|35 YEARS AGO – FRONTLINE’S FIRST MISSION to MOZAMBIQUE|
To Mozambique by Motorbike“Go into Mozambique by motorbike!” The idea came as a shock to me during a quiet time one morning. But that is a Communist state! Into my memory came all the things I had read about the Frelimo terrorists and Russian troops who controlled the land. I recalled how I had prayed for the believers there, when I had heard of the severe persecutions, that followed the communist revolution in 1975. Was I, an ex-Rhodesian whose brother had undertaken military raids into Mozambique, being called to go to this land that had harboured terrorists that had killed friends of ours? Was I, as a missionary, being commanded by God to go to the same Mozambique where all missionaries had been expelled and where the president had declared “an all-out war against churches?” Not only that, I had never ridden a motorbike before! “Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ for you shall go to all to whom I send you and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of their faces, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.” Jeremiah 1:7-8
Researching the FieldSearching for information on Mozambique, I saw that Operation World, the Handbook on Intercession by Patrick Johnstone told me that to evangelise any Mozambiquan under the age of 18 was illegal. There was only an estimated one Bible for every 100 Christians there. I ordered over a thousand Gospels and Scripture portions in the local languages of Mozambique (Portuguese, Tsonga, Ronga and Tswa) and asked Shannon, a friend of mine who had come to the Lord during my service in the army, if he was willing to go over the border and be prepared to take the risks involved, in order to help our brothers and sisters in the Lord in Mozambique.
Prayer PreparationWe prayed much for Mozambique and it was during a mission to Swaziland that the Lord spoke to me again, during a quiet time: “…Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan...” Joshua 1:2. I knew that God was directing us to apply for our visas.
Overcoming ObstaclesWe approached the Mozambique Consul in Mbabane but received a flat “No!” We needed to have relatives in Mozambique before we could apply! We left in disappointment and as I prayed to the Lord for the next step, words from the Scriptures came to mind clearly: “Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the Law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand, or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go.”Joshua 1:7
GuidanceTogether we prayed: “All that you command us we will do and wherever you send us we will go.” Joshua 1:16. The next day I was guided to approach an influential missionary in Swaziland, Dr. David Hynd, for a letter of recommendation for a visa and with this we applied again. The Consul told us “Come back in two weeks, then maybe… who knows?” One week later I read these words: “…Sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.” Joshua 3:5
Perseverance Pays OffI knew that the visa had been granted. I phoned the Consul, but he said, “Sorry, try in about 2 weeks’ time!” I was determined and, although in Manzini at the time, I jumped on my bike and rode to Mbabane. There, as I walked in, the Consul handed me our passports and visas and said, “They’ve just arrived!” I looked in amazement at the special “Gratis” diplomatic visas that gave us permission to enter “the promised land.”
To the FrontierThe next morning saw us prayerfully ride off on our two motorbike scramblers, to the Namaacha border post. Much of the dirt roads were pot-holed and I was concerned about all the Gospels and the four reels of the “Jesus” film that were strapped onto our bikes. As we travelled I recalled the words of caution from several missionary leaders: “That country is not safe, be sure God wants you there.” One Swaziland Christian told me: “They hate South Africans, it would be suicide to go there!” With my fair complexion I would stand out like a neon sign. It would be obvious that I was not a local.
Overcoming TrepidationWe were getting closer to the border post and I remember the shock my mother had expressed, when I had phoned her, about the imminent trip. She was close to tears when I told her that the most dangerous place was outside the will of God and the safest place was in His will. “Just be sure that it is God’s will,” was her counsel.
At the Border PostWe left the familiar Swaziland border post and rode towards the Frelimo flag beneath which was an impressive white building and many camouflaged troops, with their AK47 assault rifles slung at the ready. Several cars were being searched and we saw a sandbagged machine gun post by the other gate.
Interrogation“What will be your address in Maputo?” asked the official.
“We don’t know,” I answered.
“You must have some contact, who are you going to stay with?” He was getting impatient.
“God will guide us to someone,” I confidently assured him.
He looked at me with suspicion. Then, with a smile, handed over the stamped passports.
The exchange control official asked us for our money, I showed him R10. “Is this all?” He queried. I nodded. They asked my friend. He assured them that he had nothing. Now they were puzzled.
“How can you come as tourists without money?”
“God will provide all our needs.”
“But what about petrol and food?”
“The Lord will look after us.”
The exasperated official would not even deal with us further.
A Faith MissionWell, with no address in Maputo, R10 between us in our pockets, 1,000 World Missionary Press Gospel booklets, 100 New Testaments in our packs and 4 reels of the 16mm “Jesus” film strapped on the back, we rode toward the gate. The Frelimo soldier wanted cigarettes, but when I told him that I did not smoke, he let us through! We had not even been searched! “For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed over.” Joshua 4:23
Marxist MozambiqueWe rode through streets crowded with people and everywhere were camouflaged Frelimo troops carrying AK 47’s, or SKS rifles. Slogans were crudely painted across the walls of the dilapidated buildings: “Viva Marx! Viva Communisto! Viva Lenin!” and so on. Colourful political posters decorated the peeling walls. All the shop signs were in Portuguese and the streets were littered with debris. Bombed-out and burned houses, bullet-ridden vehicles conspicuously reminded us that, not so long ago, this country was torn apart by a vicious civil war between the Portuguese and the Frelimo guerrillas.
HaltSuddenly, an FPLM militia man stepped into the road and signalled us to stop. We were going too fast and shot past him, screeching to a halt. As I turned I saw that we were already covered by an AK 47. He checked our visas and passports, we gave him a Gospel booklet and he let us go.
Road-BlocksWe went through three more road-blocks and checkpoints. We saw cars being searched and people being questioned, but we were always well treated and found the young Frelimo troops keen to talk. It was as though the Lord had gone before us to prepare our way as we sped down the pot-holed road to Maputo. “…Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” Zechariah 4:6
Where God Guides – He ProvidesWhen we reached Maputo it was already dark and this huge city of 750,000 people looked ominously foreign. Where were we going to sleep? In a wonderful way we bumped into one of the only English speaking pastors in Mozambique. He insisted that we stay with him and offered to be my translator. The next day the British Consulate permitted us to use their 16mm projector.
To Mozambique with LoveThe next few days were like a dream, as I spoke at meeting after meeting to hundreds of enthusiastic Mozambiquans. Services lasted for hours, as the on fire believers asked for more messages. We taught them choruses in Hebrew and English. Despite the power failures we managed to show the “Jesus” film to packed churches, where we saw hundreds commit themselves to the Lord. I had interviews with senior Christian leaders in the country and counselled young men who were keen for the Lord.
Dancing for JoyEverywhere we were well received and found them a very receptive and responsive people. Some said: “You are our first visitors since the Revolution!” They rejoiced to hear of the great things that God was doing in different parts of the world. They prayed fervently. They sang with their whole hearts. They danced in the church as they joyfully received New Testaments and Gospels from us. “This is the greatest gift anyone could ever ask for! The Word of God in my own language!”
In the Midst of AfflictionOne night the Lord led me to read to a church in Maputo: “And you… having received the Word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became examples to all… who believe.” 1 Thessalonians 1:6-7. These people had suffered much. Many areas were stricken by famine and tens of thousands suffered from malnutrition, some to the point of blindness. Yet every week ships transported food out to Russia and Cuba. All the people were restricted from travelling and had their work chosen for them by the state. All young men over the age of 18 had to spend at least 3 years in the Frelimo army. Many people were forced to go to Cuba as conscripted labourers, some to the Soviet Union. Yet we found them a hospitable people. Even the frightened young Frelimo soldiers we found to be ordinary people caught up in a Revolution.
God is With UsThey had so little yet, as one dear man said to me, “Yes, but God is with us!” They had God Himself! In the midst of hunger and hardship they knew a joy and a peace of heart and mind that we, with all our tapes and seminars seldom experienced. “With my soul I have desired You in the night, yes, by my spirit within me I will seek You early; for when Your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.” Isaiah 26:9
Hunger for the Word of GodHands. Hundreds of hands. Urgency. Desperation. Eagerness. I can still visualise the hundreds of black hands stretching out to me. Hands pleading for the Good News of Jesus. I was distributing WMP Gospel booklets in Northern Mozambique and was being overwhelmed by hundreds of people eagerly requesting a copy. Suddenly I saw the familiar camouflaged uniforms of Frelimo soldiers running towards me. I saw the AK 47’s in their hands and then the smiles on their faces as they too asked for Gospels. The Holy Spirit had wonderfully prepared the hearts of these people, making them hungry for God’s Word and receptive to our message. I remember the eager face of a guerrilla soldier in Mozambique as he came asking for a Bible. He said that he wanted to become a Christian.
Triumph Amidst TribulationSinging. The sound of praise and worship in the Sena language still echoes in my memory. This congregation had their church closed by the Communist government two years before. But nothing could stop these Christians from meeting together for worship and spreading out to share the Good News with others. They were dancing and singing with such joy. They had much to rejoice over. One of their members was being ordained as a pastor for a church he had planted in the far North. This congregation had planted five churches in the less than four years of its existence.
RainstormI will always remember the heavy rainstorm during my first day in a small village in Northern Mozambique. I took shelter in a beer hall and started distributing wet Gospel newspapers. Soon there was real excitement and several Christians made themselves known. One was a pastor of a local church. They pleaded for Bibles and, on a later visit, I was able to bring them many.
Gospel RecordingsThe Gospel Recordings cardtalk records made a great impact and never failed to attract a crowd. Many responded with enthusiasm. We managed to take up several thousand Gospel records in over a dozen Mozambique languages, with cardtalks, hand-cranked record players and hand-cranked tape recorders. These were then used by local Christians, pastors and evangelists in their outreaches to the largely illiterate population (85% of the people in Mozambique could not read, or write at that time).
ThanksgivingThat was 35 years ago. The beginning of our Mission. I have completed over 140 Missions behind enemy lines into communist and Muslim countries and war zones since then. The will of God will never lead you where the grace of God cannot keep you. “…you know in all your hearts and in all your souls that not one thing has failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spoke concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one word of them has failed.” Joshua 23:14
Dr. Peter Hammond
P.O. Box 74 Newlands 7725
Cape Town South Africa
See also: Mozambique Revisited