Thursday 4 April 2019

'Archbishop, we are hungry' – An appeal from Mozambique

Engaging people, via a translator, on their experiences.
Archbishop Thabo blogs on the final day of his visit to the disaster-stricken area around Beira in the Diocese of Lebombo:

Wednesday April 3: The words, “Archbishop, we are hungry,” stayed with me overnight as I battled with sleep even after a long day on Tuesday. The instruction from Jesus replayed in my mind, especially during Compline – “Feed my lambs,” and “Feed my sheep,” (Jn 21:15-17), as did Jesus's words in Matthew's Gospel that when we feed those who are hungry, we feed him. (Mt 25:37-40).

After waking in Beira on Wednesday to the sound of the generator which provided electricity to our hotel, we had breakfast and said an abridged Morning Prayer, reading from Jeremiah 18:1-11.

We connected with the local team of clerics and churchwardens who accompanied us throughout the trip and went to the local supermarket, where we bought the emergency food packs recommended for for 31 families at St Mary's, Mutau. Town was full – and filthy in the aftermath of the cyclone, with hammers banging everywhere as people fixed their roofs.

After this we reflected on how to mobilise urgent resources and met with like-minded organisations for medium- and long-term intervention. Behind the church in Beira, we gathered with a Tearfund team of eight from the region and the UK, and with Mennonites and Anglican teams, as well as with the SA National Defence Force represented by the Chaplain General.

Sitting in a circle under a tree, it was indeed good to pull together and commit to what each will bring. The key needs were food and water purification tablets, followed by capacity-building exercises, counselling and materials to rebuild infrastructure.

Then we were whisked to the airport after saying good-bye to our team members. At the airport, I shared in an interview with the local TV station my impressions, my tears, my worries about waterborne diseases, and an appeal that the people of this region should not be forgotten and that help should keep on coming.

We hopped onto the South African Air Force plane and flew home, joined by two medical doctors and a professor who is an expert in waterborne diseases. On arrival, we were met by the Chief of the Air Force, General Msimang, and briefed him on our visit. He in turn thanked us, took us around the airbase where we landed and shared their work.

As we were talking, a plane took off for the DR Congo, and I became aware that the SAAF does a lot of work that I was not aware of, including youth training programmes through winter and summer schools, all, I hear, on a tight budget.

The refrain from people in Mozambique that the SANDF's actions on the ground there changed their perceptions – that the military also cares, feeding people and saving lives – also changed my fear and my perceptions. Their commitment that they would take medical supplies and food to St Mary's helped me to address the lady's plea that “Archbishop, we are hungry.”

Once the water subsides, the possible trauma of finding the bodies of those so far unaccounted for and laying them to rest will require counselling, resources and support. It is still the rainy season, so when the water levels drop I hope people will be able still to plant new seed.

Thank you everyone for your prayers and please keep on giving to our Province's Disaster Fund (details below). Thank you also to General Shoke, the Chief of the SANDF, to General Msimang and to the Minister of Defence, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, for enabling our mission, as well as their men and women and other teams from South Africa who are helping on the ground.

Pray with me now, the Prayer for Africa:

God bless Africa,
Protect our children,
Transform our leaders,
Heal our communities,
Restore our dignity and
Give us peace, for Jesus Christ’s sake.

Please give generously to ACSA's Disaster Relief Fund:

Bank: Standard Bank of SA Ltd
Branch: Thibault Square
Branch code: 02 09 09
Account number: 07 007 8394
Account name: Disaster Relief Fund

Buying emergency food packs for families at St Mary's, Mutau.
Please give generously for what will be needed ahead.

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