E3. MOZAMBIQUE AND RIVONI MINISTRIES
THE LIGHT BEARERS
Soon afterwards, we spent our December holidays in Namibia. While driving towards Swakopmund on the coast, we picked up a local Christian radio station broadcasting mostly in Afrikaans. The programs really appealed to us and we later on discovered that it was having a great impact on the local population. During our stay in Mile 4 caravan camp, just north of Swakopmund, I located their temporary holiday studio in one of the malls and chatted to a member of staff. He introduced me to their director who requested an interview with me to air over their transmitters. I was in a holiday mood and agreed to sit down and chat to him without having prepared myself for the occasion. We both enjoyed the talk during which I spoke about our work back home and recalled a couple of interesting experiences we had had in Mozambique. When the interview was over, he muted the microphone and switched over to music. On asking him when the interview would be broadcast, I was shocked when he smilingly replied: “You were on the air, live!” They had a very informal style of presenting their programs which greatly appealed to their listeners. It was a real “people’s radio.” I was enthralled by the wonderful work they were doing.
The next few days I spent many hours on my knees, beseeching the Lord to show me a more effective way of taking the Gospel to our remote areas in Mozambique. I had seen the impact which the media could have upon a country when used in an innovative way, but we could not just make a rubber stamp of that ministry and use it in Mozambique. They were broadcasting to a more densely populated area where just about every home had its radio, some powered by main line electricity and the rest by batteries which were relatively cheap and readibly available. None of these conditions applied to our area. We had, by that time made up our minds not to reach out to the people dwelling in the cities where there were at least a couple of pastors proclaiming the Gospel, but rather to those living in small villages in the hinterland. There, not that many people had radios and batteries were really hard to come by. So, yes, we would also appropriate the power of the media, but would have to adapt our strategy to local circumstances to achieve success.
So what we decided to do was to combine the principle of home cell groups and the use of media devices. As “cell leaders” we would use every Christian that was truly born-again as well as capable and motivated to play this role. These we would equip with radios and cassette players and to overcome the problem of running out of batteries, we would build units comprised of large long-life batteries normally used in security systems, and these would be charged by solar panels, for in Mozambique there was always plenty of sunshine. Brother Fred assured us that there would be quite a number of Christians who would be eager to participate in such an endeavour, for they were motivated to reach out to their neighbours but lacked in knowledge of the Word. Some of them had indeed travelled long distances to the cities to receive some Bible instruction, but were by and large not equipped to be teachers of the Word. These devices would therefore be of great assistance.
We decided to put our vision to the test by supplying some equipment to one of the Christians and see how he would do. We equipped him with a radio, a good number of cassettes and sufficient batteries for eight weeks and set him to work. At the end of the trial run, I went down to see how it had gone.
Would the radio still be working? In what condition would the cassettes be? His name was Titus, and he was a crippled man, using a walking stick to get around but had diligently evangelized his neighbouring villages. On inspecting his equipment, I was, however, dismayed to discover that there was just about no paint left on the four round corners of the radio cassette player, but decided not to mention it immediately and was later on grateful for not having done so, for in the course of listening to his account of what he had done, I discovered that he had often borrowed a bicycle and cycled up to 70 km, sometimes through deep sand, to reach souls. It was the movement of the radio cassette player inside the rucksack that had gradually worn away the paint as if it had been rubbed with a cloth for a long period of time. On hearing the account of his journeying by bicycle, tears flooded my eyes and I said: “Titus how could you do this while being so handicapped?” He looked down at the ground and replied: “Jesus saved my soul; this is the least I can do for Him.” My heart overflowed with joy and I was inspired to extend the ministry as soon as possible .
We immediately set about procuring radios, tape decks, solar panels, power supplies, flipcharts, books with pictures and rucksacks in which these could be carried over long distances, both when walking or travelling by bicycle. The power supplies had to be built according to specifications and Martie and I spent many days in soldering together the components. When, at last, we had some ten sets ready, we set off for Mozambique, where we picked up our brother Fred, then proceeded to a little village called Ndonga, where we had invited 10 or 12 Christians to be trained in using the equipment and to act as group leaders which we decided to call “Rivonis” (light bearers).
The training session went quite well. Brother Fred arranged for some of the local people to bring their large pots and cook for us on an open fire just next to the building where the training was conducted. We tried to cram in as much as possible during the couple of days we had at our disposal, instructing them on subjects such as salvation by faith, new birth, fruit of the Spirit, the Christian family, expanding on the role of the husband and wife, as well as the upbringing of children. Brother Fred was a great help in guiding us as to the topics on which we were to speak and he also did some of the teaching himself. Notes were printed and supplied so they would have something to take home to refresh their memories We used a power generator to supply electricity since we were also having meetings in the evenings. Martie and I slept with African people in a nearby home. This was our first training session of many to be presented in the years to come. It was a real success and all of those Christians who had attended, men as well as women, went home inspired, each to win his neighbourhood for Christ.
Soon afterwards we trained and equipped more Christians till we had sixteen Rivonis covering a vast area with the Gospel of our Lord and leading many people to Him. We also equipped Titus with a bicycle of his own and appointed him as supervisor of these Rivonis. He was to travel from the one to the other, spending two days with each and assisting them in their ministries. We also provided him with pro-forma returns to be filled in for himself as well as for the people he visited and submit to me on my successive visits to Mozambique. A vision from God gives is sure to succeed.
To enhance the radio programs, we decided to travel extensively throughout the area and record Gospel songs in Shangaan by church and other choirs. This would also afford Fred and me the opportunity of establishing more intimate relationships with these mini home churches and their “pastors.” They in turn would develop a greater interest in the radio broadcasts for they would be contributing to them and would actually hear themselves singing over the radio. This created a great interest amongst one and all and they put in a lot of practice to produce their very best and actually dressed up for the occasions though, of course, the microphones were unable to “see” them.
To do such recordings in the bush, was easier said than done. One was to make absolutely sure that, before leaving home and travelling the 800 to 1000 km from Pretoria, you had every piece of needed equipment as well as all kinds of spares with you, for there was no way of obtaining these in those areas. You had to pack everything meticulously, also when moving from one venue to the next. Nevertheless, the unforeseen often happened as when a brand-new top-class car battery just failed the very first time I used it, with the result that I had to work from our pickup’s battery which sometimes went flat in the process, so we had to push the vehicle in that heavy sand to get the vehicle started again.
We always preferred to record in a building having clay walls and a thatched roof with very little echo, unlike a room with brick walls and a corrugated iron roof that reflect the sound back to the microphone causing much unwanted echo and rendering the recording unfit to be used. These huts were very dark inside for they had only small openings in the walls to serve as windows. The dusty floors were very bad for our equipment, especially for the sliders of the audio mixer. The mixing desk was a wobbly folding table and I usually sat perched on an equally insecure folding chair.
While the recordings went on hour after hour, some four men had to act as security guards outside of the building, to silence the many inquisitive children, women shouting to one another, mooing cattle, bleating sheep, crowing cocks and even some kinds of birds with shrill cries; noises you could not erase from the recording once they were embedded in it. The choir itself had to be trained over and over, to be absolutely still for at least two seconds before starting with a song and, what was more difficult, to remain absolutely quiet for a further two seconds at the end of the recording, for the moment the song finished they would be exuberant with joy, shouting at the tops of their voices with glee and slapping one another on the back.
However, these small irritations and frustrations from our artists, we endured in love, for these people were very musical: this could not be denied, and we recorded one good batch of recordings after another. Whenever possible, we would also try to set aside an hour or so to preach to the choir members, and even to the rest of the community, to further inspire them to tune in to the broadcasts. We travelled hundreds of kilometres and recorded at scores of places during this tour with great success. It was well worth the time and funds invested.
On getting back to Pretoria, I had to have all these songs translated into English, then typed and bound into a song book so as to be able to choose an appropriate song or songs for every program I compiled. Very few associated broadcasters of programs in African languages were willing to go to such lengths to improve the impact of the programs on their listeners. The recorded songs were of course also used in compiling audio cassettes.
The radio programs resulted in some interesting conversions to Christ, as in the case of Eduardo Mondlane. He had been a soldier in the war between the two opposing parties, Frelimo and Renamo. One day he was badly wounded and when he regained consciousness, was horrified to discover that he had lost the use of his legs. In a country where even fit and able-bodied men found it almost impossible to find a job to support themselves and their families, he would henceforth be an absolute burden to his relatives.
As he sat on his sleeping mat under a tree, pondering the hopelessness of his situation, an aeroplane flew overhead and dropped pamphlets. One of these landed near him, so he crawled over, picked it up and read it. It was distributed by the Dorothea Mission and told of a radio program being broadcast on shortwave twice a week; a program they claimed would transform anyone’s life. What did he have to lose?
He borrowed a radio and started tuning in. The preacher spoke in Shangaan, his own language, and told of the one and only God who created heaven, earth and mankind and Who sent His own beloved Son to die on a wooden cross to pay for the sins of man. Up till that moment, Eduardo had known only one saviour and that was the AK 47 he carried wherever he went. That saviour, however, had been unable to save him. Would this God be able to do something for him? The weeks sped by as he regularly tuned in and listened keenly to every word of this kind, but unknown speaker. Then came the day when Eduardo responded to the invitation to give his life to Christ, met the unknown Saviour by faith and was created anew by the Spirit of God.
His very lameness now became an attribute, because he had time to sit and chat to everyone passing by. His interest in their wellbeing caused them to open their hearts to tell him of their grief, pain and the loss they had suffered during the war and of their despair of the future. Eduardo’s gloom had vanished and as he shared with them the new life and hope he had found in his Lord and Friend, Jesus Christ, many responded and gave their lives to his God.
When I went to see him, sitting under a huge tree in front of his home, he was not only a married man with two children but also a pastor of a sizable congregation God had raised up through his ministry. Some fifty yards from his home, they had erected a neat little church, one of the very few properly constructed church buildings in those remote areas of Mozambique.
Testimonies such as these confirmed that we were heading in the right direction and resulted in more initiatives to develop this ministry. We increasingly felt that there was a need for more variety in our programs, such as testimonies of people who were saved or otherwise blessed by the programs. We also wished to provide group discussions on a variety of topics to stimulate our listeners to meditate deeply on the truths to be found in the Word of God. In a more developed society it would normally be quite easy to find people, Christians, to come into the studio, sit around a table and discuss a given topic. In Mozambique one first had to train such speakers over a long period, before they would be capable and at ease to participate in such group discussions.
For this reason, brother Fred invited Christians and Christian pastors from all over Chokwe to radio workshops I then presented in his home. During such a workshop, I would spend 50% of the time on theory while the other 50% was invested in practical training which everybody enjoyed and found very helpful.
So, slowly but surely, we were making headway and brother Fred himself was much pleased and testified that wherever he travelled in Mozambique, people who recognised his voice came up to him, thanking him for the blessings they were receiving through this program. (By the way, the program was called Nyiko ya Xikwembu, which, translated, means: “Gift of God.”)
Brother Fred also told us of the impact the program was having on government officials. It is not that they were only saved or blessed by listening to the programs, but they got to know the Mission and what it stood for, opening many doors that would have been closed to him and to the Mission. The Lord was really using this Ministry in an ever-increasing way and our hearts were rejoicing.
BLESSED BE HIS HOLY NAME!
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