We’ve had a very busy few days! On Monday, our task was large. It was travel 150 miles from Cuamba to Marrupa and visit the church there. Then, drive another 200+ miles to Lichinga where we were spending the night on Monday.
Let’s just say Mozambique happened, in all of its glory, beauty, and challenges. Also, a warning: this is a fairly long post since I’m covering two days and some other observations.
The 150 mile journey to Marrupa took about 4 ½ hours on almost all (90%+) dirt roads. There was 7 people crammed in a 7-seat car, about the equivalent of a Toyota Highlander. Let’s just say my mom, dad, and my knees were literally at our chest in the very back seat. In Marrupa, we were greeted wonderfully by a very small congregation. Their nearest UMC is approximately 150 miles away. Their song, dance, hospitality, and love of Jesus couldn’t have been clearer. Our message here was that water was scarce. The use water from an open (unsafe) well that when it rains, the well and water area fills with dirt. There is a natural spring located about 10 minutes away, but during the dry season (including right now, the beginning of rainy) it is completely dry and there is no water.
Marrupa began as a church in 2008 with 10 people and has 32 members but the chapel made from thatch is used a minimum of 4-days of the week. It was a joyous visit filled with smiles, singing, and an “ah-ha” moment! This moment came when one of the women leaders requested for a DVD video that explains and helps Christians evangelize in Portuguese. Jennifer said that there are organizations that have this sort of resource, and I look forward to looking into this deeper when we return.
Marrupa’s visit included a 3-way translation (Portuguese, English, and Emacua (local language). This experience always proves to me the power of Christianity and our God. It’s so easy to think of Christianity from an “English” or American cultural and lingual lens. Christianity is so much more than that, and I think we (in America) take that for granted every day.
After a quick lunch in Marrupa of goat and rice, we hit the road again. During lunch, we ran into two women who are Peace Corps workers in the area and who had been painting a school. It’s always good to run into these situations and realize that there are many people both in the USA who have a passion and love for the Mozambican people.
The rest of the day, we drove to Lichinga, where we were spending the night. Some highlights of the drive included:
· Nearly running out of gas (turning around and buying gas from a street vendor who had gas cans).
· Getting stopped 5 or 6 times by police officers and paying a ‘ticket’ at the time of the violation. While this was….frustrating, some God-moments happened at two of these stops. At one: an officer asked if we had a Bible and said he was a part of the Baptist church. Our driver gave him his New Testament. At our last stop of the day, the district superintendent recognized one of the officers who was a member of his home church in Lichinga.
· We saw elephant crossing signs.
· The car nearly overheated a couple of times. When we stopped to stretch at one of the stops, Ezy and the local people who came out to see what we were doing got into a conversation about education. The local family and children didn’t go to school and didn’t think it was super important. Ezy engaged in the policy debate with them and this shows the challenges of Mozambique.
· Between Marrupa and Lichinga lies a mountain range that treated us to an absolutely beautiful sunset. Relatedly, we commented on God’s majesty during one of the police stops after dark when we had to get out of the car and was able to enjoy and view the beautiful night sky.
· Upon arriving at the hotel in Lichinga approximately at 9:00PM (say 3-4 hours later than we hoped), we found out that the hotel (a hotel on Trip Advisor, so this was a legit hotel) didn’t have running water.
It was a long day and we as a team had great experiences where we felt the presence of God both in a worship context, enjoying creation, and experiencing the need to understand that we (as individuals) are not in control of everything that happens.
Tuesday was a similar day in a lot of ways. An early breakfast took us then to Lichinga UMC before our flight out. This large church of more than 200 members and averaging more than 80 on a Sunday is in need of a covenant partner in Mozambique!
The harmonies we heard from the people of Lichinga were music to each of our ears. We heard their congregation’s plans, hopes, dreams, and challenges. This will be the newest and 3rd orphanage in Mozambique that will be under the UMC’s jurisdiction in Mozambique. Last week, there was a groundbreaking here for this community. In Lichinga, there are more than 1,000 orphaned children that have no home and are living on the streets.
The hope that they have for their community is contagious. They verbally expressed that they pray for us as their brothers and sisters in Missouri.
We then departed for our flight to Nampula, where we had a 6-hour layover. District Superintendent Herminio spent the afternoon with us as we relaxed and had lunch. After our flight to Beira, we met with Eurico, the North Conference’s VIM coordinator. Before going to our guest house we visited the Episcopal Residence that is under construction for the North. Thus far, the New York Annual Conference’s Mozambique Connections group has funded this project thus far and is looking to partner with Missouri and others to complete the project.
We’ve almost reached the half-way point of our journey. The northern part of Mozambique, especially where we’ve visited thus far, is very rural, often uninhabited, with lots of challenges that go beyond church growth. A lack of appreciation for education, virtually nonexistent basic infrastructures such as water, electricity, roads, or economic opportunities fill the Niassa province, which is the largest province by land mass but the least inhabited throughout the country.
We are close to beginning the 2nd half of our trip, traveling further south, going from Beira to Gorongosa/Chimoio and then to Manica and into Swaziland over the next week.
This trip has fulfilled its purpose thus far. I have a greater appreciation, understanding, and connection with the people of Niassa, where I had never visited before. The challenges are great. However, our God is greater than any of these challenges and my prayer today is that the people of Niassa feel empowered to spread God’s word among harsh conditions and almost monetary no resources. I will share their spirit with you all, as Missouri’s churches, during my visits.
Ahh. Worship in Mozambique. What describes it? Collective voices. Unity in Christ. Energy. Hot. Hard to understand. Fairly liturgical. All generations.
Morning Star UMC has provided a permanent chapel for their partners, Cuamba UMC that we were able to dedicate today. Hebrews 3 tells us that reminds that…”Every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything…” (verse 4). God is the builder of our partnership together.
The morning was filled with joy as pastor Jennifer Long was given the opportunity (and only 12 hours notice) to both cut the ribbon of the new chapel but to be the first preacher after dedication to preach. The celebration included the arrival of the mayor of Cuamba (a city of 130,000) and his entourage. There were representatives from other denominations (Church of Christ, Presbyterian), and a community leader who joined in the celebration.
Today’s worship included about 20 children under the age of 5 sitting for more than two hours. It was about 90 degrees in the new concrete structure. It was both an exhilarating and exhausting experience.
After worship, we enjoyed lunch as a congregation in fellowship. My mom passed out stickers to the children and they loved getting their photos taken and being shown. Then, we visited with the administrative board to learn about the life of the community and congregation.
We heard needs, challenges, aspirations, and even brainstormed ways of mutual struggles such how to best reach new generations. This good discussion concluded with no hard end results, but we did think about the future partnership between Cuamba and MI.
At about 2:30PM or so, we arrived back at the guest house. I neglected to mention that the electricity went out somewhere between 3AM-5AM and was off all day until nearly 4:30PM. After getting some soft serve ice cream at the local market which was being run by a generator, we capped off a busy day.
We’re a bit jet-lagged and tomorrow will feature a long day of travel up to Marrupa (partner of Zion UMC in St. Louis Lemay) and then a drive to Lichinga.
Thank you for your prayers. We are grateful and look forward to continuing to share our journey!
You read that correct. I left home at 3AM (Missouri time) Thursday morning and we didn’t arrive in the town of Cuamba until about 10AM Saturday morning (Missouri time), 5PM local. Our travels went smoothly with no major hiccups, but yet, it still took 55 hours. That’s with no stops other than literally a 6-hour stop at a Maputo hotel before our flight the next morning.
I’m back in Mozambique. Last time I was here was in June with Bishop Farr and a leadership team. This time, I’m with two people from Morning Star UMC and my parents. Two unique trips in a row. Why Morning Star and my parents? Well, I’ve never visited Cuamba and the churches in the Niassa district of Mozambique and it’s long overdue. Morning Star has raised funds over the past few years for a chapel—so Pastor Jennifer Long and Paul Fensterman were interested in tagging along. Why my parents? I wanted to visit Africa University on this trip—and to do so, we would pass right through Munene, Rolla’s covenant partner who has just finished raising funds for a new chapel. My parents have never been to Mozambique before. So, this trip has lots of good lenses that I'll likely post some of their insight/thoughts on over the next two weeks.
Last night, I was perusing through scripture and came across the pretty easily recognizable verses in Hebrews 11—living by faith. This text provides a definition of faith but then contextual examples of those in the Old Testament who had faith. I appreciated this because getting through to the next journey or even answering the question posed by my dad, “Ezy will be at the airport, right?” takes me and them having some sort of faith – the reality of hope for that we don’t yet currently see. It struck me because of the long, journey to get here takes faith. Faith in yourself to mentally push through it. Faith in others (will Ezy be there?) and faith in God to keep our hearts open.
Today, we visited the Malema Primary School being provided in partnership with The Gathering. At the school, I was thinking about how this school with hardly any homes in sight would still (even with few homes in sight) cut down on walking time and provide educational opportunities previously unseen to women and children. In fact, we saw homes that were new to the area because of the school’s construction. Those people moved having faith in what they had not seen (the school is in the final stages of construction, but no students are there yet).
I’m always struck with the “why” question in Mozambique. Yes, there’s the “why” do we do things one way and in Mozambique, things are done differently. More importantly, the question that always comes to mind is: Why am I in the USA amongst luxuries that 95% of the world does not have? I believe God wants to use each of us (whether in Mozambique with limited resources and in a rural area or in Missouri with limited resources in a rural area) for something greater. My prayer today is about encouraging you to find that something greater. I’m in search for what that is in my life and believe it is constantly evolving. What’s the “something greater” in your life that God is pushing you toward?
Tomorrow’s Teaser: Worship service at Cuamba. I’m. So. Excited!
In a moment of just being real with you: I’ve got two foster kiddos at home that we’ve had with us since early May, and this is already the hardest trip away from Brittney and the kiddos. I miss them dearly (even though I have family, my parents, with me on this trip). I would be grateful for a prayer of strength and perseverance for me. Missing a spouse is one thing. Adding children on top of that is just brutal.
The dream became a reality!!!
Friday, March 17, 2017 will be remembered as the day of joy and celebration for the United Methodist Church in Mozambique, when hundreds mingled at “KaMukhambe, Bodini” (Cambine Boarding Mission), to witness the inauguration of the first Methodist Higher Education Institution. The dream that became true after 126 years of Methodism in the country, where church leaders have been preaching through acts of service and words.
The United Methodist Church in Mozambique has since then been involved in teachings in religion, health and education. A dozen primary and secondary schools, Seminaries and hospitals were erected throughout the country, and have nurtured thousands of people and equipped them with moral and ethical values to serve and develop the country.
The Governor of Inhambane Province, Daniel Tchapo was the guest of honor who among other dignitaries officiated the opening of the University. Tchapo cut the ribbon sided by Bishop Joaquina Filipe Nhanala, the retired Bishop Joao Somane Machado, guests from the Methodist University of Angola, the University Board members and the crowd comprising of District Superintendents, Pastors, lay people, Mission students and Morrumbene district population.
A beautiful choir from Cambine Seminary students presented songs of praise for the occasion. Invited to use the podium, Bishop Nhanala thanked God for this blessing and highlighted that the Methodist Church has been for many years a partner in the area of Education. She pointed out that there are lessons to learn from effects of cyclone and other humanitarian challenges including poverty, and therefore, Cambine will be the center of production and development of attitudes and dissemination of knowledge to confront all challenges of humankind.
The Methodist University is aspiring for emancipation and self-determination of students, aiming for excellency in education and health sector. Nhanala pointed out that Cambine has nurtured church, society and government leaders, one of which helped in the struggle for the liberation of the country and considered the architect of national unity- Dr. Eduardo Mondlane.
She warned University students and staff to excel well in all aspects of their academic exposure, and training should be focused in areas of ethics, moral and cultural values. In her closing remarks, Bishop Nhanala mentioned that the University should serve all, irrespective of race, orientation and religion; achieving knowledge beyond limits of research.
The Governor of Inhambane Province, Daniel Tchapo’ speech in his turn pointed Cambine as a center of knowledge, religion and ethics and that there is no doubt this University will be different from other institutions in many ways. He highlighted that like many prospering Universities created by Christians, this Institution will be unique. He called for professionalism in both staff and students, and that both should plant good attitudes, behavior and represent true change agents. The Governor added that it is high time we need to recover moral and ethical values the country has already lost particularly for the youth group. We are harvesting what we planted- he said, and the University should embrace this cause, introducing to the students board, scientific, technical, and religious knowledge. In his closing remarks, the Governor advised University authorities to introduce a debate on secular education for the benefit of the State and the society and that students trained at this University must have a seal of the uniqueness in excellency, promptness and high quality education from a Methodist University.
“The UMUM- Participating in the Education of Citizenship”
A public lecture was delivered by Rev Dr Jamisse Taimo, a Methodist born in Cambine. Jamisse sang “Hi Katekile” (we are blessed) song, giving thanks to God for a reality come true from a long journey in the thinking, hard-working moments for the establishment of the University. This is the University we want- he said, and outlined the openness of this institution where various issues of the country will be dealt about. He invited students for “dissertation” on issues of interest for country’s social, cultural and economic development. Jamisse quoted scholars who stated that “freedom of one ends where freedom of another one starts”, reinforcing the need for students to deliver their knowledge in the service of other human kind. He indicated some aspects of citizenship and referred to the challenges, where staff and students are asked to constantly develop competences, as an item which is part of the vision and mission of the United Methodist Church in Mozambique; students capable of mobilizing, activating and knowing how to do things and to support others in order to solve day-to-day problems.
Jamisse went deep by requiring that research be developed by both students and lecturers to help them know how to better serve communities in areas of administration, communication, health, to name but a few. Students are called to listen and respect other peoples’ ideas; pass-on-the-gift of knowledge to communities alike; lecturers that introduce dialogue as reference with their students even outside classes.
Jamisse finally told the crowd and student community that learning and teaching process will need participation of all including parents, and through this interaction the Methodist University will be in mutual process of strengthening education of citizenship and participating together in country’s social and economic development.
The UMUM will offer opportunities for training national students complementing the existing capacities of public and private education; will struggle for excellency through deliberate system of quality control of delivered services and products; will capitalize valences of the United Methodist Church in social sciences and humanities; and contribute for global effort in the struggle against poverty through social equity policies in access of learning and training.
Nearly 70 students have given birth to this University and are enrolled in the following faculties: Social Sciences and Humanities; Sciences of Education; Sciences of Administration and Management; Religious Sciences and Computer Engineering and Technologies. Classes have already commenced this past Monday, March 20, and the initial classes were delivered by Dr Azevedo Nhantumbo and Rev Dr Julio Vilanculos.
There are still challenges in the restoration of infrastructures in the Mission and also in equipping the library and laboratory; in the edification of more classrooms and establishment of halls of residences for students and staff. Prayers and support needed!
It’s been two days since I’ve blogged. I feel like I’ve been to school – in other words, the last few days have been a wonderful educational experience for me.
The last two day have been filled with joy. Yesterday (Saturday) we started our day in Cambine. We toured new buildings and structures then learned about the progress of the Methodist University at Cambine. Next month (February), they will be open for business when classes begin on February 27th. We also had a short visit with the seminary students who introduced themselves by class and expressed gratitude for our visit and sponsorships of their studies.
Quickly, we visited the Carolyn Belshe Orphanage for about 45 minutes. It was wonderful to see children who mean so much to us. Maria Lina, Emanuel, Nelson, Dercia, and so many others have gotten bigger since my last visit here in 2015.
Our last order of the day was to visit Panga UMC, where we are doing something new and exciting. Panga’s church members have to walk 14-15 kilometers (8-9 miles) for clean water. We’re drilling a well but then also will be creating a sustainability project with the well by pumping water to people’s homes. The problem we have to overcome? How do you do this without electricity? We found solar panel system that should overcome this problem.
The Panga community sang, led us in dance, provided us lunch, and we observed work from the solar panel crew. The super cool thing is that the owner of the solar panel pump company is the son of the current pastor appointed at the Panga church.
Sunday of course is church day! We attended Bispo Penicela UMC – a new church start that was spun-off of Belem UMC, covenant partner to Savannah UMC. Worship began at 8AM and ended at 11:15AM. For perspective, they worship in a local material chapel (thatched), and outdoors at 7:45AM it was 85 degrees with a heat index of 97. It was likely more than 100 heat index in the thatched chapel with no windows.
Church is always an eye-opener. Very liturgical, we sang and instead of a sermon, the delegate to Annual Conference presented a report. Those of you who know me also know that I rave about the offering. Our offering lasted about 20 minutes total and collected a total of $157 USD, but the average local church offerings were less than $2. Our guest offering equaled more than $110 USD. $38 was collected by those who are tithing by about 10 people who came to the front. I really like the idea of publically showcasing your commitment to tithing – but I know it wouldn’t work in our culture for many reasons. I am fascinated by the generosity of those who have so little money.
This afternoon (Sunday), we are going to be partaking in the Sabbath by going to Tofo beach. I’ll sign-off to post this. It’s been a joy-filled few days that really can’t be put into words. Yesterday and today brings back wonderful memories and being around friends, worshipping in a joyful way under incredible rough conditions, and providing water to a community that spends countless hours walking to fetch clean water.
Our time (except for Beth) is more than half-over. Tomorrow, we head back to Maputo with a pit-stop by dropping off Bibles/Hymnals for Pembe UMC (courtesy of St. Luke’s UMC in KC).
Until next time, enjoy your Sabbath. Our scripture from church here was Joshua 1: 7-9. Everything Bispo Penicela UMC is doing is to be strong and courageous in their faith sharing the faith.
Did you even know I was in Mozambique? Most of you probably didn’t. Manchester UMC’s Pastor of Missions, Rev. Beth Elders, and member John Heskett invited me to join them on this exploratory trip to Mozambique to learn what their next project will be. My wife, Brittney, was able to join us for this trip thanks to the utilization of frequent flier miles!
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.