By Kevin Zwart
You would cry too if you saw what I see.
Over ten years ago, God led me to begin a Bible-training program in northern Mozambique in the city of Nampula. For years, my wife and I had been moving in this direction: first going through the TIMO program with AIM, then working our way through graduate school and starting a family. We watched God slowly raise our support and eventually send us to Portugal for language study. We arrived in Mozambique a year later.
To begin this Bible-training program, I met with as many Mozambican church leaders as I could and learned what God had used in the past to teach and train local pastors. Theological Education by Extension (TEE) came up repeatedly. This program is a form of Bible education in which anyone from any denomination and with a basic level of Portuguese (the majority of pastors in Northern Mozambique have only a 6th-grade education level) can study the word of God. The church in Nampula is very fragmented, and many of its pastors are undertrained in the Scriptures, so I was anxious to begin.
Starting slowly may be an overstatement. We had up to one hundred students those first few years, but many only wanted a certificate to put on their wall. Others thought it was another handout program and when they refused to pay for the books and were told they couldn’t continue, they left. Those who persevered in the program, sacrificed financially to buy books and studied under the shade trees or by candlelight at night. They knew TEE was more than a curriculum. It was getting to know the Word and our Creator. It was getting to understand deeply what we are created for and the blessings and joys there are in being a follower of Christ.
Each TEE group met together weekly, talking about how to apply what they learned. And soon, lives began to change. Many students listened to their pastors in a new way, and many pastors preached with more compassion and wisdom than before. We saw families restored as they learned God’s design for the role of the family.
We taught under trees, in churches, in homes, and in borrowed offices. After a time, we chose and trained ten believers who showed a teachable heart and willingness to serve. Today, seven of them are still very actively teaching others!
My wife and I left Mozambique in August of 2015, leaving the program in the hands of an elected leadership committee (and the hands of God!). Since then, however, we’ve stayed connected to what they and God are doing. In fact, as part of the role I play in Africa Inland Mission, I return yearly to check on, encourage, and train my colleagues in Nampula.
In 2017, I returned from the first trip.
I often found myself walking away from a home, church, or class crying. Amazed at what God was doing. To see already-busy pastors and church leaders dedicated to teaching and training believers—not even from their own church—brought me to tears. To see one teacher continue classes with a Muslim-background-believer because he saw the passion the student had to reach his family and Muslim neighbors for Christ was breathtaking. To see another teacher spending his own limited income to travel weekly far outside of town to preach in someone else’s church challenged me to redefine sacrifice. And to see a wife, who struggled with alcohol addiction and was caught by her husband in an affair, who was then forgiven and loved unconditionally by him—to see her living full of joy and in fellowship with the women at the church and happy in her home: this is what the Word of God does.
In May of 2018, I returned once again to visit, encourage, and train the Mozambicans doing the work in Nampula. In three weeks, I visited more than seventeen families and homes, and I spoke at various churches connected with the TEE program. I was, once again, moved to tears after hearing how Mozambican believers are following Jesus. They are walking closer to Him because they understand what Scripture says, and I heard many more testimonies of people transformed by the Word. Their churches are stronger than when we left. How thrilling to see a lasting effect of the Scriptures on people’s lives.
The Mozambican believers dream of expanding the TEE program to other cities in the north of Mozambique. To help in this effort, they’re building a TEE Centre in Nampula (and it’s nearly completed!) which will serve as a rent-free classroom and office for the program and its teachers, in a neutral, nondenominational location in the middle of the city.
It’s a hard calling, though. Mozambicans are willing to do the work, but because of the lack of employment opportunities and extensive familiar networks in their own communities, few are willing or able to relocate. We pray for them to find courage in this calling.
Leaving any ministry can be hard. Leaving it in the hands of others who may not do things the same way can be difficult to accept. But leaving a ministry in the hands of God is a freeing and wonderful thing. And we pray that as TEE expands with a centralized leadership, it can grow and reach many more Mozambicans with a foundational Bible education.