To start with, I would like to thank the WfM Committee for their very generous donation towards the six months that I spent in Beira as part of the Baptist Missionary Society's Action Team programme, which is an annual gap year initiative for 17-23 year olds.
The work of the team that I was a part of focused primarily on education. This involved us getting stuck into a number of projects, one of which was the PEPE initiative. PEPE is a pre-school programme which is supported by and run in several Baptist churches in the city that we lived in. Pre-school education is almost non-existent in Mozambique with most 3-5 year olds left to their own devices all day as their families work. This results in the majority of children starting school with little or no Portuguese which is the official language of Mozambique. In a country where 100 children in a class is the norm, those who don't speak Portuguese are quickly left behind. PEPE aims to equip the young children with basic Portuguese as well as other useful knowledge such as shapes and numbers etc. Alongside this the children are also taught Bible stories and songs. As PEPE is the only pre-school programme in the city, many 'un-churched' families send their children each day so the net of this outreach spreads far and it is impossible to place a value on the learning of scripture at a young age.
I loved working with the PEPE programme and over the six months I created some really strong friendships with those in my classes. The two churches that we worked in were in a very deprived area of the city but that did nothing to affect the joy and laughter we would all share in the very early mornings. Learning Portuguese was a real struggle that I tried to avoid as much as I could when in Mozambique so I cherished my time in the pre-schools where my Portuguese was at about the same standard as the little children in my classes, although many of my Bible stories did end up turning into a game of charades. Seeing the passion that the local teachers had for this younger generation was also very special.
Some of the other work we were involved in included teaching and leading Bible studies at a large high school on the outskirts of the city. Often we would be introduced to classes as 'professional teachers from England' and then promptly left on our own in front of 100 pupils. It was all worth it to hear Rhiannon (a team mate from Lossiemouth) and my classes recite words and numbers with lovely Scottish lilts.
We were also kept busy helping at homework clubs, redecorating a small local school, assisting in a Christmas play and running English classes for teens and adults. We spent a lot of our free time exploring the city although mainly the 10 mile beach. Seeing God's beautiful creation on the other side of the world was a real highlight with a trip to Victoria Falls being the cherry on the cake.
Whilst in Mozambique we decided to worship at our local Baptist church who welcomed us as brothers and sisters with open arms. The sense of community and fellowship within the church was so strong and it was a humbling experience to worship them. The fact that although we shared almost nothing in common with the congregation (language, culture, upbringing...), yet each Sunday we would gather together as one body to worship and praise the same heavenly Father. Both worship and praise feature heavily on a Sunday morning, mainly in the form of rich singing and exuberant dance. It was only when I was dancing up the aisle to lead worship from the front of the church with the women's Bible study that I realised how far away I was from the Sing Psalms and wooden pews that I'd always known.
I am so grateful for the time I spent in Mozambique. I will never forget the friendships made and the memories created. Above all, however, I am thankful for the way God worked through me to help others but to also teach me so much about Him, His people and to remind me that He is the Father of all nations and that we are part of something so much bigger than we can imagine or perceive.
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