Founder of Lutheran missions in Mozambique passes on to glory; the church he helped create is growing by leaps and bounds

Rev. Joseph Alfazema

CANADA – Rev. Joseph Khembo Alfazema, the father of confessional Lutheran missions in Mozambique and a pastor of Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC), passed on to glory on May 11, 2019 in Edmonton, Alberta. A funeral service for Rev. Alfazema was held on Saturday, May 18, 2019 at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Edmonton.

Rev. Alfazema was native to Mozambique, but fled to Canada with his wife Perpetua in the 1980s to escape civil war. After the war ended, the Alfazemas were asked to assist in the founding of a school, health centre, and clean water supply in their homeland. This led to the founding of the Kapesseni Project, which brought not only physical assistance to those struggling in the aftermath of the civil war but also spiritual care as well.

Rev. Alfazema pursued pastoral ministry through Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary (St. Catharines, Ontario), and was called to serve Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) as a missionary to Mozambique upon his graduation. While his wife Perpetua focused on social ministry needs through the Kuwangisana Project, Rev. Alfazema focused on Gospel proclamation and evangelization.

Rev. Alfazema returned to Canada for health reasons following his retirement, but the work they began continued. In 2018, the church which grew out of his mission work was officially recognized by the Mozambican government as the Concordia Christian Church in Mozambique (Igreja Cristã da Concórdia em Moçambique – ICCM). While the church was officially registered by the government in 2018, it had previously operated unofficially for several years under the name Concordia Lutheran Church in Mozambique (Igreja Luterana da Concórdia em Moçambique —federal requirements in Mozambique prevented the young church from registering with the word “Lutheran” in its legal name).

The church grew out of Rev. Alfazema’s missions, and drew on the support of a number of international partners. Early on, Rev. Alfazema partnered with Rev. Dr. Carlos Walter Winterle to collaborate on mission work in the area. Dr. Winterle is president emeritus of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil (IELB) and was at the time serving with the Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa (FELSISA). Together, LCC, the IELB, FELSISA, and The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, along with support from the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany’s (SELK) Bleckmar Mission project, coordinated mission outreach and theological training in the country, especially through the formation of a Theological Education by Extension Program organized by the IELB.

 

Rev. Joseph Alfazema (far left) poses with the first class of students Mozambique’s TEE program, along with TEE instructors Rev. Carlos Winterle (back-row, second-from-left) and Rev. André Plamer (front row, far right).

In August 2015, the Mozambican church celebrated the ordination of its first graduating class of pastors from the TEE. At the time, the church had ten congregations. By June of the next year, they had 31 congregations. Today, the ICCM has 80 congregations and a current class of thirty students training for the pastoral ministry.

The ICCM’s parent churches and supporters—LCC, the IELB, FELSISA, the LCMS, and SELK—are all member churches of the International Lutheran Council.

The family of Rev. Aflazema has invited those wishing to honour his legacy to contribute to the building of new classrooms for an elementary school in Mozambique.

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First graduating class of pastors for Mozambican Lutherans

Mozambique’s newly ordained pastors pose with TEE instructors Rev. Carlos Winterle (back left) and Rev. André Plamer (back right).
Mozambique’s newly ordained pastors pose with TEE instructors Rev. Carlos Winterle (back left) and Rev. André Plamer (back right).

MOZAMBIQUE – Mozambican Lutherans celebrated a major milestone on August 9, 2015, as Concordia Lutheran Church– Mozambique celebrated its first graduating class of eight pastors. The event drew significant local and national attention: more than a thousand people gathered in the Vila de Sena for the ordinations, including local dignitaries, and national television gave ten minutes of coverage to the event. Special church dignitaries in attendance included President Egon Kopereck of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil (IELB) and Bishop Dieter Reinstorf of the Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa (FELSISA).

More than a thousand people march through the Vila de Sena on the way to the ordination of Mozambique’s first Lutheran pastors.
More than a thousand people march through the Vila de Sena on the way to the ordination of Mozambique’s first Lutheran pastors.

The CLCM is a young church body, and prior to this year’s graduating class had no pastors of its own. Instead, ministry in the region was overseen by those studying for by the. In 2014, the students received certification as deacons in preparation for their 2015 ordinations. Their ordination marks the end of five years of study through the Theological Education by Extension (TEE) program, an initiative of the IELB.

More than a thousand people march through the Vila de Sena on the way to the ordination of Mozambique’s first Lutheran pastors.
More than a thousand people march through the Vila de Sena on the way to the ordination of Mozambique’s first Lutheran pastors.

The ordination of the new pastors could not come soon enough, as the MLC continues to grow quickly (visiting professors in the TEE program were sometimes called on to conduct hundreds of baptisms at a time). Already a new class of students is beginning studies through the TEE program—and the class size has grown to fifteen.

In 2014, mission developments in Mozambique took another step forward as partners in the region signed a new Memorandum of Understanding on the TEE program. Signatories included the IELB, the current TEE students, the Kuwangisana Organization, the Kapasseni Project, FELSISA, and The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). The MOU calls for the construction of a permanent seminary building: the Concordia Lutheran Center.

Lutheran missions in Mozambique grew out of the work of retired Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) pastor Rev. Joseph Alfazema and his wife Perpetua. Their work resulted in the creation of the Kapasseni Project, an LCC listed service organization that continues to support missions in Mozambique.

LCC, FELSISA, the LCMS, and IELB are all member churches of the International Lutheran Council.

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