In March this year we made a visit to Mozambique for about 10 days with the purpose of assessing the impact of the gospel and the strength of the assembly work in the central region between Blantyre in Malawi and Beira on the Mozambique coast. During this visit we were very happy to be in the company of David and Grace Croudace and a Malawian evangelist called Bitten, all of whom had made previous visits to that area and had some good contacts whch we were able to follow up.
Our first impression was that the country was very much more developed than we had anticipated, and certainly over the area we travelled the roads were not too bad by African standards. Fuel was available every 200 miles or so, which made life much easier. Following the cessation of the civil war with Renamo fighting against the government, the country is making good strides in rebuilding itself.
We travelled long distances through countryside which was largely devoid of people, with the exception of three centres at Tete, Chimoio, and Beira itself. At Tete there is a small assembly, but we were unable to gather with them due to complications regarding the late granting of visas. Tete was an extremely hot town in the Zambezi valley, and the ground was very arid. We managed to meet up with two of the brethren who were travelling south to the capital for a conference about 1,500 miles away, by bus. Due to the cost involved, David gave them some help with this.
We crawled into Chimoio after a long drive, and managed to get accommodation in a very unlikely looking hotel building. The accomodation was quite clean, and the food was passable, although ordering in Portuguese could only be done with frequent references to the travellers phrase book and accompanied with what we hoped were well understood international gestures. We were so tired we would have slept standing up. Hot water for a shower was a great bonus. The people we met here were very happy to accept tracts. It seemed that the gospel outreach in this area was not huge. At a fuel station we met an African-American brother with the Baptist Church. He had served the Lord in Brazil for some years and so was fluent in Portugese. He explained that his approach is to organise Bible studies for those who are interested in various large villages within about 100 miles of his base at Chimoio. He has a circuit which he does each week. We also learned from him the difficulties in obtaining suitable accommodation as it is not permissable for an expatriate to own property in the country.
We arrived at Beira the following day after some rough tar roads which had disintergrated into pot holes and rubble. The town, however, was quite a surprise to us as it was possible to exchange money easily through the banks and buy most things at a price. We managed to meet up with Bitten and John who helped us in the organising of meetings and in the translation of the messages. John was a Mozambiquan brother who, despite his blindness, holds a job as a full time English teacher in Beira. His English was learned when he attended a mission school in Blantyre, Malawi.
The first group we met with lived about 20 miles outside Beira in a village. These had been contacted on a previous visit by the Croudaces and had been visited from time to time by Bitten. They were a small company, and we gathered with them in the shade of the mango trees and shared the Word of God. We managed to find a youth, who had a Portuguese New Testament, and he read for us after which we gave the message. There were no hymnbooks, and a very simple chorus was sung repeatedly using a village drum and two pieces of wood beaten together to keep some sense of timing. I did not detect that these folks had much knowledge of the Scriptures, and it made me appreciate even more the benefits of teaching children in the Sunday School.
The second group we met with were mostly blind, and here John our translator had been the main point of contact. We travelled to their village on Easter Sunday, and just as we emerged from the vehicle the rain started. We discovered a very simple building which was to be constructed in the traditional style using mud and wattle. Unfortunately there was no mud on the split bamboo poles, and no roof save the bamboo lattice. Even if they had a roof, there were no seats, so we would be rather dirty by the end of the meeting. One family offered the use of their little mud hut, and we all crowded into a room little more that nine square metres in area. It was dark inside, and very hot with little ventilation. Those sitting in the doorway with the rain coming down their necks were fortunate. At least they had cooling! Again we shared a simple gospel message with them, having sung some hymns on our own, to try and build the contact with them. The villagers were very keen to accept tracts, and so we took the opportunity to distribute as many as possible. We left feeling that the work was huge, and wondering how such poorly educated people could be given more than just a passing visit.
The third and final group we met with was in a township just outside Beira at the home of a new Christian called Mr Butterfly. His wife was saved before he was, and then just about the time that he retired from the bank, he also trusted the Lord. He had invited some friends to join us in the shade of his back yard, and we had a simple meeting with them. He said that we needed to stay for several weeks to make an impact, and I did not doubt him. Since that visit at Easter time, David and Grace Croudace have returned with Bitten, and have visited these places once again.
The central part of Mozambique had some good assembly work which was carried out previously when the late Arthur Hallet visited the country from nearby Zimbabwe. Since those days, it seems that there has been quite a marked drift in direction of many of these groups, although we did not manage to meet with any of them due to shortage of time.
Since that visit in April of this year, David and Grace Croudace have returned and had further contacts with these groups. Do pray for the work and for more workers for this very needy but open part of the world.