Trip to visit rural churches- Part 1

Friday October 21, 2011

Left early with Jacob and Dionisio for a trip to Tete Province to visit churches and leaders conferences. 350 km to Tete. About 10 hrs of driving, with a stop in Tete city to pick up 3 more people. Drove another 200km into the bush to Furankungo, Makanga district, where about 30 people from the churches were waiting for us. Arrived just before dark. We set up our tents, then walked about a mile into town to present ourselves with some of the leaders to the police, to let them know who we are and what we are up to. Then dinner of cheema (corn meal mush), and Jacob set up his 12” TV on top of the car and showed the Jesus Film in Chechewa to about 100 people gathered. Before it was over I was asleep. 2 hour film – done about 11 pm.

Saturday Oct 22, 2011

Before daylight was even a thought I began to hear people talking outside the tent. As soon as it was light, before the sun was up, the sounds of women, children, pots being scrapped made staying in the sleeping bag useless and made me curious about what was going on outside.

Jacob reminded me that when greeting someone, one’s proximity to the ground is an indication of respect. When I was seated and a man introduced himself, I should have remained seated, letting him be higher than me. This morning the same man (who speaks English) called his wife over to introduce her to me. She came over and quickly fell to her knees in front of me to greet me. Languages here – Chechewa and Portuguese, and lots of English, because of the proximity to Malawi. Greeting in Chechewa – “ma de banja.” Breakfast of bread and tea. They did a roll call of the churches and each came to get their breakfast as called.

This conference was for the leaders of 38 churches of Christ (acapella because of influence and evangelization from Malawi) in this district. Evangelists, who plant churches, evangelize and train up churches until elders are appointed (by the churches). Sometimes there are problems with an evangelist who does the appointing and tries to keep control of the churches in his sphere of influence. One such evangelist was at the conference, and because of his dominant personality is a real problem to the churches around Tete (city) and to the other evangelists.

Breakfast started about 7 am. Singing at 8 am. The schedule was for 2 speakers in the morning, 2 in the afternoon, two at night, then Q&A beginning at 10 pm. Being the visitor, I spoke first in the AM . Spoke from Matthew 20 – the greatest is the servant, and Philippians 2 – Jesus as our example of servanthood. Then Q&A – how do you deal with pastors who lord it over the churches? Are they really pastors? I referenced David and Saul, and also 3 John.
The program got pushed back in the afternoon, with dinner at about 7 pm, (cheema, peas, greens and stewed dried fish (whole little fish). Watched the Jesus Film again, and started teaching again about 10 pm. I preached first again.

I had planned to talk about elders from 1 Peter 5, but they asked me to talk about family. Started with Genesis 1, then Ephesians 5, with references to servanthood (from my morning lesson). The only thing I could see was the flashlight in my eyes. Asked for questions at the end and got a lot of questions about divorce, adultery and polygamy, and how to deal with these things in the church and among pastors. (Such as, if a woman comes to church who is wife in a polygamist marriage, do we receive her? If a man and woman divorce because of ones unfaithfulness, both remarry, then both new couples want to come to church, do we receive them?

After speaking, I went to bed. They had Q&A till about 1 am, with the main topic being the role of women (the question was asked by one of the women). Women have been taught to be quiet in church (but it’s ok for them to sing). After much discussion, the consensus was that women could speak, but not exercise authority. Another topic discussed was whether a polygamist pastor is really a pastor. Another – if a person is arrested (presumably for no good reason), how should he respond.
Jacob will ask questions during these discussions, but is careful not to give answers. It is important for them to reach their own conclusions. If the missionary gives his answer, they would accept it and not think it through for themselves.

When I preached here, it was translated from English to Chechewa. When Jacob and Dionisio preached, they preached in Portuguese, with translation to Chechewa. When Dionisio preached, Jacob translated that to English for me. Jacob uses simple language (in Portuguese) and goes slow, so I could generally understand what he was saying.

The leaders expressed their problems to us. They were:

  1. Lack of trained teachers and study materials.
  2. Economics – the Church of Christ (meaning – the missionaries) does not provide money (US $) for them to build church buildings, and no salaries for preachers.
  3. Poverty of the people (reference #2).
  4. From 1994 – 2000 there were not many churches, and growth was limited by the talent of the preachers. Preachers did not encourage others to grow and learn to preach. (Reference #1)
  5. Division over singing during the Lord’s Supper.
  6. In Malawi we had one preacher per district who was appointed by and supported by the missionaries. We need support from the missionaries.
  7. The long distances preachers must travel to meet together. (Most came by bicycle, some 30 or more miles.)
  8. Disagreements over doctrine. We need more missionary help to train more preachers (meaning – to tell us the answers).
  9. Too large an area to evangelize. Preachers cannot get around to all the churches. They have to choose between farming to feed their families and preaching. (Meaning – we want the missionaries to support us and buy us motorcycles.)
  10. (Women’s input) Lack of women’s teachers and leaders. Distance between villages.

    Sadly, they see many (most?) of their problems as being rooted in the need for more US dollars and more missionary intervention.  With all good intentions, the missionaries have been building dependency upon American missionaries rather than on God for over 100 years now.  Breaking dependencies is very difficult for any of us, but it can be done, with wisdom and patience.  But there are still many mission groups and aid organizations feeding the dependencies in the third world, which makes the job all the more difficult.  No one has evil intentions, and the problem is complex.  There will be more on this in coming posts.

    Pray for your brothers and sisters in Mozambique.  Life is hard for them, and Satan is very active.


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