Commentary: Journey into Mozambique yields five days of wonder

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A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose

An unfinished window frames a view of palm trees at Matingane United Methodist Church in Massinga, Mozambique.
April 20, 2005

A UMNS Commentary
By Kathy L. Gilbert*

Five days of hard travel in a little four-wheel drive vehicle with bad shocks and no air conditioning has a way of bringing people close together.

It was my great honor and pleasure to be "cooped up" in that vehicle with my colleague, United Methodist News Service photographer Mike DuBose, and two of the kindest souls I have ever encountered, Ezequiel Nhantumbo and Antonio Wilson.

Nhantumbo, "Ezy," is coordinator for the Missouri Initiative in Mozambique; Wilson is the conference communications director.

For five days, Nhantumbo and Wilson gave up time with their families to drive hundreds of miles to show us what is happening in their country because of the United Methodist Church. We visited churches, schools, orphanages and women’s shelters, and walked through cleared land-mine fields, to name a few.

Mozambique, one of the poorest nations in the world, has spots of breathtaking beauty and places of heartbreaking despair.

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose
The choir at Matingane United Methodist Church in Massinga, Mozambique, practices a new hymn in its unfinished sanctuary.
Our first stop on the journey was John Wesley United Methodist Church, in the remote village of Macia. Bewildered and dazed, I stepped out of the vehicle, not even sure we were at a church. Outside the little hut made of sticks, most of the congregation had been waiting all morning for our arrival. I took a few steps and then felt myself being lifted into the air. The happy United Methodists carried me around the church yard a few times then gently placed me back on my feet. Mike, busy getting his cameras ready, was lifted before he knew what was happening. I have never been treated as such an honored guest and welcomed into a church the way I was in this small village.

At the next stop, Chicuque Rural Hospital was overflowing with people needing medicine and help, both in scarce supply. Nearby, a nearby rural clinic had little more than a bottle of rubbing alcohol and some bandages to fix the ravages of those infected with HIV/AIDS. Both the clinic and hospital are operated by the United Methodist Church.

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose

Ezequiel �Ezy� Nhantumbo is coordinator for the Missouri Initiative in Mozambique.
I met people that I will never forget, like 2-year-old Pedro at Teles Orphanage. He walked up to me and held up his tiny arms. I carried him around until I finally had to give him up so I could take notes. I can still feel the warmth of that tiny body and see his radiant smile.

One of the most out-of-body experiences I had was the morning we met Jacky D’Almeida— terrorist turned savior—who is director of the Accelerated Demining Program in Mozambique.

We had to leave our guesthouse at 5 a.m. to make the two-hour drive to Vilankulo. D’Almeida was waiting to give us what DuBose describes as our "Mad Max breakfast." As soon as we arrived, a woman started cracking eggs and frying them up in a black skillet over an open fire on the side of the road. The dust from our arrival mixed with the eggs, and D’Almeida was waiting impatiently for us to finish so he could show us his field of miracles.

Along the way, we met George Muronda, a mine-removal supervisor from Mine Tech, who has only one hand. He lost the other one in a land-mine accident. We were introduced to Ernest Morgando, village elder of Malaica, who took us on a tour that included a site marked with red-tipped sticks, burial ground for a woman killed by a land mine.

Bishop Joao S. Machado welcomed us into his house as the sun was setting on another full day. He spoke for more than an hour about his role in the peace agreement and transported us to another time.

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose

Antonio Wilson, with the Mozambique Annual Conference, shows off the nearly completed communications center in Massinga.
We crossed the Limpopo River, which flooded in 2000 and 2003, leaving thousands homeless. I tasted roasted cassava at the "witch daughter’s" shelter and learned to take a shower out of a bucket at the United Methodist guesthouses. I climbed a ladder and saw the water cradled in a baobab tree and ate the freshest fish I have ever tasted at the Morrungulo resort.

It was the most tiring five days of my life.

It was the most rewarding five days of my life.

After repeated tries, Wilson finally succeeded in teaching me a phrase in Portuguese Xitswa, "nzi bongile" (pronounced zee bon geely), which means "thank you very much."

I would like to say a heartfelt "nzi bongile" to all my friends in Mozambique.

*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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