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