The annual conferences, organized by ZM and EBCoM to give pastors and other Church leaders valuable teaching and a set of study and devotional books, have been a regular and much valued feature in Malawi in recent years. But none have been held in Mozambique where arguably the need for good Bible teaching is greater.
None, until July 2012 !
For several months David Kanyumi, ZM lecturer at EBCoM, and Simon Chikwana, ZM's Director in Malawi, worked with others to plan this year's event which was successfully held in the Mozambican town of Vila Ulongwe from 16 to 21 July.
"Villa Ulongwe is a small town within the province of Tete and has a number of churches most of them having their origins from Malawi. These churches mushroomed soon after the civil wars of the late 20 th century. Many of the refugees were evangelised in Malawi and took the Gospel with them when they went back to Mozambique. Many Churches were established in the extensive parts of Malawi bordering Mozambique, among them the Zambezi Evangelical Church.
Most of the Churches have no proper trained ministers and this conference was intended to help the pastors and church leaders to prepare proper teachings in their Churches.
The church in Mozambique faces many challenges not least from the predominance of Jehovah's Witnesses.
During Kamuzu Banda's rule in Malawi the JWs were chased away; they fled into Mozambique and remain a challenge to theChurch in that country."
Following the pattern established in Malawi, the conference featured times of prayer, praise, devotions, teaching, group discussions, fellowship and food and was attended by 82 pastors, pastors' wives and other leaders from youth groups, etc. They represented 13 'denominational' groups.
Under the theme "Treasurers in Jars Of Clay" the two main facilitators, Rev Connex Ijalasi (Pastor of Chilomoni ZEC, Blantyre)and the Rev Peter Grainger (visiting from Scotland) covered a number of topics including Leadership (from the book of Nehemiah), Discipleship, Ministry experience and Preaching
Time for discussion
Simon's evaluation includes the following comments,
The conference was unique in the sense that in the first place only 45 people had registered. On the first day 40 people attended the conference but the number kept on growing day by day and we ended up with 82 people.
The kind of questions asked during questions and answers sessions indicated that people were attentive and thoughtful. For example, 'If a polygamist repents should he be told to divorce his other wives?' The answer was no, though he could not expect to hold a leadership position. The explanation was that if the other wives and children are sent away they will have difficulties to live, especially to find food, shelter and school fees. (very interesting!)
It was a big encouragement to have the Mayor of Vila Ulongwe sharing in the conference and helping to present the bookset to each participant at the close.
Armando Constantino Julio, Mayor of Vila Ulongwe (left) presenting books
and enthusiastically joining in the closing ceremony
The cooks also received some books!
At the end of the conference, people asked for another meeting this year or next, an indication that the conference was important and timely. Mozambique needs more book-sets as well as refresher conferences, but the challenge is the organisation of such in different parts of the country. The churches are not as coordinated as the ones in Malawi.
Pastors and leaders in Mozambique need more prayers because they have just a vast country before them to go and preach the gospel.
It was a success and definitely met the intended purpose ."
Grateful participants with their books at the close