A few weeks ago, I stood inside a small parsonage in Barrane, Mozambique, with Bishop Farr and the delegation from Missouri. Over an hour before, we had left the pavement to make our way to this remote congregation where solar panels power the church and parsonage. The solar power system uses panels to collect sunlight on the roof and power strategically placed light bulbs in both buildings.
As we prepared for a celebration meal, one of the solar company’s crew members pulled me aside to introduce me to his parents. His father, he shared, was a United Methodist pastor serving a church about 20 kilometers away. From 2010-2014, however, his father pastored the church in Barrane, and the family lived in this parsonage. The two boys, one of which was speaking to me now, traveled to South Africa to work with renewable energy sources. Now, they had returned and electrified the church in Barrane. It was a wonderful, full-circle moment for the family and the local community.
Bishop Joaquina Nhanala has emphasized sustainability as a key priority for the United Methodist Church in Mozambique during her tenure as bishop. The quest for sustainability has helped inform design decisions, project selection and leader training in Mozambique conferences and the Mozambique Initiative. Sustainable design has reinforced freedom and agency for United Methodists to build the church and culture in which they want to live. This is what I witnessed in Barrane.
Privileging sustainability has helped encourage innovation in Mozambique Initiative projects. Local leaders in Inhambane equipped a solar tower with a car wash to increase revenue for the local congregation. In Massinga, a storefront at the agricultural project will bring affordable, healthy food options to the local community. Bishop Farr dedicated two motorbikes before worship in Manica to replicate the taxi project that has been so successful in Dondo. These and other projects prove most successful as leaders and their communities work toward a shared vision.
From across the Atlantic, Missouri churches also participate in this shared vision. The offering at this year’s Annual Conference topped $28,000, the largest in recent years. Churches and individuals found creative ways to support this work: Forsyth UMC contributed over $4,000. Ozark Chapel UMC in Gravois Mills shares photos and notes with Mapinhane UMC in Mozambique on a shared pig project. Brunswick, Salisbury and Waynesville UMCs will be traveling together this month to Mozambique to see their siblings in Christ face-to-face to share life and break bread together.
Going forward, sustainability continues to be a priority of the Mozambique Initiative. We want to engage in work that is helpful, healthy and open to contributions in Mozambique and Missouri. Now is a good time to again think about how you or your local church can continue to contribute to the world in which you want to live. Visit www.mzinitiative.com, to learn about the projects we’re actively working on in Mozambique and ways you can get engaged. Additionally, if experiencing the church in Mozambique appeals to you, we’re gathering interest for a group trip to Mozambique in the summer 2024.
We continue to celebrate God’s work in our midst and look forward to the new and surprising ways the UMC will connect in the coming year.