Goba UMC rises as only permanent structure in Goba area

Goba UMC congregation

“Somewhere out there” is how the story started. Some people had dreamed about the congregation, then about having a decent permanent chapel. There was little means to support this dream. The membership continued growing at Chemba UMC, and Goba became a local church and then split from the mother-church. Like many other churches in the Mozambique UMC conference, a thatched structure had been erected for worship services. A short-term structure, soon it collapsed and then the vision came to have a decent chapel. From Sunday service offerings, contributions started coming, coin after coin. Prayers and support from Missouri came, and the dream was complete! Missouri and Mozambique Initiative (MI) have seen similar efforts from congregations. Because of the need to have permanent structures, but because of financial constraints, a number of chapels could not be finished.

Flying to Beira was the easiest thing to happen. It took me an hour on the early morning flight. From the waves in view as the aircraft approached the city of Beira, I could see isolated families because of floods. I never thought it could be the case of neighboring areas of Chemba. This was the problem that emerged overnight. While on the ground, we heard that the Pungue River is flooding! District Superintendent Manuel Alberto Mapswanganhe had already left Beira to Chemba and called back to say the situation was not that bad- “please come…you will make it, and the people at Goba are waiting for you!!!”- he said. I was a little scared, and Council on Ministries Director encouraged me as he said “Ezy, we need to get there.”

Flooding Pungee

“Driving to the unknown” is what I baptized this adventure. Around 4:00 in the morning Rev. Jacob Jenhuro, the North Conference and Sofala district lay- persons, Mr. Gerente Gustavo and Mr. Sebastião Saugineta, and I, boarded the conference vehicle. On the same morning we heard of breaking news: Pungue River has flooded the road!!! We had made a commitment and people were waiting somewhere out there. We were on a mission and God would have to protect us. It took about 2.5 hours to “surf” through the 15kms (9 miles) of nearly 60-90 cms (24-40 inches) of flooding water. A long line of heavy vehicles convoyed to get through the area. We had to drive carefully and slowly as it rained along the trip. We could not see where the road was as the wheels were all submerged, but finally we made it. There are reports of many isolated areas in Buzi and Chemba and people left homeless.

Arriving at the village of Chemba would be possible after a car breakdown in the middle of nowhere which left us on the slippery muddy Caia-Chemba road for 2 hours. It was late as we arrived. A huge relief, but again we remained with questions on how we would make our way back to the city of Beira. 

I had visited this congregation in 2005 and realized that they continue maintaining their vitality through acts of service and evangelization. I could describe the people of God at Goba as illiterate and poor people, but rich in faith and moral and ethical values. Still there is a lot of work to be done in education and public health. This congregation whose leadership has worked, as witnessed in its growth… somewhere out there, to erect a beautiful chapel, reminding us of the covenant relationship through the Missouri Mozambique Initiative. Their work reminds us of acts of service and extravagant generosity through people in Missouri of good heart like Peggy Eshelman at LaDue UMC, and of Ken and Kathy Wilcox and their family who have honored Goba with their gift in memory of their late son Jeff Wilcox. 

Tears of happiness dropped down member’s faces as they rejoiced for having the only improved chapel of its kind in the entire denominational area of the village of Chemba, and one of the few throughout the Sofala district. Somewhere out there, the people of Goba were hunting for the MI Representative…where is Nhantumbo? And who is Nhantumbo? (For those who did not know me). I was frightened and later on they calmed me down and some crying before me said, “Thank you so much Mr. Nhantumbo for this beautiful permanent structure here you have honored us! Uff, I was then relieved indeed.”

We felt at home because of the good hospitality we received from this congregation. Children, youth and adults walked from the nearest local churches and class meetings to the chapel on that Sunday morning. There were people from other denominations, and local leadership had been invited to be part in this big gathering. Missouri and Mozambique were celebrating the dedication of the first of the unfinished chapel projects in Mozambique! Members of this congregation mingled down the beautiful hill where the chapel was built. In procession the congregation sang songs of praise towards the main door and Rev. DiCOM Jacob Jenhuro twisted the key, opening the doors of the chapel and invited all to move inside the empty structure. The chapel was finally dedicated! 

“In memory of Jeff Wilcox and in honor to Peggy Eshelman and the La Due UMC”- these are the words written on the wall of the chapel in honor to those people of heart that helped this congregation erect this chapel. “We love you Jeff, we love you Peggy and the people of LaDue UMC” were the expressions recited in Sena - a local language, to express joy.

The first holy communion was served in the new building and members lined up and brought together in the same body of Christ, shared the body and blood that was shed to relieve us from sin.  

Rev. Jenhuro was the guest preacher representing Bishop Joaquina Filipe Nhanala in the North Conference of the United Methodist Church in Mozambique. He shared stories from the book of Mathew 7:24-25, a scripture which is meaningful to this special occasion. Soon after he finished dedicating the building and reading this scripture, heavy rains fell as he was preaching. “This is God’s blessing!”- “The rain fell and the floods came and the winds blew and beat on that house…” were the words quoted by Rev. Jacob Jenhuro to illustrate how much rains fell and much destruction on the ground is being witnessed. He also prayed that this building edified on rock, will stand forever no matter how hard rains fall and winds blow in this area, and highlighted that prayer and faith are the keys. 

He encouraged members to share individual gifts, support one another, and love one another to resemble God. “We are all called to build a church made of rock, so that it will not fall even when strong winds blow or even when there are floods. We need to celebrate weddings in this building and ensure that our adults can at least be able to read. You will all be illuminated that God, through the late Jeff, for his heart and teachings from his parents are with you, to do well and share this gift with other churches. You are all asked to invest in Christian education and introduce Bible studies, although it is known that we lack these teaching materials. Finally you will need to care for this infrastructure to add value to it. The Missouri-Mozambique Initiative has blessed you with this gift of ministry and community development!”   District superintendant, Rev. Manuel Mapswanganhe added remarks during the dedication. “How much I would personally like to thank all those who devoted their lives, energies and resources to help realize this dream!!! And times are when I think, ‘Why Goba, a church out here in the bush?’ But the good thing is that God chooses the heart of those who serve Him, and here we witness the strengthening of a weaker body. The dream is still to be complete, where we still envision Goba, as a place where the future begins, as we think of introducing vocational activities like sewing, carpentry, etc., to help the local youth find self employment. You are making miracles in this country, and you are making true disciples, and improving the worshipping conditions of our congregations. Thanks for partner support and prayers; for local church membership physical involvement in construction. Jeff, you will be remembered forever!”

Goba remembers contributorsEzequiel Nhantumbo talked about the MI plan to help meet the vision of the UMC in Mozambique. The need to empower the community to put hands together to work; the need to work on small projects to help sustain church programs and make contributions towards pastor’s salary. He shared the story of transformation from Ken and Kathy Wilcox and read the letter they wrote before the congregation, including efforts from Peggy Eshelman and the people of LaDue UMC. These are heroes that are making disciples in Goba through this chapel building. The Goba congregation responded with songs and dances and with individual strong prayers in the local language thanking God for this miracle.

“We never thought we could have a permanent structure of this nature. We do not have a single house, even the local government houses are all made of thatch. We are writing our own story for this community. We will care for it, and we thank God for what we have here to praise Him!” exclaimed Mr. Zacarias Quisito, lay leader of Goba UMC, who together with the new Pastor Madalena Leonardo Wilson spoke before the congregation as tears rolled down their faces as an expression of happiness.

This vital church of Goba, was born out of the growth of the mother-church of Chemba. Goba UMC has lots of children and elderly people in the congregation. The newly dedicated chapel began its construction in October 22, 2007 and will accommodate nearly 700 people. The chapel will still need pews and pulpit chairs and a table, including Christian education materials. Water is a very scarce resource in the entire community and is strongly needed. This community relies on agriculture, hunting, fishing and animal husbandry. Because of floods from the Zambezi River and its branches, vast agricultural areas and crops were damaged and lost, bringing them to a situation of hunger. I learnt of the meaning of Goba as a “hunting instrument”.

The Goba congregation did not want us to leave the area. There were beautiful songs and people danced before us. It was time to make our way back on that Sunday afternoon. Ezy would drive again. We had to replace a tire where there are no tire repairs so we had to be innovative to sort out the front tire problems. Rains never stopped and the road now was eroded with dangerous cuts and slippery little bridges. After kilometers of very slow driving we reached the tar road. It was dark and again the second car break down occurred that left us isolated in the bush for 2 hours until someone we stopped helped pull the car through the potholed road for 250 km (155 miles) of distance. It was 7am of Monday and the car was repaired at Gorongosa village. Rev Jenhuro drove the car to the Pungue River valley. We lined up again and this time the water level had increased and with strong speed. “Oh my God!” I said and we all prayed before driving through. “Jenhuro, please take us through” I said, as I took photos and glanced at the frightening and dangerous flooded area. The “unknown had turned into the reality”, and we made it. We arrived in Beira just in time for me to pack and rush to the airport for the late flight back to Maputo. In all these challenges, I was only able to tell Célia, my wife and the kids when I arrived home Monday night, for I did not want to have her suffer with worry like I did! What brings joy to me is the fact that “somewhere out there” the Goba chapel was dedicated in God’s glory, for where God is present, all is possible!

If you would like to contribute to the ongoing fund to complete unfinished United Methodist church buildings in Mozambique, make your check payable to the Missouri Conference, marked “Mozambique - Chapel Completion Fund” and send to 3601 Amron Court, Columbia, MO 65202.  Contact MI coordinator, Carol Kreamer, 636-271-4455, cpkreamer@hughes.net for further information.