The East is glowing. Resurrection glory is painting itself steadily and irresistibly across the Mozambican sky. Dark, gray layers of cloud low over the sea yield one after another to color and warmth, and then pure, fresh brightness. The air is still. The fields are wet and glistening with dew. Morning is here, and I am ready to fly.
My Cessna 206 is packed with heavy sound equipment, bush supplies and a generator. I have my worship CDs for the flight, and my breakfast of local cashew nuts. I taxi past the sleeping terminal and lonely ramp out to the runway — the only traffic to hold the controller’s attention. The takeoff is smooth and I bank slightly to set course for my goal, Marromeu, six hundred miles to the north on the mighty Zambezi River. There the poor will hear the Good News this Easter Sunday!
Wild African splendor opens before me as I cruise at nine thousand feet. The dawn spreads across the landscape with golden richness. Lakes, rivers and wetlands reflect the first flashes of direct sunlight. I am in my own prayer cathedral in the heavens, set apart with Jesus, bringing all my thoughts to bear on revival in this most unlikely land.
I spot isolated huts and villages along the way, connected by winding footpaths over great distances. This vast country looks nearly deserted from the air, yet more than ten million Mozambicans live out in the countryside in extreme poverty. Without communication and transportation, their simple, isolated lifestyle continues on, nearly oblivious to the outside world. And in their helplessness they suffer — from war, disease, drought, floods and famine. Apart from the Gospel, they can only turn to their pagan traditions and witch doctors for relief, encountering endless deceit and oppression.
Can the Christianity of the West penetrate the far corners of even this incomprehensibly poor country? Can our conferences and conventions back home, set in carpeted, air-conditioned churches, reach into the Mozambican’s world of dirt, rags, starvation, malaria and frequent death? Can we with our supermarkets and fast food know what to say to a villager with only muddy water to drink and a handful of hard maize to feed his family for a week? In our world we preach to people who can fly and drive to attend our seminars, eat at fine restaurants after our meetings, and sink safely into sheets and real beds in clean, dry hotels late at night when we are finished. In Mozambique we face people who struggle for hours and days through waist-deep mud to hear us, carrying their hungry, dying children on their backs and sleeping on the bare ground night after night.
I fly on, building myself up in Jesus, daring to confront poverty’s bleakest devastation only because He lives. I am incredibly grateful for these hours alone with Him, a gift from His heart. I pass the Save River, which divides Mozambique politically, the northern side dominated by the opposition party. In the desperation of such poverty, tension and violence are always just below the surface, and some talk constantly of more war. The coastline along the Indian Ocean appears in the distance to the east, and I begin my descent into Beira, Mozambique’s second largest port.
Safely on the ramp at Beira’s terminal, I pick up Tanneken Fros and Pastor Rego, along with more equipment. Tanneken and Rego manage our northern ministries with much hard work and great anointing, and they are eager to minister with me at Marromeu. Now our plane is at maximum gross weight, and we lift off and fly at low level the remaining one hundred miles to the Zambezi. Flood waters begin to appear, and we can see in detail the huts and maize fields under water or buried in mud. The one dirt road to Marromeu is an ordeal to traverse by truck, but at five hundred feet overhead, just under the clouds, we progress unhindered.
Marromeu’s sugar mill is the first sign of the town on the horizon. The mill was sabotaged over ten years ago by rebels, contributing further to the region’s poverty. The airport gradually comes into view, its two grass runways just out of the water but still wet and soft. One runway is still filled with land mines from the war and is covered over by weeds. We settle toward the other after circling the town several times to announce our presence. On final approach we float in over the river and touch down right at its flooded edge. Even as we roll out bouncing over rough ground we can see people streaming out to greet us from under trees and behind huts. They are clapping and cheering all around.
We manage to turn around and taxi back across ditches and mud to a shack representing the government’s presence at the field. Now hundreds are packed around our plane, overjoyed to see us again. I was up here a week ago and promised I would be back. The word got out, and on the strength of that indefinite hope pastors have walked into town from all around. Some have been waiting for days for us to show up. Without food, extra clothes or anything else, they just sit in the dirt, day and night, and wait.
Our friend Charlie from Jesus Alive Ministries is here with his Land Rover, driven torturously through mud and water from Caia and its tar runway, fifty miles away, where the truck was flown in by JAM’s large transport plane. Jesus Alive has tons of emergency food for our pastors to distribute, but getting it to Marromeu and other needy areas is an extremely slow and difficult process. So challenging are the conditions that the United Nations has given up trying to distribute anything beyond their emergency accommodation centers, leaving tens of thousands of people without food, many of whom are in our churches.
Darryl, on our staff in Beira helping Tanneken, is with Charlie, and together we all get our stuff moved into town. There is one broken-down, old hotel. Its plumbing stopped working years ago. All is chipped, faded, musty and shabby. The rooms are hot, without fans and filled with mosquitoes. But we are grateful not to be out in tents, where we have been before. The big news that has the whole town stirring is our upcoming meetings. We promise to begin by showing the Jesus film tonight. Eager hands help string a king-size sheet between posts on a tin-roofed platform in the town square. All the wires are connected and the system is tested. We are ready.
We learn that thousands have been added in the last few weeks to our twenty-seven churches in the Marromeu district. People everywhere are hearing about the blind and deaf lady who was healed on our first day at Marromeu, other healings, and our food distribution. “This is a church that loves!” the people say, just the reputation we want. But I am sobered and in tears too. We only brought a couple of bags of beans that first trip, and then Jesus Alive was able to make one flight into Marromeu for us with a small load of milled cornmeal. There was only enough for a few meals among all our churches. Yet our pastors wept with emotion. “Jesus did not forget us!” they cried. And for days they sang and praised God with thanksgiving.
Last week we brought a planeload of medicine for the local hospital, and our nurse, Pauline Couch, held a clinic at our main church in town, a mud-and-stick structure with a dirt floor, bent branches for pews, and a tin roof full of holes. And we preached, as always. All gathered at the simple mud altar, pastors in their threadbare best, mothers in their bright skirts with their nursing babies, and barefoot children in ragged t-shirts and shorts. No one moved, no one left, no one talked. The whole church soaked in silence and stillness before the King, not wanting to leave his Presence. But we had to go, and now we are back, asking Jesus to touch yet again this poor, tiny town for His glory.
Nightfall comes and crowds pour into the square. Thousands missed the last showing and are determined to see it this time. One man runs up to Tanneken even before we start and says, “I am convicted of sin! How do I get saved?” She prays with him. All are riveted throughout the film. Rego, who has raised the dead, preaches with fire. All want Jesus. We stay another day. Monday night we hold a crusade meeting in the same square. I preach on “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is here!” just as Jesus did when He traveled from town to town. The people know something of God’s power and goodness, but will they make Him their King? The entire crowd goes to its knees, crying out to make Jesus the King of Marromeu. There in the dark and on the wet grass, hearts bow before Him. Even the town chief wants prayer and a Bible. No one believes anyone but the Savior can run their lives and lead them in truth. There is no path into His heart but repentance.
We stay another evening with our pastors and their wives, pouring our hearts out to them and listening to their testimonies. There has been a general heaviness over the people, due I think to suffering decades of war, deprivation and hunger under the heel of Satan. We will keep pursuing our God together with them until the joy of the Lord overcomes the mood of the land altogether, and as He accomplishes in our hearts what only He can do.
During our days we distribute food, a heart-rending job that takes supernatural wisdom. We must divide the food we have among everyone in the town, and the hospital and the prison, as well as our pastors and their churches. But no one fights. Everyone waits patiently for their sack which they will carry on their shoulders for hours and days back to their people. Their fields are deep mud. They have no seed to plant again. When will they eat again? What will they do? Their children have malaria and are growing thin before their eyes. They have no doctors, no medical insurance, no food stamps. They don’t have the most basic necessities, like toothbrushes and underwear. They don’t even have candles to light their huts at night.
They do not complain. We preach to them with fear and trembling, knowing that our words are a matter of life and death. We commit them into the hands of our faithful God, shaking with emotion over the cruelty of Satan, and even more over the glory that Jesus is revealing through their faith. How can the Western church relate to these people? We must, because we are part of the same Body.
“There is nothing I can do!” “I have enough trouble of my own!” Over and over again I hear the same things. But we are called to live by faith and not shrink back. We are not called to wait until we raise enough money. We are not called just to visit the mission field for a few weeks and test the waters. We are called to throw our entire lives away on Jesus. We are called to hear His voice and follow Him. How can there be any greater thrill in serving God than to exercise our faith on behalf of the poor and suffering?
We will return to the Zambezi soon, pressing on for yet more revival. But now I am back in Maputo with our hundreds of orphaned and abandoned children at our Zimpeto center. As I see them laughing, playing and dancing, all calling me “Papa,” I remember how I first stood here alone in January of 1995 and accepted an old, terribly neglected children’s center that no one wanted, not the government, not any aid organization, no one. It had eighty sullen children who were diseased, starving and tormented by evil spirits. Heidi and I had no support for this. We had nothing but Jesus, and He has been enough. He will always be enough.
Today Mozambique, Africa and the world are filled with hungry, hurting people. They are lost. Their eyes are vacant and staring. Do you see them? Can you feel what Jesus feels? Do you have His vision? “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Luke 10:2).
With much love in Jesus,