Greetings and blessings to you from Mozambique! We have had a very eventful month full of celebrations, both personal and church-wide. November 1st we helped celebrate the 2nd birthday of a friends’ little girl, complete with ice cream and bouncy-house. The United Church of Christ in Mozambique held their annual Synod, including a visit from Rev. Dr. Leon Spencer who shared about his recent book on church history in Mozambique. Christian Council peace meetings continue and we attended a weekend-long wedding. It has been a full month indeed, reminding us we have much to be thankful for.
The Annual Synod for the Igreja de Cristo Unida em Moçambique (ICUM/UCCM) was held in the local church in Chamba, just outside Beira. Much like our annual church conventions in the States, the UCCM Synod is comprised of reports from all the divisions of the church, times of worship, and recognition of service and ordinations. Unlike our Synods and General Assemblies, in Mozambique they are held in small, sometimes rural, churches under a rented tent. There are no vendor booths, or exhibition halls, or separate breakout sessions to attend. Everything happens as a whole group. Everyone listens to the finance report and the sermons alike.
I am still learning the rhythm of these large church events in Mozambique; when you can get up and stretch your legs and when to stay put. Sitting under a hot tent for three days in a suit and clerical collar is becoming almost second nature for me. I am always glad to look around and notice the other pastors sweating as much as me. I feel like we have had a bonding experience, both physically and spiritually. Sharing that space and participating in the ordination of new pastors was an honor. We also had the pleasure of hosting Rev. Dr. Leon Spencer and hearing him speak about his book about Mozambican church history, Toward an African Church in Mozambique. We had great fun showing him around Beira and enjoying his company.
The Christian Council of Mozambique continues to meet and prepare resources for peace education and advocacy. The week after the Synod, I was invited to attend another meeting along with Rev. Dr. Spencer. We were able to participate in their talks and plans for promoting peace in Mozambique. The church here is poised to have a very significant impact on the work for peace in this country. I have no doubt they will eventually succeed in their efforts towards a peaceful nation.
Celebrations continued later in the month with the wedding of the son of our friend, Pedro. Any Saturday in Beira you will see strings of decorated cars weaving through the city, honking their horns in celebration of a wedding. After my initial frustration at getting stuck behind them, I have often thought how much more fun it would be to participate in the parade. A couple weeks ago I finally got my chance! After the ceremony in the church, we all loaded up and made a processional through the city, honking all the way. Passersby waved and other cars honked along. It was great fun. That evening there was a large banquet that lasted late into the night. I’m not sure how long as we ran out of steam around 9 pm.
The next day at church, I thanked our friend, Pedro, for inviting us and congratulated him on a successful day. Thinking the celebrations were over, I prepared to head home and check on Kim who had stayed home to recuperate after the previous days’ festivities. No sooner had I got into my car than Pedro ran up and “reminded” me to be at his house that afternoon for the rest of the celebration. Inside I was surprised, but I just smiled and said, “Of course!” Turns out, this was a weekend long celebration, not necessarily typical for Mozambican weddings, but great fun nonetheless. I got home Sunday afternoon around 6 pm entirely exhausted, full of food, and very happy. Building relationship through celebrating significant life events is definitely one of my favorite things!
November is also, of course, a month for a uniquely North American celebration, Thanksgiving. While there are a small number of U.S. ex-patriots in Beira, we have found that they only sometimes gather to celebrate the holiday. Kim and I were out of town the few days before Thanksgiving and came home the day of, so we spent the holiday quietly at home together. I made curry for dinner. With the absence of family nearby, it felt like just any other day. I was more looking forward to attending a traditional BBQ with some South African friends that Sunday afternoon. They call it a Braai. On Sunday, sitting there with our gracious hosts and a table overloaded with food, I realized that I WAS having Thanksgiving, just a couple days late. I was surrounded by friends, remembering family, and thoroughly blessed. I pray as much for all of you.
In God’s love,
Kim and Erik Free serve with the United Church of Christ in Mozambique. Their appointment is made possible by your gifts to Disciples' Mission Fund, Our Churches Wider Mission, and your special gifts.