For visitors in Mozambique, Sunday worship services are some of the most exhilarating activities you will encounter. Synonyms for exhilarating included: adrenaline, exciting and terrifying. Terrifying isn’t how I would think about an exhilarating experience, but in some ways, it is. There’s a sense of the unknown in what’s next, what’s happening, and how long it may go, all of which can be terrifying to some.
This day, I worshiped with Tete UMC. It was their first Missourian to worship with them. We arrived promptly at about 9AM and were ushered to the front seats, covered with a cloth for guests. Then, the choir sang and danced their way in to begin the service.
The service lasted until nearly 12:30PM. It was a service of several celebrations. First, it was the closing of the United Methodist Men’s annual district conference. Second, I was there as a special guest. We concluded by mourning and celebrating the life of the pastor’s mother, who passed away in the last week. Of course, it had what you would expect: singing, dancing, gift presentations, sermon (this sermon was by the North Annual Conference Men’s leader), reciting the Doxology, Apostles Creed, Lord’s Prayer, silent and pastoral led prayers, and offerings.
It was the first experience for me of recognizing in a public nature, a death. The administrative board leader recognized the death, spoke about the situation, and we sang a few songs to remember the loved one. Ezy said this was another way the church community celebrated the life and mourned with the person (pastor in this case) who lost a loved one. In some cases, this type of remembrance is done in the homes, he said. It was a moving experience and may be the first time that I’ve seen a Mozambican shed tears. Rightfully so, too. She should and deserves to. Because of the language barrier, it’s sometimes difficult to feel share in the emotion with language and cultural differences. Today, that barrier fell. The scripture used here was 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-14. After a loss of my own fresh on my mind, I hadn’t encountered these verses yet – so it hit spoke to me.
After the service and a wonderful lunch for at least most (if not all) of the congregation was impressive. Ezy and I met with the administrative board for about the next 2 hours. We discussed microfinance projects, water projects, the plans for the church, evangelism of the congregation, to name a few. These are always useful face-time with Ezy to help answer questions of the operations of MI.
We spent a brief time at the hotel before dinner, where we went to a restaurant. This was my first experience on a chapella, a small 3-wheeled motorized carriage that is common in Mozambican cities. At the restaurant, they were playing American Top 40 songs mixed with what I assume to be current hip-hop unedited versions. I had a good laugh about the massive amounts of foul language, degrading language about women, slang name calling in the songs that I strongly doubt the majority of meal-goers actually knew what they were saying.
I’ll conclude with the sermon scripture by the North Annual Conference United Methodist Men’s President used. He used 2 Timothy 4:5 and Romans 12:1-3. For the Methodists out there reading this, the Romans verses are super familiar. Don’t conform to this to this world, be transformed by the renewing of our mind. Have humility. Persevere and endure hardships while doing the work of an evangelist (spread the Good News!) to finish the work of our ministry.
They are powerful words to live by. Difficult ones. Difficult in Mozambique and difficult in Missouri. We may be separated by 9,000 miles, communications challenges, and differently languages/cultures, but in our Christian mission – our directive is the same. Walking together to persevere and endure hardships in our unique settings will make each of us (churches in Missouri and in Mozambique) stronger and more Christ-like.
Monday is going to bring 3 church visits including Chitima, Nhandoa, and Songo in the Tete rural parts. 0600 departure means I need to go to bed.