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.