Mozambique: setting off into a new country (Part 1)
“We are happy to finally ‘get on the map,’” explains Apostle Robert Worship enthusiastically. The administrative director of the District Church of Southern Africa is supervising an extraordinary project: the very first mapping of the New Apostolic congregations in Mozambique.
Doesn’t the church know where its congregations are located? Well, yes and no. While a rough overview is indeed available, a lot of current and detailed information is nevertheless missing for the congregations in Mozambique. This situation is about to change fundamentally. “According to our records we have 1,326 congregations, but very little other detail. The project aims to verify congregations, ownership, GPS coordinates, and pictures of each building,” relates the head of the administration office.
It is easy to explain why the head office would like to know more information: it is only once the responsible Church administration learns where the congregations are located, how large they are, and how many ministers are available that it can provide proper care to these congregations, for example, by ordering teaching materials or training ministers.
Digital pioneer work
On the other hand, this digital pioneer work is necessary in order to fill the international address book with reliable data. There are some 58,500 New Apostolic congregations around the world: congregations from 53 countries are already listed in the global address database. In many countries, work is now underway in order to complete this data.
And in the near future it will also be possible to find the congregations of Mozambique in this database, which is publically available to all interested parties at http://adresses.nak.org or in the nacmaps app. This is a project that the communication services of the New Apostolic Church International have been maintaining for a number of years now, the results of which are already being used actively by many members when travelling.
Mozambique—a country on the Indian Ocean in a region which has been ravaged by years of civil war—is home to 28 million inhabitants. Some 196,000 New Apostolic Christians live in this predominantly Christian country. A total of 4,500 priestly and diaconal ministers, divided into eleven Apostle districts, are active in the country.
Over a cup of coffee with the District Apostle
But it was clear that the project would take more than just an experienced computer scientist and a database: “The congregation verification and mapping work in Mozambique is a special task. As there are very few roads, and since the gathering places range from ‘under a tree’ to a fixed address,” there was a lot of groundwork to cover first, explains Apostle Worship. And that requires people in the field.
“Towards the end of 2017, District Apostle John Kriel invited me to have coffee with him. I had no knowledge of his intentions,” relates Bishop Alvin Witten with a smile. The conversation changed his life and that of his family: “It was during this conversation that the District Apostle asked me whether I would consider relocating to Mozambique.” The District Apostle said he needed someone who could help him with the administration of the country.
Why them and not someone else? The District Apostle already knew that they loved car trips and that they were tough. “So, he sort of knew our characters and said he needed to send someone who would be prepared to take hardship. He made it clear that this was not going to be a picnic.” And the District Apostle gave him yet another piece of advice for the journey: “Keep your expectations as low as possible, or better yet, don’t have any!”
“So, moving from Cape Town where everything is organised and pretty, you can imagine our misgivings. But we were willing to give this our best. We believed that if God wanted us there, He would protect us,” says Bishop Witten. Cape Town is at the tip of Africa. So, wherever we travel outside the borders, it is far,” explains the willing—yet also pensive—Alvin Witten. From Cape Town—which is home to friends and family—to the Mozambican capital of Maputo, which lies in the south of the country, is a journey of 2,000 kilometres all on its own. Travelling to the north of the country represents yet another journey of 2,000 kilometres.
After taking a short time to consider, Alvin Witten and his wife, Jean, agree.
Agreeing and moving
“We immediately started our research on the country, gathering as much information as possible,” recalls Alvin Witten. And then there were also legal matters to resolve: would the Mozambican authorities issue the necessary permits? Did Alvin and Jean Witten meet all the criteria in order to work and live in Mozambique? “This process was time consuming and laborious.”
But then things became serious indeed: “The next step was to visit Mozambique to experience the country firsthand. We had never been there before.” So it was that the couple left South Africa, and set off for Mozambique in the east of Africa.
In the next two segments of this Mozambique report, Bishops Alvin Witten and Chris van Wyk talk about their search for congregations in the bush, unexpected military operations, and the successful interaction of international IT projects between the Church and those in Mozambique and South Africa.