By Ezequiel Marcos Nhantumbo
Cambine United Methodist Mission became a small spot in the first week of December, as hundreds drove off road under tree cover, to witness the celebration of the 63rd annual conference session. A week before, God had brought into His ministry 7 seminary graduates from Cambine and Ricatla Seminaries, who have sworn to carry the cross, preach the Gospel and nourish people with values and transform the world.
Guided by the theme: Be spiritually renewed for Church mission, teach the truth, God will fulfill new promises to the society:
Psalms 51:10-12 “ Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.
12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.”
John 8:32: And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
The gathering was not only a reunion of friends and workmates and for establishment of relationships, but also it was an opportunity to reflect on the past church activities and improve strategies for church development. Historic session by bringing about changes in conference structure, after more than 115 years of existence, the Mozambique Conference has throughout the years increased in a numbers and yielded successful new starts, which formed new and vivid worshipping sites, made up of faithful people.
Mozambique has trained pastors and laity, who have invested their knowledge and experience in successfully starting new churches with healthy congregations that have cultivated church multiplying initiatives through strong prayers and discernment. Some of the daughter churches have also launched other churches with developed structures and consistent leadership. The strategy on congregations “birthing” new church sites has impacted the Mozambique Initiative in sharing life and ministry experiences and stories of transformation and yielded new partnerships with covenant churches.
Because of all these achievements, Mozambique Area has moved milestone and took additional steps, dividing into two – Mozambique South and Mozambique North Conferences in the year 2000, and in this conference session it yielded the dream of further dividing the Mozambique South into two – Mozambique South and Mozambique Southeast conferences- …”And I’ll build my church on this rock. The gates of the underworld won’t be able to stand against it.” Matthew 16:16-18
Enjoyable worship services followed, including a special session in recognition of retirees: Rev Leonardo Lasse and Rev Augusto Chihulume. They shared joyful working experience messages and through singing and special gifts, they left legacy to present and future generations of active pastors, and encouraged them to persevere, be patient and continue make disciples in all corners of the Conference.
Bishop Joaquina Filipe Nhanala’s decade of female episcopacy was celebrated with great joy, along with Pastors who also celebrated 10 and 20 years of labor in ministry. Stories of prayer, focus, kingdom labor, courage, motivation to fast sprouting of female clergy and church leaders at various levels; the commencement of the Mozambique Methodist University, the division of conference, to name but a few, constituted an inspirational motive to jubilate and recognize the Bishop’s job well done. Bishop Nhanala’s response was centered on a win-win situation, collaboration, and forgiveness, and on the need to be firm and continue making Disciples of Christ in the midst of great challenges, for a healthy, transparent and sustainable conference.
The Holy Communion brought together on same table all delegates to partake from the body and blood of Christ, recognizing the sins committed and prayer for forgiveness and renewal of spirit for new mission.
Conference sessions were blessed by intermittent and enjoyable music from our young Mpunzu band, which has embraced the Mozambique Initiative Praise Gospel mission, amusing and filling every delegate with the Holy Spirit in a motivational manner, and aiding reflections in hot and emotive debates. People at all ages never wanted to leave plenary, some foregoing meals and staying up until later hours, singing and dancing for the Lord.
The memorial worship was solemn in remembrance and paying respect to all clergy and spouses who perished along the journey, namely Rev Amelia wacitela Cumbane, Rev Isaias Rafael Bila, Rev Elias Zacarias Massicame, Rev. Angelo Nhatsave, Rev. Simeao Arone Chitangabe Mauaie, Jaime Mutsuque, Hortencia Lucas Machava and Aulina Semende Homo. The Book of Ecclesiastes 9: 2 – 6 “2 All things come alike to all: there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked; to the good and to the clean, and to the unclean; to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not: as is the good, so is the sinner; and he that sweareth, as he that feareth an oath…
4 For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion.
5 For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.
6 Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.”…, helped in the understanding that they all fought a good fight- the preacher said- and now their souls found eternal peace.
Bishop Nhanala took the podium to read the episcopal message which was centered on love, forgiveness and grace. She thanked God for choosing each one to serve, and evoked the Book of Psalms 145:3 “Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; and his greatness is unsearchable.” Bishop congratulated the division of the conference, which will aid in reduction of distances between churches, alleviating supervision; celebrated the Mozambique Area for hosting the GBHEM hub; the inauguration of the first university chancellor; the upgrade of professional training; continuous training of Church workers as priority for improving quality of service in communities; the establishment of new outreach areas; wells ministries helping in many ways rural communities and reducing diseases and pacing more advantages for ministry and children education; improvement of health services through mobile clinic and public health programs through the Center of Hope, recognized with distinction by the government; and the appointment of a Methodist clergy to serve as the General Secretary of the Mozambique Christian Council; the nomination of the first Clergy to serve as Director of Chicuque Rural Hospital, including the Church growth in statistics and acts of service throughout the Conference. God has been helping in transformation process- Bishop concluded.
Igniting devotions were shared on daily basis. The word of God came through
Psalms 51: 1 – 13 “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving kindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.
5 Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6 Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.
7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8 Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.
9 Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.
12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.
13 Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.” And Hebrews 3:9 When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years.” These scriptures encouraged congregations to share blessings through acts of service, being humble, patient and be born again, and for the need to be spiritually renewed from class meetings to pastoral charges, yielding new converts and reaching out more communities with the word of God. Emphasis was given on the need to be open, careful, cautious, alert on what happens in surroundings.
The Government of Inhambane was represented by the Morrumbene district administrator Elsa Armando, who shared message of hope and congratulated Methodists for hard work in areas of health, education and in the renewal of moral and civic values in the society, and sound mutual cooperation.
Prayers to the government leadership, the community at large and for peace and positive country’s stability, and teaching the truth in His people, was the core message of the Mozambique Christian Council general secretary, Rev João Damião Muhale, who finalized by asking people to seek self –reconciliation and transformation in His glory.
In fulfillment of the Book of Discipline, the Ordained Ministry presented before the cabinet those soldiers of God who because of their hard work to church and society, were then consecrated deacons and elders, and sent forth by the Bishop and the District Superintendents to serve and spread the Good News to many who are thirsty out there.
In closing, Bishop Nhanala delivered a notorious sermon, feeding the crowd with the word of God from Timothy 15 – summarizing that we are Christ movement, walking always for salvation and healing. She awakened people who always forget the word and the truth through God. The need to seek truth in mission and in making disciples of Jesus Christ for world transformation. Bishop highlighted to church leaders to be agents of positive change and avoid disseminate half- truth and invited the congregation to continue glorifying His name and trust and obey. She thanked God for electing each member to be part and parcel in sharing dreams, vision, blessings and wisdom to bring people into His kingdom. She prayed for the country and its leaders and people of Mozambique at large, for healthy communities and congregations.