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St Pauls United Church-Mozambique Page 2

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 123 15 December 2004

Though God causes grief, he will have compassion....for God does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone. - Lamentations 3.32-3

In Mozambique, though almost 2 million of its 18 million people are HIV-positive, any one of those 2 milllion will probably feel entirely alone. Living in Mozambique you might think that AIDS is just a virtual disease, a media phenomenon only–saturating wall posters, billboards, ad spots on radio and TV country-wide–but not to be found in any living human beings. Through fear, shame, ignorance and stigma, almost no-one says: "I am HIV-positive". As they die by the thousands here every year, they and their families talk the language of euphemism and denial: "Lengthy illness." "Chronic condition."

GATVs are a way to try to change all that–the Portuguese acronym for Centres for Voluntary Testing and Counselling, which exist in all provinces. More are being opened every month. In a GATV, in private, supportive surroundings, a person can get tested for the HIV, and counselling on how to cope with being positive, or how to stay negative. For anyone 19 or under, it's free.

Last week CCM filmed, at a Quelimane GATV, a scene to show a fictional Mozambican youth coming in for the test and counsel.

In the waiting room there's TV with soccer to distract you, and pamphlets arrayed on wicker tables.

In the private meeting-room, glossy posters on the the walls show smiling couples under slogans about faithfulness, and others portraying in clinical detail lurid symptoms of AIDS and STDs.

There's a shoebox-size carton of condoms and a sign saying, Help Yourself, and a wooden penis for demonstrating how to apply one.

In a corner of the room on a table are the ominous chemicals and testing vials, and a vase of plastic flowers.

Most of all there's a friendly, first-name-basis nurse, who sits beside you on the green upholstered couch, to guide and test you–and your partner if you came in together.

In the film they are Lourdes and Marcos–Lourdes a nurse in her white coat, Marcos a teen in black T-shirt, jeans and gangster head-scarf. You see them in the web-site photo --

Lurdes marcos gatv.jpg

Tough as he tries to look, he really just shuffles in, subdued and bewildered. Compassionate, professional, Lourdes leads him through the counselling–the what-ifs, the means of HIV avoidance, the ways to make the most of your life if the test shows you seropositive already.

We don't find out the test result for Marcos. We don't learn if his girl-friend is positive, or his previous girlfriend or friends, or who has passed the virus into whom. We don't know what his life will be from this day on. We do learn that the GATV exists, as surely as the virus does, and it is far, far better for the Marcoses to go there for help than to stay alone in doubt, grief and affliction, not knowing if the virus is breeding away inside you, nor what you can do if it is.

Nothing is more frightful than the unknown. The film can demystify the GATV, the way the GATV demystifies the dreaded virus.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 122

  • 10 December 2004

You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. - Psalm 139.3

On December 1-2, Mozambicans voted in their country's third national elections since independence. As of this day, in Maputo votes are still being re-counted. Here in Zambezia province, as nationwide, the Christian Council led a coalition of trained steadfast electoral observers, who in pairs monitored 148 of Zambezia's 2370 polling stations, most of them elementary schools in isolated rural communities.

Logistically the task was enormous and complex. But CCM believes that Mozambicans themselves must monitor elections, not leave it always to the Carter Centre and others. In the website photo

Morrumbala map.jpg

You see teams at their planning before setting out, scanning a district map. Scant traditions of democracy, few material resources, poor roads, long distances, few means of communication–all these make transparent, independently observed national elections a miracle.

To get to their stations, they travelled as far as they could by truck, then by bicycle, motorcycle, canoe and on foot, carrying their observer forms and credentials. Some journeyed for two days to reach their poll. The rains have started here. In only one case in Zambezia, on the far side of Mozambique's highest mountain, in heavy rains, the only road became a steep mud slide, and CCM's two observers never did arrive as planned.

After difficult voyages they stayed at their posts for the two days of voting, and the whole night in between, and then observed the counting, poring one by one over ballots, starting after the poll close and continuing all night by lantern. Almost no rural polling site has electricity.

On the third day, exhausted teams began their treks out to the nearest places where they could telephone, to get result tabulations to the county town, where observer captains could forward them to CCM in Quelimane, to send them on to the national capital, a crucial check on official counts.

In Morrumbala district, CCM's observers Atija Joao and Ilton Alfredo travelled two days to reach their poll in Chazuka. They had to cross the Chire River by canoe, the border with Malawi in that district, and then re-cross back into Mozambique. No passable Mozambican road goes there. In Chazuka during election time it rained. Arriving at the Chire River to return they saw water levels rising and the current had strengthened. But they entered the canoe, determined to deliver their precious results on time. Midstream in treacherous current it capsized. Another boat rescued Atija but Ilton drowned. The next day, they found his body far downstream. A CCM truck brought it back to Quelimane to be buried.

Ilton and Atija were students. Ilton had just been accepted into university in Maputo. People like these are the nation's future. May God be with Ilton and his family. In Mozambique, democracy is costly.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 121

3 December 2004

Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook...? - Job 41.1

This is one of God's questions to Job. Can he a mere human conquer the worst and greatest of all beasts? They both know that the answer is no. Only God can.

Leviathan today, living defining symbol of chaos and destruction, is not a giant monster of the oceans but a microscopic virus: the fatal HIV. At present worldwide it's inside 40 million humans, and killing them slowly or quickly. In our little city of Quelimane (population 175,000), it's infected over 20,000 suffering people.

To mark World AIDS Day, the Christian Council and the provincial Nucleus Against HIV, the national umbrella body of the dozens of organizations fighting in the war in Mozambique against Leviathan, organized a Rally for Hope at a stadium in Quelimane, a thousand people marching with banners marked with the red AIDS ribbon loop, as you see in the web site photo:

Parade AIDS day 04.jpg

Live And Help Live

Together Against HIV

Rights For AIDS Orphans

In the stadium there were prayers and speeches from religious leaders Moslem and Christian, there were noisy chants and cheers and a crowd on its feet swaying and punching the hot Quelimane air. A troupe of acrobats with balls, hoops, bottles and bicycles performed astonishing deeds of balance, strength, and contortion. The message of their marvellous feats was, ‘See, we can do things that you would think impossible. So the war against the HIV also is not impossible. Together, that we can do too.'

A group called Dance With Us And Not With AIDS, sixty young people of Quelimane, wiggled their way into the familiar AIDS-loop shape on the stadium floor to accompaniment of a sound- system booming Quelimane music. At program's end they called the entire assembled throng down to boogie with them, a whole basketball court full of dancing warriors in the Quelimane campaign against the HIV.

To date nothing exists that can hook the AIDS virus and yank it from the human body. Rallies are to celebrate, invigorate, raise people's energy and spirits, give them confidence, let workers know and say that they do not toil alone, but in the company of enthusiastic others. That's what happened this time. A thousand people surged out afterward into the streets, believing for a time at least that with God's help they can snag this monster and pull it from our world, by will and zeal, faith, hope and love.

In Mission and Service,

Karena and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 120 10 November 2004

Every day he was teaching...and all the people would get up early in the morning to listen to him in the temple. - Luke 21.37-38

Often in the Gospels, Christ is called Teacher. He was just as much teacher as healer. He wanted people to learn and live by what he thought important, to honour and develop and lovingly apply the gifts of each endowed by the Creator. That's also the purpose of teaching in the PEDRA anti-AIDS program for girls' education. Christ taught in a temple, on a mountain, by a well, from a boat, and in private homes. PEDRA too has taken place in all of these settings, except, so far, in a boat.

Nothing in the countryside makes school learning easy, especially not for girls.

Distances to school are long, buses do not exist, nor bicycles for most, nor roads that buses or bicycles could run on.

Houses have no electricity, no lights, so how can students do homework after dark?

Village schools end at grade 3, 4 or 5, and then a student must leave home, go live in a larger town–an expense and inconvenience that many families can't or don't support.

They don't want school, they want daughters to marry early. By tradition in Zambezia, the husband comes to live with the family of the bride–one more strong farm worker.

Girls learn that that is their role, to secure a man, and care for a family. They marry by fourteen.

Rural school directors all say how hard it is to get girls to speak in class, to ask a question, volunteer an answer, much less express an individual opinion. They sit silent with heads hung down. Only one in ten goes past grade 4.

But lack of education and lack of encouragement for self-expression mean ignorance and low self-confidence–two critical high-risk factors for HIV.

Not so the girls of PEDRA. It is hands-on interactive activity in groups and individually–drama, music, arts, group study where each girl helps each other. This month in the rural PEDRA centres the girls put on presentations about HIV/AIDS. Each chose a slogan, put it on a poster, strode forward undaunted and recited aloud to everyone. My Sister with AIDS is my Sister Still. Together We'll Beat AIDS. I'm Only a Child Still-- Sex is for Later. See the typical rural AIDS activist PEDRA girl in the web-site photo:

AIDS recitation.jpg

No hung head or bashful shuffle for her.

In Quelimane where PEDRA has electricity, the girls get to sing and speak with microphones even– what better way for a girl to say, I have a voice and can make it heard loud and strong.

In mission and service,

Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 119 30 October 2004

The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning. - Ecclesiastes 7.4

Constancia is a young woman that we've known for quite a while now here in Quelimane. This week she died because of AIDS. She was young, not much more than twenty. A student at high school. Attractive, full of fun, in love with life.

Some of her friends turned away from Constancia when they found out she had AIDS. Others gave her love and loyal support more than ever. Some of them too no doubt have AIDS but may not yet know it.

The night before Constancia died, she taped a message for all her friends, and left it with a request that they gather together and play it, some time after her funeral. So one recent night, the mourning friends gathered at Zalala, the ocean beach near Quelimane. They sat silent around a bonfire and played the tape of Constancia's last words.

She forgave those who had been afraid to be near her, she understood their fear, and asked them in future to be kind to those like her infected with the HIV. To those who stayed by her, she said a deep thank you. To anyone that she might at any time have harmed, she asked pardon. I love you all, she said. Please learn from my life and death. Remember me.

For all it was a time of deep emotion and reflection. Since then, others have heard Constancia's last tape. Maybe, as Constancia hoped, her tape will do good. Those who mourn and listen, as Ecclesiastes said, will grow wise, avoid the HIV and the early death she suffered.

Many more will hear Constancia's tape in future. You see, Constancia and her tape and her friends are fictional. They're in a movie, a feature film that a vigorous group of young people linked with CCM are shooting right now in Quelimane. They hope to finish filming by World AIDS Day December 1. Already they've edited and mixed some scenes, including the last powerful campfire scene at Zalala Beach.

The quality of their work is astonishing–the story, script, acting, camera work, editing, the sound track of original Quelimane songs about AIDS–including some sung by the PEDRA girls choir.

It's called Grito de Esperanca, Cry of Hope. In the web site photo

Ccm youth against HIV-AIDS.jpg

you see filming going of a scene less sad. When finished, Cry of Hope will be seen on Mozambican television, in schools, and on video in AIDS education projects of CCM and other organizations working against this scourge in Mozambique.

With start-up funding from the United Church of Canada's anti-HIV fund called Beads of Hope, the Grito team bought basic high-quality equipment. The rest that they need–imagination, talent, resourcefulness, and dedication to the war against AIDS–all this they have already.

Few would have thought that such a project could ever be achievable by a bunch of high-school volunteers in an isolated place like Quelimane. Amazing what the Spirit will make possible.

In mission and service, Karena and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 118 16 October 2004

God said to Samuel, "Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you...."

  • -1 Samuel 8.7

After all the disorder in the Book of Judges, the people of Israel want a king like other nations; a system of government that they hope can restore them. Samuel has his doubts, and God also knows that a kingship won't bring utopia. There'll be no miraculous change in the habits and fortunes of the chosen people. King Saul is tragic, David and Solomon and Josiah and their royal ilk are all imperfect as persons and as rulers. No system of government will change human nature, but it can create conditions for people to live in freedom and community, and develop the gifts and resources–personal and national–of each and all. God wants each voice to be heard and have influence.

On December 1-3, Mozambique is holding national elections, the third since peace came after decades of war and invasions by cold-war proxies. Mozambicans are still new to what we call democracy, as the Israelites were new to kingship. Elections that are free, fair, and transparent do not come easily anywhere. In our country of Canada we've been working at it for more than 150 years, and still haven't got it all right. So much harder in the world's 6th-poorest country per capita with recent scars of war and a still-developing sense of nationhood. Till twelve years ago, the people from the two main political parties were killing each other. Now, they're dealing with new instruments– posters instead of guns, campaign platforms instead of land-mines.

The Christian Council is one of many groups of civil society active in election preparation and observance. If the work of Christianity is human healing and respect for the dignity of everyone whatever their social stature, then democracy and Christianity are of a piece. CCM is working in partnership with others like the Mozambican Association for Democracy, the League of Human Rights, the Forum for Civic Education. Democracy is too frail and important to leave to the government and politicians.

On October 16 CCM Zambezia held an inter-faith service of prayer for peace in the election time. Moslem religious leaders took part, and the Zambezia provincial governor, and Luisa Diogo the Mozambican Prime Minister. There were prayers that the politicians and party workers will speak thoughtfully, with restraint, avoiding insult and incitement to violent feelings.

The twenty-seven girls of the PEDRA Quelimane choir sang, in their uniforms of blue skirts or jeans, white shirts, and beaded red AIDS ribbons, as you see in the web-site photo:

Pedra coro culto eleicoes out04.jpg

To fight against AIDS we need a country of educated people with freedom of speech, movement, and personal choice. "Give thanks with a grateful heart," they sang. "Now in our weakness we are strong,/In our poverty we all are rich". Democracy can do this. Thank God for this blessing, shaky and novel as it may be, of democracy in Mozambique.

In Mission and Service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 117 17 September 2004

Praise God with the lyre, sing to God with the ten-string harp. Sing to God a new song, play skillfully with loud shouts. -Psalm 33.2-3

On 18 March 2002 a group of young musicians formed, in the Reformed Church of Mozambique, a CCM member church, in the town of Milange, province of Zambezia. Their aim is to teach Bible lessons and other Christian activities to other young people through

songs, which they write and perform. Their slogan is, "Who sings prays twice as much."

One of their motivations was to fill their own time fruitfully, in a town with few organized activities to offer youth, many of whom are out of school, unemployed, and at loose ends in the streets. Milange, a border town with Malawi, is called the ‘corridor of death' with the highest rate of HIV/AIDS of any rural district of Zambezia.

For $70 they bought a portable organ, batteries, portable speakers and a modest amplifier. More than half of this money they contributed themselves, and the local Reformed Church congregation gave the rest. All of their other instruments–guitars, xylophone, drums–they made themselves by hand from local wood, with guitar strings made from metal salvaged from electrical cords and other wire. You see them being played in the web-site photo:

For letter 117-group musical milange.jpg

Their first concert, in September 2002, was a contest in the small administrative post of Mongue in Milange district. They came first and won a portable cassette player.

The event which they consider their most important comes on 4 October each year, Mozambique's day to commemorate the Peace Accord which ended their destructive civil war in 1992. Their song ‘Nthendere', which in the local language Chichewa means ‘Peace', has won them many prizes in local competitions. It has also become the group's name.

According to Alfredo Jaime the group's leader, ‘Music is the best way to evangelize'. He reports that young people and adults too are obviously thrilled to listen to their musical messages. The result? ‘Young people who listen change their behaviour.' What do they practice instead? According to the songs of Nthendere-- Non-violence. Protection from HIV. Praise. Hope. Love of life.

In Mission and Service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 116 30 August 2004

  • "Cast your net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some fish." So they cast it.
  • - John 21.6

In 3 mountain districts of Zambezia, CCM, like Christ, has been showing people how to fish. First, water. The people dig ponds, about 8 by 16 metres, a metre or so deep, with earthen walls, near a spring or stream to bring water through a dug channel. Through a bamboo outlet pipe the water can drain away, and fresh water enters. People help each other dig.

From another province CCM brought fish, a species that the locals call dilapia, and stocked the first few ponds with a dozen or so breeders each. They feed the fish what they can– ants and termites, leaves of garden vegetables, chaff from pounding corn, nothing that costs money. The fish seem content. In 6 months they grow to harvest size, 20 cm or more. On a fishing day there is great anticipation in the crowd that always gathers–fishing is a novelty. With a long net the width of the pond, with floats at its top edge and stone weights at bottom, as you see in the web site photo (

Peixe rede 2 jun04.jpg

They sweep the tank from end to end. Co-op groups share a net, and help each other harvest.

The smaller fry they pluck from the net and throw back in to grow some more. The keepers they mount on a gill-string, a strip of twisted banana leaf. Here in the mountains, fish came only from the Indian ocean dried, smoked or salted. Now fresh fish sell in the neighbourhood– 30,000 meticais a kilo, about $1.50 Canadian– more than the daily minimum wage. Money for school fees and notebooks, medicines and soap. Some have invested in a bicycle, rabbits, guinea fowl, or goats.

Sometimes the fishing families eat fish to improve their diet. These were subsistence farmers, living on cassava, beans and pumpkin. In the past they ate meat or fish at most once a month.

Forty would-be fishermen signed up for CCM's aquaculture workshops, and helped to excavate that first tank, digging with spades and hoes. CCM paid to stock it, and in time that mother tank supplied the rest. Then they moved on to dig tanks for each other. A half-dozen men in four days build a tank.

In return for having had help to get started, people with fish already give breeding stock to new growers. Aquaculture has spread across the districts. So far, CCM has helped set up over 200 tanks. Another 50 are dug and filled and ready for stocking.

Peixe jacinto jun04 r.jpg

In the other web-site photo you see a grower,

Jacinto Bilhate, grinning with his harvest, talking to a TV reporter from Maputo who had heard about this CCM project, and came to give it coverage. "I don't have words for how this tank has changed our life," he said.. "It was something new that I couldn't imagine. But you can really see the fish, the results."

In mission and service, Karena and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 115 16 August 2004

See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth....

- Genesis 1.29

Lettuce, cabbage, onion, tomatoes. We all know that these are good for you. But God had more than vegetables in mind. In the mountains of Gurue district, to fight against AIDS the CCM is growing curative plants like aloe vera and other local names like trapueiraba, erva gorda, sidreira, boldrueiga, then distributing seeds and cuttings and seedlings, and teaching people how to grow and use them to bring health and healing to bodies. An aloe vera solotion for example can soothe and heal the skin lesions that often come with AIDS.

It's a project called Nutrition and Positive Living. It's especially for HIV Positives, but anyone is welcome to take part, and no-one has to know who has HIV. Because people with HIV are, except for the HIV within, people like anyone else. Some others in the project have leprosy or TB or other prolonged diseases that come with AIDS, but here these are common, HIV or no. And not only those who are ill take part, but their families and neighbours. In time, the sufferer becomes too weak to tend a garden of vegetables and herbs, and others pitch in.

Some of this produce feeds the sick one and her family (most are women). The gardens help make up income lost through illness, to pay for food and clothing, medicines, and fees to keep the children in school.

Rita is HIV+. She lives alone. She took us to see her garden, a 10-minute walk past her village through fields, by a stream where her onions and cabbages and sidreira are growing. "I heard about CCM gardens when I was in the hospital," she said. "I now know it is possible to live with HIV. When sicknesses wear me down, the garden gives me strength and hope."

Sebastiao's wife is HIV+, and they're caring for his 11-year-old niece left by his sister who died of AIDS. "We've had our garden for a year," he said, "and my wife's health seems to improve each week." In the web-site photo

Sebastiao com alface jun04.jpg

  • (
  • he shows part of one day's robust lettuce picking.

Another garden partner is an orphanage for children whose parents have died of AIDS. Of 28 orphans there, 26 are HIV+. Catholic Franciscan sisters care for them, give them love and stable lives and keep them in school. CCM set up the vegetable garden which Armando their handyman learned to tend.

So these children will live happier lives, though without medicines the odds in Mozambique are that in five years or less each will die. There will be more orphans. Last week twins arrived, five months old, both HIV+. You see them in the other web-site photo

Gemeas 2.jpg

held and stroked by older girls, themselves with HIV. While they live, they will be loved, comforted and fed by plants God gave us.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 114 3 August 2004

With honey from the rock I would satisfy you. - Psalm 81.16

According to the psalm, honey is one of God's blessings for humankind. Duarte Tiriate understands this. He's the president of an association of 12 beekeepers in Mocunha, a rural mountain community in Zambezia.

"Bees have always been here," says Duarte, "but we didn't know we could raise bees to sell honey." Not until CCM hired local carpenters to build four prototype hives, each a wooden box on four poles, with a hole where the bees enter the base, a wooden lid, and inside a row of hanging frames which the keeper can lift out, where the bees manufacture cells and honey.

CCM trained those original twelve volunteers–how to tend bees, how to keep from getting stung, how to harvest, how to market. They loaned them funds to buy equipment. Coveralls, boots, gloves, screen-faced helmet, like you see in the web-site photo ( ).


And a smoker–a pan where a pungent local herb is lit, with a hand-pumped billows attached to push the sedative smoke in the bees' direction.

They placed the hives where bees would want them. From the Ministry of Agriculture they arranged a start-up swarm for one hive at the start of flower season. The bees flew off, reconnoitered, found flowers to their taste, brought nectar and went to work making honey. Local bees came to other hives. Six months later, the keepers took their first harvest.

CCM helped with packaging and marketing. Keepers wrap the comb in banana leaves, and scavenge little jars to contain the pure extracted liquid. People here know of honey, and like it, but hadn't anywhere to buy. Now they do. CCM puts keepers in contact with merchants, and helps negotiate fair prices. The keepers pay back CCM's start-up loans. Formerly subsistence farmers, now they have cash for children's school fees, medicines, and blankets against the mountain winter.

Now others want to keep bees in Mocunha. The carpenters have orders to build 200 hives. The keepers will share clothing and equipment. Each keeper who gets a hive passes on a queen and swarm to someone else.

Not only does the honey taste good, says the project technician Lucas Andre, but it's good for you too, an easily digestible sugar, "Better than the cane that we chew". It's an antibacterial. People rub honey solution on skin to heal burns, cuts, or ulcers."Four thousand years ago the Egyptians used honey ago to cure skin problems."

Maybe the Israelites learned that too, down in Egypt. Maybe that's why they thought of the new land they left for as a place of honey.

In mission and service, Karena and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 113 19 July 2004

The city was filled with confusion, and people rushed together to the theater.... Acts 19.29

In some districts of Zambezia, CCM has a theatre troupe. Women and men, all CCM employees, who write and put on plays about subjects that matter to the people they serve. In rural communities people don't have TV, few own radios, and very few could read a paper even if one came their way. News travels mostly by spoken word, and the people tell their stories by word and gesture.

The troupe does plays about HIV/AIDS, addictive drugs, voting in elections, staying in school, not using guns. Even one about paying into the national social security fund. Does that sound to you like an unlikely topic for drama? Then you haven't seen what young Mozambicans do with a story-line, a turning-point, and five basic characters— boy, girl, villain, clown, counselor.

Off the troupe goes, on bicycles down dirt roads to rural communities, with a bulging knapsack of props and costumes and a tall straw mat that they'll prop between two posts to make the backstage, in the shade of a tree or anywhere that people gather, sitting on logs or mats to watch the performance.

Take their play about Judite, which tells of the harsh life of rural women, who bear the load of house-work, field-work, and nurture of their extended community. Judite is pregnant again. She doesn't want to be, already has three children, but can't say no when her husband wants sex and won't wear a condom. It's early morning and she and her husband are off to their farm-field. She's loaded down with her soon-to-be-newborn, another baby on her back, two hoes, and a basket on her head. Her husband walks ahead, carrying his machete and nothing else.

At the field she works a patch of land much bigger than his. He dawdles and lolls but still finishes early, goes hunting and catches a rabbit. When her field-work's done he sends her home to cook it, and heads for the bar for a drink with his goofy buddies. Arriving home later he finds she's fed it to their hungry children. He beats her in a rage, as you see in the website photo ( ).

Pea violencia.jpg

  • Judite and the children flee to the hospital.

As in the Christian story, a CCM play ends with redemption. Judite's wise older brother escorts her home, and sits down with the husband for some counseling. He sees the light and reforms, and promises that in future their life will be of two equal partners. Judite is reconciled. Her man isn't bad, he just hadn't learned what was right and best for everyone.

Plays like this tell of people's real lives, and the ending points to how those lives might improve. The people watch with total concentration and involvement. Their eyes stay fixed on the action, no-one coughs or fidgets. They laugh, clap, murmur disapproval of a character's bad actions. They think. They learn.

Acts 19, with Paul provoking near-riots at Ephesus, is the Bible's only mention of theatre, so far as we know. The Jews unlike the Greeks apparently did not do plays to instruct and entertain and focus their lives. Probably CCM's troupe would have felt more at home in Ephesus than Paul did.

In mission and service, Karena and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 112 5 July 2004

God spoke to Moses saying: Make two silver trumpets...for summoning the congregation.

  • - Numbers 10.2

If God wants us to make and hear good music, God must want faithful people active in all arts. Besides music, the Biblical world was a place of carving, weaving, metalwork, dancing. Nowadays we have other arts and media too, and God can be present in TV and video and radio and all the range of electric and electronic art-making instruments that humans have developed since the days of the silver trumpets Moses made.

The team from Berkeley Studio, the film unit of our United Church of Canada, came here to film in Zambezia an episode of Spirit Connection, their program on Vision TV, to show the work of CCM and its allies fighting AIDS, and summon congregations.

They filmed in Mambucha, a rural community on the border of Malawi. The harvest of corn has been plentiful this year, and landscape is bright with fields of sunflowers and red peppers. But 150 children of that one small community no longer have parents: because of AIDS. Mambucha has no nurses or doctors, no medicines or health post, no cars to get to the nearest hospital an hour's drive away. They filmed and talked with adults with AIDS, whose hope was no longer for themselves, only that their children might be healthy and go to school.

They filmed Mambucha's orphan committee which CCM helped organize, which tries to care for orphans when the parents have died, find foster homes and visit them there, encourage them to stay in school and to have hope, bring them sweet potatoes from the committee's two fields, sometimes a pencil or notebook for school. CCM and the Ministry of Health are training volunteers to treat malaria, diarrhea, skin infections, fever. CCM will bring them basic medicines, by bicycle and motorbike. For now, Mambucha has no hope of medicines for HIV.

They filmed in the town of Gurue, where Ovilila works. Ovilila is a group of 18 women giving volunteer homecare to people with AIDS. Almost all are widows. Almost all have AIDS themselves. Ovilila in the regional language means Courage. They filmed Ovilila at the bedside of their founder and president, who is dying of AIDS, and died three days after this filming. This past month, three people that they tend have died. CCM gives watering cans, seeds and hoes, and training in nutrition. Ovilila helps the families of people with AIDS grow gardens– cabbage, lettuce, onion, tomato– vegetables to strengthen bodies overrun by HIV.

The artists of Berkeley Studio will call their film ‘Beyond Beads of Hope'. In the harrowing images that they filmed of suffering, hope persists and their film will show it. In the website photo ( ) you see Ovilila at vigil at their dying president's home, by her garden which CCM began and which the loving friends still tend for her. These are words from their vigil prayer: ‘Bless this house and all who gather here. Though we do not always know God's plan, God arranges and guides. Christ rose from the dead, so always we have hope.'

In mission and service, Karena and Bill Butt

Mission and Service Letters from Mozambique Letter 111 20 June 2004

You shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. -Isaiah 58.11

When Matilde and Rofino first saw the valley in Nequeia, in 2002, a vision came to them: this was the place to raise their family. It's a fern and bamboo lowland, dark fertile soil between two stony ridges in central Mozambique. No-one lives there, the land had never been planted. With two other families they formed an association, cleared some land and grew a crop of vegetables.

From the ridge a stream runs down a crevice but not towards their field. Following the swishing sound they climbed till they found a cataract which fills a pool in the rock. They sewed bark tubes for irrigation pipes and brought the water a kilometer from the pool through pipes to their crops. This took two months. The crops grew. They had their first harvest.

But the bark tubes cracked and leaked. So they blocked the stream's path with a few flat stones and diverted it down another crevice to their field. More crops grew–cabbage, pepper, onion and tomato. In the photo

Nequeia plantar couve.jpg

You see some of them planting cabbage seedlings.

Nequeia is 18 km from the nearest market town, and there is no road. They carried the crops on their heads to town to sell. With the income they bought a bicycle which can carry a big woven produce-basket fastened on a bamboo rack. They cleared a narrow bike-trail through the forest.

There was land and stream enough to support more families. They heard of the Christian Council and asked them for a loan to buy more seeds. Nine more families joined their Association. They named it AHONE–in English, Association of Horticulturists of Nequeia. They cleared more land and dug a system of trenches that irrigate all their fields in an hour when they open the small diversion dam above. They paid back their CCM loan and bought two more bicycles.

In the dry season the stream does not flow so much. They had a vision of a reservoir, a wall of concrete block at the cataract pool, storing water all year round for their crops, the water descending through a pipe of metal instead of bark. CCM arranged a little feasibility study on micro-irrigation at the site. It will work. Now they're trying to put together some micro-financing, to give water enough to irrigate the whole valley, where already their fields are stretching for a couple of hundred meters.

With so much more produce, CCM helped them negotiate a contract to supply the hospital and the student residence in the town, with as many vegetables as they can produce. They'll need more bicycles.

Marvellous what Matilde and Rofino and AHONE have accomplished, with a bit of help from the Christian Council.

In mission and service, Karen and Bill Butt

© St. Pauls United Church 2014

Ricks Clicks Photography
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