Thursday 11 April 2019

Visiting the Diocese of Niassa in the wake of Cyclone Idai

Bishop Vicente gives a briefing on the visit
Following a visit to Beira and surrounds in the wake of Cyclone Idai last week, Archbishop Thabo has this week been in the Diocese of Niassa in northern Mozambique, visiting the Bishop, the Right Revd Vicente Msosa, and his people. His reflections:

DAY ONE: The alarm rang at 4:20 and by 5 am Uber is here to pick me up and take me to Cape Town's airport, where we board for Johannesburg at 5.50. Heavy mist delay the flight – fortunately all flights, and we were in Maputo by 11:20. Along the way we meet Bishop Zipho Siwa, the Methodist Church's Presiding Bishop, and his team, who are also visiting congregants affected by Cyclone Idai. Boarding for Quelimane is scheduled for 11:30 but we finally depart at 14:15 and while waiting I read a piece in the Anglican Theological Review on preaching.

Upon arriving in Quelimane, which is in Zambezia Province, Bishop Vicente and the faithful are waiting as always to welcome us, and Matlotly Mototjane, the Provincial Executive Administrator, immediately gets into her note-taking and recording mode.

We go straight to the office of the Governor of Zambezia and are welcomed by his officials and the director of disaster management, who brief us on their plans and needs, together with the representative of the Governor.

They need seed, food, medication, shelter and whatever support they can find, especially in areas which are still inaccessible. We go for a meal and connect with Bishop Vicente‘s team. He is well organized on the ground, with Vida (“Life”) teams, supported by other NGOs and ecumenical partners who are handling information, distribution and support. The teams were formed a long time ago to deal with malaria, HIV/AIDS and other community work. Now they are using their community engagement skills to intervene during this climate and humanitarian disaster.

We are joined by the Governor’s assistant, two archdeacons, a PCC member and the PCC treasurer. Quelimane is buzzing with international, multilingual and multiracial experts and the hotels are full, so we are lucky to get guest house accommodation in the city Centre.

Bishop Vicente left home on Monday to get here, driving 1200km one way and will drive another 1200km in order to lead a Palm Sunday service. He calls home and he relates how his one-year-old daughter recognises his voice and says “Papa, Papa.” Vicente is the youngest bishop in our Province. He did not need this climate change-induced disaster over and above the usual challenges of his huge rural and poor diocese. Compared to when I last saw him four weeks ago for the inauguration of the Missionary Diocese of Nampula, he looks exhausted but he still manages to smile.

Tomorrow we travel by road for 275 km to visit communities devastated by the cyclone, and will return on the same day. Bishop Vicente appreciates the solidarity and our visit. We are following the rhythm of breakfast, morning prayer and a walk of witness to the displaced and otherwise affected.

Arrival in Quelimane

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