“It’ll change your life.”
That’s what someone told me about the trip to Mozambique in April. Now that we’ve returned and I’m reflecting upon the experience, I can’t say it changed my life dramatically – although the way I live certainly changed for a couple of weeks. But I can say that the trip was very good, something I’ll always remember. And I’ve gained both an awareness of the people in Mozambique and an appreciation, thankfulness, for the blessings and opportunities we’re given.
Our conference’s Mozambique Initiative is something I’ve heard about for many years. And now that I’ve been there and seen some of the work, the churches and people our congregations are reaching through our connection, I’m very impressed and excited about the future of this ministry.
What a joy and privilege it was to travel with the leadership team led by Bishop Schnase and new MI Coordinator Sarah Bollinger. The group of 9 also included Yvi Martin, Ron Watts, Matt Miofsky, Kendall Waller, Jeff Baker, and Larry Williams. Larry speaks fluent Portuguese so he served as our interpreter – and did a great job. The travel was long, but thanks to great planning and coordination by Sarah and Yvi, everything worked out very well. Thanks for all the prayers and interest shown by many, many people throughout the conference and each participant’s congregation. I know that many of you also followed along on Facebook posts by members of our group.
So, what did we do – and what was the “fruit” of the trip?
Well, let me highlight 4 things: a new MOU, church visits, water wells, and UM projects: a hospital, two facilities that train pastors, and an orphanage.
MOU. The pressing “business” of the trip involved a new Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) between our conference and the two Mozambique conferences. This will define our relationship in coming years and provide for even better relationships between our congregations and those in Mozambique. The discussions led to good, honest communication and insight into the needs of the church. What a thrill to sit next to Bishop Schnase as he and Bishop Nhanala signed the MOU on our last night in Maputo!
CHURCHES. We visited several of the 180 United Methodist churches in Mozambique and learned about them as we met, shared, sang, prayed, and even ate together. They all greeted us with enthusiastic singing in their language and presented gifts to the bishop. Their pastors and lay leaders spoke and prayed for us. Many of the churches we visited have partner congregations in Missouri, and the leaders expressed great appreciation for them – their prayers, letters, visits, and help in building church buildings, digging water wells, providing pastors, etc. If your congregation has a partner in Mozambique, THANKS for that risk-taking outreach – it’s transforming lives and making disciples of Jesus Christ!
WATER WELLS. We saw several new wells that provide fresh water to the churches and communities. This is vital for survival, preventing disease, and sustaining growth. People walk or ride bikes several miles each day to a well, filling their containers and carrying them back home. We saw several wells that were dug through generous support of Missouri congregations. Now, whenever I get a glass of clean water, I’ll think of how blessed we are to have systems that provide abundant clean water with the turn of a knob.
HOSPITAL, PASTOR TRAINING, ORPHANAGE. Finally, we visited several United Methodist church projects that connect our people and congregations to provide: better hospital services in Chiquque; a “seminary” near Cambine and a new center at Gondola to train persons called to pastoral ministry; and an orphanage at Cambine. I well remember the children we saw and the way they interacted with our group. The orphanage is managed by a German couple from the United Methodist Church in Germany.
One of the other memories I’ll carry were of people coming up to our bus to offer fresh local produce – cashews, bananas, sugar cane, pineapple, avocados. We did buy some and they were pretty good. Another memory is meeting the Conference Lay Leader from the Mozambique South Conference, who works at the hospital we visited. It seems that lay leaders are quite influential in churches there, as they are called upon to provide much of the leadership when pastors are away visiting other congregations in their charge.
After this trip, I can’t really tell if it changed my life – I suppose time will tell. But I can tell you that our conference’s Mozambique Initiative leaders are doing very good work and have the right focus in efforts to provide strong, effective connections leading to fruitfulness in our church’s mission. I’m excited about the future of the Mozambique Initiative for our congregations and, most importantly, for the people & churches in Mozambique.
Let me close with a verse from Psalm 133 that was used by the pastors at most all the churches we visited: “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!”
THANKS again for your leadership!