E2. MOZAMBIQUE AND RIVONI MINISTRIES
BACK WITH THE DOROTHEA MISSION
I cast myself wholeheartedly into this ministry, so happy and grateful to be able to do something for the Kingdom of God once more. Since we had parted with the Mission more than 20 years earlier, it had moved to new premises where a number of fine buildings were erected. One of them was a near professional standard audio studio, planned by my successor. It really was a pleasure for me, for the first time in my life, to use such a well designed and fully equipped facility.
I managed to contact an African pastor that had previously been involved with the Shangaan program, and he agreed to come regularly for the recording of new programs. Within a short while, we were back on the air with fresh, Holy Spirit anointed programs in Shangaan especially directed at the Mozambiquan Shangaan population.
Two months later, I resigned from my administrative post with our church after having served in it for five years, and from then on divided my time between our nursery of indigenous trees, where the stock had risen to some 20,000 plants and the radio program work.
By that time both Mr and Mrs von Staden had passed away and a new director was now in charge. After some four months, I sensed the Lord leading me to apply to the Mission to be admitted on a full-time basis. Martie and I hesitated to respond to this call for quite some time, for we realised that it would be very difficult for us as convinced and practising Charismatics, to become part of such an ultra conservative, anti-Charismatic ministry. In the end we obeyed but, in our hearts, knew that it would just be for a limited period of time. I enlisted with the Mission on the first of April, 2003.
Though we were accepted as full-time members of the Mission, our agreement was that Martie would be allowed to continue with the cleaning services contract we had with our church and I had the freedom to attend to our nursery. Nineteen months later, we transferred the cleaning services contract to someone else and two months after that, also managed to sell our smallholding and the nursery, for we wanted to be completely free to devote ourselves to the work of God. We were actually offered and received more for the property than what we had anticipated, which was an indication from the Lord that we were heading in the right direction.
The Mission treated us very well, even restoring our pension benefits in accordance with the number of years we had served during our first term of involvement. For three months or so, someone (possibly the director himself) gave as a monthly financial contribution to help us along during the transition period. Many of the other Mission workers, the older ones who knew us from previous years, were delighted to have us back, so we felt very welcome and at home.
On closing Media Mission, we had transferred our complete audio cassette ministry to the Dorothea Mission. In the meantime, my successor added many more master recordings so that, on our return, we had a sizeable library at our disposal which we put to good use to set up an effective ministry of which Martie took care, handling all the orders that were received.
I also revived the Chichewa radio program that was being aired to Malawi and so the audio media department of the Mission was again beginning to function as a well oiled machine. Since the cost of having radio programs aired by the transmitters of Trans World Radio had escalated, we decided not to add programs in other languages to our schedule, but rather to improve the existing ones. Since the Mission had a number of workers in Malawi that were very enthusiastic about the Chichewa program, it was agreed that they would take care of promoting it in Malawi and of following up the response to it.
To do the same for the Shangaan program aired to Mozambique was left to me. The Mission’s worker stationed at Chokwe in Mozambique, also supported this program wholeheartedly and in fact participated by coming in to the studio for recording messages that could be used in these programs. We then decided to have the Mission press print 4000 calendars for us in Shangaan, added 4000 Gospel tracts, and were ready to go to Mozambique to promote this program. Our elder son offered his 4×4 Pajero to us for this outreach. Martie and I hitched our smallish caravan to it and early one morning, set off for the Komatipoort border post where we were met by our Mozambican colleague.
As could be expected, we were pressed by the Mozambican officials to pay customs duty on the calendars, but after a lengthy debate, they accepted that we would be distributing them free of charge and did not tax us. This was our first brush with Mozambican immigration and customs officials, but many more were to come.
Much relieved at having passed unscathed through the border, we continued happily on our way, but within the next few kilometres a police officer with white shirt, gloves and navy blue cap and trousers, motioned us to pull off the road, which I did without fear, for I was pretty sure that both our vehicles were in good order. The officer did not speak to me, but took a measuring tape from his pocket and started measuring both our Pajero and the caravan. My mouth literally dropped open. In all my years of having been stopped by traffic inspectors, I had never experienced anything like this. I just sat there, puzzled by what he was doing, waiting for him to finish and tell me what he had discovered.
At last he appeared at my window and told me that the width of the caravan exceeded that of the vehicle and since I did not have a blue triangle sticker on the front of my vehicle to warn oncoming traffic, I was gravely endangering the lives of the people of Mozambique. I was flabbergasted for I had towed caravans all over South Africa without ever having my vehicles measured and found wanting like that. However he assured me that the matter could be amicably resolved by me tying a red triangle to the front bulbar and paying him 2000 Meticais. All this of course came to me through my Mozambique colleague, for the officer was addressing me in Portuguese. Two thousand Meticais, impossible! Yes, and if I wanted a receipt for it, the amount would double. After much quibbling I think we got away with paying some 1000 Meticais, skipping the receipt issue. We also securely tied the red triangle to the vehicle and were ready for the next challenge.
We got to Maputo after dark and it was somewhat of a nightmare to negotiate the car and caravan through an endless tunnel of chattering human beings who all wanted to share that narrow strip of tarred road with the bumper to bumper motor traffic. Even after leaving Maputo behind us, the going was slow all the way to Chokwe, for every now and then we passed through a little village where the speed limit of 60 km/h was strictly enforced. The traffic officials had no equipment to measure the speed of the vehicle, they just guessed it and you had to accept their good judgement and pay up, or be escorted to a police station where you would possibly have to pay double the amount, or get locked up indefinitely.
On arriving at our brother’s home in Chokwe, it took some careful manoeuvring to park the caravan in his back yard, unfortunately some 3 m from where the sewer was overflowing. Very tired, but happy to have completed the first stage of our journey successfully, we sat down with him for a well deserved meal, his wife serving.
The next morning we set off to distribute the calendars and tracts, that is, Martie and I, the Mission’s evangelist (let us call him Fred) and a Christian friend of his. The caravan was left behind. The calendars were in two sizes: the larger ones were of A3 format to be distributed to government offices, shops and the like for display on their notice boards or windows. The smaller A5 size we intended to hand out to individuals. Those who were Christians, could keep them in their Bibles. On the front of both sizes was an advertisement of our radio programmes, displaying information such as its name, frequencies and times of broadcast. On the back we had a description of the Way of Salvation printed.
Our first stop was the office of the mayor of Chokwe, the largest town of the Gaza province. His face just lighted up on seeing the calendar for, as far as we know, this had been the very first calendar to be printed in the Shangaan language. (I made the mistake of taking a photo of him looking at the calendar, without first asking for permission to do so. Brother Fred anxiously motioned to me to put away the camera, but the picture had been captured! My dear brother had a hard time during that, and successive visits to Mozambique to teach me the local do’s and don’ts which I often challenged.) However, this first visit went very well and we left the Mayor’s office with his blessing and an invitation to return any time we wanted to. (In Mozambique it was very important to introduce yourself to the government officials and local chiefs of whichever town or area you entered, or else you might easily be suspected of being involved in some or other subversive activity.)
From Chokwe we retraced the route we had come the previous evening up to Macia on the coast and then headed northwards to a major, well-known coastal town called Xai-Xai, where we spent the night with some of our Brother’s scores of Christian friends who catered for us very well. The next day we travelled inland in a north westerly direction up to Chibuto, then to Mandlakaze and proceeded to Mawayela, where we spent the night, before returning to Chokwe the next day. This had actually been easy going for we were driving on tarred roads most of the way with petrol freely available up to Xai-Xai. It was only the dirt road from Mandlakaze to Mawayela and back, that gave us a foretaste of what the Mozambican roads were really like. That night, sleeping in our caravan was to be the last taste of civilisation and luxury for some days.
The next morning we filled up three 20 L cans with petrol and set off in a westerly direction, passing two small villages called Manjangue and Macarretane, then crossed the Limpopo River by means of the barrage where we bade farewell to the tar road. Just up the incline on the other side of the river, there was a small marketplace called Bangla-Desh and adjoining that, the village of Chinhacanine of which much will be said later on. That was where civilisation with its amenities such as electricity and cell phone towers came to an end as we travelled northwards through places like Bala-Vala, Nalazi, Ndindiza, Chigubo, etc.
The going was slow for we stopped wherever we found people walking along the way, also in every village and at every water pump where scores of women were waiting their turn to fill up their water containers. What we did, was to drive slowly and wave the calendars, shouting: “Amacalendia.” Out there in the bush where something strange very seldom happened, it would immediately attract the attention of everyone within hearing distance, causing them to flock towards us, surround the vehicle, shouting and stretching out their hands to receive the unknown treasures they hoped we might be carrying. They were delighted to receive these calendars free of charge, then stood around or sat down under the trees to study the contents, laughing and pointing at the dates, for some of them were somewhat literate. Once order was restored, our two Shangaan speaking brothers would explain to them what it was all about, answering their questions on how to tune in to the indicated frequencies. When getting to a village, we would go to the leaders, such as the chiefs and of course to the pastors of the multitude of small churches, introduce ourselves and hand out the calendars and tracts. Doing this hour after hour was very tiring, as we were driving with open windows and no air conditioner in temperatures varying from 38 to 45°C.
At last the first day of our ordeal drew to an end and we left the double track road, parking alongside a number of huts where more of brother Fred’s friends lived. This was to be our first night in the hinterland of Mozambique, coming into close contact with country people living according to their age-old customs. Since they had been evangelized by brother Fred, they were born-again Christians.
Putting the Lord first, the leader called everybody together, then offered up a prayer, thanking the Lord for His goodness and for having brought us there safely. Chairs (some supplied by neighbours) were placed under the nearest massive shady tree where everybody normally gathered. We as visitors were then invited to sit down. After a while the people of the kraal joined us, the men sitting on the chairs and the women on sleeping mats (canzis). We were all introduced to one another and then had to recount everything we had seen and all the conversations we had had with people along the way, for they had no newspapers nor radio or TV coverage of what was going on. Travellers like us constituted their local newspaper, keeping them up to date with what was happening in their area and further afield. This they greatly appreciated. We were then offered tea, warm bottled cold drinks they had bought from a stall a couple of kilometres from there and bread called “Pao,” in appearance like bread rolls, but much larger and without butter, margarine or any other kind of spread.
By then a pot of water that had been boiled on the nearby open fire, was poured into a plastic basin. First Martie and then I, were lead to an enclosure constructed of wooden poles, grass and pieces of plastic bags or sheeting, whatever was available. We were also handed a towel and soap so we could wash ourselves. (Some of these “ablusions” (washing places) were not all that pleasant to use. The ground on which one stood was often very wet and unhygienic for these enclosures were also used for urinating. We later on learned to wear plastic sandals while washing ourselves.)
In the meantime, the evening meal was being prepared, consisting mainly of rice or porridge supplemented by something tasty, if available. Since we were very important visitors, it was imperative for us to be served with meat, though they themselves would seldom be able to afford such luxury. The best they could do, was to slaughter a chicken for us. While having our bath, we heard the terrified bird screaming at the top of its voice while being chased all over the premises by the children until they finally cornered it, brought it to their mother who summarily cut its head off with a sharp knife, plucked the feathers, removed the intestines and put it into a pot to be cooked.
This being a more well-to-do family, they had a table, tablecloth, some china ware, spoons and even knives and forks which they reserved for such occasions. Once the table was nicely laid, we were invited to sit down while only the head of the kraal and two of the other grown men joined us. The senior lady of the kraal and her daughters stood around to serve the guests.
She offered a prayer for the food, then brought a basin, a jug with hot water and a towel for everybody to wash their hands. Starting with the most important guest, she held the basin below the person’s hands while one of her daughters poured the hot water onto them, then offered him or her the towel to dry them.
Once this ritual was completed, the lids of the serving dishes were opened and everybody helped themselves. There was plenty of rice, porridge, and salads consisting of lettuce and tomato, but sharing one of those extremely skinny, lightweight, athletic chickens among up to 10 people, meant that each one was to receive only a spoonful of watery gravy and perhaps a morsel of meat. But oh, how we appreciated the meal so graciously and joyfully provided for us by those dear people that could hardly afford food for themselves. (My experience of life is that poor people are normally very generous; the stingy are more often to be found in the ranks of the rich. Forgive me: both groups have their exceptions!)
May I also add that the rice in Mozambique is prepared with cooking oil in the Portuguese way, and is really tasty. Only when we had all had our fill and moved away to sit around the fire, did the women and children sit down near to the table to enjoy the leftovers. To speak out against this deeply ingrained cultural habit, suggesting that we all eat together, would be to seriously offend the kraal and its people.
Once the dishes had been taken care of, the ladies and children joined us around the fire, sitting on sleeping mats. When all was ready, we stood for a lengthy period to worship the Lord in songs of praise, the different voices harmonising with one another and accompanied by clapping of hands and bodies swaying rhythmically. Then we all sat down. This now, was my turn as visiting “pastor” to feed them with the Bread of Life, and how I enjoyed doing so. Being unable to speak Shangaan, all I said had to be interpreted by my brother Fred. This stretched the meeting to twice its intended duration for I suspect that he often added to my words when I said things that were unfamiliar to them or which he thought might be a bit out of place, necessitating a few thoughts of his own. When I sat down, he took over imploring the unsaved ones to accept the Lord Jesus as Saviour, for scores of people, also younger people from the nearby kraals, had joined us after we had had our meal. A number of them got up to express their desire to get to know their Creator and Fred led them in prayer to do so. At last, when our eyes were red as the coals of the fire at which we were fixedly staring and our heads spinning with fatigue, the meeting was adjourned and everybody headed home.
Martie and I said we would sleep in a little tent for two we brought along for that purpose, but they would have none of that and offered us the head of the kraal’s well-worn and rather shaky double bed to rest our weary bodies on. As we lay on our backs for a couple of minutes, reflecting on the happenings of the day that had finally come to an end, we noticed that the thatching of the roof had parted in places and that two or three of the crystal clear stars were twinkling down on these two out-of-place creatures.
Out there, time and activity is dictated by the sun as it journeys overhead, and everybody rises at dawn. This suited us very well and after an early breakfast consisting of porridge, “pao” and tea, we set off on the next lap of our African safari.
This really was a gruelling journey for the uneven road caused the Pajero to lurch forward and backwards like a child’s rocking horse while, at the same time, rolling from side to side like a small boat on a stormy sea. One’s body was therefore buffeted all the time and by midday one was already overcome by fatigue and yearned for half an hour’s respite to spread a sleeping mat in the deep shade of those massive trees and take a short nap. However, time did not allow for this, so, after stopping for a quick bite, we were on the move again. The double track road twisted and turned endlessly through the bush and very soon Martie and I had no idea of direction or of where we were. It felt as if we had travelled thousands of kilometres up into the heart of Africa and would never ever find our way back to civilisation. The country was just about perfectly level and there were no landmarks to go by. We really felt utterly lost and I was so concerned for Martie and quietly blamed myself for bringing her along. I recall that at a certain stage we were travelling parallel to an oil pipe line from the coast and that we had to keep well clear of it, for during the internal war, landmines had been planted alongside it, most of which had not yet been detected and removed.
But we kept on doggedly northwards, then turned left as we rounded the Banhine National Park where the only animals we saw, were three forlorn ostriches. After continuing like this for a day or two, we reached Machaile, the birthplace of our brother Fred. It was quite dark when he left us on an open piece of ground, near to a hut, saying that he and his friend had some duties to attend to but would be back in due course. Martie and I sat in the Pajero for some time, but since we were very hungry by that time and had no way of contacting him, not knowing where he was, and apprehensive of moving around a place we had never been before, decided to make ourselves some sort of a meal. I got out two folding tables, placed them right in front of the car, put the trunk on one of them and opened the lid.
The sight that met our eyes was too terrible for words. The groceries were all in a mess for they had been shaken violently all day as one would do with a tin of paint you wanted to mix thoroughly. Worst of all was that the container with margarine had split open, overturned and was sprayed like a layer of custard over everything. Ever since we were married I had hardly ever seen Martie getting really flustered or upset and crying, but after such a terrible day, this was just too much for her, so I tried to calm her, suggesting that she stand aside for awhile, allowing me to try and clean up the mess. I started off by wiping the remaining apples with toilet paper and then proceeded to clean the tins of canned food, last of all attending to the packets of sugar and maize penetrated by the margarine. To add to our grief, a thick cloud of gnats surrounded the torchlight with the result that we could hardly see what we were doing. At last we managed to swallow some food. I made quite sure that the margarine was properly sealed and placed at the bottom of the trunk, then closed the lid and put it back into the vehicle.
Shortly afterwards, someone arrived with a basin of hot water from a small fire we could see at a distance. She unlocked the nearby hut, directing us to enter and wash ourselves. Since we had soap and our own towels with us, we proceeded to do so. I closed the door but had to keep the torch switched off most of the time for there were so many gaps in the walls of the hut that, had I left it on, anybody standing outside would have seen us on the inside. Having washed, we put on our pyjamas and lay down on the bed, presuming that we were intended to sleep there. I had, however, hardly done so, when there was a knock on the door and when I opened it, there was my brother Fred, asking me to come along with him, for, the people from the area had now gathered and were ready to hear the Word.
This floored me for I had not been told that there would be a meeting and had had no time whatsoever to prepare a message. I mumbled that I would come, then stumbled around over the things scattered on the floor in an attempt to find the flashlight, then my clothes, and last of all my Bible which was still stuffed somewhere in a bag. While thus engaged, I said a short prayer to the Lord to help me to say something that might, in some way or other, come from Him and not from my own afflicted soul.
When I got outside, and shone the light around, I saw at least two hundred people gathered, sitting quietly some distance from our hut, waiting for me to arrive. My dear brother had a real heart for God and for his people, but somehow missed out on the gift of planning ahead. He had not provided for any light at all, nor had he even lit a campfire as we normally did later on in such situations. Holding my Bible in one hand and the torch in the other, just vaguely distinguishing the dark blotches of my audience, I began preaching the Word, my unseen interpreter standing next to me. Whether the people received any spiritual enlightenment that dark night, I cannot say. When I had finished, I was asked to sit down on a chair brought for this purpose in order that they might serve my meal. No longer caring whom I offended, I told them that I had already eaten and would not have a second meal that time of night and that they were to hold it over for the next morning, then returned to our hut.
On getting back inside, I found Martie still lying in bed but very upset for, while I was away, she had heard something next to her on my pillow, scratching as if it had claws. Not knowing what it was and not having any sort of light with her, she struck out blindly in the dark and hit it so hard that she heard it falling some distance from the bed. What a day! By then we were so tired that we just committed ourselves as well as that unknown creature to the Lord and blissfully fell asleep.
On leaving the hut the next morning, our surroundings seemed much less threatening and we discovered that we were within a village with houses scattered at some distance around us. Some of the people of the nearby kraal were then brought and introduced to us. They also made us a fine breakfast, including the chicken presented to me the previous night. This had been split wide open till it was quite flat, then roasted on both sides, and was really delicious to eat.
Brother Fred wanted us to proceed further northwards to a place called Massengena, but we were running short of petrol and so we decided to return home, passing the Banhine Nature Reserve on its western side, then proceeding to Mapai and from there down to Chokwe. All the way we were of course still handing out tracts and calendars and exhausted our stock before reaching our destination.
As I was driving, I was experiencing some discomfort because of, what I thought to be mosquitoes, biting me on my neck and upper body. When we got back to our caravan and undressed, we discovered that these were lice that had been feasting on us and so we just bundled up our clothes, stuck them into a bucket of water, washed our bodies and hair and hoped for the best. The Lord came to our assistance and somehow or other, our caravan and car never got infested by these creatures.
From Chokwe we returned home with our Pajero and caravan along the same route we had come, and got back home all in one piece.
Although this had been a very trying journey, we had learned a lot and knew for certain that God had guided us all along the way. First of all, we gained some insight into the lives of the people we wanted to serve. We began to understand something of their way of living and thinking and had seen their tremendous spiritual need. At that stage, those areas were considered to be some of the least evangelised parts of Africa. We were also happy to have discovered many people, wherever we went, that were actually tuning in to our programs and were confident that many more would henceforth be tuning in as a result of having received the calendars bearing the broadcasting schedules. This gave us new impetus to raise the level of our programs and also to look for other ways to provide greater spiritual input to those areas. God was beginning to stir up a deep love for these dear neglected people in us and we returned home, knowing for certain that He had a great job for us to do before taking us home to be with Him.
BLESSED BE HIS HOLY NAME!
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