Does God Hear?

Spring 1990 – Vol.6 – No.1

“Call unto Me and I will answer thee and show thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not.”
Jeremiah 33:3

One aspect of prayer that tests our maturity is the frequent lack of immediate gratification. So often we must wait weeks or months, and sometimes even years, to see the results of specific requests.

Did not Christ Himself have this in view when He emphasized that we ought always to pray and not to lose heart? Yet because of these delays, there are times when the answers come and we fail to take note of them. It may have been weeks since they were in our prayers. Only when we happen across an outdated prayer list are we struck with the faithfulness of God in answering so many petitions we had forgotten.

The results of prayer have other ways of slipping up on us. What seemed totally improbable at the time of our first request is a little more likely the next day, more so on the next, and so it goes until the thing is actually done. But by the time it occurs, it hardly seems remarkable at all and we have begun to think our own hard work more than prayer has accomplished it. Yet when we realize God as a rule works within the fabric of “normal” cause and effect, it seems natural that His answers should unfold by degrees as He gradually weaves them into His great tapestry.

Even when we experience immediate answers to the spontaneous prayers that fly from our lips in the course of daily activity, we often fail to take much note of it. The event gets buried in the blur of everything else that is occurring, and aside from a grateful sigh of relief that that is taken care of, we hasten on and do not reflect much on it.

We always spend less time thanking God for His help than we do asking for it. It is hardly surprising then that we are more conscious of the many requests still pending than we are of those which have already been granted. And so we unwittingly diminish one of the great incentives to prayer, namely the clear realization that God does hear, and does respond.

Over the past four and a half years, many prayer requests have appeared in the Evangel. But in accordance with the above tendency, God’s answers have not always received as much space as the requests. Looking through back issues it is amazing to behold how God has again and again heard and granted our requests, including some which seemed most improbable. The following information is shared with you, that as the petitions of many have ascended before His throne, so also manifold praise may now be offered to His name!

In the sixteen Evangels a total of 34 prayer requests have appeared, usually more than once. Of these, seven pertained to guidance at various stages along the way. We naturally assume God has heard and answered these requests. We would believe this whether the final outcome seemed favorable to us or not. However, the fact that we are still “on track” rather than in the ditch supports our conviction.

The results of five more requests can never be known. Either there is no clear way to measure them (e.g. spiritual maturity, growth in grace), or the information we need is lacking (e.g. God’s protection of pastors in Mozambique as they travel through dangerous war zones to nurture their scattered churches).

Three requests pertain to events still future – the safe passage of our container to Nampula, an African pastor with whom to work, and another family to join us in Mozambique.

This leaves nineteen specific requests which can be objectively evaluated. Of these, seventeen have been answered! Only two have not been granted in the providence of God – that He would bring an end to the war and the suffering it causes, and that He would end the famine, which today is due more to the effects of war than drought.

And so we return to the question posed in the headline of this article. Does God hear? Indeed He does, and how encouraging it is to pause and note His wonderful faithfulness. Truly it is a gracious God who rules the stars and receives the worship of angels, yet stoops to the cry of frail creatures of dust. May He receive from us the awe, the praise, and the thanks, due His name.

Postscript, 2004

The three requests mentioned three paragraphs above were all subsequently answered. The container arrived and nothing was damaged or stolen. Arnaldo Aquiles, the Muslim nurse introduced to me my first day at the hospital was saved, grew dramatically in the Lord, and became our national church leader! And we were finally joined by the Chiorinos in 2001.

The two requests mentioned two paragraphs from the end were also subsequently granted. The famine ended one year later after seven years duration. The civil war ended two years later, after 17 years duration.

That results in a positive response to 22 of 22 prayer requests listed in the Evangel from 1985 to 1990. Truly God inspires and answers the prayers of His children!

Scriptures on Prayer

Spring 1990 – Vol.6 – No.1

The following passages deal with various aspects of petitioning God. May we be encouraged and instructed by what they tell us about this most wonderful privilege.

Promises on Prayer:

“Call unto Me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not.”
Jeremiah 33:3

“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for everyone that asketh receiveth, and he that seeketh findeth, and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.”
Matthew 7:7-8

Adjuncts to Prayer:

1) Having within us the mind of Christ, that our prayers may be in accordance with His will and thus be answered.

“If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.”
John 15:7

“And this is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.”
1 John 5:14-15

“And He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because He maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God”
Romans 8:27 (see v. 26 below)

2) Where God has clearly revealed His will, having faith that what He has promised He will indeed perform.

“But let Him ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a doubleminded man, unstable in all his ways.”
James 1:6-8 (on praying for wisdom)

3) Obedience to what God has already revealed of His will through scripture.

“And whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep His commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.”
I John 3:22

“Take heed what ye hear: with what measure ye mete it shall be measured to you: and unto you that hear shall more be given, for he that hath, to him shall be given, and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.”
Mark 4:24-25

4) Praying with others.

“Again I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.”
Matthew 18:19-20

5) Fervency in prayer, and unction of the Holy Spirit.

“The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”
James 5:16b

“Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”
Romans 8:26

Hindrances to Prayer.

1) Unforgiven sin, lack of salvation.

“Behold, the Lord’s hand is not so short that it cannot save, neither is His ear so dull that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, so that He does not hear.”
Isaiah 59:1-2

2) Unconfessed sin, unforsaken sin.

“If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear.”
Psalm 66:18

3) Neglecting or spurning the scriptures.

“He who turns away His ear from listening to the law of the Lord, even his prayer is an abomination.”
Proverbs 28:9

“Then they will call on Me, but I will not answer; they will seek Me diligently, but they shall not find Me, because they hated knowledge.”
Proverbs 1:28-29

4) Insensitivity to the needs of others.

“He who shuts his ear to the cry of the poor will also cry Himself and not be answered.”
Proverbs 21:13

5) Marital discord, failure to honor wife.

“You husbands likewise, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman; and grant her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.”
I Peter 3:7

Seldom Early, But Never Late

Spring 1990 – Vol.6 – No.1

“In the fullness of time, God …”

Someone has observed that in the timing of our Lord, deliverance is seldom early, but never late. That certainly proved to be true in a small event associated with our move to Mozambique.

Though we wanted to take as little furniture as possible, Julie and I did decide to purchase a sofa/sleeper since it would make good use of the limited living space we expect to have. As we would be using it daily for both bed and sofa, we decided we should get the best quality item we could find within our means. In this purchase esthetic concerns would have to take a back seat to practical durability.

Unfortunately, the best sofa by far was a most unpleasant green, red, yellow, and brown conglomeration. Even I was appalled. But the saleswoman told us we could request the same model in a different fabric if we wished, though it would take six to eight weeks to have it made. At that point we still hadn’t heard from the Mozambique health officials and had no idea whether we would be leaving in a month or still waiting a year from now. So we made an agreement with the dealer that if she would order the custom made sofa, we would take her garish one in the event we left before ours arrived.

No sooner had we ordered the sofa than word came from Mozambique. Within two weeks we were scheduling a workday to load the container so it could be shipped. With some disappointment we arranged delivery of the ugly sofa, but because of rain the workday had to be put off till the following Saturday. So as a matter of convenience we asked the furniture store to postpone their delivery until the following Saturday as well.

To our surprise, on the ensuing Friday afternoon we received a telephone call from our saleswoman. She was flabbergasted. Our sofa had arrived just that afternoon, only hours before we were to begin loading the container and a mere three weeks to the day after she had ordered it! She said she had never had such a rapid response. In fact, comments about her previous experiences had kept me from even praying about the matter as it seemed we would be requesting a “miracle” in regard to a mere sofa.

But to homemakers these things are somewhat more important, and Julie and a sympathetic woman from church had been earnestly praying that God would deliver her from this eyesore. The fact that He did reminded us once again that though God is seldom early, He is never late. But more than that, we are thankful that in His abundant kindness He gives attention to even the small things that touch our lives.

The Church in Mozambique (younger readers)

Autumn 1990 – Vol.6 – No.3

God has His people in every part of the world. Some of them are white, some are black, and some are different shades of brown. Some speak English, some speak Swahili, and some speak Chinese. And just as they look and talk differently, when they come together to worship God there are many differences that we would quickly notice.

In Mozambique, the Christians meet for worship only once on Sundays. That is because nearly all of them have to walk to church. Some come from miles away. So when they get to the church building, they want to stay a while. Sometimes a special service will start at 9:30 and still be going strong at 2:00 in the afternoon.

The church building is really just a large room. There is no nursery, but the children are generally well behaved. Mrs. Woodrow and I have a great responsibility to keep our own little Kent at least as well behaved as the African children. We thank God that so far he has been good in church, even when the service goes on for 4 hours or more.

Not only is there no nursery, but there are no bathrooms either. We haven’t figured out yet what people do about that. We still have a lot to learn about life here.

There are only a few pews in church. If you want to sit on a bench with a back, you have to come early and sit at the front. In the middle of the room, people sit on logs cut in half. They are hard and close to the ground. They might be ok for children, but if you are a big adult you have to squat very low to use them. After a few hours they get uncomfortable, but the Africans are used to it. They have a much harder life than we do.

People who show up late or like to stay in the back must sit on the floor. I think this would be a good idea for American churches to adopt, don’t you?

The Africans love to sing and they are very good at it. They always sing “a cappella.” That means without a piano or organ or guitar to help them. Such musical instruments don’t even exist in Nampula! But the Africans don’t need them, because they have very good ears for music. Everyone sings in different parts just like a church choir. Even the children begin singing their parts at a young age.

Because they are so good at it, there is a lot of singing in church. One time 11 different choirs from the same church sang 19 special selections during one service. Much of the music they make up themselves. We don’t usually get tired of it because they sing so well. Sometimes they just sing the same phrase over and over for three or four minutes, and we are reminded of how Christ cautions us against mindless repetition in Matthew 6:7.

There are no hymn books in the church. People bring their own from home. However, only new Christians need them, because the African carries his hymnal in his heart. He memorizes all the stanzas to dozens of songs. They can sing for hours without ever opening a book.

Once after praying I started singing “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” in English because it said what I wanted to say just then. I had never heard the Africans sing it before, but sure enough, after a few bars they all joined in, singing the words in Chitswa. They know a lot of the hymns we sing, which someone has translated into their language.

Another way the Africans are different is they never sing just part of a hymn. They always sing all the verses. And then, sometimes, when they get to the end they keep right on singing, starting over with the last verse and working backwards to the first again.

They do their offerings differently as well. They take I Corinthians very literally, where it says God loves a cheerful (hilarious) giver. During this part of the service they always sing a happy song, and people go dancing up to the front, waving their offerings in the air, to place them in the offering basket. Even the old women can hop and skip like little children, for a while. We can’t help smiling as they dance to the offering basket, faces all lit up and beaming, offerings in hand. This is our favorite part of worship here, and we hope one day we can send back a video tape for you to watch.

Though they wave their gifts in the air for all to see, it isn’t done in order to show off, because the offerings are very small. The Africans don’t understand that they ought to give generously to God. They are not stingy people, but because they are so poor they think they need to give only a very tiny fraction of their increase to the church. They don’t realize that Proverbs 11:34-35 teaches if we give little to God, we will remain poor and never have enough! But if we are generous in giving to Him, He will meet all our needs. This is a hard lesson for people anywhere to learn, but it is especially hard in Mozambique where most people do not have enough money to even buy their daily food.

When the church really needs money, they have a contest. All the Sunday school groups compete to see which one can give the most. They have a separate collection during the service for each class. At the end, the money is counted and the winner is announced. Sometimes people stand up and cheer if their class wins.

Many American churches have contests too, but this is not right. Such Christians do not realize that God says in Matthew 6:1-4 if we do something just to win a contest or to pat ourselves on the back or to get the applause of men, we might as well not do it at all. If we only try to please God when we think we’ll get something for it, or because others are watching, God says we have no reward in heaven! Such offerrings are meaningless to Him.

Many of the African Christians don’t know this so they go dancing to the front to put money in the offering plate for each of the different classes. These Christians give six or seven times in the same service, and they love doing it!

Prayer seems to be important to the African church. They have not forgotten how to kneel. Because the room is so crowded, only the leader gets on his knees, while everyone else kneels in his heart.

When someone dies, church members will gather at his home every night for many days to pray with the family. However, they are praying to God to help the dead man. They have learned this from the Catholics, who believe you can help a man get to heaven after he dies by praying for him. This is a serious mistake. Like the Catholics, they do not seem to realize that whether we go to heaven or hell is determined solely by whether or not we come to faith in Jesus Christ during this life.

We appreciate the preaching at church. A different person preaches every Sunday. But we have heard some very strange things taught from the pulpit because the people do not know the Bibles very well. Several people have taught that the church needs to become more and more righteous so that the Holy Spirit will come into the lives of its members. They do not realize that Romans 8:9 teaches that all truly saved Christians have the Holy Spirit already. Theyvare still waiting for Him to come, with the sound of rushing wind and with tongues of fire such as happened at Pentecost.

The Christians have a good reputation among their neighbors. People in Nampula know that a Christian is different. Once a Christian came to see me at the hospital. The interpreter helping me thought perhaps I had never heard of a Christian before, so he started telling me what a Christian was like. He said, “A Christian is different. You can beat a Christian, and he won’t fight back. They are faithful to their wives. They don’t smoke or drink. And when they are sick, they never go to the witch doctor or get help from spirits.” He didn’t understand why Christians were different, but I was happy to know that, like the early Christians, they are highly spoken of by unbelievers.

Like the early Christians, they seem to love and accept each other, even if they are not members of the same church. If a church has a special cause for rejoicing, such as when a new building is dedicated, all the other churches in town send delegations to rejoice with them and help them celebrate.

The church in Mozambique is different from churches we know at home. There are many things we can teach them. Do you think there is anything they could teach us?

Missionary Motives II

October 1986 – Vol.2 – No.4

In the last Evangel we began looking at concerns that motivate Christians to involvement in missions. Contrary to the opinion of some, these motives are not the mark of a missionary. They are concerns that ought to arise spontaneously from the heart of every believer, stimulating us to missionary involvement.

As noted last time, the first motive that usually comes to mind is a concern for the great need of man. Apart from faith in Christ there is no salvation in the day of reckoning (Acts 4:12). And apart from a knowledge of Him, there can be no faith in Him (Romans 10:14). The consequence is that multitudes of men have perished in their sins with no awareness of the only one who could deliver them. God does not view the fate of these men with indifference (Ezekiel 33:11)! And neither should we!

But if this one fact was not sufficient to give us pause, there is a second motive that is far greater than the first. As far greater, in fact, as its object is than the object of the first. For while the first motive arises out of a concern for men, the second motive arises from a concern for God and His glory!

This concern is reflected in some things the Bible has to say about “the name of the Lord.”

Psalm 113:3 says, “From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the Lord is to be praised.” In this verse we learn God’s name is to be praised through all our waking hours, from one end of the earth to the other.

Malachi 1:11 says, “For from the rising of the sun, even to its setting, My name will be great among the nations.” This enlarges upon what was stated before, revealing that God’s purpose for His name is to magnify it through all the earth.

Living in a day when the evangelical church is more and more man-centered in its perspective, many are surprised to learn that God has a mission that transcends even the salvation of men. Yet He does, and that mission is to magnify His name in all the earth. And once we appreciate the importance of that mission, we find a constraint placed upon us on the one hand, and a compulsion on the other, with respect to that most excellent name.

First, the constraint. Deuteronomy 28:58-59 says, “If you are not careful to observe all the words of this law which are written in this book, to fear this honored and awesome name, the Lord your God, then the Lord will bring extraordinary plagues on you and your descendants, even severe and lasting plagues, and miserable and chronic sicknesses.”

Here the Lord had two instructions to give through Moses. First, to observe the law of God, which included among other things strong admonitions to hallow the name of the Lord. But so important in the sight of God was His holy name that of all the commands within the Law, He singles out for doubled emphasis the warning to honor and fear His name, and attaches to it a series of dreadful curses for failing to do so. It is no wonder the Israelites would not even pronounce the name of God, let alone misuse it!

Again we read in Leviticus 18:20-25, “And you shall not have intercourse with your neighbor’s wife, to be defiled with her. Neither shall you give any of your offspring to offer them to Molech, nor shall you profane the name of your God….You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination. Also you shall not have intercourse with any animal to be defiled with it, nor shall any woman stand before an animal to mate with it; it is a perversion.

“Do not defile yourselves by any of these things; for by all these the nations which I am casting out before you have become defiled. For the land has become defiled, therefore I have visited its punishment upon it, so the land has spewed out its inhabitants.”

We are a little uncomfortable speaking of such things in a general newsletter. So heinous are the awful sins depicted here that we read in Leviticus 20 every one of them carried the death penalty! So awful are they that God was about to destroy a whole nation – every man, woman, and child – because as a group they were guilty of performing or tolerating these atrocities. So shocking are they that righteous people blush even to talk about them. Such things so horrible as infant sacrifice. So revolting as infidelity, and adultery. Even worse, homosexuality, bestiality… .and PROFANING THE NAME OF GOD! We hear it being done every day, and in God’s sight it is as horrible as the sin of bestiality!

There is more to profaning the name of God, however, than merely uttering it in a careless curse. For the literal meaning of the word profane is to make common. It is to take something very special, and make it a byword.

God is concerned with magnifying His great name. Our place is not to minify it! Yet how lightly we Christians sling the name of God about today! Such was not always the case. The Jews would not even utter the word, and we today need to be careful when we take the name of God upon our lips. God’s name is not to be linked with silly talk, jokes, or cute expressions for such profaning of the name of God is as abominable to Him as the sin of bestiality!

God demonstrates the holiness of His name in an event recorded for us in Leviticus 24. In a heated moment one of the people blasphemed the name of God. What that means simply is that he spoke God’s name in an irreverent manner. Have you ever been guilty of that? To the Jews, it was a serious matter in light of God’s commands just four chapters before. Now came the first offense. They went to God seeking to know what should be done. His reply? It was to take the offender outside the camp and stone him!

How many of us since then have been guilty of the same thing? We can be grateful God has not applied the death penalty for those who blaspheme His name as rigorously as He applied it in the first instance. But first instances, found in many places throughout Scripture, serve an important function. For they are a public example of God’s indignation with the offense committed.

If God always revealed the magnitude of His displeasure in the way that He did at these first offenses, men would be dropping right and left. But even though God does not immediately execute judgment when His name is carelessly and irreverently used, He has left us those examples as unending reminders of His anger.

We must not conclude that God no longer hears or cares. Rather, He is simply holding Hid judgment in reserve, to be poured out upon those who persevere in dishonoring Him until finally they have stored up the full measure of wrath that awaits them.

Having looked at the importance of God’s great name and the constraint upon our behavior which naturally arises from it, we are now ready to address its influence upon missions – namely, the compulsion that stirs us to action.

In Acts 9:15-16 we have recorded the word of God to Ananias, the man sent to Paul to open his eyes and show Him the way of faith in Christ Jesus. “Go, for he is a chosen instrumuent of Mine, TO BEAR MY NAME before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer FOR MY NAME’S SAKE.”

In these verses, spoken from the perspective of God, we see two things. First, God had a mission for Paul to fulfill. And second, that mission was going to have some consequences for Paul.

But note how God expresses each of these two facts. He does not describe Paul’s mission or the suffering it entailed in terms of what it would accomplish for man. He speaks in terms of what it would do for His name! As important as the former is, it becomes secondary in comparison to the surpassing glory of God’s name. And this difference in expression is the difference between a God-centered perspective, which has God as the focal point, and the man-centered perspective which only sees man’s salvation as the ultimate end of all things.

And this God-centered perspective was the way Paul viewed everything as well. At the beginning of Romans 1 he says, “Paul, a bondservant of Christ Jesus…through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles, FOR HIS NAME’S SAKE.”

God had given Paul a mission to fulfill, and had equipped him with the grace and authority to do it. Notice that Paul does not describe the mission in terms of the benefit it would have to men, but what it would accomplish toward Christ, namely, obedience among the Gentiles.

And what motivated Paul to pursue this calling? What drove him on even in the face of beatings, scourgings, stonings, imprisonment, perils on land and perils at sea? It was that Christ’s great name might be exalted and lifted high among all the Gentiles. He does not say he endured these things for the sake of the Gentiles, but for the sake of Christ’s name.

To be sure, this was not the only motive Paul had, though it clearly is his perspective in these verses. There were other times when he told the churches he suffered these things for their sakes. Both motives were involved – for Him, and for them. But always in that order.

That’s the way it has to be. Isn’t this what Jesus was saying in Mark 12:29-31? Someone wanted to know what the greatest commandment was. Jesus said, “The foremost of all the commandments is, ‘Hear, O Israel. The Lord our God is one Lord, and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.’ This is the foremost commandment. And the second is like unto it. ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.’ There is none other commandment greater than these.”

Which is the foremost commandment? What, above all else, ought to be our theme in life? To love God! That takes the preeminent place! But though they only wanted to know the greatest commandment, Christ did not stop there. He gave them the second one, because though it is not the greatest, it cannot be slighted. And the second is to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Both are to be a reality in the life of Christians, but there is clearly to be an order of magnitude difference between our love to God and our love to men. Is not this what Christ was saying in Luke 14:26? “If any man come to Me and hate not His father and mother and wife and children and brethren and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.”

Jesus is not here commanding us to bitterly treat our family. He does not say to love our enemies and in the next breath tell us to despise those who nurtured and cared for us while we were still helpless to do anything for ourselves. He is using a figure of speech called hyperbole to make a point, and the point is this: to be a follower of Christ, our love for Him must take precedence over all else. Next to Him, our greatest love for anything, any human attachment, any concern even for ourselves, must be of vastly secondary importance.

But if this is the way it is, why do we keep appealing to Christians on the basis of man’s great need of salvation to motivate them on to missions? Is there not an even greater burden on the heart of God’s people to which we can appeal? Indeed there is, at least among those who are aflame for Christ. And that burden is a concern for the glory of Christ, because we love Him. Not only is that a sufficient motive for missions. It is the greatest motive.

Why do we hear so few missionary talks along these lines? We hear many stories of the desperate plight of people in bondage to heathen superstitions. “They carve their bodies, They sacrifice their babies. They mistreat their women. The fires of hell are licking at their heels and they do not know it!”

To be sure, these things ought to concern us. God deliver us from complacency in this realm too. But why do we not shudder to hear the awful news that “there is a place where people do not worship God! A dead and blackened spot upon the globe from which no praise ascends”?

Do you have this zeal for Christ’s glory? It is the first step in a life of usefulness to Him. And it is the motive that has undergirded the missionary movement for at least 3,000 years. Ever since David uttered the Spirit-inspired words of I Chronicles 16:24-25. “Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all peoples, for great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised.” May His theme become ours as well.

From Bondage to…?

January 1986 – Vol.2 – No.1

The first article on Mozambique, published in October’s Evangel, traced its history from the first encounter with Portuguese explorers in 1487 until the birth in 1961 of an African movement destined to overthrow those who came after them hoping to find fortune and happiness on the new frontier. Viewing the territory as profitable for agriculture and the natural harbors ideal for controlling trade to and from much of the continent, the Portuguese had gradually conquered the local people whom they did not hesitate to forcibly use in carrying out their designs upon the land.

The day came, however, when an African slipped through the system that kept them from regaining control of their country. The man was Eduardo Mondiane, a Mozambican who left his home to become educated in South Africa, Portugal, and finally the United States. He taught anthropology at Syracuse University for a time, found an American wife, and in the 1950’s became a functionary of the United Nations.

In 1961, Mondlane visited his native land, using his status as a U.N. official to exercise freedoms he could not have enjoyed as a local resident. After meeting with the many African protest groups that had sprung up spontaneously throughout the country, he convinced the leaders that by joining together they could not only bring change, but could actually take control of the government that ruled them.


And so it was that in 1962, FRELIMO (the FROnt for the LIberation of MOzambique) was created under the leadership of Mondlane. Within three years FRELIMO guerrillas trained at bases in neighboring Tanzania were systematically attacking major industries and communication lines in Mozambique. Though they never controlled more than one fourth of the countryside, or any of the cities, the few thousand guerrillas did make their presence felt, tying up 60-80,000 Portuguese troops that were never successful in protecting such a large territory from the small, elusive bands. Finally, after ten years of continued harassment by FRELIMO forces, Portugal announced it was willing for the Africans to establish their own government, after which Portugal would withdraw from Mozambique affairs.

From the earliest days of FRELIMO, there were two competing philosophies regarding the type of government Mozambique would have if the revolution succeeded. Some wanted to keep the current system, only with Africans in control. Others envisioned a radically new society patterned after the theories of Marx and Lenin. When independence came, however, the contest was not to be decided by the people of Mozambique. It had already been determined six years earlier within FRELIMO itself. And the events surrounding those days remain a mystery even to the present.

It happened in 1969. Eduardo Mondlane was at home in neighboring Tanzania opening a package postmarked “Moscow” when a bomb concealed within it went off, killing him. FRELIMO immediately accused the Portuguese government of planning the assassination. The government in turn blamed it on the more radical elements within FRELIMO which had been openly critical of Mondlane’s ties with the west. The actual origin of the letter bomb will probably never be known, but it necessitated a general meeting of FRELIMO leaders to appoint a new head.

Until this time, the different factions within FRELIMO were held together by the skillful diplomacy of Mondlane, but in the days that followed his assassination, it became clear that the Marxists were in command. Finding their point of view increasingly disregarded, the moderates eventually abandoned the movement altogether.

The moderates carried the cause no further, however, and when Portugal finally allowed Mozambique to establish a new government, FRELIMO was the only group organized and prepared to take over. Given the 40 to 1 African majority, it probably would have won an election even if the Portuguese settlers succeeded in patching together a coalition ticket. However, unwilling to take any chances after ten years of fighting, FRELIMO refused to cease fire until Lisbon agreed to turn the country directly over to them. As the local Portuguese waited anxiously, Lisbon deliberated, then announced it would give the reins to FRELIMO without requiring a popular vote.

The Portuguese settlers were devastated by the news. Many had spent their entire lives in Mozambique and knew no other home. Having no hope of any voice or influence in the new government, they left, taking all they could and bitterly destroying much of what they couldn’t. By the time FRELIMO took over on June 25, 1975, only 40,000 of the original 250,000 Portuguese remained. As conditions rapidly worsened, most of those also departed, so that today only 10,000 Portuguese are left. Thus the day of independence was indeed a resounding end to Portuguese control over Mozambique’s affairs.

During the celebrations that took place that day none could have guessed the difficulties that lay ahead for the new nation. Probably at that time, none would have cared, as anything would seem better than remaining a non-citizen with no hope for the future. Nevertheless, the Mozambicans were unknowingly on the threshold of economic ruin, unprecedented physical privation, and a vicious war waged by hostile guerrillas that would soon paralyze the country.

The irony is that the stage for it all was being set in the midst of the very celebrations taking place that day. As President Samora Machel proclaimed in his inaugural address, FRELIMO came to power with two main objectives: to make Mozambique the “first fully Marxist state in Africa,” and to bring to an end colonial regimes in other African countries.

To fulfill the first objective, the new president declared that all land, economic enterprises, property, and public services (medicine and education) now belonged to the people. Everything from gigantic office buildings to family operated ice cream shops and funeral parlors was to be taken over by the government, even though it knew very little at this time about managing a business or maintaining a modern office building. The fact that the people currently doing the job would not cheerfully continue once the benefits went primarily to the state rather than to themselves did not seem consistent with the Marxist view of man. Still, the government probably was not surprised at the mass exodus of Portuguese before and after independence.

They might have been surprised, however, that even the “humanitarians” would leave rather than work for the state. But after nationalizing medicine all the doctors joined the exodus, with only 20 remaining in a nation of 14 million people.

The resulting health care crisis was only a small part of the general problem Mozambique now faced. Since the Portuguese system had prevented anyone else from obtaining advanced skills and education, the country was left without the people necessary to keep it operating, and the result was economic ruin. The Africans happily moved into the fine homes and apartments vacated by the fleeing Europeans, but today they have no gas, no running water, and frequently no electricity, because there are not enough people left who know how to keep the system working.

Because of the economic problems, it is impossible to import much of anything. The people are still living off the supplies left in the country at the time of independence. When something breaks, it generally cannot be fixed, and it cannot be replaced. The stores are virtually empty, and what is available for sale is priced well out of reach of the typical Mozambican. And so the people do without.

This physical privation was greatly amplified by the drought that has recently been severe in the southern hemisphere. Though only 5% of the land was in use at the time of independence, Mozambique was more than self sufficient in food. It wined and dined a growing tourist industry as people flocked from both Portugal and South Africa to the resort areas in and around Maputo, enjoying the many gourmet restaurants and feasting on some of the largest prawns in Africa. In recent years however, the people have been dying for lack of food. In 1984, more people died from starvation in Mozambique than any other country in the world, 270 people starving to death every day. Ironically, while the north was hardest hit by the drought, the south was slashed by a hurricane inflicting further damage hard to repair by the already overtaxed government.

Economic woes were further aggravated as Mozambique sought to fulfill its second objective, to liberate neighboring nations from their colonial rulers. To help topple the Rhodesian government, it closed its borders to that landlocked nation despite the fact that doing so shut off almost all trade rolling across Mozambique and through its harbors, the nation’s single greatest source of income. In making such a sacrifice, the financial loss absorbed by Mozambique over the years was 300-500 million dollars, nearly one third of the yearly gross national product!

Mozambique’s livelihood, however, depends even more on South Africa than Rhodesia, and despite its great abhorrence of South African policies it was constrained to avoid similar sanctions there. Nevertheless, because Mozambique openly supported the guerrilla forces attacking South Africa, South Africa curtailed all dealings with its hostile neighbor to the extent that it did not inconvenience itself. Whereas the Portuguese government netted 150 million dollars yearly by furnishing workers for the South African mines, South Africa drastically reduced the number of Mozambicans it would hire and began giving the entire salary to the worker, cutting the government completely out of the pie – and it had been a significant piece of pie, as the revenue formerly gained by the Portuguese in this manner covered half the government’s yearly budget!

South Africa inflicted its greatest blow, however, in maintaining the ongoing war that has terrrorized the people of Mozambique and made efforts to rebuild impossible. The problem started when Mozambique began aiding guerrilla forces in Rhodesia and South Africa in an effort to help their brothers gain independence. Those nations retaliated by using their far superior economic and military might to supply dissidents within Mozambique with whatever they needed to wreak their own havoc. Though the number of dissidents is probably small, it does not take many men to blow up an important railroad bridge or power line or to plant a mine in a road and destroy a passing bus, maiming and killing those on board. The mercenaries attack defenseless villages killing any who have not fled. The result is that much of the country lives in terror. Travel over land is risky at best, and efforts to help those people dwelling in desolate regions is nearly impossible.

In the midst of all this, the government watched in disappointment as more sad facts emerged, this time on the political front. The masses who were to carry forward the Marxist ideals and participate in ruling the new society did not measure up to former expectations. It was no surprise that the “self-serving” Portuguese did not fit the mold, but when the army was expected to carry on without pay after independence, there was widespread discontent. Having fought for independence ten years without pay, it seemed reasonable that they would just as freely defend the ideals they had so nobly brought into existence, but apparently even they were not that committed. Within a few months, it became necessary to pay the army for doing its job.

A series of such disturbing realities finally compelled the government to abandon its original plan and replace rule by the masses with rule by a very small minority, or “vanguard party.” The purpose of the vanguard party is twofold – to help the proletariat outgrow the self-centered mindset that motivated the former society, and to rule the state in place of the masses until such a transformation occurs. Nowhere, however, has this transformation taken place, and all Marxist countries continue to be under the control of a minority. In establishing such a vanguard party, the optimistic idealism of the revolution has of necessity been replaced by a more pragmatic approach.

This pragmatism is being manifested in other areas as well. To overcome the economic problems brought about by nationalization, the government has backtracked to encourage small family run businesses. A limited form of free enterprise is being tolerated in an effort to attract foreign investment. Having received less than expected from Soviet allies, Mozambique is increasingly turning for help to western countries which have responded favorably to what they consider a genuine openness to alternatives. And in 1984 a treaty was even established with formerly hated South Africa in hopes of rebuilding economic ties and bringing the guerrilla war to an end.

Mozambique today is indeed very different from former times. War, famine, poverty, and a marxist government have radically altered the face of the nation. But the country continues to change as the government wrestles with Marxist philosophy on the one hand, and pressing realities on the other. The final direction that this potentially prosperous nation takes is a matter of great interest to the watching world.

But for the Christians living there, it is far more than just a matter of interest. They not only walk through the valley of terror, famine, and poverty experienced by all Mozambicans, but must also face the special difficulties that stem from professing Christ in a Marxist society.

Life for the brethren in Mozambique is a cause for prayer and concern on the part of Christians throughout the rest of the world, and will be the subject of the next issue of the Mozambique Evangel.

Abstract: After waging a ten year war for Independence, a relatively small band of guerrillas succeeded on June 25, 1975 in placing Mozambique’s government in the hands of FRELIMO, a Marxist liberation movement. Though there were no elections, FRELIMO would almost surely have been the popular choice because of antipathy for anything the Portuguese might have proposed, and lack of moderate alternatives. FRELIMO’s two main objectives, to establish overnight the first fully Marxist state in Africa and to overthrow colonial regimes in the rest of southern Africa, virtually ensured a period of severe economic depression and military retaliation on the part of neighboring nations crucial to Mozambique’s own well-being. Drought, famine, a hurricane, and disease have compounded problems. Further, the masses have not proven equal to Marxist expectations in political ways. The result is that life in Mozambique today is difficult, and the government has begun to moderate its former policies. The effect of this on the church in Mozambique will be covered in the next issue.