All of the other blogs have been written on the day of. Sunday’s blog, I’m actually write on Monday morning since it was my last full day.
Sunday’s graduation at Gondola was special. With it being the first graduating class of Gondola students, there was definitely a graduation feel in the air. When we arrived right at 10:00AM, the students were lined up and ready to process into the banquet hall. They sang and danced their way in, sat down and the service began.
Like many Sundays here, the service lasted 3 ½ hours, and ended around 1:30PM. The service was a blended worship and graduation, with music sang in various local languages by all of the students, to introduction of the teachers, handing out the individual certificates, a sermon by the Bishop’s Assistant, JJ, to an offering. Since it was the first graduation, after calling the first 2 students to get their diplomas, the director suggested that the student being called select a song and sing as they came up. It was awesome.
They were just like graduates back home by having many reactions from a timid reaction to complete overjoy where family met them after their diplomas with huge hugs. These were lay people and pastors alike, who attended the Gondola Training Center for 3 months for 3 years. It wasn’t easy and I learned of 4 students who did not fully graduate because they didn’t complete the coursework yesterday. The ages of the students ranged from 50’s to early 20’s. These church leaders or pastors are leaders of congregations ranging from 60+ members to 600+ members.
GTC was a dream that started back in 2001 to help the people of the north have a sound place to receive theological and leadership training. The classes taught range from administration, personal and public health, evangelism, Christianism in Africa, life sciences among others. It’s important to remember that many of the target students never had the opportunity to graduate secondary (high school) and have the equivalency for us as an 8th grade education.
As a congratulations gift, the Mozambique Initiative paid for Study Bibles for each of the graduates. Then, I brought bookmarks, keychains, pens and sticky-notes with our Missouri Annual Conference logo on them. After the celebration, almost as impressive as the ceremony itself was the process of lunch.
I’m always amazed at the amount of food that can be prepared with so little. A group of about 4 women prepared a huge meal of rice, chicken, pork, potato salad, cabbage and fries all morning while we were in worship. The meal fed all 125+ graduation attendees. These women are always the unsung heroes of any visit by Missourians. Their work is done behind the scenes and they are not publicly thanked in a way that we do.
After lunch, we headed toward Beira, beginning around 2:30PM. After dropping a few pastors off at their homes on the way back, we checked into our guest house and ate a late dinner, around 8:00PM.
It was so great to experience the GTC graduation in person and on behalf of the sponsors and many supporters of GTC over the years. GTC has been the beneficiary of our MI Annual Conference offering, so it was special to represent all of our churches
Well, I’ve come to the end. Thanks to each of you for reading, following, praying for the journey, and support of many kinds. It’s been an honor and privilege to be in Mozambique and to trying to share the journey with you is only the least I can do.
As I write this, I have less than 6 hours left in Mozambique. I want to leave this country with the prayer I found as I was searching scripture yesterday (Sunday) I found this amazing prayer by Paul in his letter to the Philippians. Philippians 1:3-11. (NIV version below)
“I thank my God every day I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident in this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to the completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending an confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.”
Until I’m back in Missouri,