E12. MOZAMBIQUE AND RIVONI MINISTRIES
THE MISSION BRANCHING OUT IN MANY DIRECTIONS
On 28 February (2009) I wrote the following: “If there is one thing the devil is continually scheming to steal from us, it is our joy. Joy is the sweet honey of daily living that envelopes the hard crusts of labour and the bitter pills of disappointment and sorrow. So cheer up ye saints of God, let us enjoy ourselves, one-another and especially our Lord.”
We celebrated our 41st wedding anniversary on 27 January and Martie’s 65th birthday on 12 February and I, exemplary husband that I am, not only remembered both dates, but also gave her a fair sum of money to spend on clothes as she pleased. No, I was not bribing her to remain with me there in Mozambique, it was pure, sincere love expressed in a way most appreciated by the daughters of Eve.
During that time, we were at Phalaborwa for three days for our Mission’s annual general meeting and to attend to some other matters. We stayed over with friends and how they spoiled us, even inviting their friends to a birthday party they arranged for Martie. The Lord often expresses his love to us through our brothers and sisters. I preached in a certain congregation on Sunday morning and we attended another service in the evening. We also visited many of the Mission’s supporters.
Back at Chinhacanine we had our second meeting of the year with our co-workers and once more celebrated Martie’s birthday. Pita Matuassa delighted our hearts with a beautiful cake she had baked herself. Where she got the ingredients was a mystery. Having mixed the substances, she had to walk a long distance to a clinic to bake it in their oven, return home to decorate it, then, with the cake, her bag of clothes and all, walk half a kilometre, board a crowded taxi and, arriving at Chinhacanine, walk another kilometre to our place. “Thank you Lord for the love we were experiencing in the midst of toil.”
I completed another eight of the lectures on the Gospels and the Book of Acts, and only six of a total of 35 remained to be written. Nehemiah built the walls of Jerusalem with a trowel in the one hand and a sword in the other. I hit the computer’s keyboard with the right hand while swinging the fly swatter with the left. Every few hours Martie had to sweep the floor to clear it of fallen winged enemies. The animal droppings and open pit toilets provided fertile breeding ground for these troublesome insects. Scientific sources state that the common housefly has a lifespan of 15 to 30 days and is the carrier of 100 diseases including tuberculosis and cholera. What these sources do not reflect, is the emotional stress caused by these insects to both man and beast!
The Discipleship Course classes were progressing happily. Students in the north were suffering terribly because of hunger and those nearer by, worked in their fields from sunrise to sunset to assure a good harvest. Both these factors affected attendance of the classes. The Mission was now running 24 classes, in 16 townships, totalling 246 students (Some three years and two months after its founding.)
We were also in the process of recruiting three more couples to be trained and deployed in the north of the Gaza province. This was a major challenge. To train a couple would take at least a year to accomplish. They would also have to be housed. It seemed foolish to expand so drastically at a time when huge financial institutions all over the world were going bankrupt and we as a Mission were kept going by just a handful of supporters, but towards the end of the previous year, I felt the Lord telling me to do this and with good reason, for wherever we preached the Gospel, tears of repentance were flowing. Even Government officials were begging us to send teachers to their villages, volunteering to be the first students to enrol for our courses. The harvest was ripe and we needed to gather in the sheaves while the hearts were so open to God.
Nine couples attended a meeting where we outlined the Mission’s vision. We spoke in depth on the hardships involved and the vast difference between searching for employment and responding to a call of God. Abraham heard God’s call and ventured into the unknown, convinced that God would most certainly fulfil His promise to settle him in a new country and bless him abundantly. Likewise every one of our co-workers had to trust God and not lean on the arm of man.
Of these, we accepted three couples. All six trainees had already completed three years of Bible School training with other institutions, so the training of twelve months we would be giving them, would supplement what they had already undergone. Although we offered the training free of charge, with free board and lodging, it still would be quite a challenge to them for they were without much of an income and were depending on Elijah’s ravens to feed them and their children. What an opportunity to learn to trust the One that called them. What an opportunity to confirm their calling! (They were: Adalberto and Juventia; Americo and Lucia; Nelson and Tina.) The benefit of training both husband and wife was that, once they were out in the field, they would both be equipped to present training classes. Each couple would therefore be twice as productive as a single person.
Regarding the conditions of service of our full-time workers: although I do appreciate the necessity of Christian workers sometimes leaving their families at home when going on journeys to do the Lord’s work, I have always felt that a Christian organisation should do whatever it could to keep husband, wife and children together under one roof as much as possible. This affords them the opportunity of building strong family relationships which, in turn, provides a role model of a Christian family to their students as well as to the community at large. When a Christian worker’s marriage falls apart or his children go astray, he loses credibility and his ministry often collapses, especially amongst rural people like those whom we were serving in Mozambique.
Carlos was to do most of the training; training them in the knowledge of and insight into the Word of God, in Walking with God and in doing the Work of God.
As the Mission expanded, many practical matters arose which just had to be attended to. One of these was our obtaining temporary residence permits. Ever since we started working within Mozambique, we were allowed to enter for periods of thirty consecutive days only. This forced us to leave the country at given times, which sometimes was very inconvenient. We submitted an application and during April 2009, we were eventually issued with residential permits extending that period to twelve consecutive months. A further benefit was that these permits enabled us to open banking accounts and register vehicles in our names.
We immediately set about opening a bank account in my name to channel donations from the Rivoni Ministries’ South African bank account to Mozambique. This took quite some time for we had to convince the authorities that the funds were legally obtained and would not be used for illegal purposes within Mozambique.
Without further ado, we set about registering the Mission’s caravan and off-road trailer with the Mozambican authorities. Although this took many days of our time and cost us a considerable amount in terms of customs duty and registration fees, it was a tremendous help because we no longer had to remove the vehicles from the country every thirty days.
Another matter that had to be attended to, was the registration of the Mission within Mozambique. Since its founding, we had been operating under cover of the “Church of God” but the growth of the Mission necessitated that it be registered as a separate legal entity. After meeting with our co-workers and selecting local board members, we lodged our application with the Mozambique Government in Maputo with the assistance of a local “lawyer” and committed the matter to the Lord, for we knew much water would flow into the sea before we would hold the registration document in our hand.
During my lifetime I often had to do practical work and the experience I gained stood me in good stead in Mozambique. Though Martie and I had moved into our two roomed flat, it was actually just a shell and I had to do a considerable amount of work to make it habitable. I used sheets of low quality plywood to build cupboards, both in our bedroom and in the kitchen. These looked quite good and served their purpose very well. I also installed a wash basin and a shower in our bedroom and a scullery in the kitchen. All of these were supplied with running hot and cold water. The plumbing I also had to do myself. The end product looked good and I was so grateful that I could provide my dear wife with these “luxury” items to make life more bearable and uplift her spirit.
We sometimes received special gifts from people who had visited us there at Chinhacanine and had noticed a specific need. One such gift we named “Idropi.” She was pearly white, small in stature and stout around the waist. Two friends donated some money to buy her or otherwise we would never have given her a serious thought. She was a small (80 litre) hot water geyser, suspended from our kitchen wall. Unbelievably it was quite cold down there at times and “Idropi” (probably an Italian name for she was manufactured in Italy) was not yielding just one drop at a time, but cuddling us, head to toe, in her warm motherly embrace. What a delight. (Our rooms had no ceilings, only asbestos sheeting.)
At that time we also bought Joao a new bicycle for he was now serving a smaller area for which the donkey cart was no longer suitable. He beamed when we brought it to him and wrote a letter saying: “Kalimambo (Shangaan for ‘Thank you’), ‘Muito obrigado,’ (Portuguese for “Thank you very much”) for your donations to buy me a brand new, very, very good Fuji bicycle. It is so light and will not rust or get sand and water into its axles like the bicycles you buy here. There is no-one around me with a bicycle like this one. Now I can travel fast to take the Gospel lessons all over.”
At that time I wrote the following to our supporters: “Enjoy all the blessings you are receiving from Above: food, that early morning cup of coffee; a stroll in the garden watching the leaves turn to shades of yellow and brown; your children’s shrieks of delight as they play together; your dog’s welcoming bark and the furious wagging of his tail; a quiet evening drowsing next to your spouse on the couch in front of the TV, and the presence of your Saviour as you meditate on His Word.”
The work at Mabelane in the north under brother Boavida Baloi had also expanded very well. His home town had received its share of training; as he put it: “At Matitse I have done my duty. If they ask for more, I will assist.” Training classes were also being run at the nearby Zone 8 and at Chipsane further away. The challenge, however, was to reach out to more distant places like Tsokate, some three to four hours of cycling along the sandy roads and footpaths. Once at Tsokate, he would minister there for three days running, before returning to base. For him too, we bought a new bicycle with a slightly lighter frame.
Extra people called for extra accommodation. To accommodate our students that would be visiting our headquarters for training as full-time co-workers, we needed bedrooms. We manufactured 800 cement blocks ourselves since the local products were of very poor quality, then got a local building contractor to add three rooms to our flat; two of these were to be used as offices and the third one as a bedroom.
During August (2009), we moved into our new offices. Martie and I shared one and Carlos had the next door one all to himself which was good, for he was often interviewing and counselling students and needed some space and privacy. The third room was used as a bedroom for the women that were coming for training. The men were accommodated in the freight container. The community room was then used as kitchen, dining-, lecture- and conference room.
On the spiritual side, things were also moving. On 23 July we journeyed to an outpost called Majimisi where seven students had successfully completed their course. Travelling there was a mission on its own. We circled the dense bush that surrounded the little village more than once, but failed to find the road leading into it. Once we had to chop down some bushes blocking our way. Had we not, on a previous occasion, taken the GPS co-ordinates, we might not have found it at all. On our arrival, the little group was gathered happily under one of the trees, not much disturbed by the delay. We had a delightful meeting during which I spoke on God’s Word as the primary source of wisdom for daily living and they all beamed on receiving their certificates. Two of them unfortunately did not pass their exams and to them we gave letters acknowledging their faithful attendance of the classes.
(In Mozambique, when you are awaiting someone’s arrival and enquire when he is expected, you will invariably receive the answer: “He is coming.” If, after another hour’s waiting, you repeat your question, you will again receive the stoical answer: “He is coming.” And so the process goes on and on, hour after hour, the same question and the same answer until the guest materializes without apology and is received with a hearty “Hoyo, hoyo” (Welcome, welcome.)
Another exhilarating experience we had during June, was our visit to a place called Mudjinge (about 40 km east of Mabalane.) We actually travelled to Mabalane, picked up Baloi and his assistant Ntsako and then proceeded to our destination. What beautiful dense vegetation along the way, but what a sandy road! After two hours of driving, we emerged into the settlement of widely scattered homes and as usual received a joyous “Hoyo, hoyo.”
Now let me describe the background of the work at Mudjinge. Mama Samaria, her husband and 6 children, lived just across the “road” from us at Chinhacanine. She was one of the first students to complete our course on the Old Testament, following which she immediately started a class of her own in her local congregation under our guidance.
However, four years previously, a man called Pedro, who had some understanding of the Word of God, came to Chinhacanine from Mudjinge and mama Samaria overheard him challenging a local resident on the folly of ancestral worship. She encouraged him to serve God, but he replied that he and his people had no knowledge of God’s Word. Now, having completed her Bible study course and having gained some experience on teaching a class, mama Samaria recalled the incident and felt God calling her to go to that remote village and impart to them what she had received, but she knew that to do this successfully, she would have to train them over a lengthy period of time.
With money she had set aside to complete her own house at Chinhacanine, she bought used corrugated iron sheeting and conveyed it to Mudjinge with hired transport. Pedro was delighted to see her, gathered a number of the local people and while mama Samaria cooked food for them, they built her a room on a stand they had allotted to her. From then on, she started going there to instruct the people of Mudjinge in God’s Word and ways.
When we heard this, we decided to accept that class as one of our outposts and support mama Samaria as far as travelling and other expenses were concerned. We also arranged with Baloi, the district superintendent of Mabalane, to go there once every three months, to render whatever other assistance was needed.
To present that class called for willingness to sacrifice one’s comfort. She often had to sit for hours on end in the back of a jolting lorry amongst goats and all sorts of building materials for 6 to 8 hours to reach her destination. Her cheerfulness, faith and sacrificial spirit, was such an inspiration to us. This was what we wanted to see: local Christians, having been trained by us, acting independently, hearing the call of God and using their own resources to move out into the bush, making disciples of their own people. Bless the Lord for His love and power.
All over, groups of students were now completing their courses on the Old Testament, like at Mafada B, Tomanini and Seven de Abril. Paul said that his labour was not in vain and we could echo his words. Pockets of trained and spiritually equipped Christians were being planted all over the Gaza province. The Lord Jesus was seeing the fruit of the travail of His soul. (Isaiah 53:11).
During October we experienced more joy as we attended the “graduation ceremonies” of another two groups of students, the one at Tomanini and the other at 7de Abril. Both groups had been trained by Titus. Though somewhat physically disabled and walking with a crutch, he travelled many, many kilometres weekly by bicycle over those sandy roads and tracks between the three outposts where he was running his classes. Now he was also “returning with joy; carrying his sheaves.” (Ps 126:6)
By that time we had become very efficient in handling all sorts of electronic challenges out there in the bush. On going to a “graduation” function, we would pack a camera, UPS, laptop and printer, plus all the connecting cables into the car. Once there, we would take photos of the students, transfer them to the laptop, compile and print the certificates, inserting them into transparent pouches and, within one and a half hours of our arrival, would be ready to present them at the meeting. In so doing we saved ourselves at least one return journey. We were in the bush but not of the bush. Praise the Lord that “trains our arms for battle.”
By October (2009) Carlos was now really getting into the swing of presenting the discipleship training to our six trainees. They were enjoying his teaching and assured me that they were learning a lot. Instead of just sticking to the written lectures, Carlos studied extensively and presented the students with a wealth of edifying, useful material. He just about covered every chapter of the historical books and even dealt with Books such as Ruth that are so very, very special but which were not covered by our basic teaching. (It should be remembered that our lectures were written for people who knew just about nothing of God’s Word. The six trainees however, had already had three years of Bible School training and appreciated more advanced teaching.) By the end of their training, the more industrious of them would have read right through the Bible, and have studied considerable portions of it in depth. Bless the Lord oh my soul!
At that time one of our part-time teachers, Alson, initiated a class at Mafada A, travelling 80 km (return journey) of sandy road once a month to present it. This was his second class for he was already running one at Chinhacanine. We now had seven part-time workers that had emerged from the ranks of our students and were leading class groups.
Mamma Samaria whom we mentioned earlier on, was doing very well at Mudjinge – at her latest visit there, 38 students had turned up.
During November we travelled northwards to reconnoitre that part of the Gaza province with the purpose of expanding our ministry into that area. We travelled through Mabalane to Mapai, then in an easterly direction up to Machaile; from there back to Mapai and then further north up to Chicualacuala, right on the Zimbabwe border (some 314km from Chinhacanine). Some roads were not bad at all but others tested our vehicles to the limit, the more so because I was towing the caravan.
We spent many hours conversing with local church leaders to test the spiritual climate of the larger centres which we thought might be suitable as district headquarters. Wherever we went, we encountered the tremendous need for the training of leaders. At Chicualacuala a certain pastor’s wife said to us: “My husband has been leading this congregation for 14 years but he is not very good, for he has had no training.” (Shame, I hope my wife speaks better of me!)
The president of the fraternity at Chicualacuala, consisting of thirteen churches, set aside all other obligations to come and see us and told us that they had been contemplating sending some of their promising church members to Maputo to receive some religious instruction, but that they lacked the funds to do so and that they would be so grateful to receive our assistance. However, he also cautioned us that two Christian organizations had tried to do so before, but that both of them had given up after a couple of months because of the distance they had to travel and because of the cost involved. What a challenge for us. Were we any better?
Well, we had to decide, and came to the conclusion that the Lord wanted us to place one of our trainee couples at Mapai and another at Chicualacuala (some 314km from Chinhacanine) as soon as they were ready to take up the responsibility. Transport to Chicualacuala was very limited and there was no cell phone network coverage. The third couple would be stationed at Ndindiza which was about 130km to the east of Chinhacanine (our base).This then was the challenge for the following year.
PRAISE THE LORD,
PRAISE HIM FROM WHOM ALL BLESSINGS FLOW,
PRAISE HIM IN THE MORNING,
PRAISE HIM IN THE HEAT OF DAY AND
PRAISE HIM WHEN THE SUN GOES DOWN
FOR IT IS HE AND HE ALONE WHO CAN STIR THE HEARTS OF MEN!
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