This has been a very interesting last three weeks. And I have many many stories already to share. The most recent story I think has come the closest to piercing my heart as any thus far these last few weeks.
Our intentions were to leave home for Mutondo around noon on Saturday morning so by about 1:30pm we started on our African trek into the bush. We drove West which seems south to me here, I am totally screwed up with directions it is so weird. 60 miles up the road then stopping in a small village with tons of action and really cool jewelry, we bought some goods and bought everyone on the team a soda. This would be the last of a cold drink for the next 2 days.
The road to the north was dirt and not so bad just dusty and traveled lightly by other automobiles, mostly people on bikes and foot. The scenery was beautiful as we looked across the horizon in hopes of seeing a zebra or anything likely to be found in Africa. Ahhhh, Africa! It is beautiful. I am thinking, “I’m in Africa this road isn’t so bad, how far are we going into the bush anyway?” We were all amazed at the sights and nature at it’s best. Soon we drove over a slight hill and we come upon a small river were there were children playing in the water, women doing the daily washing of their clothes, some bathing and others drawing water for their water cans. And then a sight that was somewhat frightening, there was the bridge. Yes the bridge, this wasn’t like anything that I had ever seen before. When I was a kid there used to be a bridge on the west side of Marengo that crossed the Iowa river that was similar, but this one that I was analyzing was even a bit more of a challenge in terms of, ‘how in the world are we going to cross this alive!” Actually I was relieved to think that I was not the first truck that was going over this work of art, Pastor Jeronimo was in the lead. I would just wait until he was completely over then I would go and drive on exactly the same boards as he. I watched very intently, then drove where he did and found myself pressing on the pedal to speed up the closer I got to the other side. WooHoo! We made it and took a turn to the left to follow the river bank. The road all of a sudden turned into a one lane path that was not like any other road that I had yet traveled during my driving experience here in Mozambique, Africa. Tall grass on both sides not allowing any vision of what may come out of the bush, and people and bikes trying to make their way to their destinations as well. Dust flying all over the place it was hard to see where we were going and the wind had died down so Pastor’s dirt was flying straight into our faces. We laughed about the roads we were on and our journey into the bush when all of sudden a black pig ran out in front of the truck and I’m thinking, “if I run over this pig, I’m going to get killed for killing the fatted pig.” Fortunately, he was a quick little guy, and by the way, there are no fat pigs here. It is really unreal how they get any meat off of these pigs. The road kept getting smaller and smaller and we kept laughing saying at any moment we were going to just come to a point and then we would be there. Well, we weren’t too far off because the road narrowed to a foot path and we traveled on that for about 2 miles and finally we came to a bend and children started running out of the bush and yelling, “ta ta! ta ta!” then one more turn to the right and down the path. You could see the top of the church and as we drove just a few more yards. At first I couldn’t tell what was happening and I could barely see. As my eyes were better able to focus what I saw pierced my heart, men and women lined up on both sides of the road dancing and singing and dancing and singing, “praising God for our safe trip and a welcoming!” It was a sight to behold, we were the honored guests. This was only the beginning of what we experienced in dance and singing and praising to the King of Kings. The men gathered together for some fellowshipping and a time of learning more about Jesus from Pastor Jeronimo. The women and babies had a baby check where the children were weighed and measured and checked for any simple problems. Everything was documented so that the next visit would be a follow-up check and watch the growth of this community of children. Children between the ages of 5-15 played games and had a wild time playing what we think are western games, duck duck goose, I’m not sure what they called it in their language. Then bible stories were told and salvation bead necklaces were handed out and it was craft time. I made about 50 necklaces myself and had the honor of tying them on each child that I helped and prayed for them as I did. This was such a joy for me, they had no idea was I was saying but they always knew they were being prayed for because the name of Jesus is the same in all languages. Oh it was a “Sweet sweet” time. After sunset the church men brought out glass bottles with petro in them and a wick and made some light. They had three lights for inside the church and when we walked through the door it was like walking into a holy place, It was a holy place, it was Mutundo’s holy place. A building of about 20 by 30 foot made of mud with a good roof, tree limbs trimmed for support with two windows on each side and two doors, one in front and one on the side. Looking straight back from the front door was the alter and upon it were two vases of flowers perfectly placed on each side with a white table cloth covering and a glass bottle in the middle with a flame. What a sight to behold. This was their sanctuary, a place where they came to praise, and worship, and repent, and give their lives to Jesus. The younger men brought in chairs for their visitors to sit on and the village women brought in their mats. But before we would sit we would dance and sing and prepare our hearts for the message. The language this tribe speaks is Senna and this is a language that is spoken also in Dondo and around the area where I live so I know some songs in Senna. “A Kuna wa ta ya se Deus, (there’s no one like Jesus).” Over and over singing there’s no one like Jesus, I looked all over the world, and there is no one like Jesus, I look all around and I can not find anyone like Jesus, it is a beautiful song. We danced and sang until late. Then it was time for the guests to be served the meal. For a second time this day my heart was pierced again. We were led into a straw building with two rooms, one being the dining room for guests. There was before us the most beautiful sight! The table was set, the candles were lit with bowls heaping of traditional Mozambiquian foods. We all took pictures as this was something that we would want to look at over and over forever.
We sat and the Pastor gave thanks for the guests and the food. After about an hour of eating and sharing stories it was time for the evening service and testimonies of the visiting Americans. Our simple testimony of gratefulness to God for bringing us to Mozambique to see what He has created for His pleasure was enough to encourage them. Traveling this far into the bush took us to another level of poverty that we had not yet experienced in Dondo and the surrounding area. These people have no real use for currency as we know it, as they grow their own food and barter for other goods. A simple life. It makes life in America seem so difficult, we are obsessed with things and entitlement.
It was late into the night before we finished and we were off to bed. We slept in the car and truck. But before going to bed we all had to look at the stars one last time as it is such an amazing sight. To think about the promise that God had given to Abraham that his decendants would be more than the stars in the sky! Abraham always had the stars to look at to be reminded of how important it was that he be obedient to God.
About 2am I was awakened by rumbling in my stomach and a fever. I thought that I had eaten something that my body was not in agreement with. The fever kept me down for the rest of our trip. I did manage to muster up enough strength to go to the baptism in the river. This was the reason for the whole trip! 30 people from the Mutondo church were being baptized and this was a celebration. We walked to the near-by river and Pastor Jeronimo and Pastor Domingo baptized all 30 as we set on the banks and took pictures and sang and clapped. The sun was about all I could take for the day and when we returned to the church site I slept the remainder of the day until it was time to go home. I had to drive. God provides that is all I can say, God provides. He provided enough strength for me to drive the 2 hour trek back to Dondo where when home at last I collapsed into bed. Dr. Neves was called and determined that I had malaria rather than an intestinal virus. For the next 3 days I lay asleep. It has now been almost a week since we ventured into the bush. My prayer is that the people of Mutondo were blessed by our gifts and visit as much as we were. But most of all, that God was glorified.