Lessons from Mozambique

Deichmann

Deichmann

By Wendy J. Deichmann –

In my wildest dreams I did not imagine I would experience firsthand what I saw, heard, and felt in Mozambique. I had to conclude one of two possibilities. Either God is intervening dramatically in this place among the wonderful people we visited or the whole thing is a fabulous performance of such colossal proportion that it would stretch the resources of Hollywood to cast and produce it.

It was one of the greatest privileges of my life to experience God’s presence and miraculous work in this African context.

The occasion was a June 2014 intercultural trip to Iris Global Ministries in Pemba, Mozambique. I experienced this adventure with ten students from United Theological Seminary along with Professor Andrew Park and several family members of our group. We had been invited by Drs. Heidi and Rolland Baker to visit as part of a growing friendship with this beautiful, intrepid missionary couple during the past several years while Rolland was earning his DMin degree at United.

This truly was an intercultural experience, even for those of us who think of ourselves as knowledgeable and open-minded about a variety of Christian faith expressions. In Mozambique it was part of our contextual experience to witness firsthand:

• A blind man and numerous others healed before our eyes;

• An entire village previously violently hostile to Christianity accepting Jesus;

• New homes for widows, schools for children and youth, entire residential communities provided for children who had lost their parents, and robust training programs for indigenous pastors and missionaries, all built by Christian workers in a poverty-stricken province;

• Hundreds of young women and men from across the world worshiping together and attending training in good theology and effective missionary practice under the auspices of our Pentecostal friends, who came to this lovely East African country less than 20 years ago.

A Mozambican leader in total worship on Sunday. Photo courtesy of Iris Global.

A Mozambican leader in total worship on Sunday. Photo courtesy of Iris Global.

Heidi Baker coached each group of visitors that went out into the villages with Iris staff. Her first instruction was always to ask permission before approaching anyone, and to respect each one’s prerogative to have us visit or not. In our case, each time they welcomed us because the kind reputation of “Mama Heidi” and Rolland Baker went before us.

After introductions with those we visited, the first order of business was to get to know each other, including the extended family members and neighbors who would inevitably come around. We had been instructed by Heidi to “go low and slow” among the people. In other words, we were advised to lower our heads and bodies and attitudes to a level slightly lower than those of our hosts as a sign of respect. “Take time to get to know the person in front of you before you move to the next one and make sure each one has an opportunity to get to know you, too,” Heidi instructed. “How will they ever learn to trust you if they don’t get to know you?”

Next we were to inquire if there was any illness or any need within the family or village. If so, we were to ask for permission to pray with the people to Jesus for help. If any sickness or other ailment was reported, we should pray for healing. If, after the first round of prayer healing had not been received, we were to pray again. If, after the second round of prayer there was still no healing, we were to promise to continue our prayers for these specific persons. In every case, an Iris staff member was with us to interpret and to provide follow up after our departure for ongoing ministry needs. Our prayers were welcomed each time, and in many cases those we visited and prayed for reported immediate relief from their physical ailments and suffering.

We observed enormous opportunities to develop community services, including healthcare, education and leadership. Our visit occurred only three months after devastating floods rampaged through the northern provinces, which washed away homes, businesses and many lives. The effects of the flooding were everywhere evident over and above the extreme poverty and squalor that existed beyond the wealthier part of town where foreigners had settled.

Not surprisingly, one member of our group began to feel overwhelmed by the dire conditions we witnessed day after day. When child after child begs for your water supply and when it is gone there are more still begging with their beautiful eyes and outstretched hands it is disconcerting to those used to a steady supply of fresh, clean water.

“Look at the one in front of you and minister to that person,” counseled Heidi Baker. “You can’t do everything all at once. After you minister as best you can to the person in front of you, then you can move on to the next one, and the next one, and so on.” She explained that if you try to meet everyone’s needs all at once, you will succeed in immobilizing yourself. “You have to rely on Jesus if you are going to lead others to rely on Jesus,” she offered.

What do you call this patient, self-giving, life-changing abundance of humble, persistent love in action that we witnessed in Mozambique? What is going on when wealthy, western Christians sit together on a straw mat with new friends in the bush in East Africa to share faith, prayer, food and fellowship? When those with formal education galore learn by following in the footsteps of joy-filled missionaries and local ministers who have given up everything to follow Jesus? Are these amazing realities any less a miracle than giving sight to the blind or multiplying loaves and fishes for food?

None of this is to suggest that miracles cannot or do not also occur in North America. However, the majority of American Christians I know do not make a habit of availing ourselves of the opportunities to witness or experience a wide range of miracles on a daily basis as is done by the faithful in Cabo Delgado Province, Mozambique.

Picture a congregation of a thousand or so people of all ages, races and nations singing and dancing beautifully and praying over a bunch of American visitors. Imagine scores of children of all ages surrounding the Americans and laying their hands upon and praying over us for a very long time while spiritual songs and speaking in tongues fill the air. Imagine fifteen Americans compelled to sit and accept this amazing gift and the grace of an undeserved outpouring of love for us.

God knows what difference it makes that we visited Mozambique and were blessed in these and other remarkable ways. I know that I look forward to learning more about the amazing, life-changing and world-transforming work of the Holy Spirit from our brothers and sisters in Christ in Mozambique.

Wendy J. Deichmann is the president and faculty member of United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio.

Comments

  1. carolyn tyler says

    Wendy,

    I was so happy to meet you and share a meal with you and your husband at the Banquet on October 14. I wanted to talk with you more about my experience at UTS in the 80’s and what it meant to me.

    I also love this article about your trip to Mozambique and to hear how powerfully the Spirit is moving there.

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