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Tim & Bronwen Heaton, with their children Katie & Jamie, have been serving in Pemba, Mozambique, seeking to share the gospel among the Mwani people and see a church established.
Even under a mango tree
Many books have been written over the years outlining strategies for church planting among unreached people groups. Many of those groups are Muslim tribes. Someone asked recently why do we need to be so intentional and focus on a strategy; surely God’s Spirit will lead where he wants us to work? God, I think, is fairly intentional about the church’s mission: “How can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent?”
One late afternoon, team members in Pemba were listening to Mrs F’s exciting news about her new job. Grace realised this could be the last chance to share the gospel, so on the spur of the moment, shared the good news of the cross.
Mrs F was really excited and with teary eyes, immediately asked Grace what she had to do to follow the Messiah. Listening and obeying immediately, she vowed to remove all the amulets she possessed, as well as medicines from witchdoctors. Since then, Grace and Kristen have been discipling her, looking at issues of persecution, baptism and how to share the good news. When asked, she was enthusiastic about baptism. So the following week they walked down to the beach at high tide. Just before going into the water, Mrs F asked: “Does this mean I will no longer be a Muslim?” It was a hard question to answer, so Grace asked back, “What does being a Muslim mean to you?” Mrs F answered “I don’t know”. Like many others here, “To be Mwani is to be Muslim”. Many people take the name of a Muslim, without really understanding much of the belief. So Grace asked a different question: “Do you want to follow the Messiah?” She was sure of that, what it meant to follow, and that her allegiance is solely to Jesus now.
To see a church planting movement in an unreached area takes a huge step. Someone first needs to go, preferably a team, to leave one culture and enter into another culture and language. Secondly a ‘person of peace’ should be found. This is a person who will open up their family home and receive the gospel. Then the family need to be discipled and challenged to witness to their friends and call them to join together in fellowship. This meeting together, whether in a home, rented building or under a mango tree, is the body of Christ.
Even risking rejection
The barriers can seem enormous when we consider both the cross-cultural shock for the workers and the fear and shame for those locals who choose to follow Jesus. They must consider a departure from their long-standing traditions and beliefs and risk the rejection of their community. In most African societies, conformity and not individualism is seen as praiseworthy. One of the greatest challenges we have faced recently is having these new believers commit not just to following Christ but also to commit themselves to love each other as the body of Christ.
T4T (Training for Trainers) has been a huge encouragement for the team in Pemba, Mozambique. It is a church planting tool first developed in Asia. The idea is to have a continually growing number of church planting trainers and so from day one the new believer is challenged to share his faith with others. It is a far cry from a model that suggests we must first pass through discipleship courses, evangelistic training sessions or theological seminars before we are mature enough to be sent to share the gospel.