September 26, marked a joyful moment for the people of Magumbane UMC: a new 200+ people facility was dedicated in the honor of God, on a bright Sunday morning!
Driving off the main road through coconut and cashew nut trees was a little bit tough – a safari-like drive in a convoy of two vehicles (one driven by the MI representative, the other with Bishop Nhanala, respectively) and one motorbike (Rev. DS Andre Arnaldo Vilanculos-Mudungazi), through tight turns on the sandy pot-holed road, loaded with as many people we were able to provide lift on the way to get to the event. We saw hundreds of people walking in the same direction, and we realized they were heading to Magumbane. I had left Maputo on a comparatively soft drive as the road is still under construction, arriving in Morrumbene late on Saturday, September 25 - a national holiday. I had been once again called for God’s mission!
For the first time Magumbane UMC was honored by an important visit of a Bishop. It was a different colorful Sunday upon the reception of the Bishop with songs and beautiful natural flowers thrown on to the guests and one big necklace of flowers hung on to the Bishop’s neck- “wuyane”- welcome to Magumbane!
Rev. Estrela Muchanga, a Missouri/Mozambique Initiative students’ covenant program trained pastor, and her congregation finally completed the 49 year-long dream to have a permanent chapel built in the Magumbane area. This infrastructure is also significantly important as it is the first of its kind in an area of 20 kilometer diameter to be built, none equal existing in the area. * photos of new church and children in front of new church.
Because of its significance in the entire Morrumbene District, hundreds of people fled to the site - among them Methodists from neighboring districts; representatives of the Free Methodist Church, Congregational Church, Zion Church, United Methodist leaders; and traditional and community leaders to witness the dedication of this unique house of the Lord.
The event was delayed an hour and half because of waiting for people who were still walking from distant local churches. DS Mudungazi did not hide his joy and immediately called for the procession towards the main chapel door. A sheep was presented to Bishop Joaquina Nhanala as a sign of allowing her to continue with the huge responsibility she carries to tend the sheep throughout the Mozambique Area.* photo of Bishop Nhanala receiving sheep(goat). Reciting John 21:16, “A second time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’”, Bishop Nhanala cut the ribbon while accompanied by songs of praise. Bishop Nhanala then declared the chapel opened at 9:30 am, and the congregation and guests marched inside filling the 200+ capacity space facility.
Bishop Nhanala said a special prayer for the occasion, following the appropriate ritual, mentioning that the chapel “represents a comfortable area for worship and praising the Lord; a place to bring forth concerns, to share joy, to celebrate life and resurrection of Jesus Christ, to seek blessings and thank God for life and ministry”.
Three church board representatives presented to the Bishop and the entire congregation the holy place (the altar and pulpit) while everyone responded in unison “we are presenting this chapel to the Lord!”
A special message came through Rev. Estrela Muchanga, telling the story of Magumbane starting back from the years 1961 when Mr. Naftal Magumbane together with 6 others started a class meeting which later on became a local church and then a charge. Six pastors have been assigned to this church from 1998 to date. Rev. Muchanga told about the dream which started when Living Word United Methodist Church in Ellisville, Missouri sent funds to support the project. “Those were years of suffering, where the congregation worshiped under tree cover and then on a thatched structure. Today with nearly 500 members, 16 class meetings and 6 local churches, Magumbane UMC has the pride of celebrating victory for the placement of this permanent chapel”, said Rev. Muchanga, thanking with special honor Living Word UMC for funding the church construction; the Mozambique Initiative; DS Mudungazi, whom she described as “the man of action, powerful and intelligent, and above all, the man behind the good practices in the entire building process”; Bishop Nhanala and all those members who actively participated in construction process. To end her speech, she announced that for the first time ever, Magumbane UMC will celebrate 2 weddings, one after the other in next 2 weeks! What a joy was celebrated by the entire congregation, as more baptisms and more people are being converted as a result of the construction of this beautiful church building.
The M.I. representative [Ezequiel Nhantumbo] was invited and spoke about the covenants in general, taking advantage of the presence of other pastors representing churches in the district; the challenges of the church as we transform the covenants; and the extreme need to sustain our churches, and continue to pray and communicate with our partners. He talked about the efforts of the Initiative to complete chapels and the need for community participation both financial and physical. A special letter from Lead Pastor Michael McIntyre of the Living Word UMC was read with a powerful message that said “We lift you up daily in prayer that God might use you in a powerful and wonderful way to let the light of His love shine brightly to all of those who do not yet know how precious they are to the Living God. May this chapel be a place of praise, grace, love and joy, where the name of Jesus Christ will be forever honored and glorified. May we together, through the unity we share by His Spirit, and in His love show the world what the community of Christ is all about.” The entire congregation clapped hands and presented beautiful songs in an expression of grace and blessings for this church in Missouri for bringing hope.
DS Andre Arnaldo Vilanculos-Mudungazi summarized his message emphasizing the importance of September 26 as the day that he celebrated his wedding anniversary and also special to the district and the Magumbane people in particular. A chapel that adds the efforts of the district towards improving the living and worshiping conditions of pastors and congregations. Mudungazi welcomed all those who prior to chapel construction did not want to worship under tree cover; all those guests from other denominations to be part of this continuous dream; and thanked the people of Missouri at the Living Word UMC for prayers and support to this community. He then sang “show us your work, and preach the good news to the world...” while jumping around in a well synchronized dance.
Outside in the little old thatched chapel, about 50 children * photo of children in front of old chapel were also celebrating on a special worship and at some point they came into the new structure, singing and presenting gifts and a little drama, reciting Biblical scriptures before the congregation.
In small church groups including other denominations and special guests, people processed before the pulpit to give thanks to God through a special offering that totaled $110.00 contribution.
Bishop Joaquina Nhanala took the podium for a short but powerful preaching around the 2 Chronicles 6:12-21 and 2 Chronicles 7: 11-14*. She brought in issues of the role of women in the church; the struggles to move away from absolute poverty; the need for more church-to-church integration both internal and externally; and the dreams that have meaning when we actively participate. Bishop Nhanala congratulated Morrumbene North district, as a symbol of good stewardship and a good example of self-sustainability. “This is a holy place we are all called to care for; we need to maintain the infrastructure; we need to invite as many people to the house to be saved; and above all we need to pray, trust and obey in Jesus”. Bishop Nhanala closed with a powerful blessing as everyone processed under the shade to fellowship together, cutting the cake prepared for the occasion and enjoying the tasty food good hands of God had prepared.
Driving late back to Maputo was safe, thanks be to God, and I arrived around 1:00 am - extremely tired, but happy that the Magumbane congregation completed their very long dream to have a decent chapel for its people and surroundings…somewhere out there! Thanks Living Word United Methodist Church! Thanks Missouri Conference!