I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. Philippians 1:3-5
United Methodists at Goba will have a place to gather, people will give their lives to Christ, and a congregation will be in mission because the people of Chemba stepped out in bold sharing of the Gospel and because in the Missouri conference (USA), a family honored the memory of a lost son and a church in LaDue, Missouri closed. All will live on in the chapel they helped build in Mozambique.
Greetings brothers and sisters in Christ at IMU Goba on this 7th day of our Lord, March 2010, from the Missouri Conference Mozambique Initiative. On behalf of Bishop Robert Schnase, MI chair Tom Mitchell and the entire Mozambique Initiative Team, we wish God’s many blessings showered upon you this day!
United Methodists at Goba will have a place to gather, people will give their lives to Christ, and a congregation will be in mission because you stepped out from Chemba in bold sharing of the Gospel and because in the Missouri conference (USA), a family honored the memory of a lost son and a church in LaDue, Missouri closed. All will live on in the chapel they helped build in Mozambique.
Goba UMC can have a place where people can be introduced to a Savior that cares not only for their souls but also for their very human needs - a building to serve as a center for education and health programming, a place of welcome where lives are changed and God’s love is shared and celebrated.
You did not know that a young man had died and his family wished to leave a permanent legacy in his memory.
You did not know that in Missouri the LaDue United Methodist congregation, now too few people to maintain its building would sell that building and use the proceeds to finish construction of the building for which their brothers and sisters at Goba have been praying.
Jeffrey Kendall "Jeff" Wilcox, 35, died Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2005, at his boyhood home after a valiant two-year battle with brain cancer. During his journey, he showed us what true strength and courage look like.
Jeff was born Dec. 18, 1969, in Hollywood, Calif., and grew up in California, North Carolina and Blue Springs, Mo. He attended Elementary School and High School in Missouri, where he was Senior Class President in 1988. He was a member of the National Honor Society, athletic teams, and was an Eagle Scout. He attended Central Methodist College in Fayette, MO, graduating in 1992 with chemistry major, and was a member of the Alpha Phi Gamma fraternity. He spent his senior year studying in France in Aix-en-Provence. After graduation, he received a Rotary Scholarship to attend the University of Sydney in Australia, where he obtained a master's degree in environmental engineering.
In 1998, he married and settled in California. There, he enjoyed athletic activities and extensive traveling. He and his wife Stephanie visited many other countries. They attended Cornerstone Christian Church in San Francisco, where Jeff volunteered with summer Bible school.
Jeff was employed in his family's business, Ken Wilcox Associates Inc., conducting environmental testing. He was internationally recognized, having been involved in projects in Europe, South America and Australia. He presented papers at seminars for state and local regulators and wrote and published technical articles. He formed his own company, developing a novel Internet-based method for fuel monitoring. His company was mentioned in his favorite publication, Wired Magazine.
Jeff was a man who never met anyone he didn't like. He was outgoing and popular with many friends and maintained friendships with many people around the world. He participated in the 2005 Relay for Life where, in his honor, the team raised more than $20,000.00 USD for cancer research.
But on September 7, 2005 Jeff died of brain cancer.
Jeff’s father, Ken Wilcox, was thrilled to be a part of a 2002 mission study team to Mozambique led by Rev. DS Steve Cox. A devout missioner, Ken was touched by all that he did and saw in Mozambique – especially the abundant spirit of the people despite their apparent poverty. Like most who visit Mozambique, though there are incredible differences in culture and environment, we know that we share church and family. Even now Ken says, “I did not know why I was going. It was not until I got back that I understood.”
Less than a year after he lost his son Jeff to brain cancer, Ken Wilcox contacted me at The Mozambique Initiative to see if there was a fitting memorial to Jeff’s life. Ken wrote, “My main purpose for contacting you is to ask if there are any specific projects that would lend themselves to a memorial gift of some kind. My son fought a loosing battle with brain cancer over the past 2 years and passed away on September 7, 2005. We would like very much to establish some kind of memorial to him related to Mozambique. Is there any such thing available?” Later he added, “We are not particularly well off, but compared to the people we met in Mozambique we are very well off financially. We are currently trying to build a fund to do this memorial. I am sure that since you have been a cancer caregiver you know exactly what we went through.”
My first response was to sit and cry. Honored to assist in a tangible sign of Jeff’s life, I asked if I could take some time in searching out a fitting memorial. Over time, in consultation with folks in Missouri and Rev. Jenhuro in Mozambique, we found a fitting project – a new church was growing, where even a small chapel would make a big difference in the community. Goba UMC, a baby church of Chemba UMC, we learned, would not have been even started without such help – this was a way to help the mission and ministry of the church to go on in perpetuity – a chapel in Jeff’s memory.
We learned more about Goba, an extension of evangelism, led by a local church leader. The following was reported: Goba is a local church of Chemba UMC. It has 260 members. There is a chapel made of local materials and some thatched houses for the church leader. In the chapel there are few pews and people bring mats to sit on. The church is located about 5kms from Chemba village near Zambezi River. They do not have safe water and drink from this river, which is dangerous because of crocodiles. They also wash their clothes here and animals drink from the same water. They still do not have a pastor, but an evangelist chosen to lead who is native from this area, Quizito Gueza Semo. They have a goat project to help sustain their activities. There is an adult education school with 70 people in the church premises.
Ken and I shared the grief of his loss and the blessed gift of his memorial – Jeff’s life made a difference while he was on this earth, and would continue to make a difference. Kathy Wilcox, Jeff’s mother added, “Thank you for all your efforts in locating a worthy project in Mozambique in our son's memory. The Goba Church sounds like a fine way to honor Jeff. He would have been very pleased that others will have a place to worship in his memory.”
The Wilcox family took the opportunity to memorialize Jeff through the beginning of the chapel building at Goba, contributing more than $5,800.00 USD at the start.
In 2009 we thought the Goba church building was done – but we learned that the church
was not quite finished. Goba UMC became a candidate for the 2009 Missouri Conference Mozambique offering. We learned that local efforts supported by the Wilcox family completed the walls and roof. There was still a need to cement the floor and paint the chapel and do some extra work on the pulpit area, including electrical wiring in the chapel.
Rev. DS Manuel Mapswanganhe, who oversees this church, describes this congregation as that of a church “filled with people of heart and love and joy. The building work was intensely and physically supported by women, men and youth in transporting building materials, manufacturing burnt bricks, cooking for the builders, and fetching water from long distances. They also made some financial contributions out of what they are able to produce locally from their gardens.” So we shared this story.
Into the picture came another “death” – the closing of LaDue United Methodist Church. In closing, the remaining congregation at LaDue UMC asked Pastor Peggy Eshelman to find a fitting beneficiary for their church’s final bank balance. She contacted me asking for possibilities in Mozambique – something tangible that could be done…and with only a few moments thought, Goba UMC came to mind. Imagine that – out of two memorials rises a permanent chapel for the people of Goba United Methodist Church.
LaDue UMC served multiple generations in three different buildings during its more than 125 years of existence. When it closed members included two great-great-grandchildren of the founders. Two others attended faithfully for 80 years. Another had been present in Sunday school each week for more than 72 years. Teaching Sunday school was passed through generations of one family. The grandmothers of the pianist were also pianists at LaDue. Young men, with small children of their own, fondly remember walking to the front of the church with their grandfather so they could both celebrate their shared birthday by putting pennies in the birthday bank. But it was time to move on, and by taking leave of their building the LaDue congregation helped secure a permanent structure for brothers and sisters halfway round the world – you at Goba in Mozambique!
LaDue UMC sent their final check for $3,039.88 which was advanced to the Goba UMC in Mozambique in 2009. It is the first of the unfinished chapels to be completed and dedicated.
How God works in mysterious ways, giving us a small glimpse of heaven on this earth. As populations shift and economies change, transitions from an old life and into a new life occur. The Mozambique Initiative and the United Methodist Church in Mozambique are grateful that so many remember to share of themselves, even amidst grief, to make a difference in the world.
Last week Ken and Kathy Wilcox sent this greeting to the congregation at Goba:
“Kathy and I want to say how much we appreciated to opportunity to be a part of your new chapel. It has meant a lot to us to see the progress there. It was rewarding to see the pictures of the new building, knowing that you have put so much hard work into it. Without your involvement this Chapel would not have been possible and I am sure that God will richly bless you for all your efforts. Our son, for whom we wished to honor with supporting your church, would have also been very pleased with what you have done.
We want all of you to know how much the Methodist Church in Africa has meant to us. I was privileged to visit several of our denominational churches and ministries in Mozambique a few years ago. The spirit and dedication of so many of you to the cause of Christ was very uplifting. You have done much with your resources in helping people in so many ways. I was quite impressed with the orphanage, the schools the ladies home, the hospitals and the many vocational opportunities you have provided for the people of Mozambique. To see what you have done has truly changed my life in so many ways. I am richer in spirit for having been to your country and had the privilege of meeting so many fine people who are dedicated to the cause of spreading the Gospel. We truly wish that we could be at the dedication of this church. May God richly bless you for all you have done! You will remain in our prayers and we covet your prayers for us as well. Yours in Christ, Ken and Kathy Wilcox”
Somewhere out there is another person on a journey to find themselves and to find Christ. Somewhere out there is a people where you, IMU Goba, can make a difference as you worship and serve in this new chapel building.
The Missouri Mozambique Initiative encourages you to follow in the paths of all who have given from their heart and soul. We encourage you to pass on the gift – pay it forward we say – to someone else in need as you serve God by serving God’s people.
May your chapel be blessed as Christ’s spirit moves through those who are lost to those who are found.
Shared to the glory of God for the people of God during Lent,
Carol Kreamer – Missouri Mozambique Initiative coordinator
Psalm 133:1 How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!