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.