When you travel, it is always a pleasure to see a familiar face at your destination. Our journey gave us the opportunity to see many familiar faces – both from prior trips to Mozambique (Jim and Caryl Bryan, 2005; Craig Stevenson, 2006; Jim & Caryl Bryan and Randa Rawlins, 2007) – and visits by Mozambicans to Missouri.
When we arrived at the airport in Maputo, standing outside the customs doors and waving to us were Naftal (one of the VIM coordinators for the Mozambique Annual Conference), John Sambo and his son Keith (more about John later) and Ezequiel – the Missouri/Mozambique Initiative Coordinator in Mozambique – or Eze, as we know him. All of these people have been to Missouri – some more than once. More joy to us when the van drove up to pick us up – and the driver was Telmo – the same driver Caryl had in 2005 and our team had in 2007. Telmo is amazing – he knows everyone, including all the police at all of the checkpoints – and knows all of the locations for everything we need, including ice cream stores!!! Seriously, we had requested Telmo to drive us, because we feel very safe and comfortable with him.
Our first stop after the airport was the Malanga\ Methodist Guest House. Lucia, Rosa and Betty, the staff at the guest house have taken care of us before and we received a warm welcome and a great lunch prepared by them. Pastor Zaqueu Ranchaze appeared to greet us here. Zaqueu visited us in Columbia last year and stayed in our home. He is the pastor of our covenant partner church, Malhangalene. He is also the President of the Missouri/ Mozambique Initiative on the Mozambique side. That means he works closely with our scheme of churches from Missouri who partner with churches in Mozambique. And, on top of that, he has a full time job with the Mozambique government. He had assisted us with the arrangements for our mission – especially the work in Chokwe, the partner church in our trinity partnership.
A few days later, when we arrived in Chicuque, we were greeted at the Methodist Guest House there by Olivia and Isabella. They have also both taken good care of us before on our many visits there, packing lunches for us on the days we traveled and serving us wonderful dinners when we returned from a long day. Davita also helped take care of us this time – so we have a new friend here.
After our arrival in Chicuque, Caryl and I walked over to the hospital and visited with the hospital administrator, Jeremias Franca to arrange for a tour of the hospital for our group the following day. Caryl worked at the hospital during her mission in 2005, and I met Jeremias in 2007.
The first day in Cambine, the Methodist Mission Station, also brought old friends to us. First we saw Olga Ranchaze, the District Superintendent for the Maputo District, wife of Pastor Zaqueu and mother of our guide, Ericka. Olga stayed with Jim and Caryl just a few weeks before we left for our mission. As we toured the grounds led by the seminary librarian, we met Dieudonne. He has been there for several years and leads the agriculture educational program. Our visit to the orphanage at Cambine was especially exciting, because we saw Maravilha, who was previously at the Guest House in Maputo. She was asked by the church to assume responsibility of the orphanage at Cambine – a huge change in her life. She said it was hard at first, but now she loves it.
Now for the God thing. As Jim and I left the orphanage to walk down the road back to the main mission, Jim mentioned that he remembered a young man that was there in 2007 who could not speak. We had assumed at that time that he was deaf – we remembered that he had a big smile. Jim mentioned that he did not see that young man this time, and wondered what happened to him. Within a few minutes, a tall young man neatly dressed in his school uniform came toward us on the road, waving because he had recognized Jim. Yes – it was the same boy – all grown up now. He still had difficulty speaking, but had the same beautiful smile. How could it be that we could be talking about him – and he just happened to be walking down the road toward us a few minutes later. . .
The next familiar face to Jim and Caryl was Belzardo, the young man who they sponsored in seminary for 3 years – and who is now a pastor. They saw him during our trip in 2007 very briefly. Thankfully, he was participating in a pastor’s seminar at the seminary on the day that we were there, so they had the chance to visit with him again. They also met his wife. Their picture is posted on the blog.
On the driving from Chicuque to Maputo, we passed Bishop Machado’s house – which is along the main highway in Mozambique. Bishop Machado retired 4 years ago. Jim met him during his time there in 2005. I also met him in Atlanta 2 years ago when we all attended John Sambo’s graduation from Emory. Just as we were passing his house, he and others were in a car pulling out onto the highway. Telmo pulled over so that we could yell our greetings to him out the window. He smiled and waved his greetings and his thanks to us.
On our return to Maputo, we had the opportunity to spend time with our partner congregation at Malhangalene. There were many familiar faces here, although we don’t know all of the names. Benedita Nhambiu is one of the members who has been with the congregation for many years. Thyrlza Machado also approached Jim and Caryl at the Youth Conference – she spent time in Columbia at school.
On Saturday, we had dinner with John and Delia Sambo in their home with their children, Keith and Drianne. John was our guide during our 2007 mission and he and Delia and Keith visited us in Columbia in 2008. We were blessed to share their home and the wonderful meal that Delia prepared. When we returned from the Sambos house, Craig was greeted by his friend Zephanias – who was the guide on his mission in 2006. Zephanias attended Eden Seminary in St. Louis and was financially supported by MUMC during part of that time.
And – the final God thing. On Sunday afternoon, our partner church Malhangalene had a special 3 p.m. music service to honor our VIM team. They have a Sunday afternoon service like this once a month. It was supposed to be next week, but they had a special service for us. As the service began, several young people entered the back. We were told that they were part of a band that would be singing for us, although not all were members at Malhangalene. In just a few minutes, one of the band members was tapping Jim on the shoulder and said “do you remember me?” It was Magaia, our Habitat coordinator from the home building mission in 2007. Just that morning at breakfast, Caryl and I had talked about the fact that we did not get to see him. I had tried to find him, but the email I sent before our trip had come back undeliverable. There he was. He had no idea we were going to be there – and we were obviously very surprised. When our team sang for the congregation, we asked him to join us, since we had taught him the song in 2007.
So – the story goes. So comfortable here with our old friends – and our new friends. Although maybe a bit more difficult to say good bye. We all talk about how we will see each other soon. I hope that is true for everyone – all on our team and all of the friends we have made. With God’s blessing, we will meet again.