Rev. Carlos Winterle remembers well a Sunday morning when he was the visiting pastor at a congregation in Mozambique (a country on the east coast of Africa, just above South Africa).
Like the worshippers in the pews, Rev. Winterle had seen the large advertisement for a local witch doctor, who promised health and healing.
As he began reading the Old Testament lesson – which spoke about false gods and spirits – Rev. Winterle held up the ad and asked, “Did you see this? Are you going to this doctor?”
“NOOO!! We used to, but never more,” the people responded. “We know that Jesus delivered us from spirits and we are free!”
THE CATECHISM FOR MOZAMBIQUE
Experiences like this are what keep Rev. Winterle, a missionary from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil, coming back to Mozambique, where Concordia Lutheran Church – Mozambique (ILCM) began a little over a decade ago.
Now, he has a new tool for teaching the people: Luther’s Small Catechism, printed by LHF in the Chisena (Sena) language.
Though the official language of Mozambique is Portuguese, many people don’t speak or read Portuguese well. Instead, they speak and read one of the tribal languages, such as Sena (spoken by nearly a million Mozambicans).
“The catechism is the most important book after the Bible, especially for people who are not well-educated,” says Rev. Winterle. “Our plan for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017 is for the pastors to preach on the catechism. They are going through a small part of it each Sunday so that the people can memorize it.”Since its first eight pastors were ordained less than a year ago, the ILCM has grown dramatically from ten congregations to 33 (each of the pastors has 3-4 parishes they care for). It’s not unusual for scores of people to be baptized each Sunday, Rev. Winterle says.
To train more church leaders, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil and the Concordia Lutheran Church in Mozambique are partnering to offer a new Theological Education Program (TEP) for candidates who don’t understand Portuguese, but only the local Sena language. Almost 40 candidates are enrolled in the program, which will certify graduates to be deacons in the ILCM . Four of the ordained pastors will be the teachers, monitored by Rev. Winterle.
“Twenty men began the program last year, and there are 30 candidates now. I am very well impressed with the new group,” Rev. Winterle says. “They’re very smart! A lot of leaders of the new congregation want to know more about the Gospel.”
A GOOD TIME FOR GROWTH
It’s a good time to spread the Good News of Jesus in Mozambique, Rev. Winterle believes.
“Mozambique was a Portuguese colony at one time,” he explained. “Civil war devastated the country; churches were persecuted and closed. Mozambique became socialist, and in some ways that was good, because the government owns all the land and you just have to ask to use it. You can build a church; you just need to ask to use that piece of land.”
Pentecostal churches are growing in Mozambique as well, but Rev. Winterle says that “the Lutheran Church is known as the church that really preaches the Gospel. Whenever there is an event around, they ask for our pastors to preach because there is substance to what they say. Lutherans are recognized as people who have the Bible and preach the Bible.”
FUTURE PLANS FOR MOZAMBIQUE
As LHF looks to assist the ILCM in telling the Mozambique people about the Savior, the next Chisena project will be to translate the question and answer section of the Small Catechism and begin work on the Large Catechism.
To read more about Rev. Winterle’s work in Mozambique, click here.
Only with your help can this important work continue. Prayerfully consider how you can help support LHF projects.
Photo credit: Rev. Carlos Winterle