Monday, September 17, 2007

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Baptist Women's Conference of Mozambique

The excitement and tension began to build as the days were approaching the Baptist Women’s Conference in Dondo, The food for the most part arrived in the back of a pick-up truck and each women brought with them either a bag of sugar, flour, some oil. The cost for the event was $2.00 in American dollars, or 50 Metacash in Mozambiquian money. In the end every woman who wanted to, had the chance to come and join in on the jubilation.

The first group of women I met were from Myuchunda. There were about 8 ladies, all with children. I sat and introduced myself and begged for mercy because I can’t speak much Portuguese and they were all laughing because they didn’t speak much either, their tribal language was Sena, which is common around here. Whenever I think that Portuguese is difficult all I have to do is think about Sena and Portuguese is easy. Oh my gosh! These women were beautiful, as I would find all of the women who would pass through the gates of the courtyard into the Baptista Church of Dondo.

There are many stories to share about this event of a lifetime for me and other Americans who would come to serve the African women of Mozambique. The work of the Americans from Denver was a time of serving and getting to know how hard the work is here in Mozambique.

Each day the women from Denver would begin their day by getting to the church site by 7am to begin making breakfast for 350 women plus children. Buttering bread and making cha’. Now it doesn’t sound like such a big deal huh? Well there is a certain way that the women here do this job and they wanted to train the Americans to do the job correctly. What we find in our American culture is that we do our jobs quickly and sometimes without much care for the result, just so we get 700 breads buttered before they want them. Oh I need to mention that each woman would get two breads. And those who had children had to share with their children what they received. Is buttering bread a big deal? No, but they like a lot of butter so, we Americans are not used to using this much butter because we are always so weight conscious☺ But here, butter is part of the meal, and with lots of it. And the cha’ which is tea, has tons and I mean tons of sugar in it too. So why are the women here all so skinny? Because they work like we would never in our wildest dreams think of doing. And they walk everywhere, unless they take a bus and if they don’t have the money they walk. For hours and hours everyday just for the smallest of needs.

After breakfast came the beginning of each morning session where we began with singing and dancing from different churches. Each church was represented by who could come, or who could afford the trip and they danced and sang what they had prepared for the Conference, all dressed in wonderful matching African attire. One church only had 4 women who came a long journey to be here and the women just sang their hearts out. The room was a blaze with encouragement from the other women for their spectacular performance. We were all on our feet singing and dancing at that moment praising the Lord for even the smallest of all things.

Then would come the special event of the morning. A special speaker to encourage the women with stories and scripture. Words of encouragement were given for their walk with the Lord and a word of encouragement to memorize scripture when it was available. Many many many women here can not read, not to mention have bibles. Especially the women from farther out, away from the road in the bush.

The small church that I minister at in Centro Emissior there is only one bible and it is in Sena and belongs to the wife of the leader. The Sena bible is the New Testament because of the translation difficulties.

Then again, a meal was served. Rice, chicken, and one potatoe. It didn’t matter the size of the chicken or potatoe, each plate received two cups of rice, one potatoe and one piece of chicken. Fortunately for me there was always a Fanta orange to drink. Each day we would sell every bottle of pop we had. One night a woman came by and said, “I’m not drinking pop, I don’t want to have to pea in the night.” We all laughed!

We laughed because at the church were 5 sleeping places where the women and children slept on the floor on their capalanas. The rooms were covered from front to back with mats, sheets, capalanas and bags. When it came time to go to bed, you would find yourself walking around, jumping over and tip toeing by to get from one place to the next. In the middle of the night, in the dark, that would be a challenge. Unless of course you had a place right next to the door. One late night before bedtime, I went into the room where the women from Centro Emissior were sleeping and laid down on the floor besides them and just watched the room of women interact and have fun with each other as they prepared for sleep. I was amazed at the similarities of Americans and Mozambiquians in our fun moments. I must admit though, we more than likely could not find 350 women who would sleep on the floor for 3 nights at a women’s conference and eat rice and chicken, with no showers.

Friday afternoon a nurse from Denver gave a short session on health, sanitation and dental hygiene. It was well received and many questions were asked. It is amazing that the simplest of information is coveted here. As Tania the nurse spoke and then translated into two different languages, the voices were a stir, talking about how could they do what she was asking. Tooth brushes, and using soap, bathing at least once a day. Cleaning their nipples before nursing, wearing clean clothes each day, this was new to many of these ladies. We felt like the session was successful and understood of it’s importance.

After the afternoon sessions, it was time for dancing and singing from more of the visiting churches. It was fantastic! Unbelievable! And the greatest thing of all was that it was all to honor God. The scriptures talk about the singing of praises never stop, this was another piece of evidence to me that while you are in bed in America, we are praising God here, and while we are in bed you all are praising there. It is so cool to see the revelation of the scriptures take place before our eyes.

Again the women of Denver would assist the ladies here to prepare for the evening meal and serve it with some help from some teenagers in the church. Rice and fish and one potatoe, same deal, different meat. Have you ever eaten 2 cups of rice at one setting? It is a lot! The fish, I could leave behind, no thanks. But always always the Fanta orange. I had to have my pop fix for the day.

The evening session was dancing and singing and some preaching one night by Pastor Jeronimo. Pastor Jeronimo is the leader of the Baptist convention, the pastor of the Dondo Baptist church and the leader of the Ray of light project that I am connected with here in Dondo. I have had the honor of becoming friends with this fine man and seeing how God is using him and moving his vision to change a generation of children by offering them an education and giving them God’s word for hope of change.

My most favorite part of the whole convention was this, each night after all of the hoopla. The real fun started when everyone who had any energy left, danced in the court yard. Different churches would teach other’s new steps and teach new songs and they all were preparing for the last day of events. On Sunday a group of women, some from each church would dance for the Sunday service to show the community of believers what they had come for.

Different women would pull us Americans in to try to do their steps and we would all end up in a laughing fit. There is just no way a white woman from America could keep up with the steps of an African tribal woman who dances day and night. These women just dance for everything here, it is amazing to watch and even more amazing to be a part of. I love the culture here. When they laughed, it wasn’t to criticize, we were having fun and they would encourage us to do more, to stay in there until we would get it and then they would all clap and praise us for being able to end at the same time they did. What a wonderful time of praising the Lord with our sisters across the world. We would dance until almost midnight each night. It is not a wonder I was pooped at the end of the week.

All in all the end result was that God was glorified. I made some new friends that I will again dance one day with, maybe not on this side of heaven but certainly there.