Through God’s faithfulness, grace and goodness, through the faithful prayers of many, through a year of planning and a team of faithful servants (thank you YWAM), through several gifts from the people and interested parties this past week we made history!!! The first ever conference for the Yawo church. It was a ton of work and a total team effort, but what a blessing and amazing week. Our God can move mountains and this week He moved a big one. On Monday over 150 Yawo believers from Mozambique converged on a small village, Chiconono. This area was perfect for the conference because it is said to be the actual birthplace of the Yawo. For three days we celebrated what God is doing among the Yawo.
Ninety-five percent or more of the Yawo are Muslim so it has been a slow process to sow and reap the fruit of Christ’s work. But slowly God has moved throughout many different villages and His word has begun to penetrate hearts and minds. Now small groups of believers have sprung up. These believers are few and far between and many times receive persecution and / or expulsion from their families (This is an ultimate low for a Yawo. Death would be preferred). Because the church is young and small, believers do not have a church or a group of believers to disciple, encourage and help them on their newfound path. In an effort to network, disciple, encourage and help the Yawo church this conference was created.
This was the largest Christian gathering among the Yawo in Mozambique ever so first let me just say that it was just a blessing to be a part of this and to see the people in unity dancing, singing, praising God, giving testimony and fellowshipping together. The Yawo love to sing and this week was no different. Many of the praises are original to each church since there is no established church tradition. I don’t think words can really describe what we witnessed only know that it brought tears to our eyes. We gathered. We sang. We danced (with a dirt floor it got pretty dusty J). We praised God. We taught songs. We learned songs. Pastor Amosi Phiri Asabiuya, a mature Yawo believer from Malawi and Pastor Mwanja Mangoni, a Yawo believer from Tanzania as well as a veteran missionary from South Africa came to speak about our identity in Christ. It was so special for the Yawo believers in Mozambique to see and hear a mature believer because the believers in Moz are almost all babies in their faith. It was amazing to see the people devouring with attention the seminars. We talked about marriage, funerals, parenting, initiation (called unyago) and traditional medicine. The last day we all walked down to the river and baptized 20 people!!! For us, though, there was one thing that stands out above all the rest, the testimonies. We heard personal testimonies from many about their decision to follow Yesu. Our pastor in the States always quotes a formula: pain + perseverance = joy. This is the story of many Yawos as they were told to leave their homes and to never come back. One man told of how his wife’s family told him that they didn’t want to hear about her even if she died, but yet she chose Yesu. We heard the testimony of one chief who has recently put his faith in Yesu, a big step for a leader amongst the Muslim Yawos. The people gave testimony of how their lives had changed. Parents have begun to disciple and teach their kids. Parents explained how many of them cannot read but that does not mean that they cannot teach their kids the Word of God, so to show everyone this reality many of their children stood up and quoted verses. (I think at that point I lost it.) The theme for the week was Identity in Christ and for the first time I understood its significance. Many times the Yawo have to decide if they will lose their familial and earthly identity to be identified with Christ. They will truly be blessed for their decisions. As they sang - Kwenda, Kwenda, Kwenda ni Yesu (Walk, walk, walk with Jesus).
Fred, a veteran missionary from South Africa, used to work in a small village amongst the Yawo. For over 10 years he faithfully persevered reaching out and loving the Yawo. He led some of the first believers to Yesu. He said this was the most encouraging event he has ever witnessed. He saw the Spirit’s fire working and moving. We really believe and are witnesses to the fact that God is moving among the Yawo. He is doing amazing things and the harvest is ready to be gathered. New Life In Christ!
Traeger and some kids playing soccer before the conference started.
The younger kids in the children's program.
The dishwashing area.
Our main meeting center.
We decided to sit out and have a little snack and almost instantly we are surrounded by kids who just watch us and we sit and talk.
The sessions beginning in the meeting center.
One of our main speakers, Pastor Mwanja, and a translator. He spoke in Yao and they translated to Portuguese.
My girls sitting in the meeting with us.
One of my good friends, Lucia. Tim and I have been doing marriage counseling with her and her husband Paulo. They have been attending YWAM's discipleship training school. They are now doing their practical work and were here serving everyone by doing the food prep and cooking.
Every afternoon we played soccer. It was tournament, each different Yao church against each other.
We had to bring our adopted serval cat, Niassa, with us. She didn't mind the tent at all and made herself right at home! She slept in Traeger's sleeping bag with him every night.
Waiting in line to get food. We ate shima or rice every meal with fish, goat, beans, or greens.
In the blue, is another one of our main speakers, Pastor Amos, from Malawi. He also is Yao, and spoke in Yao and they translated to Portuguese.
These are the showers for the conference. There are 4 different little rooms with a hose hanging down to shower with.
Karis and Kallen participating in the children's program.
Another view of the kitchen, where they did all the cooking for 200 + people.
The chidren saying prayers during their teaching time.