United Methodists provide food to Mozambique

April 11, 2007

By Antonio Wilson*

NEW YORK (UMNS) - A severe food shortage in Mozambique caused by Cyclone Favio and its after-effects has been eased with emergency food supplies and other gifts from United Methodists in both the African nation and the United States.

But church leaders say the needs for food, shelter and medical assistance are still far beyond what the Mozambican government and various organizations are providing to the impoverished nation as it reels from a series of natural disasters.

The Inhambane North district of The United Methodist Church was "reduced to extreme poverty" by the Feb. 22 cyclone and subsequent rains, according to the Rev. Ana Maria Francisco, district superintendent. The central region already had been inundated by heavy rains since January, causing flooding and forcing tens of thousands of people from their homes.

Francisco is grateful that United Methodists in Mozambique – with particular support from the denomination's Missouri Conference in the United States – have distributed essential food supplies including rice, beans, cornmeal, cooking oil, soap and sugar.

"Thanks for food, for your heart of comfort and compassion as you share your resources with us," she said of the March 10-12 distribution.

The cyclone, which killed 12 people, affected the areas of Central-Vilanculos, Aeroporto, Chiruala, Mapinhane, Machanissa; Maimelane, Pande, Nhapele, Inhassoro, Chibo, Save, Mambone; and the Vilanculos and Inhambane North districts. Additional food was shipped by boat to benefit churches and communities of the Machuuquele district.

The storm's wake

At least nine United Methodist parsonages and church buildings were destroyed in the cyclone and its aftermath.

The Rev. Alberto Malangutane Mutuque, a district superintendent in Vilanculos, had never seen such a violent cyclone.

"It was a very strong wind that destroyed the roof of the district parsonage, (and) the Vilanculos United Methodist Church parsonage sustained huge damages in its structure," he said. "We had started building a Christian center and it collapsed, too. There are many more houses that were affected in the community. People have been left without food and products of immediate personal use."

Amelia Domingos, a member of Chiruala United Methodist Church, offered thanks to church partners who have sent aid.

"I give thanks to God because this happened during the daylight and this helped us to escape from the zinc sheets and other objects that were flying in high speed," she said. "We could have lost many people, I am sure."

The Rev. Aida Lambo Ngale, Maimelane United Methodist Church, was especially appreciative of emergency food supplies and mosquito nets.

"Soon after the cyclone had cooled down, we could easily witness the damages, deaths and complete uncertainty in families," she said. "There was no refuge in our neighborhood to be accommodated. I need to congratulate my church members for joining efforts and erecting some kind of shed for me and my family. They did this realizing the damages they had also suffered."

Rebuilding for the future

A permanent chapel under construction for Inhassoro United Methodist Church will need to be rebuilt from scratch, according to the Rev. Jose Jaime Joaquim, pastor. "Apart from huge damages in the chapel and parsonage, I lost my computer, my camera and church registration books," he noted. "It is hard to realize the extent of damages."

At Chibo United Methodist Church, the chapel is collapsed and a small clinic providing health assistance for the community is gone, Francisco said.

The Rev. Rita Choquico Quimbine, Nhapele United Methodist Church, lost her home and her bicycle. "It was a bicycle that helped me a lot to be able to visit my members," she explained. "I need to sincerely thank our members for erecting an alternate shelter. … They will be rebuilding the chapel as soon as they completely finish the parsonage."

The United Methodist Committee on Relief is assisting the United Methodist Church in Mozambique in their emergency response as well as working with Action by Churches Together partner agencies in the country.

Donations can dropped in church collection plates or mailed directly to UMCOR at P.O. Box 9068, New York, NY 10087, with the words "UMCOR Advance #156500, Mozambique Emergency" written on the memo line. Credit card donations can be made by calling (800) 554-8583 or online at http://secure.gbgm-umc.org/donations/advance/donate.cfm?code=156500&id=3018386.

*Wilson is the communications coordinator for the United Methodist Church in Mozambique.