Monday: Difficult Day To Describe
I’m going to be real with you right now. I wish I could transplant each of you to the various experiences of today. It’s going to be a difficult one to describe and I won’t do justice for it. Days like these are why you must come to Mozambique. I’m going to go through the day in order. Fair warning, this is a longer post than usual.
Before I begin about the day, let me try to describe the landscape of the area outside the city. Tete is less flat, more hilly/mountainous than Inhambane, Maputo, Gaza areas. It’s very dry currently and is typically the hottest area in Mozambique. In the city on Sunday, it was 94 degrees. Compared to the other provinces, there is less fruit grown here and more corn, millet, and wheat – but it’s difficult amidst a drought. That said, the hills/mountains are fairly green, coming off of the ‘rainy season’ which was still a major disappointment to crops. There are also more goats, pigs, and cattle in the rural areas here.
Also a “housekeeping” note is that each church visit goes something like the list below. This will be helpful so I don’t have to repeat too much over the next several days and can focus on the good stuff.
Ezy and I were ready to go at 6:00AM this morning and left after Domingos (district lay leader, who speaks English!) and DS Antonio arrived at 6:30AM. They rode the various private buses/chopas to get to our hotel, which I’m sure accounted for their later than anticipated arrival. After all, I’m supposed to be on Mozambique time. We started our journey outside the City of Tete for a 1 ½ hour ride to Chitima, where our first visit began. Chitima is partners with Hillsboro UMC. During my visit, I noted how special this was for me because – back in February, I was a guest preacher for their congregation and have been in regular contact with them.
Chitima is a small congregation, remember, this is rural Tete, with 60 members and a very small chapel made from local (reeds/mud) materials. By very small – I mean that there were only space for 3 rows on each side of the sanctuary of benches that were trees cut down. They have lost members over the last few years to better Christian churches in the vicinity that have been constructed. Their priority is a new chapel, which they have collected bricks for and are beginning construction.
With my visit, they wanted me to break ground and bless their chapel construction process. I was given the honor of setting the first cement of the chapel. The pastor and DS asked me to pray and then the DS led in a prayer after the first stone was set in the cement. A truly remarkable experience. They said that they insisted they wait to begin until I could visit (it has been ready to start for a few weeks) so that I could represent their brothers and sisters (Hillsboro) in Missouri. The group of members we met with was a relatively small group of folks, but they were well connected and included a father and mother (separately) to pastors serving other churches in the Mozambique Methodist church.
They are interested in pursuing a microfinance project that may have to do with water. The average walking distance for those outside of the city of Chitima (like the church sits) is 4 hours to the river, which is not a clean water source. Let me reflect a second. They had a bag of concrete. They had a container of water and mixed water to make the wet concrete. I laid the concrete in the ground. As I was laying the concrete, I truly thought of the painful process that it took to get that water. A well nearby would help the construction process, significantly.
During the walking visit of the parsonage, it was very inadequate as well. No windows. It had begun falling apart because originally it was built with brick and mud – and during heavy rains the mud would run. Half of the parsonage is now concrete/brick. The other half is still mud. It is, I believe, 3 rooms total, with the pastor’s bed laying on the floor. He and his wife (Duceu) have 2 children, Janice and Jessica.
To highlight how poor this area is, during the Sunday worship conclusion of the Men’s conference, Pastor Ferraz (newly appointed here, only over the last 6 weeks) was given corn to take back home by the host church, Tete. He was the only participant given a food donation. All of the pieces are now put together. This is why our partnership is needed. Hillsboro, I have photos I will be sharing with you as soon as possible. Don’t let me forget!
For our next church, we went to Songo (Kavulacie) UMC. Also a small church on the outskirts of Songo. I was confused by the name (Kavulacie) and didn’t make the connection it was actually Songo (Pleasant Hill UMC’s partner) until we left. However, the pastor was not there and I will meet their pastor at Gondola for their graduation on Sunday and present him with their letter and gift I received from Pleasant Hill. The lay leader led the meeting.
High winds tore down their previous chapel made from reeds. They are meeting in the house of the daughter of the lay leader. They are 49 members strong and have collected more than 2500 bricks and begun constructing a chapel. There is no parsonage, but the pastor owns a home in Chitima and commutes daily.
There is much hope for a microfinance project to be helpful for this church. The lay leader’s daughter had a store-front just off of church property. She said it was successful, but she didn’t have the capital to keep the needed supply of goods. She is willing to rent the storefront (very good quality!). Their well is perhaps needing the pump that is for deeper wells. Ezequiel will be checking up on this. However, it was working great when we visited and the DS took a sip of water. The most depressing part of the day was hearing stories of the need of hunger in this area. Because of the drought, women are beginning to use the grinders for millet for corn husks and are eating that. The need is great.
Pleasant Hill, please remind me to send you video of their singing/dancing as they greeted us. It’s super impressive and you’ll enjoy! Lastly, they presented us a letter for you that Ezy will translate.
Our last church of the day was Nhandoa UMC. Nhandoa’s partner is Central UMC in Webb City. Prepare yourselves. This one was the killer visit in more ways than one. Nhandoa is located 11 kilometers (6.5ish miles) off of the main road. It was the closest to being in those mountainous 4-wheel drive Ford F150 commercials that says: professional driver, enclosed course. This was no commercial, but the real thing.
The lay leader was posted at the corner of the road. After starting our drive, discovering how rough it was, I discovered that he walked it. No shade. Rough, Hilly, Rocky. 6.5 miles to make sure we didn’t miss our turn. That’s it. Who would you do that for?
They took the prize for the most passionate singing/dancing greeting of the day. I got out of the car and danced, videoed, and clapped along with them to the makeshift fellowship hall shade (zinc sheets held by tree trunks). Some interesting things to note: 159 members, 2 local churches in two locations. Their priority is rebuilding their chapel (with bricks this time) at the main site which was destroyed in storms a few years ago and fixing the parsonage (2 rooms I think it was). In their speeches, they noted how thankful they are for our partnership with providing the wells. They have a school on site and a location on site for World Food Programme on the same property at their church, which has helped them grow.
Now is when it gets good and the day made a turn. During our discussion, they noted how proud they were because their Thanksgiving celebration (equate this to our Easter or Christmas services) offering totaled received 258 metical to go toward their chapel. That’s less than $4.98 at the current rate of 52 MTZ per USD. These are a grateful people. About 30 minutes later as I’m still dwelling on this, it’s gift time.
I just have to say it. A goat. I was presented with a goat on behalf of the people of the Nhandoa church. A live goat. Carried to me by its legs. What can a person say after they are given a goat, many times more valuable than the offering they collected at their best Sunday? If that’s not a true sacrifice, I won’t experience it here on this Earth.
Funny story about goats. Brittney (my wife) has been trying for years now to convince me that she wants goats for pets. I think deep down she’s super jealous that I got a goat and she didn’t! :)
So, we danced our way back to the truck and left, with the goat loaded in the back of the truck.
By this time, It’s about 4PM and we head towards a dinner location that is at one of the offshoots of the Zambezi river branches. It’s a beautiful river, albeit significantly lower and it’s obvious of that. I’m feeling motions and feelings of recognizing God’s beauty in this world, seen through the rivers, mountains of our land and by the generosity of people God created. I’m humbled at the sacrifice by our fellow humans who met me, spent an hour and a half with me and all greeted me with love. Grace. I experienced more grace from Domingos and Antonio for spending 16 hours working for and along side me.
It’s the little things of grace that matter. We visited the DS’s house (9PM) to drop off the goat for the night. The DS insisted on riding back with us, showing us to the hotel (making sure we didn’t get lost) only to find a chapella to take him back to his house – after meeting us at 6:30, meaning he left his house by no later than 5:45 or so. Who would you do that for?
Well, in Microsoft Word this is 3 pages. I’m sorry for the length. I hope it’s been insightful and that I’m able to post photos/video tomorrow. It’s now after 11PM and I’m exhausted. Tomorrow is Nhatsanga, Moatize, and visiting the second location of the Tete UMC near the Zambezi River.