Happy 131st Birthday, Mozambique Free Methodist Church!

by Phyllis Sortor, Nigeria

131 years of FMC in MozIn the year 2016, on Sunday, July 31, we celebrated the 131st anniversary of the Free Methodist Church in Mozambique. One thousand people attended the activities on Saturday; another one thousand were expected this day. Within the school compound were dozens of individual tents, one large, sleeping tent each for men and women, an “executive” dining tent and finally the enormous tent of meeting. There was a lean-to kitchen where during the course of these three days, two cows, one pig, four goats, over one hundred chickens, sixty kilos of fish and over a hundred kilos of corn for wuswa, were prepared to feed us all.

Sunday … Bishop Uanela, Belia and I went to meet Administrator Lucas Antonio Simbine at his home in Inharrime to await the arrival of Governor Chapo and his entourage. Many dignitaries were waiting with us: the Frelimo Party Secretaries for both Inharrime and the Province of Inhambane, the former diplomatic consul to Germany who was also the first Mozambican ambassador to South Africa working closely with Nelson Mandela, the Director General of the Religious Association of Mozambique sent by President Nyusi to represent him. All of these are friends of Bishop Uanela, invited by him to this occasion.

Finally the Governor’s convoy arrived: three vehicles, two of which were filled with soldiers. I was thrilled to see, when he stepped out of the car, that the Governor had come with his wife, their five children and a nanny! Again I was struck by the sheer physical size of the man! He is so tall! And from the little I now know of him, I can say that the Governor’s heart for the mission of the Church easily matches his lofty stature!

After breakfast we drove in convoy to Inhamachafo, where over a thousand people lined the roads to welcome the Governor. At the Evangelist School, the youth choir from Maputo serenaded him as the Governor walked the reception line, shaking hands.

“Hi wena Ivangeli, hi wena Ivangeli. U hi klanganisile, Ivangeli.”

“It’s you, Evangelism, it’s you, Evangelism. You have brought us together, Evangelism.”

Gov of Inhambane Province lays first stone of new ... InhamachaforAmid great formality, the Governor laid the first block of the new agricultural arm of the Evangelist School and formally opened the work, then after giving an interview to the press, he led the way into the meeting tent.

People were there from all over Mozambique, from Zimbabwe and South Africa, Nigeria and the Congo. Brother Timoti from Beira gave a three-hour historical account of the Free Methodist Church in Mozambique, naming missionaries, then evangelists and pastors, dates and postings and anecdotes, from the beginning of the work to the end. The audience was captivated; no one got up to leave. After a short message by Bishop Chauke of Zimbabwe, there were speeches from every dignitary and congratulatory letters to the Free Methodist Church Mozambique from around the world, including a letter from our own Bishop David W. Kendall which I had the privilege of reading to the congregation. I was also given the opportunity to speak, as the daughter of one of the former Evangelist School Directors, Dr. Victor Macy, representing the many missionaries who had served at Inhamachafo and in Mozambique as a whole. I spoke in Xitswa, with my main message, “Thank you. Thank you for being faithful with the precious gift of the Gospel which the missionaries placed into your hands.”

Joel Sam Gudu, Phyllis and Bishop

Joel Sam Gudu, Phyllis and Bishop

A young lawyer named Joel Sam Gudu and his brother Edouardo stood, representing their grandfather, Rev. Sam Gudu, one of the first graduates of the Evangelist School. Joel said his family now is made up of doctors, lawyers, government officials and ministers and gave all the credit to the Church. He talked at length about his grandfather Sam Gudu, how he rode about on a donkey sent with the message of peace, singing as he went. When Joel and Edouardo sang their grandfather’s favorite song there wasn’t a dry eye in the congregation.

A journalist, Tomas Jane, stood and told us, “Let’s look carefully at the education given to us in the past, both Christian and secular education. Joel Sam Gudu told us that many in his family are doctors, lawyers and engineers. If our parents, the missionaries, had not taught us, how could we have reached this level? Now it is time for us to teach others. The Church must look carefully at this matter of education.

“Look at the buildings the missionaries left us. They are sick! We must rebuild them! The buildings at Mavile are sick! Komeni was the first mission station; two missionaries died there, Mrs. Harry Agnew and Rev. Haviland; their graves are there. We don’t forget our loved ones who have passed away; we don’t turn our backs to the gifts they gave us. Not only the buildings, but the education, the Gospel they passed into our hands! We must go forward! We must care for and value what the missionaries gave us! We cannot teach in broken down buildings! Let us rebuild!”

Administrator Simbine spoke at length, promising full support for the new agricultural school and the rebuilding of the Evangelist School. He told the youth choir to change the words of their song from “Inhamachafo is bush, producing good things,” to “Inhamachafo is a fertile garden producing good things!”

Governor Chapo stood and preached from Joshua 1: 1-8. “God used Moses to bring Israel out of Egypt,” he said. “God uses people to free and save the poor. When Moses left for the Promised Land the Israelites started grumbling against him.

“You brought us out of Egypt,” they told him, “where we had food. Here in the desert we have nothing. You should have left us in Egypt. Now, compare Eduardo Mondlane to Moses. (Mondlane was the founding President of the Mozambican Liberation Front, FRELIMO.) Like Moses, Mondlane never reached the Promised Land. He never saw independence. When Moses died, God raised up Joshua. When Mondlane died, God raised up another to free our people, Samora Machel, whose father was a Free Methodist pastor. Machel became the first President of Mozambique in 1975. The Israelites spent 40 years in the desert; here in Mozambique we are into 40 years of independence but it seems we’re still in the desert. As Mozambicans we must work to get out of this desert. To get to the Promised Land. We must not turn back to Egypt. Listen to your leaders; get up and work together to bring a new level of education to your people. We are together with you. Let us move forward together.

“We have heard and seen what the missionaries have given us, let us hold these gifts very close to our hearts. We have seen the fruits of their labor: 21,000 members in the Free Methodist Church. Now it’s our time to go forward and produce like fruit, so that future generations will look back, see and value what we have done.

Governor and his family

Governor and his family

“All these blessings will come on you and accompany you,” the Governor quoted from Deuteronomy 28:2, “if you obey the Lord your God.”

Governor Chapo turned and nodded at his wife and children who quickly went to stand next to him. Then as a family they presented a special song prepared for this occasion.

The big birthday cake was brought out, cut and eaten, then Bishop Uanela closed the service with prayer. Dessert came before lunch that day, because there was still a celebratory meal awaiting us in the executive dining room! After the meal, I knew the Governor would disappear quickly, so I asked him if he’d like a quick tour through an historic mission house before going back to Jangamo, and he agreed! So it was that we walked to Arkiseni together, followed by the entourage. And I took Governor Chado through our house, giving him the grand tour, telling him the stories, showing him cupboards and woodwork over one hundred years old and in perfect condition, showing him Esther Clemens’ piano, Mom’s sewing machine, Dad’s office with some of his books still on the shelves.

Evangelist School

Evangelist School

At the end of the tour, the Governor turned to Administrator Simbine and said, “Replace windows, doors and screens and any rotted floor boards in this house. We must preserve it as an historic monument to the missionaries of old and the gift of the Gospel and education they have given to us. Repair these mission houses, rebuild the Evangelist School, build an agricultural arm of the school. Hold carefully what we’ve been given so we can pass it on to future generations.”

Click here to read Phyllis’ full account.

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