OUR STORY – Chapter E9




During the next month, that is during February 2007, we visited our team at Chinhacanine once more. This turned out to be a very significant meeting, a watershed event on the timeline of Rivoni Ministries’ existence. In the course of our discussions and times of prayer, the Lord opened our understanding of His mind as to how we were to go about being more effective in the building of His Kingdom.

Up till then, we had been using part time “lay workers” equipped with audiovisual aids to spread the Gospel but the Lord had also graciously added three co-workers to our ranks who had already had three years of Bible school training with other institutions. One of them, Carlos Mauelele, called our attention to the multitude of small churches consisting of anything from 10 to 50 members, that already existed throughout the Shangaan population. He suggested that we train their leaders to shepherd their congregations effectively. The kind of leaders he had in mind, were deacons, elders, youth leaders, leaders of women’s groups and even pastors. In this way we would be rendering a great service to the universal Christian church in Mozambique which consisted of between 10 and 20 different denominations, all lacking in skilled leadership.

Initially I was hesitant to venture into this higher level of ministry for I had my doubts as to whether we had the knowledge and spiritual power to fulfil this task effectively. I certainly did not see myself on the spiritual level required to train pastors, and doubted whether the other members of the team had that ability. Surprisingly they had more confidence in themselves and in me and heartily supported this idea. At that stage I did not know how little training these church leaders really had and how ill-equipped they were to perform their duties. The Team explained to me that in fact, the only Bible training available to such leaders, was short Bible courses provided by Christians from South Africa visiting Mozambique during their spare time. One or two of the more developed local denominations also provided some teaching.

The main problem with the existing training offered, was that the trainees had to travel long distances to places like Chokwe and Maputo. Most of them did not have the funds to do so. They could also only attend for a few days at a time, then had to return home to attend to their families and crops. This resulted in most of them being appointed solely because of their loyalty to their small spiritual groups, but they had very little knowledge of Scripture and preached the same messages over and over. The usual topics of these messages were sin and judgement and very little was said about the grace of God in Christ and the power of his Spirit to set a person free from the law of sin, judgement and death. Understandably this resulted in lifeless meetings which had very little impact on the community.

Once I understood the situation and saw the need, Carlos’s suggestion began to make sense and as I brought all this to the Lord in prayer, I sensed that He said the following to me:

  1. We were to make disciples of the Shangaan nation of Mozambique in accordance with the Great Commission (Matt 28:19)

  2. To turn a person into a disciple of Christ we had to:

  1. Teach him the Word of God.

  2. Train him to Walk with God by modelling Christ to him and counselling and correcting him along the way (building a love and trust relationship with God).

  3. Train him to Work for God.

  1. That we were to invite into our discipleship classes, not only church leaders, but whosoever wanted to come – that would of course include our present Rivoni lay workers.

  2. That I was to personally train our four full-time co-workers, then send them out to train the rest.

A tremendous advantage of this approach was that we would be taking the Bible school to the people right where they lived, instead of calling them to come and be trained at our headquarters. The type of training we would provide, would allow even the mothers that had to attend to their children and those that had to cultivate their lands to provide food for their tables, to attend classes, be trained and become full-grown Christians.

When I presented these principles to the Team, it met with general approval. Decisions were also taken (and later amended) as to how the courses were to be presented. The final decision was that sizeable rural townships were to be targeted where discipleship courses were to be run over a period of three years, covering the Old Testament during the first year, the four Gospels and the book of Acts during the second and the rest of the New Testament in the third year. Presentation had to be in the form of workshops, allowing the students to participate and gain some practical experience. During sessions, one or two of them were to be afforded the opportunity of doing a short presentation each. They would also be trained to pray, worship, dramatize the Scripture, understand the Word and apply its teachings to their lives. They would be accompanied to clinics, hospitals, schools, water pumps and similar places and taught to preach, hold open air meetings, counsel people and do house visitation.

Exams would take place and certificates issued to the successful students. In order to pass, a student had to have a clear testimony of salvation, a clean walk with God and gained 60% in regard to Bible knowledge. (It will be recalled that such an exam had already been taken down at Matitse and certificates issued to those students, so a basis had already been laid.) I was to do research to find suitable lecturing material or write this myself.

In this way we hoped to develop, in each church, a group of leaders and in each village a group of Christians that would be well equipped to disciple their township. Once that had been achieved in a specific village, we would select a new one and repeat the process. We were, as it were, to establish discipleship workshops within villages. This, to my mind, was an effective way of operating. We were convinced that many unbelievers would be led to the Lord in the course of the training period. We were also of the opinion that many of these trained disciples would offer themselves as Rivonis (Light Bearers), relocate to the more remote areas and spread the Gospel there as they had been trained to do.

To train our four leaders, Martie and I would, during our monthly visits to Mozambique, meet with them, hand out the printed lectures and present the first-year course to them for a number of consecutive days. They would then return to their districts and present the same material to their students. In the beginning they would continue to make use of the messages preached by pastor Bila on the corresponding Scripture and recorded on CDs. This could later on be done away with as our leaders became more proficient in presenting the lecture material themselves.

As said earlier on, these were very important decisions for they formed the Magna Carta, the Sermon on the Mount, the basis for the Mission to operate in future.

Carlos Maulele meeting with students at Chinhacanine. Many discipleship meetings were held in the shade of huge trees providing protection against the scorching sun and heat.

Carlos Mauelele got the ball rolling by targeting the township of Chinhacanine and stirred up the interest of the leaders from nine different small churches. He arranged to have a meeting with them once a week where they would be studying the Word systematically, starting from Genesis and progressing to Malachi. Within a relatively short time, Titus and Baloi also managed to get such groups going within their areas.

Pita Mutuassa was relocated to a township called Manjangue, some 10 km from Chinhacanine. Her job description was to: “Get everybody to become disciples of Christ within the space of twelve months!”

The site we acquired at Chinhacanine was just a bare piece of land on which we had to provide all the facilities.

The site we acquired at Chihacanine was now to become the Mission’s headquarters and some sort of accommodation had to be provided.

A used six meter shipfreight container was bought at Maputo harbour and transported some 245km, then offloaded and moved into position.

Carlos and I went down to Maputo to obtain a six metre ship freight container, had it cleared by Customs, removed from the shipyard, transported to Chinhacanine and offloaded on our site. This cost us almost twice what we had initially calculated, but at least we now had a secure place to store our equipment and building material and we summarily moved our impedimenta from Chokwe into it.

Martie and I would also stay over in it during our visits to Mozambique and, as a team, we would gather in it for meetings. Praise the Lord. We now felt that we had a foothold in Mozambique, some sort of contact with its soil. (Josh 1:3). 

The container had neither windows nor doors. Initially we set up a kitchen near the open end while we slep on the floor at the rear.

Once a corrugated iron shed had been erected to accommodate the kitchen, an office was established in the one end of the container. It was so hot in there that two fans had to be trained on the computer to cool it down.

We returned to Phalaborwa, then in the late afternoon of Thursday the 22nd left for Pretoria, spending the first night in a caravan park in Magoebaskloof. After our evening meal, the Spirit of the Lord met with me as He did with Jacob at Bethel. His presence just overwhelmed me as I knelt before Him and He gave me directions for the weekend. No wonder that we had such a fruitful time in each of the four homes of Mission supporters we visited, as well as at the missionary conference of our congregation, the Hatfield Christian Church North, where we presented an exhibition and power point slide show of our work. I also had an opportunity to share verbally the burden of my heart for the Mozambican people with the congregation.

On Monday morning, the day we would return home, I asked the Lord during my quiet time whether there was anything left on His agenda for me to do. The answer came so quickly and clearly that my early morning lingering drowsiness just evaporated. The Lord said: “Go to such and such a garage and buy a Pajero. Before you go there, phone your friend Wayne.” Wow. We had been contemplating buying a Pajero because our Nissan had been limping back home from Mozambique for the past year, but we were hesitant to spend that much money.

I dialled Wayne and without me telling him what God had said to me, he said: “I saw two Pajeros at such and such a garage,” the same one I had it in mind to go to. Humph! Martie and I went there. One of the Pajeros on the floor had already been sold and the other one was not what we wanted. Uncertainty. What now? I said to Martie: “We will really be draining our funds, so I will not scout around; the matter must be clearly from God. Let Him take the initiative.” I felt the Lord saying: “Go down the road and buy the songbooks you have on your list”. I slipped the pickup into gear and set out for the bookshop. We had hardly travelled 200 meters down the road, when we saw our dream Pajero for sale at a garage on our left. God had directed us first to the garage we knew and from there to the one we did not know. The vehicle was in a beautiful condition, well maintained and reasonably priced.

Inside the canopy of our Nissan pickup it was very cramped. On one side I built shelves in which all our kitchenware, clothes and food were stored. On the other side was a narrow bunk on which Martie slept while I slept on the floor in between.

I still hesitated. Would God give us a substantial donation to boost our funds and faith? We contacted heaven and stated our case. The next morning, before 9 am, we had it: an unexpected, breathtaking donation of R50, 000. That afternoon we drove home in the Pajero, chins up, but the funds we added from our own pocket troubled me somewhat, so I prayed: “Lord to whom does the vehicle belong: the donation covered 45% and we paid 55% of the cost from our own pocket? Is it the Mission’s vehicle or ours?” “The vehicle is yours and the cost of it, is altogether for your own account. The donation is for the Mission’s account,” the Lord replied. I felt that this wasn’t quite fair, but God is God, isn’t He? Anyway we now had a beautiful, dependable, luxurious four-wheel drive with a soft suspension to absorb some of the punishment inflicted by the Mozambican roads on our bodies, as well as R50,000 to develop the site at Chinhacanine. And perhaps it was not unfair after all because, in the end, everything on earth belongs to Him who purchased us and all we “possess”.

The Pajero, together with a jurgens caravan with lifted suspension given to us by Board members of the Mission, was real luxury compared to what we had before.

A week later, on Wednesday the 4 March, Martie and I were back in Mozambique. Every visit had its unique challenges and so did this one.

Mozambique often suffers severely from natural disasters. Shortly before our arrival, a flood, caused by heavy rainfall in Zimbabwe, swept down the Zambezi River causing 120,000 people living in the lowlands of the Zambezia province of Mozambique to flee their homes. Following that, cyclone Favio sweeping up the Mozambique Channel, that is, up the eastern coast of Mozambique between Madagascar and the mainland, wreaked havoc in the province of Vilanculos and further northwards towards Beira. By God’s grace, the Gaza province, where we were working, had not been that much affected, or so we thought.

Mozambicans fleeing from the lowlands and crowding onto the bridge over the Limpopo with some of their possessions.

However, the deeper we drove into Mozambique, the more we saw of the havoc that had been wreaked by the storm: many roofs of buildings like schools, churches, clinics etc. had been blown off. At our site at Chinhacanine, a number of huge Bluegum trees on the border of our premises had been snapped like match sticks, but the freight container was unscathed.

The storm also dealt one of our workers, sister Pita, a severe blow. While we were away, she had sent us an SMS informing us of this disaster that befell her, but it was only now that she told us the full story: “Just when we thought that cyclone Favio had spent itself along the coast, an evil wing of it swept over Manjange where I live in my two roomed little home. Round about midnight, I woke up to a deep and intense rumbling sound which sounded like a strong wind. I jumped from my bed and stood upright in one corner of the room. The next moment the roof above me was torn off and blown away. Rain poured down upon me as I stood trembling in utter darkness. With an open heaven above, I prayed more fervently and after about an hour, the hurricane subsided. I then left my wrecked home and found shelter with neighbours. The next morning I was able to recover five of the six corrugated iron sheets that had blown off. By God’s grace I was not injured.”

Having seen the results of the hurricane, we were very grateful for the safety of the freight container. It was, however very cramped with so many things stacked within, so we pitched our gazebo and sleeping tent next to it. This was a risk for the atmospheric turbulence was still high and, while we were all sitting comfortably under the gazebo, we received a phone call from Maputo warning us that a storm was heading our way. The call came too late for the next moment it was upon us. One of our plastic chairs came charging at me like tumbleweed, smashing an expensive rechargeable lamp in the process. We managed to salvage our sleeping tent, bundled it up and thrust it into the container but one of the legs of the gazebo was snapped before we could lower it.

When order had been restored, dusk had fallen, but the generator refused to start and the auxiliary car battery was flat for not having been recharged because the solar panel could not function in an overcast sky which had lasted for some days. All of a sudden we were back to basics, which meant a candle placed in a tin filled with sand to keep it upright.

As a team we were exhausted at that time and hoping to have a time of rest and spiritual refreshment over that Easter weekend. A certain Church group from Pietermaritzburg was planning to send a team to minister to the community and we were looking forward to attending the meetings. However, things did not work out as planned. The mother of the pastor who had invited them, suddenly passed away. In Mozambique a funeral lasts at least three to four days and takes pre-eminence over all other events, so the scheduled Easter services had to be cancelled. The spinoff was that instead of sitting down and being ministered to, I found myself called upon to preach on two occasions (which actually was a wonderful opportunity for approximately 300 people attended the funeral).

Not only nature, but my stomach too, was again in turmoil and kept me awake and in pain most nights. Sharing a toilet with 300 other people under such circumstances …

Another factor that added to our discomfort was that when our freight container was offloaded I was not present and it was placed with its entrance about 10 metres from our neighbour’s pit toilet which resulted in strong unpleasant aromas filling the air, especially at the front end of the container where we set up our kitchen to prepare our food. At that stage the container had no other windows or doors other than the two main doors at that one end.

Because of the bad weather, Martie and I could not sleep in our tent and made our bed on the floor in the end furthest from the door opening. During the day it was very hot in there but I had no other place to lie down and was actually bedridden for days on end, being too sick and weak to walk around. When my time came to preach, I had to rely entirely on the Lord to lift me up, let me walk to the tent on the adjoining premises where the funeral took place, and speak His words through me. On both preaching occasions, an absolute miracle happened and I was able to speak forcefully, touching the hearts of the listeners and laying a spiritual foundation for our discipleship classes that were to be held at Chinhacanine. My greatest concern was that our team who had only recently joined the Mission, would lose heart because of my infirmity but the Lord overruled this as they witnessed his power flowing through me when preaching.

It was not only Pita and I that reeled under the attack of the evil one. Titus was also dealt a severe blow as we witnessed when visiting his home. Someone that bore him a grudge, had piled all his belongings onto his bed in his absence, drenched it with paraffin and set it alight. Although his neighbours managed to extinguish the blaze before the hut caught fire, he suffered extensive damage to his property and some of the Mission equipment was also damaged.

Dr Flip de Jager and his dear wife Hannelore visited us, preparing us food and encouraging us. They became lifelong supporters and Flip even came with two of his brothers in the Lord to assist in the building of a house for a staff member at Mapai.

The Lord then decided that enough was enough and stirred up the hearts of a couple at Phalaborwa to visit us and oh, what a blessing that was. They arrived on a Friday afternoon and treated us to roasted meat and other goodies. On Saturday, we showed them around and on Sunday they returned home. Their visit was such a refreshment and encouragement to us after a rather hectic ten days. God knows just when to send His angels to strengthen His saints.

Although we went through these trials, the good news was that we had a wonderful time of fellowship with our team and were much encouraged by what the Lord was doing through them in their respective areas. We also managed to attend two of the meetings they had with their students, one at Manjange and the other at Chinhacanine. They were really putting their hearts into the work to which the Lord called them and we knew that as time went by, much fruit would be harvested.

Tinah, a discipleship teacher trained by us, presenting a class to a group of students.

A discipleship class conducted in the open, with the students taking notes.

What also blessed my soul was that, notwithstanding my bodily weakness and all the other onslaughts, the Lord had enabled us to complete each and every little task we had set out to do. Therein is my joy, not that we had no opposition but that, by the power of God and with His mighty weapons, we overcame all opposition and cast down the strongholds which satan had been building up over so many centuries. We actually did more during that period than what we had planned beforehand.

On returning to Phalaborwa, we made plans to build an ablution block at Chinhacanine, a 6×6 meter carport with a corrugated iron roof and enclosed with shade netting, where we could gather for meals and have our meetings, and a corrugated iron shed to house the generator and store our tools and building materials. We would also have to fence the site. Things now really got moving!



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