Saturday, September 20, 2008

Ten days of life and ministry in Mozambique
By Dwight Lagore

3:40 AM came far too quickly! As I did my best to carefully roll out of bed, my wrist watch alarm started beeping for the 3rd time. I hurried to silence it so as not to wake Lynn who certainly did not need to be up at this early hour. It only took a few seconds for the pain in my arm to register. It was swollen and blue, but not nearly as bad as I thought it might me. I breathed a prayer of thanks again because the experience of last afternoon’s fire could have been so much worse.

Kim Lagore, my niece who is visiting thought that it would be fun for the group, which included Lynn, Rick and Heather Neufeld (a young couple who have joined us to serve God and the people of Mozambique), and myself to go for lunch together after church as a farewell meal since I would be gone for 10 days visiting our extension leadership training schools along the Zambezi river. While we waited and waited and waited some more for our food, we reminisced about Rick and Heather’s first experience visiting a rural Mozambican church. The meal had just arrived when my phone rang unexpectedly; it is still hard getting used to having cell phone coverage in our area, although it has already been 3 months since they turned the tower on. It was our guard Horacio, “Pastor there is a fire on the North boundary. Come quickly”.

Rick and I finished up our food and left the girls to catch a ride with some friends on a neighboring farm who had shown up for lunch as well. As we sped toward the mission farm all I could think of was how much I had to still pack up and do before leaving early the next morning and fighting fires is always a long, hot and dirty experience. I breathed a prayer and willfully committed myself to face up to whatever the coming hours would bring.

As we pulled into the mission farm entry I could see the black smoke rising. The fire had clearly crossed our boundary fire break, so stopping it was going to be all but impossible. We quickly changed clothes, picked up an axe and rushed to join our guards. As we pulled up to where they were desperately beating the flames, it was clear they were not making much progress. The fire was being encouraged along by gusts of hot wind. This combined with the long, bone-dry grass created a very determined, very resilient inferno.

Both Rick and I threw ourselves into the fight; beating back the fire with branches cut from the few bushes that seem to stay green regardless of extreme drought at this time of the year. It happened so quickly. One second I thought I was gaining ground, the next there was a “whoosh” and I was engulfed in flames. All I could think was to try to run and then roll if I could get away from the flames. I tripped twisted my arm as I fell on it awkwardly but thankfully the fire around me was out as quickly as it had started. Rick was there ready to assist and seemed as grateful as I was that I was not on fire! Limping, with a hurting arm and a fair amount of singed hair, I made for the boundary and called our guards along with Rick and couple of our other staff, Charles and Gabriel who live near-by and had come to help out. This was far too dangerous; we had to find another way to try to contain the fire.

I remembered that about 20 meters back up our fence line a path had been left for our community to enter the property and walk down to the river for water lifted out of holes dug in the now dry river bed. This was likely the only chance we had to stop this fire. As we ran back toward the path I knew we would need a miracle and I prayed, “Lord if you could, please send us a breeze from the opposite way to help us.” Even while I willed myself to pray I struggled with my weak faith and doubts. Someone I read recently said, “Faith is not so much the absence of doubt as it is the presence of action.” As I stepped into the path, I distinctly felt a cool breeze touch my right cheek. Excitedly I told everyone to help me light the grass along the path so it could burn back against the fire coming toward us. Others ran ahead all the way down to dry river bed 500 odd meters down the hill and helped light the grass all the way. That was it. The breeze that had suddenly changed slowed the other fire and pushed the fire we had lit straight into the oncoming blaze extinguishing the fire as the two fires met!

“You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them and you listen to their cry” (Psalm 10:17). My theme for the seminars we were to hold this coming week as we travelled to seven centrally located extension leadership schools, was the powerful effect of encouragement and the importance of cultivating this critical skill in our lives and ministries. The Lord had heard my cry and sent us an encouraging breeze. Interestingly, the New Testament word for encouragement is “parakaleo” (Romans 12:8), which is very similar in meaning to “parakletos” or “comfortor,” the name Jesus used to designate the Holy Spirit who “would come along-side to help, to comfort, to teach, to encourage”. Wind is also a type of the Holy Spirit who breathes on us and into us bringing life and power for witness and service.

As I write this, we have visited 5 extension schools and almost as many orphan programs. Although my heart has been torn again by the desperate physical need of so many people, especially the children and old people, I have also been so encouraged. In Chueza an elderly pastor who recently lost his wife, and two widowed ladies (one the widow of the community leader in the area), asked me to please stop by their hut for prayer. It was the last group of huts on the right as I left the village and could not miss it. As we pulled up they were waiting. We walked into the dimly lit, dank smelling room and joined hands. The intensity and emotion of their fervent prayers touched me deeply, and they were not praying for themselves, rather for the close to 60 orphan children they have been burdened to serve in whatever ways they can.
As we drove from there South East paralleling the great Zambezi river we came to a community called Zombwe where Pastor Ricardo (the coordinator of our extension leadership training program) asked that I please stop. On his way through here a couple months back he had been stranded due to no vehicles going further, so had to find somewhere to sleep. A local pastor welcomed him and Pastor Pires, one of our monitors, to stay the night. As they entered the home they encountered the mother of the home sadly holding her little girl. They had travelled all the way to Mutarara to the hospital with the child, but she was now worse than ever. The young girl was barely breathing, certainly not talking and most definitely unable to walk. Pires and Ricardo prayed for the young girl at the invitation of the family and then prepared themselves to sleep. That night Ricardo had a dream of the child walking and specifically walking into church the next morning (which was a Sunday). As they rose, the mother had taken the little girl out into the nearby bush to assist her with a bowl movement. Her mother then took her into the grass enclosure to bath her. All at once she looked up at mom and said, “I want to get up and walk mom”. And she did. As she walked back toward the house Ricardo was amazed to see his dream coming true. The little girl then walked into church later that morning and worshipped.

We had hardly pulled up to the home, when the little girl, Brendita, still not walking perfectly, came out to meet the vehicle with a huge smile.
When she saw Pastor Ricardo, tears rolled down her cheeks as she ran to grab his hand. She led us in to the yard of the home where her father the pastor and her mother told us the whole story. Clearly something dramatic had happened and God was getting the praise! As we entered the church to pray with the family I noticed something tied around the little girls’ neck. After prayer I saw that it was an amulet placed there, likely by a local witch doctor. I could not help myself. As I tugged on it I quietly asked the little girl what it was. “Oh this she said”, quite disgustedly, “I think we should pull it off and throw it in the fire” Nervous laughter came from the mother and father who had obviously tried to hedge her bets with the witch-doctor to deal with the remaining deficiency in her daughters leg. If the sun had been down, the light in this little girls face would have been quite enough to light up that little church. I was amazed at how intuitive it had been for her to identify with strength, take the decision her father pastor should have taken weeks ago when the amulet was tied on. But that is not a little girls place in this culture, that is until other pastors and a white guy come along who can help to see the sillyness of a miraculous healing followed up by a fearful doubting parent trusting in some home-made amulet!

I was encouraged again of the critical importance of our presence here in Mozambique and of the desperate need for trained and equipped local pastors to be present and resident in every community boldly proclaiming and demonstrating the truth that sets people free! “And a little child shall lead them” (Isaiah 11:6). What a powerful witness to the presence of the Kingdom in the life of this little girl!

Thursday saw us in Sinjal, the community where some of you may remember a few years back had only grass seed and small green bananas to eat. We landed there then assisted by Mercy Air with their helicopter and found a tragic scene. This year the floods were bad as well destroying much of their food production, and as we travelled on to Mutarara with the community leader who requested a ride, he shared how just two months back he had lost is 9 year old son to a crocodile just a few yards from his home fence. The flood waters had come to the edge of the village and the crocodiles with them. Many people had been lost to crocodiles this year. In fact just this week 7 people were in a canoe crossing the Zambezi close to here when a crocodile attacked and turned over the boat. Although 6 made it to safety, a pregnant lady lost her life to the obviously hungry crocodile.

Friday we travelled North toward the Malawi border to a town called Dovo. A group of 30 pastors are studying here and because they represent two different areas, they have started two orphan programs and are doing amazingly.
The newest program, only a few months old, was initiated by a new student of ours. Tiago (James) I found out actually graduated from a 16 book course with the Apostolic church but is excited to be studying again and also participating in caring for orphans along with 7 other churches.

The signs of the Kingdom are everywhere as spontaneous love, compassion, service and persevering faith stand up to and overcome so much harsh difficulty in this world of hunger, limited supplies, and little outside help.

I really felt I could use a good bed and a good sleep after all these nights on the road sleeping in mosquito infested little places with no running water, cold bucket baths and cockroaches crunching under ones feet. We found a spot open in Mutarara at Dona Mina’s place. Well I must admit I woke up this morning not feeling the best. Besides my twisted arm that was now hurting worse than ever, everything else also hurt (or at least it felt like it). The bed I found out had only three support boards meaning I was falling through the mattress in all kinds of weird ways all night while trying to sleep. At 4 AM the entire community, who had obviously had plenty of sleep, were chatting and chittering at the top of their lungs right outside my window where it just so happens the water source for the community was located! If this was not bad enough, I had the maid serving my room knocking on the door incessantly forcing me to drag my damaged and hurting body to the door at 5:30 AM to tell her I really did not need a bucket of water at this unreasonable hour of the morning!

The day brightened substantially when after a cup of coffee we were scheduled to visit the orphan program at Bawe, about 10 or so km away. We arrived to the excited and warm greeting songs of the children. I then shared the story of Samuel as the orphans and other children who joined acted out Samuel sleeping, suddenly awaking when his name was called, running to Eli only to be told to go back to bed. The kids loved it, and I do trust the message stuck that God is looking for young hearts (and older ones too) to speak to if we will only listen and acknowledge His still quiet voice when he calls.
From there we met with a pastors fraternal led by our monitor in the area, Pastor Toca. Pastor Toca bragged how that he could not even read or write when he joined Faith Bible Seminary (our training program), but as he studied with us, God has made him now able to teach others to read and write and teach them His Word as well. We further introduced the training program to them and answered questions. They were excited and asked us to come back and preach for their combined service. I am confident God will give us the words we need to encourage them and motivate them to enroll in studies.

We arrived Sunday morning, back in Baue, to a church building that was filling rapidly, and wondered how they expected everyone to fit in. As the small building filled, two of the leaders untied the bark ropes holding the back of the church together and swung open two makeshift ends to open the church up immediately expanding it. Conservatively we shared with at least 300 people and by 2 PM when the service ended there were people seated all around the outside of the building, even though there was no shade. I am always amazed by the hunger for God’s Word.
Monday we are in Nyangoma, Tuesday in Murrumbala and then it is home to get back to house building before the heavy rains hit this year. I am so grateful for Jesus promise that He is with us and will be until the end of the age. What strength and encouragement we can draw from He, who is the way, the truth and the life.

I am now home working hard with our team on the house that has had to play second fiddle to all the other ministry. Thank you so much for your ongoing prayers and constant faithful support.