Today concludes my last full day in Mozambique. I've blogged about the heat and God laughs at me today, it's overcast, breezy, and about 75 or 80 degrees at the most.
The day began for me at 4:26AM when my alarm went off (that's 8:30PM Saturday for you in Missouri). JJ picked us up 5 minutes earlier than our 5AM departure, showing that American influence on Mozambican time is an actual thing.
The three hour car ride is always good. Whether talking about political challenges in the US and Mozambique to differences in Church politics in the two countries, it is was full of conversation, even if it was early.
Torres, the director of Gondola Training Center, met us outside as we arrived at shortly after 8AM. After a tour of the facilities, we went inside his home and discussed the history and goals of Gondola Training Center more in depth.
The GTC location has transformed significantly over the last few years. From solar panel electricity, a new dorm, a well, it's a great place. For those of you like me who weren't sure of the history:
GTC opened in March 2014 and was imagined as both a lay person and local pastor training center in the North part of Mozambique. The certificate program/curriculum was designed to be a 3-year curriculum. Students (adults) stay at the GTC for 3 months for 3 years, and the rest of the year they are to put into practice their learning in their local churches and communities. Each cohort class is 12 students.
There's likely to be a change in the curriculum/process. In an effort to expedite and help with costs, these GTC students starting with the June 2016 class will likely begin a 2-year journey, being at GTC for 5 months each year for the 2 year period. One cohort class is lay members, and the other is licensed local pastors.
GTC is ripe for growth and responding to the needs of the United Methodist Church here to develop leaders and provide educational opportunities. I learned about the progress and the needs. A new dormitory is likely needed to more culturally appropriate house and provide space for a longer 5-month stay. Smaller needed items are obvious, like a gas stove in the kitchen (currently food is cooked by charcoal), chairs for the classrooms (they are currently carried by the students from the kitchen table to the classroom and back).
As VIM teams think about coming to Mozambique, this would be a great place to consider visiting and working. It's rural, beautiful, peaceful, and a short drive from the larger township of Chimoio.
After Torres' family fixed us a wonderful lunch -- I did something super cool. I got to pick cacana leaves and help with the digging up of a cassava tree with Rev. Rita, who came to meet me. Cacana is a leaf that is used in cooking cassava and it sounded like what we would consider a garnish. Rev. Rita oversees the microfinance projects for MI in the North. She's also the pastor of a small congregation.
After arriving back in Beira, we met with Eurico to discuss some logistics of VIM team visits and enjoyed a last dinner in Mozambique.
Tomorrow, I will be at the Beira airport for my 1:30PM flight. It's always fun to see how long I will be in travel status. So, let's walk through this together. I'll be dropped off at Beira at approximately noon on Monday, Mozambique time. That's 4AM Missouri time on Monday. My flight is scheduled to lane in St. Louis at 1:51PM on Tuesday local time. So, I'll be in travel status for 36 hours, including the drive to Columbia. If all goes as scheduled. haha. :) It's daunting and yet thrilling at the same time.
It's been awesome to spend time in Beira. I won't likely get to post something from "the road" home. I'm thankful to each of you for taking the time to read this each day and getting to experience it with me. Thank you for prayers and positive comments -- I am aware I've filled your Facebook feeds with lots of things over the past few weeks.
Concluding thoughts on the week for real:
Mozambique is an awesome country. You should visit the churches and people here. Coming here will leave you speechless on so many levels: the love you experience, the poverty, the passion for the Church just to name a few. The task of trying to help here is daunting and overwhelming.
Together, one friendship, one visit, one microfinance project, one safe water well, one permanent chapel/church can and does bring Missouri and Mozambique closer to the image of Christ.
Hang on Missouri. Let's continue to change the world in partnership with Mozambique. Philippians 1: 4-11 tells a prayer of thanksgiving that I am praying today about our brothers and sisters here in Mozambique as I leave to come back home.
Until I'm back in Missouri. Peace.
Well, the trip is officially coming to a close. I offer this post as my closing thoughts to leave tomorrow's post about visiting Gondola, which will be more important to share.
Today was as expected, mostly a travel day. Big news: we didn't fly on the 'airplane chopa' as expected -- we were in a jet. A short stop in Tete meant that I got to briefly experience the 109 temperatures there today. About the same time it was snowing back home.
After arriving in Beira where it was only 87 degrees with 70% humidity at 5:30, we were greeted by JJ waiting for us at the airport. JJ is the Executive Assistant -- or the Bishop's 'right hand man' in Northern Mozambique. We ate beachside again (I know you feel sorry for me) and Eurico joined us. Eurico is a pastor in the North AC of the Methodist Church but was just assigned and will be the full time North AC VIM coordinator starting in January. Guess what Missouri? I'll be encouraging teams to visit the North as well as the South!
I've got big hopes and dreams for the Mozambique Initiative. There's potential for growth, partnerships, and learning. I pray that our Missouri churches remain to have open hearts for this country and the UMC here. Whether thinking about specific projects that specific churches may be interested in or thinking big-picture like the #MOAC16 Mozambique Initiative offering, this trip has been well worth the time and energy.
Tomorrow is Gondola. I'm super excited to end the trip on this high note. This was a dream of the church just a few years ago. Next Spring, the first class will graduate. More on this tomorrow.
Lastly: 3 takeaways and random thoughts:
3 Takeaways from the week:
1) The Roundtable was great. The United Methodist Church globally is supportive of Mozambique, and Missouri is one of the strongest partners. The Mozambique Church presented its priorities -- and MI will continue to align our priorities to match theirs. We have just a little work here, but not much at all.
2) I traveled a long ways during the last 10 days. I've flown more than 2000 miles in Mozambique while driving about 1000 miles. Visit our Facebook page for photos, and if your church was mentioned -- expect me to reach out to you after Thanksgiving.
3) Our Mozambican brothers and sisters are fantastic. They have a vision and passion for God and Jesus that is admirable and contagious.
My 4 Last Random Thoughts (last big ones at least) are as follows:
1) This has been an amazing, whirlwind experience. I think about where I've been in the last 2 weeks, people I've met, and what I've seen. The real world for American culture Craig returns starting Monday, when the journey home begins. During this season of Thanksgiving -- I will be particulary thankful for those things that I have that are unthinkable for nearly everyone here. While Thanksgiving will be great, I will be with my family back in Rolla. This transition will clash hard with the "Black Friday" emails that I keep getting and being tempted to read and see what the latest and greatest prices are on things. Things that I don't need or even really want, but that I'm tempted with.
2) I don't think I've discussed this but it's a very interesting time in Mozambique right now. Politically, there have been clashes between the majority and minority parties. The US Dollar to the Metical (Mozambican currency) is stronger than ever, but in real terms this only means that the Metical is losing value. From August (my previous trip) to today -- the conversion rates were: (Aug: 38 mets to 1 dollar) When I arrived 2 weeks ago: 48 to $1 and today, I converted money at 55 metical to $1. This is nearly a 30% devaluation of their currency in the last 3 months. Financially, the IMF is showing concern. Inflation is very high, the Mozambican government just raised interest rates.
All of that just means life in Mozambique will get harder in the coming months if this devaluation stays or (Heaven forbid) continues. Things will get more expensive for locals, wages will not increase. This is a huge problem and concern for the country broadly. Please pray and watch this closely as it could fracture the country and cause record growth over the last 15 years to be halted or reversed.
3) The Chinese influence here is stronger than ever. It's an interesting dichotomy. The Chinese are doing good things like working on roads, but the skeptic in me says they are doing it for a cost: mineral rights and trading advantages. For any venture capitalists out there reading this (I doubt it...) Mozambique is ripe for growth. Just visit this country and see the potential.
4) We take for granted the ease of access to cars of our own. The logical challenges related to transportation here are huge. I'm just one person, but coordinating travel for me isn't an easy task. Meeting pastors using public transportation (private entrepreneurs) for two hours one way because they don't have and can't afford a car or motorbike is humbling.
Until tomorrow. Peace.
The workweek has ended here in Mozambique. Two churches were on our agenda for today: Monapo and Nacala.
Monapo is a fairly young congregation and we were greeted by a group of 20 church members in song. Kidder UMC is their partner church. As a life long Missourian, I'll admit here that I have no idea where Kidder is. Anyway, some details about the church:
198 members, 2 local churches who are about 12 kilometers (6 miles) from the main sanctuary/chapel.
This church has seen the fruits of the MI partnership in very personal ways. First, a well was drilled just off of church property and it was in use by a whole group of people when we walked up. Then, MI provided electricity for the parsonage, and also some assistance on the chapel. They sincerely appreciated the visit and work of Sarah Bollinger, and gave me a capulana to make sure I get to her. I was also presented with a capulana as a gift of gratitude to MI's work with their church.
After sharing of refreshments together and seeing the property, we headed out toward Nacala. The cool story here, I think, is that the pastors of Nacala and Monapo are spouses. Talk about commitment to the Gospel, right? These churches are separated by about 60 kilometers and to get to Monapo, the pastor uses the chopa, but stays at the church on Friday-Sunday.
Nacala was very special. The pastor, women's group leader, and another church member who arrived late made up the small contingent to greet us. It was special because of how personal it was. I think they were a little worried I was disappointed in the turnout -- but quite the opposite. It was noon on Friday. We had a great conversation about their families, the church, and the Nacala community.
Nacala is a growing industrial area, a port city. Lots of construction is taking place here. A relatively small 118 member congregation that has more than 75 children is just cool. There's potential here, and I think the direction of the church here is on the right track. A former church member who was active in the ports started (financing) the construction of what would be the biggest sanctuary in Nampula. He was moved, and construction halted due to lack of funding.. The church though, is poised to succeed by thinking outside the box and being willing to let go of this building by selling it or renting it.
The financial challenges of the Church here are underscored by this very smart couple who both have other jobs to supplement their pastoral salary. I'm grateful for their work to grow the church. They were clearly well respected in their congregations and a great couple.
I'm told a trip to the Nampula area isn't complete without a trip to Ihla de Mozambique, the Island of Mozambique, about 40 miles from the main road back to Nampula. A one-way road leads to the island with a few wider places for cars to stop and wait for traffic to pass. It's a beautiful island with old buildings, probably nearly all of them are at least a hundred years old. On the island is the largest fortress in Mozambique, built in the 1680's by the Portuguese in order to help keep trade of all kinds (minerals, made materials, slave trade) under their control. The history here is just amazing. We've come along ways in this world when you think about the slave trade coming through here only a couple of hundred years ago.
Ezequiel, Herminio and I had dinner seaside literally with hundreds of feet of beach shoreline to ourselves, listening to the waves crash with sand in our toes on a folding table 50 feet from the water. Now that you can picture where we are at, are you curious of our dinner? Ezy and I had some seriously scrumptious shrimp. Herminio had calamari, and his plate was clean before ours. We are living the hard life tonight in Mozambique.
This quick weeklong itineracy around Mozambique has been insightful. It shows the variations in the country in a very quick way. From mountains in Nampula, more thick bush and trees of the rural parts both in Inhambane and the far north. Fruit trees everywhere except the cities (mangos, bananas) to the Cashew trees of Inhambane and Nampula. Cultural and area differences are seen religious differences (Islamic presence in the North) and the blank look or casual double-take in the North (of being American, I think) to not getting a second look at all in Maputo (big-city hustle and bustle are the same in the US and Mozambique).
Some things remain the same, though - no matter where. The need for water. Hospitality. Kindness. Helping strangers. Eagerness to be successful. Evangelical nature of the church. The joy of visiting and welcoming a stranger in Christ (me). The singing.
Random thoughts of the day:
1) I'm continually impressed by the children here. Whether playing with dirt or a handmade car from soda bottles and sticks they seem to be having fun. And when I see children with older siblings, they are helping their siblings carry water, materials, even coming to sell food roadside. They are given great responsibility at young age., which is obviously very different from American culture.
2) Sand + Rain = Only partially a good thing. I know it's rained a lot this week back home and I am speaking out of turn. However, after seeing a thunderstorm here in August and then just rain shower here once this trip, the erosion that takes place here is just devastating. Rain is a necessary evil here though, because most of the economy here is around agriculture. .
3) I need to educate myself on soccer/futbol worldwide. Josh Schaller, this means your help is needed. It's tough to be a baseball fan in subSaharan Africa. Nobody understands. Ha.
4) One of my favorite cultural practices in Mozambique is the hand washing before meals or refreshments. The host brings two buckets of water to guests and meal participants. It is two buckets, a bucket with water and one to catch the water. This gesture is humbling as a receiver of it and constantly reminds me of the humility that Jesus was shooting for in John 13: 1-17 by washing the Disciples' feet. It's a powerful act to experience.
5) Proof that I'm meant to be in Mozambique some: The music played about everywhere here is 15-35 years old. From Luther Vandross, Macy Gray, Tracy Chapman, Michael Jackson, Springsteen -- it's awesome stuff in my opinion. Of course, I might miss TSwift or One Direction a little bit if I was here for
Tomorrow is another travel day. Chopa Airplane = always fun stories! Beira for a brief visit and drive to Gondola on Sunday.
Until tomorrow. Peace
Thursday. What defined today? Probably generosity and love.
For the last two nights, we stayed for free (other than paying our electricity) at one of Ezy's friends house while he was out of town. We started our day at 7AM by meeting with the pastor of Pemba UMC. Their sister church is Pitts UMC in Kansas City. It was great to hear how they are spreading the word of God in their community.
After a small hunt for breakfast while the car we were renting was cleaned, we headed to the airport. DS Alfa was incredibly hospitalble and generous with his time over the last few days. He stayed with us at the airport while we waited to board, saying it was the hospitable thing to do with his guest. What happens in the US? A goodbye hug at the airport so we can get back to living our lives. No offense to our culture, but it's true, right? I do it.
The flight was, let's just say, interesting. We flew on a circa 1980 prop-jet Embraer. Of course, I told Ezy that I believed with all of my being that this plane was literally 5 years older than me. Talk about retro with lots of tans and browns in the leather seats, paneling, etc. Also, it was bit hilarious to see the flight attendant struggle for three times to get the momentum enough to actually lock the door in place. It kept getting stuck on something, not locking into place. You know it was bad when the Mozambicans are laughing and saying "Chopa airplane" and laughing. Chopas are public transportation vans that aren't known to be the most reliable, comfortable, or new. It isn't a compliment. We made it, though. I'll take the final leg from Nampula to Beira on Saturday, so I get to ride in the same plane again. There's really no love and generocity in this story except from God since he was with our pilot and our plane.
Upon arrival to Nampula we were picked up by District Superintendent Herminio. After a quick run by our hotel we visited Nampula UMC. This is the sister church of Kirksville FUMC. Nampula is really the "hub" of the North Mozambique annual conference of the Methodist church. The pictures will prove it. They rotate having their annual conference in the North here. I was greeted by a song and flowers by the leaders of the church. Love and generous.
After a wonderful introduction in their sanctuary, got to learn all about the church's activities and ways they reach out to the community. From more than 690 members, 5 local churches, and a very busy weekly schedule of women, men, youth, and children acivities -- this is a vibrant congregation. I shared my passion for Mozambique, my learning together with those in the North, and the mission of MI.
After wonderful tour of the church grounds, they have multiple construction projects. Most significantly is the construction of a large sanctuary that will adequately be able to house Annual Conferences instead of overflow happening. While walls are built up by funds from the local church, they don't have funds for the roof, but have purchased trusses. They are also working on a children's "wing" or building where the children go during church.
I'll admit my western culture kicked in during this time to some degree. I grew quickly skeptical of the need of a larger, bigger church. We have lots of those in Missouri that we aren't utilizing effectively. That said, the church here is growing -- and Nampula is obviously bursting at the seems with construction, new high rises, and is the third largest city in Mozambique.
After the group photo, we shared in desserts (those who know me, know this is the way to my heart...) with pastries that reminded me of beignets, sweet corn cake, and a shortbread dessert. Topped off with a Fanta Ananas (pineapple) it was a great visit for about 3 hours. This has been the church who has the most folks that speak English of any I've visited this trip - a solid hand full. At one point, even one of the youth leaders translated for Ezy while he was speaking about MI. Love and generosity.
We hopped in the car with DS Herminio and I assumed we were going to the hotel to have dinner on our own and rest. Nope. We went to his house, met his family, and joined them for dinner. I met his wonderful wife and children (3 of them). They were watching The Amazing World of Gumball, except it was in Portuguese. This stuff just cracks me up. Our foster son would watch this -- and I'm 9000 miles away watching it!
Then, the ultimate surprise so far of the trip -- a personalized gift for me. A keychain made of the dark Mozambican wood of the area with my phone number etched/scratched out of one side, and my name on the other. What an awesome gift. What DS Herminio didn't know is that all trip I have been on a hunt for the best way to purchase Mozambican furniture (they have beautiful handmade wicker, or even what we would consider a Cedar Chest) and get it back to the States at a reasonable cost. Yeah, I know that's probably impossible. But, I will get it somehow. I digress. Generosity and love. I presented a stole to him as I have done to all of the DS's who we have spent time with in Mozambique.
We will get to spend time with him over the next two days. Tomorrow, we visit two churches: Nacala and Manapo.
Two random thoughts that I forgot yesterday and two more of today:
1) I am questioning whether the influx of cell phones in Mozambique is a good thing. There is definitely preying on people with very little financial means who don't have electricity or safe water. It's an interesting delimma for people. Everyone wants to use the shiny, cool cell phone they are often given here -- but at a price they really can't afford to spend. It's really sad to see a HUGE cell phone tower right next to thatch huts with no electricity. I've got
2) The US needs to change to the metric system and to celcius. It's brutal that we are about the only country in the world that doesn't use these regularly. It's time to make sure we teach both and even use both regularly in practice, I'm convinced.
3) Next trip, I've got to find a way to pack lighter. I packed two bags plus my backpack which isn't light either. One suitcase with my stuff, and another with gifts. My big bag is about 35 pounds (but under the 10KG limit, again with the metric system) and makes me look way too much like a Westerner, which of course I am. But when being a guest means others offer and insist on carrying my bag, it definitely ain't cool. I'm sorry guys.
4) 1 John 4: 7-21 talks about Love. I'm unable to be proficient in the happenings with the Syrian refugees. However, when I stumbled on this -- I wondered if it was applicable. I really don't know, but I enjoyed stumbling upon it.
I'm getting smarter. Two-thirds of the way in my trip. I'm finally taking pictures with my iPad so I can more easily post them to the blog. Better late than never. First, a narrative of the day and then some general observations to consider.
Ezy got up early and took the Jeep to get the muffler reattached, and surprisingly, it was done in 2 hours, under the 3 hour estimate we were given. When does that happen in the US let alone Mozambique? :)
We were on the road by 9:30 after getting the day's supply of water, snacks (snakes), and DS Alfa. Another 300+ kilometer day of driving, but we did some awesome things.
At 1:00PM, we finally arrived at Namuno UMC. An hour of really rough dirt roads got us there. The well was in use as we pulled up, and more people were coming out the longer we stayed, likely after lunch and likely to see the commotion. The driller of the well also was in the community. Being proud of your work is something that is cross cultural. He's proud and for the right reasons. The nearest well to this one is 2-3 kilometers (1-1.5 miles) away. I pumped about 15 gallons total of water, and it's hard work. It was 97 again today (36 Celsius in our Jeep).
This church is an Extension church, which in Mozambique church terms means it is larger than a local church but not yet a parish or full church.
On our way back we have stopped at Montopuez UMC. This is the second biggest city in the Cabo Delgado district of the country. Up against a high Islam influence, it's also the second biggest church in DS Alfa's district with about 65 adult members, plus children and youth. The parsonage has a well and is right next to the church. We met Pastor Felix Berto Josesefa who was just appointed to take over the Namuno Church Extension. He also works as a primary school teacher -- biviocational.
A super cool thing happeend today during typing this. We were stopped by one of the many police checkpoints on the main road this morning. In the conversation about how we were with the United Methodist Church the police officer asked if we had a Bible. Of course we didn't.
At Montepuez, there was a Bible older than me (copyright of 1979) on the pew and DS Alfa asked if he could take it for the police officer. THe pastor said he would explainto the owner and yes, he would approve. So, we just met the police officer! He appreciated it, had a smile on his face, and was obviously surprised that we actually pulled over on our own to give it to him. THAT is Evangelism.Amen
Muadja UMC was our last stop as dusk turned into night. Not a problem for us back home, but in Mozambique, of course, this means it just gets dark, with no electricity around. A group of 15 or so folks were still left, some having needed to leave already for the night. It's humbling to see people wait for you and have literally no idea when you will be coming. They are doing great things and are planning and have been given approval for a health clinic to be built on property but staffed and paid for by the government. There was a Missouri team that visited here and said they were interested in helping with this clinic. I'll be hunting down this information to try to make this a reality.
General observations on the driving today include:
1) There are electric lines scattered throughout the countryside but don't think they reach the people. Since the electricity s privately owned largely here, it's cost prohibitive for people. Literally, there are lines by thatch homes and businesses but it's cost prohibitive to tap into.
2) Perception is everything. As a Mizzou freshman, I complained about parking in CG1 (no longer there) and walking to the Quad with my backpack. Wow. Seeing people walk miles or push a bicicle up a huge hill that has the food they picked for the day is humbling. It makes you speechless.
3) The wells are an amazing thing in this country. That said, don't think it's easy to carry your 5 gallon bucket(s) to a mile to the well, pump it in 97 degree heat and then carry it home. The alternative of the well not existing is just unthinkable.
4) Air conditioning is a gift and something I take for granted each summer. Enough said here. Many in Mozambique are a long way from this. Air conditioning won't work in thatch huts and definitely won't work without electricity. Still, this spoiled American has a humble heart on this day.
Tomorrow, I'll visit Pembe UMC and then head to the airport to fly to Nampula. I'll leave you with a scripture. I just finished yesterday "Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity." Amazing book that I recommend. The ANC (Austin New Church) uses 1 Corinthians 9: 19-23 as a guiding principle. I encourage you to look this up. The United Methodist Church of Northern Mozambique has lots pushing against it: other religions who are older in presence, poverty, no electricity and water needs, different languages, and very little capacity of self support at this time to name a few. That said, they are living out this scripture.
Pembe, Day 1 (Tuesday)
It was an early morning-- we left Ezy's house at 7:00 for the airport to fly to Pemba. Pemba is a great town with it looks like a booming economy. There's lots of new buildings going up including a pretty large condominum.
We picked up, first thing, the DS (District Superintendent) for the area. He's joining us on our whole trip in his district, which is the entire Cabo Delgado province. DS's in Missouri, you think you have it bad to travel to your churches sometimes....it looks like he's got it worse. Alfa for short, is his name. Great guy, knows a little English.
We visited Mutuge for a few hours. We saw their church, pastor, and then went to the other property that the church has which includes an elementary school. The church/chapel and elementary school are in dire need of assistance. A thunderstorm literally blew down the front of the church (the wall) and the wind damage was so extensive that the tin roof came off of about 1/4 of the roof! The same storm took out a wall at the elementary school -- which was temporarily rebuilt. Termites are in the trusses of the roof, bamboo covered with mud are the walls. The amount of support the Church has in this area is awesome. Hundreds of church members, hundreds of school age children in the area - this is a true evangelical church. Churches back home, let's take note! They don't need a beautiful building that will attract people. They need relationships with people to discuss the Good News.
Before we leave each site, we pray with the church family and those who are there for the visit. This was our biggest crowd yet.
Did I mention it was 97 degrees? A whole new respect for a lot of things takes place when you see these things in this heat.
On our way back, the Jeep we are renting had an 'oops' moment. The muffler became unwelded. This culture is amazing and stuns me everytime. On this random dirt road, not a sole goes by without asking and trying to help. A couple of guys used branches of some shrub to temporarily tie it up. When it fell down a few kilometers away, a new group of guys got some spare wire to fix it better. No questions asked, it didn't matter who we were. They helped. Ezy and I had a long conversation on the drive yesterday about hospitality on the road. Would you see that back home? I'm ashamed to admit I've only helped two people along side the road who are broken down in my adult life, and I knew one of them -- so really, I've only helped one.
Then we had dinner with the DS and we got to meet James Guambe, Naftal Massela's brother in law, Ilda's brother! He grew up with Ezy. Super small world. We ate beachside at Pemba's beach. I think just like back home in the silence of my back yard -- when you're around it 24/7, it loses the excitement to some degree. Still, these super clean, building and cruise tanker free shores are gorgeous.
We will see where tomorrow leads. It may be my most "bush-like" adventure yet!
Holy smokes. Time in Mozambique goes by so fast! How can MONDAY already be coming to an end? Tons has happened the last three days. So, a bit longer of a post. :)
Those of you who have visited Mozambique know, it takes a while to get places. So, Saturday, all day, Ezy and I drove to Massinga. It's approximately 330 miles of driving. Along the way, I hope you saw the Facebook page where we found a well that the Mozambique Initiative recently completed that was in full use! This was amazing to see. We also saw a well that was closed for a short time for the pumps to cool off.
Sunday was a typical Mozambican day, a day full of God, Jesus, and hospitality. We visited the partner church of St. John's UMC in Kansas City, Lihonzwane. This was my first experience 'in the bush.' We were more than an hour off of a paved road -- and I've got great video of how smooth (or lack of smoothness) the ride was. It's a vibrant congregation of about 75-100 members. The need for safe water can be seen here in addition to a beautiful new chapel thanks to the generosity of our church back in Missouri. Bishop Nhanala is going to dedicate and visit the new church next Monday.
The service was filled with singing, dancing, smiles, and great preaching. We processed in and marched. Funny thing here. I'm honored and thrilled to lead the Missouri side of MI -- but this white guy ain't got no moves to dance while processing in. The worship service was approximately 3 hours long, followed by providing us lunch as visitors.
On the way, we picked up Eti, a pastor of Malova UMC (Moundville UMC is their partner here in Missouri). We visited his church briefly on our way back through Massinga. Talk about a dynamic pastor. He preached on love and the various Greek meanings to the word and how it relates to life. A message we preach on in Missouri all the time, right?
We also picked up the District Superintendent for the Massinga district and visited Ngongane Primary School. This shows the truly transforming nature of MI. Thanks to Manchester UMC's passion for education - Ngongane was identified as an area by the government and the church where the church to help the community. Less than 5 minutes from the N1 national highway, this school has no electricity and was in thatch huts with tin roofs with no desks. The church here is partnering with the community Manchester UMC has provided funds for a new administrative block (office space for a principal, academic officer, and secretary) and three classrooms made out of concrete and desks. A need here yet (that I'll explore when I return) is bathrooms for the school. More to come here.
The 'transforming' and bringing people to Christ happens by these sorts of partnerships. Missouri partners with the Mozambique church. Mozambique church parters to their local community. How powerful is that?
We finished Sunday by meeting with Ezy's father in Chiquque. He reminded me of my grandparents, tinkering with lots of things in and out of his house including his garden, yard, and house. It was really awesome to hear his story of being a teacher and trained theologian. While my grandparents weren't teachers -- they were teachers in their own career areas.
That concluded Sunday's activities. The location we were going to stay in Maxixe wasn't available proves the phrase "be ready to be flexible" while in Mozambique. We found a good hotel in Maxixe where we stayed.
Today, we met with Arlindo Romao, the director of the Center of Hope. We discussed the great outreach efforts they are working on. The Center of Hope's role is to apply for, receive, and implement health care trainings in the community. They work with the Chiquque Rural Hospital and the government in targeted educational and training campaigns in the local community around areas such as malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS. I talked about this in previous blog posts but it was great to visit with Arlindo more specifically for about an hour and a half.
Then, the journey back to Maputo, another 300 miles of driving. Ezy and I had a great time visiting, me trying to not fall asleep (I'm becoming my wife in cars, falling asleep easily!) Tonight, Ezy has welcomed me into his home for tonight. I will stay here for dinner and the night. Tomorrow, we leave early for Pemba, one of the most northern cities in Mozambique. For perspective, this distance is slightly more than from Washington DC to Denver, more than 1,500 miles.
Tomorrow, our hope is to visit Pemba UMC, and Mituge UMC and perhaps visit the Wimbe Beach.
My trip is now more than 50% finished. A few tidbits of thoughts in my head: I miss my wife and foster son. Natural, right? I think so. :) When I come home, it'll be two days before Thanksgiving (say what!). Why do I want to stay for another week? Take away Jesus, the Church, and Friendships -- there CANNOT be better and fresher fish anywhere in the world than Mozambique. This Yellowtail fish I have had twice, Codfish, Grouper, Redfish have all been amazing and beats anything I've had in the States.
Seeing the people walking 2-8 kilometers just to fetch water from a safe well is life changing. More of us in the States need to experience this. How far do you walk? I walk about 3 steps or 8 feet on average I would say in my house if I did the math. Other thoughts: I'm beginning to think about the next thing for MI (ie: Annual conference booth, offering, areas of growth). Lastly, I love learning about this country and look forward to learning so much more. Whether how cities are named, why culturally it's OK to give folks rides here and not at home, or discussing anticorruption efforts -- learning is a significant part of faith. Doing it with a Christian of another culture is just wonderful. I highly recommend it.
I now have less than one week of learning. God has been good to me, I'm thankful for prayers and His guidance on travels. I just hope that I am giving back as much as I'm getting while I am here. I question this every time I visit.
Relationships. Conversations. Honesty. Collaboration. Listening. Learning.
"That according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love," Ephesians 3:16
Another incredibly full 8AM-9PM day of great stuff. From breakfast conversation with Renate and Claus (German Methodist Missionaries at Cambine) to the rest of the daytime with Ezequiel to meet with Mozambique Annual Conference staff to dinner again with Claus, Renate, and Glenn, one of Virginia's representatives.
The transformation of the Malanga Guest House a few years ago to the Conference Office was a good decision. At first, I was skeptical -- I loved staying there. I was skeptical for selfish reasons -- wanting to sustain my memories there from 2006 and 2012. It's a fantastic resource full of offices, buzz, and people filled with Jesus. Ministry is happening. What conversations took place at this place where I've spent many nights, now turned office space? Just small things like a brainstorming session on microfinance projects, curriculum discussion of training on children and women's rights issues, finance leadership structure, just to name a few!
After visiting with various conference leaders, Ezequiel and I met Naftal for a late lunch where we had a fantastic conversation how partnerships and relationships work. They helped me understand background on various initiatives -- provided feedback on how I can assist VIM teams more effectively, and offered great thoughts on the strengths and challenges of the Church. I'm humbled at the commitment to grow the Church I witness on a daily basis from them, Bishop Nhanala and many of our partners here in Mozambique.
This evening, I also spent learning. It was great to continue conversations from breakfast with Claus and Renate -- but also very interesting and special to hear thoughts from Glenn. My colleague from Virginia spent 6 years on Mozambique from 1987-1993. For those Mozambique history buffs -- you know this was during the conclusion of the civil war. Talk about stories -- he has some powerful ones. Learning from each other is often devalued in today's society. We see clashing blog posts on protests and disagreements back home in Missouri. There's no learning involved here. Just opinions shared virtually to the masses which does nothing but discourage a rationale conversation. In our conversation today, we had no disagreements, but the point is my openness to invite him to dinner, learn about him -- was one of of the smartest things I did.
Our hearts are in the same place. Our bodies may only be together for a short time. Because we're connectional -- we have the power to change lives and be the evangelists of the Gospel to each other and those who don't know the Gospel yet. American, German, Mozambican. We're all on the same team for the Lord -- and we're stronger together in friendship.
Tomorrow -- MASSINGA! The travel begins. Happy Friday!
Collectively, today has required the most thinking and participation so far. I'll admit, today, I went into the meeting a little skeptical at how much would get accomplished. By our closing devotion, we had 5 focus areas and individual priority areas under those focus areas for the next 5 years (next Quadrennium + 2016 for you church nerds out there).
The five focus areas for the IMUM (United Methodist Church in Mozambique) are:
1) Leadership Development
2) Congregational Development
3) Ministry with the poor
5) Institutional Development
For the Mozambique Initiative, these will guide our work with our partners. We will have the opportunity to work within these focus areas while growing and adapting our ministry together.
For context - let me discuss an example of these:
1. Leadership Development: MI supports the Gondola Training Center and Primary Schools. Potential MI growth here could be with the assistance of enhancing laity and pastoral training or with the launch of the Mozambique United Methodist Church University.
2. Congregational Development: MI supports salary grants, construction projects of chapels and parsonages
3. Ministry with the Poor: Whether assistance of Hanhane Women's Shelter, the Carolyn Belshe Orphanage, or safe water projects -- these all are a part of this plan.
4. Health: This is a growth area for MI. We haven't been able to fully engage in this. I'm excited here. The Church wants to engage in difficult cultural conversations such as education of prevention of diseases (HIV/AIDS), malaria, tuberculosis, but also of addressing domestic violence, early marriages, and sex education for teen pregnancy prevention. This involves training pastors and lay people throughout the country at local levels. Also included here is the work of the Chicuque Rural Hospital.
5. Institutional Development: This is another growth area. Ministries here include disaster preparedness and microfinance projects.
Now that you have some context - each partner verbally renewed commitment to the Mozambique Methodist Church and to sharing knowledge. Each Annual Conference and interest group has priorities of their own. For those of you in Missouri, a preview of my "to do" list of discussion items includes a women's dorm at Gondola, a safe water well at the Dondo Orphanage, an MOU agreement with the Mozambicans regarding emergency preparedness funding, microfinance discussions, and ideas of how we can expand and grow our partnership in the health area.
A few general observations from the last few days include: Missouri's partnership with the Mozambique church is unique from other conferences in three main ways. First, we are the most diverse in our 'portfolio' of ways in which we partner. MI is also the most widely spread within Mozambique -- from Maputo to Cambine to Gondola and the Tete province. Lastly, Missouri's partnership is widely relational at the local church and individual worshiper level. Other UM partners have different strategies, focus areas, and priorities -- and that's perfectly okay!
Mozambique's Annual Conference has great leaders. Together, we are stronger than individually -- and this Roundtable proved that. We all have quirks, cultural differences, and even different strategies for judging success. But when the Holy Spirit is present -- good things happen. And they did today.
Personally, I'm feeling strong. Tomorrow is a relatively low-key day. Ezy and I will be visiting with a few folks in their Annual Conference Office and then I will rest. Our journey across Mozambique begins Saturday where we will drive to Massinga. Sunday can't come soon enough -- worshiping in Mozambique. Yes. Mix a passion filled worship experience here with getting to visit the Ngongane Primary School (Manchester UMC) mean it's going to be a fun weekend.
I'll likely post something tomorrow. Then, my internet capabilities will be spotty -- which I'm both excited for. I'm excited to stop the temptation of reading the social media drama of back home on the unrest. I'm ready to depart Maputo and experience rural Mozambique again. The hustle and bustle is not much different from home. Rural Mozambique, I'm ready.
For those of you playing I-Spy and can't spy Jeff Baker...it's because he's taking these pictures. :) The New York Annual Conference has participation online by multiple folks as well. :)
Today was a super enlightening day on several accounts. It was our first day of Roundtable meetings. If you missed a post -- this is the first meeting like this since 2012. Representatives from the annual conferences of Germany, Virginia, NY (virtually), Global Board of Ministries for the UMC, UM communications in Nashville, Missouri, South Africa, and Mozambique were all represented.
The start of our day was amazing. In the same room were folks who I've spent 4 trips and 9 years getting to know. Joao Sambo, Ezequiel, Bishop Nhanala, Naftal Naftal, Naftal Guambe, Edson, JJ, Alzira, Julio, and the list goes on and on with so many of my Mozambican ministry friends. For this, I was amazed and in awe the entire meeting for the amount of local friends I had in the room.
I had been anticipating this meeting -- colleagues from across the world, literally, who share the same passion about Mozambique as I do. However, there are challenges with holding these sorts of meetings. Cultural differences, different expectations, a variety of discussion items to solve, and all in the name of spreading the word of Jesus throughout the globe. Since when is there a meeting involving a church and not some sort of tension be present?
Missouri should be proud. Yes, I realize this is a common theme among my posts -- but I mean it more each time I say it here. When we discussed the Advance (Methodist jargon, yes -- but this really means approved projects that have support and can be funded through the global missions arm of the Methodist church) - we have individuals and congregations that are in direct support of more than half of these. We also do (most??) projects outside of the Advance system (like safe water, building primary schools, pastoral support , microfinance projects). During the meeting, we also discussed the importance of globally moving toward a 50/50 partnership -- where the Mozambican annual conference and churches monetarily support items to work toward sustainability. Again, thanks to my predecessors and hard work by Ezy -- we are leading the way by doing these types of things. Missouri is leading the way.
An example might help here. When MI pivoted a few years ago to move toward our current system of transforming the mind, body, community - we had a similar discussion as to what was had today with the global conferences involved. Today, semi-annually, churches who are not able to financially support in full their pastor's salary are able to apply (through their district superintendent's office to the conference office) for a salary grant. This way, churches that are sustainable can be sustainable by paying the pastor's salary. Those who aren't yet to that point can receive some help with a justified reason. This was a huge change from a local church in Missouri directly supporting a sister church. This change empowered the Mozambique church.
My biggest personal lesson today was humility and love. It's so important for us to be considerate and culturally sensitive to those who we are in ministry together in. As Westerners, we often think we have the answers to how to "do church." Our partners in Mozambique often want to mimic our system. We heard many stories of how the Church in Mozambique is outreaching to the needy (poor, sick, and socially banned). Our brothers and sisters in Mozambique need not take a path of Christianity that is like ours. Doing so will lead to declining churches with buildings too large for the worshiping population and potentially where they are unable to support their pastors. Instead, they need to CONTINUE to focus on what they are doing that is growing their church: evangelism and outreach. This is done through serving, educational avenues or indirectly by supporting health initiatives that eradicate malaria or HIV/AIDS.
We like to believe we do, but Western culture does not have this "Church" thing figured out. Our family in Mozambique know the best way to spread the Gospel. Any advice (pressure) "we" as Westerners provide as to our colleagues in Mozambique should be taken with extreme caution. Here's why: I'm excited to listen and work toward ways of enabling us together to harness our collective strengths in order to reach more people in Mozambique. By reaching more Mozambicans, I believe we will even bring more people to understand the love of Christ in Missouri. We won't grow the church in Missouri or Mozambique by teaching or preaching 'our' ways. Western ways are failing in winning hearts. Mozambicans are winning hearts. (See: Blog post from yesterday re: church plant I visited).
I'm proud to be a part of the Mozambique Methodist Church. Evangelical. Wesleyan. Caring. Missional. These are words to describe our friends. Each day I am here, I'm humbled in what they can teach me if I ask and listen to their story. In hearing their plans, hopes, and dreams -- I buy in. I pray our other Methodists partners do too.