I met Bishop Manuel last week. With an old friend Revd. Joe Moffatt, a priest from Teddington who has an ALMA link.
Bishop Manuel is a legend of a man.
A man who thinks nothing to walk 50 km to reach cut-off parishes and who’s diocese stretches two times the size of the UK.
A man who, in his own words is “always on the move”: either always on the move visiting his vast numbers of churches across huge distances by foot, car or boat or always on the move trying to catch up with what the Holy Spirit is doing across the Diocese of Niassa, Mozambique.
He talks of the Spirit of God at work in these little communities off the beaten track before sometimes they even have a priest. God is growing his church and – he – the Bishop just comes to visit and bless this work. It’s exciting times for the Niassa diocese which has grown threefold over the last 15 years or so.
And yet, it is not without its challenges. When I asked him what the greatest challenges were that he, the diocese and church communities face, he listed huge ones that need our support and our prayer.
Can you help?
- Leadership and training: Most of the clergy have had minimal training and resourcing and for the church to sustain and cope with this level of growth, it needs more wise, mature and home-grown leaders. The Diocese of Lebombo is planning a new Seminary for the portuguese-speaking dioceses (can you believe one doesn’t exist?!) so this will be very important for the dioceses and something going forward MANNA will join ALMA in supporting.
- Poverty: Still one of the poorest countries in the world facing problems with floods, drought, HIV, malaria, malnutrition, lack of education and resources. The people of these dioceses face huge daily challenges that come with poverty. Niassa’s response of community development work (Equipas de Vida) is vital to facing this challenge.
- False Hope: Bishop Manuel spoke of how often people will put their hope false things, believing anything and everything. Jesus is the true HOPE and therefore the church of Mozambique has a unique message that needs to be heard.
- Fatalism: So many people feel unable to do anything about these daily huge problems of disease, poverty, homes, education etc and so there is a widespread feeling of fatalism that ‘nothing can be done’. This is why the church’s response of Umoja, (a Tearfund-begun community development & mobilisation tool) used with churches is key. ‘Umoja’ begins with the community, with where they’re at and what they have and identifies their key strengths and starts with their initial priorities and what they can do. It is exciting to see how this changes attitudes.
- New diocese: Finally Bishop Manuel spoke of the challenge of the multiplying the Diocese of Niassa and the new Diocese of Lurio which is planned to come into existence by the end of 2017, based in 2017.