By Amy Thompson
Here are the words from an email that I received in May prior to traveling to Mozambique in June: “We are preparing to receive you and the team. Let me share with you what preparing to receive means. The sound of voices floating through the air as you turn the corner to leave the terminal of the airport. The chanting and clapping of men, women and children as you arrive at a church or orphanage. As it is heard in Psalm, I will praise the Lord all of my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.”
The gift of presence and music is the greatest gift I received while in Mozambique with the episcopal team. The Mozambique way of hospitality can be overwhelming to the spirit. Words can’t adequately describe the feeling when children, men, women of all ages would welcome you into their space with song, smiles and hugs. No translation was needed for the gift of song as the Spirit provided the spiritual translation for all of us.
The hospitality extended to arriving early to prepare for us, offering refreshments, giving small tokens of appreciation, preparing the refreshments at their homes or over the open fire at the church. Hospitality was evident in the patience shown as we often arrived late to our destinations. Each visit contained a program which they had scripted ahead of time that involved pastors, lay people and district superintendents. The conference lay leader had mentioned to me the active presence of the lay people, which was evident during my visit. Lay people were present to greet us at every visit, even the airport, no matter the time of day. In one setting four of six local church lay leaders and the district lay leader were present. The lay people along with clergy were present with their whole being, not rushing us on, truly engaged in each moment, sharing as much of themselves as possible. Missouri Methodists, our team was truly received by our brothers and sisters in Mozambique.
Throughout the week, I was reminded of some of our events and activities and the hospitality we provide. I thought about those who volunteer and show up at the start time of an event rather than early to greet. I thought about those who grumble when others arrive late to worship, small group or a meeting. I thought about those who watch the clock waiting for the appointed time that the event is to be over and in turn miss being present for the activity. I thought about those of us crunched for time and preparing for an event as it starts rather than preparing and scripting ahead of time in order to be more inclusive of others. We have a lot to learn from our Mozambique partners about radical hospitality. Arrive early and prepare to receive your guests. Exhibit patience as they arrive, no matter the time. Be present with them. Value the time together by preparing ahead of time. Invite the Spirit into the space through music and prayer. My prayer for us is to practice radical hospitality in the Mozambican way.
I encourage you and your church to respond to the Mozambique Initiative. If your church is in partnership with a pastor or a church, continue that support as it is making a difference. Consider sponsoring a seminary student. Consider having a church wide project to support the building of a well so families can have access to safe drinking water. Pray for your brothers and sisters in Christ in Mozambique as they are actively building the Kingdom of God.