The authors are Zambian mission workers serving in northern Mozambique.
For 470 years, Mozambique was a Portuguese colony; this history still influences life in the country. The authorities tried to insulate Mozambique from what was happening elsewhere in Africa, resulting in a fierce national identity. Mozambique’s capital, Maputo, formerly named after the 16th-century Portuguese explorer, Lourenço Marques, is situated in the south of the country. Portuguese remains the official language, although it is spoken as a second language by about half of the population. English has been adopted as the second language. Common native languages include Makua, Sena and Swahili.
Today’s population, of around 30.5 million, is composed overwhelmingly of Bantu peoples. In total, 42% of Mozambicans claim affiliation to Christianity, 20% follow Islam, 5% are Jehovah’s Witnesses and 33% adhere to African Tribal Religions (ATRs). Both Christianity and Islam are influenced by ATRs.
Mozambique is now a member of the African Union, the Commonwealth of Nations and the Community of Portuguese Language Countries, among other organisations. In 1975, it became an independent Marxist state and established a policy exclusively propagating Marxism, during the term of the first president, Samora Machel. Religion was illegal during this period; it is said that church buildings were used as ammunition stores. From 1976 to 1992, following independence from Portugal, a civil war between the ruling Frente de Libertação de Moçambique (FRELIMO) (Mozambique Liberation Front) and the anti-government Resistência Nacional Moçambicana (RENAMO), (Mozambique National Resistance) ensued. Unspeakable atrocities were carried out during this period, producing a country of traumatised and wounded citizens.
The south is more developed, has higher literacy rates, a greater dominance in the country’s leadership and is more Christian. The church is thriving because of the influence of South Africa and Zimbabwe.
Geography & Industry
Mozambique is endowed with rich and extensive natural resources, and has great potential for development. It has expansive arable land with sufficient rains. The country’s economy is based largely on agriculture, but industry is growing, including food and beverages, chemical manufacturing, and aluminium and petroleum production. Gas and oil discoveries are commonplace in the northern parts of the country. The tourism sector is also expanding. South Africa is Mozambique’s main trading partner and source of direct foreign investment. Since 2001, Mozambique’s annual average GDP growth rate has been among the world’s highest. However, the country is still one of the world’s poorest and most underdeveloped countries, ranking low in GDP per capita, in human development, measures of inequality and average life expectancy.
Geographically, Mozambique is divided in two, with the Zambezi river marking the boundary between north and south. The south is more developed, has higher literacy rates, a greater dominance in the country’s leadership and is more Christian. The church is thriving because of the influence of South Africa and Zimbabwe.
On the other hand, the north, from the Zambezi to Ruvuma rivers, is composed of four provinces: Cabo-Delgado, Nampula, Niassa and Zambezia. These provinces are less developed, with lower literacy rates and greater Islamic influence. The north also has a higher concentration of unreached Muslim peoples, including the Koti, Makwe, Mwani, Mwinika and Yao. Some of these people groups are strongly influenced by Saudi-trained imams and mosques are built in their areas with finance from Saudi Arabia. Most groups speak multiple tribal languages, as well as those of common parlance, such as Portuguese and Swahili.
The church in the north is weak, lacking in strong biblical foundations, and with limited discipleship and leadership training. It also lacks vision for cross-cultural mission and struggles with the challenges of adultery, alcoholism, syncretism and witchcraft. Moreover, young girls are forced into early marriage as this is valued more highly than education.
The Church Today
The evangelical church in Mozambique has battled against: communism; civil war, during which many Christians suffered; Roman Catholicism, which was favoured by the Portuguese authorities before independence; animism and ATRs; poverty in rural areas, particularly in slums; and the rise of Islam. Unlike the church in China, which grew and was strengthened under communism, the church in Mozambique was not deepened in faith by such suffering.
However, over the past ten years there has been significant church growth in Mozambique. National leaders have been raised up and are focusing on discipleship. Mission organisations have invested in Mozambique for many years and this is finally bearing fruit. The Brethren now operate in six out of ten provinces, with over 70 assemblies and many preaching points.
The Church in Pemba
The gospel work in Pemba is an encouragement. A port city, with a population of 1.9 million, Pemba is the tourist capital of Mozambique. It is 90-98% Muslim with about 15-20 mosques, two Islamic schools covering Grades 1-12 and an Islamic university.
Gospel work in Pemba started in March 2008 and is steadily growing, with about 70 in attendance at a Sunday service, most of whom are from a Muslim background. The church focuses on children’s work, discipleship and evangelism. Gospel ministry is slowly expanding to other areas of the country.
Lives Changed by the Gospel
Our God has never changed and neither has the mission of the Church. God is still in the business of saving and transforming people.
In the Name of Jesus
J is from a Muslim family. As the firstborn and only son of five children, he inherited four houses, three vehicles and three productive grinding mills upon his parents’ death. Being young and lacking wisdom on how to manage his inheritance, J went wild and in the space of three years lost everything. He started having nightmares that his father wanted to kill him for destroying his inheritance. Sometimes his late father would appear to him during the day, wielding a machete. J went from one witchdoctor and herbalist to another, in a vain search for help.
One evening, J came to us asking for some ‘strong charms’ to solve his problems; considering we were foreigners and his landlords, he thought that we might be of help. Upon listening to his story, we told him that we knew of the best ‘charm’ possible: prayer in the name of Isa (Jesus Christ). We led him to Christ and prayed for his deliverance.
His nightmares stopped and he slept freely for the first time in the four years since his parents’ death. A year later, J went to Bible school to undertake a two-year training course. Now a preacher, and married with two children, J works closely with us. He is a committed young man, who has earned the respect of the church through his conduct and dedication to the Lord, and he has significant leadership potential. We commend him to you for your prayers and support.
Delivered From Addiction
O, a former drug addict, was delivered from addiction when brought to us by his mother in August 2017. She had lost household goods due to her son’s drug habit and was herself experiencing sleepless nights. O had been in police custody frequently, as he stole to fuel his habit.
His mother had taken O to herbalists, psychologists, mental hospitals and traditional healers for a solution, but to no avail. Although a non-believer, O’s mother was introduced to us by her work colleague and neighbour who is a church member. O was brought to our house with a hangover, fresh bruises and open wounds from a beating the previous night. We knelt and called on the name of Jesus Christ to free O from addiction. He was delivered and since then has been living in church quarters, where he is undergoing discipleship and counselling.
The list of testimonies to the goodness and greatness of God goes on and on.
O is training as a nurse and wants to help other young people with similar addictions. His mother thanks God for the miracle of her son’s deliverance.
The list of testimonies to the goodness and greatness of God goes on and on.
All praise to Jesus Christ our Lord, for the freedom to worship, for peace and for His church in Mozambique. Even with growing Islamic influence, language barriers and economic challenges, the church is thriving.
The door is still open for both long- and short-term mission. People in rural areas need the gospel and there are many places where no churches exist. Local Christians need encouragement and training in cross-cultural mission. Discipleship is a priority, especially to those from a Muslim background, as converts could revert to Islam due to cultural and family pressure.
Jesus is alive and working. He has not changed; He is still the same Jesus – the Word of God – and the only one who can do what no man can do.