Last Sunday during our meeting of the Council of Bishops in Mozambique, we bishops and spouses scattered out and visited local churches of that dynamic and fast-growing Conference.. Marsha and I were in a group which worshipped at one of the many new United Methodist congregations. We traveled to the edge of Maputo, in a very poor area, down several dirt roads, and finally came to the location of the Bispo Escrivao Zumguze Igreja Metodist a Unida Em Mozambique – which is a new church start named for a previous UM bishop (Bishop Zumguze). The only enclosed structure for this new church is a concrete slab with bamboo walls, and they have outgrown that facility, so worship last Sunday was literally conducted under two trees and tarp. The church was established in 2001, it already has 508 members, it is easy to see why. Such music! Such spirit! Such hospitality! And such passion for reaching people for Christ.

I was especially impressed that they have spent their early funds to provide a well on their land to give free water to the people of the surrounding poor neighborhood. Rather than spend their first money on themselves, on their own building, they have focused upon providing water – and indeed Living Water – to their community.

The church is led by the President of the Congregation, a layman named Pedro, and by their Pastor, a young woman named Berta, They have a large adult choir, a youth choir, and lots of well-behaved children seated on bamboo mats on the ground. New members were received last Sunday, and they were immediately assigned to the “local congregations” in various neighborhoods, which function along the lines of the old Methodist Class meeting to train new converts into discipleship. Food was provided and everyone was fed, including those too poor to bring their own food. Perhaps the most enthusiastic part of the service was the offering, or I should say the offerings. The first offering was given by those who wanted to declare publicly that they were tithing. Then individuals came and gave offerings from each of the local churches, or classes. Then we guests from the Council of Bishops gave our offerings, which prompted a most exuberant additional offering by everyone as people came forward to give again. Each offering was full of music, people dancing forward to give, and a total sense of what the Scriptures mean by “God loves a cheerful giver.”

It was a joyous day of sharing worship under two trees and a tarp.

I reflected later that day on the words of a favorite hymn, “God of Grace and God of Glory,” which confesses that we are “rich in things and poor in soul.” In the Bispo Zumguze UMC last Sunday, I witnessed people who were poor in things but very rich in soul. And I found myself wondering how many of our United Methodists in Indiana would be content to worship under two trees and a tarp. Now, don’t get me wrong, the Bispo Zumguze church has plans to build a facility as soon as they can raise the funds (and perhaps we here in Indiana can help them). There is nothing inherently wrong with having church facilities. But there is something refreshing about the joy of having church under two trees and a tarp.

from Bishop Michael J. Coyner