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.