Our brothers and sisters here know how to worship. Our service started at 8:17 as we were waiting for the Governor of Inhambane province to arrive. It lasted until 12:40. You are reading that correctly. 4 hours, 23 minutes. I refer to a Springsteen concert in similar times. Sorry, I digress.
I’ve covered many of the worship elements in past blogs, so I’ll only address different or new things. The offering lasted approximately 40 minutes, each district singing and dancing their offering down the main aisle. The offering collected totaled more than $3,400 USD – which is such a blessing and a wonderful thing. There are more than 400 attendees all together.
Worship featured a choir from the Inhambane province churches, was led by the Massinga district superintendent, who is just a treat to be around. He’s enthusiastic and a little bit of a clown, while being a class-act guy that is led by the Spirit and he ensures others respond to the Spirit working, too.
We spent about 30 minutes reading the highlight decisions from the annual conference which varied from resolutions on doing work with those in poverty and battling HIV or malaria to increasing pastoral salaries by 10% next year for theologically trained pastors. Districts were split into additional districts as they continue to grow.
The district governor was the highlight. He’s a young guy (under 40 years old) and would be very much like our Governors in Missouri – the leader of an entire province (state). Daniel Francisco Tchapo. When it was his turn to greet the Annual Conference, we were already about 2 ½ hours into the service. He said he didn’t know what to say, wouldn’t take much time or use his scripted comments. Then, he proceeded to tell us that during our worship that he was moved and called to Joshua 1:1-6 (be sure to look this up).
Governor Tchapo insisted that during Bishop Nhanala and his first meeting that we (Mozambican church) pray for him and the decisions he makes. We think he’s from an Assembly of God background. He proceeded to preach from what was clearly his heart, unscripted, with a main message of keep making disciples. He is taller than most Mozambicans (and Americans) and stands a tall probably 6’6”. It was such a moving speech that Bishop Nhanala said she did not feel the need to preach! It was super cool!
I spoke briefly as Bishop Nhanala introduced me as a representative from Missouri who was visiting Mozambique. We played Bishop Farr’s greeting with success (Portuguese subtitles) Others highlighted were the new missionaries at Chicuque Rural Hospital both from the USA and across the world.
Then, the craziness began! Appointments. They are not ever 100% firm in Mozambique and pastors can be moved during the year. However, most appointment changes take place during Annual Conference. The catch here is that the pastors do NOT know they are moving until it is announced verbally. Verbal appointments are firm and sometimes reflect pastors who are not moving and some who are.
Some exciting news is that Naftal Massela (VIM coordinator) will serve a church (which has been a goal of his) in addition to his duties. He’ll serve a local church and work to grow it. Naftal Guambe (sustainability project coordinator) also received a dual appointment – serving a church. This pastoral process is of course very different than ours. Bishop Nhanala indicated that some things they expect and others they don’t expect entering annual conference. She proceeded to say that DS of Gaza district Xavier Naftal Guambe will be retiring. He was then appointed as the chief evangelist for the annual conference. As names were read, I tried to follow along with my partner church to at least see if they were moved or staying the same. It was difficult to follow with specifics coming in the next several weeks.
After leaving we went to Ezy’s brother’s house who had slaughtered the goat that was given to me by Mangumo UMC. We had goat in the soup and with the chima and rice. Dessert was a wonderful mixture of mango and papaya (sweet flavors for these American taste-buds who was having withdrawls from the sugar-filled diets and foods in America). We bought a pineapple on the way from Cambine and included it. It was amazing.
Even though I am full, as I write this, I’m waiting on tiger prawns (large shrimp) from the hotel. I will regret it if I don’t have one last fill.
The journey home begins tomorrow with a 11:45AM (local time, 3:45AM CST) flight from Inhambane to Johannesburg. It’s always a wonderful time in Mozambique, albeit exhausting. The constant 12-hour days, 5 hours night sleep while never recovering from jet-lag isn’t easy. But it’s one that must be done. There’s a story to tell here. Nothing is like home, this place is such a special place.
I’ll leave you with a random thought that was on my list. I didn’t get to it sooner, but it has to do with the evangelization methods of the church and people here. Never talk about 3 things: politics, religion, and money. In Mozambique, talking about religion is a part of the culture and who they are. They invite people, they tell people about their relationship with Christ. They aren’t ashamed. We can learn so much from the church in these regards. Christianity in America (because of our siloes) does a horrible job of inviting people. When was the last time you invited someone to church? (For me? Yikes. I’m embarrassed to admit how long this truly has been…).
I’m hopeful for the church here. God is good. All of the Time. And All the time, God is good. Thank you for following me on this journey. I’m so thankful for each of your support, prayers, and for taking the time to read.
See you in Missouri. Boa Noite.
What a day it was. I now have a much better grasp of how wells are dug, the processes, and even more passion for it. I can share the stories so much better. I'm thankful for that.
We met the drillers at 7AM at the well of Marima local church. Yesterday, they dug to nearly their full depth of 90 meters (270 feet) but they saved one last drill bit (3 meters long) for us to observe. This area is full of layers of soft and hard rock and it could be heard from the drill bit. I learned about the different types of sentiment that are collected every 6 meters and kept meticulous track of. After the drilling pieces are removed, the PVC pipes begin going in one by one, manually.
After the pipes are screwed together, the cleaning process begins and coarse sand is slowly put in. This acts as a sand filter on top of the deepness of the well to ensure the cleanliness remains. After this is settled, pressurized hose cleans the well and is the videos that you’ve seen on our MI Facebook page.
As soon as this compressor turned on – the people came to get water! This was the most amazing thing. More than 20 people were in line waiting to catch the water as it was cleaned! Words truly can’t capture the excitement, joy, and how fast the people came from hearing the compressor – almost as if they knew or maybe saw that water was flying out of the well.
During the drilling process, the leader of this crew is a South African man named Deon who spoke English and it was great. He also had stories of seeing people use potholes in the road to fetch water that he told unprompted from Ezy’s story that was his experience at Mangumo’s well. Are there any takers on using that water to even boil and cook with? I would not.
How did this well begin? Well, the local man who owned it gave it to the church. Their thatched hut serves as a local church of a larger congregation and worships on average about 75 people. Near the chapel there is an open air well that is 20 meters deep and this well is replacing it. It’s completely moving to in one viewpoint be standing at the old open well, see the chapel, and see the new well which people were fetching water from. The man who donated it, Joao, is a founder of the local church in 1995 and is a young 72 years-old with 16 children, 23 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.
We were at the well from about 6:45AM to 2PM. We then went to a newly completed well that had just been finished within the last few days. The church members met us there and brought buckets to fill. MI made signs that you’ve seen in previous pictures – but our drillers, Isidro, have created a wonderful plaque space and in-set the plaque in the concrete. To conclude our visit at this well, the local church gave thanks and prayed over it in a circle.
After visiting this well, we had a late lunch with Isidro. It was super cool to visit with him to hear, and see him take pride in his work, ask for any criticisms/improvements humbly, and explain that it means a lot to him to continue to see wells working long-term. After returning to the hotel, I met with Alfiado Zunguza with GBGM to catch up on a shared missionary idea, the Commission on a Path Forward, and other items.
I ask of you today is to be thankful for clean water. Take a minute and think about how much water you use. Toilet flushes. Showers. Brushing Teeth. Water? Tea? Soda? Water is a gift and one that we take for granted and should be so much more thankful for. As I stood outside in the 95 degree heat today and watched Mozambicans work tirelessly to ensure safe water for others, I didn’t witness them consume any. Perhaps they did. I saw their water -- they had some. In the meantime, I consumed 32 ounces of water during the time at the drillings site and still didn’t feel hydrated.
My trip is winding down very quickly and so my random observations tradition that I started with my first trip will begin tomorrow. I’ll lead with the observations (writing it tonight) and then with tomorrow’s activities. We rejoin the Annual Conference tomorrow. I have tomorrow and Sunday, the journey home begins on Monday.
It’s December 8 already? Word from home is that it’s pretty chilly back home? It was another hot day here. Right at 90 degrees with a heat index of 96. It seems like just yesterday that we had those temperatures in Missouri but it’s easy for me to say that….when I’m 9,000 miles from home.
This morning we took care of issues with our tires. We had a screw in one and another leak in another. $4 to fix the tire and we were on our way to Cambine by 9:30AM.
Upon arrival at the Annual Conference, the Bishop was giving her report and preparing the committees for their work. They will continue their work this afternoon. I spent the morning with the financial guys, confirming our MI donation amounts. We had a good discussion on the need of having healthy fund balances in Mozambique is due to submitting funds on a quarterly basis from Missouri.
At noon, we met with Julio Vilanculos, director of the Cambine Mission Station. We discussed the status and how our partnership with sponsoring seminary students is going. During this 4th quarter, due to not having a change in their MZN (local currency) to USD conversion since 2012. With massive inflation – I agreed to update the conversion to MZN to current USD conversion. This was met with open arms and benefits our students directly.
We also discussed the future growth of the United Methodist University at Cambine that is working through approval processes with the government. Possible partnering with Missouri and/or other conferences includes sponsorships of theology students (who are not seminary students pursuing ordination) and housing infrastructure needs for other degree programs.
I had wonderful conversations with Naftal Guambe, who is the microfinance project coordinator but also an ordained pastor. We discussed the political culture and climate of the USA. This isn’t the first conversation. Our brothers and sisters here (the rest of the world included) care deeply about the USA and our stability. Our conversation varied from how our government works with our separation of powers (aka how much domestic vs. international power does President-elect Trump have) to discussing what happens if and when China’s economic and political power is larger than the USA. Fascinating conversation for this political junkie.
After leaving Cambine, we headed to Maxixe. We ran a few errands and I got fitted for a tunic – a Mozambican shirt. As I visit churches, I only have one shirt – which is insufficient! So, my measurements were taken and I picked a few capulanas to get these made. I’m thrilled for this.
We concluded our day by spending it with David and Elizabeth McCormick and their family (along with guest David Scott from GBGM). They are the new hospital directors at Chicuque. It was wonderful to spend the evening with them and I look forward to working closely with them to increase our partnership together. Over the years, many teams have been blessed by their time at Chicuque including me (my first trip helped dig the trench for the wall back in 2006!).
This evening, I’m reflecting on the work of the Chicuque Rural Hospital and all health workers of Mozambique, specifically Luke 8:43-48. Conditions, availability (I learned there are only 68 pediatricians in the entire country, and the median age of Mozambique is 15 years old), and lack of specialties (eye care) make me thankful for the health care workers who are providing a faith for patients that I can only hope is a tiny bit like the woman that touched Jesus.
Tomorrow is an early day – we will be leaving the hotel at 6AM to make it to the drilling location in time. It will be fun day! Boa Noite!
PS: I said I would list the agenda for today’s annual conference session. Instead, I’ll post the whole document when I get home. A few notes: they were behind schedule by 3 ½ hours at lunch time, which was finally served at 3:30PM. I heard that the conference meetings continued until 1AM this morning. Dedication to the church and the direction – God is good. And the people at Annual Conference are prayerfully learning from the past and planning for the next quadrennium.
PPS: No pictures today. I’m going to bed as early as possible tonight. Thanks to everyone for reading and praying for me during this wonderful journey!
This was a much needed morning of calm. After getting to bed after 12:30AM yesterday from the long day – Ezy and I met for breakfast at 8AM.
After breakfast, Ezy left and headed to Maxixe to run a few errands (flat tire on the truck, getting himself toothpaste, exchanging funds to MZN, and other items). I took advantage of the quiet time to finally get things organized. Since I’m staying here until I leave, I began organizing and unpacking the items I brought (clerical shirts, pill bottles, etc).
Then I wrote my introduction and report that I’ll be given the opportunity to present during the Annual Conference.
I’ll take today’s low-key day to begin writing about one of the observations and musings of this trip.
Some visits to Mozambique, we never get stopped by the police at the regular speed checkpoints (traps?) and others, like this trip – we are stopped what seems like every. Single. Time. These make me realize how fortunate we are to have the freedoms and the presumption of innocence. At one of the evening stops, the police appeared to be looking for something wrong. The police checked our blinkers, brights, brake lights, and even made us put the car in “reverse” just to ensure our lights work. This is all after the countless cars that passed us with only one-headlight. I don’t mean to knock law-enforcement at all, but if you’ve been to other countries – you will realize this presumption of innocence until proven guilty by your peers is a special thing. No, our system isn’t perfect and has systematic biases. However, comparing it to other countries, it is much better.
The good out of these stops show how wide our United Methodist net is across the country. At least 3 police officer stops in the last 2 days resulted in the police saying they were also United Methodist. Some even said what church they attended.
Annual conference began in the afternoon. Using Google Translator, here was the agenda for today: Arrival of Conference Members
13H30 - 15H00 - Registration of the members of the Conference.
15H00 - 18H00 - Worship of Welcome (Host District)
18H00 - 19H00 - Dinner
19.H00 - 20H00 - Formation and meeting of the Group I and II (Nominations)
The Annual Conference is being held in Cambine. I told Ezy yesterday I had all sorts of logistical questions but I would spare him and wait to experience. Of course, by the agenda, today was a very light day – but included a 3-hour worship experience to open the Annual Conference!
The worship ended up being about 2 hours long all together and included introductions (singing and verbal) from each area, greetings by the host district leaders, scripture reading, sermon, and presentation of gifts. Due to the chapel at Cambine having structural issues, the Annual Conference has often been at Chicuque and this is the first time in a while it’s been back at Cambine.
So, there were many gifts thanking the people and Bishop for this decision, welcoming everyone. Bishop Nhanala was presented with a wonderful chair with the episcopal logo and was presented a sample of the food that will be served including a cooked pig, a live goat, a capulana and more.
Logistically, this is a complete challenge and it’s a huge accomplishment to have Annual Conference in a place like Cambine, Mozambique. Our folks think it’s tough for us – but imagine no hotel rooms, nearly everyone staying with locals. There is a PA system but no screen/computer. There are transportation challenges – nearly all pastors do not have cars. There is breakfast and dinner provided communally by the Cambine people with each person supposed to pay 1,400 MTZ ($20 USD) for food for the next 4 days.
What a joy it is to join the 400+ people here at the Mozambican South Annual Conference. It’s already been fantastic to connect and reconnect with many friends whom I haven’t seen in a long time or at all. From Pastor Carla (formerly at Massinga UMC) to Pastor Marta (formerly at Chokwe) and getting to meet Naftal’s father – it’s going to be a fun few days to build more bridges between our two conferences.
My prayer this evening is giving God thanks for three things, (1) the ability for holy conferencing in each of our contexts (2) safe travels of all the pastors and laity involved and (3) for ability of communicating God’s love in as many as four languages in the room today alone. God is good. All of the Time. And All of the Time, God is good.
Tomorrow, I’ll spend half the day at the Annual Conference and the second half of the day with Chicuque Rural Hospital administrators who are from the USA. I haven’t toured the Chicuque Hospital grounds itself since 2012, but have been by and toured the Center of Hope across the street, a few times recently. Boa Noite
An Organic Day.
After getting the best night’s rest so far (7 hours!), Ezy and I hit the road around 8:30AM for Mangumo. Ezy and I thought maybe we would be back at the hotel around 2PM to rest up and do some work. At 9:45PM, we pulled into the hotel and had not eaten dinner yet.
Manumo is First Sedalia’s covenant partner in Mozambique. They are working to reestablish a relationship with them, and I offered to visit. They are located in the Massinga District, about 2 1/2 hours from Maxixe. It’s the most rural church I’ve visited thus far in my tenure. It is 24 kilometers (15 miles) of dirt road. For perspective, it took us 55 minutes to drive that 15 miles.
After a wonderful singing greeting, introductions, and brief discussion of the church history I was presented with a goat! This is my second goat that I’ve received. Saying that I am “humbled” by this action doesn’t do justice how I feel, accepting this wonderful gift. Then, the church women had prepared lunch of rice, matapa and chicken for us. Generosity and fellowship.
A few highlights include: Mangumo began as an evangelistic district in 1999 with 6 families, and has grown to 96 members and 27 children. Prior to MI drilling our well, their nearest well was more than 15 kilometers away from Manguo (9 MILES!). Concerns include the nearest health clinic being even longer to walk. The nearest “shop” to purchase goods that cannot be grown is more than 28 kilometers (17 miles) away. This is a very poor community and if it can’t be grown or made organically, it is likely not there. I ate my first cashew-nut fruit here, which was very tasty!
On our way, Ezy and the District Superintendent discussed what time they thought we would be back at Massinga. Their prediction? 2PM. We didn’t arrive into Massinga until after 6PM. What I thought was interesting about their discussion was that it truly shows how organic these visits truly are. Sometimes, I wonder (skeptically) if there are discussions to “perform” or “showcase” for me or other Missourians. Today, Mangumo proved these visits are organic and that is what makes them unique and wonderful. We had a wonderful time and I look forward to sharing all of my photos, video, and notes with Pastors Downing and Cassidy. It was a joyous experience that touched me in ways that are difficult to describe.
After we left Mangumo, stopped in unannounced at Hunguana (Unguana) UMC to deliver a sign to their well. Hunguana’s partner in Missouri is Broadway UMC in Plattsburg. These unannounced stops are super cool because of the low-key nature but yet still, the pastors show hospitality. We were given a gift of cashews since that’s all that he had to offer.
We also visited Nhachengue (Tiane) UMC which is Bishop Farr’s covenant partner. The pastor wasn’t there and we visited the well that is under repair. This was a very brief stop since nobody was around.
After dropping off the superintendent and Mangumo pastor in Massinga, Ezy and I met with a solar panel company. Panga (Phanga) UMC has submitted a water microfinance project but because of the levels of the land – to do this, it needs a pump. No electricity is present at Phanga. So, there is a company that has connected solar panels to well pumps. We will be giving the approval in the coming weeks for a trial. Then, in January, I hope to visit this completed project.
If successful as the solar panel workers believe, this could be a well game-changer. In some areas, the water table is much deeper (200 meters) than the rest of the country. Due to that depth, hand pumps are not effective. If this pump works at Phanga, we will try the larger pumps in these deep wells and be able to provide water in places where wells have not been able to be placed. The solar panel business owners are United Methodists in the Massinga area.
Finally, our day concluded by dropping off the goat at Ezy’s brother. Unlike my previous gift, I will get to enjoy (as the Mangumo community expected) this goat as a meal, likely on Sunday. I’m excited to live out this wish by the people of Mangumo and will say a special blessing for the people who sacrificed so much to give me something that in our culture is not a really big deal. For a church whose weekly offering is approximately 20 MTZ (27 cents) – to give me a gift worth $13.50 and provide me a meal as I visited them….I’m so blessed.
It’s been a wonderful day. Tomorrow afternoon begins the Annual Conference in Cambine. It will be great to see old friends and make new ones. For the church-policy nerd in me, I’m excited for the processes and discernment that will take place in the coming days.
I’m going to start out and just say I wasn’t prepared for today. While the last few days have been busy, today will be difficult to beat as far as things done in a day.
Ezy and I left Maputo around 7AM, which was later than we hoped and we arrived at our hotel at 9:45PM. We headed toward Maxixe with lots of business to do on the way. We’ve created a plaque to be placed on our wells to identify that they belong to the United Methodist Church in Mozambique, have verse John 4:14, and that it was done in partnership with the Mozambique Initiative. So, now we have the task of placing them on the wells.
On the way to Maxixe, we stopped briefly at Chongoene (Bethel Wildwood’s partner), Mavila (Grace UMC in Osceola’s partner, and N’kadine (Warwaw UMC’s partner) to place the placards on the wells.
We then stopped at Inharrime UMC. Inharrime doesn’t have a Missouri partner currently. We stopped here because between local contributions and a GBGM grant, their new chapel is close to completion but is approximately $4,500 from being done. My ASK of my readers is to prayerfully consider helping this church finish. As you pray, if God is calling you in this way, when I return – I will share more photos. They are a congregation that is in desperate need of this completed chapel. Why? Because they don’t have enough space in their current chapel for worship! What better reason is there? This new chapel will hold comfortably the average attendance of 104 people (512 members). What’s needed? The floor needs paved, window sills and windows in addition to the finishing work like painting. My prayer is that someone who reads this blog will listen to God’s call and help finish this chapel.
We had lunch with Isidro, our biggest safe water well driller. He’s the owner, a Christian (not United Methodist), but does truly phenomenal work. We also got to spend a good portion of the day with one of his employees, Selso, who was headed back to work and hitched a ride with us. I’ll get to experience the drilling of a well as-it’s-done on Friday! His rigs are in the Massinga area.
Lastly, we visited Jangamo UMC. This is Huffman Memorial UMC’s new partner. Gosh this was overwhelming. We had nearly a full worship experience (hymns, offering, sermon, etc) that began at dusk and ended in the complete darkness, only lit by a handful of weak cell phone lights (not iPhone 6 or 7 phone lights). From a heavenly choir of young adults to the retelling of the Christmas story by children that they had memorized -- this was just a special experience. I know Rev. Larry Williams is interested in visiting here and my comment would be to say: YES! My eyes welled up when the packed fully thatched chapel (walls and roof) burst into song during my time of introduction celebrating the news that Rev. Williams has been active in Mozambique since the beginning of our partnership.
The hospitality continued afterwards, even when we were exhausted. We went to Pastor Sergio’s house and had a wonderful Mozambican meal that included fish, rice, matapa, chicken, pork steaks, tomato/cucumber salad, sodas, wine, and more.
Words just don’t describe how awestruck something like this leaves you. The church literally waited all day and we were almost as physically late as possible to still squeeze in this visit. Their pastor was out of cell phone contact most of the day, so we couldn’t tell him until almost just an hour before our arrival (which was around 5PM). The wait didn’t matter to the people of Jangamo, who worshiped like it was 10AM on Sunday morning. That said, I have a picture of a few of the children who fell asleep laying inside the church by the time we left.
We’re now checked into my “home” for the rest of the trip. It’s worshipping in pure darkness that makes me realize how blessed, selfish, and Western I am to have air conditioning, wifi at my hotel in public places (but not my room, woe is me, right?), running water (hot/cold), and enough light to fill probably a dozen homes if you divided up the light. All this to say I’m left speechless, but have tried to put words to it. I’m humbled at the humility and generous nature of these, our brothers and sisters in Christ.
During the worship service at Jangamo, the pastor used Acts 2: 42-47. Here, he discussed this doesn’t just apply to the apostles, but he said this applies to our partnership with Missouri. Check it out. Let me know what you think. I leave you with a humbled, meek heart of the experiences of today. As you reflect and are in prayer today, I ask that you open your hearts to helping Inharrime. As I left Inharrime, I prayed for his family, Inharrime’s church’s continued growth, and for God to provide the resources to finish this chapel. I ask that you do the same. Boa Noite.
Sundays are just incredible experiences and always offer something different and unique. Today, I worshiped at Ezy's home church, Bispo Escrivao Zunguze UMC. It's a suburban church, located in the northern part of the Maputo City. Since I have good internet, I should have a few photos uploaded below.
Bispo Zunguze UMC's covenant partner is Woods Chapel Lee's Summit. There are more than 1,500 members here, with between 200-250 on average attending each Sunday. Unlike some congregations here, Bispo Zunguze UMC started promptly near 8:00AM and ended at 10:00AM. While double-the-length of our USA worship experiences, there was a pretty clear purpose with everything.
How did it resemble ours and perhaps differ from other Mozambique worship experiences? In this case, the pastor, Rev. Suzana Carlota Salvador didn't preach, but was present. Like in the USA, others in the congregation sometimes guest-preach. The guest-preacher, Pedro, spoke from Isaiah 53: 1-2, 11-12. We said the Apostle's Creed, Doxology, sang hymns, had choir performances, offerings, announcements and sermons. The offering is always a highlight. With nine (9) local churches, the offering was methodical and surprised me at how efficient it was. The hymns and choir was truly heavenly-sounding, led by an acoustic guitar and a guitar used as a drumbeat.
Christmas is coming! In the announcements, they discussed how they would be performing a few baptisms on Christmas Day (Sunday) and they would be having worship experiences on Christmas Eve.
Do any pastors and church leaders out there schedule meeting immediatley after church? Not many that I'm aware of! That's because we all bail to have lunch! :) There was a UMW meeting and UMM commissioning after the service where many (150+) people stayed. This UM Men's commissioning service celebrated the work of the Men's group leadership from the last 4-years and was a baton-passing to the next. Afterwards, we fellowshiped with bread that tasted a lot like Wesley UMC's homemade Mozambican bread from communion in November and cookies (a favorite of mine!) with soda.
After the service, I enjoyed the hospitality of Ezy and his family, where we ate lunch at his home and worked on getting him an updated phone (iPhone 5S from his iPhone 4). Eldon, his son, was most helpful in this, who is furthering his education by computer science and electronics degrees. Missouri is blessed to have a wonderful colleague and family on the Mozambican side.
In other 'news' I've been able to get in a quick workout in the hotel room, which have been nice. It has been refreshing and good to do, while I know that I have the capacity of air conditioning. Speaking of that: it was 95 degrees here today, and already was 80 degrees before 8AM. I hear of snow in Columbia today!
I'm praying over Psalm 100 this evening and encourage you to do the same. How was your worship experience? Did you live into these verses in your worship experience? I know that while I tried, I believe with all of my heart that our brothers and sisters at Bispo Zunguze UMC did. In a little bit of Christmas-spirit, when reading this scripture I thought of Buddy the Elf: "The best way to spread Christmas is cheer singing loud for all to hear." Of course, this is only part of the scripture, I also am reflecting on entering church on Sundays always as thankful, understanding that God has been faithful to all Generations, and that I should treat church truly as a celebration of my love of God and his son, Jesus. I confess that there are days that I don't live into this -- and just go through the motions. I'm sure we all do. But experiencing life and church here always reminds me what it's like to be around people who believe these things with their whole being. In the developing world, often times, what do the people have other than God and each other? Do they need anything else? I'm not so sure.
Talk about hitting the ground running. Less than 12 hours after stepping foot in Mozambique, Ezy and I began our Saturday by visiting two churches.
Zacarias Massicame was first. This is a spinoff congregation (formerly just a local church) from Liberdade UMC (Kirkwood UMC's partner). So, this is a new church start! Ezy and I met with about 15 of the Administrative Board members. Some of their children also lingered. The pastor was away at another meeting, so the Board Chair led the discussion with Pastor Guirruta from Liberdade.
Highlights? Learning that they currently worship under a tree. A cashew tree. Nothing is more Mozambican than that! They worship at that location one Sunday each month and the rest they travel to Liberdade. Liberdade also dedicated their thanksgiving offerings and service location to be under the tree! How many of you would willingly (and honesty not complain) about worshiping under a tree for a Sunday instead of your chapel?
This local church has more than 296 members and has wonderful plans for the future of building a chapel and parsonage. You can see from the photos that in just a year, they are making wonderful progress with the help of Liberdade. Since May, they've grown by 22 people alone. We discussed the need for them to plan a microfinance project that can help expedite the building-process through profits. I'm fully confident that as they put their heads together on their community need -- they will be successful!
We then went to one of the church members' homes where we fellowshiped and had a meal together. From potatoes (french fries) chicken, and other fried goodies with seafood in them, we at e well! Also at this church was Ilda Guambe, Naftal Massela's wife, whom has become to be a dear friend of mine. Naftal, Ilda, and their families all worship here.
Then we visited Zacarias Manhica's church with Rev. Lasse. Zacarias Manhica's sister churches are Sleeper UMC and Zion UMC in Gordonville. About 5 other church leaders attended. We saw their chapel that is under construction, which will be beautiful and large. With more than 600 members and more than 150 worshiping each weekend, this is a thriving church. They are without a parsonage, but thankfully in this case, Rev. Lasse owns his own home in the Maputo area.
As I visit churches this trip, I hope to focus on learning how each of them is evangelizing and growing. I hope to offer more insights as the trip unfolds. After two churches, there is already a common theme. More later.
We made it back to the hotel relatively early (4:15PM) and Ezy departed to allow me to rest and catch-up on things. During this trip, I also have to balance two seminary online discussions and begin to consider writing 2 final papers for Asbury Theological Seminary.
While this didn't take place today, it is super cool how our denomination is connectional. There is a conference in Maputo with participants from GBHEM, Board of Discipleship, GBGM, and others. I ran into Heather Lear from the Nashville Discipleship office on my plane from J'Berg to Maputo. We sat in the same row and as I was moving things around, she saw a UMC cross and flame. Heather noticed and asked if I was United Methodist. So, almost 9,000 miles away from our respective homes and two UMC employees found themselves sitting next to each other on a plane with no previous knowledge. Crazy, huh? God is good.
Then, I met Yolanda briefly at my hotel yesterday when Ezy dropped me off. Yolanda works at GBGM and went to Africa University with him. We ended up having dinner at the same time today in the hotel and had great conversation! A teaser here, but as I am always on the look-out for my takeaways blog -- our conversation will come up again!
Tomorrow is an early morning. We're leaving for church at 6:45AM. Boa Noite.
It's that time again in my life as the Mozambique Initiative coordinator. It's time to visit Mozambique! I'll offer some initial reflection and my rough itinerary in this blog. Photos, stories, and more will follow in the coming days.
As I visit Mozambique in this late-fall, I can't help but reflect on the last year. I hope that I've grown as a leader, follower of Christ, and in my understanding of the Mozambican church, lifestyle, and people. I also can't help but think about the joy and gratitude that I am filled with on this day. It's an opportunity and honor each day to represent the people of United Methodism in Missouri.
I was reminded by a friend yesterday to be sure to live out Matthew 28:19 in the Great Commission. All the Nations. I love that Methodism in Missouri is doing this actively by partnering in Mozambique. I also have been in thought over the last few weeks (due to seminary class readings) about how other nations will be continuing to send people to the USA to be missionaries here. It's so easy to think that "they" in Mozambique need "us" in Missouri. We need each other mutually to succeed and to make disciples of all nations.
The next few weeks will "fill my bucket." This year has been rough. During my April trip, I wrote about losing my wife and I's baby in miscarriage. Since then, loss continued with losing both grandmother in-laws and our cat of seven years. Our work with the people of Mozambique continue to lift my spirits and provide a true sense of joy and hope in the world. In this season of Advent, of all people, I need this message of joy and hope.
My trip will be interesting, new, and different than my previous trips. Largely, upon arrival in Mozambique, I'll spend time in the Maputo area for a few days to visit new church plants and the growing communities of the Church. Then, Ezy and I will travel up to Cambine for the South Mozambican Annual Conference. Ezy was in Missouri for ours, but I've never experienced theirs! I'm super excited to experience this. Yes, it's okay to call me a church-polity nerd.
Just before and after the Annual Conference, we will visit a few churches in the Massinga and Inhambane areas. The opportunity to be the connection of these Mozambican churches to their sister churches in Missouri is awesome. We'll be exploring additional partnership opportunities.
As of this writing, I'm waiting for the flight from St. Louis to Washington Dulles and later tonight to continue the journey to Mozambique via South Africa. I am joyous and hopeful for this most recent journey to Mozambique and I hope these blogs will share some insight into the sights and sounds over the next few weeks. Thank you for reading and your passion for the people in Mozambique.