Clothes for Mozambique

October 1985 – Vol.1 – No.1

The book of Haggai tells of the rebuilding of God’s temple in Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile in 536 B.C. The first temple had been built by skilled craftsmen richly supplied from the inexhaustible treasures of King Solomon. This new temple, however, was being built by a motley crew of returned exiles who had no special training and little to work with. So we see in Ezra 3:12 that the laying of the foundation was a time of both rejoicing and weeping. Rejoicing, because of what God had done in making it possible for them to rebuild the temple. But weeping, because those who remembered the grandeur of the former temple were dismayed at the painful homeliness of the new one.

But as the people worked, God encouraged them with the promise found in Haggai 2:6-9:

For thus says the Lord of hosts, “Once more, in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land. And I will shake all the nations; and they will come with the wealth of all nations; and I will fill this house with glory,” says the Lord of hosts. “The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine,” declares the Lord of hosts. “The latter glory of this house will be greater thin the former,” says the Lord of hosts.

This must have seemed an impossible dream to impoverished, unskilled laborers. Certainly it would have been impossible if the fulfillment of it depended upon them. But they served a wealthy heavenly Father who owned all the beasts of the forest and the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10). In fulfillment of His promise, God soon caused King Darius to send forth a decree that all the nations around Jerusalem (their enemies, no less!) should provide whatever the Jews needed in rebuilding the temple (Ezra 6:1-12). Indeed, the Lord does own the silver and the gold, the beasts of the forest, and the cattle on a thousand hills! And, one might add, all the clothes at Edwards AFB as well!

The problem the Jews faced was how to build a glorious temple out of the little they had at hand. What recently happened here was their problem in reverse. It all started when a friend wanted to know what he could do with some old clothes he wanted to give to someone who would distribute them with a Christian witness to people who truly needed them. Knowing of the great need in Mozambique where people have been unable to buy clothes for years, it was suggested he send them to some Christians there. He could put the clothes in a little box, about one cubic foot in size, and mail them for $22.00.

Another friend who was present overheard the discussion and the next day stopped by the hospital and asked if she could put some of her clothes in the box. We were standing in the hallway outside the pharmacy and did not realize our conversation was being heard by one of the technicians inside. He stopped on the ward the following day to ask if he could put some of his clothes in the box too. There were a couple of nurses and three technicians sitting at the nurses’ station who overheard and they wanted to put clothes in too. Then they decided to make it a hospital-wide endeavor. Then they decided to purchase an ad in the base newspaper so everyone could know about it. However, when they found out how much it would cost, they quickly decided that was too ambitious. But now that the newspaper knew about it, they wanted to run a regular story with pictures and a notice they would draft themselves. Things kept happening, seemingly of their own volition, until in the end, the little box was magnified over 400 times as loads of clothing were deposited by people whom God had burdened to help the families in Mozambique!

Nearly five thousand pounds of clothing has since been sorted, packed, and is now on its way to Africa Evangelical Fellowship in New Jersey, a nondenominational mission organization working closely with the church in Mozambique that will distribute the clothes. But the snowball hasn’t stopped rolling. After the base newspaper ran its article, the local paper provided more coverage, and there was even a fellow from People magazine who called wanting to find out what was happening. It has provided good publicity for Mozambique, and assurance for the believers there that God does know their needs and is able to provide.

But the Mozambicans are not the only ones to benefit from all of this. As I and my friends stood, mouths agape, beholding all that was taking place in response to a simple question asked by one who wanted to be a good steward of a few old clothes, God was teaching an important lesson for any prospective missionary – a lesson in His sufficiency. There are times when God clearly indicates His will for us, but human resources seem lacking. Certainly this was the case for the builders of the temple. One can imagine the flagging spirits as they contemplated the work of their hands. “Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory? And how do you see it now? Does it not seem to you like nothing in comparison?” (Haggai 2:3).

Yet the one who has his eyes on the Lord and truly comprehends His greatness need not panic. How often do you receive desperation letters from Christian organizations pleading for your money, as if the world were caving in and only you could stop it? We should realize that letters written in such a tone betray a lack of confidence in our God’s ability to undergird the ministries that are pleasing to Him. As Hudson Taylor said, “God’s work, done God’s way, will never lack God’s supply.”

David understood the sufficiency of his God, and it prompted his glorious benediction upon the undertaking of the first temple:

Thine, Oh Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is Thine; Thine is the kingdom, Oh Lord, and Thou art exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come of Thee, and Thou reignest over all, and in Thine hand is power and might, and in Thine hand it is to make great and to give strength unto all. Now therefore, our God, we thank Thee, and praise Thy glorious name.

Yes, we serve a sovereign God who reigns over all. Thus He is not merely a God who would like to provide, but a God who can provide all our need to the glory of His name!

A Nation in Need

October, 1985 – Vol.1 – No.1

Mozambique is one of many African nations struggling to break into the twentieth century after five hundred years of forced subjugation under colonial rule. From the time of its first encounter with Portuguese explorers in 1487 until its independence in 1975, its only significance to the western world was found in the import/export column of a government ledger in Lisbon, Portugal. A land with many natural resources, it was such a profitable colony even with minimal development that Portugal was quite willing to expend great sums of money to keep it long after other European powers had given up their foreign possessions. By 1975, fully 40% of the total Portuguese budget was devoted to maintaining the war being fought in the various colonies, but because of the revenue they produced this was not considered unprofitable. It was not the loss of money, but the loss of lives that finally persuaded Lisbon to end the war it had been waging for ten years in Mozambique.

Considering the great worth of Mozambique prior to independence in 1975, it might seem surprising to find that now, after only ten years, it has become the most impoverished country in the world. Economic upheaval compounded by natural disasters compounded by ongoing civil war have brought the Mozambicans face to face with realities Americans experience only through their television sets. What is the story behind this tragic land? What were the events leading up to the present circumstance? And what is God’s purpose in bringing such things to pass? Hopefully, this and subsequent articles will shed light on the answer to these questions.

Geography and Climate

The country of Mozambique is a Y-shaped territory on the southeast coastline of Africa, facing out toward the large island of Madagascar. Its unusual shape defies description, except to say that laid on its side it resembles an old fashioned lady’s button-down high top shoe. Its most striking geographical feature is its long coastline, a characteristic that also figures prominently in its history and in its plans for the future.

Mozambique has a land area twice the size of California, quite sufficient for its 14 million inhabitants. Maputo, its capital city, is in the southern-most part and enjoys a climate similar to Miami’s, being the same distance from the equator but in the opposite direction. As you move north into the tropics the temperature does not change much because of the simultaneous rise in elevation that also happens to occur. Truly mountainous terrain is not encountered, however, except near the northern borders.


When people think of Africa they always think of lions, zebras and elephants, and according to the Encyclopedia Britanica Mozambique is well supplied, though I cannot say I encountered many roaming the streets of the two cities I recently visited. Besides the above species, the cheata, hyena, jackal, rhino, antelope, buffalo, and giraffe are said to be common. The 50 rivers which traverse the country en route to the sea are plentiful with crocodiles and snakes, and veteran missionary Gordon Legg tells a hair-raising story about a little boy literally snatched from the jaws of one such crocodile.

People and Religion

The people of Mozambique are made up of ten ethnic groups, seven representing different African tribes and the remaining three being Indians, mestizos (mixed races), and Portuguese. Of the latter, only a few thousand remain of the 250,000 Portuguese once living in that country.

Five different religions are found in Mozambique. Many Africans are still animists, serving capricious spirits supposedly belonging to their departed ancestors. Staying on the good side of these hostile spirits is a wearisome and often self destructive task. Islam was introduced in certain parts of Mozambique by ancient Arab traders, though most present day Muslims are far from purist, incorporating many African practices never dreamed of by Mohammed. Hinduism is common among the Indian population, and approximately 20 percent of the people have adopted the Roman Catholicism introduced by the Portuguese. Only 2 percent of the population is Protestant, according to some authorities.

Natural Resources

The Portuguese exploited three main resources in making Mozambique such a profitable colony. They were agriculture, its long coastline, and cheap labor. Despite having the highest death rate from starvation in the world last year, Mozambique was self supporting in food as recently as 1978, and some people have said that with proper development Mozambique could easily feed not only itself, but the rest of Africa as well.

Because of its disproportionate length, Mozambique controls much of the African coastline. It boasts one of the best natural harbors in the world, and in the past collected large sums of money through the use of its ports by land-locked neighbors to the west.

The Portuguese exploited Mozambique’s human resources by rounding up “unprofitable” natives and shipping them to the gold mines of South Africa. The money paid to Mozambique for this service was used in part to make Maputo, the capital, one of the most beautiful cities in Africa.

In addition to all this, before independence Mozambique also began developing a healthy tourist industry as foreigners discovered the appeal of its beautiful sandy beaches and big game hunters looked forward to safaris through its wildlife preserves. Its fishing waters also boast some of the best prawns in Africa, and the land is thought to contain significant coal deposits.

Early History

Those have not been the only assets attracting men to Mozambique, however. Long before the Portuguese came, seventh century Arab traders sailing down the African coastline made frequent stops on Mozambican shores to barter for gold, ivory, rhinoceros horns, and slaves. In exchange for these sought-after treasures they gave the Africans china, cloth, glass, beads, axes, and daggers. It was not long before the coastline was dotted with numerous trading cities, luxuriously administered by Arab traders.

The first contact with the western world did not come until some eight centuries later. In 1487, and again under Vasco da Gama in 1498, Portuguese explorers looking for a sea route to India sailed into the Mozambique harbors for a respite after the difficult voyage around the cape of Africa. They were impressed by the sophisticated trading society and opulent cities they found, as well as the exotic wares that could be obtained at the trade fairs. The potential for gain was not lost on the king of Portugal and in 1505 an expedition was sent to take control of these trading centers by force. The expedition was successful, and within five years Portugal controlled every major port from southern Mozambique north to the equator.

It was not until the 1600’s that Portugal began advancing into the interior of Mozambique. This came about as the ruling African dynasty began to weaken and insubordinate chieftains began breaking away from their leader. Portuguese opportunists supplied the African ruler with men and arms to fight his battles, but demanded land in exchange for their help. Although the crown was not desirous of devoting its own time or money to such conquests, it was quite willing to strengthen the claims of its subjects to the land so obtained by pronouncing it part of the colonial empire. In this manner, many portions of the country became fiefdoms under the control not so much of Portugal as of rapacious and enterprising individuals.

Wanting the advantages of an empire with none of its burdens, Portugal was a willing accomplice as these men and their “chartered companies” carried out their designs on Mozambique. Preferring to let others conquer the interior, it nevertheless hoped to reap some of the profits while absorbing none of the cost. However, as the chartered companies became strong enough to fulfill this objective, they also became too strong to be controlled by Portugal. Operating more or less independently, they became a law unto themselves. Policies that promoted maximum company wealth not surprisingly promoted maximum African subjugation as well. It was a time in Mozambique’s history that parallels the book of Judges, where every man did what was right in his own eyes, to the extent that he could get away with it.

This situation did not change until the 1900’s when Portugal finally became secure enough to oust the private companies and establish its own jurisdiction. Though even modern Mozambicans often allude to “500 years of Portuguese rule,” it actually was not until 1918 that Portugal finally wrested control from the last African and European holdouts. At this time Portugal began encouraging its native citizens to emigrate to the new land in an effort to maintain its grip on the territory. By 1930 there were still only 15,000 Portuguese attempting to hold down a nation twice the size of California. By 1950 there were 50,000. As the frontier was tamed, Mozambique became a desirable place to live because of its temperate climate and potential for wealth, and thus the population doubled in the following ten years. Finally, at the time of independence in 1975, 250,000 Portuguese were calling Mozambique their home.

The African, however, noted little change as rule by “prazero” or private company was replaced by rule by Portugal. He was still considered one of the natural resources that came with the land, to be exploited to whatever extent was convenient. While it was in fact possible for an African to become a citizen of his own country, the process was a difficult one few could negotiate. Africans were not encouraged to read or write, or even to learn Portuguese, thus even today over 90% of the population remains illiterate and unable to speak the national language. Apparently, to maintain their subjugated condition, Africans who did not attain to citizenship had a host of regulations they had to observe. They could not live in permanent dwellings, for example, but had to remain in traditional cane or mud huts, even if they had the money and initiative to build brick houses. While the typical African was only concerned about food crops, he was nevertheless required to grow cash crops such as cotton, sisal, cashews, etc. which the government then bought for a pittance and exported at great profit. Beginning in their teens, males were required to have documentation that they were gainfully employed at least six months of the year or they could be compelled to work on the local plantations or contracted to work in the South African gold mines. Portugal had a formal agreement with South Africa by which 60% of the African’s earnings were paid to Mozambique which took a substantial portion before “transferring” it to the worker. In a country with few formal jobs, it was the exception rather than the rule for an African to be “gainfully employed,” thus the government always had a plentiful supply of laborers to use as it pleased.

For the African who was highly motivated, the system had fixed limits beyond which he could not go. And while there is always the danger of developing a wrong perspective from uniformly biased reports, one certainly cannot call it unreasonable to conclude from such rules and regulations that the underlying philosophy in Mozambique was to keep the natives in a perpetual state of underdevelopment. Perhaps it came from a sincere belief that Africans were unable to assume certain responsibilities. Or perhaps it was to delay as long as possible the day when Africans might seize control of the system and drive it into the ditch. Or perhaps it was purely to facilitate their exploitation. In any event, the policy contained within it the seeds of its own destruction. The day inevitably came when an African slipped through the system and attained a position of power and learning commensurate with that of any other individual.

That man was Eduardo Mondlane, a Mozambican who left the country to become educated in South Africa, Portugal, and finally the United States. He taught anthropology at Syracuse University for a time, then in the 1950’s became a functionary of the United Nations. In 1961 he returned to his native land and became the key individual in what rapidly developed into a war for independence.

That struggle, culminating finally in “liberation” for Mozambique, along with the radical changes that followed soon after, will be the subject of the next issue of the Mozambique Evangel.

The Impossible Task

Excerpt from the first Mozambique Evangel – October 1985 – Vol.1 – No.1

Though there has been no explicit vision, no voice in the night, no mystical handwriting on the wall, there is nevertheless ample evidence that God intends to establish a missionary based medical work in Mozambique, not only to help relieve the desperate social needs, but also to strengthen the church in its desire to be a light in the darkness. We admit there are many obstacles standing in the way of these things becoming reality. Some are barriers insurmountable to men. The war that is devastating the nation, funds and supplies for the medical work, people burdened to pray and to go, and acceptance of such an endeavor by the communist authorities are only a few of the issues that must be soberly faced.

We recognize the existence of. these problems and realize they are matters only God can resolve. But as in all things, while we look to Him to bring His plan to pass, we must not sit idly by. We must pray. And we must prepare for the work He has for us, that we might be ready when the call goes forth. Such preparation is indeed a step of faith, for at the present time this work could not exist in Mozambique. But as the last article showed, God has graciously provided evidence that He does intend to perform it. And so we go forward in faith – not drummed up confidence that God will do what we want Him to, but confidence that what He has planned, He will surely bring to pass.

Post script, 2004:

The 17 year civil war ended two years after Grace Missions began working in Mozambique.

For the first eight years God provided a government hospital that served Grace Missions as a virtual mission hospital.

For eight years He provided funds, supplies, and personnel, often in amazing ways, such that not a single operation was cancelled or postponed except for four weeks when the hospital was closed by provincial authorities due to repeated guerilla attacks.

In 1998 we were granted authority to build and operate our own medical center in the city of Nampula. This was made possible when the Marxist government adopted a new constitution ending Marxism, establishing free market economic policies, and legalizing private medical care.

Even as God had provided everything needed for the medical evangelistic ministry at the government hospital, we marveled as He went on to furnish land, skilled personnel, funds, and supplies to begin construction of our own medical center in Nampula.

We have also delighted to see a local church established in harmony with the 1689 London Baptist Confession, a Christian book room opened in downtown Nampula, and national pastors’ conferences established that annually serve church workers from all over Mozambique and supply excellent books in a land devoid of Christian literature.

We praise God for His work of leading us to the right place at the right time and doing what men could not do to change the nation and give the gospel free course throughout the land.