Gateshead ministers Gordon and Elaine Brown are spending the second leg of their sabbatical in Mozambique, as guests of our partner church, the Presbyterian Church of Mozambique.
This is the first of their reports back, written at the end of their first week.
Monday, 3rd February.
Arrived Saturday Night, day and half late after delayed flight. Sunday went to special service to welcome Pastor Ernesto Langa into a new parish. Lots of visitors, Synod dignitaries, family and people from his previous parish swelled the congregation. And swelled the singing! A wonderful, rousing beginning to our visit.
Today is a Public Holiday so we rest, then some sight-seeing…
Friday, 6th February.
Returned last night from taking part in opening sessions of an annual Ministers’ Retreat; a 5-day period of reunion, rest and reflection at the start of the year, held in a village, Magude, some two hours drive from Maputo. This year, the new President of Synod, Revd Obede Baloi, elected in November 2014, has chosen to focus on formulating a 5-year plan, seeking to discern the new things God wants of the Church.
The outward journey gave an opportunity to see some of the countryside, crops and way of life. We are reminded of our previous years in West Africa; so much familiar though different; Mozambique is not Nigeria and there are definite Southern European touches from past colonial influence. One similarity is African time, for which much patience and good humour is required.
Arriving under the awning to shield everyone from the fierce sun, we experienced a baptism of fire as having metand memorised names of a small number of synod staff, we were suddenly surrounded by pastors, spouses, youth workers and evangelists from parishes around the country. Sadly, many were unable to travel as a result of severe flooding in the centre and north of Mozambique. After lunch, introductions, and some hesitant conversation as our Portuguese took a steep learning curve, we proceeded to opening worship in the church. It was led by Revd Rosa Zavala who had visited Northern Synod On a ministerial exchange with Meg Robb.
We were introduced and invited to speak of our ministry and of the challenges to the church in our URC Northern Synod. Then everyone moved outside, gathering round under the shade of large trees and fired questions at us – the pastor interpreting had a busy time – but it was a relaxed and friendly time of sharing. Later, after dinner, we travelled along an unlit road to our accommodation, looking up at stars of the Southern Hemisphere. Our night’s sleep was only a little disturbed by a violent but mercifully short thunderstorm.
Next day we were immersed in lively group debate after bible study on the passage selected for the theme, Revelation 21:1-5. Groups of 15-20 discussed set questions before a time of feedback then it was time for lunch and for us to return to the capital.
The homeward journey took somewhat longer as we were accompanied by the treasurer who had some shopping to do for the next days’ s meals, which meant we had a tour of the many markets around Maputo and a demonstration of her bargaining skills.