when you don’t blend in, speak the language, and have a bunch of luggage ---you are a target. A target of skepticism and of people wanting to take advantage of you because you aren’t in a position of bargaining authority. These experiences show me how powerless we (as humans) can be. I don’t notice this on trips where it’s just me. However, I notice it when I’m in a group.
1) Corruption is a hard beast to defeat. Maybe this also fits under Random Thoughts. But think about it. How can you defeat blatant corruption in a developing country which has thousands of starving people, underpaid public officials, and whose checks and balances don’t amount to holding those in a position of authority responsible. Yes, we have corruption in the USA—but not to the extremes and openness seen in both of the countries we’ve been in. It’s unfortunate and I must hurt the broad economy and tourism.
2) Students Will Be Students. Visiting Africa University was so much fun. We learned about the Mozambican students attending and also learned about the faithfulness of AU toward seeing a bright future for African students. A fun observation was that when we pulled into campus, we had interaction with students that we would likely see in the states. Smiles, laughter, greetings, groups of students, nervousness around us as outsiders who were viewed as superior to them (although we shouldn’t have been—many of these students have wonderful life experiences that make them more of experts on things than I would ever be!)
3) Differences in the Church in the North and the South. I didn’t notice this during my first trip to the north. These differences aren’t “this is better than this.” The north continues to be more subdued, living into their Christian faith walk differently than those in the south. Education opportunities are greater in the South. There are more mountains in the North. The infrastructure in Nampula (where this really nice hotel didn’t have water, because the entire district was not working) isn’t as good as Maputo (which we had regular water in both places we have stayed). The South has some rough roads that are relatively rural. The north’s roads that connect major communities is rough. Like real rough. Worse than our worst gravel roads, except for literally 100 miles. Paul, in our group, noted the differences and growth in development (specifically the availability of our guest house, which was more comfortable accommodations than he had in 2015). These differences doesn’t mean one is better than the other. It’s worth noting because it’s a large country with different subcultures, economies, lands, and languages. It’s a social science person’s dream.
1) We should seek to live uncomfortably. The last two weeks has continued to pound the phrase “Live Uncomfortably” in my head and I can’t get it out. What do I mean? I mean that we should all seek uncomfortable situations in life to learn from them. These situations make awkward moments turn into great stories of strength and open our minds to new opportunities and for growth. Each trip makes me uncomfortable in many scenarios: from showering with a cold shower two nights at Africa University because I was too prideful to ask for help to being uncomfortably approached by baggage security only to the guard’s wall coming down when he heard I was with the “Igreja Metodista Unida” to not understanding a word of the greeting song during worship but loving the passion for which the song was sang. Each of these make us better human beings and better able to understand ourselves. Be uncomfortable in some way today.
2) Scripturally, the church in Mozambique and Africa is very strong. At Africa University, the Mozambican students often noted how Hebrew and Greek were favorite or (more often) least favorite classes. Between these and the Old and New Testament opportunities, I come away reassured of the scriptural understanding that is being taught at AU. When we visited the Gondola Training Center, I was reassured as we learned what classes were taught and that experts come from Cambine and across the Methodism denomination in Mozambique to teach lay pastors and leaders. I’ve been interested in discipleship back home and sharing the belief that it is important that we (as the church) grow disciples with knowledge of why they believe in Jesus as their Savior. Even with limited Bibles and Hymnals, I heard this discipleship being practiced in various contexts where we visited.
3) Water. Ugh. Water. As I said earlier, we were without water overnight for one evening. Each day after flying to a new destination, our first stop was for water. Water nourished us. Water refueled our body. And yet still in Cuamba, Marrupa, Munene, and Lichinga --- water remained a major issue. In Marrupa – the nearest water sources (unsafe water) were between 20-30 minutes walk. The nearest safe source was more than 2 hours walking distance. We will be continuing to try to find drillers who can do wells in the North. I always forget how precious water is until I’m in Mozambique and am forced to purchase bottled water, feel guilty as I drink more than locals to stay hydrated from the heat, and ensure that every bottle of water purchased at dinner is fully used in order to not waste any. People are thirsty, still, in Mozambique. As a conference, we’ve completed a lot of wells. And there are still abundant needs, particularly in the north.
4) To slow down and appreciate the beauty of nature and God’s people. We were fortunate to get to visit Gorongosa National Park. Enough said there. Seeing nature as a sanctuary can never be overrated and I highly encourage it. Taking a day to have the ability to slow down and actually watch for beautiful animals from large waterbucks, hilarious looking pumbas (warthogs) to the majestic swans flying just above the water --- this is not done enough by me back home and I hope this is a lesson I can figure out a way to incorporate into my life. It will fill me spiritually and mentally if I do. God’s people are beautiful, too. Sitting across from Africa University students, I saw their hopes, dreams, and struggles in their smiles and voices. I saw the beauty of humanity watching women that were my wife’s age or younger walking with water on their heads with a baby on their backs and carrying food or sticks in their hands and were dressed in the brightest capulanas you can imagine. We need to take a minute each day to remember and acknowledge the beauty in who each of us are and why God created each of us.
It’s been a wonderful trip. The journey home begins tomorrow. I leave straight from the airport for Asbury Seminary in Wilmore for an intensive class Thursday/Friday. Pray for safe travels, please, for our team—as the 30+ hour journey begins for us at around 9AM tomorrow Missouri-time.
Until next time,
We have one full day left in Mozambique, which is basically going to be just a travel day back to Maputo and running a few errands (tomorrow/Monday). Let’s focus on today, though!
After leaving Africa University by 7:45AM, we had no difficulties crossing and entering Mozambique.
I told Paul Fensterman that days like today are so difficult to explain because of the overwhelming nature of them. We were a few minutes late (we got lost trying to find the local church of Munene where they were having worship) and so it had already begun.
The very small local church chapel crammed between 70-85 people in it, with about 15-20 children. The service was full and included me and my parents presenting gifts from the First UMC Rolla congregation including paraments for the altar, Bibles, Hymnals, notes from the parishoners in English and in Portuguese and a Communion Set. They were overwhelmed with joy to receive these gifts.
The service lasted approximately 2 hours and included a sermon from a lay member, a monologue of how blessed they were to have partners such as us (First UMC Rolla) which was spoken in English. The choir had wonderful harmonies and voices, and the offering which included 5 rotations is always a blessing to watch. During our offering, they sang a song “We need Jesus (leader), responded with (by everyone) “Yes, Yes—Noone can say no.”
After the service we drove to the new church location and were led by about half of the congregation who rode in chapas (public transportation) to spend more time with us and share in the joy of the new sanctuary together. The new chapel will be beautiful and large --- 20x10 meters, or about 26 normal steps for me x 13 normal steps. We saw the renovations done to the parsonage and shared with everyone some freshly cut papaya—YUM!
After service and the celebration, we drove to Chimoio and stopped by Chimoio UMC—partner church to First UMC in Jefferson City. This quick visit included a tour of the church that will house Annual Conference this week for the North Annual Conference.
We enjoyed a great dinner and called it a night. It is worth noting that meals (eating out) take much longer than in Missouri. Our dinners in restaurants have consistently been solidly 2 hours long, tonight's being 2 hours 45 minutes. Tomorrow, will be mostly observations and thoughts on this busy, trip. We are thankful for your prayers and to God for our safe journey thus far. Our God is doing great things with the Christians in Mozambique.
Wow. I thought today would be a little more low-key than others. God had other things in mind. Literally, a packed day. After breakfast, we had a tour from a 4th year Africa University. We arrived yesterday evening as I may have pointed out.
The tour showed a beautiful campus, much like a small liberal arts college back home. The similarities between a campus like Central Methodist University (CMU) and Africa University were pretty striking. I am prayerful that with some encouragement, conversations, and God’s hand, the two institutions can work more closely together in the future. There’s lots of possibilities here from health sciences/nursing to some of the arts.
After the tour, we met with some financial aid staff and scholarship committee members to learn about the selection processes of various financial aid opportunities. In a nutshell, the Missouri Annual Conference has an endowment at AU in honor of former bishop Ann Sherer to where two Mozambican students are allowed to attend AU on scholarship. In addition to this endowment, it is worth noting that each bishop in Africa gets to select up to four students who get a full scholarship, two in theology and two in other degree areas. Bishop Nhanala, they reported, always selects her students – which is wonderful!
After lunch, the surprise and moving moments came. First, we met with Memory, one of the two beneficiaries currently on our endowment’s scholarship. Memory was shy, a bit quiet, awesome, and from the Tete district. After a conversation and sharing why we wanted to meet with her, we offered to pray for her. After our prayer, Memory thanked us and our conference with tears in her eyes. She hopes to work for an organization like “Save The Children” where she completed an internship for last year. While she isn’t United Methodist (and this isn’t a requirement for the endowed scholarship) – Mozambique will be a better place when she graduates. In a “small world” moment, we found out her Ezy knows her mother who works for World Vision in Tete.
We then spent more than an hour and a half with 15 of the Mozambican students attending AU. About half were theology students, some of them current ordained pastors in Mozambique who are furthering their education and have served many churches. This was a great time. After learning about them, we offered to answer questions they had of us about the American church. Questions/answers included our (overall) decline in Christianity/Methodism, how churches are reaching new people (bar churches, worship in other venues), the number of bishops in America, and how the worship styles compared. We concluded with me asking them to go around and answer what their favorite and least favorite classes were at AU. Answers of favorite classes included Old Testament, New Testament, Evangelism, Clinical Psychology, Christian History, and English as a second language. Common least favorite classes included Hebrew and Greek and Mathematics.
A beautiful sunset atop one of the mountains concluded our day with dinner.
It’s been fun to see Ezy reunited with old friends, professors, and employees of AU – he has been “lit up” and just shining for the last 36 hours.
One last story, during our tour of the campus we learned that at any point, AU has approximately 2,500 students with between 20-31 African countries represented. AU mandates that first year students be roommates with people who are from a different country. English is the common language (Zimbabwe’s national language) but often times students don’t learn this until coming to the University. This forces students of different ethnicities, languages, cultures to embrace and appreciate each other’s traditions in ways that I can only imagine. How wonderful would it be if we did this? Instead, we (including me) are paired with roommates who have similar interests. This struck me as we think, understand, and move forward with how partisan our society has become. We read only news we agree with. We talk only in person to those who we agree with. AU and this model challenges that in ways that break down barriers and make everyone uncomfortable.
I’ll maybe touch on this tomorrow or Monday, but if we were all more uncomfortable, vulnerable, and awkward with each other --- the world, I think, would be a better place. Nothing about this roommate model is comfortable, but our tour guide said she has heard nothing but positive experiences. We have much to learn from our brothers and sisters in Christ so far away.
Wifi has been limited over the past few days, but tonight and tomorrow, we are in good shape (as long as I don’t jinx it). So, there is lots to share!
On Tuesday, we drove from Beira to Gorongosa, stopping at the Dondo Orphanage on the way in addition to the Episcopal House under construction in Beira. The Dondo Orphanage held its dedication the week before we arrived with the funders (Foundation 4 Orphans), and they expect to accept 25 children and open in January to house the children. This is good news, for the thousands of orphaned children in the Dondo area due to a very high (50%+) rate of HIV/AIDS due to the trucking industry here.
Our respite was to be to visit Gorongosa National Park. We arrived on Ezy’s birthday (Oct 18) and were able to treat him with a morning and afternoon safari on the day after (19th, Thursday). I highly recommend Gorongosa. I’ve been wanting to visit since I became the MI coordinator. Doing a safari and supporting the reintroduction of native animals to Mozambique that were decimated after the War of Independence and Civil War is really important to me.
Our morning safari started at 5:30AM with our safari driver, Castro. We had an extra guest with us, Tammy. We hit it off with her immediately, as she said she was raised Methodist! We were all family for the rest of the morning. We saw water buck, kudo, impalas, pumbas, beautiful birds, and an elephant! We even saw the elephant knock down a coconut/palm tree! Tammy knew the philanthropist, Greg Carr, whose foundation is primarily funding the project and helped set us up with a lunchtime tour of the scientific lab portion of the park that isn’t open for public tours. We learned that at any point in time, more than 20 scientists are working to categorize and take note of all of the species of animals in the park.
In fact, we learned that there are two species of bats that are only native and found for the first time ever in Gorongosa Park! After lunch, we had an afternoon safari where we got to see a beautiful lion, named Senator. A gorgeous sunset at the watering lake ended our evening.
Then, Friday, we headed out early toward Zimbabwe.
We stopped at the Gondola Training Center and the Inchope Water Project. The Inchope Water Project is 2 years in-the-making and just got started last month! After overcoming challenges of not finding water at the initial well site, no electricity at the new well location, and their water tank falling and breaking before full in a storm --- the project is going and is doing well!
This sustainability project fills via electric (solar) pump 20 liter (approximately 5 gallon) buckets of water. This water is filled and sold for 3 MZN (5 cents). They fill approximately 100 buckets of water per day, making between 250-300 MZN per day ($4.15-$5.00). This pays for a worker and will provide profit for the church to continue funding priorities of the church! God is good! What was really neat is that there is a hand-pump (not owned by the church) within site that also sells water—for 2.5 MZN. However, to save time, people are willing to pay the extra .5 MZN to have it filled within seconds.
Our journey continued through the Manica province where we headed into Zimbabwe to visit Africa University. With no problems, we were able to obtain visas and get to Africa University. It’s a beautiful campus that we will learn more tomorrow (we arrived right at sunset).
The Vice Chancellor for Advancement joined us for dinner. Our topics of conversation ranged from business incubation and intellectual property coursework AU is leading Zimbabwe in, our Missouri endowed scholarships, to opening conversations between Central Methodist University and AU to explore potential partnerships. We were joined by Revs. Chembeze and Zunguze (Alfiado)–both Mozambican who were at AU for the Board of Directors meetings that just concluded today.
It’s getting late here, so I won’t comment too much on my thoughts and reflections over the last few days. However, I can share that experiencing God’s wonderful physical nature in Africa is breathtaking. Enjoying a sunset at AU and at Gorongosa back-to-back nights with different landscapes (mountains vs. water plain) is spectacular. In addition, hearing and seeing the work of the Inchope Water Project only reminded me that often times in the USA, we know so very little of the successes. If I hadn’t suggested to Ezy that we perhaps stop at the water project, we would have zipped on by. Even Ezy was impressed by their work and early successes. Ha!
The phrase that keeps popping into my head over the last two day is this: God is Good, All of the Time. And all the time, God is good. Deus e bom, em todo o momento. Em Todo o momento, Deus e bom.
We’ve had a very busy few days! On Monday, our task was large. It was travel 150 miles from Cuamba to Marrupa and visit the church there. Then, drive another 200+ miles to Lichinga where we were spending the night on Monday.
Let’s just say Mozambique happened, in all of its glory, beauty, and challenges. Also, a warning: this is a fairly long post since I’m covering two days and some other observations.
The 150 mile journey to Marrupa took about 4 ½ hours on almost all (90%+) dirt roads. There was 7 people crammed in a 7-seat car, about the equivalent of a Toyota Highlander. Let’s just say my mom, dad, and my knees were literally at our chest in the very back seat. In Marrupa, we were greeted wonderfully by a very small congregation. Their nearest UMC is approximately 150 miles away. Their song, dance, hospitality, and love of Jesus couldn’t have been clearer. Our message here was that water was scarce. The use water from an open (unsafe) well that when it rains, the well and water area fills with dirt. There is a natural spring located about 10 minutes away, but during the dry season (including right now, the beginning of rainy) it is completely dry and there is no water.
Marrupa began as a church in 2008 with 10 people and has 32 members but the chapel made from thatch is used a minimum of 4-days of the week. It was a joyous visit filled with smiles, singing, and an “ah-ha” moment! This moment came when one of the women leaders requested for a DVD video that explains and helps Christians evangelize in Portuguese. Jennifer said that there are organizations that have this sort of resource, and I look forward to looking into this deeper when we return.
Marrupa’s visit included a 3-way translation (Portuguese, English, and Emacua (local language). This experience always proves to me the power of Christianity and our God. It’s so easy to think of Christianity from an “English” or American cultural and lingual lens. Christianity is so much more than that, and I think we (in America) take that for granted every day.
After a quick lunch in Marrupa of goat and rice, we hit the road again. During lunch, we ran into two women who are Peace Corps workers in the area and who had been painting a school. It’s always good to run into these situations and realize that there are many people both in the USA who have a passion and love for the Mozambican people.
The rest of the day, we drove to Lichinga, where we were spending the night. Some highlights of the drive included:
· Nearly running out of gas (turning around and buying gas from a street vendor who had gas cans).
· Getting stopped 5 or 6 times by police officers and paying a ‘ticket’ at the time of the violation. While this was….frustrating, some God-moments happened at two of these stops. At one: an officer asked if we had a Bible and said he was a part of the Baptist church. Our driver gave him his New Testament. At our last stop of the day, the district superintendent recognized one of the officers who was a member of his home church in Lichinga.
· We saw elephant crossing signs.
· The car nearly overheated a couple of times. When we stopped to stretch at one of the stops, Ezy and the local people who came out to see what we were doing got into a conversation about education. The local family and children didn’t go to school and didn’t think it was super important. Ezy engaged in the policy debate with them and this shows the challenges of Mozambique.
· Between Marrupa and Lichinga lies a mountain range that treated us to an absolutely beautiful sunset. Relatedly, we commented on God’s majesty during one of the police stops after dark when we had to get out of the car and was able to enjoy and view the beautiful night sky.
· Upon arriving at the hotel in Lichinga approximately at 9:00PM (say 3-4 hours later than we hoped), we found out that the hotel (a hotel on Trip Advisor, so this was a legit hotel) didn’t have running water.
It was a long day and we as a team had great experiences where we felt the presence of God both in a worship context, enjoying creation, and experiencing the need to understand that we (as individuals) are not in control of everything that happens.
Tuesday was a similar day in a lot of ways. An early breakfast took us then to Lichinga UMC before our flight out. This large church of more than 200 members and averaging more than 80 on a Sunday is in need of a covenant partner in Mozambique!
The harmonies we heard from the people of Lichinga were music to each of our ears. We heard their congregation’s plans, hopes, dreams, and challenges. This will be the newest and 3rd orphanage in Mozambique that will be under the UMC’s jurisdiction in Mozambique. Last week, there was a groundbreaking here for this community. In Lichinga, there are more than 1,000 orphaned children that have no home and are living on the streets.
The hope that they have for their community is contagious. They verbally expressed that they pray for us as their brothers and sisters in Missouri.
We then departed for our flight to Nampula, where we had a 6-hour layover. District Superintendent Herminio spent the afternoon with us as we relaxed and had lunch. After our flight to Beira, we met with Eurico, the North Conference’s VIM coordinator. Before going to our guest house we visited the Episcopal Residence that is under construction for the North. Thus far, the New York Annual Conference’s Mozambique Connections group has funded this project thus far and is looking to partner with Missouri and others to complete the project.
We’ve almost reached the half-way point of our journey. The northern part of Mozambique, especially where we’ve visited thus far, is very rural, often uninhabited, with lots of challenges that go beyond church growth. A lack of appreciation for education, virtually nonexistent basic infrastructures such as water, electricity, roads, or economic opportunities fill the Niassa province, which is the largest province by land mass but the least inhabited throughout the country.
We are close to beginning the 2nd half of our trip, traveling further south, going from Beira to Gorongosa/Chimoio and then to Manica and into Swaziland over the next week.
This trip has fulfilled its purpose thus far. I have a greater appreciation, understanding, and connection with the people of Niassa, where I had never visited before. The challenges are great. However, our God is greater than any of these challenges and my prayer today is that the people of Niassa feel empowered to spread God’s word among harsh conditions and almost monetary no resources. I will share their spirit with you all, as Missouri’s churches, during my visits.
Ahh. Worship in Mozambique. What describes it? Collective voices. Unity in Christ. Energy. Hot. Hard to understand. Fairly liturgical. All generations.
Morning Star UMC has provided a permanent chapel for their partners, Cuamba UMC that we were able to dedicate today. Hebrews 3 tells us that reminds that…”Every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything…” (verse 4). God is the builder of our partnership together.
The morning was filled with joy as pastor Jennifer Long was given the opportunity (and only 12 hours notice) to both cut the ribbon of the new chapel but to be the first preacher after dedication to preach. The celebration included the arrival of the mayor of Cuamba (a city of 130,000) and his entourage. There were representatives from other denominations (Church of Christ, Presbyterian), and a community leader who joined in the celebration.
Today’s worship included about 20 children under the age of 5 sitting for more than two hours. It was about 90 degrees in the new concrete structure. It was both an exhilarating and exhausting experience.
After worship, we enjoyed lunch as a congregation in fellowship. My mom passed out stickers to the children and they loved getting their photos taken and being shown. Then, we visited with the administrative board to learn about the life of the community and congregation.
We heard needs, challenges, aspirations, and even brainstormed ways of mutual struggles such how to best reach new generations. This good discussion concluded with no hard end results, but we did think about the future partnership between Cuamba and MI.
At about 2:30PM or so, we arrived back at the guest house. I neglected to mention that the electricity went out somewhere between 3AM-5AM and was off all day until nearly 4:30PM. After getting some soft serve ice cream at the local market which was being run by a generator, we capped off a busy day.
We’re a bit jet-lagged and tomorrow will feature a long day of travel up to Marrupa (partner of Zion UMC in St. Louis Lemay) and then a drive to Lichinga.
Thank you for your prayers. We are grateful and look forward to continuing to share our journey!