April 29, 2019

When disaster strikes in an underdeveloped country, reporting on the tragedy is often sketchy at first, as major media outlets aren’t on the scene. Days after the storm multiple news outlets were reporting that Cyclone Idai was one of the worst storms ever to make landfall in the Southern Hemisphere. The month following the storm has only and unfortunately confirmed these fears.

A United Nations report delivered in early April began to detail the scope of the tragedy. The numbers are staggering: 1.8 million acres of crops were ruined, 198,300 houses were destroyed, 151,000 students were forced out of school and 3,344 classrooms were lost. 131,000 people were still sheltering across 136 temporary sites, 1,741 cases of cholera have been reported and the death toll has climbed to 598. The spread of waterborne diseases, daily impacts of lost work and increased scarcity of food linger. The situation for many remains critical.

In addition to the national tragedy, several United Methodist churches and structures were likewise damaged in the storm. Central UMC and Manga UMC had just dedicated new worship spaces in December — both were destroyed by the storm. The Dondo Orphanage was completing a second dormitory facility when Idai arrived and tore the roof off both the original and soon-to-be complete building, leaving the children exposed. Three wells drilled through Mozambique Initiative were flooded and compromised. The North Conference Office in Beira was flooded and its contents destroyed. Many United Methodist buildings and congregations have been affected. 

The United Methodist Church in Mozambique has responded. In the days after the storm, Ezequiel Nhantumbo, Mozambique Initiative Representative, reported that the storm ignited an intense solidarity movement among the United Methodist Conferences of Mozambique. The Gondola Training Center, for example, both sustained damage and served as an emergency facility for people in the local community. Churches from across the country gathered resources in worship to send aid to the affected areas. 

Disaster funds in the Mozambique Initiative were immediately deployed to support emergency efforts in the North Conference region. Bishop Nhanala and Ezequiel Nhantumbo are identifying the areas of most need, deploying funds and analyzing how the Mozambique Initiative might best help in the days to come. Donations received now from individuals and churches are providing immediate and emergency support. 

Long term recovery is the pressing need, and projects that involve securing clean water, supporting access healthcare in affected areas and finding ways to help stabilize local economies will be increasingly important. The Mozambique Initiative is well-positioned to support in all of these ways. We will need partners, however, to realize lasting change. 

Maybe you have considered being a part of our collective work in Mozambique — now is a great time to become engaged. Perhaps your church has had a sister church in Mozambique for years, and it is time to restart or strengthen that connection. Transformation is the goal of our work: Transforming the community, transforming the heart and mind, and transforming the body. We are trusting that transformation will occur as we work together to find healing and hope. 

If you would like to know more about the Mozambique Initiative or how you can become more involved, please contact Rev. Lucas Endicott at lendicott@moumethodist.org and visit www.mzinitiative.com.