Sunday, September 6, 2009

"Endure hardship"

Although I am certain any hardship I have had to endure does not equate with that suffered by the Apostle Paul or Timothy to whom these words were written, our tours to visit our extension schools and orphan programs certainly take us away from the “comforts” of home. And as we spend time again with these men and women studying with us who provide leadership to the churches and communities they serve, it is clear that they certainly do endure much hardship as they seek to survive and work in difficult conditions.

Our hardship at the start of our 9 day tour was somewhat less this time around as we had the privilege of driving across the brand spanking new bridge over the Zambezi river.

Although the cost is the same, in the past we would have had to drive a dirt track to the river’s edge and wait (for at times up to two hours) for the ferry to take us across. This time we paid our money and just drove across a bridge that for most of us westerners would not look like anything too dramatic except that this bridge is in the middle of Mozambique, and for the first time joins Northern Mozambique with Southern Mozambique in a very “concrete” way saving travelers and transporters many hours of delay. It took the goodwill and many millions of dollars of donor help (about 80 million to be exact) but what a blessing.

Our tour in the Zambezia province took us to our most northern school in a place called Posto Shiri. Here I remembered again why I should have asked to have BF Goodrich All Terrain tires put on when purchasing this vehicle. Here is another tire destroyed with side-wall damage from a stump. And out here, this now means we have another 7 days of the trip with no spare tire unless I can have it “fixed” as a backup.

Thankfully I found a side road tire place in Mutarara that was able to do a makeshift fix which gave us at least the peace of mind of a back up tire.

As we arrived in Sinjal, another very remote school, we felt like we had just had a dust bath. The terrible condition of the road from Mutarara meant that our 50 km drive took us almost two hours! Although the ride certainly was not comfortable, I think it was the vehicle that had to endure the most hardship! People had been gathering for a few hours already and as soon as the food and gowns were unloaded we started the very first ever graduation ceremony in one of our extension schools. Although there are now almost 30 leaders studying here with us, these first four have been at it for 6 years and have completed our program. What a joy to celebrate with them and the government leaders who attended and be challenged again by the duty we have to “study to show ourselves approved…” as those who “correctly handle (teach) the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15).

A very special day for these pastors and community leaders graduating after 6 years

These leaders do not merely have the responsibility to teach, they have the responsibility to live out the good news of the gospel. In this context that means motivating and organizing and providing care for orphans. Each place we stopped at was another chance to see yet another group of orphan children being cared for by pastors who have learned the importance of the church as the presence of Christ in the community. So many of you involved with us in SAM Ministries are partners with these pastors in the care of these children. Besides providing some of the desperate needs of these children, they are hearing the good news of Jesus Christ and the hope and help He brings into life. Thank you to all of you who help us with orphan and feeding support.
Pastor Elias with the Baue Orphan program
One of our last stops was in a place called Malemia where Pastor Cassecusa (Cassecusa means to shake :) ), but in the case of this elderly man, shake means to move! He is an amazing man and I close this blog entry with his story. We made it back safely to the mission and thankfully to a recovering Rick Nuefeld who had been duped by symptoms that did not present themselves clearly as malaria and as a result went untreated for far too long. When I arrived he was white as a sheet and very weak, but thankfully has improved greatly…just another hardship many Mozambicans endure with very little or no health care.

Manuel Cassecusa Nsito…
is an amazing man committed to serving God, his fellow pastors and his community. Manuel was born 7 Abril, 1939, in Malemia, Doa, Tete, Mozambique, on the North side of the Zambezi River. There was no school for him to attend. In fact his father was pretty much one of the only people settled in the area, with Lion, Hippo, Buffalo along with other wild animals his only neighbours.

Pastor Cassecussa handing a certificate to one of his pastor students
He grew up helping his father cultivate the land to grow food for the family. He had two brothers and one sister, but his sister and one brother passed away within the first few years of life. He suspects his little brother died of measles.

The first memory he has of white people were the Portuguese railway workers who came through their area to lay the railway. When he and his brother saw the white people he remembers them running home crying in fear. His parents put him and his brother in the hut and closed the door to try to settle them.

They grew up wearing a thong made of rope made from the bark of a tree tied around the waist with pieces of cloth hanging on the front to cover themselves. Manuel says the “back-end was just left open to the air!”

One of his memories is of the lion that periodically would attack neighboring homesteads and often took people. This was a constant fear and topic of conversation.

While young he never heard of God or the church and the family primarily practiced ancestral worship (African Traditional Religion).

When Manuel was about 26 years old, he heard that the first school had come to his area. A local Mozambican teacher by the name of Salvador started teaching school under the tree in Doa, about 7 Km away. After attending school for two months, the Chief of the area from the Portuguese administration called the teacher to bring all the children to the administrative offices for inspection. By this time in his life he was wearing a shirt and shorts, and the Chief demanded that all the boys/men take off their shirts to check their under-arms. Those who had hair under their arms or had hair appearing on their chin were taken immediately and put under guard. They were informed that they would not be able to return home, because they were required to pay tax and since they could not, they had to be “contracted”.

Manuel along with other young men (no girls were allowed to come to the first schools) were taken under guard directly to the train and shipped off to Beira where they were put on a small boat which took them across the bay to Buzi where they were required to work in the sugar cane fields. After working for eight months, they were allowed to return home, where they received 20 escudos and told the rest of their pay was taken in payment of taxes (One can buy 20 escudos in coin for around $5.00 on ebay). They were allowed to remain home for 3 month and then required to return at which time they were shipped off to work in the coal mines in Moatise for a full year before being allowed home.

Following this year he was allowed to return to his home, where he married and built his home. He and his wife had 12 children but only 6 survived. Five of the six who passed away also died within the first few years of life. Although life was hard, they produced enough food and survived reasonably well.

Due to loosing so many children and the fear that local tradition would result in much conflict with his family (in many cases family are blamed by the witchdoctor for the death of other family members), in 1977 he moved to Zobwe. When he arrived in Zobwe, a Christian pastor Armando Gave welcomed him to stay with him in his home until he could settle. At this time Manuel was both a witch doctor who “beat the drums,” and was also very committed to plying his trade in the manufacture and sale of local liquor (the equivalent of moonshine). While in the home of this pastor he started to hear about God and the pastor taught him the good news of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Manuel accepted Christ and upon salvation he burned all of his moonshine manufacturing equipment along with his witch doctor drums.

Since that time he never lost any more children (which he gives God praise for) and has served God faithfully. Although he never had a chance to study the Bible in any formal way, he was selected to be a pastor. Due to his close relationship with Pastor Pires who was selected in his community to be a monitor of our Bible and Leadership training program, he came to find out about our Bible school. He started studying in 2007 and became the monitor of his area shortly thereafter. He is now almost half way through the training program and is teaching 29 other pastors in two separate communities.

Here is a man who not only serves others faithfully, but at 70 years old rode his bicycle over 200km to attend one of our training seminars focused on equipping pastors in personal evangelism! He has started an orphan care program in his area with a few other pastors and regularly provides care for

After receiving Christ the big miracle he witnessed in his life was both the fact that God enabled him to have children that lived, rather than died. He also experienced a dramatic deliverance from alcohol. The other major difference he started to witness in his life was in his ability to grow his personal wealth and ability to care for his family. Prior to accepting Christ he never could save any money, but after his life-changing experience, he has been able to save money, grow a herd of goats, and grow crops that have earned him a living.

“My hunger to study God’s Word and know His will for my life” is what Manuel says resulted in his commitment to study and to working with the mission voluntarily to help others also learn. Manuel witnesses to the growth in his understanding of God and His word and His ability to teach others. He has also experienced a wonderful growth in his ability to work with others and see his church grow in unity.

Manuel says that his one desire is to see his eighteen year old son continue his studies beyond Grade 8 where he is studying now. Also so that others have an opportunity to come to know Christ. This is something he is seeing on a weekly basis as he witnesses to the goodness and power of God in His life.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

My dream being realized

This week was the start of another intensive training time for the monitors (pastor trainers) of our Bible and Leadership training program we call SBF or Faith Bible Seminary Mozambique. Although I have titled this blog entry “My dream”, I am fully aware that this has really been my Heavenly Father’s dream and that he put this very same dream and calling in the hearts of numerous others who He has brought together to help realize the dream. If I start mentioning names here, I will never complete this blog!

As we gathered for prayer on Monday morning at 6:30AM with our monitors, it was freezing cold (around 8 degrees C with no heating at all!) but it was also both exciting and incredibly fulfilling to participate in the prayer and hear the 3 minute challenge by Pastor Pires on Psalm 42:1 “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.” He shared on the strength that only God can give for each day and each challenge in ministry.

This morning as we gathered again, and following a time of corporate prayer, Pastor Chico Inacio from Tete shared on Jesus words, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays his life down for the sheep.” As he contrasted the good shepherd to the hired hand, his challenge was that we all continue to remember we are called to lay down our lives for His sheep, as He laid down His life for us.” Following this Pastor Eliah led us in a time of prayer and then silent waiting on the Lord and invited anyone to share what they felt the Holy Spirit was laying on their heart. Shortly Pastor Ricardo, our coordinator, shared that he felt God was saying that as pastors and leaders we needed to make sure we place value on the women and children God had entrusted to our care. This was followed again by a time of passionate prayer as each pastor asked God to soften his heart for the needs of the women and children. I was so moved to watch as God spoke to His under-shepherds!

When we launched out and started our first extension schools along the Zambezi river (early 2000) in the Tete province of Mozambique, I was concerned about the distance and the lack of consistent direct input we would have in the lives of those we were going to take responsibility to train. God reminded me in His own clear way, that His Holy Spirit and His Word were a powerful combination and I could rely on Him to do more than we ever could, but reminded me that He had called us to partner. That was when we decided to launch out and now God is doing more than we could have ever asked or imagined and the impact is growing each year.

The impact is growing not only due to the numbers of those being trained, it is growing due to the maturity, confidence and Holy Spirit empowered efforts of leaders who have walked with us for 9 years. Pastor Pires Williamo gave an amazing report today of how each aspect of this effort has impacted the government officials in Sinjal (his village) as they have witnessed not only leaders being trained, but the orphan program started, and now more recently a women’s ministry focusing on Bible, health and literacy taking off.

I can only say how honored I am to be here in Mozambique, and after 16 years of slugging, to see God working in such awesome ways in lives. Not only so, but He has blessed us with a team of awesome people committed to serving one another and the people of Mozambique as we love God and love them so they have the chance to experience the Father’s love and come to participate with him in loving their world.

If you read this entry this week, please pray for us as we share our hearts and God’s Word and do our best to encourage these amazing servants. Also pray for their families and their communities and the overwhelming number of challenges they face as they return and in turn teach, lead, train and encourage their fellow pastors and communities.

Email Hacked

A quick note to all my friends, family and supporters.
Please note my hotmail address has been hacked and you may be receiving emails requesting money. Please disregard these emails. You can continue to email me at

Thank you so kindly

Sunday, June 14, 2009

"To hug or not to hug," that is the question!

Yeah yeah, I know, but “to be” for some people means “to hug” and for others, “to be” means definitely, most definitely, absolutely, unequivocally, and most assuredly “Do NOT hug under any occasion!” Boy have I ever blown it…time and time and time again while travelling back in North America I have hugged when I should NOT have hugged. (And if you were the poor person on the other end of that un-wanted, un-deserved and most definitely un-desireable hug, I am soooo sorry :). You see, you can “be” all alone, but you can’t “hug” all alone, and if for you “to be” is “to hug” then your life has to be filled with warm, un-self-conscious, over-the-top and out-of-control huggers! And the problem is that when you work in different cultures and places the state of “being” changes.

Now I need to say to all you poor people who don’t hug…it’s okay…I guess. Because I know you were just not brought up that way, and it feels too close and generally just un-comfortable. I understand this and I want you to know you can likely live out a very full and happy life without hugging a bunch of other people. So please understand me, as I share the rest of my thoughts, because I really don’t mean to offend anyone. We huggers are too nice to want to offend.

But a couple things that relate to this topic of hugging may be worth mentioning, from my humble point of view:

The first is that sometimes hugging is perceived as some dirty old man (or needy woman) trying to get a little too close. And you know what, maybe that happens sometimes. Kind of like when some crazy religious types hijack a few planes and fly them into the twin towers. Yes it happens and it is terrible and sad and many other things I don’t have time to go on about, but it is NOT the norm. As we went through security to fly out of the Edmonton airport this last week, I waited as Lynn, yet again, had her bag ripped apart to find a small blunt pair of foldable scissors that one would have a hard time using to kill a mouse, never mind hijacking a plane. While her bag was being disassembled and re-assembled, I watched a little old lady being “strip” searched and the longer I watched the lady security agent patting her down in every place imaginable in the middle of a busy security area and in plain view of everyone else, the angrier I became. A few crazies have hijacked our way of life and now we see little old ladies and foldable scissors as serious threats to our world. What have we become?! Someone once said, “to the pure everything is pure, but to the impure, even pure things are impure.” Likely not everyone who reads this will agree with me, and I understand we live in a messed up world, but what I am actually talking about here is HUGGING!

Lynn and I have had the privilege of visiting Brazil annually over the past three years as part of our mission responsibilities. And it never ceases to amaze me at how quickly the hugging starts. And they don’t care who you are or whether you want to be hugged. You get hugged, and kissed and touched and warmly welcomed into their world. Amazing…even as I write the word, “touched,” I realize many will recoil at that word. For those who may have had a horrible experience growing up, I am so sorry, but there is such a thing as healthy normal touching. And hugging is one of those forms of healthy touching. Shaking one’s hand is also touching, and sometimes just touching another person’s hand, arm, shoulder or patting someone on the back can be another form of healthy touching. I am not writing a manual here on “healthy touching”, so let me move on. The reality is that after being in Brazil for a short while, the social warmth is something that just envelops me…the physical contact somehow just flows into a sense of well-being. I can’t really explain it in words. I just know that I feel accepted and appreciated and it is pretty easy to get used to.

But the stark contrast of leaving the warm embrace of Brazil and hitting the cold social blast of North America is quite sobering. Please know I love all of you gracious, generous, loving North Americans, but understand that sometimes it is hard to know, in our cultural diversity, how to say hi and bye. And it is never my intention to be cold to you or to offend you, I honestly just don’t know WHAT to do, so IF you want a hug, please feel free to hug me and if you would rather NOT be hugged, when you see me coming, just stick out your hand well in advance and I will do my best to give it the warmest shake I know how to, and beyond that I will let you “be”.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Pleasure in Needing and Being Needed

We are away from the mission for about ten days. We drove the two days over bad roads and slept about half way in a bed that left a little to be desired. Now in Nelspruit, South Africa, we are enjoying the weekend with our Mercy Air family.

Besides the vehicle maintenance that will happen tomorrow, and the flight medical that will happen up in Pretoria on Wednesday morning, and all the shopping and sourcing of supplies for the mission in between, we have the chance to experience once again the humbling reality that we are interdependent creatures; and oh the richness there is in that!

Today I had the wonderful privilege of talking to a dear friend over Skype. He in British Columbia, Canada, me in Mpumalanga, but we are connected by the history we revel in. Bob was the one who called me when the mission had purchased the aircraft and it needed to get to Africa. I did not have the time, the budget, or even the faith to think it was possible to get the aircraft out here within the next few years. But Bob did. Without his bold act of faith and courage it would not have happened, but it did and we now savor the memories and the awareness that neither of us could have done it alone.

(Dad Trekofski and Pastor Ed, two men I have needed again and again, pose by the Cessna.)

Bob is not only needed in Africa, he is needed by the love of his life. Sharon has been debilitated by horrific pain and Bob has been there. Day in and day out Bob cares and gives and gives some more and his faithfulness and courage has been an example to many, and the kind of comfort to his wife many can only dream of.
(Bob and Sharon, Dad and Mom Trekofski and Lynn)

I am needed as well! Lynn is doing a course in “Control Management for Non-profit Organizations” and my little accounting background has made it possible for me to actually help her. Today we worked together on assignments she was just not making headway on. It was hard work and took lots of time, but we worked through it and together enjoyed the sense of mutual accomplishment we could never enjoy had we done it alone.

With satellite internet on the mission we have been able to keep in touch with our fellow missionaries Rick and Heather. Rick likely loves the peace and quiet of no one else around, but Heather is missing Lynn’s company. Lynn is needed by many others, but hearing you are needed helps define your unique place in this world.

Ron and Barb Wayner (below, right) are two of our close friends and confidants. They founded Mercy Air and we share so much in common as we deal with the issues of life and ministry. We need them in so many ways! Prior to making our trip down I talked to Ron. “Be sure to bring the sizes of your kitchen cupboards,” said Ron. “We can buy the material and cut up the cupboard casings together while you are here.” How can you express your appreciation to someone when they take the time to do for you what you cannot do for yourself and what you likely could never afford to pay someone to do for you!

Although I feel such a debt of obligation to so many who do so much for us, I rest and rejoice in that need. I do this because their need and my need provide the opportunity for sacrificial service…and as some wise person once said, “Service is joy”.