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Yohanna Abdullah


This #StoriesofLoveComing begins back in 1898 and it is the story of a young Mozambican man called Yohanna Barnaba Abdullah, a Patriarch of the Mozambican church. 

Yohanna was from the Yao people and became the first ordained Anglican Mozambican priest in March 1898. He was priested on the small island of Likoma (in the middle of Lake Malawi/Niassa) in what was once the largest cathedral built by UMCA missionaries who came to rid the region of slavery. There is no known photo of Yohanna yet memories of him are still talked about today.

This inspirational clergyman was a historian of the Yao people of central Africa. The Yao converted en masse to Islam in the mid 19th century to protect themselves from the Arab slave trade. After a brief time in Zanzibar island, the heart of the slave trade on the East African coast, Yohanna served most of his ministry back in Unangu but visited Jerusalem in 1905, studied extensively, mastering Greek and Hebrew and he wrote a book ‘Chikala cha WaYao’ about his people and their language.

Yohanna oversaw the whole area from Unango through to Lichinga, travelling on horseback, speaking several languages. He died in 1924 but his influence continues on today; a man who served his people in their own languages and who served his Lord relentlessly. Today his name still lives on as the name of the central church in Lichinga where the Diocese of Niassa is based (this is the photo above). For years and years, these Anglican communities had had a dream to have a large central church where they all worshipped together. After many years of building, sacrifice, prayer and hard work, this is Yohanna Abdullah Church in Lichinga, built in 2013 where today 1500 adults and children worship in Yao, Nyanja and Portuguese.

Lord Jesus

Thank you for the wonderful example of one of the Patriarchs of the Mozambican church Yohanna Abdullah. May we, like him, hear the Lord’s call for our lives and choose obedience over our own desires.