Chiriza is a place not many foreigners have visited. In fact I guess the total would be three (including Rick Neufeld, Matthias Reuter the helicopter pilot, and I) after landing there in Mercy Air’s helicopter earlier this year. Rick then made a trip there on the back of a motor-cycle to hold a children’s ministry training time with our extension school, and then I made it right to the spot in our vehicle…supposedly a “first since the foundation of the earth” according to Pastor Pires.
Pastor Pires celebrating our arrival in Chiriza to a packed church
Our goal (as expatriates on the team) is to try to visit each of our leadership extension schools at least once per year and more often if possible. Our coordinator and supervisors of the program visit much more often, but those studying still count it a high honor when one of us foreigners visit and provide encouragement. As I headed out in late August on a tour of as many schools as possible along the Zambezi, one of these schools was going to be Chiriza. The only problem was that there was no way I would be able to take the time to walk, bike or motorcycle in this time, so we organized the meeting at a place called Nyakamanzi where the pastors and leaders would meet us for a seminar. Although this was still a two hour drive from the town of Doa and the little rustic room I rent to sleep in on the way through, it was doable.
As we arrived in Nyakamanzi a miracle awaited us. I say miracle because that is what the local people called it and in this out of the way forsaken place, I am not sure what else you can call it “if you have eyes to see”. At Nyakamanzi there is a river that cuts off any further passage to Chirize and only at the driest times and only in some years is it actually passable. We pulled up to the rivers’ edge only to find a stone bridge! A bridge that was constructed in less than 15 days by a Chinese mining company that apparently was given rights to a mine discovered during the Portuguese era. We think it is a gold-mine but nobody is saying. In any case, the pastors had been praying and hoping for the seminar in Chiriza and when they saw the Chinese building the bridge another miracle happened. They all “as one man” got their hoes and axes and built a further 15 km of road and two small bridges to ensure we could get all the way to their village. The scene was rather festive as we pulled up and our time of teaching and encouraging was soaked up in rapt attention.
While sharing with our monitor and other key pastors over a lunch of beans and rice, they thanked us again for intervening during the hungry time and assured us that all those who received help are participating in making bricks for a food storage facility to help with these kinds of crisis in the future. They then shared a little of the history of the area with us. It was here, said Pastor Wairosse that RENAMO had their main camp and many thousands of soldiers gathered. The reason for this is that because of its remote location and because it is so difficult to get here, the resistance soldiers felt that FRELIMO, the then Marxist government forces would never find them. It was between these two groups that the civil war raged in Mozambique from soon after 1975 until 1992 and totally devastated the country. In places like Chirize it is the conflict and death that can be remembered since nothing much else can be found here.
On Saturday this past week my travels took me to Tete, a city now a little more than 3 hours to the North of us. Here we shared with a group of leaders from 4 different extension schools. Pastor Pires from our Region 3, (http://dwightlagore.blogspot.com/2010/09/trip-is-over-journey-continues.html) see the link) met us there and shared in part of the time. Although he focused on a number key administrative issues, he then shared the story of Chirize and the miracle we experienced there a few weeks back. As soon as he sat down one of the pastors jumped to his feet and very emotionally began to share his joy with us. “I can hardly believe what I am hearing here this morning,” he said, “but I am so thankful to hear the gospel has arrived in Chiriza and pastors are being trained.” “This (Chiriza) was a very hard place and during the war I killed many men there…many people died in this place. And now I am hearing that God is working miracles there!”
Pastor Bulaunde and me
Later after our time of training together I sat with Pastor Bulaunde and he shared a little of his story with me. Like all men his age who stayed in the country (many millions fled as refugees to surrounding countries), he had been force drafted into the FRELIMO forces and fought the war against the resistant movement in many out of the way places. The war was very much a guerrilla war with RENAMO destroying infrastructure and hiding out in remote areas. FRELIMO controlled the cities and tried to govern their recently liberated country. But with significantly different ideologies and personalities involved, along with a poor country flush with Communist era military hardware, there were no victors and the country slid to the world’s poorest.
But now pastor Bulaunde, along with thousands of others are engaged in another war. And this one is for the hearts and minds of people who now have a chance to experience personal salvation and transformation as they give their lives to a God who can build beauty out of ashes. These men and women need our help and encouragement as they exercise their faith and express that through the hard work of not only teaching and preaching, but also loving and working hard to bring development to their people and communities.
I am honored to work alongside them.