F1. THE PHILIPPOLIS MINISTRY ADDED
RELOCATING TO PHILIPPOLIS
On 3 January 2011 we were back in Mozambique with hearts filled with hope for the future and eagerly looking forward to the days ahead to experience the unfolding of God’s glorious plans for us, for He had given us a special promise for that year, namely Jer. 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Right from the start some very interesting testimonies of what God had accomplished through the discipleship classes, were recorded. One of these was by a part-time teacher, Monica Macuvele:
“Before I joined the Rivoni classes I did not know what it was to be saved, nor the meaning of salvation. I attended church services and I was a Sunday School teacher but I did not know the Bible. Then I joined the classes and discovered that I was not born-again. I was full of anger and jealousy and I went to the Zionists to get lucky charms to be loved by my husband. I also went looking for traditional (witchdoctor) medicine in order to fall pregnant.
But I thank God for the teaching that came to me through Rivoni Ministries, for it came just at the right time. At the beginning I did not understand what our teacher was talking about, but after a month, a change came into my life. As I accepted the Lord Jesus as my Saviour, peace and joy filled me and I started to encourage other people to come to the classes.
Things went well for almost a year but just when I was about to receive my certificate for successfully completing the first year course, my husband decided to take a second wife. I was so upset that I got seriously ill. With the teaching and counselling I got from our teacher, I kept pressing on but things were tough on me. During this time of trial I thought deeply about the truths I got from God’s Word and applied them in every situation I was facing.
Then the Lord touched the heart of my husband and he decided to take me with him to South Africa for hospital treatment, but once there, things changed for the worse. Both my husband and his second wife treated me badly. She accused me of many things I knew nothing about. The stress caused me to become totally despondent and I decided to commit suicide.
However, as my heart was in turmoil, the lessons I was taught in class were continually going through my mind; the stories of Joseph, Sarah, Esther, and all the promises of God, all these were reviving me. I continued trusting God and praying and then the situation changed. My husband accepted the Lord Jesus as his Lord and Saviour and let the other woman go. He now loves me once more and the Lord loves me and healed my body.
I have now returned to my home here at Chinhacanine where I have been appointed as a Rivoni teacher and am teaching a class of my own, for these truths from God’s Word have greatly helped me and will do the same for my students.”
Another interesting testimony was given by a certain Jonas Hlungwane:
“During the Mozambican civil war, I was a soldier. Then peace came to the country, but it did not come to my heart for I was strong-willed and fought whoever did not share my views. I was a member of a local church but I did not know the contents of the Bible, nor what God required of me.
When Rivoni Ministries started with Bible classes at Chinhacanine, I joined a class and then saw myself as God saw me. I saw the anger in my life and the deceitfulness of my heart for, just as Jacob cheated his father and brother and his uncle Laban, I too cheated many people to gain things for myself. I also slept around with many women, yet being jealous of what others had.
It took me a long time to make right with God. For six months I fought Him as Jacob did that night at the river Jabbok. Gradually light dawned for me and I began to understand what our teacher was teaching me. Then I gave myself into His hands and accepted the Lord Jesus as my Saviour. He also became my role model and my life. Peace and joy welled up in my heart and as a child of God, my life took a drastic change.
Since then, however, I have had to face many challenges. My nephew stole my wife away from me and took her to South Africa. Things got very tough but with the teaching I got in the classes and the counselling of my teacher, I pressed on and walked as God wanted me to. I overcame the situation in a Christian way. Today my wife is back with me though not yet born-again, but I am praying for her and trusting the Lord to save her too. We were married in the traditional way many years ago but are planning to enter into a Christian marriage by the end of this year.
I am continually busy giving to others what I myself have received from the Lord and I encourage them to come to the Lord and to join the classes. I have also been appointed as a Rivoni teacher and am running a class of my own at Mubanguene. Praise be to God for what He has done for me.”
By then (Jan. 2011) we had 12 part-time teachers that had emerged from our classes and were running their own classes under our supervision.
On 5 and 12 February, we had “graduation” ceremonies for 24 students, 12 at Tomanine and 12 at Manjange respectively. For some students, those that were unable to read and write, it was a tremendous achievement for they had to commit all the teaching to memory over a period of 12 months and then do their exams. Things of real value do not come cheaply.
Nelson’s home at Chinhacanine was completed and they were so delighted to have a place of their own for their family of 5. They fetched their belongings from Macia and moved in on 20 February. The three roomed house with veranda and a cooking shelter of 6.25 sq m was built at a cost of approximately R34000.
We also received news from Carlos who went north to Mabalane, Mapai and Chicualacuala with the Ford pickup to see how things were going at those outposts. His SMS report read as follows: “I’m now at Chicualacuala. 1. Every church has sent its pastor to enlist as a student in our classes. 2. Most of them are confessing that they had never heard such teachings as Rivoni is giving them. 3. The number of students is increasing. 4. The unity brought about amongst churches through our ministry, is drawing the attention of the local Government. Your son in the field, Carlos Mauelele.”
In the midst of all this blessing, something unforeseen happened that was to drastically change the course of our lives and of the functioning of the Mission. It started off by me going down with a bad bout of malaria on Friday 12 February (Martie’s birthday anniversary). What made it worse was that I mistook the symptoms for flu or some other minor ailment, with the result that the malaria got a head start of two days. However I responded well to the medication we had with us and by Monday, I was somewhat better and able to drive back to Nelspruit as previously planned.
Back “home”, I was surprised that I just could not quite recover. Come Thursday, I realized that something was seriously wrong with my stomach, and the next day Martie had to rush me to the hospital in a borrowed car for our pickup was in for repairs. By that time I had become delirious and knew very little of what was happening around me. Martie, wonderful Martie, apparently helped me to undress, put on pyjamas and put me to bed. A doctor promptly attended to me and treated me for an unknown intestinal viral infection. Countless litres of fluids without names were infused into my bloodstream while my mind was running around in circles.
In Mozambique, infections of this kind can be very serious and often result in death, as was the case with missionary friends of ours that were stationed some 90 km from Chinhacanine. Both husband and wife were much younger than us, in their 40s. On the second day after the wife started suffering from her stomach, her husband took her to the nearest hospital, at Chokwe, but was told that they could do nothing for her and that he had to rush her down to a hospital at Xai-Xai, some 20 km from Chokwe. He set off immediately but she passed away before they reached their destination. Apart from the terrible grief he had to bear, he was also burdened with the mountains of red tape and the astronomic costs involved to have her body removed from Mozambique to South Africa to be buried. This had to be done post-haste in that hot climate in the absence of refrigeration facilities. (With this in the back of my mind, whenever I fell ill in Mozambique, it was aggravated by the thought of what Martie would have to go through, should I pass away before managing to cross the border into South Africa.)
To be treated in South Africa in a hospital where the staff went about their duties in a very professional way, was like a foretaste of heaven, and once I knew what was happening around me, in between the waves of pain, I just kept on praising the Lord over and over for his great mercy in bringing me out of Mozambique and putting me in the hands of these caring angels. By Monday morning I had somewhat recovered and was able to discuss the situation with the specialist who was treating me. He told me that he himself had been a missionary in the Okavango Delta for three years but had to leave due to ill health, and because of my age and the fact that I had on three occasions suffered from serious intestinal disorder, advised me not to return to Mozambique at all.
When Martie came to visit me, I shared this with her and as we prayed about it, the Lord confirmed by his Spirit that this was it; our time to go into Mozambique in person, had come to an end and we were to find ways of sustaining the work from South Africa.
My first concern was that we would lose the financial and prayer support we had built up over the years. I immediately wrote a newsletter, informing our Mission friends of what had happened and encouraging them not to lose heart, thinking that this was the end of the Old Chap and of Rivoni; by no means. As God’s servant in Mozambique, I had been floored a couple of times but at the count of 6, a Hand from heaven had touched me again and again and I had bounced right back to my feet and the devil had fled to his corner.
Our second concern was to get our office staff to take over immediately from where we had left off. How grateful we were for the foresight we had had (worked by the Holy Spirit), to train them and to work out procedures, forms and returns to guide their footsteps along the way. There were, however, problems caused by our sudden departure. One of these was the fact that they had not been using the Internet and did not know how to communicate by e-mail since Martie and I had been doing this up till then. They did not even have a modem to connect to the Internet and would not be able to get one in Chokwe.
In this, the Lord helped me out and I found a taxi in Nelspruit that was going to Chokwe and was willing to take a modem and anti-virus program to our office at Chinhacanine. It arrived safely and within the next two weeks they set up an e-mail connection. From then on, we were in continuous contact with one another and they could send me copies of all their books and registers on an ongoing basis.
The Lord also provided people to go to Mozambique for 3 to 4 days at a time to assist our team in practical matters. A couple, Francois and Dot du Plessis, volunteered to do so. They were much younger than us and had led several teams into closed countries to spread the Good News, so they knew what they were up to. God always has his people ready. For every Moses, there is a Joshua.
Though there were risks involved in transferring our responsibilities to Carlos, Baloi and Nelson all at once, I felt at peace for I knew that Rivoni Mozambique was running on all 8 cylinders. Its Mozambican leadership and workers had been well trained and its structures and work procedures thoroughly developed. This was actually a very appropriate time for us two oldies to take just one step backward for a younger generation to feel at liberty to try their skills and flex their muscles.
Then of course, God was still in charge. He never abandons something He started. He delivered Israel from Egypt, then led them through the wilderness and right into the Promised Land. He founded Rivoni Ministries through two elderly people and He would mature it to full manhood. Praise be to His Name.
As soon as we were convinced that this was indeed the will of the Lord for the future, we made our last trip to Chinhacanine where we had toiled for almost 6 years and also lived for 3 ½ years. Once there, we moved into overdrive, sorting out the remaining computer and administrative problems. We also held a board meeting which included the local pastors, interviewed three new couples and accepted them to be trained to head up three more districts and then packed all our smaller items, leaving our furniture behind in the flat for Francois and other VIP’s to use when visiting Chin. We also left all our tools behind.
Then came the farewell function. The following is an extract from the closing address of our vice-director, Carlos:
“John, the Apostle of our Lord Jesus, was in exile at Patmos because of the Gospel when he wrote the Book of Revelation I am now studying. This Book is all about warning Christians that have grown apathetic and encouraging those that are faithfully enduring the struggles of this world. It reassures us that good will triumph over evil, it gives us hope as we face difficult times and provides guidance when we are wavering in our faith. I saw that the message of Christ to the churches is a message of hope for all believers in every generation. That is also what Oom Ben and Tannie Martie have been to us during the five years that we have been together. Like John they had spiritual eyes enabling them to see the Lord Jesus in the midst of the churches, strengthening them and warning them. For them, living in Mozambique was like having been exiled because of Christ, yet they have succeeded in their calling.”
I spoke on servanthood. Then, came the time to say goodbye. The less I say about that, the better, for to be uprooted from the daily presence of the people whom we had served for more than six years, from the soil where we had lived, toiled, prayed and shed so many tears, was such an intimate experience that one feels that words might just scar those tender memories. Let me therefore not belabour our grief and sorrow apart from saying that we will never ever forget the last morning when the caravan with our earthly possessions was hitched, the pickup’s engine idling and with us standing bedraggled in a little group with Carlos, Baloi and others, the tears streaming down Carlos’s cheeks, Baloi’s face etched with sorrow and the question “why” in his troubled eyes. “Why was there always a day of parting for people that had come to love one another? Why was there a grave at the end of every road, why, why, why?” Yes we knew the theological answers very well, but that did not lessen any of the pain.
For the last time we travelled through Chokwe, down to Macia, then on to Maputo. Again for the last time we went through the Rosano Garcia and Komatipoort border posts, arriving at our flat in Nelspruit in the late afternoon, physically and emotionally exhausted. This was on 12 April 2011.
In the meantime, since 15 February when I fell ill, another important event had occurred. As I sat watching the television one Sunday evening, the phone rang and I was surprised to hear the voice of a niece of mine living in the Philippolis district. She told me that they had a house in Philippolis which had been vacant for many years and which they had just recently renovated. It was almost fully furnished. She wanted to know whether we would not be interested to come and live there. The thought did not really appeal to me but I promised to think it over. I discussed it with Martie and the longer we thought about it, the more sense it made, for we would save R5000 per month on rent and in managing and directing the Mission electronically by means of e-mail and SMSs, the distance from Mozambique would make no difference at all. It might even have been a blessing in disguise, for we would not be so easily tempted to rush back in and give practical assistance should our team experience problems. We travelled down to Philippolis, stayed over in the house for a couple of days to get a feeling of it, then returned to Nelspruit, convinced that the Lord wanted us to make this move.
So, the very next day, after arriving at Nelspruit from Mozambique, we stuffed the rest of our belongings into the already full caravan and pickup and set off for Philippolis, some 917km from there. Since we left Nelspruit in the late afternoon, we only got as far as Bethal (260km) where we parked and sat sleeping in the pickup till near daybreak when we continued to Philippolis.
After setting up our office and buying a few extra pieces of furniture during the next few days, the reality of the radical change that we were about to experience, hit me head on. I remember cycling out on those quiet district dirt roads, stopping in the middle of nowhere, sitting down and just thinking of the future. Many questions were going through my mind such as: “Who am I now?” “Where am I going?” I brought these before the Lord, expecting Him to come back to me with some extraordinary revelation, but what He said was simply this: “In the year 1971 while you were attending a camp, I called you into my full-time service and that call still stands, so it is up to you to decide what you are going to do about it.” As simple as that! Though I did not, at that stage, see the road ahead quite clearly, at least it was a tremendous relief just to know that there was a road ahead, that I had not come to a cul-de-sac, without any further purpose in life.
Have you ever seen the routine in your daily living as a blessing? When asked the question: “Do you love routine?” most people would answer right away: “No, I don’t; it is a burden to me; it is boring.” But have you ever considered the blessing contained in it? Not having to plan one’s days, day by day, minute by minute, is a blessing in disguise. Just to know that: “I must get up at five, have my quiet time, shower and get dressed, have breakfast at 6:30, take the bus at 6:45, walk into my office at 7:30, open my e-mail and answer it in order of importance,” makes life so much less complicated. I however, had to write my own job description from scratch and change it week by week. As I did so, the Lord guiding my steps, my future became clearer.
First of all we realised that retiring and settling in a comfortable little thatched cottage on a windswept sand dune at Lambert’s Bay, was definitely not on the cards. During the days and weeks following our arrival at Philippolis, we were actually moving ahead as fast as ever to keep the Mozambique Mission on track. At times we felt like two children on a tractor tube, swept down a river, swirling around in the current, bouncing over rocks or ducking under overhanging branches, but what mattered in the end was, that we were making very good progress.
In Mozambique too, the team was feeling the pressure. Carlos, as Field Director, was suddenly catapulted into the hot chair where I had been sitting for about 6 years, organizing, planning, counselling and making decisions. Initially he faced enormous challenges in getting his and Nelson’s e-mail and internet service going properly, for it collapsed every now and then. Scanning in of documents and taking photos of the buildings that were being erected, then compressing and forwarding them to us, initially also caused him many headaches, and also frustration for us for we had to explain all these procedures by e-mail or SMS but, after 2 ½ months we were beginning to smile and relax for the sweet smell of victory was in the air.
Under Carlos’s supervision, an ablution block was completed, as well as a new toilet. This would bring great relief for there was only one toilet and one washing room that at times were shared among more than 20 people.
On the spiritual side, we also had reason to rejoice, for our number of students was continually increasing so that we now had 478 enrolled students with 389 (81%) regularly attending classes. (Some, especially the men, sometimes left for South Africa in search of jobs and those that did find employment, had their wives joining them, causing us to lose some of our enrolled students). These figures, to my mind, compare favourably with home groups/caring groups/cell groups of churches in South Africa.
Encouraging testimonies were also received regularly, for instance: when brother Américo started with a class at Chicualacuala, a certain pastor declined his invitation to join it, saying that he knew the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. During the next Sunday morning service, an interesting incident occurred. Noticing one of his members that was enrolled as a student, the pastor asked him to share what they had learned at the Rivoni classes. (He was actually trying to make fun of him in front of the congregation.) The student responded by asking him a question in turn, namely: “Do you know what God created on the first day?” The pastor laughed at him, then said: “Heaven and earth.” The Rivoni student replied: “Wrong! God created light on the first day.” Because of this embarrassment, the pastor went to inquire whether there still was a space for him to join the class. Brother Américo of course welcomed him. So, when the next class began, there he was. God be praised!
Another testimony came from Carlos, telling us about an experience he had had: “We have lately had Zionist groups joining our classes. As you may know, they are very Old Testament orientated, majoring on colourful cloaks, ropes and staffs connecting with Moses and the priests. One day I carefully explained to one of their pastors, the difference between the Old Testament Covenant which the Lord had made with Abraham and Israel and His New Testament Covenant with us as Christians. Suddenly light dawned on him, but instead of rejoicing, he got so angry with me saying: ‘Why have you only now come to explain this to us? We have been kept in the dark all these years! I have made so many mistakes in teaching my congregation.’”
At Philippolis I was now applying about 80% of my time to deal with checking the registers forwarded to us by e-mail, such as the bank summary, cash summary, reconciliation statement, cash flow account, sub-account records for the different districts, “graduation” register, classes register, trip logs and expenses registers for the Ford and the Fadade motorcycle, etc. Add to that the monthly budget, budgets for the buildings and reports regarding the spiritual work that was taking place all over, and it amounted to a workload that kept us busy even during the evenings and over weekends. Martie was gradually having to bear a major share of this by seeing to it that all these registers and reports were received and ready for me to check.
Apart from the work pertaining to Mozambique, we were getting more and more involved with the local missionary work at Philippolis, regularly meeting with a number of people on Wednesday afternoons and visiting churches and farm meetings on Sundays. We were really excited about the way things were opening up for us to plant a work in this district, similar to what we did in Mozambique.
During the year 2011, Francois also visited our Mozambique team for 3 to 4 days at a time during June, August, October and November, once accompanied by his wife Dot, and at another time by one of our board members. During these visits he rendered all kinds of practical assistance like doing electrical installations, giving advice in regard to the erection of buildings, etc. He also did much by way of encouraging our team members and speaking on my behalf at meetings.
These visits were a real sacrifice. On returning home to Pretoria, usually on a Sunday, he had to travel more than 800 km, arriving at home by 11 pm or later, then had to be up by 4.20 the next morning to be in time for work. He also bought a double-cab four-wheel drive pickup from his own funds and normally also bore most of the travelling expenses himself. What wonderful co-workers the Lord gave us to hold up our arms.
Our board member, Fanie, was deeply touched during his visit to Chinhacanine. He phoned me when he got home and told me that he had seldom in his life been so deeply blessed and when the time came to return home, he felt that he would rather have remained there with Carlos, Baloi and the team.
On 23 November (2011), Francois and Dot took a whole group of people from South Africa, who were interested in the work we were doing, including the pastor of his congregation and two seasoned missionaries from Jericho Walls International Prayer Network. They ministered to our team, praying for every teacher and student. That Friday morning they all attended our year-end function when 27 students and the three trainee couples received their certificates.
Another incident that had really blessed my heart during that year, concerned a small group of eight students that had successfully completed their first year course at a little village called Chate, way out in the bush. This was a very special victory for the Cross. Some 12 months earlier, these people had heard the good reports regarding the discipleship classes our district superintendent, Gloria Simango, was running at Manjangue and sent a deputation requesting her to come over and do the same for them.
I clearly remember the day when, accompanied by Gloria, we followed the winding tracks for 12 km till we eventually reached Chate. And there they were, a group of people gathered like the household of Cornelius, ready and full of expectation to hear the Good News of Salvation.
The decision whether or not we were to accept the challenge, was mine. What troubled me was that Gloria would have to make a weekly trip by irregular public transport, mostly overloaded lorries, on which she would have to perch on top of the swaying baggage. Would she be safe? Could she persevere for a year? Her eyes pleaded with me for a “Yes” answer and so did those of the little group of people before me. Inside of me the Holy Spirit confirmed that their request met with God’s favour and so, with a three to one majority, I could not but look up to heaven and say: “Yes, let’s do it”. And now we saw the fruit: 8 “Chatians” having successfully completed their course on the Old Testament and, what was more, they now knew for certain that they had been born into the Kingdom of God.
THE LORD DIRECTS THE FOOTSTEPS OF A RIGHTEOUS MAN.
BLESSED BE HIS NAME!
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