Mozambique Wrap-Up Thoughts
Today marks our last full day/night in Mozambique and has essentially been a travel day. I will take the opportunity to share a few final random thoughts/observations/lessons of this trip. I will distinguish between the three of them.
1) Mozambique is a BIG country and we traveled it on this trip. As a reminder, we arrived on October 13th. Since then, we’ve traveled a total of 2,149 miles by plane and a minimum of 900 miles by car. That’s like flying from Atlanta to Seattle and like driving St. Louis to Denver – except on roads not like I-70! The distance from Atlanta to Johannesburg is 8,425 miles – we covered more than 25% of that distance in Mozambique. It’s been a grueling travel schedule and one can only truly appreciate it if you’ve been to Mozambique. Check out a map and find the following cities that we’ve spent significant time in (2+ hours/overnight): Maputo, Nampula, Lichinga, Cuamba, Marrupa, Beira, Chimoio, Mutare (Zimbabwe). It’s a huge amount of space we’ve covered.
2) Mozambique Methodism’s roots are deep. I’ll mention the stops in a minute, but it always amazes me the respect of United Methodism in Mozambique among its people. This respect has served us well—much better than it would (in a situation such as a police stop, baggage questioning, and in asking for directions).
3) It’s really hard to be in the minority anywhere—and stand out. It’s easy to be “on guard” in a foreign country—but when you don’t blend in, speak the language, and have a bunch of luggage ---you are a target. A target of skepticism and of people wanting to take advantage of you because you aren’t in a position of bargaining authority. These experiences show me how powerless we (as humans) can be. I don’t notice this on trips where it’s just me. However, I notice it when I’m in a group.
1) Corruption is a hard beast to defeat. Maybe this also fits under Random Thoughts. But think about it. How can you defeat blatant corruption in a developing country which has thousands of starving people, underpaid public officials, and whose checks and balances don’t amount to holding those in a position of authority responsible. Yes, we have corruption in the USA—but not to the extremes and openness seen in both of the countries we’ve been in. It’s unfortunate and I must hurt the broad economy and tourism.
2) Students Will Be Students. Visiting Africa University was so much fun. We learned about the Mozambican students attending and also learned about the faithfulness of AU toward seeing a bright future for African students. A fun observation was that when we pulled into campus, we had interaction with students that we would likely see in the states. Smiles, laughter, greetings, groups of students, nervousness around us as outsiders who were viewed as superior to them (although we shouldn’t have been—many of these students have wonderful life experiences that make them more of experts on things than I would ever be!)
3) Differences in the Church in the North and the South. I didn’t notice this during my first trip to the north. These differences aren’t “this is better than this.” The north continues to be more subdued, living into their Christian faith walk differently than those in the south. Education opportunities are greater in the South. There are more mountains in the North. The infrastructure in Nampula (where this really nice hotel didn’t have water, because the entire district was not working) isn’t as good as Maputo (which we had regular water in both places we have stayed). The South has some rough roads that are relatively rural. The north’s roads that connect major communities is rough. Like real rough. Worse than our worst gravel roads, except for literally 100 miles. Paul, in our group, noted the differences and growth in development (specifically the availability of our guest house, which was more comfortable accommodations than he had in 2015). These differences doesn’t mean one is better than the other. It’s worth noting because it’s a large country with different subcultures, economies, lands, and languages. It’s a social science person’s dream.
1) We should seek to live uncomfortably. The last two weeks has continued to pound the phrase “Live Uncomfortably” in my head and I can’t get it out. What do I mean? I mean that we should all seek uncomfortable situations in life to learn from them. These situations make awkward moments turn into great stories of strength and open our minds to new opportunities and for growth. Each trip makes me uncomfortable in many scenarios: from showering with a cold shower two nights at Africa University because I was too prideful to ask for help to being uncomfortably approached by baggage security only to the guard’s wall coming down when he heard I was with the “Igreja Metodista Unida” to not understanding a word of the greeting song during worship but loving the passion for which the song was sang. Each of these make us better human beings and better able to understand ourselves. Be uncomfortable in some way today.
2) Scripturally, the church in Mozambique and Africa is very strong. At Africa University, the Mozambican students often noted how Hebrew and Greek were favorite or (more often) least favorite classes. Between these and the Old and New Testament opportunities, I come away reassured of the scriptural understanding that is being taught at AU. When we visited the Gondola Training Center, I was reassured as we learned what classes were taught and that experts come from Cambine and across the Methodism denomination in Mozambique to teach lay pastors and leaders. I’ve been interested in discipleship back home and sharing the belief that it is important that we (as the church) grow disciples with knowledge of why they believe in Jesus as their Savior. Even with limited Bibles and Hymnals, I heard this discipleship being practiced in various contexts where we visited.
3) Water. Ugh. Water. As I said earlier, we were without water overnight for one evening. Each day after flying to a new destination, our first stop was for water. Water nourished us. Water refueled our body. And yet still in Cuamba, Marrupa, Munene, and Lichinga --- water remained a major issue. In Marrupa – the nearest water sources (unsafe water) were between 20-30 minutes walk. The nearest safe source was more than 2 hours walking distance. We will be continuing to try to find drillers who can do wells in the North. I always forget how precious water is until I’m in Mozambique and am forced to purchase bottled water, feel guilty as I drink more than locals to stay hydrated from the heat, and ensure that every bottle of water purchased at dinner is fully used in order to not waste any. People are thirsty, still, in Mozambique. As a conference, we’ve completed a lot of wells. And there are still abundant needs, particularly in the north.
4) To slow down and appreciate the beauty of nature and God’s people. We were fortunate to get to visit Gorongosa National Park. Enough said there. Seeing nature as a sanctuary can never be overrated and I highly encourage it. Taking a day to have the ability to slow down and actually watch for beautiful animals from large waterbucks, hilarious looking pumbas (warthogs) to the majestic swans flying just above the water --- this is not done enough by me back home and I hope this is a lesson I can figure out a way to incorporate into my life. It will fill me spiritually and mentally if I do. God’s people are beautiful, too. Sitting across from Africa University students, I saw their hopes, dreams, and struggles in their smiles and voices. I saw the beauty of humanity watching women that were my wife’s age or younger walking with water on their heads with a baby on their backs and carrying food or sticks in their hands and were dressed in the brightest capulanas you can imagine. We need to take a minute each day to remember and acknowledge the beauty in who each of us are and why God created each of us.
It’s been a wonderful trip. The journey home begins tomorrow. I leave straight from the airport for Asbury Seminary in Wilmore for an intensive class Thursday/Friday. Pray for safe travels, please, for our team—as the 30+ hour journey begins for us at around 9AM tomorrow Missouri-time.
Until next time,