We thought we would be going to Xai Xai at 10am and we were finally on our way by 1.30pm! We visited a parish just outside of Xai Xai – Chicumbane – where a few people had gathered to sing us a welcome. Greetings were exchanged and we moved on to the next parish Mazangane, where the choir sang for us and we were greeted by Pastor Rosa and all given and dressed in kapulanas. Two different families had offered us accommodation and again we were made most welcome and enjoyed lovely meals.
Today was the highlight of the trip for Meg because she was reunited with Rosa and her daughters who she stayed with four years ago. The girls ran to greet and hug Meg; it was very moving to watch.
We left them together while we visited Rosa’s churches, two of which have new building projects to replace their traditional reed churches which are too small and not much use in the rainy season and not a cement mixer to be seen! It’s good to see the need to expand and we hope and pray that this trend will continue. One of them was very close to the beach so we took the opportunity to dip our toes into the Indian Ocean.
Had we known what was to follow we wouldn’t have had lunch since we found the hospitality of church people overwhelming. At Bethlehem parish we ate at 4pm then again at Bart’s house in Chicumbane at 7pm, then more food was served by our hosts. We all felt like we had eaten for Northern Synod! Meg and Helen’s host – Susanna, a member in Bethlehem parish, is a nurse who works for World Vision – a charity that supports many of the poor in Mozambique. As a family they have given a home to Milane who lost her father and whose mother is blind. The hope is that she will learn enough to eventually support her mother and younger siblings. We found her situation really moving and it has led to many discussions between us about the best way – if there is one – to assist those in need. Once again, our day was filled with singing, prayer, greetings, gifts and joy!
Meg got up very early this morning for a final visit to Rosa’s where she met up with Americo, Rosa’s husband, as he was in Maputo yesterday. Rosa was very keen to hear news of people she had met in the East Cleveland group of churches when she visited in 2012. We were sad to leave Xai Xai but we were looking forward to arriving at Ricatla for a children’s choir competition. The purpose was not to win but to learn how to sing songs from their hymn books properly, though you wouldn’t have thought that from the reaction of the children after the results! It was inspirational to see over 20 children’s choirs from churches in the south of Mozambique, and at least 2000 people from IPM gathered to support and enjoy the day; we even recognised a few faces. Again, seeing so many young people learning to sing unaccompanied in harmony and loving to praise God together has led us to think a lot about how Northern Synod churches could learn from African Christians to attract and maintain the interest of children and young people through more lively music in our worship. We recognise that those churches with bands and lively songs are doing just that! The day finished with a farewell meal with Ernesto, Carlos and their families.